tagNovels and NovellasThe Freshman Ch. 04

The Freshman Ch. 04


Chapter 4 - The first touch

Cecilia was restricted to Huntington Hall the following Sunday. She was the duty RA from midnight Sunday morning until midnight Monday morning. She had to keep the dorm security radio with her at all times and be the first member of the dorm staff to respond to any crisis.

The RA would have been perfectly content with the arrangement, given that she needed to finish fixing her project for Burnside anyway, had that damn radio not been going off non-stop. No sooner had she changed out of her dress from her date with Jason did she have to deal with her first crisis, a dorm party over on the guys' side of the building, complete with alcohol. That meant calling Campus Security, multiple write-ups, being called a "fucking Spanish cunt" and another write-up over the insult, and dealing with multiple drunken complaints from the party-goers.

Two hours later Cecilia returned to her room, only to have the radio go off again, this time over an ecstasy overdose on the women's side. The overdose constituted a medical emergency involving calling paramedics and the dorm director, then taking statements from the girl's hysterical roommate and writing up multiple reports.

The overdose was followed by a fight right outside the dorm, a drunken frat pledge throwing up in the commons area, an overflowing toilet, and finally another detergent crisis in the laundry room.

By the time she finally returned to her room at 7:00 a.m., the duty RA was exhausted and her nerves were on edge. She finally managed to get some sleep, only to have to wake up a couple of hours later and continue with her paper. She slowly worked her way towards the finish, typing on a surplus computer that the Economics Department had given her as part of her original scholarship grant from the previous year.


Jason, meanwhile, had a fairly good night's sleep, after lying awake for a while pondering his strange date with Cecilia and trying to understand the unusual combination of traits in her personality. He did not dwell on any resentment he might have felt over being snapped at and bossed around by a young woman who was only a year older than he was. It was clear that in her own way Cecilia cared for him. Yes, she was a bit controlling, but so far it seemed that every time she had told him to do something, especially when it came to academic stuff, she had been right.

Jason wondered if Cecilia now was his girlfriend. He sort of thought so, but couldn't be too sure. What he did know was that he badly wanted her. He desperately wanted to please her, precisely because he knew that pleasing her would be extremely difficult. She had extremely high standards, but that gave him something in life to strive for. However high Cecilia's standards might be, or how hard they might be to meet, he was determined to meet them.


The following day Jason went out with his three friends on a hike. There was a football game going on that Jason might have wanted to see. However, it was obvious the other three were not the football types, so Jason ended up spending the day on a sweaty walk instead. The walk gave him a chance to talk about Cecilia and the increasingly strange relationship he was having with her. Unfortunately the others did not have much insight to give him about their RA. The only person in the group who knew Cecilia at all was Lisa, and she had not talked to her since their workout on Friday.

Jason did get a better opportunity to know his new friends better. All four members of the group were a bit unique in their personalities and to some extent outsiders to the fraternity party society of "normal" university students. There was Mike and his politics, and there was Lisa with her eccentric personality. Then there was Ken, who confessed to the others that he was questioning his sexuality and trying to figure out what he really wanted from his personal relationships. He confessed that there were both women and men who attracted him. "I don't know what's going on with me. Sometimes I think I'm straight, sometimes I wonder if I'm gay...All I know is that right now I'm fucked, 'cause I really don't know what I want."

Each member of the group was messed up in his or her own way, but at least they could talk to each other and not face college life alone. They would spend the semester eating, studying, and exercising together, at the beginning of a friendship they would remember well beyond their years at the university.


The next day Jason posed twice in the hot, exposed art classroom. He had thought the pose on Friday was revealing, but that one was nothing compared to the pose he had to assume the following Monday. He was instructed to get on his knees, spread his legs, and extend his arms out in front of him. The pose was something like a kneeling worship position, except that he had to extend and stretch himself as much as he could. The position forced him to arch his back and spread his bottom wide, leaving his anus and testicles fully visible to the students standing behind him. The occasional breeze coming through the open window and blowing against his backside served as a reminder of just how exposed he was to his audience. Jason noticed that both Ken, during the 9:00 session, and Cecilia, during the 11:00 session, took the easel closest to his stretched bottom. It seemed that both of them were fascinated at the thought of their friend being forced to put the most intimate part of himself on such public display.

There was Burnside's class. Moving about the stage and pointing at her PowerPoint presentation, the professor quickly went down lecture material that was designed to provide structure and organization to the massive amount of reading she had assigned for the semester. As always, her lecture lasted exactly 48 minutes, with no breaks or pauses. The students frantically wrote into their notebooks, because every sentence, every phrase, coming out of Burnside's mouth was full of information. She used her time at the podium with ruthless efficiency. As for the two minutes at the end of the lecture, that was for announcements and reminding the students what they needed to read for the next class. Burnside took nothing for granted. Yes, the reading was in the syllabus, but if she brought it up in class as well, no one had any excuse for claiming the assignments were not clear.

Jason glanced back as Cecilia, who, as always, stood guarding the back doors and quietly listening to the professor.


Cecilia learned from her push-up experience the previous week to have a spare blouse in her backpack to avoid the trip back to the dorm after her Life Drawing class. She quickly changed, went over to Burnside's office, hoping her revised summer project finally would be acceptable and she could move on with her life. Burnside carefully looked down the revised citations and then thumbed over to Cecilia's comments about Max Weber. She looked up at the student, who was standing with a very nervous expression.

"You understand I don't agree with these comments about Weber?"

"Yes, Dr. Burnside, I understand that, but I got the sources to back up what I'm saying."

"Yes, you do. You backed up your argument, which is all I'm asking. I don't care if you agree with me or not, but I do care about you knowing the literature."

"Yes, Dr. Burnside."

"Well, this is acceptable. Not perfect, but it'll work. You'll get it back with my criticisms once I show it to the committee. But we do have to move on, don't we?"

"Yes, Dr. Burnside."

Of course that was not it as far as the visit was concerned. Burnside demanded to see a list of the books Cecilia had for her two upcoming term papers. She suggested some additional sources, then moved on to some economic formulas that she wanted Cecilia to learn by heart.

"I'll tell you where I'm going with all this. If your performance is adequate this year, I'm going to see about making you a department research assistant your junior year, for either myself or Dr. Halsey. That'll get some money in your pocket, because I know you're not getting any now. If you can hold out until next year, I'll try to fix that for you."

"Thank you, Dr. Burnside."

Once the freshman class was over, Cecilia met Lisa at the gym to work out. She listened attentively to Lisa's explanation about the gym equipment and setting up a workout schedule. Cecilia's attitude actually forced Lisa to push herself harder than she might have had she been exercising alone.

Lisa tried to get some more personal information out of Cecilia, but the RA always turned the conversation back to Lisa's life. Cecilia had given up more about herself than she had wanted the previous week and was determined not to make that mistake again. She cringed at the slip she made about her brother being in jail. That was not something Lisa, nor anyone else, needed to know. Anyhow, Cecilia's brother, like the rest of her relatives, no longer was in contact with her and thus had no relevance to her current responsibilities or relationships.

After the workout the two women showered and changed. Again Lisa noticed Cecilia's attractive figure and could see why Jason was so taken with her. As before, Cecilia put on a white thong before putting on her skirt, a small detail Lisa could relay to her friend that night at dinner.


Cecilia returned to her room to relax for an hour before meeting the other RA's for dinner. Part of her responsibility as RA was to dine every night with the rest of the dorm staff at dinner, no matter what. It was the one opportunity each day for all the RA's to be in one place at one time and thus be available for anything the director had to say to them. Cecilia did not mind the arrangement, because she would have felt uncomfortable eating with Lisa or Jason in the cafeteria.

Cecilia glanced up at the autographed picture of the singer Kimberly Lee and her Danubian partner Eloisa, the two women whose magical voices gave her personal thoughts coherence and her mind an escape from that horrible Rap music she had to listen to day in and day out while she was growing up. Cecilia hated the world from where she came. There's nothing glamorous about drug dealing, shooting at the police, gang life, and the mean streets, so why sing about that? She had lived that reality, had seen more than her share of awful events, and Rap music had been the sonic backdrop for many very unpleasant memories. She had left, never to go back, and her mind had left, never to go back.

The music of "Socrates' Mistresses" was crucial for Cecilia's mental transformation away from her life in New Jersey. She heard a song from the European group for the first time only two days after arriving at the university the year before. She was hooked the very first time she heard Kimberly Lee's voice. She desperately asked who that group was, and upon finding out their name, spent the only money she had in her pocket to buy a CD.

The first several songs were in Danubian, but that did not matter. The voice of the Danubian lead singer was so moving that Cecilia was almost left in tears, even though she didn't understand any of the words. But then came the song that Cecilia really needed to hear, Kimberly Lee's English rendition of "The wall that divides my soul". Cecilia looked up the group's website and discovered that Lee had written the lyrics when she realized she was committed to living in Europe and could never return to her home in the United States. Kimberly Lee, an American stranded in the isolated country of Upper Danubia, had spoken directly to Cecilia, a Dominican stranded at a university in Chicago. Cecilia's life was divided, much in the same way Kimberly Lee's life had been divided. They both had left home. Now there was no home for either of them to return to.


The sad, dreamy music forced Cecilia's memories to drift into the past, to the place she lived in while growing up. As a child and as a teenager, whatever moments of happiness she might have enjoyed always were very fleeting and brief. There always was a lot of tension and resentment and very little love in the Sanchez household. The memories she had of her past were not happy ones, which was why she had no desire to stay in touch with her family.

The Sanchez family was assigned to a three-room unit in a Section 8 housing complex. There were a total of seven people crammed into that small space: her mother and whatever boyfriend she had at the time, two brothers, a cousin and her baby, and herself. Cecilia shared her room with the cousin and the infant. There were three women and three guys sharing two bathrooms, and the invariable screaming fits in the mornings over who was taking too much time getting cleaned up. And, of course, there always was that damn living room TV, turned up at full volume, day or night, so it could be heard in every room of the apartment. On top of that was her brothers' gangster-rap music competing against her cousin's Salsa, all mixed with the non-stop crying of her cousin's baby. Cecilia was constantly berating her cousin to pick up the baby or change him, but more often ended up doing it herself, just to quiet the child down. Too much noise and too many people packed tightly together, with the only escape being the street, or in Cecilia's case, the library. There were plenty of times she found an isolated corner desk on the second floor of the local library, and seduced by the quiet environment, promptly sat down and fell asleep.

In high school Cecilia's encounters with guys invariably had been unpleasant. Her old neighborhood and high school were filled with drug dealers and thugs on ego trips, whose minds were saturated with gangster mentality and blatant sexism. She had no desire whatsoever to surrender to any of that, she wanted more from her time on earth than getting pregnant at age 16 by some drug addled gang-member and spending her life on welfare. She earned the enmity of the guys in her class, who thought they were entitled to having sex with her, and of her female classmates, who were jealous of her independence and scornful of her good grades.

As a teenager Cecilia was disgusted by the squalid, noisy, and aggressive world in which she lived, and determined that whatever happened, she would remain in charge of her future and escape. She had the one advantage of being a very gifted young woman, one of the best students in mathematics at her high school. She also was good in social studies and clearly a cut above most of her classmates. Being one to the better students at Cecilia's high school wasn't particularly hard from an academic point of view, given that it was located in a blighted neighborhood and had one of the lowest graduation rates in the United States.

Cecilia became a rebel among her classmates simply by doing what the teachers told her to do, going to class every day, and making sure her homework was turned in on time. Even though she was in her teens, she knew that she had only one hope, and only one chance, of maintaining any kind of control over her life. She had to play the system by the rules, and above all, make sure she was among the few students from her school who actually graduated. She pushed ahead in her studies, with absolutely no support from her mother or brothers. In the end her independence became an obsession in her life, precisely because she had to battle so hard to maintain it while growing up. Cecilia's fixation on controlling her own life extended to her thoughts on relationships. She had extremely strong sexual urges, but was determined that no matter who she ended up with, she would be in charge, period. That was non-negotiable.

The wall that divided Cecilia's soul was that intensely hot July day she left her housing project to board a bus headed for Chicago to accept her scholarship. It was the day she took with her a bus ticket, $ 23, and a single carry-on bag that contained three changes of clothing, one romance novel, and the precious paperwork from her high school and the scholarship program that would allow her to begin her new life. It also was the day her mother flatly told her she was prohibited from leaving. There was a final round of shouting, and Cecilia almost gave in. Then one of her brothers, one of her own brothers, called her a "fuckin' bitch". Cecilia said nothing more. If her family was going to call her a "bitch", then they could go fuck themselves. She took off, with her mother yelling threats and insults at her back. She ran to the bus station, barely catching the outgoing bus for Chicago.

That was the wall that divided her soul, the day Cecilia Sanchez walked out on her relatives, never to return, something almost unheard of in her neighborhood. Just a few days later, the torment from that memory still fresh in her mind, she listened to Kimberly Lee's voice for the first time. There were other songs in English on the CD, most notably "Marooned", and "A question I cannot answer" that seemed to speak directly to her.

The scholarship student decided to e-mail Kimberly Lee, who, to her enormous surprise, wrote back. The fan and the group singer began corresponding and finally, for the first time in her life, Cecilia recounted to Kim in painful detail the circumstances of her flight from New Jersey. Shortly afterwards came the contract dispute and the banning of "Socrates' Mistresses"' music in the US. Cecilia then got a Christmas gift from Upper Danubia in the mail, a complete collection of CD's containing everything the group ever sang. One thing led to another and over the spring Cecilia found herself helping out on the group's website, answering fan mail, and organizing electronic petitions to get the ban on their music lifted. Cecilia's efforts on behalf of "Socrates' Mistresses" earned her two more gifts, the autographed picture and the Danubian dress, which in the US would have sold for $ 700.

Cecilia looked about her room. After a year in Chicago she still had very few material possessions. There was the computer on her desk, a cheap CD player, some additions to her wardrobe, her linens, and a few books. There was some paperwork and a recently acquired passport, just in case she needed to travel for the university. There were the gifts from Kimberly Lee, and a few CD's of classical music. And, that was it. Cecilia's scholarship paid for her tuition, books, room and board, a city bus pass, and Internet service, but did not give her much spending money and prohibited her from working an outside job. She was used to living without any money and really did not miss it.

Cecilia had no TV in her dorm room, which was not a problem for her. In New Jersey the living room TV had been turned on in her family's apartment non-stop while she was growing up, at maximum volume so it could be heard in every room. There were times Cecilia had to leave, simply to get away from the constant infernal noise of that fucking TV. Like Rap music, television was associated with a lot of bad memories in Cecilia's mind. It was very unlikely she ever would want to have a TV in her residence, even if she could afford one.


As she sat with her co-workers, Cecilia glanced at Jason Schmidt and his friends eating dinner. They exchanged smiles, but there would be business to take care of later. At 9:00 Jason would be expected to be in his room waiting for his RA to go over the material Burnside had presented that day in class. Following that, Jason would meet with his three friends and pass the information along to them. It was a routine that would last the entire semester, one that would assure four passing grades from the difficult economics class.

Jason scrambled to go over the readings and prepare his questions, while Cecilia worked on a project she had for the Theory of International Development. At 9:00 p.m. Cecilia showed up at his door. As always, Jason stood at attention while the RA barraged him with questions. Jason would learn over the semester that, no matter what was the personal relationship between them, Cecilia expected Jason to perform on cue when it came to Burnside's classes.

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