Table of Contents for the "Hole" Story
|Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3|
|Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6|
Here is where more text or an image goes.
Keep Me Whole Until Morning
Chapter 1 -- Tulsa to NormanEdit
I thought I would have to ride the Greyhound bus from Tulsa to Norman where I am going to college, but a few days before I was due to leave Zeke volunteered to drive me in his truck. He pulled it into the driveway and watched while mom and I loaded my two plastic foot lockers, several boxes, one trunk and three soft sided duffles. We waltzed the heavy boxes carefully out of Pandemonium Central and into the load bed, each of us taking an end and going: "One, two, three...Lift!" so we would not hurt our backs. He admired our matter of fact approach and the quiet way we went about our work.
Zeke sometimes says that Mom and I could be sisters because we think alike. I don't know how he sees that. I think he'd rather not think about either of our histories. They are sordid. The fact that I'm now in college doesn't change that.
Zeke sometimes sees things Mom and I (forget Dad. He's clueless and very problematic.) don't see or won't look at. Then again, Mom is good at solving problems that baffle Zeke.
This was not my first trip to Norman. I had taken the bus there in early July for a day long orientation. I went up there two weeks later for an additional honors meeting. I went to Norman when I was sixteen too. Zeke insisted on that trip. I was supposed to be learning to drive and...Zeke gave up teaching me after a week. "That girl doesn't see straight does she?" he drawled at Mom who explained that I had strabismus and some "eye muscle issues, and impaired depth perception.... A lot of people have this and still drive... Rimona can do anything she has a mind to."
Zeke said: "Cut the crap Zoe. You need to take that girl to an eye doctor. How long has it been since she's been to one?"
Mom made the appoinment at the University of Oklahoma Opthamology Clinic. We went to Norman and they gave me tests and told me not to cheat. I guess they caught on that kids cheat on those things and they cheat right and left. They also gave me some tests on which I couldn't cheat. I was still blinking from the drops when the eye doctor delivered her verdict. I have eye muscles that I don't really control, zero binocular vision, almost no fusion in the distance, and the world beyond arm's reach jumps around for me. I probably can read because I do it fast and up close. I probably will never drive a car and probably should not learn because I lack the focusing ability and ability to judge the distance of moving objects that most people take for granted. I have 20/30 uncorrected vision in both eyes. Accuity, though isn't everything.
Zeke took my diagnosis hard. Mom just shrugged. I think Mom expected something like this. There is a lot a nondriving teenager can do. I can read a map and navigate both by landmarks and dead reckoning. No one in our family, that is the Hektors, not all the step parents and step kin, gets lost. I can't drive, but I can navigate. I can also walk and take transit. That means I run errands and ran them all summer.
Sometimes I even ran errands just for fun or to satisfy myself. I walked everywhere. Mom told me of how I'd have to build up my legs for college anyway. "College students walk everywhere and they walk very long distances," Mom explained. She told me the story about the counselors at Cornell Adult University who were Cornellians and who treated their charges with no malice but no mercy. If they had an activity in town or on the far end of a huge campus, they walked two, three, four miles, and up and down hills that we don't have here in Oklahoma.
The walking baffled Zeke. I would have done it had I lived in New York where I grew up until I was fifteen. I would not have been strange there, but here in Tulsa, everyone drives everywhere. Zeke would always interrogate me when I got home. He'd inspect anything I bought. He'd ask me about my route and whether I felt safe. Crossing through traffic scares the crap out of poor Zeke, but it's a necessary survival skill.
The truck to take me to the University of Oklahoma was crowded. Zeke and I sat up front because I was navigating. Mom sat in the back seat and Zeke's two boys sat on either side of her. One of them cut his newest fake fart in honor of the occasion. Zeke turned on the Country Western station that plays "modern music," and we were off.
There was a line of cars at the Cate Center loading dock. There were two professorly types who greeted the procession of arriving freshpeople. "This is it," Zeke sighed. He did not fully approve.
"It's Honors Housing," Mom reminded him.
"It needs work," Zeke answered.
Two male students who looked a bit like football players helped us load my trunks on to a dolly cart and bring them inside. We got the service elevator to the fourth floor and half way down the hall found my room. Zeke remarked that the University must have figured out I had strong legs. I thought of what Mom said about college students needing to be strong as I dug out my keys and let the dust moats dance into the hall.
Mom and I unloaded in silence. In another place or time, Mom might have helped me unpack but she wanted to get back to Zeke who wanted to take his sons out to eat. She said goodbye to me a few feet from the loading dock and sped away. With that, I was on my own.
I can not really fret about being on my own. I am eighteen. That makes me an adult. In another place or time I would be on my own at fourteen. My great great grandmother ran away from home at sixteen and came to the United States. She died in 1984 and I am named for her. Her name was Rebeccah. My first name is Rimona. My middle name is Qaoar which was a newly discovered planet which is now an asteroid just like Pluto. Oh well, R.Q. Hektor sounds like a great name doesn't it?
Rimona Q. Hektor
Rm 416 Cate Center
University of Oklahoma
Chapter 2 -- Meet the CellmateEdit
The first thing I had to do was get unpacked. Next, I needed to register to put points on my DBA so I could use the dining halls and get fed. DBA stands for declining balance account otherwise known as a meal plan with points. Dad had moaned and groaned that he could not simply buy me a given number of meals per week. He feared I would starve to death, and besides that was the way Cornell Dining did things. Hey University of Oklahoma is not Cornell, Dad. Please get over it. I also needd to verify my schedule. I was all ready registered, and I needed to buy my text books. I could check the ATM for money on my debit card which acted like a check book. Mom was worried so much that she took sixteen hairy fits that I would bounce a check, and I only overdrew my checking account once and that was over a year ago. Mom nearly cried when I showed her the little pink notice my bank sent me.
The first thing I extracted from my fairly well packed pile of junk was my boombox and my collection of CD's. I burn these things, and buy others. I put on Philip Glass' score from Candy Man and enjoying the creepy, sad tunes, began to make up my bed so I could fold clothe on it. Next, I put up some room decorations. I was folding clothes when a whole herd of people pushed through the dormitory room door. Among them was a student who was going to be my roommate.
She was easy to figure out because the other girl looked a few years too young and the other women (There were two of them) had that tired, old, middle aged look about them. They also looked washed out with dish water blond hair and bleached blond hair respectively. The roommate was just plain blond. Her China blue eyes stared out from gold rimmed glasses. She was thin and a good six inches taller than I was.
There was a boy and two men, one middle aged and the other a bit decrepit looking, with the family as well as two bored little kids. I was very glad now that Mom and Zeke had sped away with Zeke's two sons. I tried to remember how Emmanuel, the younger boy, had managed that fake fart. He had been rather good at it.
"Oh I used to have a bedspread like that," commented the oldest of the men.
"We had bedspreads like that when we first got married," the older woman told him. I bounced on my freshly spread bed.
No one was handling introductions. "It's sure crowded in here," the old woman went on.
"It's the way dorms are," the middle aged woman who was probably the mother continued.
"You said you wanted to live in a dorm. Well this is a dorm," sighed the middle aged male. The girl said nothing as she and the adults began ripping open mostly cardboard boxes. The girl had brought too much stuff, a television which I did not need, more clothes than she could stuff in the dresser, athletic equipment of various varieties that I had never seen fit to own. "Oh God," I thought. "I'm going to be living with a jockette."
Jockette's family was all activity, but they had no organization. Didn't they know you put on the music first so you can work with it. Oh well, I had the music but they could ask me to turn it off. "What kind of music is that?" asked the grandmother. "It's not even pretty."
"It's not supposed to be pretty. It's the score to a horror movie."
"Why are you listening to the score from a horror movie?" the mother asked.
"Because it is wonderfully evocative," I snapped.
The parents looked at eachother, but the jockette did not blink. She kept hanging her clothes that had been brought naked without the aid of suitcases and with just cheesey wire hangers. I had nice plastic hangers because I bought them with my birthday money.
"Are you one of those Gothic girls?" the mother asked.
"She doesn't look like a Goth," were jockette's first words. "I'm Kerry Lumpkin..."
"I'm Rimona Hektor," I responded. Kerry stopped adding blouses to hangers and glanced around. It was as if she had just woken up the fact that her family had been mobbing her since six o'clock this morning. "Where are you from?" she asked.
"Tulsa," I answered though that by no means tells the whole story.
"You don't sound like you're from Tulsa," the grandmother intervened.
"I grew up in Westchester County," I replied. "That's right outside of New York City."
"I'll be..." sighed the grandfather.
"How'd you get to Oklahoma?"
"My mom moved here when my parents got divorced," I gave the sthort version of the story. That usually works, though I clearly was not what this brood who came attached to my roommate expected.
"Can we put some other kind of music on?" my roommate asked out of the blue.
"If you have any CD's with you..." I said. I could have suggested the country western radio station that plays "modern" music, but I'd had a belly full of it on the ride up from Tulsa. I could have also cruised the right end of the FM dial for NPR. My mom was addicted to NPR. It was just about all we had on in Pandemonium Central.
The mother handed Kerry some CD's in a cute little draw string bag, the same sort of bag my mother used for her CD's except mom's bag was burgundy plaid and this one was made of blue denim. I removed Candyman and soon Christian rock was booming away. It was not that awful though the arrangements were a bit on the trite side.
The music quieted everybody down. Then the grandmother asked: "Are there boys in this building?"
"Yes," I answered. My Dad had wondered the same thing. There is no equivalent of Balch Hall at U of Oklahoma but the web site is very circumspect about sleeping arrangements. We had to do some digging on the web to find out and then a few phone calls.
"They're down the hall," I answered.
"So they still have co-ed dorms...." sighed the father who had been minding the bored and antsy little kids who apparently did not know how to create their own fake farts.
"Of course they do," I replied. "Having men and women together cuts down vandalism."
"Well I'll be...." sighed the grandmother. "I wonder if any of those professors down there were atheists....I guess you'll learn that soon enough."
"I'm not taking evolution," Kerry protested. For the first time she showed signs that the crowd scene in the bedroom was straining her. I felt a bit sorry for my roommate. I was glad when her bedding was down, her decorations were up, and she had given the CD of Christian rock back to her mother. Of course the roommate came complete with a picture of Jesus with a little boy on his robed knee and his hands in suspiciously the wrong place and the big picture was over her bed where I could see it. Oh well, it looked like we would both have to get some ear phones so as not to drive eachother crazy with music.
Then someone in the brood saw the poster over my bed. It had been one of the first things I put up since I unpacked in an organized way. Besides all the books I read on college success said that putting up decorations is very important. The poster was an advertisement for a bitter sweet, armoatic red apparatif called Campari. My dad sometimes drinks Campari and it is one of the few alcoholic beverages I like. It's not worth having a fake ID though to be able to procure Campari and soda. Besides that, Campari is not all that popular in Oklahoma. The poster featured an orange peel carved off in a single, inviting spiral. In the center of the peel danced a roguish harlequin clown in a red suit and with a pale white face that had seen better days, a receeding hairline, and a sweet smile.
"What's that?" one of the little boys asked.
"It's an advertisement for Campari. It's an apparatif, a kind of wine you drink before meals," I explained.
"You drink?" the mother asked.
"It's illegal for me to drink. The law says twenty-one," I spat back.
"But you'd drink if you could?" asked the grandmother.
"Sometimes," I answered. Since when was being a social drinker a crime?
"Is that a picture of Satan?" asked one of the little kids. This time it was a girl child. Now, the clown looks rather devilish, but the Prince of Darkness he is definitely not.
"No," I replied. "He's just an old clown. Satan," I explained, "is Lucifer, the Son of the Morning. He's a fallen angel. He'd be drop dead gorgeous or really fiercely ugly not like this guy." I pointed to my poster.
"How do you know about the devil?" it was the grandmother who asked.
"I read Paradise Lost when I was in tenth grade," I replied.
That pretty much killed the conversation except that Kerry, the poor roommate, needed to get her registration confirmed and for some reason her parents wanted to do this before she even got her DBA points. They wanted to drive her to the union because "it was hot."
I suggested we walk. Parking spaces were scarce. There were even cars on the lawns. Mom and Zeke had been right to beat it out of here with the two boys, I thought. "Walking will be faster," I suggested.
"Do you know the way?" it was the father who asked.
I had a map and it was not far, just a good six blocks. There was grass and sidewalks between the buildings. College campuses were pedestrian paradises. That was how I found myself leading a brood of eight souls from rural Oklahoma to the administration building so that Kerry and I could fall into the teeth of the beuarocracy.
Chapter 3 -- Separate WaysEdit
Kerry's family lasted all of two blocks before they started whining and complaining: "Do you know where we are?..." "How much further do we have to go?" "It's hot!" "We're lost!" "I'm going back to get the car." I just kept walking and they kept moving, a bunch of rolling doughnuts who rolled right into Buchanan Hall and the older people did not like the self-service computer area. I plunked myself down and soon had a printout of my schedule from which I could figure out where to go to classes. Everything seemed right with that, so I headed upstairs to obtain my ID which meant a wait in a line with about twenty students of all shapes and sizes on it. No one in the line said much. The unhappy parents in the line made unhappy parent noises and the offspring made unhappy kid noises back. This was a family ritual I was glad to be spared. It took five minutes to sit in front of a computer, have my picture recorded to DVD, and have a card machine spit a red and white Sooner ID out the other end.
I returned downstairs and found Kerry and her mother waiting resolutely in a long line to see a live person about a live problem. I decided not to wait for her and headed around the rear of Buchanan Hall to the Housing and Dining Office. This was a delicate errand. First, both my parents wanted me on the Enhanced Fourteen Meal Plan. My father even fretted that there was no twenty meal a week plan. Mom thought the "big meal plan" was a good idea too. I wouldn't have any where to cook. I might run low on cash. I would never starve. It was also good discipline to get in for meals. What my mother found though was that there were no central campus dining halls unlike a certain institution which is my parents idea of college. You can guess where that is if you want. Well not only did I need an Enhanced meal plan but my dad insisted on a receipt to prove that I had bought such a plan. Asking for the receipt made me feel strange. It was that all eyes are on me feeling. The nice lady behind the counter must have had requests like this before. She ceremoniously handed me the paper. I put it in my pocket and left it there to get folded and mutilated. I'd pick up a box of envelopes with my school supplies and find a mailbox for it in my travels.</p>
The student union and book store were only a few doors down from Buchanan. Without Kerry's complaining brood to shepherd along, I slipped inside and checked to see if the store had my books. That was when I learned that the store was packed not only with students but with parents and relatives who would not leave or maybe they were afraid their offspring would not buy books. That was pretty dumb when you thought about it.
I walked out of the book store, found an ATM for my bank and instead of juicing up the debit card, made an eight hundred dollar withdrawal. Cash transactions always move faster, and I understand them better. You can't bounce cash and mom doesn't blow a hairy fit.
I reentered the bookstore, leaving my empty military surplus backpack outside and got just the books I needed. The line for cash only was fairly short and in what I guessed was fifteen minutes, I had books. Unfortunately, what I did not yet have was school supplies. Worse still, I was hungry.
I walked back toward Cate. Most of the fourth floor hall was full of families quietly unpacking their freshpeople who lived interspersed among upper class students. Kerry's and my room was empty except for the dancing dust motes. I could hear a distant radio or boom box playing something that sounded like Top 40. The far away music should have made me sad. I did feel a twinge of something. I wished Mom and Zeke hadn't driven off so fast though part of me was glad they left me to sort out problems in my own way. I kind of knew Mom would be proud of the way I was handling things. Part of me said that I was too busy to let myself feel sad. I had places to go and plans all the way until ten o'clock Central Daylight Time. That really was not such a bad deal when you thought about it.
I slipped the books on to a shelf with a few precious paperbacks that kept me company along with a Bible. I rewound my blackout proof alarm clock with two bells on top, smoothed out my sage green chenille bedspread, and made sure no one had messed with the Campari poster over my bed. I glanced at a bar of sunlight cutting across Jesus' robed knees on the other wall and the happy little boy seated on the saviour's lap. "Poor boy," I thought. "You're probably dead or maybe this all takes place in a dream."
I locked up the room and went to get some lunch. I brought my empty backpack with me. I'd need it to bring home school supplies from Wall-Mart. At least my stipend from the trust fund Dad had set up for me, had come through. I wondered if I should thank him.
I mused on that as I walked to the middle of West Lindsey and waited for the traffic to clear. Some idiot honked his horn at me. I watched a brood of disbelieving parents shake their heads. "You should look where you're going," a fatherly type called out. "Don't you know about crossing through traffic?" I responded. He didn't.
I made my way into Couch which has three huge interconnected dining halls with a wealth of food bars from where one can take one's pick of cuisines and items to make the perfect meal. This had impressed both my parents no end. I guess no self respecting parent wants their young adult offspring living on "chocolate covered doodies," as Mom calls them.
Couch was full of families dining on guest passes and cash. I really did not want to sit with any one else' parents when my own were long gone. I did not want to eat with Kerry's family. I was glad they were not around. Where did they go for lunch? I could guess. I scoped out the salad and deli bars. I decided to fix myself a deli-bar sandwich and get a dish of cold beets from the aslad bar and a cold drink and some fruit. I did want to see the pastries. They had them in a glass case called the Sweet Shoppe. They were mostly cream cakes. I prefer fruit pies and then interesting flavors like apricot and pineapple.
Rimona Q. Hektor
Couch Dining Hall
University of Oklahoma
Chapter 4 -- Lunch with a Beautiful CoupleEdit
I couldn't really see the pies though because someone was blocking the case. Actually it was a couple. The boy was incredibly tall and well built. I couldn't decide if he played football or basketball. He was suntanned with glossy black hair and skin that was almost golden brown. He was well muscled beneath his burgundy t-shirt and his feet were thrust into worn cowboy boots. He shifted from one foot to another a bit impatiently.
With him was a girl of average height. She looked poured into her faded jeans. Her butt reminded me of two pert and perky oranges. Apples lacked the perfect roundness. Her hair was a lustrous auburn that looked like it belonged on a shampoo commercial.
"Shasta," said the male half of the couple. "You're here now. Let's celebrate. Go ahead and have some cake."
"I can't..." she stammered back slowly. "I mean I'm not ready, Rain. Maybe in a day or two..."
"You're safe now, Shas."
"I know, but I don't feel that way yet. Mabye I'll be able to celebrate by the weekend....I'm going to get some salad, Rain. That's all I feel like eating."
I wasn't going to see if there were decent pies any time soon. I turned back to the salad and deli bars. I got two slices of whole wheat bread, and yes, they had provolone cheese. I put the cheese on the bread as the girl from the pastry case began to rummage through what was either cold chicken or turky. It's all boring white meat and totally tasteless. It's food I avoid. The girl's face though intent on her task had lovely pale skin and regular festures, including a straight waspish nose. She made her plain white camisole look neither too sexy nor too plain, just perfectly alluring and feminine. The girl was probably a cheerleader or a model, I told myself. Those kinds of women can get resentful of an academic type like me, especially down here in Oklahoma. Ardsley Highschool was different. I tried not to think about that. I'm eighteen now. I've graduated. I'm in college. I'm in an honors program.
I added two tomato slices and several onion rings to my sandwich. "Dragon's breath here I come," I thought, as I made my way down the salad bar, where Shasta, the auburn haired cheerleader, helped herself to romaine lettuce. I put some Thousand Island on my sandwich and filled a small bown with canned beets that were either pickled or just canned. They were good either way. Then I saw that the auburn haired cheerleader was staring at me and so too was the big, golden brown skinned boy in cowboy boots. Shasta's eyes were brilliant grey and the boyfriend, Rain's eyes, were a wonderful green.
"I hate beets," remarked Shasta.
"Well, someone has to like them or they wouldn't serve them," commented Rain.
"Are you all alone here?" Rain then asked me. Yes, he was speaking to me and I wanted to slap his gorgeous face. How dare he patronize me!
"As a matter of fact yes," I replied. How else was I supposed to be. Rain would after all be all alone too if his girlfriend from high school wasn't with him or if he were a freshperson. I wasn't sure he was a freshperson. He looked far older than eighteen.
"Why don't you come eat lunch with us..." Rain's invitation blindsided me. Maybe it was even in good faith.
"I need to get something to drink," I stammered.
"Well so do I," he answered. "We're going to eat under the white banner with the antique photographs of men in leather helmets under it. Can you meet us there?"
"Sure," I replied. I got a Cherry Coke and found a pear in the fruit bowl. I did finally get to look in the Sweet Shop case. They only had cherry pie with some kind of whip cream all ready added. I loathe whip cream, so the bartlett pear was a no brainer.
I made my way out to the tables and banquettes and found several white banners. Only one, one stuck back in a corner out of traffic had the antique football team photos under it. I wondered if Rain played football. If he had, it hadn't scrambled his brains. The only people in the world I knew who operated like Rain were my parents, and sad to say, I don't mean Zeke. Zeke boggled at my mother's executive ability.
Rain introduced himself. He was Ranier Ciari from Boise City. Boise City was in the panhandle in the far west of the state. I knew about it from The Last Hard Time by Timothy Egan. It was Ground Zero for the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Ranier was a freshperson just as I was. Shasta was Shasta Godwin also from Boise City. Ranier and Shasta were high school sweethearts and no Shasta was not a prom queen. She wanted to teach physical education though what she really loved was dance. No, she had not been a cheerleader. Her leanings were for ballet and broadway. The university was big time for her and in a way it had to be. Boise City from what I knew of it was pretty much a ghost town.
"So what do you want to major in?" I asked Ranier.
"International relations," he answered. "Without missing a beat. I'm interested in global business." He smiled with big, strong, perfectly white teeth.
"I want to major in chemistry," I told the beautiful couple. "I liked it in high school." I was starting to feel very dumb and awkward.
"Chemistry is hard," offered Shasta.
I shrugged. "I like hard subjects," I responded.
"Are you in the Honors Program?" Shasta asked. Part of me wanted to slap her.
"Yes," I said instead.
"Rain's an honors student too," Shasta added.
"Do you live in Cate?" It was my turn to play Twenty Questions
"Yes, I do." Ranier leaned back and sized me up again. "I guess that means I'll see you at the First Year Meeting tonight in the Social Lounge." There was only one social lounge for both of us since we were in the same dorm. Was Shasta also an honors student, I wondered. It was not something I wanted to ask.
"I just have my regular floor meeting tonight in Walker," sighed Shasta. "I'll miss hobnobbing with the elite." I guessed I was not the only one with the urge to slap faces. It was a pretty dumb urge when you thought about it.
"Well, you won't be missing anything, Shas," Ranier triedt comfort his girlfriend. "I'm sure it will be a perfect bore."
I wasn't so sure about that. I was curious what kinds of kids had made the cut for Honors as incoming fresh people. Were they all kids who had won the genetic lottery like Ranier or were they nerdy types. Did some of them get their start out of state?
Shasta and Ranier let their conversation drift to talk about going to a Road House Friday for a date and talk about having seen someone else from their hometown named Moses on campus. I wouldn't have known Moses from a hole in the wall. With an incoming freshperson class of close to seven thousand, I doubt I would ever meet him.
Shasta and Ranier ate fast. They left me to finish my beets and sandwich alone and much my pear as I tried to figure out the beautiful couple from a tiny town. I hit a blank wall fast. I also really hit a blank wall with Kerry, my roommate. People could like cheesey old Campari posters. People could like kitschy art. People could eat beets and have avacado green rib cord bed spreads and people could have white silky comforters and Bibles in white, zippered cases. They could still be smart and given a chance, they could whip your rear end. I had to remember that. It was a comforting thought in its own way because it was somehow very hopeful.
Chapter 5 -- Wal-Mart and BackEdit
Going to Wal-Mart was a no brainer. I was used to walking longer distances from Pandemonium Central to downtown Tulsa any day of the week. And yes it was hot. No I did not need water. I'd had something to drink at lunch and could pick up a cold drink at or near the Wal-Mart. I set off across campus. I enjoyed the unguided tour as I found my way to the northern part of Asp Avenue. On West Boyd, I turned east. It promptly turned into East Boyd.
The neighborhood near the campus was picturesque though pancake flat. There were cut up houses and bungalos set on green lawns with trees. The sidewalk came and went. In this part of the world, pedestrians who were a timourous lot, walked in the granss or the dust where feet beat down a trail rather than on the left shoulder of the road.
As long as there was a pasable grass trail I had no problem with that and the trail stayed passable, as the college town turned to sprawling exurb and the blocks became monstrous Oklahoma blocks. There were nine blocks and the last of them passed through a new subdivision separated from the main road by a fence. Somewhere in the subdivision was a pool. I caught a glimpse of it through one of the gates.
Finally, I reached 12fth Street which was a highway. It was hard to find a light, a place to cross, and a working walk signal. Pedestrians in Oklahoma are second class citizens. I resorted to crossing the busy four lane street through traffic and got four cars to stop. I smiled at them as I pranced to safety on the other side of the road.
I walked four more Oklahoma size blocks, and I reached my destination. Wal-Mart was cool and clean inside. The school supplies were reasonably priced and I managed to pick up light bulbs and extra batteries as well as a large wad of pens and pencils and a ream of paper and some looseleaf paper. I paid for everything and stopped by the twenty-five cent soda machine for my favorite libation. The soda machine spat back my quarter. I kicked it out of pure spite, and got back on the road.
I'd make it back in time for dinner and then the meeting. I was not sure what people did at night. Maybe I'd meet some of my dorm mate without hovering parents and exhausted younger brothers and sisters. I mused on all this as I headed south on dusty sidewalks.
I hardly heard the horn honk. Here in Oklahoma, drivers honk at pedestrians for fun. Sometimes they stop to ask if you are all right. Of course I'm all right and I'm smart enough not to accept rides from strangers. Foot travel is neither fatal nor a sign of illness. In fact it is practical and efficient and...
Just stop honking that stupid horn! I'm not interested, and....
The red sports car just sat there parked on the grassy shoulder of the road between the broad, modern sidewalk and the pavement. Were they out of gas? Was the car broken? "Can I do something for you?" I asked.
"Get in," said a male voice I recognized. It was Rainier Ciari and with him of course was Shasta Godwin. Shasta got out and folded back the front passenger seat. The sports car was really a two seater so I got squished in the back. I'm not that large even with a backpack, and fortunately the unused back seat was not a repository for used snot rags and food wrappers. Instead, it held several large shopping bags from Dillards and Belk's. "Who went shopping?" I asked.
As Ranier executed a perfect and daring U-Turn in the middle of Twelfth Street, I regretted giving up the rather pleasant space in my own head formed by walking in relatively new surroundings. I was a captive not that Ranier and Shasta were doing anything other than driving back to campus after a trip to the mall.
"I did," Shasta confessed. "Ranier is so happy to be here, he just had to buy me something new."
"Your'e beautiful and you deserve beautiful things," Ranier responded.
Shasta made a sad litle noise. "I'm not even unpacked yet," she declared.
"Well I have to meet my uncle at the Hilton on the other side of town."
"Which uncle?" Shasta asked forgetting I was there curled up in the back seat and hearing everything, not that I knew any of these people. At least the uncle wasn't here.
"Uncle Ruel," Ranier answered. "He lives in Toronto. You've never met him."
"What's he doing here?"
"Just passing through. Probably wanted to see if I was all right."
Shasta sighed. "Look," Ranier restarted the stalled conversation. "Why don't I drop Rimona at Cate and...wait, Rimona can you do me a favor?"
Ranier had my name right, perfectly pronounced. Most people in this part of the world say Ram-on-a but he caught the Hebrew i which is pronounced like an "ee." "Can you help my friend unpack?"
"Now that was a new one," I thought. Couples, especially beautiful and wealthy couples (Ranier's red sports care was hardly cheap.) did not usually let in third parties, and certainly not strangers.
"I need to drop my supplies off at my room," I answered. "Then I can walk over to Walker and I can help Shasta."
"Sounds good to me," answered Ranier. Shasta for whatever reason did not get a vote.
I asked for her room and it was 707 Walker. Odd numbered rooms in Walker Tower were female and even numbered ones were male. This was, I observed, the reverse of Cate. With luck, I figured, I might meet some new kids. Walker rooms were quads with a shared bathroom and that meant Shasta had three suitemates. Maybe they would all be in there. I also really did not want to eat dinner alone though I wish that Shasta and Ranier did eat more slowly.
Ranier pulled the red sports car up to the front door of Cate. I slung on my backpack and said I'd be over at Shasta's room in about half an hour. Ranier thanked me and drove off to deposit Shasta and head out to his own errand.
I climbed the stairs where late afternoon sunbeams danced through frosted and pier glass slits and pushed open the fire door into the hall. Most of the parents were gone, and the top floor of the dormitory was quiet. My roommate was away somewhere. Her decorations and books including a hard cover dictionary that could stun and ox, a motivational title by Joel Osteen, and a Bible in a white, zippered case sat between assorted crystal decorations on the small shelf above her bed on which a brand new white satiny comforter lay smoothly glistening.
I threw my pack on the bed and stowed my school supplies. I wondered if I really wanted to help Shasta unpack. Did she really want me around? Was Ranier somehow trying to make her jealous? Did I want to be involved? I told myself once again that Walker was a larger dorm than Cate and I would undoutedly meet more people, not eat dinner alone, and Besides, Ranier would not be there so how could Shasta be jealous of me. I was just the servant to the beautiful, popular kids and hey it was a new role so why not enjoy it.
===Chapter 6 -- Shasta, Kerry, and More===
I walked to Walker. It was not far. The outside door was open, and the elevator worked. I found Room 707. Shasta let me in. She had been sitting on her bed in the single seat hollowed out of a pile of clothes just dumped there. Half of Shasta's stuff was still in black plastic garbage bags. Other stuff was in open cardboard boxes. Other stuff was on the floor with no rhyme or reason to its placement. I felt horrible for Shasta's roommate. Shasta took a bottle of water bought from a vending machine from her night table and returning to her seat in the pile on the bed, took a few sips.
"Do you want to put your stuff away?" I asked. Shasta nodded. "Then let's start," I continued. I tried to be gentle about this. I looked around and found an empty box. "Let's put all the clothes on the bed in here," I began. I hoped they would fit. I hoped Shasta would not object. She blinked. "You don't mind..."
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"We need to make a space on the bed."
So we can roll or fold the clothes that need it," I explained. Despite Kerry's family's sloppy performance, there was a method to setting up a room. Slowly, Shasta began to move and we got the clothes pile into a box. "Now where are your sheets and blankets?" I asked.
Shasta shook her head. "We're going to make the bed so we can fold the clothes on it," I explained.
"You sound like Ranier," the beautiful girl from Boise City commented. "He does stuff this way. It makes me feel strong and protected, like I fit in and belong."
"Everyone belongs here," I quipped. "Everyone is new."
"That's easy to say. You're in the Honors Program."
"You got in though," I answered. "You're here. If you're here, you belong."
"I wish it were that easy," Shasta smiled a farway smile. She shook her head. I helped her make up the bed, and then we began to put away the clothes and set up the decorations and even unroll the rug that her roommate had bought but for which she had no room given Shasta's mess. From the other side of the wall, a rap singer chanted about wanting success. Shasta glanced in the direction of the sound. She told me that hip hop was not her thing and that she preferred oldies like the Beatles.
"One of the Beatles was dead before we were even born," I reminded her.
"Music lives forever," Shasta informed me. Shasta glanced at her cell phone that she used in place of a watch. "Six o'clock all ready. My roommates is probably eating without me. She knows a whole bunch of people from her high school in Oklahoma City. Must be nice to be at school with people from your high school."
"It's OK. I'm not that close to any one I went to high school with. I'm the only one from my school in Cate I think. Most of the really bright kids went to California or back east. They got scholarships. They had rich parents," I told a story that was part of a bigger story. What, by the way, was Shasta's story besides being a lost and lonely small town girl. Where were her parents. Had she come with them at all. Why had they left so fast? I tried not to think of any of this as we headed down to the big dining hall in Couch for dinner.
Ranier still wasn't back. Shasta hoped aloud that he was all right. I wondered siltenly why he wouldn't be. I came up with several sinister reasons and dismissed them for lack of evidence.
"Rimona! Rimona!" a voice called out as we entered the blue section to get to the salad bar. Kerry Lumpkin stood on a hot line with two other girls. "This is my roommate, Rimona," she introduced me to the girls one of whom was a light skinned African American who was extremely tall and the other of whom had a tortoise shell brown colored bowl bob. "Hanna and LaShanda, this is Rimona Hektor, my roommate." We exchanged hellos. I introduced Shasta. "This dining hall is so big," sighed Kerry. I shrugged. I wanted to check out the vegetarian area before deciding between a hot dish, something from the Greek area, pizza, or a sandwich. I also realized we needed a table.
"Do we have a table?" I inquired. "We'll get one together," Hanna suggested. She had a gentle motherly voice. I ambled off to make my selections and figured we'd all meet up at the beverage bar, get separated, whatever... We did manage to make it back to a table this time in the blue section and by a window. The four of us made an odd sort of family of convenience. Kerry eyed my food. I had the brussel sprouts with soba noodles and miso sauce. "You like brussel sprouts?" Kerry asked. I wanted to slap her. I remembered what Ranier told Shasta about beets. Shasta for her part had the roast chicken just like Kerry did. LaShanda had pizza with pepperoni and Hanna had a bar-b-que sandwich. "Are you a vegetarian?" asked Hanna.
I shrugged. "Sometimes," I told her. "Brussel sprouts are good. I like that they have six choices here at least most nights. Something for everybody." Conversation then drifted into comparing schedules. Kerry and I were in the same calculus class together and we also shared an English elective, politics of Shakespeare. Kerry had English because she had been closed out of the basic writing course. I had placed out but that was another story. Shasta and I were in Intro to Psychology together. It was a big lecture, and I reminded myself it would not be much of a place to socialize. At the end of the meal, Hanna raided the pastry case along with LaShanda and Kerry. They all apologized. Kerry got some ice cream. I had an apple. I wasn't up to sweets. I was thinking of the big boxes of apples from Northern Westchester or from just over the border in New Jersey my parents brought back from the country and kept in the garage when I was in middle school, back before the divorce. Apples made me feel nostalgic, but nostalgia is craving a past that never happened, though my family did horde apples in the garage. Nostalgia can be a real weakness at times.
The meal broke up and I walked Shasta who had finished first and sat with us silently back to Walker. "I hate being alone in crowds and this place is one big crowd," she complained. "You have meetings tonight," I reminded her.
"That's more of the same..." she complained. "I wish Rain were back."
"Ranier has meetings too. Maybe we can all get together after the meeting..."
"And do what..."
"Maybe there's some place where people listen to music," I suggested. Shasta sniffed in mild disbelief. She swiped herself into Walker and I walked back up the road to Cate.
Chapter 7 -- Convocation and Four QuestionsEdit
As the sky darkened, Cate Center stood out like a cruise ship, its decks all aligh sailing through the lengthening shadows of a campus in the middle of the prairies. Half academic building and half dormitory, it looked a bit out of place and was a bit away from the other dormitories so there were no other dorms surrounding it. Outside in pools of sodium light, the fresh people stood huddled buzzing softly and trying to be familiar even though most of us were strangers to eachother. I edged up to the crowd. A crowd of strangers is a good thing when you are new in a place. It is a fresh start, and a fresh start without the ugly connotations that imply you have screwed up elsewhere. "Everyone here is just as new as I am," I told myself. With that I tried to size up and look over the different faces.
The group seemed more ethnically diverse than Ardsley High School, but less diverse than the world one saw riding Bee Line buses in Westchester or transit in Tulsa. I decided that the group could have either been my P.E. class from East Tulsa or my AP French class and my social science elctive that I took at Midlands Prep which had the bacchalauriat program which I was not in. Midlands was the only school in Tulsa with third, fourth, and AP French literature and since I started out in third year French, when I arrived in Tulsa, the city obligingly bused me for eighth period to Midlands so I could take my French there. By senior year, I also took my social studies electives at Midlands and got bused after sixth period three days a week.
I did not really mind this. The kids at Midlands were not stuck up and really no better than the sharper kids at West. I remembered a long whinge fest that my mother had over how my Midlands grades translated into my cumulative average which set my class rank. She had an even bigger whinge when she learned that neither Midlands nor East ranked students at all. They just used a rough percentage measure.
"Rimona, Rimona!" a male voice called out and a male voice that pronounced my name right. I turned to see Aaron who over the summer had managed to grow his first, real beard. I knew Aaron from French class where he and I were among the few students not to use translations or "ponies" as my mother called them with appropriate disdain. Aaron was solidly built and running to fat, all ready a bit stooped over, pale and square faced. He wore gold rimmed glasses and the beard made him look mature and important. He was decent enough for a friend, but there was a propriety about him, a mama's boyness if you will, that made him skittish around me and made me a bit disdainful of him. I was not exactly rowdy, but getting bused in from West every day and being on my own a good deal of the time made me sort of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks in the world of proper kids from good families.
"You made it!" Aaron called out.
"Did you expect I wouldn't?" I chided him.
Aaron shook his head and he went inside not wanting to be late. I followed him. In the lobby of the classroom side of Cate, professorly types manned a large table with orientation packets. I picked one up, and so did Aaron. A sign on an easel directed us to an auditorium. The place was sultry with sweaty, tired, first year students. It filled slowly. Mercifully, the speeches recited by robed professors and accompanied by Power Points were short and rather interesting.
After the speeches we had "break out" sessions in the classrooms upstairs. Each orientation packet had a half sheet of colored paper in it with a number. We were supposed to go to a classroom which matched the number on the paper. One or two kids got lost. Someone always gets lost even wtih explicit directions.
I found my classroom. Mercifully, I had lost Aaron. My roommate Kerry though was assigned to the same room, and so was Rainier Ciari. A professor or graduate student with straight chestnut hair that nearly reached her butt made us form up into groups of four. One girl in my group had jet black hair and high cheekbones and olive skin with faint, reddish tones. In Oklahoma that often meant either Mexican American or Native American. There was Ranier, and then there was Kerry. I felt cheated because I wanted to meet new people. The Native American girl whose name was Minah stood staring at the tiled floor as we opened our folders.
The name of the game was Round Robin Stories. It was truth or dare without dare as a choice. We started out by each answering a question. The first question was simple: "What did you have for dinner?"
The next question was not so simple: "Tell everyone about where you were born and what your name means." I was born in White Plains Hospital but most people don't know where that is here in Oklahoma. Even though it is part of the New York Metro area, Westchester County and much of Long Island just does not exist. Minah and Ranier had both been born at home and delivered by midwives. Kerry was born right here in Tulsa even though her family lived in Paris. Her mother had had complications with the pregnancy and needed to see a specialist.
The third question was about our favorite extracurricular in high school. Mine was the French Club at Midlands which I somehow was able to join. Ranier's favorite activity was Future Farmer's of America because he was interested in business. Kerry had enjoyed cross country because the long runs made her think. Minah said her high school hadn't offered many activities and she had spent a lot of time watching her younger brothers, sisters, and cousins.
Question number four was a long one. "Tell us all a secret..." I blinked. The University of Oklahoma Honors College had no business asking any of us a question like that. It was an invasion of privacy. "We don't have to do this..." I told the group hoping that no one would laugh at me and ask me why I wanted to keep quiet. None of us knew eachother well enough and we would only have to lie to pretend to participate. If we all decided we would rather not participate then we could just sit in the corner and compare classes.
Ranier answered: "We don't have to say anything we don't want to say. If there's something too secret, you don't tell it." He was asking me if I didn't know how to game the system. Sure, I knew how to cover things up, but why bother. I didn't like gaming the system and didn't think I should have to do it.
"You can sit it out if you're embarassed," Minah backed up Ranier. In fact she went first...===Chapter 8 -- "And the Boyfriend Got Embarassed"===
"When I was fifteen, I fell in love for the first time," Minah began. "It was quite serious. It was quite physical. He was eighteen. He had been around. I knew what he wanted. I had no problem with it. I had had sex ed in school. I also read women's magazines. Of course, I was going to college. Mom and grandma wanted that, and so did I. That meant that whatever we did, I couldn't get pregnant. I wasn't even thinking about AIDS."
I winced. This story was going to be a hard act to follow. I did not even want to go there. I tried not to listen. "I said to my friend: 'We can do more than fool around if we get some precautions. Either you take me up to Oklahoma City to go to Planned Parenthood or we do it with condoms.' My friend did not want to wear condoms. He said he hated the things and I would too. I said: 'Fine, then take me to Planned Parenthood and I'll get something.' 'I can't go there,' he protested. 'They do abortions there. They'll throw me out of my church.What do you suggest?' I finally asked him. 'We have to use something.' 'No we don't,' he told me. 'No one gets pregnant the first time?' 'Is there only going to be a first time?' I asked. I was in love remember and this was going to be forever. At this point my friend told me not to worry. I said: 'better worried than pregnant.' 'You don't want my baby?' he asked. I told him no. I was fifteen. I wanted to go to college some day. We broke up soon after that and we're not even friends any more."
Ranier went next with his story. "When I was eight my parents got rid of nearly all their cattle. We kept a few of the cows that we'd grown attatched to for milk, but the rest of the herd went up for auction. I remember them being driven away in a huge truck. They bellowed and lowed because they hated the truck. A short time later, Dad and Uncle Hur brought in the goats. They are a special Arabian breed, known for their rich milk and their tastey meat. Goat meat can fetch three dollars a pound in some urban areas, but cheese, artisanal cheese was where the money was. You can't make money in agriculture any more. Farming is a third world practice, and America is a first world country. Making fancy, stinky cheese though is value added. My Mom ran the dairy and the cheese plant. We also raised sheep for colored wool and sold it to fancy store. We'd have sheep sheerers come from Navajoland once a year to shear the seep. That was impressive.
"I did 4-H as a kid and since we no longer had beef, I raised a Nubian goat kid. The other farm boys laughed at me. They called me names. Goats were for girls and...faggots. And as my goat grew it got worse and worse. I named her Athena and I exhibited her at the State Fair in Enid. That meant I camped out in the live stock tents, and kids were often unsupervised. That was where the teasing became unbearable. Finally, I told Adam and Michael to meet me behind the tent if they thought they could beat up a goat raising faggot. Let's just say they stopped insulting me, but I didn't beat them up. One of the Home Ec ladies saw us and asked what we were doing behind the tent. You have never seen such polite, church going, boys." Ranier laughed. Kerry shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
I tried to picture Ranier with his little goat kid, Athena. I couldn't. Kerry began her story in the present tense or nearly so. "I spent most of today trying to redo my schedule and it is nearly done," she began. "I am switching majors. I know that doesn't sound like much or very exciting, but I spent the summer in Phoenix, Arizona at a youth mission training center. We lived with a family in the suburbs or at least the kids from my church did. That was when I saw the foreclosure notices go up and I even got to watch them auction off houses on the court house steps. It's really serious when a family loses its home. That was what I was seeing.
"Now why were those families losing their homes? It was because a bank had tempted them to get into way too much debt and charged them unscrupulous flexible mortgages and when their houses decreased in value, they were hurt. This is not ethical. This is not Christian, and if the United States were a Christian country, this would not happen. Read your Bible if you don't believe me. Read Isaiah and Deuteronomy.
"That's why I want to go into business. It's a Christian's place to return ethics to business. If America is going to be a Christian country, it has to be honest in its business dealings."
I blinked. Then I realized it was my turn...