It’s funny…most of my life, when someone was being mean or cruel to someone else, I was deeply involved in the actions. But during my freshman year in college, I was a merry bystander for a lot of really good cruelty. I consider it my training ground.

I was stupid in the summer before my first year. I hemmed and hawed, and wasted time instead of trying to secure housing at Clemson University. As a result, I was placed on a waiting list, and had to sweat it out while waiting to see if I’d be living in campus housing, or in a refrigerator box outside Tillman Hall. About 2 weeks before orientation, I got notification that I’d been placed in Calhoun Courts, the nicest (and most expensive) housing on campus, at the time.

Jackpot.

It was a 2 bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, bath, and living area. And it was on the ground floor. I was to be the 4th roommate of a group of 3 juniors that all knew each other and were friends. And I was the only black guy among them. Yeah, it sounded like that episode of “Dawson’s Creek” where the black guy moved in with Joey and was runnin’ mad game on her grandma…oh wait, there weren’t any black people on “Dawson’s Creek”. Otherwise Michelle would’ve been listening to Tupac instead of listening to Dawson whine about Joey not giving up the booty. Of course, Pacey hit that booty repeatedly…but I digress.

I moved in with trepidation (that means I was nervous, dumbass), but quickly discovered that these guys were pretty damn cool. There was “Radial,” an Italian from New Jersey (insert “Sopranos” joke here); “Crony”, a Jewish guy from New York, and there was “Blinders”, a good ol’ boy from some small town in South Carolina where farmers and sheep listen to Marvin Gaye songs together in the dark. Radial was the best of the bunch…he and I are still good friends to this day. Crony was alright…he was a mutant, though. Largest member I’ve ever seen on a white man. And I saw it because he used to whip it out and swing it around in a circle like a damn pocket watch whenever the mood struck him. Once the mood struck him while he was standing in the window of his 4th floor dorm, which overlooked a heavily-trafficked area of campus. In broad daylight. During a class change. Yeah, he was proud of that thing. And then there was Blinders.

Blinders was a sad-sack guy…amorphous, lumpy, pasty-pale, and generally unhealthy-looking. Although he wasn’t stupid, Einstein would’ve snickered if he faced him in “Jeopardy”. And the kid was socially inept. Or inane. Either way, he was a numbnuts when it came to social graces. He wasn’t a racist or anything, but it was obvious that he was unhappy with drawing the short straw on who he’d be sharing a room with (that would be me, of course). He was a generally unpleasant person to be around. The cool thing was, Radial and Crony didn’t like him, either. At all. To this day I don’t know why they invited him to live with them, except to increase their chances of landing that plum apartment. We had many adventures with Blinders.

Cock Diesel

One day Blinders was sleeping on the couch, skipping one of his engineering classes. Considering that he said he wanted to be an engineer, he skipped class a lot. Radial and I were on the opposite couch, watching “SportsCenter” for the 3rd time that day. We were also skipping class. Pot, meet kettle. Crony came in from his rowing workout, showered, and walked into the living area in nothing but a towel. We said nothing; this was normal behavior for Crony, who had no hang-ups about his body. He watched Dan Patrick with us for a few minutes, got bored, and suddenly started motioning frantically at Blinders, then at his towel. He had a huge, huge grin on his face. No. Oh dear lord, no. We knew what he had in mind, but we were powerless (and under-motivated) to stop it. He walked over to Blinders, whipped out Mr. Longfellow, swung it in a circle twice, and THWACK! He smacked Blinders right across the forehead. It was audible. It made the sound of deli salami hitting the side of a rump roast. Crony let it sit there for a good couple of seconds, while he raised his hands in victory, as though he’d just won the Super Bowl. Radial and I were so stunned, we didn’t even laugh for the first 10 seconds or so. Blinders didn’t budge. Crony skipped back to his room, and while we were laughing, Blinders woke up, looked at us convulsing on the couch, and said “What’s so funny?” And no, we didn’t tell him. But it gave it a whole new meaning when we called him a dickhead.

Blinders Shirks His Duty

Blinders liked getting the morning paper everyday. Since we all read it, we agreed to take turns carrying the used papers to the recycling place (except for me, since I didn’t have a car. I did an extra day of KP instead). This arrangement worked well for the first couple of months, until Blinders decided not to do his run one week. When the guys got on him about it, he swore vehemently that it wasn’t his turn, and that he wasn’t going to do it. Now, he KNEW it was his turn – he just didn’t feel like doing it, the lazy bum. The guys weren’t about to do his work for him, so they let the papers stack higher and higher. For three or four weeks, that stack grew and grew. I swear, I think the boys went out and bought MORE papers, just so the stack would grow higher. It was about 3 feet tall, at its peak. God help you if you brushed by it on your way throught the apartment, ’cause it would move and sway like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (look it up – that shit broke into pieces!). One day, I came in from my ceramic engineering lab (I hated that class like Dirty hated bathing) to find that all the newspapers had been meticulously shredded, by hand, and strewn around the entire apartment. There were strips of newspaper in every corner of every room. Even the kitchen sink had paper in it. It was like a black and white blizzard struck the joint. As I stood there in disbelief, Crony and Radial came running around the corner, top speed, and slid into the living room, giggling like anime chicks and looking like the white rejects from the Cool Runnings auditions. My shock turned to dismay, which then immediately reverted to apathy. Apathy is a close cousin to acceptance, which knocked on the door and said “Go ahead. Do it. It’s fun. You know you want to.” Oh what the hell, I joined in. Blinders came in, looked around, frowned in his amorphous way, and said “I hope you don’t think I’m going to clean this up.” Since he never cleaned anything, it wasn’t on our minds. But there were a couple of certainties:

1. The boys were not going to clean it up. To them, they merely converted Blinders’ mess into something more useful. They viewed it as a public service.

2. I sure as hell wasn’t cleaning it up. I didn’t like him enough. Plus I didn’t do papers.

3. Newspaper on the floor makes your feet and hands really dirty with ink.

That newspaper stayed there for a month before he finally got it all up. I think his harpy girlfriend got tired of having black feet after visiting. More on her later.

More to come…

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