Chapter 6 – It All Begins to Add Up

“Ellany!!!” my boss yelled.

“Yeah, Tony?”

“You’re in big trouble.”

Uh…okay…uh-oh.  Had I left a toilet seat up in the ladies’ room?  Had I forgotten to lock the CEO’s office last night and somebody snuck in and stole his special t.v. tupee?

“Your sister just called and informed me…” a big grin spread on his face, “YOU JUST GOT A (correctly assume a really good score here) ON YOUR SAT’S!!!!!”

I screamed and jumped into his arms.  Based on my score, I was going to college with a 70% scholarship!  Plus, I had been saving.  PLUS…I just so happened to be working at a ministry that awarded scholarships to employees for THAT school and that school ONLY for their first semester.  PLUS!…my landlady’s crazy daughter wasn’t going!  Clearly, ORU was a go.

With only a few weeks left to spend in Texas, I asked Debra if I could move back in with her.  I couldn’t take being treated like “family” with that family anymore, though I was thankful for the strange route that got me up to a school I’d never heard of.  I spent my last few weeks piling up as much cash as I could and planning my last summer in California.

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Chapter 7 – California Here I Come! (And Go)

My mom had come to see me and my sister in Texas before driving the moving truck up to Tulsa.  I had hoped she would stay in California and I could go home for the summer and we could move together.  I guess my mom had gotten used to her independence as well.  Fortunately, my mom’s best friend (who is my best friend’s mom and my second mom) said I could come stay with them for the summer.

Ah, it was good to be home.  The beautiful ocean and it’s spectrum of colors from pale aqua-marine to deep purple-gray, my favorite mochas from Vinaka Cafe, old friends…I was home again.  But it was different.  I was different.  I finally had a plan, for the first time in my life, I had a plan, and San Diego County is more about enjoying life without a plan.  But I had to make the most of my goodbye.

It is here that I owe homage to my-then-best-friend-turned-boyfriend, Cory.  He was indispensable to me during this period of my life, and the story isn’t really honest without mentioning him.  Cory had been an upstate New York transplant and didn’t really “get” San Diego when he’d first moved there.  And while I “got” the land, I didn’t exactly fit into the San Diegan crowd myself.  I had my own, private love-affair going on with the coast and no one to share it with.  Cory was my life-saver.  At six years my senior, we were “just friends” for a long time.  I showed him all the places I had explored during my days as a latch-key kid with a driver’s license, and he made me eat scary foods like calamari and meatballs with raisins (both of which I ended up liking very much).  He had been there for me when my dad left, helped us with car troubles and was available pretty much every night for coffee.  When I went off to Texas, our romantic relationship was kind of up in the air, but he was still my best friend and I had an entire summer free, so of course I would spend it with him.

Cory and I had made a couple of other friends at the church we had started attending before I left.   Sometime mid-summer, we decided to ask two of them, Andrew and April if they’d like to join us for one last big adventure:  a cross-country road-trip culminating in dropping me off in Tulsa just in time for school.  We decided on a couple weeks’ notice to drive from San Diego to New York, stay with Cory’s parents up-state, drive to New York City and stay with Cory’s friend, go to D.C, visit Cory’s grandma in North Carolina, visit April’s dad in Florida and drop me off in Tulsa.  From San Diego to New York to Florida to Oklahoma, in 18 days.  Ah sweet youth…and all it’s blissful stupidity.

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Chapter 8 – What A Long, Strange Trip

At the time, I didn’t know April very well, but I got to know her a bit more the night before the trip as we planned, scheduled, charted and micro-managed every bit of the trip.  I’m a scheduler, and planning out the trip was almost as fun the trip itself.

The next morning, I said “farewell” to my beloved San Diego with every intention of returning someday.  It would have been a more bitter goodbye were I not so excited about the big 18-day road trip.  We drove straight-through from San Diego to Tulsa for an over-night stay at my parent’s (who, by now, were back together if you didn’t already guess that was going to happen).  I had seen my mom once in 9 months, and it was the first time I’d seen my dad in over a year.  But this was no time to visit.  I dropped off my things for school at their place, and as soon as my mom’s pancakes were consumed and enjoyed by all, we were on our way to New York the very next morning.

Up-State New York looks just like the country-side in the movie Last of the Mohicans.  I had been there the summer before with Cory as a graduation gift from my parents.  It’s quite beautiful and I realized why Cory had initially not liked San Diego.  So returning the favor of tour-guide, Cory took us hiking at his favorite hiking trail, the Plotter Kill.  I had gone hiking with him there the year before, and it’s still one of the best hiking trails I’ve ever been on.  Too bad it’s tainted with the memory of me almost dying there.  Well, that’s somewhat of an exaggeration, but Cory’s sister didn’t think so at the time.

Cory, April, Andrew and I had been hiking for hours.  Andrew had taken his tiny guitar and serenaded us with a mixture of lovely and absurd ditties as we strolled through the woods (a gypsy caravan if ever there were one).  We walked barefoot in cool, shady streams, stood at the edge of waterfall cliffs…and of course, got lost.  Well, I wasn’t lost.  I knew exactly where we were, but I wasn’t the native, and no one wanted to follow the girl who’d been there only once versus the guy who grew up traversing those trails year after year.

I still have pictures of the point at which we stopped to rest, rested a little too long and leisurely, and got turned around from where we came.  I remembered, but no one would believe me.  I happen to have red-eye in the photo, which I find aptly symbolic of my then-boiling frustration. We also hadn’t taken very much water or snacks.  I was hot, hungry, dehydrated and pissed off.  Not the best sign for the coming days.  I was starting to have dizzy spells, whether hunger- or anger-induced, I cannot say.

We came upon a steep grade of sharp and unsettled shale rocks.  Andrew and Cory insisted that it would be no trouble to walk down.  I, on the other hand, felt like the mountain was baring it’s teeth and was ready to devour me if I dared trespass.  I had no choice but to follow.  My first couple of steps were fine, but then the shale acted as a tidal wave as I slid down the hillside scraping my shins and knees all the way down.  I was covered in shale dust, and more pissed off than ever.  I started to have a panic attack – though I’d never had one before and didn’t know what was happening to me.  All I knew was that I couldn’t breathe, but as soon as I could, I was going to murder Cory for getting us lost and bury him under that shale hill.

We finally reached the interstate that led to the park entrance.  As April and Andrew walked quickly ahead to get help, I was left alone with Cory to contemplate how to take his life.  After six long, exhausting hours, Andrew and April reached the parking lot that had a pay phone and called Cory’s sister.  They’d gotten out the words “panic attack” and Cory’s sister freaked out before they could tell her I was fine that she called 911.  Luckily for Cory, by the time he and I reached the parking lot, there were police and firemen everywhere readying themselves for a search and rescue mission.  My fury subsided, but I was nervous that we still had about 15 days left together.

After a few days at Cory’s parents, being stuffed with amazing food and desserts, we headed for the Big Apple.  We stayed with Cory’s high school buddy and his gay, drug-addict roommate, in a hole in the wall office they were illegally living in, below some prostitute’s apartment who had been busted the night before, above a florist shop and across the street from a deli.  At 18, this was SO New York City to me: diverse in the extreme, intimidating, glamorous in it’s filth, and as much as New York City can be, still innocent of terrorism, war and things like the Department of Homeland Security.

We devoured French food served by an intentionally rude French waitress, drank coffee at a gay coffee house decorated according to it’s name Heaven and Hell, and saw all the touristy sites.  I was even swindled by a deli-man who tried to give me less change back than he owed me.  When I confronted him, he just pulled out a twenty out and handed it to me without counting, which was far more than he owed me.  It was the best turkey and cheese bagel sandwich I’ve ever had.

After three days and some excruciating bone-spurs-for-lack-of-planning-proper-city-walking-shoes and a big fight with Andrew later, we were off to D.C.  Washington D.C. was just a pit-stop though, so it is mostly remembered at that time for a big fight with Cory.  We were all clearly getting to each other, and I sometimes wonder if the show Survivor was birthed out of our experience, because we were each ready to get someone off the island.  We were having a great time in some ways, but by the time we got to Florida, we were ready for the trip to be over.  Andrew had spent too much money in New York and had to pawn his travel guitar to have enough money for his share of the ride home.  It was in Florida that it occurred to me that Cory and April would make a really great couple.  It was a strange thought for me to be having, to be sure, but I thought so nevertheless.  We took a straight shot from Florida to Oklahoma and my last picture of our trip together shows four exhausted, pissed-off, dirty, constipated, world-weary travelers.  I can’t think of a better way to be sent off to college.

By the way, I was right about Cory and April.  Their friendship began during the road-trip and a little while later they were married.  They now have three really cute kids and are living happily ever after.  I proudly take credit for it all.  They’re welcome!

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Chapter 9 – Him

I met him the first day of school.  I was sitting in the advisor’s office waiting to drop a class when the guy across from me (not “him”) said, “Hey!  My name’s Brenden and this is my roommate, Lukus.”  I introduced myself to this friendly, energetic guy and attempted to say hello to the tall, good-looking, blonde-haired guy sitting next to him, but he would barely look up from his paperwork.  So if a few grunts and a quick glance constitutes as meeting someone, then I met him on the first day, thinking he was completely stuck-up.

Brenden and I kept running into each other and had several classes together, and being the super-friendly, eager-beaver freshman that he was, we became friends.  We even started working together at the same store in the mall and I’d catch rides with him to work.  After a couple of weeks, he informed me that Lukus had told him that I was in several of his classes.  Really?  I was in Lukus’ classes?  How did I miss him?  Oh right, he was the quiet, studious, shy guy on the second row, and I was the out-going, ready-to-make-college-friends girl who sat in the back section where the biggest crowd was.  The problem was, I actually wanted to learn, not just make friends, while I was at school, and I figured that it was time that I got my studious act together.  I was actually excited about my humanities class (I know, I’m kind of a nerd), but our little back-row crowd was a little more interested in the Meg Ryan movie that we’d seen the night before.

Once I heard that Lukus was in my class, I looked for him the following week and spotted him sitting alone, prepared to take notes.  I had been wanting to move away from the back-row-movie reviewers, but didn’t want to just sit all alone.  Lukus however, hadn’t been very friendly, but at least I’d already met him, and he did remember me enough to mention to his roommate that I was in his classes.  I decided not be daunted by his prior aloofness, or that fact that he seemed to intentionally be sitting alone, and walked right up to his row, all the way down to the seat next to him, and plopped myself down.  “Hi”.  Without looking up, a “Hi” from him.  Then, silence.

Lukus actually intimidated me.  He was probably the first guy to ever intimidate me even though I wasn’t even interested in him in that way.  I was actually kind of casually dating someone at the time, but neither of us was all that interested in each other.  We simply had a mutual interest in the school paper, he being one of the editors, and I, being a former high-school editor, trashed the college paper to his face without knowing at the time that he was on the newspaper staff.  But instead of getting pissed off at me, this guy hired me to write for the paper and ended up recommending me the following year to be a page-editor (another scholarship!).  This relationship was barely a blip of the semester, but it serves to point out that I was not yet attracted to Lukus, even though I found him objectively, obviously good-looking.  I mean, the merits of his looks were pretty plain to see for anyone:  six-foot-three, medium build, thick blonde hair, a strong jaw, and dimples (if you could get him to smile).  He was also an edgy dresser of the musician mould, and being the proud owner of a pair of snake-skin printed pants, I liked that.  But at the time, I was just glad to have someone quiet to sit next to, who also took excellent notes.

What follows is a little embarrassing.  It wouldn’t be so much so if only I knew that only friends or strangers might read this.  But alas, I have no assurance that our parents, or our children, or our pastor, or a boss, or someone else who is difficult to expose your flaws to won’t read this.  But I prize the honest truth, and the honest truth is that there’s not one of you out there that this hasn’t happened to in some form or another, so I embrace my story and all of its gritty, fleshly, honest-to-goodness truth.  The fact is, what led me to think of Lukus in that way was simply Lust.

I called one day for Brenden so we could arrange our ride for work.  Lukus answered with a deep, gravelly-sounding voice and informed me that Brenden wasn’t there.

“Did I wake you up?”  I asked.

“No, I was just getting out of the shower,” he said.

And all of a sudden, I was completely and utterly distracted by the thought of Lukus “just getting out of the shower”.  I don’t think I need to spell out the track my mind suddenly went down for you to get the idea.

I made some sort of fumbling apology and goodbye and hung-up.  My roommate, Mandy, noticed my fluster and asked, “What’s with you?”

“He was ‘just getting out of the shower’.”

Oh.”  She’d met Lukus.  She got it.

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Chapter 10 – Pathetic

From that point on, I developed the most pathetic crush known to the female gender, and my only consolation in this crush was that I had a neighbor in Crushville, home of the anguishly, pathetically, love struck, sappy-faced, giggly girls who go to bed sighing.  Her name was Renee, and she was completely infatuated with Brenden.  The four of us began to hang-out with regularity, with both guys entirely oblivious to our sweaty armpits, extra high-pitched laughs, and wide-eyed eagerness at every mundane word they spoke.  They were oblivious to our blatant signs of love, because they were in Mancrush Town, residence of guys who strut and swagger to hide their nervousness, who forget the names of the girls they’re sitting with when the girls they like walk into the room.  Mancrush Town is an ugly place, and few women find the guys who live there attractive.  Brenden and Lukus had crushes on two roommates, who had crushes on two other roommates, who probably had crushes on two other roommates.  It was pitiful.  I had never experienced such a crush or the pathetic-ness that accompanied it.

After a fun night of sitting around Lake Evelyn or going to the movies, Renee and I would hug the guys goodnight and crawl back to our rooms wondering why they couldn’t just hurry up and love us.  Did we not faithfully ditch our floor’s table to go sit at theirs (at ORU, there aren’t exclusive sororities or fraternities.  Each dorm floor is a fraternity or sorority of sorts, and each floor has a corresponding brother- or sister-wing)?  Did we not sit next to them in all of our classes together?  Did we not go to their intramural basketball games, or to see their band play?  Yes, they started a band.  It was called Awestruck, and Brenden sang and Lukus played guitar.  At the time, they were SO cool, and it only made them that much more attractive to us.  But did they notice?  No!  They kept doing cute, sweet, sexy things that kept making us fall further and further into the heart of Crushville without ever noticing our agony.  Which is probably for the best, ‘cuz pathetic ain’t sexy.  I guess somehow we managed to keep our act together during all those painful “friend dates” and we held out long enough that the two girls who held our guys captive in Mancrush Town, eventually started dating other guys and faded from our guys’ interest.  And like the silly women who wait years for their boyfriend to get out of jail, there we were, waiting faithfully.  They still didn’t notice.

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