Thursday, August 19, 2010

Aimless Reading: The J's, Part 2.7 (Henry James)

James, Henry
Complete Stories 1874-1884


Purchased at the Niagara Falls Outlet Mall Discount Book Store.

I moved back to my parents' home at the end of March, 1997 and worked several jobs through the summer, first as a waiter at Lum's restaurant in Tyson's Corner Mall, Lum's became Summer's after a sale and I quit to work across the parking lot at Casa Maria Mexican Restaurant, where I would hold a job on and off for the next year-and-a-half.

1987: I moved into a dormitory at Wheeling College in the fall. My roommate was from New Jersey and kind of dull. I created tension from the get-go by smoking in the room -- I think I may have even smoked in front of his parents when they dropped him off. I was a terrible roommate. After many late nights of drinking, I'd come home and loudly plop into my bed, sometimes with a guest to help me disturb the peace and even, occasionally, with a woman. I think he hated me within a few weeks and the feeling was kind of mutual.

I remember little about the room. We had two single beds, to small, heavy wooden writing desks, a pair of large wardrobes with storage space above, and a pair dressers. I remember my roommate had terrible taste in pop music, which he proudly displayed in a casette tower on his desk.

At the first opportunity I moved out. There was no love lost.

1988: In January I moved in with another guy down the hall. The new room was identical to the first, except that the window was on the ground level, which made it easier to pursue what the RA's wrote up as "co-habitation" violations (it was a Catholic school, after all, ahem). If I had a visitor and someone knocked on the door, she could quickly sneak out the window while I coughed and pretended to put on clothes while shouting, "Be right there!"

My second roommate was a rich kid from the Main Line in Philly. His father had been an estate lawyer who'd got caught investing his clients' estates in things like steel just as it was going belly up in the U.S. He was serving a jail sentence at the time I shared a room with his son.

My year in Wheeling was a terrible one. My various addictions were starting to get the best of me. I felt alienated, unloved, out of place, confused, and downright miserable. The fact that drugs were so plentiful and so easily available did not help. I disappeared as often as I could afford it to go see Grateful Dead concerts which, oddly, felt a bit like home, perhaps because I didn't have to get to know anyone for too long. We could meet in the parking lot, go into the show, have a good time, then never see each other again after that night, leaving nothing but a pleasant memory behind.

Remarkably, I managed to keep a decent grade point average that year. I transferred to George Mason University for the fall semester.

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