New Job

“I am sure they’ll take you,” Annette had told me last spring.  “You have an even better background than I do for this sort of thing.”

She was referring to the classes she taught at Miami University; not the big campus half an hour north of where we lived, but the local satellite campus in a town called Hamilton.  A few times a year she taught a computer camp for teenagers; I’d come and visited her during one session last spring.  She had been teaching the students the basics of Microsoft Word, but doing so in fun ways that would interest the kids.  She made candy bar wrappers, gift bags, stationery and the like.

It was right up my alley.  I was looking for something part time to do, and obviously teaching was perfect fit.  I had told her that I would love to teach a basic web design class in the same structured format, the five day a week camp format that she taught.  Annette thought it was a great idea, and suggested I bring a class format outline and my resume with me when I visited her.  Sure enough, she had invited the Director to come and meet me.

It took less than a minute for the Director of Continuing Education to offer me a position in their Summer Camp program.

I was rather shocked at how easy it had all been.  Since I would be teaching at a University, I didn’t have to do anything to renew my teaching certificate, even though I was teaching children.  Even if I had been teaching adults, I later found out, I wouldn’t need any teaching certification.  This was amazing to me.  I had thought all along that standards for university teaching would have been even higher than K-12 instructors, but this was not the case.  All it took for me to get contract work at the university was one person in an office that thought I was qualified to do the work.

I was even more floored to get a phone call a week prior to my class from the Office of Continuing Education.  They wanted me to submit all of my teaching materials ahead of time so that they would be copied for me in time for my class.  “Wait,” I’d stammered into the phone.  “You do all the copying for me?”

“Well of course we do,” the secretary responded.   “We’ll have your class list ready for you that day.  It looks like you’ll have a full house.”

My heart skipped a beat, a little.  “How many is full?” I asked.  I’d taught computers at the middle school, once, on my prep period.  That class had 27 students, and I remember that at times it felt a little like a “Whack a Mole” game, running from machine to machine to help the students.

“Fifteen is a full class,” the secretary told me.  “You’re a hot ticket.”

I laughed.  “Fifteen is a full class?”  Wow.  They do all of my copying and cap my classes at fifteen.

“I could get used to this kind of teaching,” I told her as I hung up the phone.

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Silence Is Not Acceptance

I was very nearly drunk for the first time that night.

I was at a wedding. Improbably, my girlfriend Lori, whom I’d met at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp four years prior, was getting married. She was just a year older than me, having graduated last spring. I had driven to her house on the MI/IN border, a good four hours from my home near Detroit, to attend. I was going to graduate this year in a class of 650 students. She graduated with 40 or so other kids. She lived in a different world than me.

We were all invited: Kristin, our friend who was also a writer, and Ray. Ray, who had met them all at camp, and whom everyone thought was fun and funny. The same guy who I’d slept with last spring. I’d seen and talked to him a few times, and I was swallowing how hard it was to be in his presence. He was still trying to be the “nice” friend who cared, but he talked about the other girls he was dating and interested in. This still continued to break my heart every time I heard it, no matter who else I was currently entangled with. None of them were him; I knew he was like a drug for me, but I couldn’t stop taking the hits. As painful as it was.

After the wedding, at the reception in which the bride and groom were technically not old enough to toast their own marriage with champagne, I started drinking beer. The beer would help make the sharp edges of the evening, the irony I was feeling inside at being with a wedding with Ray, blur. I wanted to be blurry.

I’d never really drunk much before that night. My friends and I would sometimes get some Boone’s Farm or some similar quality of alcohol and have a few swigs out near the lake, but my crowd were not partiers. I did not know anyone who threw massive parties where the booze flowed. I didn’t know what it was like to drink, or get drunk.

I didn’t know what to say or do; I was mired in my thoughts which bounced crazily around from trying to make him jealous to being smart and funny so that he would find me irresistible. So I drank. And drank. And drank some more. I wanted to sail blissfully into ignorance where nothing mattered but having fun and the here and now. I wasn’t driving and no one seemed to care.

I succeeded. There are photos of me with a cheshire cat grin, smiling with cheeks bright with the alcohol I was consuming. I was glad to have made it through the evening, and I was pretty sure I hadn’t made too much of a fool of myself.

We all went back to Kristin’s for the overnight before heading back home the next day. I stumbled out of my clothes and into Kristin’s dark bedroom, fumbling my way around until I found the bed.

I passed out into a thick, black sleep. So thick that when I woke later and it was still dark, I wasn’t sure where I was. I also wasn’t sure what it was that I was feeling, but it felt strange. What was going on? What was that touching my leg, pushing up my nightgown?

Everything became crystal clear, all at once. I was sober, fast. Ray was in my bed, and he was trying to have sex with me.

“No,” I hissed through tight lips. I couldn’t scream; we were in someone else’s house and their parents would find out that we’d all been drinking. “No, I don’t want this,” I told him.

It didn’t stop. I could feel his hands groping the buttons on the top of my gown, roughly reaching in for my breasts.

“Stop,” I whimpered. “I don’t want this. Please stop,” I whispered, trying to convey the urgency.

He was silent. The hands were everywhere, all at once, as I moved this way and that, trying to get out from underneath him. He wasn’t stopping. “No, no, no,” I whispered over and over.

With his legs, in one deft move, he pushed my legs apart while both hands held mine in place. Oh my God, I thought. He was actually going to do this, even though I didn’t want to. I thought that maybe he was trying to figure out if I’d change my mind, but I was being pretty clear. I was struggling. I was fighting. The only thing I wasn’t doing was screaming, because I was mortified. We were in my friend’s house; everyone was asleep. And he was strong. So strong, I was no match. I was scared.

I remember distinctly the moment I realized that this was going to happen. I bit his arm, and he released my hands. I raked my nails down his skin, hoping to hurt him as he was hurting me. But he didn’t stop. He pushed, deep. I laid still, hoping it would hurt less if I stopped struggling. I just wanted it over. I looked to my right, not looking at him, trying to remove myself from the time and place.

He finished quickly, soundlessly. And then he slipped out of the room, without a word.

Something New

Amazingly, my mother allowed me to drive out to see some of my camp girlfriends that fall.  We lived in a triangle, the three of us, with my location being the most distant from the two of them.  Lori lived about an hour southwest of Kristen, and she lived about three hours west of me.   We devised a plan where we would all meet up at Kristen’s place, which was large and comfortable for all of us.  I still can’t believe that my mother was OK with this.  I drove out on a Friday afternoon, on I 94, through the city, and then broke west past the airport.

My newly minted driver’s license not eight weeks old in my hot little hands.  I took an atlas with me (obviously there were no GPS gadgets, nor was there even Mapquest to consult) and the basic directions my girlfriends had sent me.  I got to Kristen’s place around dinner time.

We spent the weekend having fun, enjoying late night joy rides on roads more deserted than anything I’d encountered in my corner of suburbia, shopping for snacks in impossibly small grocery stores and just catching up.   I shared with them my little secret plan that even my mother didn’t know about.

Not long after I realized that I wasn’t going to marry Rick Springfield after all (I am mostly joking here), I started hearing more and more from Ray, the boy I’d met at camp.  We’d been talkin on the phone sometimes, and sent a few paper letters in the mail.  It’s hard to even imagine that distance these days being an issue (since now he lives six time zones away and I can communicate face to face via Skype), but in those days, a hundred miles was a big deal.

Kristen’s place was about an hour south of Ray.  I figured I could simply “stop by” his place on my way home.  It was completely out of the way, as a matter of fact, but I couldn’t even imagine being so close to where he was and not trying to see him.  The girls loved the deviousness of my plan, but warned me to be careful in the presence of the player that we all knew he was.

I was really starting to like Ray.  The phone conversations and snail mails were showing me who he was besides the player; a serious boy who loved music and singing; who loved his family; who struggled academically.  I wanted to help him.  I wanted to help him be the person who I was starting to get to know all of the time.  So I literally tingled with anticipation as I drove north towards the western outskirts of Lansing.

We spent just a few hours together.  I met his parents, who didn’t seem the least bit fazed that a girl from such a distant location was coming to see their son.  They were friendly and offered me dinner but also kept their distance as Ray and I talked about this and that, my weekend and his upcoming play at school.  We agreed that I would come back in a few weeks to see the play.  I wasn’t sure how my mother would take me driving to spend the weekend at some boy’s house, but his parents were all for it, and promised to talk to my mother about it so that no one would think any “funny business” was going on.

And just like that, I was in.  I was involved.   I was, for lack of a better word, dating this boy that lived a hundred miles away from me.  As he kissed me before I drove off, literally into the sunset, I knew this was not going to be like the last boy I’d met from camp and dated.  I’d never felt this overwhelming sense of emotion with Jeff.  Hadn’t felt that intense urge to keep kissing until the end of time, the push from somewhere deep inside me to move closer, closer.  No, this was different.

This was going to be very, very different.

Coming Back for More

I had always been insecure and compared myself with others.  I still do that as an adult, and it is one of those things that I’d always wished I’d grown out of, but I never did.  I cope with my insecurities better these days…I’ll hide away for a few days and not talk to people while I chase out the demons in my head, or I’ll just swallow my fear and push past it.  What I don’t ever do any more, and what I did often back when I first met Ray at camp that year, is wait for someone who I deem “important” to pull me out of my funk and back into feeling good again.

I had been feeling badly about my crush boy from overseas not paying attention to me at the dance, but afterwards, Ray started lavishing tons of attention on me.  And I’m not going to lie, I loved it.  On the one hand, it probably was because I had already branded him off limits in my head due to his reckless behavior, and I wasn’t the kind of girl who liked reckless.  I liked safe.  And since I wasn’t all that interested in Ray’s attentions, I’m sure that made me look like the sweetest kind of forbidden fruit to him.  I lived two hours away from where he did, I had clearly never had sex before, and there were just three days left of camp.  I’m sure that to him this looked like a mission with a goal, and I laughed as he followed me around like a sweet puppy trying to gain approval.

But it helped.  The attention from him nursed my wounded pride.  Here was a guy who was scoring his way through camp that summer, and suddenly he wanted me.  Of all the pretty girls and the girls who were surer things, he was paying attention to me.  I wasn’t the kind of girl who received such attention; I wasn’t beautiful (most called me “cute”, which I hated), I wasn’t tall, I wasn’t good at flirting (extreme lack of experience) and I was more interested in books than I was the latest fashion trend.    So while I laughed away at Ray’s constant commentary on how much he’d like to get me into the practice cabin and have his way with me, I held his hand and smiled just often enough to keep him trying.   It wasn’t a good habit to get into, I realize now, looking back on it; spending time with the bad boy looking looking for the sweet behind the sultry.

Because once I found it, the curiosity I felt couldn’t be stopped.   How could someone not be lumped into just one group?  He was a cad, but he was also nice.  He was a jerk but also sweet.  He was kind but also not kind at all.  The dichotomy intrigued me, and before we left camp that year, I knew that this wasn’t going to be the last time I saw him.  I knew that this boy, this boy that was trying just a little too hard to prove he was a man, wasn’t someone I could just leave in a neat package in the memory box in my head.  Oh, no.  I had to find out more.  Most importantly, I had to know:  what on earth was it that he was seeing in me, and why was it that others didn’t seem to

Blue Lake Times Three

This was the third summer I was going to attend Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. This year was different; I wasn’t being sent away to keep me away from my brother. There was no alternative subtext to the joy I felt at spending two weeks in the western part of the state, far away from home and family. There was just pure excitement at seeing and rooming with two of my close friends that I’d bonded with for the last two summers. I was hoping that the good feelings from the experience would help banish the dark thoughts that kept creeping into my head in my quiet room at night.

This year we were finally rooming together. We’d originally asked to be housed in the only tents on the campsite, but the tents had been dismantled that year. In their place, an area of cabins on the “mens” side was opened up for girls. This was amazing, because segregation of the sexes was taken to the extreme at BLFAC, by having all main activities in the middle of the camp and the resident cabins on either edge…a good mile or more apart from each other. Not that that stopped boys and girls from finding all manner of places to sneak hidden kisses and more, but at least the appearance of civility was able to be given to the parents who left their children there.

The three of us were old hands at the camp now and we walked about as if we ruled the place. My natural tendency to hang back was pushed to the limit when amongst my outgoing friends. They led games with our eight other cabin mates like “tell us something that no one else knows about you,” and other games that brought us all closer together.

In the mornings, on the way to breakfast, we started to take notice of the boys who were assigned to the cabins around us. There were tall ones, shorter ones, friendly ones and shy ones, and all were simply amazed that there were girls allowed to be so close to where they showered and shaved. It wasn’t long before they started befriending us and accompanying us to the evening classical music concerts.

I chuckled at the attention the girls gave the boys. I knew better. I’d met my first boyfriend here last year, and I wasn’t about to make that mistake again. I laughed and instead set my sights on the dashing German exchange student who seemed to be popping up everywhere I was. He was smart, funny and spoke with an endearing accent. I decided to put my affections there, because it wouldn’t matter in two weeks when it was all over; he wasn’t going to be calling, he wasn’t going to be asking for anything and perhaps after a letter or two I wouldn’t hear that much from him again soon.

There’s a picture of me and that boy in my scrapbook, me and Ulrich.

A Boyfriend…Finally

The phone was ringing. In those days before the advent of Caller ID, you took your chances on who might be on the other end when you picked up the phone. These were also the days before cell phones, so the person on the other end could be calling for anyone in the house: me, my sister, my brother or my mother. I never wanted to talk to the people who were calling for my brother, and I never quite knew what to say to those who were calling for my mother or sister. My sister had broken up with her long time boyfriend Greg, so the phone was ringing often with people trying to cheer her up.

But this time, I had a feeling the phone might be for me. It was probably Jeff.

I’d met Jeff at camp this summer. The second year I’d attended Blue Lake I had finally felt like I’d found my place. I went back for creative writing, as did two of the girls I’d really connected with the year before. I lived in a quiet cabin of girls who I really liked, and met some wonderful new friends. One of those friends was Jeff.

Jeff was one of those guys who seemed more comfortable in the crowd of girls than the crowd of guys. He started hanging out with my girlfriends and I at the snack bar; we’d often spend our afternoon down time there talking, writing and eating the newfangled Reese’s Pieces (who knew you could have M and M sized bites of deliciousness?). Jeff played piano and as it turned out, lived only a few towns away from me in the suburbs. He was a year older than me, but couldn’t drive yet. Oh, and about a foot and change taller than me.

We’d exchanged phone numbers before leaving camp and by the time the summer was out, I’d attended a party at his house where we decided to become a couple. Jeff was, in fact, my first real live boyfriend. Which I liked. A lot. It was frankly about freaking time I had a boyfriend. I was in tenth grade, after all. Jeff was nice, he was thoughtful, and his parents seemed nice. Jeff was, in fact, adopted, which I found intriguing considering what had just happened earlier that year with my sister’s friend B. I asked him a lot of questions which he seemed not at all hesitant to answer, and so we started what amounted to a long distance relationship. A year later we might not consider it long distance, but while Jeff had a driver’s license, he did not have access to a car. I had neither, so it was hard for us to see each other more than once a week.

But then again, what with all that I’d seen go one between my sister, my sister’s friends, my mother and her friends and men, I was ready to take it slow in my first real relationship and let things develop without rushing.

“Hi Jeff,” I answered the phone, smiling.

Poetry In Motion

Dawn and I were working on a poetry book.

Since the ensuing months had brought nothing from Rick Springfield and his “people” regarding my book, and all of our tour letters brought one letter to me from up and comer Corey Hart and one letter to Dawn from Rick’s bassist, Mike Seifrit, we decided to move on. We both loved writing, and after my stint at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp last summer, I’d come to love poetry and the crafting of it. I shared with Dawn some of the lessons I’d learned, and we both started writing buckets of poetry.

Most of them were written about the fan experience, how it felt to have a crush on the far away rock star, how we just knew these men were wonderful people behind their masks, what the concert was like for a first time attendee, what growing up with a non traditional upbringing was like and how it compared with Rick’s life story, etc etc etc. It all sounds trivial as an adult looking at a fourteen year old, but to us it seemed like important work, crafting beautiful words to convey a picture, an emotion, a situation.

We pored over famous poetry, riding our bicycles six miles to the county library to find more than what our local library could offer. Of course, I would always slide in a sneak peek at People magazine and sometimes use the 5 cent Xerox machine to run off articles that showed pictures of Rick and his rumored girlfriend, Barbara Porter. But mostly we relished our shared passions for writing and far away perfect people who couldn’t hurt us (although we were feeling a bit stung at the lack of responses to our fan mail from Rick himself, and Jack White, Dawn’s crush).

The whole winter was spent writing poems. We’d go with my mother on Saturdays to her office downtown and use the typewriters to type out our best works. At Blue Lake all of the students put their work together in a small booklet; each of us got a few copies to take home. After all of the energy, we thought it seemed like a great idea to put our poems together in a booklet form as well. We called it Time Well Spent, and we made and assembled copies for both of us and to send to Rick and all of his band mates.

We spent three months writing and assembling our books. We never heard a word back from Rick and his band mates in response.

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