We sat Indian style in the dorm room listening to a band called Fugazi. We took it seriously; we were on to something. I read H.P. Lovecraft and woke from dreams about hidden passageways beneath my bed. Summer, 1990: surrounded by smart kids, at a program for accelerated learning where they hired me to be hall monitor. I didn’t belong there. They fired me on the last day.
My friend Chris had long hair, like Robert Plant. His hair was part of his personality. He rode a motorcycle and showed up at the campus that last weekend, on Friday afternoon. I was supposed to stay up all night to watch the kids, as their RA, because they were taking their final tests the next day and were known to pull pranks the evening before.
I had a crush on one of the students, who was 14. I caught her staring at me from across the cafeteria and thought she might be retarded, or something. She gave me her number on a small piece of paper and I visited her after starting my third year in college, 19. I had been exposed to Van Morrison and so I passed that on to her, too.
Chris brought Vodka and I don’t remember all that happened, except the part with the fire extinguishers. I woke the kids on my hall and we formed a mosh pit in my dorm room to the band Ministry. I got called into the chaplain’s office the next day. They had put some anti-tampering goop on the fire extinguishers that released a purple dye on your skin if you handled them. My guilt was evident up and down my arms, where I touched my face.
They were having a celebration dinner that night but I was told I needed to leave beforehand, so I called my dad and asked if he could pick me up. I didn’t explain what happened and he didn’t ask. He and my mom had just split up so he probably had other stuff on his mind, other than my summer job and the fact I had gotten fired, which I never mentioned.
I was invited to work there because there was a writer from my school who was part of the program when he was a kid, and so they let one student a year from my school work there. Everyone else was Ivy League; I was state school. I wrote a long letter to the professor who recommended me, apologizing. The letter went on and on, expressing how bad I felt. It must have been hard to read.
Miriam saved Lily from the swimming pool in Tuscany, about 20 years later. We had driven from Germany via Lake Como, and by the time we got there, we were fried. She offered us a Heineken and for a second, we took our eyes off Lily in the swimming pool, but Miriam saved her. She was the girl in the cafeteria, who gave me her number, her parent’s number.
There are lines in the maps of our lives that connect us to people and places; the lines criss-cross and the maps get creased and harder to read, but the people and the places are there still, they never go. Maps aren’t routes, just destinations.