Fall of ’69

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Ass

Peer pressure has existed as long as humanity and it was a powerful force on college campuses in 1969.

The majority of students protested the Vietnam War in one way or another. My frat brothers and I would predictably join whatever anti-war demonstration we could find, not out of our deep commitment to stop the war, but out of our commitment to skip classes and party. It wasn’t surprising that our less than sincere attendance would cause the truly dedicated considerable distress.

Becky was one of the dedicated.

On the day we met, I carried a protest sign that shouted in red, dripping letters, “Fight for Peace” — an oxymoron that, right from the start, made Becky suspicious about my sincerity.

She turned and gave me the evil eye when we started chanting, “Fight for Peace! Fight for Peace,” and then laughing at our own juvenile brilliance.

“Why don’t you boys go home and read your comic books? I can’t hear the man speak.”

A comment like that only encouraged us, because now we had someone specific to annoy, which was always more fun than shouting at no one in particular.

Becky had a white peace sign sewn to the ass of her faded, hip-hugger, bell-bottoms. It caught Roger Miller’s attention, and he started the ball rolling.

“Give me a piece like that and I’d stay home — in bed.”

Others jumped on board, and she immediately became the target of every imaginable sexual reference for the peace/piece homonym — piece of ass, nice piece, I want a piece now, and so on. At first Becky ignored us, but it must’ve gotten under her skin.

She reached the breaking point when we started singing, “All we are asking is give peace a chance. All we are asking is give me some ass–”

She turned around and kicked Roger in the soprano section, and then stormed off into the crowd.

I wasn’t raised to be disrespectful to women. Somehow, through my chemical haze, I regretted our repulsive behavior. So, I chased after her to apologize for being part of the frat pack, finally catching up with her on the science building steps, where she sat down and cried.

I put down my moronic sign and, totally out of character, tried to be sincere. “Hi… Hey, I’m really sorry about those idiots. We were way out of line.”

“JUST SHUT UP!”

She wouldn’t look at me.

I sat down a few feet away, so as not to give her the impression I was there to harass her, and for my own safety.

After a few minutes, she calmed down and said, “My brother is in Vietnam… somewhere.” She pulled her knees against her chest, and rocked. “I haven’t heard from him in over a month.” Her head dropped to her knees, the long chestnut hair hiding her face. “Please God, don’t let him die.”

That was the first time I felt moved by compassion for a stranger. I quietly asked questions and she eventually opened up, appearing glad to have the release. It was a moment that crystallized my life, and remains forever burned in my memory.

I found out her brother, Jeremy, was a West Point graduate and a lieutenant in the Army. He was a platoon leader and had already seen plenty of action.

“When he writes, he doesn’t comment on the politics of the war. He just worries about his men. He said drugs are everywhere. Morale is low.” She wiped her cheeks with the heels of her palms, and said, “How can you lead men into battle when they’re stoned?”

“I’m sure it’s not as bad as you think.”

“Jeremy hardly ever says anything negative that would make me worry. So, if he told me that much, then it must be a lot worse.”

As we got up to leave, I pulled a book of matches from my pocket and ignited the ‘Fight For Peace’ sign.

“NO!” Becky yanked it from my hand and stomped out the flames. “I want you to keep it. Hang it on your wall to remind you.”

I wasn’t sure what it was suppose to remind me of. Man’s insensitivity to his fellow man?

I walked Becky to the cafeteria. She let me sit and eat with her. All the while, she talked about the war and the peace talks. Her anti-war sentiment was more about getting her brother home safe than any political ideology. Kissinger, a brilliant man, would stop the war, she was sure.

Afterwards, we walked back to her dorm room and watched the evening news on her portable television. The small, black and white images of the wounded and dead gave the war a surreal horror.

When the broadcast ended she turned off the TV, saying, “Don, I have to study. Time for you to go.”

I didn’t want to. “Can I help?”

Suddenly, a girl and a guy burst into the small room — kissing and laughing, until they spotted us.

The girl wore rose-colored granny glasses and had a blue bandana tied over her blond hair. The paisley skirt and filthy bare feet announced, ‘I’m a hippie chick’.

Her words slurred together when she said, “Hey, Becky. Who’s this guy? You finally gonna get laid?”

The guy behind the hippie chick snorted while groping her breast through the peasant blouse.

“No, Cindy. We were just watching the news. He’s güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri leaving now.”

“Too bad. You’re so fucking uptight. A little buzz and an orgasm would do your head good.”

Becky’s face turned red, but she ignored the comment.

Hippie chick held out her hand to me. “Hi, I’m Becky’s roommate, Cindy Litsky.”

Her male companion snorted again, and said, “Lit-sky, good one.”

Out of politeness, I shook her hand. “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Don Carter.”

Cindy’s companion introduced himself with, “Hey man, you wanna drop some acid?”

“Uh, no thanks.”

Cindy watched Becky gather her books, and said, “Well, D. C., you must be a special man to meet Becky’s standards. It’s been a month and you’re the first guy she’s ever brought home. But don’t get your hopes up.” She rolled her eyes, and said, “She’s saving herself for marriage.”

“Excuse me.” Becky pushed out of the room, carrying an armload of books and papers.

Cindy shouted after her, “Better plan on spending all night in the library, because Craig is spending the night here.” Then she shook her head, turned around in her boyfriend’s arms, and said, “What an uptight prude.”

“Make love not war,” said Craig, as his hands slipped down to her ass.

She giggled and turned to smile at me, while he sucked on her neck.

My heart rate accelerated, but I walked out.

In the matter of a few hours, I’d developed a conscience. For the second time that day, I found myself chasing Becky.

By the time I caught up she was halfway to the library. “Are you okay?”

“What do you care?”

I didn’t know why. “Why shouldn’t I?”

“Because, I’m Becky-the-bummer. Just leave me alone.” She walked faster.

I stopped and watched her all the way to the Library front door. That peace sign had a hypnotizing sway. When she was gone from sight, I shrugged it off and went home.

It was seven-thirty on a Friday night, and the frat house already reeked of booze and dope. People wandered from room to room. These were my brothers. I’d sworn an oath to uphold our traditions and values, which seemed completely self-centered in the light of what was happening in the world.

Roger spotted me.

“Where you been, Man? You missed it!”

He put his arm drunkenly around my neck and his acrid breath stung my nose.

“The National Guard showed up and crashed our fuckin’ protest. Man, you should’ve seen Harry.” Roger laughed at remembering. “He nailed a commando right in the head with a rock, and that started a riot. It was classic!”

“Wow, I’m sorry I missed that.”

Too blitzed to detect my sarcasm, Roger dragged me toward the keg.

“Have a beer, buddy. This is going to be a weekend to remember.” He drained his cup, and added, “But we’ll drink too much and won’t.”

Dutifully, I filled a plastic cup, put my protest sign behind the couch, and sipped as I scanned the room. Recent events had tickled my libido and these parties were designed to loosen inhibitions. The halter-topped coeds in particular caught my eye. Their jiggling boobs marked time with the beat of Hendrix and I spotted several sorority sisters I knew to be especially entertaining. The sexual revolution was the only war I wanted to participate in at the moment.

Trying to attain the party spirit, I downed two brews and danced with the breasts I liked the best. Patty Conway had a shapely pair, and she loved to flaunt them. As usual, they were prominently on display — barely confined inside a thin, white halter. Somehow, the left one had gotten wet, and the outline of its areola was clearly visible. Guys around us were staring and whispering. She acted oblivious.

After my initial titillation, her lewd behavior began to turn me off. She’d shake those melons for anyone. I found myself craving fresh, inexperienced melons, like the ones in the library. I wondered about the taste of melons that were not freely offered for mass consumption.

In a rush, I understood the ideology my father had always preached — You only value what you earn.

When the song ended, I worked my way to the door and then out into the warm night air. My ears thrummed for a few blocks, and then the distant sounds of campus life came to me like a whisper, infusing me with a melancholy mind-set. In a couple of years, this experience would be over. What would I have to show for it? Was I really learning anything of value?

After wandering inside the library for ten minutes, I spotted Becky on the third floor — books open, papers scattered over the desk, but her eyes were glued to a small pamphlet in her hand.

Thinking about the best way to approach her, I decided to play it straight. I was tired of bullshit, and she didn’t seem the type to play games.

“Hi, Becky.”

She quickly closed the pamphlet and slipped it under a textbook. “What are you doing here?”

Pulling out the chair across from her, I sat down and said, “I was looking for you.”

Becky flipped a couple of pages in the book, güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri obviously disconcerted. “Why?”

“I like you.”

“You don’t know me,” she said, while rapidly scribbling notes.

“I want to.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re different, you’re interesting.”

Without looking at me once, she said, “Your breath stinks. Why don’t you go back to the party? I’m sure you can find some wasted chick to screw.”

A little put out, I sat back and stared at her a while. “You think you know me? You don’t know me at all.”

Becky looked me straight in the eye, and said, “And I don’t want to.” Then, she appeared to be deep into her notes again.

“Fair enough. But at least give me a good reason you don’t want to. What did I do in such a short time that made you dislike me so much?”

Her pen flew across the page a few seconds longer, and then she put it down to meet my gaze. “I don’t like your fraternity. If you belong to that group of pigs, then you’re like the rest of them. You’re right. Maybe I don’t know you, but I know them.”

“Guilt by association, then?”

“Exactly. You guys are a bunch of rich, spoiled brats. Just a drunken mob. If you were lost in the woods, and principles were sticks and morals were matches, you’d all die of hypothermia.”

I laughed contemptuously at the ridiculous metaphor, but inwardly died of exposure.

A change of subject was in order. “Are you really a virgin?”

“Go away!”

“I’ve never met a virgin this old before, but you proved they are just as uptight and bitchy as I expected. Enjoy being a spinster.”

Since there was nothing left to say, I stormed outside to enjoy the early autumn night and cool my engine. I was pissed. Who was she to pass judgment on me? After pacing and cursing for a minute, I just wrote her off. The nearly full moon was breaking over the horizon. I sat down on a bench to contemplate its beauty and marvel at man’s accomplishment to travel there and back.

It had been an eventful summer. A summer I’d never forget and one for the history books — Moon landing, Chappaquiddick, Manson, race riots, Woodstock, and the last Star Trek episode. Of course, the Vietnam War churned the country’s collective conscience daily.

As hard as I tried to occupy my brain with other thoughts, I couldn’t get over the sting of Becky’s indictment. It finally dawned on me that what bothered me the most was the truth in it. Was I really that bad? The answer kept coming back: Yes, I am.

Before I knew it, I stood across from her in the library once again, and said, “Becky, I’m sorry for what I said. I flipped out. I didn’t want to face the reality in what you said–“

“I’m sorry too, Don.” Her green eyes were as soft as her library voice. “I shouldn’t have been so mean to you. You’ve been kind to me all day. It’s just…my brother and everything…”

The words trailed off and she looked away. I could see tears welling up in the corners.

“Tell you what, let’s start over.” I sat down and looked at her textbook. “Philosophy, how’s that going?”

“I hate it. It’s stupid! All it does is answer a question with a question. I need answers!” Becky flipped the book closed.

Underneath was the pamphlet she’d been reading when I first saw her. ‘Sexual Awareness’, it was one of those public service brochures the campus health department distributed at orientation.

“Shit!” Becky grabbed it and slammed it inside her book. Staring at the table, she whispered, “I was curious.”

I tried not to smile at her mortification. “Don’t worry about it. Everyone is. We all want answers to something.”

Leaning back, and putting my hands behind my head, I laughed. “You said ‘shit’. That’s what really shocked me.”

She grinned shyly.

“You have nice dimples. You should smile more often.”

Her face turned a pretty pink.

“It’s a beautiful night. How about taking a walk with me? I’ll treat you to an ice cream cone.”

Her eyes narrowed. “How drunk are you?”

“I’m not. Do you think someone has to be drunk if they want to spend time with you?”

“Drunk or stoned.”

“Don’t sell yourself short. You’re a very intelligent and attractive woman.”

There was only a slight hesitation, and then she said, “Sure. I’d like some ice cream.”

“First, let’s take your books back to your room.”

Her face darkened.

I understood her dilemma, and offered to take them into the room and put them on her desk. “You can wait in the hall, if you want.”

Before she could change her mind, I scooped everything up and put the pile under my arm. She begrudgingly followed me out the door.

“I can’t stand Cindy. She acts like she’s got it all together, but she’s a scheming, dope fiend slut. She puts everyone down that doesn’t agree with her. I’ve asked to be moved to another room, but no one wants to rock the boat when it comes to Cindy’s deviant behavior. ‘Free love’, I’m sick of it. It’s like she has the right to do whatever she wants and I have güvenilir bahis şirketleri to turn the other cheek and close my eyes. This world’s going to hell.”

I was beginning to think Becky might be a religious zealot. “Turn the other cheek, I remember that from Sunday school. I also remember the world is going to hell, or at least most of it. Aren’t we supposed to love the sinner, but hate the sin? Maybe she just needs to be loved.”

Becky looked at me like I’d just grown a third eye.

“Okay, I can’t believe I just said that either.”

We walked through her dorm in silence. Their door was ajar, so I opened it just enough to peek inside.

“You’d better wait here.”

“Why? What’d you see?”

“They’re in bed asleep — naked.”

I slipped into the reefer-scented room. A lava lamp provided dim, rosy light. Cindy lay on her side and Craig lay against her back, his arm over her. I took a moment to admire her body. It wasn’t bad. I don’t like leg hair on a woman, but other than that, Cindy was fine. The boyfriend looked pudgy and pasty. I didn’t understand her attraction to him, other than a drugs-for-sex symbiotic relationship.

I placed the books on the tidy desk, assuming it had to be Becky’s. When I turned to leave, I found Becky inside the room and staring at the couple on the bed, her expression more curious than disgusted.

I waited until she had her fill. Then I followed her out, closing the door tight behind me.

“Man, less than a minute in that smoke and I’ve got the munchies.”

She laughed softly.

I liked making her laugh. It felt like a good deed.

Playfully, I put my arm around her shoulders, and asked, “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor, Becky?”

Her body stiffened, but she didn’t make a move away. “Hmm, I guess it depends on my mood.”

“And what kind of mood are you in tonight?”

“I’m in a Rocky Road mood.” She giggled a little nervously.

“Ooo, good choice.”

“How ’bout you, D.C.? What are you in the mood for?”

I smiled at her use of my initials. Everyone seemed to like using them instead of Don. I kind of liked it too. It made me sound cool. Coming from Becky, it showed a growing comfort level and an effort to reach out of her darkness.

“I’m in the mood for opposites. The yin and yang of a chocolate and vanilla twist.”

“That sounds good too.”

I took my arm away, and said, “Tell you what. If you let me lick yours, I’ll let you lick mine. Deal?”

“Deal.”

After a few steps, her head snapped in my direction. The suggestive innuendo finally sank in. It was too dark to tell, but I believe she was pink.

We walked on in an electric silence, until we reached the student union. The place was packed. Didn’t matter what your political, social, or economic status might be, everyone had ice cream in common.

While we waited in line, Becky asked me what I was studying.

“Business Administration.”

It sounded lame and boring. But Dad wanted me to take over the Ford dealership someday, and I had no plans of my own. My life seemed a neatly wrapped package — a present from my parents. I knew they only wanted the best for me.

I didn’t like to talk about it, so I asked, “What’s your major?”

“Education. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.”

“Wow. I admire your certainty. Good teachers are important. I’m always questioning my future.”

“Thanks. But all I really want is summers off.”

I laughed out loud. “Becky! You’re funny!”

She smiled like it surprised her, as well.

“Are you’re parents teachers?”

“No, they were farmers.”

“Were?”

“They died in a tornado when I was a baby. I never knew them.”

My mouth dried up and my chest tightened. There was that annoying compassion again, butting in and spoiling my fun. “Sorry.”

She shrugged. “That’s life.” Then she smiled at me, making her dimples reappear.

We waited silently for a while.

Then Becky explained, “We were raised by my paternal grandparents. Grandpa owned the farm next door. At least we lived the lifestyle my mom and dad wanted.”

“That’s good. You have their belief system, anyway.” Belief system? What the hell was that? Psyche 101?

“Yup. You gotta believe in something.”

We took a couple of quiet steps in line.

“What do your parents do?”

“Well, Mom’s a housewife. My brother and I are away at college, so she’s a very bored housewife at the moment, buzzed on Scotch by 3:00, Monday through Friday. Dad is a workaholic, comes home around 10:00. He owns the biggest car dealership in Pittsburgh.”

“Sorry.” Her green eyes looked gray in the neon glow, peering at me with an intensity that made me squirm.

“That’s the lifestyle I have to look forward to. My brother wants to be a chemist. I’m the one that’s supposed to take over Dad’s business someday. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?”

“Not to me. Does it sound exciting to you?”

“I’ll let you know in ten years.” I didn’t want to dwell on it. By this time on a Friday I was always too drunk to question my future. Sobriety meant rational thought, and I avoided that as much as possible. “Is your brother going to take over the farm?”

“No. He’s making the Army his career. The farmland is rented out. The money’s in a fund to help pay for college.”

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