Previous installments: Part 1
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, Cast List
, Flow Chart 1.0
, and Flow Chart 2.0
Sorry for the long wait between installments. I didn't realize how badly I needed a vacation until I was actually on vacation. But the Basketbawful Batteries are recharged. So let us continue.
"I feel like an idiot."
"Relax," Susan said. "You look great
What I looked like was a giant tomato in a pointy red hat. What I was supposed
to look like was an inspirational blood drop. Susan and I were promoting a campus blood drive for APO. To do this, I had to walk around campus dressed in a tacky red costume while Susan acted as my escort. The purpose of this circus act was to motivate people to tap a vein for the good of humankind. Or something. Susan seemed to be getting a real kick out of watching me suffer through it. I had never realized humiliation was part of community service.
Actually, humiliation and suffering had become pretty regular components of my APO pledgeship. The previous week, Susan and I had accompanied a group of APO pledges to a retirement community to play cards with some of the elderly folks who lived there. Because there were more pledges than car seats, Susan ended up sitting on my lap (much to my secret delight). Like most college-age girls (not to mention pre and post-college-age girls), Susan was overly concerned about being too heavy. She wasn't, of course, but my right leg still fell asleep during the 20-minute drive. When I tried to get out of the car, my dead leg gave out and I face-planted on the asphalt. "See?!" Susan had said. "I told you I was too heavy."
A few days after that, we participated in the dreaded Stadium Clean-up. At my school, a variety of organizations volunteered to clean the football stadium after home games. Each group received a specific task, and APO was responsible for cleaning the restrooms. I don't know if you've ever seen stadium restrooms after a heated college football game, but they look like several people exploded like beer-and-hotdog-filled piñatas. The sinks were clogged with vomit, the toilets (and the areas around them) were coated in human waste and the floors were covered with cups, beer bottles (that had been snuck into the stadium) and a non-descript gray slime composed of indeterminate biological matter. The only thing missing from that terrifying glop was a human face moaning "For the love of God, Kill me...KIIIILLLL MEEEEE!!"
And don't think for one second that the men's restrooms were in any better condition than the women's restrooms. The women's were worse. Part of the reason for this was the large pile of used feminine hygiene products that had been carelessly discarded on the floor around the toilets. This forced the creation of the so-called "Jelly Roll Patrol," which was a group of APOers who stalked the bathrooms with giant tongs and biohazard bags. Nice, huh? The whole Stadium Clean-up experience was pretty disgusting, but it did count for three hours worth of service, which was key for completing our 30 hours worth of pledgeship.
So anyway, the blood drop costume was just the latest form of hazing. As Susan and I walked through one of the main campus libraries, we passed a group of high schoolers who were being shown around campus. "And if you decide to attend our university," the tour guide told them, "you'll see many groups promoting healthy living activities. That man in the apple costume is probably promoting healthy eating." Most of the kids just stared at me, but one comedian at the back of the group offered, "Dude looks more like a red turd." He wasn't wrong.
"This couldn't possibly get any weirder," I said as we left the library. Of course, it got weirder almost as soon as those words left my mouth. The LesBiGay alliance was holding a rally between the library and the building the housed the APO office. And, naturally, we had to pass directly through it.
The rally folks were chanting: "We're gay and it's okay! We're gay and it's okay!" As Susan and I strolled through the group, one guy asked me, "Are you
out and proud?"
"Nope," I said. "I prefer vagina to buttholes. But I appreciate the interest."
Some girl nearby said, "You're such a typical hetero asshole."
I looked at Susan and let out an exaggerated sigh. "Remember when 'gay' meant happy?" Susan just stared straight ahead and tried to act like she didn't know me.
One thing college taught me pretty quickly is that being a do-gooder kind of sucks. Not only was I doing (mostly) thankless community service work for APO, I was also a Campus Security Escort. The Campus Security Escorts were a group of men who volunteered to walk women across campus at night to ensure their safety. There was no pay involved and almost no gratitude. In fact, half of the women I escorted treated me like a Campus Security Rapist. One woman in particular had me walk her all over campus for almost two hours in the rain -- I didn't have an umbrella and she didn't offer to share hers -- and then literally sprinted away from me when we reached her apartment.
Campus Security Escort calls came at all hours of the night, usually when I was studying and sometimes when I was sleeping. Mat always got a hearty chuckle out of my various charity missions. He simply couldn't understand why I would give up so much time, expend so much effort, and put up with so much inconvenience without receiving anything tangible in return.
"So they aren't paying you?" he'd ask.
"No, it's strictly volunteer," I'd reply.
"And dese girls aren't sleeping wit you?"
"No," I'd say, "It's no strings attached."
He couldn't believe it. "Not even a blowjob?"
"No, not even a blowjob."
"Fuck me," he'd say, shaking his head.
So Mat didn't have much of an understanding for community service. As I wriggled out of that costume, I tried to imagine Mat walking around school dressed as a seven-foot, 300-pound blood drop. If I'd had any money, I would have paid to see that.
After walking Susan back to her dorm, I headed back to my room. I was hoping with every fiber of my being that Mat wouldn't be there. Unfortunately, he was. Even more unfortunately, something was wrong. Like, seriously wrong. The big man was on the phone, speaking rapidly in Dutch...and crying.
I dropped my book bag onto my desk and started unpacking it, but in all honestly I wasn't paying attention to texts and notebooks. I was staring open-mouthed at my roommate. Seeing such a huge, powerful-looking man weep was nearly inconceivable. You know, short of him having his genitals torn off by a rusty piece of farm equipment. I would have sooner expected to see a stone pillar cry.
When it became obvious he wasn't getting off the phone any time soon, I sat down and started thumbing through some book or another. I have no idea how I killed the time. Finally, he hung up. I didn't waste any time pretending nothing was up.
"Dude," I said, "what's going on?"
"My best friends. Dey all died. Car accident."
Turns out a small group of his childhood friends had been involved in some kind of head-on collision. He didn't have many details at the time, and he never shared them with me later. But the gist of it was, all four of them -- or maybe there were five, I'm not sure -- died instantly.
Mat plopped into his chair and covered his face in his large hands. "Aw, fuck me, man. I'm fucked up."
I felt so bad for the poor guy I could have hugged him. I tried to imagine what it would have been like if Greg, Gauvin, Dave D., Mikey and one or more of my other high school buddies had all died at the same time. Emotionally speaking, it would have been catastrophic.
I sat down on my bed. "Do you need to talk?"
"Yeah," he said. And we talked. Well, that is, Mat talked and I listened. He told me about his friends, the places they went, the adventures they had together. The stories weren't exotic or all that unique. They were, for the most part, the sort of hanging-out-with-your-buddies tales that all guys have and memorize and spend the rest of their lives telling and re-telling whenever they get together.
Only Mat wouldn't be getting together with his friends ever again. So while listening to him talk, I almost felt like crying. The situation was seriously tragic.
I don't know how long Mat talked, but eventually his reverie was interrupted by a phone call. He answered it, spoke a few words in Dutch, then grabbed his keys and walked out of the room. I didn't see him for three days. I never did find out where he went or what he did. And he never spoke about his friends to me again.
During his absence, Future NBA All-Star stopped by the room. Ostensibly, he came by to drop off a new Nike bag that all the basketball players were receiving for an upcoming tournament. However, I sort of felt like it was a mini-recruiting trip. The jury was still out on whether or not Mat would play or redshirt
, but chances were that Future NBA All-Star still felt that Mat could help the team contend for a national title.
"Hey," Future NBA All-Star said, "Mat around?"
"Uh, no," I said.
"You know when he'll be back?"
"Not really," I said. "I haven't seen him, ah, today. Yet."
"Okay, cool," Future NBA All-Star said. "Give him this bag for me. Tell him we're supposed to use it when we go to the tournament. Everybody's gotta use 'em."
"Yeah, sure, no problem," I said.
"Awright, thanks," he said. Then he was gone. And I still hadn't asked for an autograph. I couldn't help but wonder why I was so lame.
I also wondered whether Mat would play or not. Of course, the question about whether or not Mat was going to play would soon become moot. But not by his choice...Part 19
Labels: college stories, Livin' Large