Thursday, May 12, 2016

An After-Hours Swim and Other Crap

His name might have been Rick. It's been so many years, and it really wasn't important to me at the time anyway. It was back when I was a lonely freshman on campus and he was an upperclassman fraternity brother. Not just any fraternity, no, this was Alpha Tau Omego, ATO for short, right across the street from my dorm, home to the supposedly smart guys. They weren't like the "Teeks" who decided to flood their frat house basement for want of their own swimming pool, destroying its foundation and shutting down that frat on the campus, at least for a while. Not following that news, I have no clue how long it lasted.

Since I have been unable to come up with a better name for him, I'll call him Rick here. If it's wrong, he may thank me. He wasn't all that impressive, despite being an upperclassman and an ATO. There was just that one thing about him: some nincompoop on the faculty entrusted him with a key to the swimming pool, the real one, which he could and did use to offer younger females the chance to go for an evening swim with him. (Hey, I couldn't have been the only one, right? Even I figured that out.)

In all my life, there have been few physical activities which I actually enjoyed, and swimming was the first of them, once I finally learned how and managed to secure a reliable set of noseplugs. Bicycling was another early one, but by that time I was considered - and considered myself to be - too old for that. Later would come beledi and other forms of dancing, occasional canoing, and hiking over whatever terrain as long as a camera was involved. At the time of Rick's invitation, swimming was still big on my list of favorite activities, so without much thought, I answered, "Yes." After all, swimming! Didn't matter that it was late at night - that was part of the thrill, being forbidden, and if caught I could assure whatever authorities that Rick had assured me that this was perfectly OK - or that I didn't particularly know or feel attracted to Rick, because, hey! Swimming!

I know: unbelievably naive, right? Besides selfish, as well.

By fifteen minutes into the swim, I had a revelation. I had never realized that swimming could be boring! It turns out that even worse than having no company was being in the wrong company. If I drooled over fit guys, I suppose it could have been entertaining enough. But I didn't. And nothing that evening told me that Rick was very interesting to know, aside from his having that magic key, and despite his being in the "smart" fraternity. I really couldn't swim the way I wanted to, because Rick kept crowding me . I was a good enough swimmer that I kept getting away from him, back into my personal comfort space though it wasn't known as such those days, and he let me. I'd guess it was a fairly novel experience for him, being so thoroughly avoided, and finding out it wasn't just a game of playing coy. I really was only interested in the swimming.

The grown up me would feel like I owed him an apology for that, except for what came later.

I knew just enough about him that I knew he was engaged to some girl from wherever "back home" was, and was operating on the idea that his actions in the pool would respect that. I know: unbelievably naive again, right? Maybe just unbelievably lucky that actual rape wasn't on his mind. But with both of us being bored with how the evening was going, it wasn't a disappointment when it ended fairly quickly. The swim was refreshing, not to be repeated, end of story.

Or so I thought.

I was also unbelievably naive about what guys go back and report to their "brothers" about what happens on a date like that. They can't just say it was OK, but hey, didn't meet expectations. Nope.


I didn't find out about that addendum to our swimming date for several weeks. It came in the form of Ann F. and Gerri T., two girls who lived a couple doors down the hall in the dorm. They were, I decided later, the kind of people who love sticking their noses deep into somebody else's business, the worse news they carried the better, all in the smug sanctimoniousness of doing it "for somebody's own good."

It started as a warning. I was to quit chasing Tom M. and some other guy whose name is lost in the mists of indifference. I kind of thought I knew who Tom was, another fraternity brother, hence viewed across the street on occasion, but had no clue either on who the second one was or where this was all coming from. After  much back and forth with Ann and Gerri, I found out, and it was ludicrous. It was almost laughable, except that this was back in the day when these kind of slurs on a reputation meant something.

Switch back to first term astronomy class. I got there a bit late the first day and my seat was towards the rear of the auditorium and off to one side. I'm not sure why this didn't change, whether those default seats were assigned or it was just habit. I didn't think it mattered as I could hear and see well enough to learn what I needed to for my "A". The professor stood down in the center, and as it turned out, right in front of Tom and Whoosit in the center front row. I actually had noticed them in class, not just because they were in my direct line of sight but because they both kept turning back and looking somewhere over in my direction. Since their actions had nothing to do with me, I paid them little note other than thinking them foolish, and just kept my eyes and ears on the professor.

Somewhere in their little pea brains attached to highly oversized egos, they concocted the idea that I was busy staring at them all through class! As for supposedly chasing them, I have no recollection of ever speaking to either of them. Nor wanting to. Especially after hearing about this from Ann and Gerri.

I tried to point out to Ann and Gerri how ridiculous this all was, but found I was getting nowhere with them. It was all because of Rick, you see. They wanted me to be sure to know that I ruined his engagement because of seducing him that night in the pool!

Whoa! Wait! What?

Not only had that never happened but if any so-called news of it reached his fiancee, it was all on his own head, either his excuse for other fooling around or some credulous frat brother letting something slip during a visit. I figure the fiancee was lucky they broke up, though I wouldn't say that to Ann and Gerri.

As it turned out, I managed to say little to nothing at all to the two of them for the rest of my time on that campus. Ever. On any topic.

I still wouldn't, not on any polite topic. Of course I'd have to be re-introduced to them to know who they were. We've all changed over nearly 50 years. Perhaps that's a blessing. I'm not so guarded with my tongue these days as I was then. I'd likely inquire whether they'd reaped as much misery as they delighted in spreading. It's tempting to hope so.

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