Ponderances Over Pasta
A girl with bright blue hair the shade of Cookie Monster was waving at Ben from the dining hall steps. Ben had no idea who she was, but he lifted his hand to wave back when a woman behind him ran up and embraced her.
“Oh my god, I love your hair,” the second girl exclaimed. “When did you get it done?”
“Oh my god, you mean that’s not real???” came an exclamation. Ben looked over in the direction of the last speaker. The guy who had spoken was heavy, with his hair up in a modified pompadour; he was wearing a large silver ring on a string around his neck. He gestured to the blue-haired girl and rolled his eyes. Ben laughed. The guy grinned back and went into the vegetarian cafeteria.
Ben handed his swipe card to the woman sitting by the cafeteria door. The room was packed with students; now he’d have to spend time searching the crowd to see if Dave had arrived. Ben sighed. The days so far had been shapeless, and the crowds more annoying than overwhelming. He’d waited in the add-drop line for four hours that day only to find that most of the classes he’d wanted weren’t available. There had been a warning to get in line at 5 a.m., but Ben had dismissed that as an exaggeration: it wasn’t. One woman in front of him in line had taken out her knitting. Her ball of yarn had taken the form of a sweater by the time they’d reached the front.
The morning before his first classes, his mother had called to wish him luck (“Mom, I’m a junior,” he’d told her) and had asked him pick up the schedule of Masses for the
. That wasn’t going to happen. Neumann Center
First day classes were over in fifteen minutes; professors just handed out the syllabi and dismissed everybody so Ben had spent most of his free time wandering around. There were people everywhere he went. Ben was curious if the guy from orientation had indeed gotten laid within five minutes.
Ben finally spotted Dave at a table over in the far corner. It was the first time they’d seen one another since move-in day.
“So?” Dave asked. “How are things going?”
Ben shrugged. “Bit of a slow start, and you?”
“The same,” Dave pushed the food- over cooked pasta in watery red sauce- around on his plate. “This is gross.”
“This is the best you’re going to get in college,” Ben said. “Eat up.”
“It’s just not like mommy makes,” Dave complained. “I think I’m done with dinner tonight.” He put down his fork and peered at Ben. “So, it’s Thursday, you’re going to that gay thing you told me about on the phone, right?”
Ben took a swallow of the watery red punch. “The movie,” he said. “I don’t know. I keep thinking maybe I won’t go, but then I know that I’ve been bitching to you for so long about meeting ‘my kind,’ so I should go. But it’s over in the
residential area, at a place called The Diversity Center. That’s code for ‘gay’ apparently. That’s too obscure to remember and it’s pretty far. Maybe I’ll just go to the ‘coffee social’ at the campus center tomorrow.” Dickinson
“And then you’ll make some excuse to avoid that. If you don’t want to go, don’t,” Dave said. “But I also don’t ever want you to complain again. Ever. You have your chance now to make the change you’ve been dying for. What’s the movie?”
“Torch Song Trilogy,” Ben said. “I am so torn.”
“Oh quit whining and go,” Dave said. “If you don’t, I’ll force you.”
“You can’t do that,” Ben said. “I’m much bigger than you.”
“I know,” Dave said. “When is it?”
Dave looked at his watch. “You have forty-five minutes. You’ll eat, then I’ll walk you outside and send you on your way.”
“Such a gentleman,” Ben said. “You sure you don’t want to go with me?”
“Positive,” Dave said. “You have to take this journey without me.”
Ben sighed. “I knew you’d say that but it was worth a try.”