I only applied to one college. It was the cheapest school in the state. I just looked at the prices, in the big binder, found the $2400/year tuition, and didn’t look further. Afterwards, I learned that it was an alternative school. People kept warning me that the girls there didn’t shave their legs. I didn’t either, so I figured that it would work out.
My biggest concern was my living situation. School was always easy for me, but living with people was not. I applied for housing ridiculously early, in order to get a campus apartment in which I would have my own room.
My freshman year, my little brother dropped me off, and I moved into a six bedroom apartment, on campus. My parents couldn’t pay my tuition ($2400/yr), but my godparents, whom I hadn’t seen in fifteen years, had called me on the day of my high school graduation and offered to pay it. My godfather owns a paper mill. The second week of college, four of my five housemates were arrested for chaining themselves to trees in a clear-cutting protest. I was fairly conservative at the time, and had trouble relating to them. Also, I was there on logging money.
My fifth housemate was living with her boyfriend, but didn’t want her parents to know, so they were paying for her room with us. She was never at the apartment. A couple of weeks into the school year, her friend Carlos showed up, looking for her. He took to showing up in the evening, and he’d wait, to see if she’d come home. She never did, but as we sat in the living room together, night after night, we became friends.
Carlos was shorter than me, 5’6”. He wore a leather motorcycle jacket with some cartoon character painted on it and drove a Chrysler Volare. I scraped the paint off, but I still have that leather jacket.
We understood each other. I’m a leaver. More than anything, I need to be able to walk away. Carlos understood that. Insomniacs, we’d drive to Seattle, to Portland, to anywhere, in the middle of the night, needing to feel like we could leave.
At Xmas, he took me to Seattle, and we watched a grunge themed laser show at Seattle Center. After, we rode the monorail to Westlake Center and rode the carousel. I still ride the carousel every year, but I can’t seem to recapture the feeling.
We smoked, and drank, and ran from all of the ways that life was disappointing us. The last year that I went to Midnight Mass with my parents, I took communion, but all I could think about was how many in the congregation hated queers (it was a very anti-queer church). I called Carlos that night, and he came and got me. We drank the blood of Christ until we threw up, and I never took communion again.
He called me late one night, saying he wanted to die. I told him to come over and he slept on the floor of my room, like he had so many times. I took away the bottle of goldschlager, but he’d already drunk most of it.
Carlos was one of those men who, for whatever reason, are doomed to repeatedly have crushes on dykes. A few months into our friendship, in the middle of the night, at a Seattle diner, he surreptitiously broached the subject. I told him that I couldn’t trust as a friend, someone who had ulterior motives. He not only never spoke of it again, he moved on, without abandoning our friendship.
I could, if I wanted, write my life story as a history of the men who have adopted me, cared for me, protected me, and held me up until I could swim. Not counting my father, Carlos was the first of those men. I don’t normally go to weddings, but I went to his. Now, we live in different parts of the country, and we’ve grown apart. But once in a rare while, we message one another, and regress to that time when one of us would call the other, we’d jump in the Volare, and drive two hours to drink coffee before driving back home. We were a part of one another. I cherish that leather jacket, the one I told him to let me wear, the night that we saw that laser show, and rode the carousel in Seattle. He said that I pulled it off better than he did. It’s true, I did, and it functioned as my security blanket for years. I dislike possessions in general, and keep very few non-usable items, but I can’t imagine ever giving up that jacket. I loved him for noticing that I needed it. I loved him more, for being my home.