Outside the museum, a loud rhythmic clacking came from the plaza, and I expected to find construction machines there. Instead, I walked through a gauntlet of skateboarders zooming their wheels across the inscribed concrete squares that carpeted the campus. At the plaza's far end, the union, called "The Hub," overlooked a valley. On the opposite hill stood townhouses from the next village over. On a Saturday night at a commuter college, I shared the union only with the cast of a theater show on a break from rehearsal. The Hub seemed worthy of being a Hopper setting but hardly worthy of its name.
Eventually, a girl with jet-black hair and plum-colored mascara sat beside me, crossing her legs to display high-heeled black boots that choked each calf. I asked if she could tell me if the people in town were isolated.
"No," she said. "I can't. There really is no Purchase. There's the campus, I guess."
As she spoke, her head tilted back and forth between clock-face positions ten and two, and she fanned her outspread fingers to emphasize certain points.
"I really like being a student here. There's no football here or stuff like that. There's not even a mascot. The campus is very open to everything. Everybody's doing their own thing. Everybody is nice to each other. You don't always get that outside the campus.
"I like Westchester. But it's very fast-paced: people either keep up or they don't. Anyone who comes here and finds things too quick or too hard doesn't last too long. There's a big gap in finances between the upper classes and the lower classes. The Clintons live near here," she added, to back up her point.
She wrinkled her brow, and concluded with, "People do get isolated when it gets cold. It gets really cold here."