If your comment hasn't been published, it's because you correctly guessed the identity of one or more persons and/or places in the story. Congratulations, Scooby Doo. I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you and those meddling kids.Previous installments: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
The next few days were relatively uneventful. I was busy going to class, working and studying. Mat, for his part, settled into a comfy-cozy schedule that consisted of: waking up around 2 p.m.; goofing off until he had to go to basketball practice at 5 p.m.; coming back to the dorm to eat his weight in dorm food; going out for a few hours; coming back home to call Shelly and/or one or more other girls; watching MTV until 4 a.m. or so; and then finally going to bed. Of course, sometimes the schedule was expanded to include a random hookup or two, but that was his life for most of that first semester. Meanwhile, his books, ignored and unmoving, gathered dust on his desk, slowly but inexorably disappearing under a growing collection of CDs and knickknacks.
I tried to keep up with Aimee by phone, but she was so on-the-go I rarely caught her in her room unless it was really, really late. That didn't keep me from calling incessantly, though. As a result, I started to get pretty chummy with her roommate, Latrisse, who by comparison was almost always available.
I actually had met Latrisse the previous summer when she visited Aimee in Kokomo. They had agreed to meet before moving in together to make the college transition a little easier. The three of us gathered at a McDonald's for burgers, fries and conversation. At one point, while Aimee was in the bathroom, I explained to Latrisse how much Aimee meant to me. I'm fairly certain I used the "L" word at one point. I wrapped up by saying, "It would make me feel better if you'd look after her for me." Latrisse agreed, and during one of our phone conversations, she confided, "You know, asking me to look after her really endeared you to me. You're a pretty special guy, Matt." It seemed like a fairly innocuous comment at the time, but it would lead to trouble later.
People on our floor started referring to us as "Big Mat and Little Matt." Shelly coined that double nickname during one of her many phone chats with my roommate. Mat mentioned it to somebody and it spread like wildfire. Soon people I didn't even know were saying, "What up, Little Matt?" when I passed them on my way out of the building. At 6'2" (6'3" in shoes) and almost 200 pounds, I hadn't been called "little" since elementary school. But now I was becoming universally known as Little Matt. That was...great.
On Thursday, Mat initiated conversation with me, which typically didn't happen unless I was standing between him and the bathroom. "Hey man," he said, "I got dis girl coming to visit me from Connecticut dis Friday cause we got dat extra day. (It was Labor Day weekend.) She gonna be staying here for de weekend. Dat cool wit you?"
I was pretty shocked, but I was also extremely pleased. That one little question was the most consideration he'd shown me since we'd met. To that point, I'd assumed he didn't care about my feelings regarding our shared living space. Or whether I lived or died, for that matter. Maybe he was human after all. "Yeah," I said, "that's cool. No problem."
"You know," Mat said, changing subjects, "I think you need more stuff. Your side of de room looks pretty boring."
He wasn't wrong. In addition to the furniture provided by the dorm, my side of the room had a small CD player (on my desk), a TV and VCR (both of which were sitting next to my bed on top of Mat's unused desk chair), a pile of old VHS tapes, three milk crates and a towel rack. That was it. I literally had nothing else, other than clothes and books.
By contrast, Mat's side of the room was totally pimped out. His desk was covered by house plants and street signs (origin unknown). He had a funky bar stool behind his desk (which is why he let me use his chair). There were posters on his walls, and he had CDs stacked everywhere. He had a mini-fridge (unshared). Oh, and he had converted his closet into a sort of entertainment center. Seriously, his side of the room was totally sweet. In fact, if you had drawn a line down the center of the room, the contrast would have looked like a before-and-after picture.
"Yeah," I said, "I really need to do something about that." I had no idea when, though. Maybe when I got my first food service check. Having no money sucked.
Mat wasn't finished. In what turned out to be the high point of our roommately camaraderie, Mat produced a box full of practice shorts and jerseys the school athletic director had given him. "You want one of dese?"
"Hell yeah," I said, taking one pair of shorts and a jersey from the box.
Naturally, the outfit was huge
on me. I'm talking laughingly enormous. There was no way I could wear them to work out or play basketball in, but that shorts/jersey combo became my favorite lounge-around gear. One notable feature was that the school name was emblazoned on the butt of the shorts. Mind you, this was before it became en vogue to put words on the ass-end of a pair of shorts...which meant it was okay for guys to do it. You never see that these days. Butt-lettering is now the exclusive province of women's shorts. It's similar to the evolution of belly-exposing shirts. They made their debut in the 80's, and, originally, straight men were the ones who wore them. I'm serious. Go watch the movie Hunk
if you don't believe me. Eventually, that type of shirt became "sexy" on women and "gay" on men.
Anyway, it was turning out to be a pretty good night for our roommate relationship. Then Mat lowered the boom.
"By de way," he began, "de girl who's visiting me, she's bringing a friend. I said you'd sleep wit her."
I skipped a beat. Then, "Huh?"
He looked confused, but answered, "I told her you'd sleep wit her friend."
Although I was pretty sure I understood the implication, I played dumb. "Like, you said she could sleep in my bed?"
"No," he said slowly and deliberately, as if speaking to a retarded child, "I said you would have sex wit de girl she's bringing wit her."
Okay. I was starting to freak. "Why did you do that?"
Now he was getting irritated. "What the hell else she gonna do while I'm hanging out wit her friend?" By "hanging out," I could only assume he meant "banging her five feet away from you."
"Uh, look, Mat," I said, the top of my head starting to sweat, "I don't think I can do that. You know, sleep with some girl sight unseen. I don't even know her."
His huge brow knitted. "Why does that matter?"
"Well, I, uh, you know that I love Aimee, right?"
"So?" He was definitely irritated now.
"So...I don't think I can do it."
He shook his head. "You'll do it." That was it. End of story. No more debate. No more conversation. What had started out as a bonding session devolved into a tense, brooding silence. Shortly afterward, I went to sleep while Mat sat down to watch MTV in the dark.
The next day, I avoided our room between classes. While sitting in the Memorial Union, I saw an ad for Alpha Phi Omega
. APO is a national, co-ed, community service organization. You don't live in a house or anything, but there's an office for socializing, parties for more socializing, and of course events centered around performing community service. The ad said something like, "Meet new people and help the community!" I liked the idea of helping the community, but I was really stoked about the idea of meeting new people. I immediately walked over to the APO office, which was, in fact, full to bursting with happy, friendly peeps. Oddly enough, when I filled out the pledge application form, I listed soccer as a hobby instead of basketball. I have no idea why, since I was obsessed with basketball and hadn't played soccer since the eighth grade. The mind can play funny tricks, I guess. At any rate, that seemingly meaningless decision would have long-term consequences. More on that later.
Around 3 p.m., I gambled that Mat might be awake and out scavenging for food, so I went back to the room and called my mom, who usually got home from work around that time. I said, "Mom, is there any way you can pick me up and bring me home for the weekend?" When she hesitated, I decided to use a college freshman's greatest weapon against their parents: emotional thuggery. "I'm really, really homesick, and I miss you." That did it.
I threw some clothes in a backpack and called Aimee, leaving a message with Latrisse that I was going home for the weekend. Then all I could do was wait. An hour passed. Two hours. I kept listening for Mat, afraid he'd come back and find me preparing to ditch him. Finally, my mom showed up at the door. We hugged, and then I practically ran to the car. A little over an hour later, I was home.
I met my friends Gauvin and Greg -- both of whom had decided to attend classes at the local community college -- at Pizza Hut. It was like old times. I felt like myself again. It's funny looking back at those first few months away from home. All I could think about was my old life. Once I hit my groove at college, I rarely ever wanted to go back to Kokomo for any reason. But from August through the first of November, I yearned for that dirty little town.
At it turned out, Aimee came home on Saturday. She wasn't happy about it. It turned out that she was having way too much fun at Butler to waste time in Kokomo. And while I would totally get that a few months later, at the time I was hurt and resentful. I wanted her to see the brief trip home as an opportunity to spend time with me. She saw it as time wasted while her budding social life was standing still. When Monday came and it was time to return to our respective schools, our relationship status remained unchanged.
I arrived back at my dorm around 5 p.m. The timing was consciously chosen because I figured Mat would be at practice. When I got to the room, it looked like a tornado had blown through. And it wasn't just Mat's side that was wrecked. My side was in shambles too. And just like The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, somebody had been sleeping in my bed. Unfortunately, sleeping wasn't all they'd been doing. The sheets, which were wadded into a tangled mess, were soiled (to say the least), and there were lipstick smears everywhere. And while I didn't have much in the way of decoration, I had brought a few creature comforts to school with me: a case of Coca-Cola, a couple bags of chips, some beef jerky, a few boxes of fruit snacks, and a box of Kleenex. Now, my modest little stockpile was gone. All of it, down to the last tissue. (They left the empty box, though.)
For some reason, this violation of my things crushed my spirit.
I stuffed my bed sheets into a laundry bag. As I did so, a handwritten note fell out of the pile. In what was clearly a girl's bubbly cursive script, it read, "Sorry we used all your stuff. We're coming back in a couple weeks and we'll replace everything!" The message was signed with a little heart that had a smiley face in it.
They were coming back in a couple weeks?!
I took the sheets downstairs. Fortunately, the linen lady was working, and she exchanged that nasty mess for a fresh, clean set of sheets. I returned to my room, made my bed, and sat down to study. It had been dark for hours -- and I was still studying -- when Mat finally returned. I wasn't even afraid of whether he was mad at me for ditching him anymore. I was pissed. Not pissed enough to tell off the seven-foot giant, but pissed.
He must have sensed it, too, because his initial silence wasn't as brooding and intimidating as usual. Finally, he said, "Hey, sorry 'bout all your stuff. I'll buy you new stuff tomorrow."
"Don't worry about it," I said, not even looking up from Selected Essays from the Middle Ages
. The evening passed in complete silence, except for Mat's beloved MTV. I called Aimee and went to bed. When Mat received his nightly call from Shelly, he actually pulled the phone out into the hall, presumably so his dirty talk wouldn't bother me. Maybe he really did feel bad.
The next day when I got back from class, there was a case of Coke, a box of tissues (generic) and a bag of Ruffles on my desk. When I saw that, I actually thought that things were going to be okay between us. However, my feelings did a 180 that night when he showed up with a new girl, turned on Sade's "No Ordinary Love," and told her, "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen..."Part 5
Labels: college stories, Livin' Large