Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You? (R)

FRESHMAN


With a reverse “Locomotion” and a rewound James Brown shimmy step, we’re in the fall of 1966. More specifically, we’re on the campus of Providence College in Rhode Island. It was the time that it was and even this noble institution couldn’t escape the touch of “the Revolution.” Speaking for myself, as the freshest of freshmen I was completely unprepared for the sights, sounds, and smells of the counter culture. Material worthy of one of my spiritual mentor’s classic black and white intros:

“Picture if you will a girl. Barely eighteen. Awkward, maybe even what some unkind soul might describe as ‘homely.’ Her modest saddle shoe pumps have barely tapped, much less danced, to the beat of “Love Me Do.” Yet here, at this temple of learning, her ears will hear such new sounds and her eyes, hidden behind dowdy frames, will be met with such new sights. Miss Velma Dinkley is about to meet her first hippy   in the Twilight Zone.”

Thanks, Mr. Serling, I’ll take it from here.

I am frumpy. I always have been and I always will be. There, I’ve said it, I own it. But beyond caricature is just how frumpy I was the day my family put me on that bus in Plum City, Wisconsin. A bespectacled, pigeon-toed, dowdy, young miss with moist palms, I arrived at college with twenty pounds of spiral notebooks and two suitcases full of pleated skirts and big, baggy sweaters to hide my sad excuse for a figure – what my grandma used to call a “good Midwestern breeding stock shape.” With this cleverly devised camou­flage I was ready to disappear into the world of academia. I wanted this refuge. I didn’t quite get it.

The Providence campus is a thing of beauty in the early fall. There are still warm breezes coming in from the coast and the golden filtered light of its sunset painted my first collegiate hours in a somewhat hopeful hue. This invigorating feeling of antici­pation buoyed me as I wandered through courtyard after building after courtyard with absolutely no idea of my eventual destination.

My head bowed over the campus map in one hand, my Mom’s old portable typewriter swinging heavily in the other, everything else hanging off of various and sundry physical protuberances, I turned a corner even more blind than usual and BAM!

My glasses flew off. My Herculean labor of bags tumbled to the ground. The map saw this as its one chance at freedom and took to the wind, flapping away as serenely as Jonathan Livingston Sea­gull.

“Wow, when worlds collide! Like, are you okay?” A voice came out of the blurry nowhere the world becomes approximately four inches from my eyes.

Already kneeling, I sent my hands out on a desperate search and find mission. “I need my glasses….”

“Hey, yeah. Looking for sight, I can get into that,” the voice said. “I’s got something for you right here. Get it? ‘Eyes’?

Actually I wasn’t too amused but I don’t think that mattered much to the voice   which turned out to be a he. The unidentified male knelt beside me and slid the glasses back onto my face. The first thing I saw was the smile.

One of the dopiest (literally, as I soon discovered) expressions I had ever seen on a human being, but sweet. This guy was about my age and very tall, lanky, even squatting on the ground next to me. That close to him, I could smell his clothes   his ratty T shirt and threadbare bell bottoms. They smelled like incense definitely and something else, something exotic that I couldn’t place. His sandy brown hair was longish. Tousled and tangled, three-days dirty and wind combed. He was trying valiantly to grow a goatee but all his face could muster was a patch right along the line of his chin. He smiled, swaying slightly, and kept on smiling.

“Thanks.” I said, ever the master of repartee.

We stood and he continued to help me gather my stuff.

“No problem, cosmically speaking. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, who’s writing this down?”

“Yes. So true.” I replied, deciding at the last minute to add, “Right on.”

As soon as he finished laughing, he was kind enough to point me towards my dorm.

“Look me up if you ever get lost again. I will show you the way, sister. I’m better than any map!”

He laughed and walked off, still smiling. And clopping. I looked at his feet as he loped away. Sandals. He was wearing sandals. My eyes bulged. I had just met my first hippy.

Was he “tripping”? Had he burned his draft card? Did he bathe? These and other naive sociological questions filled the space between the point of impact and my dorm.

A beautiful old building with somewhat less beautiful hall­ways painted an almost painful shade of peach. Room B34. At the threshold, an effort to merely set down my typewriter resulted in yet another avalanche of hot pink Samsonite Saturn cases. I opened the door.

Copper is not an adequate enough word to describe the color. Something softer, more golden, but just as fiery. The first thing I notice about someone is almost always the one thing that will represent them in my mind for the rest of time. With the hippy it was his smile. With Miss Daphne Blake it was her hair. The redness of her hair. The Viking funeral of her hair.

I think I might have even gasped.

Whatever.

She turned from where she stood against the light coming in from the thin curtained window, her hand covering the mouthpiece of the phone she had pressed to her ear. She gave me the sort of look of impa­tient expectation that truly beautiful people seem to get away with.

“Well?” she said with an exasperated waving gesture. Come into the room, shut the door, and keep your mouth closed. Ah, I get it.

She continued into the phone. “M hm? …. Oh, my roommate just showed up. …. No! I don’t think so! Not unless she’s a brain! …. It’s when? …. Okay, seven thirty. I’m so excited! It may sound corny, but I’ve wanted to pledge Delta Delta Delta my whole life! …. Great! Bye!”

After unpacking everything (my sweater collection got quite a snide look from her, indeed), setting up my desk, and even lying quietly on my bed, staring at the ceiling for an hour, she finally hung up the phone. I decided to break the ice.

“Is there any sorority you haven’t wanted to pledge your whole life?”

She stood, posed actually, her green eyes cutting into me with the sort of unwavering arrogance that only beautiful people seem to get away with. “Are you going to be a bitch?”

“No. A Lit major.”

And then, unexpectedly, she laughed and every hastily conceived notion I had of her dissolved in those warm sounds. She was looking at me differ­ently too.

“So you picked up on my little spiel there, huh?”

I sat up and mimed a phone, “‘It may sound corny, but I’ve wanted to pledge –  fill in sorority here – my whole life!'”

We laughed and then proceeded with the customary exchange of names and life histories. Daphne Blake was a pampered, precious thing from Virginia whose father had called her “Doll” from the age of two and would continue to do so until he dropped dead over their backyard barbecue in 1979. Daphne Blake was the head cheerleader at Williamstown High from ’63 to ’66. She never missed a day of school and got a special certificate of perfect attendance at her graduation. No surprises here, except for the way in which Daphne made it clear in the telling that she was fully aware her story was one of nearly rote, slightly above-average plainness. Just as frankly, she explained that her seemingly manic need to join a sorority was borne more out of an idea of what she should do than any truly felt desire on her part. Unsolicited and with no pretence of objectivity, I suggested she give it a little time to see what really felt right.

Two months past that first introduction   two months full of giggly, fifth-grade sleepover fun   Daphne still hadn’t pledged any sorority and didn’t seem to miss it. But she did find something of note: a boyfriend.

“Hey, Daph, we on for an old Twilight Zone and a bowl of pop­corn?”

“Not tonight, Velma. I’ve got a quarterback to sack.”

“The libido calls, huh?”

I joked with her, but below the surface I was bothered by her seeming eagerness to live down to expectations. It seemed to easy a role for her to play. She knew that, as a WASP princess in the making, she was supposed to rack up a string of hunks with campus visibility and wealthy fathers and so she did. I met them all on their way through our door, a line-up of potential husbands waiting for the redhead in the blindfold to be spun and spun and stopped, her finger vaguely pointing out the not too-particular one who would “win” her. A quarterback. I was disappointed but not surprised. Bring on the quarterback!

A quick rap on the door at almost 8:00 and Daphne, in a burst of painful perkiness, skipped to the door. The smile was fixed, her breasts craned like astronomy hobbyists thanks to an underwire bullet bra stolen from her aunt who hadn’t used it since ’57. Miss Daphne Blake was ready and oh-so willing. A steadying breath through clenched teeth and she opened the door.

A chin. The chin to end all chins. That’s all I remember standing on the other side of that door. Over the years I knew him, I came to appreciate his perfect profile, flawless blue eyes, and too true to come out of a bottle blonde hair. But Fred Jones was to me, first and foremost, The Chin.

“Fred, this is my roommate Velma.”

He gave a little half nod, thrusting that chin of his forward in a gesture that most of the world’s nations would conceive of as an act of war. I nearly ducked. “Hey,” he said.

“Hi,” I said. And that was how it all began.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15