"Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers, who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too"
John Mayer - circa 2003
The air was crisp and cool. The sun was bright as its amplified strength reflected off the freshly fallen snow. Trees scattered throughout the cemetery were naked and leafless at the mercy of the coming months of bitter winter that lay waiting. The cemetery was etched into a large area of land lying in the rolling hills on the outskirts of town.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me"
The pastor continued the sermon as he looked into the crowd of people gathered around the two grave sites. There was one typical adult grave site with the hole dug and coffin hovering over it waiting and alongside it, a disturbing small coffin. There also sat a third coffin hovering over a third fresh hole off in the snowy distance a hundred or so yards away. The crowd was gathered around one adult coffin and the infant coffin. The adult coffin in the distance was agonizingly unattended. There was not a single person gathered around it. That coffin was lowered into the grave without a single person's acknowledgement or sorrow. No souls wept.
The mourners huddled around the child and adult graves comforting each other, crying and speechless. The attendees were gathered around an elderly man and woman both dressed in black.
A lone woman stood near the crowd of people. She was dressed in black and was visibly uncomfortable and remorseful. She was standing apart from the rest of the crowd as she neared the elderly couple. She stood silent, standing near the couple crying and hanging head low. She did not want everyone to see how upset she was.
The sermon concluded and the crowd began to disperse back to their vehicles. They hugged, consoled for one final moment and parted with their heads low and quiet.
"Mr. & Mrs. Adams ? " the lone woman said quietly as she walked over and looked up into their swollen eyes and heavy faces. "My name is Carrie. I just wanted to offer my deepest sympathy for your daughter and granddaughter. I am truly sorry for what happened. I am so sorry for your loss."
"Thank you." the man said. The woman lifted her head quietly and looked at the woman who offered the condolences to her. She looked at her a little perplexed.
"Who are you Miss?" she quietly asked.
"My name is Carrie."
"How did you know my daughter and granddaughter ?"
"I actually didn't know them. I really hate to say this, but I knew Nick. We were together for several years a long time ago." Carrie muttered. She did her best to fight back her tears.
The woman looked at Carrie in shock. "What are you doing here ! What do you want here?"
"I am so sorry Mrs. Adams I came here to pay my respects to your daughter and granddaughter. I came to make sure that Nick is gone and buried forever."
"That bastard is going straight to hell. After what he did to my daughter." She cried out as she turned and put her hand in the air at Carrie. Her head was hung low as she began crying all over again."
Carrie was the last one at the gravesites. She sat quietly with her head low and cried for the woman and her daughter as their final resting place was being covered with earth by the grave workers.
She walked over to the third gravesite and looked at it and tears began to well in her eyes once again. "You horrible horrible man. How could you do this ! How could you kill your wife and 3 year old child. You were evil when I knew you and you are evil now. I hope you burn in hell. You bastard !"
As these final words were being whispered to Nick's grave I walked over to the gravesite where Carrie stood, head low. I walked over and stood a moment beside her. She was unaware of my presence until I put my arm around her.
Startled, Carrie looked up quickly to see who was beside her. She thought she felt the presence of someone near her and thought someone was also maybe lingering around the three gravesites.
"Ray ?" Carrie said startled and still crying. She quickly wiped her eyes and face with the tissue she had been clutching. " What…. What are you doing here ? How did you know about this ? How did you know about Nick?" . She looked at me with confusion and bewilderment.
"I read it in the papers and internet. It's national news you know. It was on CNN and in our local paper. It was awful what happened. Just awful. When I saw that the murderers name was Nick Adams , I knew it had to be your old Nick. I knew it, my stomach sank when I heard the name. I checked into it and found out that the funeral was today. I have business in Canada this week so I decided to make a stop along the way. I came here for the victims. I came here for closure . Is that why you are here?"
"Yes. I came to make sure they buried Nick."
"It's over now, come on. Let's go. " I said softly as I crossed Carrie's arm into mine and turned her away from the coffin and away from the terrible scene of the gravesites. The infant gravesite was too much for her or anyone to be exposed to.
We walked away quietly as snow began to gently fall once again. It gathered on our black coat's lapels and shoulders.
"Where are you parked ? I'll walk you back." I asked.
"I am over there." She pointed at the farthest reach of the parking lot for the cemetery.
"Didn't want any attention drawn to you huh?" I said and tried to smile a bit.
She just shook her head no.
"Me either." I pointed to the car that was parked 4 spaces away from hers.
She eeked out a slight smile. She held my arm tight and pulled me closer to her.
"You were always there for me and you are still here for me. What would I ever do without you Ray?"
I held her arm tighter in mine and rested my head on the top of her head. "You would have caved and not finished college. I don't even want to think about what could have happened."
"I know. Don't say it. I know it. That could have been me in that coffin...and my child."
We stood by our cars in the freezing cold and talked as the snow continued to fall on and around us. I discovered that she is in a childless marriage and that she and her husband work far too much. She discovered that I never married. She told me she made the trip to Columbus alone and was staying at a motel not far from the cemetery. We discovered that we were not due to leave the city for a few days and that we had some time to catch up on where our lives had taken us since we last spoke years ago.
"Do you have dinner plans?" I asked knowing that she still had a lot of family in the city.
"I am going over to my parents from here and will probably only be able to handle a couple of hours of them saying "I told you so …….. about Nick of course. Need I explain further?"
"So uh……you didn't really answer the question. Is that a yes?" I smiled.
It was a relief to see her bright smile, which quickly turned into a roll of her eyes. We hugged and agreed to meet at the A House , our old college hangout at seven that evening. This allowed Carrie to spend the appropriate amount of time with her parents before bailing on them.
I folded my tall body into the little brown rental and turned the key to start the car. The bitter cold air and the frost on the windows reminded me that I was not used to the cold weather anymore. I was used to the sunny and subtropical beauty of the West Coast of Florida where I live my quiet life.
I sat in the car, hands cupped around my mouth as I tried to blow hot air into them and rub them to get the heat and circulation going again. I reached for the heater and cranked it to high. I flipped on the wipers to push away the bit of snow that had gathered on the windshield.
I saw Carrie leaning over her car brushing away the little bit of snow that had also gathered on her windshield.
My thoughts led to the A House and meeting Carrie there. The memories flooded in as they took me back to our first day at college and our profound effect on one another. It was almost 20 years ago.
"Well I might as well Jump !
Go ahead and Ju - ump !
Aw-aw hey you , who said that?
Baby How You Feel?"
Van Halen - circa 1984
1984. The music was as legendary as the hair the rockers wore when they sang it. The days of big hair, spandex, one hit wonders and big dreams. It was the pre internet days; before PC's, cell phones, PDA's, Blackberry's, email and even fax machines.
I was no longer a teenager and hitting a wise age of twenty one. I was "old enough to know better and young enough to do it again" as my father used to say.
I was dating a girl by the name of Michelle for two years now and she was pushing me to get serious and start talking about marriage. I was nowhere near thinking of settling down. I was twenty one ! I was two years out of high school and working in a factory making lawn equipment and making twelve dollars and fifty cents per hour. Enough money to drive my cool little sports car, get my beer every weekend and that was good enough for me for now. Thinking about marriage was nowhere in sight.
"Hi Baby" Michelle smiled and said warmly to me as she folded into the seat and slammed the door to my new Ford Astro behind her.
"Hi. How are ya?" I asked back. "How was your day? Glad it's Friday?"
"God yes !" She sighed and lolled her head back in the seat.
She was a striking young woman, Michelle was. She had beautiful long flowing brown auburn hair much like the yet undiscovered Julia Roberts. She had a beautiful beaming smile and bright blue eyes to match. She was the perfect package; bright, outgoing, beautiful, caring, warm and charming.
"Oh , remember Jan and Steve? Well they are getting married and I told them we were going to the wedding. I told you right ?"
"I don't believe so, why?"
"Well, I forgot , but the wedding is tomorrow."
"Excuse Me ?" I retorted.
"I know baby, I'm sorry, I know how you hate weddings and all that stuff but I told them a long time ago that we would go. I work right beside Jan in the QC office. I have to go to the wedding. If she had her way, I would be in her wedding party." Michelle pleaded. She could see that I was getting angrier.
"You may have to go , but I certainly do not. I don't even know any of these people. I know like three people you work with and that's about it ! You know I won't enjoy it. I'm not going." I stated with emphasis on the "I'm".
"Oh come on, just go with me to the church and the dinner. You can leave right after that." "It's important to me that you come too."
The drive was silent from that moment on until I did not turn onto the street where we live. I continued on down the road and in toward downtown.
"Where are you going ? What are you doing?" She said with fear and anger. "Ray, where are you going ? Tell me where you are going ? Why aren't we going home?"
Five minutes of silence......then "Are you going to Art's place ? You're going to Art's place. Why are you going there?"
"Ray will you talk to me ! Talk to me ! I'm sorry about this weekend. Forget it ! I won't go to the wedding. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it. I'm sorry I tried to force you into going to the wedding without telling you." Michelle begged as tears began to form in her beautiful sweet eyes. She didn't deserve to be treated the way she was , but neither did I.
I parked the car in front of Art's house, left the car running and got out. It would be several days before we spoke again.
For the next 2 days I stayed at my high school buddy's place and drank beer and ignored the phone that rang fifty times a day. We drank our beer, played our cool 80's music on Art's new CD player and talked about girlfriends and specifically mine. Or should I say my very first ex-girlfriend.
Art had more ex-girlfriends than he had cut off shorts, and that was all he wore. He would date a girl for the summer , the winter months or just for a few weeks then poof , they were gone as fast as they arrived. There was never any hassle or hardship for him or the girlfriends. He would simply tell them that he didn't want to see them anymore and to stop coming around. He was on to another one before the last one had her car out of the driveway. He found women easy to talk to anywhere he went and usually had his pick of who he wanted to start seeing and sleeping with.
Art was a natural blonde, naturally physiqued and naturally outspoken. He was never shy , never felt awkward and never cared what others thought of him or his relationships. Everyone knew that when he showed up somewhere with a girl, we would likely see them only once or twice before anyone got a chance to really know them, then they were dumped and told to not come around again.
"Hey" he said as I sat there sifting through his tunes to find the next great CD to put on his new cool player. I was in the middle of removing U2 Joshua Tree from the case for our next selection and listening to the last tune on Van Halen's "1984" disc. I was also in the middle of finishing my 4th or 5th cold beer in just the same amount of time it took to sit through every one of Van Halen's new songs.
"This whole CD is going to be hit after hit. Every song is so good.. This is going to be a great summer for music." I said before I responded with his "hey" question.
"Hey what?" I responded.
"You remember Julia ?" He asked like it was someone I should have easily forgotten about by now.
"Of course. Your most recent of recent dumped. Why?"
"She called me this morning. Said she was pregnant and that it was mine." He said in a tone that led you to believe that it was not remotely possible. "Said it couldn't be anyone else's."
"How about maybe that dude Dan ? If I am not mistaken, he was bangin' her as much as you were. She said he was long out of the picture, but you and I know differently. Go tell her to screw herself and talk to that Dan guy."
"That's exactly what I told her ! Told her that the kid could be anyone's and that I was not going to take the responsibility until she could prove it. I told her to go fuck herself and to never call me again."
"Your exact words , I believe when you dumped her 2 months ago , no?"
We laughed and drank our beers and talked about Michelle, Julia, women and what we were going to do this summer. It was going to be fun and sun and tunes. Living the young single life for the summer with no cares or worries.
"So you still going to college in September? " Art asked , like it was all a last minute decision.
"Of course. Got everything all lined up. Just gotta quit my job end of August. Sure wish you would have changed your mind and come joined me. It's going to be a lot of fun but it sure would be a ton more fun if you were there too."
"Aw, you'll make new friends there, ones with more ambition and smarts than dumb old me." He smiled knowing full well that he was far from a dummy. He barely cracked a book in high school and got almost straight A's. Myself, on the other hand had to study my ass off to maintain a solid B. He was definitely one of your "All American" boys. Good grades, athletic, charmer, all around good guy. Why he was such a screw up was beyond me. I equated it to his mother and her failed relationship with his father, then with the other guy she was living with currently.
"I know I'll make new friends but it just won't be the same, you know ? "
"I know. Things are not going to be the same after this summer. You'll be off to college , cramming and learning and have little time for this party stuff."
"Yeah, right ! There will probably be more partying next year than we ever had."
Laughing again, we got up from the back porch and headed back inside to play some darts in Art's party room."
That summer consisted of working Monday to Friday seven AM til three thirty PM at my endless, meaningless job on an assembly line. That summer also meant that come Friday afternoon I was a free man to come and go as I wanted and do whatever, whenever and to answer to no one. It was a great time in my life and I have no regrets about it. It was my last chance to be an irresponsible young man before I was to head to college and shape myself professionally and get serious about what I was going to do with my life.
Let it all out
These are the things I can do without.
I'm talking to you.
Tears For Fears - circa 1984
The college in town that students attended when they couldn't afford the finer academic institutions was located just outside of town. There were a lot of students that were not right out of high school, rather students like myself that had to work a few years to save for tuition, books, living expenses and all the other things one would need to get through a tough two year associate degree course in journalism that would be condensed down to just over one straight year. The journalism course was a tough sixty five weeks nonstop, which meant there was no Christmas break, no spring break, no breaks whatsoever.
This structure enabled students to afford to live financially through the shorter time frame and it also allowed government grants and loans for students who needed them. Turned out that of the forty something students in the two combined class structures would all have been eligible for the grants, and also turns out that only two of the enrolled students would elect to not get a grant or loan. We were forty sad , broke and eager minds ready and waiting for this opportunity for higher education. We were all in the same boat financially. We were all going to have it tough.
"Welcome to your first day in Literal Hell. Literally speaking that is. My name is Dan Gillies and I am your counselor and your Journalism 101 professor. Let me start by saying welcome to a long and grueling 60 something weeks of nonstop learning and studies. Fun !" our first instructor explained.
Let me also say", he went on, "that if you currently have a part time job and think you can handle both this and that then you need to either quit your job or quit this course. You will not be able to handle both responsibilities. Trust me, I have taught this course log for the past six years and I have yet to see anyone accomplish this. If you have small children, say goodbye to them for the next year and make sure they are well taken care of by your mother, spouse, neighbor, dog or whatever because you will see them late Sunday evening if you are lucky, and only if you have completed your assignments early enough before they are due on Monday mornings."
Students began shifting and twisting a bit in their chairs feeling the uncomfortable reality of the professors words as he went on. "If you have a jealous or needy spouse , boyfriend, girlfriend, lover or dog, the first thing you will need to do when you get home is to tell them that they will need to be patient with you and understand that you are going to be nailed down to this campus and this course for the next sixty some weeks. If they understand, wonderful, good for you. If they don't, you are in for a long ride. Trust me again, I have been there and seen and heard it all."
After professor Gillies' uplifting speech we were directed to the cafeteria where we would get our text books and schedules for the first leg of the journey.
The cafeteria was huge, clean and bright..Very much like a cafeteria that you would see in a hospital. We lined up in single file to receive our books and schedules. There was very little chatter amongst the group of strangers that were all there for the same reasons. Some were there for the opportunity of a better life, some were there because their current employment opportunities for advancement were at a maximum, due to their educational levels. They were overlooked by others with more education and qualifications. These students had an upper hand on the students in our program as they had already gained some knowledge and experience in the work force and knew far more than most.
After I was issued my: Student ID card, ten odd books and itinerary I headed for the MEDIA & JOURNALISM wing where I would grab a coffee and check out our lecture rooms, labs, bathrooms and of course the student lounge.
The student lounge was crying for a makeover. The oversized chairs were in much need of replacement, the tables saw far too many books and pens and overnight cram sessions. They too were screaming for a facelift. The walls were of an early depression color. Much like the colors of what one would think the inside of a jail cell would look. Nonetheless, it had everything you would need to lounge around comfortably without the fear of having to be too prim and proper there.
"Hey." I muttered to a young woman who walked in with a look of confusion as she nervously looked around for a comfortable yet out of the way place to sit and drink her coffee in quiet.
"Hi." She said not making eye contact with me as she sat at the next scratched up table and overstuffed worn chair.
"You in the Journalism class?" I asked, knowing full well that she was because she was standing three students behind me in line to get her books.
"Yeah." She muttered. She looked like I was already asking too many questions so I let the silence prevail and went back out to the coffee machine, plunked in my thirty five cents and waited while it poured another cup of what would be our fuel for the next coming long months.
I returned to my chair and sat back and put my feet on the table and sipped at my coffee.
"So, you ready for this ?" I said trying to make conversation with my new classmate.
"As ready as I am going to be." She said, already looking tired and weary.
"My name is Ray." I reached out my hand.
"Hi. I'm Carrie." She extended hers back to me. "Sorry for not being social just a minute ago, but I am walking in a total fog right now. I am scared as hell, nervous as hell and really don't know what I am doing here."
"Hey, that's no way to start this off." I said sympathetically to her. "We are all feeling the same way as you right now, trust me. I echo your sentiments. I am nervous, scared and really don't know what I'm doing here either."
We both smiled and chuckled briefly.
Carrie propped her feet up onto the old wooden table, slung her giant canvas shoulder bag onto the table between her propped legs on the table. She shuffled up to it and dug in with both hands and head first. The bag was very large and she went into it deep. She pulled her head and arms out and presented a package of cigarettes, a large lighter, a can of soda and a sandwich. She fell back into her chair , popped her soda can and dove into her sandwich. She finished her sandwich quicker than most guys I have ever seen do so. Before she could swallow her last bite, she slugged back half her can of soda. She let out a bit of a lady belch and lit up a cigarette. The whole scene took less than a minute to witness.
"Jesus H ! What all you got in that monster bag of yours?" I asked smiling at her and laughing.
" I know right ? You want something to eat ? " She said. "Soda ?" she finished. Before I could answer, she flung over a can gently.
"Thanks." I said. " I owe you one. Shit, I'm here less than 2 hours and already I owe a classmate one. I figured that would take at least a couple days before I owed anyone a favor back."
"No problem." Carrie said. "By the time we are done this week and I show you all the shit I have in this bag, you are going to owe me more than one. I'll keep a tab. I'll let it build up and then maybe you can pay me back with one big return, ok?"
"Ok, but don't hold your breath. I always pay my debts but don't expect one big favor to save you or nothing like that." I laughed.
We continued walking toward the hallway where we would find our MASS MEDIA lab classroom. Room number 069.
"Cool." This is going to be easy to remember , 0 6 9 … should be easy enough." I said with a sly grin to her.
"Too funny. 0 6 9 , yeah that should be easy enough. Hey, what's the square root of 69 ?" Carrie was really starting to come around. At first impression, she seemed a little out of sorts, a little depressed, nervous for sure.
"What's the square root of 69?
"I don't know. I would get my adding machine out but I didn't think I would need one for a Journalism program.
"Man, you are so dumb, aren't you?" Carrie said shaking her head.
"That friggin welcome letter you got a month ago? Did you even get it ?"
"Yeah, why?" I looked at her a little confused and pissy.
"Well , it told you to get a thesaurus and where to get it at a good price. Remember?"
"Of course I do." I said , half lying and half now recalling the letter. " I just haven't gotten around to getting it. I still have until tomorrow morning's eight AM class, right?"
"Well at least you got something right. They no longer say adding machine, they say calculator and yes classes start at 8 tomorrow. History Of Journalism , an introduction to, I believe."
"Yes , I did know that much. Please, I am not an idiot. Just an unorganized guy trying to make a difference." I said laughing.
"Whatever. " Carrie rolled her eyes.
"Well, I guess this is all we needed to do today huh? Get our schedules, books, the list of crap we need to buy for the first term and then come back tomorrow to start fresh?" I said half asking and half letting her know I knew what was going on.
"Correct! Very good." She smiled.
The hall started filling up now with what I assume were other classmates all taking their books to their lockers and getting oriented in our wing. There were exactly 5 women and counting me there were 15 men. Should be interesting, I thought. Just enough women to make it fun and not enough to go around. Lucky for me that I was already taking myself out of any "guy gets college girl" race. Also, I easily had a leg up on any of the guys that would want the attention of Carrie. I don't believe she would really get the attention of most of the guys anyway, at least not until you spend some time with her.
Carrie looked like she could use more makeup, a better hair stylist, a better wardrobe and without a doubt she looked like she was a smoker of more than cigarettes. She looked like she belonged in a biker club rather than a writer's club. Without a doubt she appeared to be out of her elements here. There were definitely some stories here and I wanted to find out who Carrie Nixon was.
"So, here's a dumb question. What is Mass Media?" Carrie asked, knowing that she was about to reveal her depth of knowledge in the journalism department.
"Well Mass Media usually deals with all the different types of media that is out there. You know like television, radio, film , books, newspapers, magazines and all that. Journalism is not just about writing articles for newspapers like most people think. It's about writing anything for anyone. Magazine articles, television shows, hell even commercials. All that crap. All that media that we are exposed to ? You know someone has to be writing it , right ? Well that is supposed to be us someday !" I explained.
"Hmm…. cool." Carrie said. "I've never really written anything before. At least not anything that anyone else has read. Well with the exception of a short story or two that I wrote and submitted to the school in order to get accepted into this course." She added.
"So see ya bright and early tomorrow then?" I said as we began walking toward the south parking area and exit.
"OK see ya." Nice meeting you.
We broke apart as she began walking toward the parking lot obviously forgetting where she parked.
"Ate something." She yelled across the parking lot from 200 feet away.
"What?" I yelled back.
"Ate something. That's the square root of 69 !" She started howling….. "Get it?"
"Yeah I get it ! You are indeed a character Carrie." I yelled back laughing.
"See ya tomorrow." I yelled back.
"Make sure you have your shit together for tomorrow Ray. I'm not going to cover your ass all year you know." She yelled back again smiling. Carrie was already starting to find her comfort zone in her new environment and her new best college friend.
The September winds were starting to reveal that summer was ending and fall was about to rear its colorful face soon.
I walked away from the parking area and toward the bus stop where I would start my journey back home via three long bus rides that meandered through town and into the suburb of West Heights where I lived with my brother, his wife and two small boys. They were nice enough to let me live in their basement and were persistent in their encouraging me and getting me through college for the next year and a half.
"We're talking away
I don't know what I'm to say I'll say it anyway
Today's another day to find you
I'll be coming for your love, OK?
Take on me, take me on"
A-HA - circa 1984
I arrived at the campus at seven thirty AM sharp. After studying the bus schedules and routes, I soon realized that this would be my daily routine. Either get to the campus early or walk in at eight o' five every morning. This was not going to be an option for me. I quickly determined that I would arrive at seven thirty, have a coffee and study before class every morning. Maybe even get some last minute homework completed from the night before if need be.
The student lounge was just as I left it the day before. Students were still mulling around looking somewhat confused and trying to figure things out. I walked up to the coffee machine, coughed up another thirty five cents and waited for my cup of morning joy.
The first class of the day was taught by none other than Mr. Gillies himself. I walked in, took a quick look around, found a seat beside a face I recognized from the cafeteria and started setting out my necessary supplies.
The chalkboard at the front of the class behind Mr. Gillies desk showed a list of stories, articles and books that we would be required to read for this lesson as well as what would be required for the rest of the first semester. The first semester was to go until December twentieth at which time we would be given our first two week assignment while everyone else in the college was going to be off for the Christmas break. We unfortunately, according to our schedule received the day before, would be stuck in the MASS MEDIA room working on our project which would be due by January third. This seemed to be a reasonable task and worth a lot of credit toward our degrees.
The list consisted of various pens, papers, work books, binders, paper materials and of course three of the text books we received the day before also. Another aide we were to have by our side was a thesaurus. Carrie was right on the money.
I reached into my book bag and took out everything I needed that was on the list. I proudly displayed my tools needed for the class. I was smart enough to go out the day before and purchase everything that was on my list that Carrie reminded me we would need.
Carrie was nowhere to be found and it was just going on eight AM. It appeared that this Mr. Gillies was not going to be someone who took tardiness lightly. It was only a guess, but it sure seemed like an educated one given his speech the day before and the list hovering behind his head.
There were supposed to be twenty in our classroom and only about half were ready and waiting for the first lesson. Not a good sign , half the class was going to be late in about three minutes.
I looked over at my neighbor and cracked one of those "I should smile" smiles.
"Good morning" my neighbor said as he smiled back at me and unloaded a bunch of supplies he thought he might also need. Another prepared guy here. Nice. He was on time and had adhered to the list.
"Morning." I responded. "I'm Ray.
"So how many are supposed to be in our class?" he asked.
"I thought like twenty? Looks like there are a few late ones." I said.
Just then another four students walked into the class, then another behind them, then a few short seconds another, then another. Soon enough the class was almost full. I wondered where Carrie might have gotten to. She certainly did not seem like the type of person who would show up late for the first day. Not after her excellent performance the day prior. She seemed like she had been super organized and prepared.
"Ladies and gentlemen. My name is Dan Gillies and I will be your professor for this class as well as several others for this and next semester. As I indicated yesterday this is going to be a long grueling challenge and I suspect that a majority of you will change schedules and go back to the longer two year program or quit all together. The stats from last year read like this. There were a total of twenty five enrolled into these courses and by the time the sixty weeks were over there were four graduates. Four more needed to come back to finish courses they failed and two others quit halfway through it and we were able to get them to complete the courses this past summer. So, I guess what I am saying is that there is no graduation party or ceremony here. The four of you that actually graduate are going to have to have your own little house party or something." He finished his little speech then smiled and chuckled along with the rest of the class.
I looked around and as they all found that last comment somewhat humorous, they all looked around to see if they could figure out who the four graduates would be.
As Dan was about to dig right into the first lesson plan, the door opened and in walked a disheveled and out of sorts Carrie.
"Sorry I'm late. My car wouldn't start. I had to get a ride in."
"No problem, I was just telling the class how to prepare for the graduation party at the end of your schedule."
Nervous chuckles around the class again.
"Oh." Carrie said then walked down the aisle nervously and awkwardly until she saw me then smiled and made her way to the empty desk behind me, giant bag in tow again.
I smiled at her as she made her way to the desk trying not to be noticed and trying not to disrupt anyone.
All eyes looked at her as she moved down the aisle and got herself organized.
"You're late. How surprising. Ms. organized and prepared is late for her first class. How shocking!" I said welcoming her.
"Shut your pie hole Ray." She said somewhat rudely yet playfully.
Dean looked at her and then looked at me and could see that there was a little history between us already and laughed out a little too loud.
The three of us took a quick jerk to the front of the classroom to show Gillies that we were paying attention and not disturbing his classroom. Too late.
All eyes in the class including Gillies looked at Dean, Carrie and myself.
"Something you care to share Mr. ?" Gillies finished the statement with a question wanting Dean to finish so he could tell everyone his name.
"Dean" he said.
"Anything you care to share Mr. Dean?"
Another quick snort from Dean. "No no, my name is Dean Robertson not Mr. Dean." I was laughing because this girl here just told Ray to shut his pie hole. I've never heard that before."
The class started laughing a little and the mood automatically got lighter. Gillies had a big smile on his face and laughed as well.
"And what is your name Ms. Tardy?" Gillies warmed up to her.
"And you …. Mr. Pie hole?" Your name is ?
"Ray." I replied and we all smiled and looked at each other and shared a moment of enlightenment for everyone.
"Ok, let's get to work here. We are all here for some serious condensed learning. We are here to fill your heads with so much crap then set you out into the workforce so you can unload all your knowledge and skills on them."
The first class was a good one. Lots of outlining about what we were going to do for the next two months in Gillies class and a quick overview of all that we are going to learn. It turned out that Gillies was going to be the primary professor and counselor for the whole duration. Probably going to be our key faculty contact and lifeline. I didn't know if we got in on his good side or his bad side with our little outburst in class. I was hoping that he would find it a little bit on the funny side and not hold it against us for the rest of the year.
On to the next class where we were immersed right into our first lecture, first reading assignment and lesson assignment. This professor was truly a perfectionist and a crotchety old fart. Dry personality, cold demeanor and very impersonal. He wore a sleeveless V neck sweater and a bow tie. Enough said. Typical nerd.
Lunch was from twelve fifteen until one fifteen every day. Two , two hour classes in the morning and one two hour and a one hour classes in the afternoon. There was also a nice fifteen minute break in between the classes.
We broke for lunch after the second class and I walked out with Carrie and Dean. Carrie, Dean and I , it turned out all brought a sandwich and some snacks.
"I was just going to go sit in the student lounge and eat my lunch quietly. I brought a couple of sandwiches." I said.
"Me too. That's exactly what I was going to do." Carrie said.
"I guess we all had the same idea. I brought a lunch too. So are we all going to eat together?" Dean asked.
"Sure, let's hit the student lounge?" I suggested.
"Cool." Dean added.
We went into the student lounge together. I went over to get a coke from the vending machine while Dean and Carrie looked for a clean open area where we could crash and eat and gab for the next hour.
Dean was as blunt as blunt can get sometimes. He said what he was thinking and sometimes said it before he realized it probably shouldn't have been said. He didn't care though. He was an extremely bright young man. He was one who worked for two years in the field before he took the courses. He was one of the ones that did not need government assistance for tuition and books either. His father was one of the head writers for a large media corporation. They publish everything from newspapers to TV commercials. Dean had worked as a junior writer headed up by none other than Mr. Dean Robertson Sr. Dean learned a lot from his father and got paid quite well for it. His father was no longer able to advance his son's career without justifying his decision so he paid for Dean's education and sent him on his way to get his degree the fastest way they could. This was the only reason Dean was with us otherwise he would have gone to Columbia or something of that nature. He was here for one reason only and that was to make it as high as he could in the corporation as possible. His father was gearing up for retirement in the next few years and wanted his son to fill his shoes. Excellent salary, benefits, fun job all that stuff. It was enough for Dean to get himself exposed to the field and want to excel in it.
"That was too funny in Gillies class this morning." I said as I sat down and popped the can of soda I just got from the machine.
"Yeah, I thought I was going to die when Dean told everyone what I said to you. Shit ! Why'd ya do that to me ? I was already embarrassed for being late. Couldn't you tell?" Carrie said half smiling and half wondering where he got the balls to do that on our first day.
"I know you were embarrassed , that's why I did it. Thought it would be funny. I was just trying to break the ice in the classroom. Everyone seemed so fucking uptight. Think it went over well with the teacher?" Dean smiled.
"For your sake it better have. I don't want you putting one foot in my grave on the first day. I can do that all on my own , thank you very much." I said then took a big drink of my Coke.
"So how come you were late Carrie? After yesterday, I thought you were going to be the perfect student and bang ! Already a mark on your report card Ms Tardy." I said laughing.
"Shut your pie hole again !" She said smiling. "I told you, my car wouldn't start."
"Oh yeah, I forgot. Nice excuse. Probably slept in." I answered back.
"Sure as heck looks like it." Dean joined in. "You looked like shit this morning when you came in. I mean I've never seen you before yesterday, but you sure looked worse today than yesterday. Looks like you were out drinking half the night."
"Yeah, whatever. I don't know you guys well enough to tell you my life story." She said in a little huff.
"Not yet anyway." Dean and I both stated at the same time. We looked at each other then started laughing.
The last half hour of our lunch was spent talking about class schedules, workloads and the others in the class. There were several that we all agreed we would really not have much to do with and they probably not with us. We were all in our early twenties and these others were probably thirtysomethings. Not really that much in common. There were a few that were our age and seemed like people we would eventually get to know and lunch with.
Off to class again. This one was a writing lab. The whole time was spent learning creative writing styles and techniques. A lot of fun and a lot of learning as well.
The class wound down and we were off to the next. Carrie was looking more and more haggard as the long day dredged on. One more class her face read, one more class then I am outta here her eyes and frown said.
Carrie , Dean and I already had an unspoken truth and that was wherever one of us settled in a new classroom, the other two would sit on either side. This was the case in this class. By this fourth class we had a bond growing and all three of us knew that we were going to be close , very close by the end of our time served in school.
"Man ! Day one has certainly taken its toll on you Carrie." I said as we settled into our three seats in the middle of the classroom. I wondered why she looked so completely different than the day before. The day before she was full of fire and ambition and today she looked like she was half way into the year.
"I know, I am just really tired. I didn't sleep at all last night. The anxiety of the whole first day, I guess." She said trying to convince us.
"I understand." I said. I went through that the night before. It's scary coming back to school after being out for in the workforce a couple years eh?" , I said, trying to learn a little more about her and trying to be compassionate at the same time.
"Tell me about it. It's a hell of a lot harder than you can imagine." She said as she tried to crack a warm smile.
"It's all for the greater good for ourselves. Just keep remembering that. I don't know what you were doing before you started here , but I know it is definitely the wise choice for me. I was at a dead end job and knew I would be able to go nowhere when I decided, screw it, I'm going back to get an education." I said.
"Yeah, same here. Definite dead end. Definite. In fact my whole life was at a dead end until I got the idea of getting the hell out of the life I was in and getting an education and look out for number one. Me."
"Atta girl !" I said.
We smiled at each other and I could see a sense of pride in her face and she started to look like she may end up enjoying the rest of her second day of college. The instructor entered the room and introduced herself as Ms. Anderson.
The last class of each day was a class on business and society. This was to prepare us for managerial positions or human resource type positions within a corporation; I suspected maybe ? No one seemed to know where or how this was to fit into our class materials. It did turn out to be a nice way to end the school day. Never homework, never a serious topic and always a social environment. This was encouraged by the professor, Ms. Kathy Anderson. Kathy believed in open discussion formats all the time. She got out her lesson plan and text books and read it to us for a minute or two then said something like " I guess what we are supposed to learn in this class is how do we get coworkers and subordinates to work for us rather than against us? How do we get them to like us and listen to us? How do we get them to make our lives easier to live in the workplace? How do we manage in an office environment while trying not to look like we are managing, things like that." Let's just talk about that and throw around ideas and discussions. She was a real flake. A very nice professor and likeable person but her classroom was all about how she could actually get all of us to like her and to listen to her and to make her job and life at the college easier. It worked. We would come to learn a lot from her. It was going to be a nice break from the writing and reading lessons and all of that journalism stuff. She was a very attractive woman with the art of dialogue on her side. She had the ability to sweet talk the men in her class as well as the women. Some said she was AC/DC. Some said she was a lesbian, some said she was all about men. No one could tell. We all learned by midway into lesson one that she certainly liked Dean and she certainly liked Carrie. It was fun to see how they both were embarrassed by the special attention and the closeness of her communication with each of them. She was a very touchy feely person and a close talker. She would reach into your heart somehow and really get you involved and intrigued by her personality and presence. One of those magnetic and charismatic personalities that most people were attracted toward. A seductive person through and through.
As Ms. Anderson wound down her class outline she was had really shown everyone her personality to the class, she began to show her favoritism toward both Carrie and Dean. By the end of the class she had everyone talking and discussing management and people skills. She had everyone warming up to everyone. This was going to be the class where we all got to know each other, let loose and have some fun.
As the day came to an end and everyone wearily dredged down the halls and toward the student parking lots the three of us lagged behind talking about how Ms. Anderson maybe had a thing for Carrie.
"Hey, I think you're already on the road to your first A Carrie." Dean said and started chuckling.
"No shit !" I said.
"What do you mean?" Carrie said defensively.
"Come on now, you are already Anderson's favorite." Dean said.
"Whatever." She said.
"No really, I think you two hit it off pretty well. She really got you going and talking and I think she has a thing for you." I chimed in.
"A thing ? Like what thing ?" she said defensively.
"You know. A lesbo thing." I said.
"Screw you ! She's just a nice, kind person. She's no lesbian, and she certainly does not have a thing for me ! I think she has a thing for Dean." She battled back.
"Yeah, I kinda saw that too !" I said. It was weird, I think I saw her looking at both of you with lust in her eyes and visions in her head. Maybe she wants you both…… maybe she wants you both at the same time ! " I laughed.
"Screw You." They both said in unison.
We all laughed about the whole thing. We had to make some fun of it and acknowledge that there was definitely something there because there was definitely something there.
"So I'll see you guys tomorrow." I said as we all walked toward my exit door toward the bus stop.
"K" Dean said.
"Yeah, see ya tomorrow." Carrie added.
"Hope you have a better night Carrie." Dean said smiling.
"God ! Me too !" Carrie smiled as she parted and made a bee line toward her car.
The next day the classmates began shuffling into their first class and once again no Carrie.
Five minutes until class starts and no Carrie. She finally arrived just behind the professor as he was walking in and closing the door.
"Made it." She smiled as she held the professor from closing the door and slid in just in the nick of time.
"Barely." Professor Gillies said smugly then smiled and winked at her.
"Wow, that was close." I whispered.
"Hey Piehole, how you doing?' She said trying not to disrupt the class as the professor plunged into the lesson for the day.
When class ended we walked toward the student lounge for our quick break.
"You want a coffee or something Carrie ?" I asked her as we walked toward our spot in the lounge.
"Please, I never had time to get one this morning and I'm dragging my ass." She said managing a smile.
"No thanks. I gotta go to the john. I'll just meet up with you after break if I don't get back in time." He said with a grin he was trying to hold back to benefit Carrie's presence. He started walking away in a much faster pace than I've seen him walk.
"Ok, hope you make it and everything comes out ok for you buddy." I said smiling as he walked further away and toward the Men's room.
"So?" I said as a weak opening to dialogue with Carrie as we slumped into our oversized and ragged outdated student lounge chairs.
"So what?" she retorted.
"So I think this god damn lounge area is really really bad. It needs some serious upgrades." I said.
"At least it's clean and quiet. Kind of comfortable actually. Like my living room. In need of a makeover but still comfy and clean", she said wrapping both her hands around her coffee cup as she sat with both her legs tucked up under her butt. She leaned over onto one of the chair arms and sat looking at me. She had the far off look like she was looking right through me rather than looking at me.
"You ok?" I asked.
Sure, why ?" she said after a long delay.
"Well for starters, you have that spaced out look like something is on your mind. I'm getting to know it."
"Care to share?" I asked.
"No big deal. I was just wondering about this whole school thing. I wonder if I am going to be able to do this and if it's the right thing for me. My friends all think I'm an idiot for doing this. They say I will never be able to do this and that I am wasting my time and they'll see me when I drop out in a month or whatever."
"Wow ! Did you just say your friends think that?" Emphasis on friends. "Some friends! Sounds like a whole lot of jealousy and very little support and belief in you. What kind of friends do you have ?" I questioned.
"Well, it's a whole big thing. See, I broke up with my boyfriend of three years just last week. I quit my job last week as well. Now my friends, actually mine and my boyfriend's friends think I'm an idiot and a jerk for doing what I did. I moved out and left him high and dry. I got my own apartment and didn't tell him where I moved. No way would I do that ! I had to break my ties with everyone. I'm sure our friends all think I should just stay the way I am. Stay with my boyfriend and at my dead end loser job. God my life really sucked. My boyfriend was a pig, my job sucked and I was always broke. We always had money for his beer and pot but never anything else. He's just such a big loser. All he does is go to work, come home with beer and sits outside playing with his stupid motorcycle and smoking pot with his buddies in the garage. We were always living paycheck to paycheck. . We would manage to go out drinking every weekend and have booze and pot in the house all the time but when I asked him if we could go away for a weekend or go up to my father's cottage for a week or anything the answer was always the same. We have no money, we can't afford that."
She continued on spilling her guts to me. "His friend's girlfriends were the only friends I was allowed. I could never go anywhere or do anything unless he knew who I was with, what I was doing and how long I would be. The very jealous type, you know ? He was ok during the week mostly because I sat inside and watched TV most evening s and he sat in his garage doing his thing, but on weekends it got crazy sometimes. He would get drunk and high then start fighting with his buddies, his buddy's girlfriends and me. Without fail he would take it all out on me. What a frickin ass he was."
Carrie was really pouring out the information now. It was very evident that she was in dire need of a true friend. Someone outside her awful circle of the losers she associated with.
"What do you mean , take it out on you? Did he hit you?" I said starting to show my compassionate side.
"No, not really." She said squirming a little in her comfortable chair. "He was very loud and angry. He would throw stuff, smash stuff, threaten to hit me but never really did. One time he came after me but he was so drunk that I just stepped away from him and kicked him in the nuts and down he went." She said as she vividly brought back that memory, chuckled and shook her head.
"Now still, I can barely afford to drive a car and pay rent. I can hardly afford cigarettes and food. Beer is a definite luxury. I am no better off now than when I was in that loser relationship. This is really really tough on me. I just don't know if I can do this for a whole year. Already I have friends telling me that my ex-boyfriend is telling everyone that I am broke and struggling and am never going to make it through the first month. What a frickin' asshole !"
"Just last night his friend's girlfriend called me and said that she heard that I have a new boyfriend and he is already helping me with my studies and class work. What a jerk off. She says she heard that I will be back with my boyfriend by Halloween. How she got my number I have no idea. She probably called my parent's place. They don't really know who my friends are and how bad my life really is….. or was….." she said finishing her long intimate monologue.
"She's jealous." I said. "She is actually hoping that you will fail and that you'll go back to the life you were in. She would get her friend back then. Remember you'll only be as successful as the company you keep. If you surround yourself with people with no ambition then you will become that. You will think this is the life you are supposed to live. Trust me I know it all too well too ! I was in the same boat as you before I started school. Maybe not quite as bad but still I knew that if I did not change my life I was going to be a miserable person. I know now that this is what I needed to do to change my life. I hope you do too….. I hope you are not letting any of this negative influence get to you. Don't let it break you down man. Don't think twice about what you chose to do. You chose this for all the right reasons. All the right reasons…… better job, better pay, better life. Period. I know I don't know you well enough to be spouting off or preaching but I think it's reassuring to me that you may have some of the same doubts and pressures that I have. Don't let it get to you. What do they say ? Stay the course soldier… something like that." I said finishing with a smile and an outstretched hand to show her that I am there for her.
"Thanks Ray. I think I needed that. You are right. I won't let it get to me. I won't let those people and my past dictate my future. How's that ? " She said smiling warmly at me.
"Cool. Let's make a promise. If you or I ever feel that we're getting cold feet or discouraged we talk about it. Get it worked out . Talk each other off the ledge sort of thing….. you know like the AA buddy system they use?" I smiled.
"Oh, I know all about that , yes. " She said with a sheepish smile.
"Another time ? Another topic for another day?" I smirked back.
"Yup" She said with final decision.
"Ok, let's get outta here. Time to go."
"K" She said.
As we walked down the hall I asked her what her plans were for the weekend and if she wanted to join a few of us for a drink at the local watering hole.
"I think I'll pass this time…. No dough, you know? " She said without a beat.
"I totally understand. But if you want to come along and sip on my pitcher of beer you're more than welcome. Not a date or anything like that, I would just like for you to come 'round , hang out and get to know each other. I mean a bunch of us from class. Not you and I. I think I am getting to know you pretty friggin fast."
"No shit eh?" She said smiling. "Let me give it some thought. If the homework isn't too heavy and I can afford the gas and cigarettes I may just show up. Where ya goin ?"
"Just down the street to the A House." I said with a little anxiousness in my voice.
"I said maybe…no guarantees." She warned.
"Whatever… you know where we'll be. We're going right after class Friday, like five o'clock?"
"Oh, doubt it then…. I would consider Saturday but not Friday. I am hittin' the books Friday night and getting whatever I need to get done out of the way. I hate having that stuff hanging over my head all weekend." She explained.
"Wow ! Dedication ! Not me, I'll probably leave my stuff until Sunday afternoon… you know, why put off until tomorrow what you can save until the next day. Procrastinators unite ! First meeting to be announced at a later date !" I said laughing.
"Yeah, that will definitely get you through college. Talk about me and my attitude, you're worse than me. " she said.
The next few days of our first week of college was pretty much a carbon copy of the first few days. Lots of learning, lots of getting used to schedules, getting to know each other and getting settled in. Dean , Carrie and myself had gotten to know a few of our classmates and our little group of three grew by a couple. Two classmates, Eric and Mike were beginning to flutter around us in the cafeteria and lounge area a bit. They were the two that suggested we go out for our first evening at the local watering hole. Sounded like a good idea and by Friday, it could not come fast enough !
Standing there just a livewire
With nowhere left to turn
You were gonna set the world on fire
When will you ever learn?
Shot through the heart as I lay there alone
In the dark through the heart
It's all part of this game that we call love
Bon Jovi - CIRCA 1984
The A House was jammed packed with college students cutting loose. Loud was the order of the evening.
The worn, nicked and dinged blonde oak hardwood floors could tell many stories of the 60 some year old nearby college and the scholars that treaded upon them. They could tell tales of the busy Friday and Saturday nights from September until the end of May. June through August the place could have been used as a bowling alley. During the summer students and alum disbursed to the places from which they came. If you were over 30 you were there only as a designated driver or a new Professor who happened in to see what all the talk was about.
There were the four of them sitting around an old pine square table. Dean, Mike, Eric and some other guy I had never seen before. Art and I arrived at about 5:30 PM just as the others were getting their first pitcher of cold beer delivered. I decided to bring my good buddy Art along since it was a while since we had seen each other with me getting ready for college and all. We took Art's motorcycle from his place, which was conveniently located less than a mile from the A House. Helmets being mandatory, we walked into the bar with ours tucked under our arms wearing cut off shorts and tank tops. My 6'3" 198 pound frame looked much less attractive than Art's Tarzan build. He was built for cut off shorts and tank tops. Art had a way with people with both his "don't give a shit" personality and his "