With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
So I dusted off this old chestnut in my collection called Baby Sister. Some people in my family have read it. Well-received by the small but supportive albeit biased audience I have considered this short story my best work, not as a whole but for its concept and the good raw material for future, better writing.
Let me start off by saying, I do like many parts of the story. Even after almost 20 years. But most of it, read now, especially (cringe) out loud is godawful. Here is a taste.
Freshman year of college I had a dorm mate who lived across from me. David something. He had a girlfriend and lived in town so I never saw him. Second semester he moved out, with his girlfriend I think and Anthony moved in. Anthony was a senior. He needed eight more credits to graduate. He belonged to Sigma Phi Epsilon, a notoriously arrogant fraternity or a contradiction in terms. We got to be friends. I’d hang out in his room and he’d make cracks about my musical tastes (Jim Croce and Blossom Dearie) while blasting big hair bands Extreme, Warrant and Damn Yankees from his phenomenal speakers. He’d sit on his bed and counsel me on how I needed to get laid, even going as far as saying he knew some girls who’d be happy to do me the favor. That always made me smile, but he wouldn’t say, oh, you’re smiling, he twist his face and ask “Are you fucking blushing?”
Written in the mid-90’s, it is painful to read. Let alone aloud.
So I looked it over and gave it a polish. Although there are still trouble areas I am fascinated with how natural a new take on the story came.
In the summer of 1992, the University of Delaware had a housing shortage. Like the capitated doctor who double-books patients for insurance purposes, the university had overextended its own supply and demand of double-occupancies leaving incoming freshman with non-requested single rooms. This should have served as portent to the proceeding year but I was too lost in the newness, already trying to fashion the images I had of college into reality.
I wanted college to work like magic. The insecurity I nursed throughout high school had already been disappointing given the pain I experienced in middle school. I prepared for my new life trying on new alter-egos.
The second half of my freshman year was an improvement. Given how every day for the last six months had me waking in childlike terror things had to get better. One of the Delaware locals across from me left after a semester to live with his girlfriend so the vacancy was filled by another local. Not just a local but a super senior. And not just a super senior but a super senior from one of the more notorious fraternities on campus; Sigma Phi Epsilon. Sig Ep. Though only a few years apart the confident way Anthony looked and acted I may as well have been in kindergarten. While others saw him as arrogant and an overall dick I was in awe.
“Do you like Warrant?” he asked one day, fiddling with the knobs on his stereo.
I grinned. “You mean the band that sang “Cherry Pie”? No. I don’t like them.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” he said, pressing a button on his remote.
There is good raw material in this story and it deserves its day in court. All spiffed out with a new suit that shines so bright it hurts your eyes.
It feels good to have a new writing project.
And today I discovered an old sound of jazz-rock fusion. The Mahavishnu Orchestra. I could hear Billy Cobham go apeshit on the drums for hours. With original band member Jan Hammer of Miami Vice soundtrack fame 10 years later. A catwild super galactic funk odyssey. And not surprisingly, inspiration for Bitches Brew, Unfinished Symphony by Massive Attack, Mos Def, Jill Scott and Steely Dan. One of the comments made on a YouTube video was that while “everyone was listening to that disco crap in the seventies I was listening to this”.
I thought it funny because I like this and “that disco crap”. Isn’t there room in our hearts for both?