It probably sounds strange that at age forty nine I’m still finding myself. Strange or not, it’s the truth. I started out with the same confident swagger that most teenagers have. At five foot one and one hundred three pounds, slim in the waist and pretty in the face, nobody could tell me that my defecation was odoriferous. Smart, funny, an actress and a cheerleader, the boys all paused when I walked into the room. A dose of confident bravado helped me to answer “Fine, can’t you tell”, to the question “How are you?” I never took a test I didn’t pass. Never tried out for a part I didn’t get, or liked a boy that didn’t like me. I won every contest I entered. Applied to one college (in May) and got in. I was the girl all the other girls wanted to be. The oyster was my world. I would go to college, major in journalism, and go on to do great things. Then one day the oyster shell cracked and my world slipped off its axis.
It was the first snow day. Being from a small town n the coast of North Carolna, we rarely saw snow so it was a big deal for me. It was apparently a big deal for everyone because on the first snow day classes were cancelled. It wasn’t just that classes were cancelled that made the first snow day a big deal. The first snow day was a day for sleeping in. The emphasis was on in, not sleeping. Most of my friends were upperclassmen so I sat with them as they started planning how they were going to get into the boy’s dorm. They made it sound like a lot of fun. I didn’t have a boyfriend so I figured that they would come back with plenty of stories of Mission Impossible-esque intrigue and chicanery of getting in and out of the boy’s dorm without being seen.
“You should come too,”my friend said. She dated a football player.
“Me? I don’t know anybody in that dorm,” I replied.
“Yes you do silly. There’s only one male dorm on campus you gotta know at least one guy.”
My other friendsaid that.Shewas a sophomore from a town a little bigger the mine. People said that we looked like sisters. Both of us had smooth dark skin, small noses, slanted eyes and high cheekbones. We weren’t related but shared Native American in our DNA.
“Come on, girl. I’ll get Skip to introduce you to Denny Kaye,”my friendsaid. Denny Kaye was the second string quarterback of the five time CIAA Championship football team. He was also in my eight o’clock English Class. Denny Kaye (of course not his real name I don’t want to be sued), was every girls dream. He was 6’2” with smooth brown skin and beautiful eyes with long curled up eyelashes. I can’t remember where he was from but it was from above the Mason/Dixon line. His voice was a smooth deep baritone that reminded you of hot caramel melting slowly. He spoke in short clipped sentences with not a hint of a southern drawl. I’d heard that Denny was also offered a baseball scholarship. You can imagine that he cut quite a figure in his Levis. Back then boys wore pants on their waists and used belts. Denny was almost as smart as me and articulate. Fine was fine but smart turned me on. You could find cute boys anywhere but one, who could hold a decent conversation, especially with a body like that, was rare.
The first time I saw Denny Kaye in my English class my heart skipped a beat. I’d had a crush on him ever since. When I went to the football games I sat with the “football wives” just so I could get a close look at him. Somewhere between Pomp and Circumstance and the universiy fight song, I’d become shy. College was much different than high school. There were a lot of pretty, smart, funny girls and we out-numbered the guys 4 to 1. Great for them, not so hot for us.
It didn’t take long for the girls to convince me that I should go and be introduced to Denny Kaye. All my friends in my dorm were on their way to the only male dorm on campus. I’d be in good company.
Merelyn called her boyfriend Skeet. She told him that I wanted to meet Denny Kaye.
After a few phone calls it was all set up. Denny Kaye was expecting me. We walked together to the male dormlike a gaggle of fraggle. Giggling and talking about things that college girls talked about. We looked like a rainbow coalition of color as we walked and talked. Victoria was not a secret under the coats, scarves and gloves that covered a few of the girls. This was all new to me. Regardless of the fact that I was hot snot on a silver platter at home, at Central, I was a cold booger on a paper plate. A cold booger on a paper plate got squashed or scraped off.
When we made it tothe male dormwe were met by Skeet and a few other football players. Denny Kaye was not there.My friend her boyfriend Skip and I sat inhis room chatting while we waited for Denny to get back from the cafeteria. After a few minutes there was a knock at the door, and Skeet went outside. I was nervous. I knew it was Denny Kaye because his voice was very distinctive. Skeet came back in and said, “I’m gonna take you down there in a few minutes. He said he wanted to get rid of his room mate.”
“Ok,” I said. I really didn’t think he needed to get rid of his roommate. All we were going to do was talk anyway. I may have been a lot of things but promiscuous was not one of them. My ex-boyfriend and I had been together for over a year before we had anything even close to sex. We were together for my entire high school career until he went off to the Air Force. I thought he really just wanted to clean his room. Most boys in college who didn’t have girlfriends, especially football players, didn’t even bother to keep their rooms clean.
“Let’s go,” Skeet said.
“Don’t do nothing I would do!”my friendsaid with a laugh. The girls always teased me because they knew that no matter how much trash I talked, I was not about to be a doorknob and let everybody have a turn.
The door was cracked when we got there.
Before he left, Skip said, “You come get me if you need me ok?”
“Ok.” And then he was gone.
I stuck my head in the door and I didn’t see anybody so I sat on the bed. He came out of nowhere. One minute I was sitting on the bed and the next I was on my back. I don’t think he said hello, or even knew who I was. He just started taking off my clothes.
“Wait, wait, wait…” I repeated it like a mantra but he didn’t even acknowledge that he heard me. My attempts to fight him off where like a kid trying to stop Mike Tyson. They had no effect at all.
Before I could wrap my mind around what was happening it was over and he was once again out the door. I sat there in the middle of his bed, undressed, crumpled, violated and confused. My mind refused to believe what had just happened. I kept telling myself that in a few minutes he would come back to the room and we would start over. He would apologize for being a Neanderthal and then we would talk. We would get to know each other and he would carry my books to our eight o’clock English class. We would become a couple like Merelyn and Skeet.
I never saw Denny Kaye again. I stopped going to the eight o’clock English class and all of my classes for that matter. I flunked out of North Carolina Central University. My parents were so disappointed in me. I never told anybody what happened that day, not even Merelyn and Skeet. Nobody understood why I stopped leaving my room and started wearing clothes that were too big. Who would believe me? They would all say it was my fault because I had no business in the boys’ dorm.
That first snow day in January of 1982, the promising confident, smart, funny, hopeful girl I was died in Denny Kaye’s bed. Everything I thought I knew about life was destroyed. Everything that I thought I was or would ever be was shattered. From that day to this, I have continued to reconstruct my identity, truth by truth, experience by experience. I no longer assume that I know what the outcome will be in any situation but process everything empirically. I seek truth not facts because I’ve found that they are not necessarily the same.
I continue to grow and to transmogrify. The woman I am becoming is a force to be reckoned with. The world is not ready for me yet. Until it is, I keep my identity secret.