I got into a great college--on full scholarship--that was like a million miles away from home. My mission, from the start, was to focus on my studies and wind up with a prestigious degree. Unlike most of the student body, I didn't have the family money in my wallet for extra frills. That didn't bother me, even if it did put me at a certain disadvantage. Like most kids going off to college, I was hoping for some wild sexual adventures. Maybe an occasional night of fucking some hot drunk Daddy's girl that would lead to nothing after the next morning when I didn't have the cash to treat her to breakfast at the local Denny's. And that's pretty much the way it went for over two years. I didn't care. I was there to get an education, to prove my brilliance among this crowd of legacy kids. If I got a few nights of pussy instead of my own hand, well, that was just icing on the cake.
And that is pretty much the way it went. A party here, a party there. A girl here and there tipsy enough to not care I didn't have a car because I certainly did have a cock, and that was what mattered at that horny moment. But beginning my junior year things changed. I guess the girls in my class were starting to get serious about things--if not their potential careers then at least their potential mates. I thought about fishing in the pool of underclass poontang, but I was never really the type of guy to use terms like poontang. I was busy enough with my coursework, and my work-study job at the library.
I loved working at the library, and was starting to think of maybe finding a way to finance my way into an MLS program. What I wanted to do with my life was continue writing the poetry that'd obsessed me basically ever since I learned how to hold a pencil. Even as a kid, I knew that would never pay the bills. Working in a library seemed like a better idea than my original slow-suicide notion of becoming an English teacher.
As a student worker I spent most of my time shelving books: a peaceful enough occupation. I could finish my truck quickly, and then spend some extra time sitting on the floor in the stacks scribbling in my notebook! On Monday evenings I got to work the check-out at the Circulation Desk. I'd always gently chat up the coeds, but to no real effect. I'll never forget the night a pair of girls walked away with their books, and I overheard their conversation. I'd had the one a year before.
"Dayum, he's cute!"
"Yea ... and he's great in bed. But that's the No-Car Guy."
"Oh? Too bad. Oh well, never mind!"
The sort of thing that makes you want to go home and just give up. That or stay put and be strong and try all the harder.
It was a few Mondays later that I met Ellen DeSoto, or rather, actually talked to her. She'd been in an Economics class with me the year before, one I'd struggled through because such things made no sense to my brain. She was a beauty with wild crenulated hair and a caramel skin tone reflecting her Mediterranean extraction. The type of girl I gave up on from the get-go.
We didn't actually have much of a conversation. She just said, as she waited for me to process her books, "Hey, I remember you from last year."
Suave library clerk that I was, I answered, "And how could I forget you and your beautiful hair?"
She flashed me a big smile, gathered her books, and with a little wave was gone.
Every evening I hoped to see her again, as I trundled the returned books through the stacks, but that didn't happen.
The best thing about working the Circulation Desk on Mondays was that I was mostly left alone. The weekends took their toll, and most the student body didn't bother with the library until later in the week. I generally sat at the counter for hours writing in my notebook completely uninterrupted.
Except the following Monday. I'd embarked on this imagining of Plath and Sexton meeting in the afterlife. It started pretty strong, I felt, but then I kept scratching out lines. I was pretending I'd solved the problem when somebody was dinging the call bell on the counter beside me. It was Ellen, with a stack of books.
"What are you writing?"
"Oh, nothing," I shunted the notebook away to process her books.
"Bullshit," she declared, grabbing my notebook.
Hair a lovely kelp bed
Waving in the breeze of the sea
Calling swim down to me
Winning over a woman with verse--what a 19th-Century conceit.
Ellen sort of shook her hair and smiled. "That's really sweet." But then she gathered up her books and left. An hour or so later the library was closing for the evening. I did my little bit to shut things down, and then my shift was over. I left through the main doors, and was shocked to see Ellen waiting patiently on a bench out front. She stood up to greet me. She took me home that night, and you better believe I carried her books!
From that evening on, we had an obsession that lasted the spring term. Suddenly I had a social as well as sexual life. I of course got to meet her roommates--they were all clearly curious why Ellen had chosen me. And then she was always dragging me around to parties, to present me--or show me off--to her friends. I managed to fake being able to talk to people I didn't know; after awhile, I began to know some of them, so things got easier.
Then it was summer break, and Ellen went home to Virginia. I kind of wanted to go home, too, but when we started talking airfare, my parents were broke. What little they had to pay for my education was bankrupting them. I got the message.
I wormed my way into this summer job on campus that let me stay in my dorm room for free.
I didn't have a laptop, and the library barely had any hours. I made the time to use the media center to send Ellen three emails. The first was longish, filled with the proper tang of longing, but mostly upbeat about what I was doing. A week later I sent her a much shorter email. She finally replied: great to here from you! we're going to the beach! Later!!
There was no later. Thinking of you. Missing you. And hope you're having a great summer! A week after clicking send on that and hearing nothing back, well, I quit making time to hit the library.
Instead I was so pathetic that I wound up spending my evenings sitting in my crappy dorm room, pen in hand, filling notebook pages with letters to Ellen. I copied her my latest poems, which tended to refer to her. The shameful thing was that I bought stamps and envelopes and actually mailed her the pages.
I got real mail, once, toward the end of July. God how I cherished the opening of the envelope. I turned it into a ritual. But it was just the one time, and inside was a scrap of paper scribbled great--good job! I wrote her back, asking what she meant, but she wasted not another stamp on me.
As August collapsed toward the Fall semester, the death inherent in autumn really worked at me. It sucked that Spring had been so fucking blooming. I was already thinking about readjusting classes, just so I wouldn't have to deal with even seeing Ellen. I didn't want to have to hear her apologetic summation.
It was insane, the human explosion the week before classes started up. I went about my business. My summer job ended with a big beer and pizza appreciation party for us students who'd kept campus working over the summer.
I stayed out too late, and slept too late. There was a big lunch thing I missed. I straightened up, having my own mission in mind. I ate a stale roll I'd snagged a day or two before. Then I steeled up, and marched my ass up the walkways to the library. I went to check in, appearing eager to resume my same duties from last year.
Just checking in, I was, but then I was in the librarian's office. Ms. Harver was a really nice woman, especially once she realized you were a cut above the usual warm bodies the Financial Aid office tossed at her every semester. She was total no-nonsense, and a bit icy at first. I'd seen her make a senior girl cry for her incompetence. But Ms. Harver definitely warmed up if you did a good job.
My very first semester, I changed a procedure on my shift. Instead of filling up a truck with returned books from all over the library, since there were spare trucks kicking around, I lined them up, putting fiction on one, history on another, sciences the third ... you'd have to shelve three or four trucks of returns a shift anyway, so it made sense that it'd take a lot less time if with each truck you could stay in one area, instead of going all over the entire library with each truck. My smarter coworkers soon picked up on the trick.
A few days later, Ms. Harver had come through during shift change, and for the first time noticed all the filling trucks. "What is going on? Why are there all these trucks cluttering up the place?"
All fingers pointed at me. Ms. Harver gave me the look, and I about pissed my pants. Stutteringly, I explained my reasoning. She cocked her head, thinking. Then she gave a quick nod. "Listen, buster, changes go through me. Nevertheless, I think that's an excellent idea. That's the new way to do things around here. I'll draw up a memo for the rest of the staff. I do greatly value having a worker who actually thinks about the job."
.... There is more of this story ...