Freaks? Did he know who he was talking to?
Was a Friday night on campus. Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I’d walked to James’ dorm room to see what he and Jeremy were doing. “I was thinking we could go to the library,” James said.
Library? Not my first choice. Probably wouldn’t have been in my top 100 choices. But the alternative was spending the night alone in my room, the dirty concrete floor that hadn’t mopped since I’d arrived, the mirror splattered with toothpaste.
We headed across campus. Jeremy wore his leather jacket, knee-length combat boots, and a black The Misfits t-shirt with a cartoon graphic of a naked man with erect penis. His sky-high Mohawk stood extra stiff tonight. James, the hippie of our trio, wore his round-framed John Lennon glasses, his long, sandy brown hair tucked behind his ears, and tan Birkenstocks.
Fraternity row was hopping that evening. Young women and men crowded the lawns and porches of the different houses. Laughter cut through the chilly autumn air. I kept my head forward, hands dug into pockets, feet trailing two steps behind Jeremy and James.
I’d actually been in a fraternity in high school. Since then, I’d run a hard line in the other direction, growing my hair out, trading khakis and loafers for ripped jeans and rocker boots. But still … the library? On a Friday night?
Then it happened.
I looked back at the frat house, the biggest one on frat row, where a group of guys, gathered on the porch, red Solo cups in hand, pointing at us, laughing.
As soon as feeling returned in my toes, I hurried to rejoin Jeremy and James. They didn’t seem affected by it, both laughed it off, as if they’d heard such before.
But me? I’d been the student body president my senior year, which had ended just four months earlier. Somehow, I’d gone from school president to freak in four months. Must be a record, I thought.
We spent the night at the library, though I could hardly concentrate on what was said, my mind reeling over that comment. It was true, I was changing. In some good ways good—searching for my own ideas and beliefs, not just accepting what was handed down from my parents … their parents, and so on. And in some ways bad—growing angry and bitter, not getting along with my family. Losing friends.
Several days passed before I saw Jeremy and James. The memory of Friday night kept swimming through my mind, and I considered its implications.
I no longer fit in, which was sort of the goal of teenage life (and possibly most of life after that). How would I deal with that realization? Would I revert to my high school ways, try to recapture the glory. Or should I embrace the change, as well as my newfound friends? Maybe buy a pair of Birkenstocks and a The Misfits shirt.
It would take a few years to answer that.