It’s interesting, the breadth and depth of the people we lose contact with. Amongst recent days full of recollections of days gone past, it’s unsettling to bring back those memories of places, atmospheres, and people, close people, and then to look around and find nothing, no one, like it was. The best you can hope for is to see glimpses, taints, of the people you knew in the people you know now.
It’s approaching mid-summer now, and I’m looking back into time. Only one time period can be seen; it’s the summer of 1995, my last summer in college. Halcyon days they were. I was living on campus that summer, as I had for the previous three, only during this particular summer I had no classes, no courses; only my dayjob at the campus printshop, my newborn adult mind, and my handfull of close, close friends. I stayed in the dorm just to the west of Francis Crawford dorm, top floor (which oddly was the ground floor on one end). Communal showers. No running water in the room. Shared ventilation. Low ceilings. Small closets. Really odd, odd accomodations, but my roomate and long-time friend Stephen Gent and I made the best of it. Had a hell of a time there.
Stephen, earlier in the spring semester, introduced me to his friend and classmate Donna Crochet. Over the spring semester, as I had a part-time security job in the Francis Crawford dorm lobby, I got to spend some time with Donna, helping her to heal from that night’s damage inflicted on her by her then-boyfriend Richard who treated her badly. Every night she’d come in either laughing or crying, and we’d sit and talk in the lobby as I tended to my arduous door-watching duties.
A few weeks from semester’s end, Donna gave up on her boyfriend; it was forthcoming to say the least. Stephen and I were both cheering her on towards that goal. By summer, Donna was a free woman and ready for another try with another guy.
I had discovered that Stephen would be staying on campus during the summer to take two classes, and we sought each other out for a rooming arrangement. Our partnership then would have vast effects on the future of that summer. We had discovered that Donna would be staying that summer as well, taking a class. Stephen and Donna decided they could make some extra cash by working at Magic Springs Amusement Park 30-minutes away in Hot Springs, with Stephen working sound at the stage shows and Donna working tickets. Proved to be a good arrangement. I would work my dayjob, come back to my room at 4:45pm, chill out for a bit, make some dinner, listen to some loud music, and around 8 or 9pm, Stephen and Donna would come home from Hot Springs, usually with some ongoing conversation and a plan for the evening.
Now, there’s something you have to understand about Ouachita Baptist University: since the charter of the university is Baptist in nature, and a large portion of the funding for the place came from Baptist dollars, you’re damn-right they upheld Baptist principles. So, not even during the summer was inter-sexual visitation allowed. Each sex could visit the other sex’s dorms only in the lobby, and during limited hours at that. Well, during the summer of 1995, I had been there for 5 years, poured tons of money (and vaporbucks) into the school, I was a senior, and I would be damned if my dorm’s Resident Assistant (a fellow schoolmate) was going to say anything about Stephen and I having girls in our room. Seeing that it was easier to get women into our room that to get us into theirs, mine and Stephen’s room was the hangout for most of our friends.
Ok. So Donna grew up as one-half of a pair of twins. She was always accustomed to having someone sleeping in the same room where she slept. In that situation, she slept better, more at ease; couldn’t sleep well without a roomate. Stephen understood this, and asked me if I had any problem with Donna staying the night while her summer roomate was gone to Little Rock for the evening or the weekend. I had no problem with that, and we made her a nice, thick pallet on the floor. A few more sleepover evenings later, and the sleeping on the floor became a shared bed with Stephen (seperate covers, of course). I will admit I felt a little guilty about making her sleep on the floor. She deserved some mattressed, covered real-estate in the sky with us, right? So, there she was, sharing his bed. No biggie, no problemo. We all said good night Johnboy, giggled, and nodded off to sleep.
By next weekend, the Donna-Stephen sleeping arrangement was getting old: apparently they both move around a good bit when asleep, and on those twin-size beds, that’s not a good thing. So I suggested she sleep with me, seperate covers, head-to-foot, etc., etc. That was rough sleeping, I will say that much. A girl, close to my age, in my virgin bed. Sheesh. I didn’t get much sleep that night. The next time around, I got even less; I told her she could sleep head-to-head. At this time, it was all still quite plutonic, but the tension was there. A few more evenings, and I get brave enough to allow her to share my covers; it’s less she has to sneak in, less to crowd our tiny bed.
Later that night, something happened. In the twilight of the Arkadelphia night, under glow of stars, moon, and campus streetlights, we made out. Snoozy, half-asleep, with slumbering Stephen in the next bed, we made out. The relationship between Donna and I was redefined that night. The next day we sat outside on one of the stone benches and just talked, trying to sort out what happened. Up until that point, Donna had been talking with me to see if we’d like to date, to be an item, and I was generally reticent on the idea. But that night changed it all. Throw hormones into the mix, and you can expect drastic changes.
So, over the course of the next days we continually changed our definitions. It had been 5 years since I last dated someone, and I was taking it as slowly as I could while still embracing the hope, the prospects, in something new. It was a new energy to me, a stranger inside whom I had to meet again. That friday night, Donna offered to have me stay in her room for the night. It was there and then that we gave ourselves up to each other for the first time. As humbling as the fumbling was, we had found peace in her bed, in her quiet room, in each other’s arms.
That summer sticks strong in my mind as I remember this season’s past. I can’t help but to remember the look of Verser Theatre, at the intersection of Pine Street and Ouachita Avenue, just in front of our summer dorms. I can’t help but remember the sun’s glare from those buildings; the breezes; the heat from the asphalt, concrete, brick and stone; the well-maintained grass; the thick shade of old trees; the parking lot to the side were Donna and I rediscovered the openness of communication and garnered the heady resolve that got us through the rough, unsteady days of our early courtship; the cool nights at Lake DeGray, at the picnic table by the crooked tree, where Stephen, Donna and I, and a few other friends would congregate with wine coolers after closing hours and night-swim; the gazebo by the Ouachita river where Donna and I would play and press into each other for hours, damning all the mosquitos and the glare of the student center at the top of the cliff above.
And it’s funny how eight years can change and tear away everything. The last time I heard from Donna was just after our breakup in the fall of ’95. Last time I heard about her was in 1998, through Stephen. And the last time I heard from Stephen was two years ago in a brief email. Our time together was sweet, and it’s sad that our trio came to an end.
I was eating out tonight, after work, and I saw a woman who came in as my meal was nearly finished. I looked her over, and I saw a faint hint of Donna. She wasn’t her, but it was enough to spark the memories.
My time has passed on, and all I hear are echoes, praying for sounds to be born again.