Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Track part 2

On the first dinner hour at the college dining hall, I knew nobody, so I struck up a conversation a student in the line and asked if I could sit with him. When I sat down I saw I was the only female, but felt undaunted. The guys were using slang I'd never heard before, like "get on the stick" and "psyche". Z. was saying something about his sister and I tried to joke along and suddenly his face became very grave and he said "my sister died last year". I was mortified and embarrassed. Everybody looked at me with scorn. Then Z. started laughing and everyone else laughed at me as well. Psyche. I never ate with those people again. I chose to sit alone and let people come to me.

And I liked the people who sat with me. There was Bill E. an exotically handsome sophomore who seemed to be a snob, but it turns out was very nearsighted but too vain to wear glasses. He simply couldn't see anybody. Over time, he showed himself to be a creative instigator. He thought of rebellious things for his friends to do, but he actually did little himself and thus avoided trouble. He and I started the first food fight in the school. He threw an olive at me, I threw jello back at him and seconds later we were sitting under the table as the whole dining hall erupted. It only lasted a few seconds and then everyone was stunned at what happened.

There was Jennifer, a sophomore who had a freshman roommate. That roommate, Kass, had managed to avoid the freshman pack. She made it clear that she did not value virginity or abstinence of any kind for that matter. She had a little ditty of foul words that she could chant and I was enchanted. I remember when I first was visiting their dorm room, she was brushing her hair in the mirror and wearing only panties. She put her large breasts on the bureau to simply rest while she was doing her hair. I was in awe of how casual she was.

Jennifer was raised a Quaker, a member of the Society of Friends, like Doc Brainerd the biology teacher. She was descended from the first Quakers, (It seems she said George Fox, but I don't know if he had children). She also said that she was related to someone important in the Guggenheim art museum (Peggy Guggenheim?) Unusually tall and thin, she was interested in dance notation. Sometimes she and I would get together at the only piano on campus and she would dance while I was working on learning to play an arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsodie in Blue. She had a boyfriend on campus who claimed to be the first drummer for the Lovin' Spoonful. As I write this, there seems to be a lot of name dropping connected with Jennifer.

After the Freshman orientation banquet I became good friends with Jim. Jim set out to relieve me of any straight laced ways I may have had. He pointed out that nobody would notice if we didn't wear a beany and if we walked on Senior Walk. For me that turned out to be true. He was noticed however. Like all our friends he smoked cigarettes. There was another college "tradition" that students were not to be seen smoking by visitors, so there was no smoking outdoors. (Yes, that's OUTdoors) So Jim and his friends smoked outdoors on the hill on the lakeside of the dining hall. One night Jim was awakened in the middle of the night, stripped naked and Ben-Gay was applied to his testicles and he was deposited in a women's dorm. He was tied up and a pack full of cigarettes was shoved in his mouth. The next day he wore his baby blue suit to all his classes and meals. He was extremely depressed and that was his way of getting out of it.

I had another friend who didn't associate with the crowd where I found refuge. Our parents had been friends when we were young. We also liked singing. Standing next to her in chorus was an education. She took singing lessons, and I modeled my voice after hers. I got rid of my breathy kids voice and developed a head tone. I had a very large range and could sing as low as any tenor. Singing in the college barbershop group probably contributed to saving my life years later because of a trip our chorus took to York Pennyslyvania. I stayed with a rural family who had values I plugged into later.

I went to see the Antonioni movie "Blow Out" several times. It had a clear message that if you examine something closely, it loses its distinct form. It had consciously hip actors, style, sex, nudity, and mime.

My clean-conscious roommate got fed up with me. I'd gotten to the point of taping leaves to the wall for decoration and not doing my laundry. The leaves curled up and wrinkled and the laundry piled up in my closet. She proposed that we do some roommate swapping and I moved in with Claudia, a sophomore who was something of a social outcast. She was a social outcast because she had a "reputation". Unlike Kass who didn't care about her reputation, Claudia insisted on her virginity. Claudia was sweet and friendly and a great roommate. Except for when male friends wanted me to talk to her about her skin (which was evidently too rough for their taste) or they would get drunk and horny and call for her through the window.

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