The Nazi Resident Assistant, Gretchen, smirks as she hands me a message from the campus security director. He wants to see me in his office, in the Cereal King’s daughter’s doll house that is larger than some houses, anytime tomorrow.
I wonder what I have done now as I figure out when I can take time from my very busy schedule of flirting and being flirted with, pot smoking, going to mandatory meals–dinner in a dress or shirt & skirt, and sometimes going to classes.
I’m a Freshman at a very beautiful college on the North Shore of Long Island, just five curvy miles from my parents house.
There are even stables and horses; I think I’ve been on a horse once.
The Cereal King’s school was the only four year school that accepted me. My parents wanted me to have “the full college experience,” so they let me get a dorm room.
Roommates were assigned alphabetically late last spring so we could have time to get know them. My roommate, Suzy Rubin, is from a not–Upper Middle Class–part of Westchester.
But she was captain of the cheerleaders, and could pass for a rich girl if she didn’t use way too much black eyeliner around her eyes.
Suzy dates a football player who smiles at me a little too much, or so my best friend, JohnnyB, tells me. I don’t really notice.
Last summer Suzy and I exchanged letters. We bought matching bedspreads, matching curtains and some more matching things for our room. I hate things that match. I wanted an Indian print bedspread, but my mother said I should go along with Suzy.
Freshman girls have a 10:30 PM curfew on weekdays and One AM curfew on weekends. Boys are only allowed in our rooms once a month. The door must be open, and feet have to be on the floor not on the bed.
There are so many rules I can’t keep them all straight. We must be dressed and make our bed before 9AM and it can’t have any wrinkles. We must wear shoes in our own rooms. I hate shoes.
Dinner is mandatory and we must wear a dress or skirt with ironed shirt.
Every time we break a rule we get three demerits. Fifteen demerits and you’re campused for the weekend. That means you can’t leave the dorm, and must sign in every half hour.
So far I have been campused two out of the six weekends we’ve been in school. I seem to do everything wrong.
Gretchen and Suzy tell all the girls in our dorm that I’m trouble, and they shouldn’t hang out with me. Many girls want to know me anyway.
I’m nice to them but I didn’t go to college to be in the dorm when I’m not in classes.
I met JohnnyB my first day of school, and he introduced me to all the people who are involved in the theater. I think I’m in love with Noah but I won’t go out with him since he was kicked out of school for associating with known drug dealers.
My high school boyfriend was much older, and I promised myself I would only go out with a college student. I know, because a few people including Noah (a lot proudly) have told me, that he was really kicked out for being arrested at the anti-war Moratorium in DC last October.
I was at the Moratorium, and being arrested seems the height of nobility to me. He’s told me that Dr. Spock was one of the people he was arrested with. Wow.
But for now I will hang with JohnnyB who can’t decide whether he’s gay or straight. He was a dancer at the disco, The Cheetah, and was a regular on the TV show, Hullabaloo.
I don’t usually like blonds but JohnnyB is gorgeous. Once when I was very very stoned I sang “Johnny Angel” to him; he is my angel with his curly blond hair, perfect featured face and tall lanky body.
I absolutely can’t carry a tune but “Johnny Angel” is one of the two songs I can sorta carry off. He loves it.
We all sit on the steps leading to the woods or in the woods at night and smoke—anything and everything.
They might not like me in the dorm but everyone else seems to. My teachers think I’m very bright. No teacher at my high school thought I had a three digit IQ though the tests showed that I was more intelligent than most people in the Honor Classes.
Except for the dorm thing, and me having a constant anxiety attack it’s a good life. What am I saying? It’s like being in a candy store, and even the best chocolate has no calories.
I have two sayings that I dare not say to anybody including JohnnyB: “It’s raining boys,” and “be careful what you wish for, it might come true.” I’m very scared that tomorrow will end my dreams.
Gretchen and Suzy can’t stop smiling. I don’t know what they did but I know that they’re the reason I have to see the campus security director.
I’m shaking when I call his secretary to make an appointment. I’m my parents’ daughter, and wouldn’t go without an appointment.
JohnnyB walks me to the dollhouse. I insist on being there 20 minutes early, and we stand outside. I’m shaking; my mouth is dry. I’m sure I won’t be able to string two coherent sentences together.
By the time I get to the director’s office I’m almost sweating. I wonder if my red shirtwaist straight skirt dress is conservative enough.
He comes out of the office, smiling, and shakes my hand. I know the importance of a firm handshake so I make sure mine isn’t wimpy.
The director’s hair is very short and he’s wearing a good suit.
“Hi Pia, call me Scott. I’m a friend of your cousin Ira’s. I saw you at his wedding last summer, but haven’t been in touch with him since. How is he doing?”
“Hi Scott,” Somehow my voice is strong. “He’s working for an insurance company. Debby’s teaching Spanish.”
I should be comfortable but I’m beyond anxious. Gretchen and Suzy told me that today will probably be my last day in school.
No, I should be anxious.
Scott asks if I know why he asked to see me.
I shake my head: “No, I really don’t.”
Your RA, Gretchen and your roommate, Suzy, don’t like your friends. Personally I enjoy your friends. They add much needed life to this campus.”
I’m getting the feeling I’m not going to be expelled but I don’t understand why Scott’s telling me he likes my friends. I wasn’t really popular in high school, and being liked by basically every boy is weird. Fun and exciting but weird. Maybe Scott likes me too, and is trying to soften the blow.
I mumble something about how I like my friends too. A mistress of the obvious am I. I know I’ll think of something witty and maybe even profound to say when I leave but for now…
Scott and I are sitting in easy chairs near the window that overlooks The Great Lawn. He points to JohnnyB, Noah who I won’t date, and some other guys who are waiting for me.
“Gretchen and Suzy think that because they have long hair they’re all drug addicts.”
Scott leans forward in his chair and points to me.
“They had an illegal search of your pocketbook. There was some loose tobacco on the bottom of the bag. They had it analyzed.”
Shit. This could be serious. One of my friends asked me to hold a nickel bag for him. It was in the pocketbook. Scott’s face is turning many shades of reds as he points even closer to my face which I’m sure is deep crimson.
“They’re on a witch hunt against you. Do you know what a witch hunt is?
Do I know what a witch hunt is? Do bears….My grandmother was a Communist; my parents are “progressive.” I read The Scarlet Letter in high school. I know what every kind of witch hunt is.
I shake my head; “Yes, of course I know.”
“That was a horrible thing they did. Horrible. Suzy will be campused for the next two weekends at least. I’m not sure what we’ll do with Gretchen yet.”
I’m slowly beginning to understand that not only didn’t they find the nickel bag which is now safely with its owner but I should be able to take deep breaths.
But I’m petrified that Gretchen and Suzy will find someway to make my life hell. As if Scott could read my mind, he says: “Don’t worry about Gretchen and Suzy. There’s a single room in the basement you can have.”
I don’t know yet that the room has a large window I can easily sneak in and out of; that the basement RA, Linda, will like me very much and cover for me when they have a bed check—every so often at random times they check to make sure everyone is in their dorm room with the lights out after midnight.
I tell the boys who are waiting for me what happened.
None of us know that the next year there won’t be curfews; boys will be allowed in at any hour; and in two years the dorms will be coed.
None of us are savvy enough to realize that Scott was practically telling me to tell my parents who, when I tell them this 20 years later, claim it was serious enough for them to sue the school.
I’m shaking when I go back to the dorm. I should feel better but I’m so scared that Gretchen and Suzy will extract vengeance.
Fortunately they’re not around when I pack my things and bring my suitcases downstairs where the RA welcomes me to my new home.