It was the fall semester of 1986 and the minute I stepped out of my car and locked the door, I shuddered at the thought of having to start my first year of college. After having spent eight years in the Navy, six in Spain, and two in San Diego, California, I was considered to be an adult student, and to tell you the truth; I felt very out of place here. I had been a Hospital Corpsman while I was in the Navy, and for those who don't know, a Navy Corpsman is not too dissimilar from that of a General Practitioner in the civilian sector. We handled most everything from common colds to broken limbs. We were qualified to perform minor surgeries, like stitches, projectile extractions etc., but when it came to anything major; a flight surgeon was always called in. However, there had been times when no flight surgeons were available, and we were forced to deal with it ourselves, and that seemed to happen more often than not. I even saw some action with the Marines. I won't go into detail about that, but suffice it to say, that I came out of the Navy with as much experience as any two-year intern working in any Emergency Room. But from my experiences of working around doctors, whether it was clinically, or assisting them in surgery; I knew that I sure as hell didn't want to be a one. You see, I have this thing about being able to go home and sleep in my own bed every night, and not have to worry about being on twenty-four hour call. I did, however, want to continue my education and become a Surgical R.N., not only because it was something that I had really taken an interest in while in the Navy, but once I was established as a civilian; the pay would be very lucrative. When it came right down to it though, I discovered that I just plain enjoyed helping people.
Hi, my name is Michael Peterson, Mike to my friends, and at the time this all took place, I was twenty-six years old. I stand just a little over six feet, three inches tall and I weigh two-hundred, thirty-five pounds. I have dark brown hair, my father's brown eyes, and have been told by more than just a few women that I'm good looking. I screwed up and got busted for smoking pot at the tender age of seventeen, hence the reason I had to join the Navy as soon as I graduated high school, plus; I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life at the time anyway so, it all worked out for the better.
I grew up in a small town on the Gulf coast, Lake Jackson, about sixty miles south of Houston, Texas, down in Brazoria County. Because my brother, Tommy, was ten years old and my sister, Sara, was twelve years old when I was born, they became great role models for me as I grew up, and I love them both very much. Sara was like a second mother to me, always taking me with her almost everywhere she went when I was little. When I got older, Tommy taught me how to surf, as well as paid for getting me SCUBA certified when I was sixteen. I was raised by two very sweet and precious parents in a very loving environment, and had two siblings who not only adored me, but I adored them, and still do. They were also the ones who had encouraged me to go back to school to continue my education once I was out of the Navy, God love them. And as my sister had said, "It's a chance to start fresh, Mikey, and I think it'll do you some good in the process." Little did I know what was about to transpire...
I had pre-registered for classes and bought all my books and supplies three weeks earlier, but the moment I arrived on campus to start classes, I knew that my life was about to drastically change. Because of the training I received in the Navy, I would be going into college as a junior as opposed to being freshman, thank God. While I still wasn't keen on the idea of having to sit in a classroom for the next two years, I knew that I had to in order to achieve the goals I had set for myself.
My first class that morning was a Post-Operative Care class with Professor Claire Wilson, and I was looking forward to getting off to a good start. However, when I walked into the classroom, I didn't realize that I would be the only male student there, and I could feel every eye in the room following me as I found a seat. I didn't think anything about it though, as I was there to study and not socialize. The rest of my classes that day were all related to my major in one way or another, and that consisted of nothing more than filling out paperwork and receiving reading assignments as well as the syllabuses, outlining the work in each class that was going to be covered that semester. By the time classes were finished, it was nearing four o'clock, and I knew that the tide wouldn't be going out for another two and a half hours so, I decided to head to the beach to try and get some surfing in.
As I floated on my board, having paddled back out after a decent first run, I reflected on my life thus far. I had given the Navy eight good years of my life, being honorably discharged, and yet, I missed some of the friends I'd made during my time in the service. I'd been stationed in California and in comparison to the surfing there, the waves here in Texas really sucked, but still; this was the beach that I grew up on so, nothing could ever replace the fun I'd had during my childhood and the good times that I had enjoyed here. I spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach, leaving only after the tide began to recede.
My parents, Janet and Carl, God love them, had insisted that I stay in my childhood home until I graduated college, and Mom is one of those ladies that, once her mind was made up, there's was no changing it. She had given birth to my sister when she was 18 and my brother when she was twenty. Ten years later, Mom wanted another baby so, that's where I came from. Still though, I could tell that my parents had missed me since I'd been gone, and it gave me the security of familial love that I felt I'd lost for eight years.
When I got back home that night, I was thrilled at the discovery that Mom had made, from scratch, a nice big pan of Lasagna, and it was ready and waiting the moment I arrived. As I hugged her, I smiled at Mom and said, "Wow, Mom! This is nice, but you didn't have to go to all the work I know it took to make this, ya know."
Patting me on the cheek as she'd done my whole life, Mom kissed me on the forehead and replied, "I just want to make sure you eat well while you're staying here, Baby, that's all." How was I supposed to argue with that, huh?
As we sat down to eat, I relished every bite that hit my mouth, reminding me of days gone by when I would eat my mother's cooking, which is extremely good, as I grew up. "So, how do you think you're going to like college, son?" asked Dad, bringing me out of my reverie.
"It's just my first day, but I'll be sure to let you know, Dad," I chuckled.
"Did you meet anyone interesting today, Mikey honey?" Mom asked, smiling hopefully.
I knew what she was getting at so, I simply smiled and replied, "Aw come on, Mom, don't start that again, please?"
"Aw hell, Darlin, leave the boy alone. He's only twenty...uh..." then looking at me guiltily, Dad asked, "How old, son?"
"Twenty-Six, Dad," I replied grinning.
Taking up where he left off, Dad looked at Mom and continued, "He's only twenty-six, honey. He needs to get through college before he even thinks about settling down."
When I heard the words, settling down, I stepped in and said, "Whoa! Now, wait a minute. Let's make sure that, while I love both of you dearly, you two know that I will settle down when I'm damn good and ready, and not a moment sooner. SO Mom, don't be setting me up with the daughters and/or grand daughters of any of your friends, please? The same thing goes for you, too, Dad."
"Is it a crime for a mother to want to see her son happy?" Mom asked, with a hint of anger in her voice.
"No Mom, it's not," I replied, gently rubbing her arm, "I just want to get through college first, and then get a good job, as well as my own place. After that, we'll see, okay?"
I only had two classes the next day, and they were both in the afternoon. The first one was an English Literature class and the second, Creative Writing. One good thing about living at home with Mom and, Dad was the fact that the waterway that ran behind their house provided, via the Intercoastal Waterway, access to the open Gulf. So bright and early the next morning, before daybreak, Dad and I took his boat out and went fishing. If you've ever seen a sunrise at sea, then you know that it's something spectacular to behold. It had been a while since Dad and I had spent this kind of quality time together. We watched the sun rise, its warmth still yet to be felt, and as the last of the chilly morning breezes swept across us, Dad reached into his shirt pocket and withdrew a brandy snifter. He took a short swig, and then handing it to me, said, "Here, son, take you a quick snort of this, but don't tell your mother."
"Dad," I laughed, "I don't think Mom is gonna get mad at me for drinking anymore. I'm an adult now, remember?"
"It ain't you she's gonna be mad at," Dad warned, "If she finds out I've been drinking, she'll have my ass hangin in the wind."
I laughed, and patting him on the shoulder reassuringly, said, "Your secret is safe with me, Pop."
"I'll give ya some pops, ya little whelp," he teased smiling.
We spent the rest of the morning fishing and having a good time in general. I took a shower and got ready for class the moment the boat had been secured to Dad's dock.
Today was the day that I would be receiving my work assignments for the classes I would be attending on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I was really looking forward to my English Literature and Creative Writing classes as I had always enjoyed both subjects when I took them in high school.
As I pulled my car into the parking lot of the English building, I grabbed my back pack containing both books, as my Creative Writing class was also in the same building, and after getting out of and locking my car, took off to class.
I entered the classroom, again feeling very out of place amidst the fairness of youth that I was immediately surrounded by. As soon as I took my seat, the professor, followed by another girl whom I assumed was her teaching assistant, walked in and took a seat behind her desk. The teaching assistant began to pass out our syllabuses and what looked like an individual seating chart. She asked that we print our names in the squares drawn on the piece of paper, resembling the individual desks in the classroom.
Once that was done and passed forward, the professor stood and introduced herself to the class. "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am Professor Taylor, and we will be studying English Literature together this semester," she said smiling, and glancing briefly around the classroom.
The moment our eyes met, and for a few brief seconds, she looked like she'd seen a ghost. I could tell that she was younger than me, but I thought that she looked a little familiar. She had shoulder length dark brown hair and big brown doe eyes. She was actually very pretty. It was hard to get a good look at her body, as she was wearing a business suit and skirt, but from what I could tell, she filled it out rather nicely. I still couldn't place where I'd seen her before so, I simply dismissed it for the time being. She looked at the seating chart that we'd all filled out and then looked back up at me. Suddenly she looked around the classroom and then nervously said, "That will be all for today, class. Study your syllabus and be prepared to jump right in the next time we see each other. In the mean time, class is dismissed," and then she gathered her books and abruptly left the room. I thought her behavior was a bit strange, but at the time I didn't realize what was about to unfold. Oopps, I'm getting ahead of myself again, sorry.
My Creative Writing class was a horse of a different color, though. My teacher's name was Doctor Dorothy Miller and I really liked her. She was a cool but quirky sort of lady with a great personality that, I discovered as I attended more of her classes, gave her students a true desire to achieve the goals she'd set for us that semester. I went home that afternoon, excited about going to college and getting even more excited at the prospect of knowing that I was going to be making good grades, because the Navy had trained me well and I already knew most of what I was supposed to be going college to learn. This was going to be fun.
The next morning found me sitting back in my Post Operative Care class among all those silly ass girls. Our professor gave us a pop quiz first thing that morning, and finishing thirty minutes before everyone else; I handed mine in first. Professor Wilson looked at her watch, and then looking back up at me, warily asked "Are you sure you're finished? You might want to take another look."
I smiled, and chuckling, replied, "No ma'am. I'm finished," and then headed for the door.
"Where do you think you're going?" she asked, "We still have ninety minutes of class left."
"I'm just going to get some coffee, I'll be right back," I replied, and then left before she could say anything else. A few minutes later I came back with two cups of coffee, and setting one of them on her desk; I smiled at her and said, "See? I told you I would be right back."
She picked up her coffee and lifted the lid, and then she grinned and replied, "It's a good thing for you that I like my coffee black, now, go sit back down."
"Yes, ma'am," I replied, and then took my seat.
The rest of my classes were pretty much the same, and the pop quiz I'd taken that morning was not the last one I had to take that day. Little did I realize what lay in wait for me the following afternoon?
When I got home that day, Mom had done it again. She made a huge roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, jalapeno cornbread, green beans and black-eyed peas. The aroma hit my nostrils almost the moment I opened the front door. I was even more surprised when my sister Sara, met me at the front door with a hug and kiss on the cheek. "Hi baby brother, how are you today?"
"I'm fine, big sis," I laughed, smacking her sharply on the rump.
"Ouch! Mom," Sara wailed, "Mikey hit me on the ass!"
I laughed and kept a tight grip on her, and then after lifting Sara's tee shirt to the bottom of her bra, I blew a loud raspberry on her bare stomach, making her squeal, and at the top of her lungs, yell, "MIKEY!!!! STOP IT! STOOOOOP!!!"
"You two knock off all that horseplay in this house right now," emanated from the kitchen where Mom was working.
After I'd turned her loose, Sara laughed then smacked me on the ass as hard, if not harder than I'd done her, and said, "That's for being such a little shit."
"I love you, too," I laughed, sticking my tongue out at her.
The next morning was spent studying for my English Literature class that afternoon. We were supposed to have picked an American poet and/or writer that had made a historical impact on American society as we now know it. But, not only were to be prepared to quote him, but be able to discuss the impact that was made. That was a no-brainer for me. I chose Allen Ginsberg, and his poem "Howl". Besides being one of my favorites, I thought he was one of the greatest writers of our time, as he'd more or less, had his hand on the conscious pulse of an entire nation throughout the sixties. Considered to be a "beatnik' back then; Ginsberg's popularity rose at an astounding rate, as Lyndon B. Johnson accelerated the Vietnam War, and the rest is history.
When I got to class that afternoon, other students began to pile into the classroom, and I took the same seat as I had before as did the rest of the class. Before long Professor Taylor came in with her books in one hand and some papers in the other. This time she had a more hardened look on her face as opposed to the pleasant smile she wore the last time I saw her. Her teaching assistant took a seat in the desk that was next to hers, and then once everything had come to order, Professor Taylor said, "You were asked to select an America poet or writer that made a historical impact on society. So, for the next hour and a half, we're going to discuss what you've learned."
She called on a girl in the class to make the first presentation. Hers was of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and after quoting four lines of a popular poem, Professor Taylor asked her how she thought Browning's writings affected the American society as a whole. Of course the girl told her that Browning's poetry caused us, as Americans, to take stock in the purity of love, breaking ourselves free of the sexual repressions of the Victorian Era.
Personally, I thought that the girl had made a good assessment. It was concise, obviously knowledgeable, and to the point. Professor Taylor verbally applauded her, as did the rest of the class.
Then Professor Taylor scanned the room, and as her eyes landed on me, she gave me an icy glance, and then flippantly asked, "Mister Peterson, please stand and tell us who you chose."
For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why she was acting the way she was, but I stood anyway, and smiling, said, "I chose Allen Ginsberg," then quoted him, "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn, looking for an angry fix, Angel headed hipsters burning for the ancient connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night."
She looked unfazed, and crossing her arms, condescendingly asked, "You were in the Navy, I believe. Am I correct?"
"That's right," I proudly replied.
"Then why, pray tell, does someone who was obviously a defender of our nation, take heed to the ramblings of a once hippie radical. I mean, after all, didn't he and Doctor Timothy Leary get arrested for possession of LSD as well as dodging the draft?" she replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Hippie radical," I said, a little over zealously, "He was more than just a hippie radical. He raised American consciousness about everything from civil rights, to the draft, and last but certainly not least, the war in Vietnam. He instilled in us, the desire to stand up and tell the government, "No, this isn't right." In my opinion, Ginsberg was one of the greatest writers of our time. He also directly reinforced Edmund Burke, who told us, and I quote, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed and destined to repeat it."
"Oh, that's right. I remember now. You were busted for marijuana when you were seventeen and had to join the Navy so, in a way, I guess that means you were drafted too. Now I can see why you would take up arms with a radical idiot like Ginsberg," she spat, laughing hatefully.
I don't know why she had been so cross with me from the beginning, but what she had just said, she had no right to, and boy was I pissed off. Still though, I wasn't about to give her the satisfaction of knowing that she'd gotten to me so; I just laughed and said, "You know what, lady? I don't know what it is that has you so pissed off at me, but I'll tell you what; you just crossed a line that you shouldn't have, and you know it."
"And just what line is that?" she acerbically asked, crossing her arms again in the process.
"You know damn good and well what line I'm taking about. Besides, you've been a total bitch to me for no reason," I hatefully replied, "And I'm going to make damn sure that you don't do to anyone else, what you just did to me," and then I gathered up my stuff and left the classroom before anything else could be said. "Jeez! What a fucking bitch," I thought, on my way out to my car. I was too pissed off to take it to the Dean and/or the head of the English department, right then so, I decided to cut my Creative Writing class and call my brother Tommy to go SCUBA diving instead. He was always ready to go diving. He owned his own business so; it wasn't like he would have to ask for the time off. Besides, going diving always had a sort of claming affect on me, and I could damn sure use a little calming at that particular moment.