Wednesday, June 8, 2016

1969: A Goober in College, Part 2

Before I was interrupted, I was just telling a story about my freshman year at North Florida Junior College (Note to former students: I apologize for claiming I went to Yale Jr. College -- there's no such place.) It was 1969ish, and I was 18 and I had almost literally just fallen off the turnip truck.
Ivy-Clad Halls of Learndom

Early in that year, I fell for Amanda Leenon, nicknamed Jinx, and, in my previous post, I had just described -- what to call it? -- an unproductive date at Madison's drive-in theater, aka, "The Passion Pit."

But Amanda and I continued to have a relationship of some kind, and I was pretty sure we were boyfriend and girlfriend.

I would often walk her back to the dorm and we'd saunter past a little pond on the bottom of a sloping green and then past the Madison Ag Center. I carried her books because that's what boyfriends did, and even though it was 1969 everywhere else, in Madison we still adhered to the nostalgia-drenched, oppressive, patronizing, demeaning, condescending, centuries-old social-construct-binary-sex-gender-biological-plumbing convention.

Apparently, Jinx was too dumb to be bothered by that. Plus, remember, she had a duodenal ulcer, and who wants to carry books with one of those things gnawing on their insides?

Anyway, some days in the student center, I would join her and her trusty spindly sidekick Erica and another member of their sorority who earned and generously accepted the nickname "Baby Huey," and even the gentle, soft-spoken, balding guy who I believed to be Amanda's former boyfriend. These little gabfests, nurtured by French fries smothered in ketchup, stale donuts, and tasteless tongue-scalding institutional coffee, seemed to fortify my position as Amanda's One True Love. 

Then the summer term came to an end, and we all went back to our respective homes, but not before I had secured Amanda's mailing address, so by the time she was twenty miles out of Madison, I was sitting at my Smith-Corona portable manual typewriter, cranking out the first of many "hilarious" letters to ensure that Amanda was entertained throughout the summer and that she kept me in exactly the right part of her heart.

(I wish I had those letters now. I wonder if she kept them. Who knows? Perhaps at this very moment, in her mid-sixties, probably married for some 40 years to an accountant from Dubuque, in some lonely, stolen moments, she walks quietly down into their combination basement-tornado shelter, moves aside a crate of Vienna sausages purchased from Sam's, finds a dusty shoe-box marked "NFJC," takes out my letters, and dampens them with tears of laughter and regret.)

Amanda's letters arrived in small pastel envelopes, my name and address written in her tiny, tidy cursive, the letters themselves containing little more than a dry lists of events, something you'd find in a small-town newspaper column called "This'n'That with Amanda!" Somewhere in one of them, I think, in some embedded subordinate clause, surrounded by trivia, she briefly referred to my letters as "comical."

About 37 gears later -- it seemed like -- the fall semester finally began and I raced down the hill from my home to find my diminutive pen pal, my drive-in mama, etc., but near the beginning of my quest, Erica came running up to me, her eyes bulging and afire with rapture.

"Come with me! Hurry! Jinx has something to show you! Wait'll you see it!"

Something to show me? Nice. A thoughtful gesture after several weeks of separation? Always appreciated -- even though I was embarrassed that I had nothing for her.

We found Amanda just moments before she stepped into class. Following the orders of a breathless, giddy Erica, she showed me her surprise: She held out her nicely manicured, tanned, empty little hand. I stared at it, trying to get the joke.

"Don't you see it?" Erica shouted in my ear. "It's a ring! It's a pre-engagement ring! She's getting engaged!"

I then had the delicate task of simultaneously seeming to take this seriously while also conveying a barely perceptive trace of doubt (one that could easily be denied) in case Erica and Amanda were just having a joke at my expense, because for one thing there is no such thing as "pre-engagement" because anyone who is going to get engaged is already pre-engaged and so there's no reason to celebrate with costly jewelry plus I was the one who wrote Amanda masterpieces of wit all summer, not this jackass, whoever he was, some butthead who would try to win over a girl by buying a crappy ring and calling it a pre-engagement ring!

Congratulations, good for you, I'm sooo happy for you, blah blah, and I went home and listened to sad music including a maudlin, cloying, saccharine, lying piece of doggerel called "Love Can Make You Happy" by Mercy (please hit play below and embrace the nausea). Finally, I walked down to the Dairy Bar and grieved over a massive banana split, topped with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, cherries and God knows what else, and that indulgence temporarily eased the pain while making me only slightly sick to my stomach.

Shortly afterwards, Erica, the balding guy and I walked over to Amanda's dorm to meet with her and her dumbass pre-fiance. He had to be 30. His face looked like it fell off a mug shot and was run over by a truck. Big, brusque, loud. Elvis hair and rolled-up short sleeves. A huge hippie-styled watch band. Bell-bottomed jeans, possible vestiges of a tour in the Navy. Spit-shined loafers over white socks. He clearly had no idea who he was pretending to be. 

 And he loved making lewd suggestive comments to Amanda that turned my stomach and prompted her to slap with mock disapproval his large arm with its poorly defined biceps, smiling bashfully all the while, and I realized in that moment that I really didn't like her smile and probably never did.

Not Amanda's pre-fiance
I don't know what ever happened to that bunch. I have put forth a pretty good effort to find Amanda via the internet (Googling "Dade City + 1969 + duodenal ulcer" turned up nothing), but, but like so many of us, she has disappeared.

I reckon she is either still playing the lead character's role in the story of her life, the rest of us dispensable bit players, or gone on to join that junior-varsity sorority in the sky. 

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