This is a story about when 3 college aged girls were put together in a dorm room made for 2 college aged girls. 2 of the girls were white and 1 was black.
1 of the white girls was a well-to-do young woman with a great sense of humor and a way with words. She was from the valley in Southern California. She had recently gotten over a cocaine habit. Her father paid her tuition at the private university where the story takes place by simply writing a check. She had a sister that she fought with all the time. Her sister had gotten a nose job recently and she was jealous because she wanted one too. She had been anorexic (or maybe it was the coke) but was starting to fill out again. She fit in pretty well at the private university. Let’s call her Olivia, or Liv for short.
The black girl was from Atlanta. She was also quite well to do. She had a huge wardrobe and had brought a TON of stuff with her to college. She had a big smile and used to wear one stud earring, and one dangling earring: a little plastic white baby doll. She was not of the skin color that made up the majority of this university. Nor was she blond, stick thin or blasé. She missed her family a lot. Her mother used to ship her pies by Federal Express. Let’s call her Celine.
The other white girl was from a lower middle class family in the Midwest. She’d had a stereotypical upbringing. And I mean “stereotypical”. She’d never been to this big city in California before Super Shuttle dropped her off at the dorms, 2 days before school started. She was not used to so many Mexicans, or Mexican restaurants, or taco trucks, and had never eaten re-fried beans before. She was there on an academic scholarship. She was not of the social class that made up the majority of this university. Nor was she blond, tan, or stick thin. She had a death rock attitude, pasty skin, dyed black hair and a nose ring. Let’s call her me.
So, what happened to the 3 girls?
Well, Celine showed up last, and so she got the top bunk. Me, I showed up second, so I got the bottom bunk. Liv showed up first, so she took the non-bunk bed. That’s how it works.
I liked to smoke cigarettes and listen to music. Liv liked to play with words and sleep in late. Celine liked to eat fried foods and talk on the phone. Liv decided to nickname Celine “Sizzlean” as a way of making fun of the kind of food she ate, and telling her she was going to get fat. I went along with it. Celine protested for awhile, laughing, “aw, come on.” We didn’t stop. In case you are not familiar with Sizzlean, check out this ad from 1985: Move over bacon, it’s Sizzlean
Well, things got strained. Liv joked. Celine smiled and fended her off. “Jesus, Sizz! Your mama sent you a pie? In the mail? Did she send you grits and greens too?!” I laughed. Sending pies in the mail was weird.
Liv: What the hell? Why are you wearing that baby earring? Let me see that thing.
Celine: No, come on Liv, my best friend back home gave it to me. We both have one.
Me: Blink blink. Laugh. Thinking, “ridiculous baby earring.”
One night it got ugly. Liv took Celine’s earring off the desk, got her lighter out, and dangled the baby over the flame, taunting Celine. Liv shrieked in laughter. “Oh my God! it’s totally burning, ha ha!” I watched. Celine laughed, tried to get the baby away from Liv. Couldn’t. Laughed some more but looked like she wanted to cry. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t step in. I laughed too, thinking the whole thing was stupid, but also knowing none of this was funny at all. The baby’s feet melted and the body got all charred.
Celine moved out.
I smoked cigarettes, listened to Bauhaus and Jane’s Addiction and went to all night clubs with my death rock friends.
Liv started snorting speed. She got really skinny and super sketched out. If you’ve ever seen that movie “Spun” you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Time passed. I moved to a campus apartment with a new roommate. I took classes that opened my mind. I got used to the big city and the Mexican food and everything that went with it. I stopped being death rock and went for hippie and classic rock music.
One night there was a frat party. Not my thing but there was free alcohol for under-aged people like me. One of the guys took me and a friend upstairs to show us the attic. There were swastikas painted on the ceiling. “Niggers go home” was spray painted in bold letters on one wall. I was shocked and offended and went back down to the party. I didn’t know why this guy had taken us up to that attic. I didn’t know who to tell. I left it alone.
I moved off campus. I hung out with the SST punk rock skater kids and went to DIY parties in the desert and house parties where up and coming bands played. Added Gone, Sonic Youth, the Minutemen and Black Flag albums to the Zeppelin, Hendrix and Bauhaus already in the collection.
Liv had a revelation. Literally threw her speed out the window of the car in the rain, and became a born again Christian.
I moved further off campus. I hung out with people in my apartment building, some of them were Puerto Rican, Mexican and Black. I listened to the Chili Peppers, Parliament, James Brown, Ice Tea and N.W.A. I drank Cisco.
And one day, totally by accident, I ran into Celine out on the street near my new apartment. She waved and called me over, as friendly and smiley as always. I was ashamed. It was hard to look her in the eye.