I was 21.
In the fall I moved back into Dudley Dorm as the second floor RA. It was my favorite job I’ve ever had. Being an RA was part disciplinarian, part confidant, part mediator, part counselor, and part sister to mostly freshman and sophomore girls. It was a hard job for someone who was falling apart on the inside.
That fall I met another redhead in Walmart while buying things for my room. She knew me, was excited to meet me, and I thought she may just be a crazy person. She wasn’t. She was Darla and we would become great friends. She worked in the Housing Office and would later be an RA, a Hall Director, and one of my bridesmaids.
I would also meet a country girl from Mississippi who would be one of the most incredible women I’m privileged to call a best friend. Kim Covington had an accent that said “come sit by me and we’ll talk about people.” Obviously we would be fast friends.
Fall quarter was ok. Scott and I would break up and get back together before he graduated that November. He got a job in Shreveport and I was relieved he was close by. Within a few months he knew it was not the job for him and flew to Houston to interview with KBR of Halliburton. They hired and moved him to Zachary. It would be the first of many moves.
I was struggling that year, but had great residents who became friends. Jennifer K and Kristi T, Becky and Elizabeth, Deborah, Tory and Amy, Cheryl, and others. The girl who lived next door to me was obsessed with Selena and had some sort of shrine to her in her room.
There was Transformer Girl (TG), who always wore a cape and carried a Transformer around. Once I was on duty at the desk when the whole 3rd floor came to tell me there were screams coming from her room. I went to her room, armed only with my master key and knocked. She apologized and said she was simply jumping up and down on her Halloween doormat that made screams when stepped on. You know, like you do. She was the most peculiar person I’ve ever met. Still. TG got a boyfriend who was confined to a wheelchair. Everyone talked about it, but of course, not to her. One week I had to enter her room to drop off something and I snooped without picking up or moving anything. She didn’t have a roommate (crazy tends to run off roommates). There was a mini casket atop the extra bed and a caldron. I was spooked. Then I saw it. The framed prom photo of her with her Optimus Prime action figure in a tiny tuxedo she had made for him. Shortly after that, a few friends and I were on the hall that bridged our dorm with Adams. The bridge was all windows and looked out onto the Adams courtyard, where on that particular day, TG was having sexual relations with her boyfriend on his wheelchair. A person cannot unsee that. And now I put that in your head. You’re welcome, readers!
Spring quarter ended. I decided to go summer quarter to try and get my credits up. Summer school would prove to be the worst decision I could make.
I moved into Kidd, the dorm from Hell. My parents came to help me move. I should have known it would be a bad summer from Kidd’s greeting of the light being out in the elevator when I moved in. I was assigned to the 3rd floor, which was all athletes. Not my usual crowd. I didn’t made friends with any of my residents that summer.
Scott and I had broken up again. He was moved to Macon, GA. The summer was not starting out well, but my dad had come to move my pink loveseat to my suite in Kidd. The only good thing about that dorm was having an entire suite to myself and my own bathtub, where I would spend a great many of my evenings.
In the spring, I’d hung out a little with one of my resident’s cousins. His name was Greg and we would go to downtown Ruston to have coffee. He was nice. His hair was a little shaggy, he wore off-brand Timberlands, and had extremely intense eyes. One afternoon he asked me to go on a drive with him to look at an abandoned farmhouse. I was into that from the word “abandoned.” He drove an old pick-up truck and after driving for 20 minutes it became obvious to me that there was no farmhouse; there was nothing we were going to see. I became very still and reached into my purse for my keys with the attached pepper spray in a pretty cover. I sat on my hands and said I had to be getting back to meet a friend for dinner. He said he wanted to drive just a little longer. I didn’t speak. He didn’t speak, but looked at me. His intense eyes became frightening. I insisted he bring me back to my dorm. Just back to campus or to my friend Carole’s apartment. Anywhere but alone with him. After a few minutes, he snickered and made fun of me for being a city girl and tried to act as if I was a prudish bitch. He turned around and drove me back to campus. I thought that would be the end of that. I was wrong.
I spent a lot of time with my friend Carole. She was the sweetest friend ever. She had an apartment not far from campus and we would get snowcones or ice cream from Baskin Robbins and watch movies. She became my safehouse from Greg.
At first, Greg was just a little off and called me everyday. I didn’t pay much attention to it. He would ask how I was, flatter me, tell me he wanted to take me out for coffee. I would give excuses for not getting getting together and to get off the phone. The air conditioning went out in my suite and it took a week to get fixed. I spent those days in the Housing Office hanging out (and hiding out from Greg) until they closed in the afternoon, then I would return to my 90 degree room. I dropped one of my classes.
We had a “man check” at 2am one night. Men were not allowed in the dorms between 12am and 12pm. Every so often RAs and the Hall Director (with a campus police officer standing by) would conduct a man check, knocking on doors, saying “man check” and opening rooms with our masters keys and flashlights. Most often there was nothing to report. Once in the same night, there was a naked couple on the first floor, man yelling “lemme get my pants!” over and over from the bathroom. On my wonderful floor we walked in on not one, but two female couples in the act. This was not against any rules and I didn’t know what to do besides apologize profusely while backing out of the room with my eyes closed.
At 3am, once the man check was over, I walked half-asleep to my room. My answering machine was blinking. I pressed play. There were nine messages from Greg. He made it obvious he wasn’t giving up. The next day he called an said he’d like to see me and I told him I was heading out to class. He said he was downstairs at the front door of my dorm. This became a regular thing and I couldn’t leave my room. I was afraid. Tech police said there was nothing they could do. He would show up at the windows downstairs while I was on RA duty. Those nights I would make constant rounds and hang out with whoever was around. I stopped going to classes. One day I got suspicious when my stalker was outside my dorm. I called a friend in Admissions and found out Greg wasn’t even enrolled that quarter. Finally campus police escorted him off campus.
But it was too late for me. I had become agoraphobic. I got a letter from Dana, she had become engaged. I was thrilled for her. Housing announced I would be placed in Pearce (formerly a boy’s dorm) as Senior RA and Kim would be on the 3rd floor. I was happy and finally had something to look forward to, but I still stayed in my room. The summer from Hell was over.
I was 22.
My friend and fellow RA, Perry, helped me move into Pearce. I painted my very brown room a bright white. Kim and I would say we were taking Pearce back. I painted flowers on the office bulletin board. We were having a blast. The only wet blanket in early fall was the second floor RA. She was the worst, meanest girl. Just mean for the sake of being mean. I did what had to be done and subscribed her to Cat Fancy and Bird Talk magazines. This would prove to make her enraged, but not knowing who subscribed her, I was safe from any repercussions. No one was going to ruin my fall.
One day Kim and I came back from the Student Center together and there was a long note on my door dry erase board. It took up the entire board. It made no sense and was from Greg. He had gotten into Pearce. He would return and leave notes when I wasn’t there, saying he wanted to return my Fleetwood Mac CD. A guy Hall Director friend said something had to be done because of what had happened all summer. I don’t know what was said or done, but Greg never bothered me again.
Scott started calling from Georgia. He wanted to come in for Homecoming and I said that would be a great idea. We got back together and things were good. Things were great with Scott. Life was good. Well, it was on the outside. Things were not good on the inside. I barely left my room. I only went to one of two classes. “It’s raining, Kerry’s not going to class” became something my friends would say as a joke and it was funny, but it was true. Raining, hot, windy, cold – any excuse to stay in.
Kim, Darla, and Becky were able to get me out of the dorm and to the Student Center for mint chocolate chip shakes and Chick Fil A. They made me go to the Intramural Center to workout. I would ride the stationery bike and listen to the Pet Shop Boys Disco tape, an album of long remixes – still fantastic to bike to. The three girls were great friends. They had no idea what I was going through, but they loved me and tried to do what they could to get me out and doing things. We all watched ER and Friends in my room, where I kept the temperature a brisk 63 degrees. I had pink patterned carpet. Becky would talk about the Catholic Student Center, Darla would tell us about the going ons at her dorm and Student Government (she met a boy there). Kim would blow up the microwave in my floor’s kitchen making Rotel dip in a metal pot. How does someone get to be 21 and not know metal doesn’t go in the microwave? One night I smelled something funny on my hall, so we called another good friend, Laurel to come over to sniff for marijuana. I’m not sure why Laurel would be the authority on this, but she was better than a drug dog. Hillary and I would take an epic speech class together taught by the BEST Ricki Lake lookalike you’ve ever seen. I don’t remember our speeches (at all), but our two desks were next to the door and faced the rest of the class. It was super odd, like we were observing the class, but not really in it. We still talk about how strange that was. And how amazing the Ricki Lake-alike was.
Between fall and winter quarters I visited Scott in Georgia. My friends were convinced he would propose. A group of them drove me to the tiny Funroe airport. I was on time. I was early. The girl at the counter told me the plane had left without me. My heart started racing. A friend spoke up, “how could the plane have already left? It should still be boarding!” Clerk girl said “sometimes this happens.” No. Just no. I am the only person this happens to. The next plane to Atlanta was a few hours off. We went to the mall, then back to the airport.
I boarded the plane with two other people. I turned on my walkman and pretended to sleep the entire flight. Scott was there to greet me, not having known why I missed my original flight (remember, this was before everyone had cellphones). I cried the entire way to Macon because the whole thing was traumatic for me. I missed my flight. My boyfriend was supposed to propose. My makeup was all over my face. We pulled up to Scott’s apartment and once inside, he proposed. I said “yes.”
We decided to get married on Memorial Day Weekend, but switched it to July 5th after Scott called his friend Mike to ask him to be a groomsman, only to find out Mike had just proposed and they picked Memorial Day too. We talked and talked and talked. He had been saying all quarter that I wouldn’t graduate on time. I knew I wouldn’t. I couldn’t even leave my room to go to class. I was racking up debt and had done my classroom observations and knew I wasn’t teacher material. I cursed too much and couldn’t deal with asinine people, much less teenagers. Then there was the English curriculum. Teachers couldn’t just teach what they wanted. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. I had no direction. None. I wanted to write. I needed to write. I decided to drop out of Tech at the end of winter quarter. It was not a difficult decision.
But I was still in Ruston. Aimless.
Part 2.3 will be up later.