My eyebrows crinkle at times with distrustful lines when I scrutinize the delayed comprehension of my attraction for women, and I’m shamefully embarrassed by the vacancy. I often revisit unladylike flickers from my past that remind me just how unaware of myself I was, but now I understand how knowing can’t be unlearned, nor taught. I question, Can there be a knowing before a thought, or does comprehension predetermine concept? My thoughts own me, and I, them.
I wasn’t a replay in slow motion, but I had a gentle face with pleasing features in a no nonsense, without make-up way. My hair was like soft threads; with an easy style I was neither memorable or forgettable, I just was. My cheeks were padded with the fat of youth and I had freckles to spare painted across my nose, and on the summit of my forehead. My eyes cut with a dissatisfied curiosity and I smiled with a shy smirk behind pursed lips.
I did what I wanted without much consideration of anything other than pleasing myself in the now, and that was apparent to anyone in the stands. I enrolled in my first class at the “must have money” school and chose women’s studies because I thought taking it would make me more interesting (vague snicker.) It did increase my exotic meter if only to another fem in the class. I called my (didn’t know what to do with me) dad one night and asked him if he could help me out with the porterhouse proportioned tuition. He’s a sensitive guy at his core, but with a “no vermouth” sense of humor. I like to think of him as the workingman’s version of the character “House.” He asked, “Well, what class do you plan on taking?” I, not wanting to be bothered by his middleclass parenting, responded indignantly, “I’m taking a women’s studies philosophy course. He replied with a mouthful of sarcasm, “What’s that going to do for you?”
I said, “It’s sounds interesting and it’s going to teach me how to think differently!” toned with as much self -righteous attitude I could muster. He didn’t take anything I said about college too seriously after I’d previously told him, “I want to go to Auburn because it’s the best party school!” He told me I should’ve stayed at the in-state community college in Atlanta since the private tuition was troublesome. “Why’d you have to go down there to go to school?” I interpreted that to mean, “You’re not smart enough for a private liberal arts college, and you need to go back to the loser school for dumbasses.” (Upon reflection, I know that’s not what he meant.) But perhaps I did hear the exhausted sigh of a parent whose child hasn’t done much other than act out-maybe he felt helpless and relieved.
Despite myself, willfully, I proceeded forward with my plans for improvement. My first class was at seven on the first Wednesday night of the second semester. It was January but the air was dewy and tepid as I darted the sprinkles on the lawn outlining curved sidewalks. The walkway moved around the campus under lounging palms and spidery Spanish moss. The buildings were heavy with masculinity and hovered, consuming me with their distinguished presence filing me with opportunity. However, it wasn’t enough to replenish the depths of my jealousy, it only dug further into the hole of my insecurity.
Even in my Barbie Townhome world of make believe, I wasn’t really going to school with the girls whose lives I sought and their BMW’s plated in the North East. I was only circling around them, absorbing their default ways as I honed in on material saviors instead of the splintery shadow on my back. I developed plots wherein perfection and sanity presented a case and money was the prescribed antidote for hysteria and affection. My reality kept me on the edge of fantasy, alone in the darkness of an empty campus as the “real-day students” studied in their cute pajamas, living in dorm rooms adorned with care-packages overflowing with juicy fruit, snickers, running socks, and Betty Crocker cookies from home. I was envious of anyone whose parents seemed to care, jealous of kids who started life with more of a support system in place. I wanted to be the girl visiting colleges with her mother, shopping for supplies together but even if my mom could’ve given me that, I’m not sure I would’ve taken it. I was already too resentful and hateful to accept any love from her, instead I just became more miserable.
As I approached the classroom, an oversized oval table smudged with past learning, interrupted my stride. It was stained a deep mahogany that shinned like a slick bald- head. I found a first class passenger seat directly opposing the instructor. I was chilled from the generated air, I felt, transparent, isolated and far from home. I rustled about in my seat, digging anxiously in my bags for pens, lip-gloss, and mints as a means of distraction. My thoughts of unworthiness, attempting to override my determination kept my hands in a jittery jig as my fingers bent and straightened, tightened and relaxed. My internal dialogue never stopped, “I wonder if anyone here has taken a philosophy class before, and what’s this class really about? These girls are probably smarter than me; their moms probably checked their high school homework around the kitchen table after dinner. I bet they made it all the way to Algebra two because they were important. My mom told the school counselor not to even bother trying to put me on the “college prep track.” She was too busy with her own drama to deal with raising me and I suffered, but look at me now! Yes, I got here on my own and I didn’t need her or anyone’s help, f- them. What could she do for me anyway? I’m clever and I’m going to figure this out. “My eyes itched with defiant tears, as I mourned the life I thought I deserved.
I tightened my chest and instead focused my intrigue on those around me passing the syllabus as though I were merely an observer. The instructor was a powdery ripe looking woman with plump, sagging breasts and a sloppy mid-section. She wore thick, round, John Lennon made famous glasses tucked beneath a bush of long wiry reddish hair. Her clothes were wrinkled outback -khaki and her shoes looked fit for fishing. I sized her up, “She’s smart; therefore she doesn’t need to look good.” Nervously, she worked the middle connector of her glasses up and down the bridge space as nasally ticks emerged from her throat when she spoke.
“Uh, hello, I’m Marg McVee, (dry cough) tonight we are going to look at the impact of women in philosophy.” (ech) Does anyone know what philosophy means? I thought to myself, “No but I think I need some.” Marg said, “It is derived from the Greek words (philos) and (sophia) meaning, love of wisdom.” I got excited, I enjoyed words and language tremendously, even then and I loved all the sex associated with the Greeks. The name Sophia sounded like such an exotic name and to think it really meant wisdom made it even spicier. However, what turned me on most was the phrase, “love of wisdom.” My skin rose to feel the words as I made the connection, “Someone who loves wisdom must be intelligent and I’m naturally curious, this class will enhance those skills and he (D.A.) will see that in me and love me more.” Everything I did, every decision I made was an attempt to be loved, but just by the wrong person. (It kills me to even say that and I’m extremely angry and embarrassed by it, but I’m “philosophizing” about myself.” Inasmuch as, I’m learning more about myself, I’m gaining more sophia, and through the process learning to philos myself, or Monophilosophy. (Yes, I amuse myself plenty.)
The dimples on my face gave notice of my pleasure and in return a simple, yet deep looking girl smiled back at me. She was wearing an oxford style, lightweight, black leather jacket. Her dark Irish hair was cut in a choppy bob and she too had a face that was scattered with freckles like mine. Something about her made me uncomfortably fascinated, my legs switched positions, and I stopped listening to Marg. My eyes drifted from side to side to avoid her, but eventually she found me. At once she quickly dropped her lids back to the “what to expect” portion of the syllabus, I stirred with relief.
The same facial gestures and body language went on throughout class until my roots tingled. I was scared but also extremely interested in her demeanor; more importantly, I wanted to know what she seemed to have. I knew I had to be discreet but I was lit up to figure out what about her was different and familiar. I didn’t see her the way I saw other girls but like everyone else, she had something I wanted.
After class I exaggerated packing up in order to manipulate time, I wanted her ahead of me, and I didn’t want to be far behind. I stepped in noisily a few paces less than hers hoping to gain something else. She turned her head slightly to the right keeping her chin inches away from her shoulder while using her eyes. I didn’t hesitate, “Hey, what’d you think of class?” She slowed, “I think it’s gonna be pretty cool.” I kept going, “Yah, me too, this is my first class here, what about you?” We were side by side but she stared ahead, “I’ve been taking classes here for about a year.” I responded, “Do like going to school here? By the way, I’m Shannon, I just moved here from Atlanta like a month ago and I don’t really know anyone.” It was that easy, “Yah, I’m Carrie, I’m from here, well Orlando. I live downtown with a few roommates. You should go out with us sometime.” To be continued.