In our writing class, we were assigned the task of writing the same scene or story from different perspectives or writing styles. Higginson Hall’s game room became my primary source of desire, diversion and triumph during that first failure of a quarter, my freshman year at Western Washington State College. Here’s the same story… two approaches.
Unprepared: Wooing Geena and Confronting Big Rick
The object of my desire was my combatant Geena, the Elvis-loving, vision of languid sensuality, strolling with serene concentration around the billiards table. Soon, her shoulder-blade length straight blonde locks fell softly upon the table’s verdant felt field of battle as she extended her right leg from the floor on tippy toes, raised her left leg horizontal to her lean torso, and stretched to make what I always relished, her deft cross-table touch shot. I was further rewarded with a brief smile as she dropped the right ball into the chosen hole. Could I win by losing occasionally, keeping her spirits up and defenses down? This is what passed for my grand strategy!
Big Rick, the 22-yo African American Residence Hall Assistant, was almost as tall as I, but 100 pounds heavier. His studio apartment, adjacent to the game room, brought him in sight of my ping pong predations.
“I bet you a six-pack I can beat you twenty games in row,” I bragged.
“You’re on, my boy.” Big Rick chuckled and bellowed vibrations of deep resonance.
I proceeded to beat Big Rick 20 games in a row. “Time to pay up, Big Rick!”
“That’s not going to happen,” was his immediate and confident reply.
“What do you mean not going to happen? We had a bet. A deal. You have to.”
We went back and forth a few times. I was indignant. Big Rick’s patience was wearing thin.
“Come with me to my apartment,” as he led me across the game room to his bedroom. Big Rick lifted his mattress, pulled out a gun and aimed it at me. “We’re done here, now, aren’t we?”
“Yes sir. We are.” I turned tail and left, never to speak of a six-pack at Higginson again.
Unprepared: College Life
Entering Western Washington State College directly from high school, I quit after one quarter. My 2.02 GPA belied a deeper reality. I had no idea where I was going, who I was, and what I wanted. And my D in French was undeserved. I should have flunked.
In the long march to maturity, Western was where reality forced confrontation with self. Just how far did I still need to travel to arrive at a tentative sense of competent adulthood?
Higginson Hall, my first residence away from home, my first painful dabbling in independence, proved a great site for bubbling failure.
I, lusting after Geena around the billiards table, couldn’t pull the trigger and act upon that yearning. Unasked, she was likely clueless to my fantasies.
I, underaged and supremely innocent, confidently wagered with Big Rick, our dorm residence assistant, for a six-pack of beer. This 18-yo Jewish suburbanite handily beat that 25-yo African American from Seattle’s Central Area on our ping pong bet, only to find that he who has the gun, sets the rules.
And what does one need to settle down, focus, and accomplish anything in this glorious life of self-professed value? All the stuff that I lacked at the time. Purpose. Discipline. A modicum of judgment earned from both experiences and some strange alchemy of interpretation of those experiences that produces proximations of wisdom.
Let’s call it preparation.