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The end is near! Only two or three more Livin' Large stories left. Just in case you've been wondering. Also, sorry about accidentally including the Thanksgiving picture from Part 22. That's what cut-and-paste can do when you're not careful.
The last three weeks of the semester went by in extreme fast forward. There were papers to finish, homework to complete, pre-exams to take, and actual final exams to prepare for. In addition to the standard college student responsibilities, I had to fulfill extra class requirements for the Honors Program and select a professor to work with during the second semester as part of the Dean's Freshman Scholar program (which was a scholarship program that was paying part of my tuition). Oh, and of course there was work -- both at the food service and for the school paper -- and my final APO initiation.
Speaking of which: my pledge parents, Tiffany and Carolyn, invited my and Susan’s moms (our fathers were MIA) to attend the ceremony. Apparently, that was pretty standard procedure, even though parents didn't normally attend. And Susan's mom didn't...but mine did. She was the only parent there that night. As an adult, I can recognize her attendance for the sweet and loving gesture it was. As an 18-year-old guy hanging out with a girl he was crushing on, it was more than a wee bit embarrassing. And, in typical motherly fashion, she cheered just a little too enthusiastically when my name was called, bored everyone at our table with stories about my childhood, and pronounced afterward that every girl in the immediate vicinity obviously had a crush on me. Ah, moms. You’ve gotta love ‘em.
At the post-ceremony party -- which, fortunately, my mom did not
attend -- Tiffany and Carolyn gave me a white, long-sleeved APO t-shirt. (They gave Susan one that was identical, except that it was dark blue.) Of course, someone spilled red punch on my new shirt during party, staining it beyond repair. (As a college freshman, my method of getting out a stain was to cram the stained item into a washing machine along with everything else that was dirty...which was pretty much everything else I owned. Not an effective method.)
I should also mention that I was covering ext shifts at the food service to boost my Christmas fund. After all, I had a girlfriend now, and I needed to buy her the official clichéd "first Christmas with a new girlfriend" gift. And that wasn't going to be cheap.
During those three weeks, Mat and I barely saw each other, and we rarely (if ever) spoke on those rare occasions when our paths crossed. There was no specific event I can point to, but we had crossed the friendship Rubicon. A quiet hostility had developed on both sides. My skin crawled when he was around, and based on his behavior, I'm guessing he felt the same way. When he wasn't home in the evening, I would hope with all my psychological might that he was getting drunk enough to walk in front of a bus on his way home. Or fall into giant wood chipper. Or whatever. I just couldn't stand the guy any longer. I wanted to be done with him.
However, it didn't look like that was going to happen. Even though we were ignoring each other to the best of our abilities, I still overheard enough of his phone conversations to discover he'd scored well enough on the SAT to regain his NCAA eligibility. So much for him getting kicked off the team and out of school. And since the dorm manager had been disinclined to acquiesce to my room change request, we were stuck together indefinitely.
In the meantime, there was a significant development in my family life. My mom and sister had been estranged for the past five years, which, by extension, meant that my sister and I had also been estranged. (It was one of those "you're either with me or against me" deals, and the tendency is to side with the person who provides somewhere to live.) During the half-decade separation, my sister had gotten married, moved to Kentucky and had a child. I knew these few facts only because my grandparents gave me occasional updates, probably in the hopes that the knowledge would lead to some sort of reconciliation.
Now, maybe it was empty nest syndrome, maybe it was the fact that my great grandmother had passed away earlier in the year, or maybe it was a little of both, but my mom decided it was time to mend fences with my sister. Which, naturally, meant I had to do it too. My mom kept bugging me to call my sister immediately (if not sooner) despite my insistence that I was too busy to deal with tearful reunions at the moment. This led to a phone conversation that went something like this:
Me: “Hey, Kristi.”
Me: "So, how have you been?"
Her: "Oh, you know. Fine."
Me: "Right. And, uh, what's up?"
Her: "Married, have a daughter, living in Lexington. You?"
Me: "Going to college."
Me: "Yeah. So, uh, talk to you later?"
Her: "Sounds good. Bye."
Oh well. At least it was mercifully brief.
As the time for final exams crawled ever closer, I started to seriously stress out. I had a full 18 credit hour course load plus Honors requirements, which meant I had a lot to prepare for. Plus, since I was still pretty new to the whole college thing, I hadn't quite refined the art of selective studying. If I was given a 200-page reading assignment, I thought that meant I had to read and memorize
those 200 pages. Ludicrous, I know, but that's just how I approached my studies at the time.
Mat, on the other hand, approached his studies by avoiding them. Once the SAT situation was behind him, he entered Full-time Party Mode. He was, as far as I could tell, drinking more and staying out later than ever. It was nothing for him to show up at three, four, or even five in the morning. It's possible, maybe even probable, that Mat was enjoying an extended celebration for passing the SAT. I mean, he really had dodged a bullet. Actually, he'd been dodging bullets all semester. I’m convinced that a non-athlete would have been shipped back home by that time, but Mat was still livin’ large. Hell, he probably felt invincible by that point.
So here were two roommates, one who was (needlessly) stressing beyond his pressure threshold and one who just didn’t give a shit. It wasn’t a good combination.
This situation came to a head the night before my first exam. I had spent several hours studying before finally going to bed sometime after 1 a.m. After a couple restless hours worth of sleep, I was awakened by Mat coming into the room with a couple of his football buddies. They were drunk and rowdy, which also meant loud and disruptive.
Obviously, there was no way I could sleep through the chaos. At first, I told myself I’d wait five minutes for them to do whatever they were doing and clear out. However, I didn’t last 30 seconds. After almost a full semester of putting up with Mat’s late-night shenanigans, I was ready to erupt…especially since I had an exam the next morning. I had worked too hard to have this ape and his idiot friends ruin my GPA with their irresponsible and careless behavior.
"That's it!" I screamed, jumping out of bed. "That's fucking it!"
The room fell dead silent. The three of them stared at me.
"I have an exam first thing tomorrow morning," I said. "So you guys either need to shut the hell up or leave!"
Mat took one menacing step forward and growled, "Do you wanna be a bloody smear on the wall?"
Now, I'm not a coward, but I am a realist. And given the circumstances -- my seven-foot, 300-pound, apparently untouchable roommate and two huge football players versus me -- I couldn't see any fight ending well for me. Sure, the ensuing lawsuit could make me rich (assuming I survived) and get him kicked out of school, but I didn't really feel like absorbing the brutal beating they looked ready to dish out.
So, to Mat's query, I said, "No."
Then I plopped back down on my bed, covered my head with a pillow, and tried to pretend I was somewhere else. Anywhere else.
On the bright side, my near-bloody-smear-on-the-wall experience must have killed the mood, because the three of them left a few minutes later. I guess, like Falstaff said
, discretion really is the better part of valor.
The next four days passed. I kicked butt on all my exams. I saw Mat maybe two or three times after he'd threatened to bloody smearize me. We didn't speak or acknowledge each other. For my part, I never even looked at him directly. When the semester ended, I went home. I never found out how he spent his Christmas break.
Labels: college stories, Livin' Large