In September 1993, when I first moved in Alumni Hall, at Troy State University in Troy, Alabama, I was supposed to have a roommate named Cedric. I had a feeling he was a big brotha, and was okay with that. The only four people I actually knew at Troy State, at least prior to the six or seven people I met at Orientation Weekend a few months prior, were Leslie Whigham, Jennifer Lambert, LaToya Morgan and Cindy Howell--the first three were classmates from Samson High, the last was an on-again off-again chick I went out with from Coffee Springs, Alabama. That is to say, I wasn't going to room with any of those people.
From my driveway on Johnson Street in Samson, Alabama, to the parking lot of Alumni Hall at Troy State is right around 53 miles, or close to an hour's drive. Just enough distance to be away, to get away, to not be home, but not enough distance to never be truly away, to not fully get away, to be home when I wanted to be. In my 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, I packed it tightly fully with stuff, clothes, shoes, junk and more... for whatever reason, I left my television, VCR and movies there... maybe there wasn't enough room, but I would like to think that I would have made room... stupid college boy.
On my way to Troy, for move-in day, I stopped in Enterprise, Alabama, at a little hat shop. It was located in a little strip of businesses sitting in front of the then-about-three-years old Wal-Mart Supercenter, called something like Champ Hats or Hats R Us or some crap like that. For whatever reason, I decided I needed me a new ballcap for moving in. My favorite hat was my limited edition Orlando Magic khaki hat, but I wanted something different for move-in day... I wanted a Texas Longhorn hat.
I found the one I wanted and plunked down about $20 bucks for it. Burnt orange, with no letters, just a big, silver, embroidered Longhorn silhouette in the front. I immediately bent down the bill of the cap. to give it some shape and then put it on. It fit perfectly (as an aside, you should know I no longer have that hat, though I only recently got rid of it... some time last year, in a clean sweep of The Cabana, I tried it on, and it barely covered my head. It was so tight, I thought I'd have a migraine... apparently, all of me, head included, has suffered from the endless supply of doughnuts and basic cable and lack of excercise. So I tossed it) that day, and I continued up to Troy, Alabama.
So, on a sunny afternoon, coulda been a Monday, coulda been a Thursday, I have no clue, I pulled into the parking lot of Alumni Hall and walked to the front desk to check in and get my key. I showed my ID, and was handed a little envelope with a key in it. In messy, handwritten scrawl, it said "Rm 315-B". I looked up and immedately the guy behind the counter pointed left and said, "Its the B wing, its that way."
"Thanks!" I said, and I walked into the doors that led to the B Wing of Alumni Hall. I was in college, about to live in a dorm! My Oldsmobile was out front, but I wanted to get an idea of where I'd have to park, where a staircase was in relation to my room, and to see if Cedric was there yet. I could care less if they guy were black or white or brown or whatever, I just didn't want him to be like, 350 pounds and take up half the room. I figured out the main level was the 2nd floor, so I took a flight of stairs up to the third floor, then emerged at the end of the hall. I watched the door numbers increase--301.... 303... 307... 310... finally, 315. I put the key in the lock and opened it...
...and truly, I had no idea what to expect. So my expectations weren't necessarily up or down, but what I saw was great. On the left side were two desk areas, separated by a closet area. On top of both desk and closet areas were shelves that ran along the wall. On the right side were two beds, one in the nearest corner, one in the far corner, with the far corner bed being right by the air unit. I walked in slowly, looked around and sighed happily... I WAS IN COLLEGE!!!
That was so long ago. I was barely 18, had not a lick of sense and was clueless to anything in the real world, growing up in Podunky down south. I remember my first Honors English class with a chick teacher who married a Brit, so therefore she had really hairy armpits, something that I and Mandy Stewart who sat next to me at the big, long table, noticed quickly.
Anyway, back to Alumni Hall... I chose the bed closer to the door, putting my backpack down on that bed, and then figured there was nothing else to do but, you know, move in. For the first one or two trips out the door, down the flight of steps, then down the outside steps to the Oldsmobile, I locked the door as I left, forcing me to unlock it as I went back in. However, after one particularly uncomfortable armful of junk that I almost dropped after trying to fidget with my key, I decided not only to leave the door unlocked, but also slightly ajar.
All my stuff out of the car and into the room, I started unpacking, hanging up my clothes, setting up my desk with pictures and mementos of home and desk stuff and... my very first answering machine. Thats right, merely days before, I used some of my saved money and purchased a real Bellsouth Phone with an answering machine, and I even bought an extra little micro cassette.
But still no Cedric. Getting hungry, as it was late in the day, I kept expecting my new roommate to show up, but I'd heard neither hide nor hair of the big lug. So, on a blank sheet of paper, I scribbled the words:
Went to grab some dinner. Be back soon. Looking forward to meeting you.
I taped it on the closet sliding door, using the Scotch tape from my newly organized desk, and then made my way to the Adams Center, ate a personal pizza, took in all I could watching everything and everyone, then came back to the room... and no Cedric.
The evening actually turned out to be a little boring. I didn't really know anyone, nor did I know how I would find them. I had been invited to a Delta Chi party by one of the orientation leaders from a month or two back, but I really had no interest in Delta Chi nor the parties... seems like the guys in the hall did though, because it was mostly deserted. I then remembered and fully regretted my decision to leave my TV and videos at home. Not even a radio, my Walkman cassete player or music of any kind--I didn't own a single CD, nor could I have afforded a CD player, portable or not.
As I lay there in my bed, with the over head lights shining bright--I didn't bring my lamp--my head was beginning to hurt. The novelty, the excitement, the anxiety of being a college student had worn off, reality had set in... I was still a little hungry, I didn't know anyone nor have a person to talk to, and worst of all, I had absolutely nothing... nothing... to do. Not even a book to read. My headache started.
By 8p, I had enough. I was going home. Like most kids at 18 years old, when I didn't feel good, I just wanted to be somewhere relaxing, somewhere comfortable, somewhere familiar.. somewhere where Mom was. Headache moved in quickly, so with my temples pounding, I stood up, grabbed my keys and decided I was going home. Class didn't start for another few days, I could be home by 10, wake up tomorrow and load my television, VCR and considerably sized movie collection into my backseat and come back tomorrow, start over and at least watch some TV.
It was probably foolish to drive with such a headache, a borderline migraine if you will, because I started feeling nauseous. About 8 miles out of Troy, headed south, you pass an area with project housing, and right past that, another little community that I can never remember the name of. It was while I was passing through the project housing (it was safe, the highway ran through it with two little sets of houses on each side) when I felt it. I felt the pizza. It was rumbling. Food court pizza + headache + moving vehicle = bad times ahead.
So it was there, right past the projects, close to the next little community that I can't remember the name of, it was there that the pizza made its reappearance. One hand on the wheel, the other hand went immediately to my mouth to block what was coming... but the force of vomit is such that the hand cannot stop it, but can only hope to contain it. My dinner flew out and as it hit my hand, my fingers acted as dividers, so instead of one stream of disgustion, the ralphness flew it about four different directions, with each stream between each fingers going a different direction.
It was over as soon as it started--but the damage was done. I eased off of the side of the road and flipped on the overhead light to survey the damage. It was a upchuck wasteland. Chunks of stomach acid, pizza and fries (and I didn't even have fries) dripped from the windshield, the steering wheel and the dash... a little bit puddled in the passenger seat, some blocked the speedometer... and my hand was filthy. My arm was laced. The hand that covered my mouth was only slightly worse as the one on the wheel, as it caught some of the stream.
Ever had one of those headaches that, after you get rid of your stomach contents, you feel better? Like whatever is rolling through your gut is controlling your wellness? Same here. I got rid of the personal pizza, and I felt worlds better. Well, that, and the now somewhat disgusting issue of being 8 miles outside of Troy at 9pm on a weekend night, with a car who's interior is drenched with vomit, a shirt dribbling with gross and hands and arms that are sticky awful.
And now... there's another problem. Somehow I have lost the $200 that was in the pocket of my green striped Duck Head shorts. I don't know where, I don't know how, but the ten 20s that were folded over and held together by the little money clip with a $ on it that Tammy Thomas gave me for graduation are gone.
The headache now virtually gone, the puke now forgotten, the only thing that matters is the missing money. I back the car up to shine the headlights in the area, and start looking. I look and look and look... and nothing. My lunch money, my spending money, my necessities money, all gone. And my parents surely don't have the money to replace it... no food! No movies! No snacks! No turkey dressing! No turkey a'la king! No turkey hash! Its gone! All gone!
I need a flashlight! And where am I going to get one of those? So, I knock on two or three doors, get some creepy looks and some blank stares and some quick hello-goodbyes, but I managed to procure a flashlight. I looked around and around and around... and nothing. Its just gone. Some kid from the projects will be meandering down the road the next day, wondering where he's going to get money for the upcoming Tupac CD and bullets for his next drive-by, and he'll stumble across a little gold clip with a $ on it, containing a coupla benjamins worth of bills. My bills. Gone.
An hour later, I was in an Alumni Hall shower for the first time in my life, rinsing off the putridity. I made the decision to cut my losses and just make the 15 minute drive back to the room. Cedric the roommate was still a no-show, and my stained clothes were in a pile in the corner. I wiped out my car as best I could, and elected to take my chances and leave the car with the windows half-down... outside of the visual, the smell had already taken hold.
Once I had lived in Alumni for a week or so, I learned the Shower Stall Two Step, that being when the water hesitates for a second, that means someone just flushed a toilet... so you need to step aside for a second because the water is about to get close to 450 degrees, again for just a second. Didn't know that the first night, though. Not something that you learn in orientation. The water skipped a beat and I was surprisingly scorched. Overall, though, I cleaned up real nice.
Back in the room, I attempted to wipe down the dirty shirt... luckly, the Duck Heads weren't affected, and as I went to lay them across the empty bed, I felt the weight in the back pocket... and after sticking my hands in the back pocket... down deep, deeper than I knew Duck Head pockets went, was a little money clip. One that has a $ on it, and ten 20s inside. Score.
And I smiled. What a day. I adjusted the air unit just right, I lay back in my bed on my Aladdin sheets, pulled my butterfly quilt up, and closed my eyes. It was a good first day after all.
By the way, Cedric never showed up. I had my own room for the entire first quarter, turning the empty bed into a couch with pillows and such. I went back the next day and retrieved my TV, VCR and big movie collection, ending up becoming a Movie Gallery for my side of the hall. And I did make friends, despite the fact I was incredibly annoying and had a great lack of common sense.
The Summer of Blogging Day Fifty Five