The Villanova Story

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I remember the last time one of my parents hit me (looking back, it may have actually been both of them), and I was a lot older than you would probably think.  I don’t say that to criticize my mom and dad — no, I definitely had it coming.  It’s just that most people would have given up on corporal punishment by that point.

A warm early June breeze met me as I stepped out of my dad’s car in our driveway.  I closed my eyes and let the Pennsylvania sun get a good look at what a week’s worth of Bermuda sun had done to my face.  My mother and sister hustled ahead of me into the house while I started unloading suitcases from the trunk.  It was 1987, and my first year at Villanova University was officially “in the books.”

My grades hadn’t arrived before we left for our vacation.  This was comforting, but thanks to a precaution I took before leaving school for the summer, I didn’t really expect them to show up for some time, if at all.

It took me a little while to get all the suitcases in the house.  Keep in mind, they didn’t all have wheels and extending handles back then, and those suitcases that did have wheels, had four of them and a stupid little leash that only helped to drag the case up the walk after one of the wheels caught a rock.  My parents were conspicuously absent as I finished this chore, but I didn’t think anything of it.

“I”m going up to my room!” I yelled to no one in particular after the last of the luggage was safely in the foyer.

“One minute,” my Dad appeared around the corner.  “We never got a chance to talk about school this past week.  You never told us how you think you did.”

I honestly don’t know how I didn’t see what was about to happen unfolding right in front of me.  But his hands were empty, he seemed cheery enough, and I really had put a lot of faith in my precaution. 

I must have been silent for a while.

“So…  how do you think you did?” he was still smiling.

I looked up the staircase, my sister had stopped in her tracks; her face almost twitched… like a rabbit getting a first whiff of an approaching tornado.  “I don’t know,” I started, “I mean I know I didn’t get all A’s if that’s what you mean.”

That’s when everything slowed down. 

“You son of a bitch!”" he barked at me.  I mean it.  He literally barked at me, but he sounded like a record set at 16 RPM.  His smile was gone, and now visible in his hand was something that looked like a university grade report.

I turned on my heel and tried to escape up the stairs (why do people always go up stairs when they are trying to get away from someone?).  He caught my foot, but I managed to get up to my room slamming the door shut, unable to lock it.  Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck!

Within seconds, he filled my open doorway, not a small task for a 5’7″ inch guy.  “Art History:  F.  Lit and Comp 2:  F,” he was reading from the paper in his hand.  “Geography:  Incomplete.  Calculus: W/D.  I don’t even know what that means.”

“I withdrew from that class,” I interrupted, taking ownership of my best grade.

He glared at me, and continued.  “Poetry: Incomplete.  Grade point average:  0.00.”  I think my mother had joined us in the room by that point.

I guess this is the point where I should mention that I hadn’t been to class (ANY CLASS!) since February 13.  Well, that’s not entirely true, I did attend my Art History final, but the first 20 questions were “slide identifications” which I was obviously under-prepared for, so I took advantage of the dark and slunk back out of the room, and headed over to the library and checked out a book that I would not return, ensuring my grades would not be released (my precaution that obviously backfired because the book was not technically overdue when the grades came out.)

“What the hell were you doing all that time?” maybe it was my mom talking, maybe my dad, I have no clue.

By now I was crying, not from having been hit although I’m sure I had been by then (in fact I seem to remember them hitting me everytime they saw me over that next week), but because everything was finally tumbling down around me.  “I don’t know,” I kept repeating, but that really wasn’t a good enough answer for either of them.

Mid-February was when I rediscovered the Connelly Center, which I guess you could say was more or less the Student Union Building.  It was a haven for commuting students, and I hadn’t really been there since moving on campus from home midway through the first semester.  In the bottom southwest corner of this building was the billiard room which would become my home away from home for the remaining three months of the semester.

The room was like Oz or Willie Wonka’s factory.  It was filled with the most incredible sounds and smells, and inhabited by a strange crew of people ranging from students to maintenance men to even local harlots, all of whom I quickly befriended.  Now during that time, they all must have gone about their business; the students to class, the maintenance guys to work, the harlot to her corner, but I never noticed.  To me they were always there, and so was I.

To this day, I’m sure my parents still wonder what made me spend all that time in the pool room instead of mixing in a class or two.  My father’s come up with some theories of his own, and the ones he’s shared with me are a real doozies. 

But it’s really kind of simple…

I never had a lot of friends.  I mean, sure in early elementary school where everyone is everyone’s friend, but not really since then.  I hung around with a decent size group of guys in high school, but for whatever reason, I separated myself from them as well.  I’m the guy who doesn’t keep in touch, which never really mattered much since I’m also the guy who really didn’t get involved (in activities, sports, friendships, you name it).  Although I did “letter” in bowling, which I think actually helps make my case.

Anyway, the electricity of that pool room brought me to life in a way.  It involved me, and I had friends, and on some level I believed that I had to keep going there or it would all be gone.  They would all be gone.

I never told my parents that.  For a couple of reasons.  First of all, I keep everything I can from them.  Always have.  And secondly, it would undoubtedly kill me if my son told me he didn’t have any friends, and I wanted to spare them that even though I know damn well that they would just say, “Bullshit, you’ve had lots of friends,” and hit me again.

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7 Responses to “The Villanova Story”

  1. Um wow. I never actually heard all of the details of that story, just usually bits and pieces over the years. Is that really YOU in the pic? Just curious bc if so…well its a great pic. A real sign of the times.

  2. Yea G, that’s me with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. I ran into her somewhere, I forget where, and I told her how hot I thought her hair was in Scarface,and she asked me if I wanted to shoot a game of pool. Now that that’s out of the way, thanks for checking out the post and commenting. I really do appreciate it.

  3. Might have been around then. Needless to say, but you should have spent more time painting pics of woman with flags coming out of there crotches.

  4. I like to know your details. You should post like this more often.

  5. Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist

    Sent from my Android phone

  6. Was that the summer I went with you? I do remember the story.