This last week has been “one of those weeks.” Nothing has gone as planned, especially at the Hampton Victory Garden. Some of the people who so desperately wanted a garden spot in January have not responded to my offer of placement. One gardener who told me she wanted her spot back hasn’t shown up yet and her garden is a weedy mess. I put the giant garbage cans out on the wrong night. And if it couldn’t get worse, as I made my approach to the beach via Cusack Road, I was accosted by two pedestrians who were waving their arms at me and gesticulating the words “SLOW DOWN.” I don’t know what their problem was; I was going the posted speed of 30 miles per hour and had been coasting for the last two tenths of a mile.
One of the two vigilantes was carrying a red solo cup in her hand. I’m not going to speculate on its content, but it was clear to me that some people have no qualms about taking the law into their own hands.
I made it safely inside The Coop with no further problems and switched on the radio. Surfing the free waves of WUNH, I caught a show which could have been my old radio show at WMEB in 1985 or 1986. The first set I heard was Jim Carroll’s “City Drops into The Night,” Icicle Works “Whisper to a Scream,” and Missing Person’s “Mental Hopscotch.”
Given the state of the world outside my condo, it seemed like a good night to take a trip to the past and sift through some of my college papers. I wanted no part of whatever was going on in Hampton, New Hampshire in the here and now.
During my senior year of college, I took several upper level literature classes. My friend Shelley was in almost all of them with me. Between classes, we spent a lot of time at the student union, drinking coffee and talking about men, parties, and the future. When we were at the dorm, we’d be hanging around in the study lounge or the solarium, reading books from the syllabus of such classes as ENG 448 (Fitzgerald and Other Writers of the Jazz Age), ENG 429 (Literature of the Bible), and ENG 463 (The Victorian Novel).
We had a lot of reading to do.
I envied Shelley; she had a tan corduroy husband to help cushion her reading. Why didn’t I have one? It was the best device for reading all those English novels we’d been assigned, like Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
I was only an average student in these classes but I was a stellar scribe. Not only did I take painstakingly thorough and copious notes, I also kept a running social commentary in the margins. Contrasted with insight into Nick Carraway’s vision of history and Dos Passos’ use of satire and irony were more interesting jottings:
“I think I would go out with that ROTC boy, maybe. He dresses well. Better than Mr. P. SHEL…are you biblioteching tonight?”
“Mitch had a huge cut on his face today.”
“I am wired from that coffee.”
“Someone asked me the other day if you use mousse or gel in your hair. Circle one or neither.”
“Do I look like BLEEP today?”
There were several non-traditional students in our classes; they were good students, always prepared and participating in class discussions. They, too, were often the target of our margin notes.
“Lois uses Lady Grecian. She must be hot in all that polyester.”
“Today he thinks he’s Somerset Maugham.”
“What’s in her leather briefcase?”
Mostly, though, the jottings were about the men we had dated, were dating, or wanted to date.
“What did you think R’s reaction to me was?”
“Surprise. Perhaps a little nervous. (He reminded me a lot of B at the Union the other day). But he seemed like he was eager to talk. Maybe just not sure what to say. (?) I can’t be sure. I didn’t pay too much attention because I wanted you two to be alone.”
In the midst of reading and living, our focus was on finding romance. I was infatuated with a bicyclist and Shelley was dating a suave intellectual. The words coming from her corduroy husband were often the dialectic of love. One night in the study lounge, Shelley must have said:
“Pure love is asking nothing in return.”
I wrote it down.
It didn’t work out for the bicyclist and me; it wasn’t meant to be. A few years ago, his obituary was listed in the alumni magazine and it made me sad to remember how full of life and energy he had been. He left a wife and two children.
Shelley found her corduroy husband; it wasn’t the suave intellectual who served us Brie and tea one afternoon in his off-campus apartment. She and Steve have been happily married for a long time, maybe even twenty-five years.
My margin notes say “Send that happy, loving couple an anniversary card.”
True love forever.
Your writing warms and fascinates me. I wish I got to know you better when I had the chance.
Thank you for the compliment and I’m happy our friendship continues in this strange miracle of ether.