Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Part 29: Dorm Daze

"I gaze beyond the rain-drenched streets...
My mind's distracted and diffused
My thoughts are many miles away
They lie with you when you're asleep..."
- Paul Simon

Both Jaime and I were growing. Well, you could actually tell Jaime was getting bigger, I was just not getting any shorter next to him, so it just looked like I wasn't growing. We were always starving by supper time. Domingo, the waiter in charge of our table, tried to keep our bellies full by sneaking food when the other waiters were not paying attention. This usually was not a problem as there was always food leftover on the other tables. Most of the boarders complained about the food and would not eat it, which kept Freddie busy cooking burgers and fries right up to the time he closed the canteen. After supper these students dipped into their own larders or patronized the dorm canteens. Anything to keep from having to eat our weekly boarders fare; Shepherd's Pie, Tuna Casserole, Creamed Chipped Beef or Chicken ala King over noodles or toast, that some kids called shit on a shingle. While it was nothing like Auring's cooking I usually was too hungry to care. Most of it was pretty good and there were always lots of fresh vegetables. Domingo liked that we ate our veggies and would always bring us more from the other tables. Sometimes this was the only thing left over and one night Jaime and I really went to town on the steamed cauliflower. Bowls of it. A little salt and margarine and it was just fine. We hungrily shoveled down about three full serving bowls a piece, a sure recipe for disaster.

My roommate was away for the weekend and Jaime was in my room spending the night. I had the covers tucked in tight around my neck and was desperately trying not to pass gas when I heard Jaime let one go in the bunk next to me. A loud, long drawn out affair. We both cracked up laughing and that made me fart too. We laughed some more and that made us fart more. As those of you who have had cauliflower gas know, the aroma is deadly; the scent of which made us laugh harder, which in turn generated more explosions. This went on for quite sometime. We were getting dizzy from all the fumes so at some point I got up and stumbled over to the windows to let in a little fresh air, never dreaming that the gases escaping from my room would now be sucked in to any open windows around the dorm.

During a lull in the gas barrage we heard our dorm master, Mr Pettitt in the hallway asking Norman if he smelled anything:
"Can you check the toilets down here and see if there is anything backing up? I can smell it upstairs but it seems stronger down here."
We burst into laughter again and Mr Pettitt knocked on our door and stuck his head in. His face got all screwed up like he was choking and he grabbed his nose and leapt back out of the room.

"Oh, Jeeezuus! You Guys!!! Open a damn window and air out this room!"

Between fits of laughter and more farting I pointed at the wide open windows and choked out
They are!

I was becoming more aware of how time seemed to stop or slow down at Brent. Some weeks so many new and interesting things would happen that it was hard to process them all. Other times a weekend would seem like it lasted a month. Then all of sudden there was a change to remind me that time was moving on. The "new dorm" was like that. I don't ever remember seeing any workers, all the construction seemed to go on while we were in class. It grew so gradually that we barely noticed the day to day changes, it seemed that it always had been under construction. One day it was just a hole in the ground with stakes marking out the footprint and the next the Board of Directors, parents and alumni showed up for the ribbon cutting ceremony and an open house to show off the new structure. It was strikingly out of place amongst the old, turn of the century green and white wooden buildings around campus; it was a reminder that time was marching forward, even on the timeless, ageless Brent campus.

Three stories high, a modern concrete and steel exterior and on the inside parquet floors, mahogany paneling throughout and a massive fireplace in the main sala. Each floor had its own sala, the top two overlooking the main floor living area. There was a large kitchenette on bottom floor, and a TV room in the basement. The rooms were enormous by previous standards. Although the original blueprints called for each room to have a balcony, this feature had been eliminated much to our disappointment. The best thing of all were the gleaming modern bathrooms, all white tile and chrome. Each floor had its own, with plenty of sinks, shower stalls, toilets and urinals to insure a minimal wait in the morning. The girls were extremely jealous of the new building and wondered why the stinky boys got the fancy dorm. We couldn't wait to move in and were sorely disappointed when we found out we would have to wait till next year to try it out. However, one weekend the water heaters went out in the Infirmary. Mr Pettitt told us we could go across the way and use the showers in the new dormitory. Most of the dorm turned out, grabbing our towels and shaving kits and headed across, each one picking a floor and shower to try out. It was wonderful, lots of hot water, clean, no peeling paint or musty mildew odors. With so many shower stalls we all got done about the same time. We were walking through the main living area when someone said
"Let's Streak!". Back in early 70's streaking was front page news, for Brent boarders it was old hat, a common hazing punishment was to be turned out of the dorm naked. Within seconds we all had our towels over our shoulders and whooping and hollering we raced across to the Infirmary. I don't know if Brent has ever had so many naked teenagers running about at one time before or since.

For some reason, the last few months of school seemed to go by in a flurry of activities; Field Day, Moving Up Day and Final Exams. Some students were dreading the exams, but I was more worried about what came after that: summer vacation. I wasn't looking forward to heading home that year, so when Jaime invited Mark Becker and I to spend a few weeks at his home in
Solano, Nueva Viscaya I eagerly accepted. I had written my parents to ask for permission and was still waiting for a reply.

So, I was despondently walking back to the dorm after my last final exam when whizzz! a piece of chalk flew past my ear. This was quickly followed by several more projectiles that bounced off my head. I looked up and there was Mr Jenista grinning at me from the classroom window.

A former Brent student himself, he was the dorm father of Hamilton Hall and taught Southeast Asian History, my favorite class that year; he was my favorite teacher during my time at Brent. He was strict, smart, funny and knew how to make history come alive. I looked forward to his class everyday.

I usually sat at his table at lunch time during the school week; Pat Dillon, Kent Rounds and I would try and sneak vinegar or
patis into his drinking glass when he wasn't looking. He would take a sip, stop and a ghost of a smile would play about his lips. This was either good or bad depending on his mood and the situation. We had a good relationship, I worked hard, studied and got good grades and he reciprocated by putting up with my antics. On the first day of class he read through the syllabus and gave us the class rules.
"Pay attention, listen carefully and take notes, I will not repeat myself."
Excuse me sir, what did you say?
"I will not repea..." that ghost of a smile played about his lips.

So, it was no surprise to see him there throwing chalk at me. School was over for the year and he was getting some payback! I gathered up the pieces of chalk that littered the ground around my feet and began firing them back at him. He ducked, laughed and threw more at me. He was a much better shot and seemed to have an unlimited supply of ammunition. I ran around to the other side of the room and climbed through a window to press my attack. He raced to the window and picked me up and and unceremoniously dumped me head first out the window where I lodged face down in the hedge. I couldn't see very good and I seemed to be stuck; I felt a sharp pain in my left eye. Mr Jenista came out with several of my classmates and they pulled me from the hedge. My face felt warm and sticky and I reached up to feel my eye when someone grabbed my wrist.
"Don't touch it!" he said as he propelled me towards the nurse's office. One of the small branches that had stopped my fall had broken off and a piece of it was now sticking out of my eye socket. We reached the clinic and the nurse looked at me and said "Oh it's you again." She always seemed to be a little put out when we came to her to tend to our injuries. I had been in the month before after fracturing my hand during a rough game of 2 on 2 basketball with Pat Dillon, Jaime and Joey Butler. She got on the phone and called Dr. Pavia to come over to Brent and look me over and while we waited for him to arrive she cleaned the blood off my face. My eye was really hurting now and I was starting to panic about the possibility of losing my eye. The doctor arrived and carefully removed the stick and put some dye in my eye which really burned. He wanted me to open my eye and that was really hard to do, but I finally got it open. Other than some scratches to the cornea and a gouge in the corner of my eye socket, it seemed to be OK. The stick had broken off before it was driven in too deep. He put some ointment in my eye and put a heavy gauze patch over it, gave me some pain killer and told me to lie still for a few hours. By the time I got to the dining hall that night everyone had heard about it and came over to gawk at my black elastic eye patch, the fact that it covered a slightly bloody piece of gauze greatly enhancing their sympathy and my status. Mr Jenista felt real bad and at dinner that night I played it up for a while, but I liked him too much to keep it up for long. I did, however, have a deep pink scar that ran from the bridge of my nose to the edge of the eye socket. I used to turn my head so the scar would show and tap my nose just to pester him.

1 comment:

  1. Well written, Mark. I enjoyed reading about your exploits with Jaime and Joey.