We stayed for as long as time allowed at the restaurant; until we had to get back to the campus, but it turned out that Amanda volunteered to drive Heather back, which allowed us extra time to drive back without having to break any speed limits to do so.
“Did you see how they got along so well?” I asked after I closed the car door.
“Are you playing Cupid?”
“More like Emma.”
“So you were trying to get them together?”
“Yeah, you couldn’t tell?
“I’ve found that girls can say and do a lot of things that guys can’t without someone getting more nervous than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
“Like flirting with each other?”
“That and trying on each other’s clothes.”
“Nothing wrong with that.”
“Ah, yes, the unwritten woman code,” I said with a slight smirk.
“Did you just make that up?”
“No, Karen Anne did.”
“Of course,” Mike replied as we drove onto the college access road. “She has taught you well.”
“Amanda needs someone who will look at her like a princess.”
“So, she needs a lady in waiting?”
“No, another princess—Heather mentioned that she liked her.”
“Okay. I’m still not really understanding—“
“—Heather is like me, kind of, someone who has been told their whole life to be like, like-“
“Yes, to be that: a cog that fits squarely into the gears; no questions, no changing—just do as your told.”
“And as your birth certificate says?”
“Uh-huh,” I replied as we parked in front of the dorm hall. “She’s been so crushed by people telling her to wear this, adjust that and go chase after that guy. Maybe that’s not what she wanted. Maybe she was looking for a feminine touch; a soul partner. And, boom, enter Amanda.
“And she told you all this?”
“In her eyes, Michael, they were spilling out the frustration.”
“You really do need to change your major.”
“I know, right?”
We walked into the front lobby to see Richard’s door closed. It was kind of a relief to not have to see his face but I also had to wonder what he had planned for us. I told Michael it was all a threat and for the most part it was, but one couldn’t help thinking of the worst.
We climbed the stairs to our floor and walked to our door to see two envelopes taped to it.
“Richard’s form of mail call?” Michael asked as we each took a letter. I unlocked the door and we walked kin.
Michael opened the first letter.
“What’s it say?”
Micheal bobbed his a few times and rolled his eyes a bit.
“Richard really hates us…or at least you…and so that means both of us.”
“Let me guess: some babbling about safety and security and sexual perversion will not be tolerated.”
“Close. You’re to report to the academic counselor tomorrow.”
“That’s probably what this says too,” I replied as I opened the other letter.
Michael stepped into the bathroom as I sat down at my desk and opened the letter.
I read the first line and clenched my hands into fists. It was from the school academic advisor and also had Richard’s name on it.
“Michael Nelson!” I yelled.
“Voice?” He said through the door, like that would stop me.
“You haven’t heard my voice yet!”
“What?” He asked as the toilet flushed. I closed my eyes for a second and took a deep breath. Maybe I had read the line wrong so I started again from the top. It was what I had feared.
“How are doing in your math class?” I asked with a bit of cattiness to my tone.
“I could be doing better,” he answered as he opened the door. “Why?”
“Because you haven’t been to class for the past three weeks.”
“I was there yesterday.”
"Are you ready to stop lying?"
He looked at me with his mouth agape. "I'm not."
I shot my hand out with the letter precariously hanging between my thumb and forefinger, like it was toxic.
"I can explain that," he replied as he took the letter, folded it up and put it in his pocket.
"All ears here."
“I’m not good at this, the college thing.”
I replied with a raised eyebrows and a rolling hand motion to ask him to continue.
“The math, computers, using a darn voltmeter—it’s not what I want to do.”
“Then why did you sign up for them?”
“Danny said they were a good step into some good money in the future but cost and some of the reading is completely crazy. Relational databases? Two pages about system memory and three-hundred and twenty pages about the philosophy of business science.”
“I have no idea what that means.”
“Same here. So, after I got that job with Danny I just decided to the best I could with classes and work as much as I could when asked.”
“So you skipped class? A month’s worth?”
“Well, Danny said he’d take care of that if I recorded the football game for him. It was blacked out here.”
“Wait, what did he do?”
“He changed my grades. Hacked into the records. I didn’t want him to do it, but I was worried—”
"Don't you dare say you were worrying about me."
"I'm daring to."
"I'm fine," I replied as I sat on the bed.
"You don't see it from my side of the fence."
"What do you see?"
"I see that we have to pay for the surgery and you're going to be able to make it big in whatever you do. I'm just--I just I thought that it was for the best to do what I know I can do and let you finish."
"That was stupid," I replied with as much piss and vinegar that I could and as soon as I said it I felt a sickness in my stomach, throat and mouth.
"I think I just heard your dad there." Michael replied with a slight look of sadness.
I wanted to throw up at that moment.
"Oh my God...you're right. I'm sorry. I'm--" I ran over to him and hugged him; while crying at the same time. Instant tears, only seconds had gone by but I heard that phrase in my head repeat itself hundreds of times:
I wanted to wear a night down; my father would say “that was stupid’.
The day I actually had a period; “stupid doctors said they’d take care of that”
I wanted to join a private drama troupe “that’s a stupid thing to do.”
And here I was, being the spitting image of my father, except with longer, colored hair; insulting the only other person in the world who actually gave a damn about the real me.
“I don’t deserve you,” I whispered in his ear.
“I don’t deserve you, but we got each other anyway, don’t we? He asked as he hugged me back.
"You know what I want, Mike?"
"Hmm?" He asked as we took a short step away from each other.
"I don't want to have to go through all of this. I’m going to drop out at the end of the semester."
"And do what?" Mike asked as he grabbed my hand.
"Whatever the Hell we want, right? Do we really need to go sixty-thousand dollars in debt to get a piece of paper that says we might have learned something?"
I pulled him closer to me.
“I could do more in a metal shop than with a computer,” he said. “Maybe some wrought iron work, farm-related business.
“Yeah, we could work out on a farm or something.”
“What? And leave this paradise?” Micheal asked as he looked around the room. “That’s crazy talk.”
We looked at each other for a few moments, letting the feeling of what we were going to build.
“You know, this could be our last night in this room. We should sleep on the upper bunk,” I motioned to the lone bed that was hardly used.
“Sleeping is the farthest from my mind.”
I woke up hours later and the thoughts of what were were going to do with the rest of our lives and sex-infused euphoria that not worn off but the truth was that we couldn't just go anywhere we wanted to. We just couldn’t go out and get a truck with a camper on the back, throw a dart, and just go move someplace off the beaten path and live off the land; at least I couldn’t do that without the medications I would had to take and I had my doubts that a small town drug store would carry—much less ever heard of—the injections that I needed after my parents had subjected my body to everything else.
I knew that I could probably never have any children; at least not without the help of hormones and several teams of doctors…and Micheal was right, it was expensive; even still under my parent’s medical insurance and he would find out one day and put a stop to it; leaving me to be more disfigured than I already was. Would it be possible for me to sue my parents for childhood trauma and stress?
Micheal woke up a few hours later to see me sitting at my desk with my clipboard and playbook binder laid out.
“Have you been up all night?”
“No, just this morning, going over my notes; I-I’m sorry about what I said.”
“No,” he got up from bed, wearing only a pair of boxers, “you were right. We should have talked about it.”
“What will your uncle say?”
“He’ll be relieved; as he won’t have to pay for it. What about your parents?”
“They’ll be furious. Of course, they kind of are now, so, same old same old.”
“Your mother too?”
“I don’t know what to think about her,” I answered with a sigh.
Mom never outwardly defended me in front of my dad and seldom did she say that I should be myself. She took a hands-off approach to the subject matter. She called me Kris and avoided using any pronouns about me which I wasn’t sure if she was being nice to be in a coded manner by stating my name in lieu of he or she. It would have been nice to have her tell me in private that she believed in who I was trying to be.
I wanted to think that maybe she was waiting for me to do something with my life and when I was out from under my father’s thumb that she would stand up to him and tell him off; or maybe leave him outright. She didn’t want to tell me about our dirty laundry and I probably would not have taken it well if she did.
The only thing she did confide in me was the existence and death of my older brother. She even took me to the cemetery where he was buried. We drove to Memorial Park in Memphis, past the grotto and to a rather large monument for a two year old. The large granite sculpture of a baby boy with the engraved “Kristopher Alexander Novoselic”.
I hated my brother for dying; had he lived then my life may have been different. I would be Kristi from day two; a little girl with a slight deformity that could be removed but instead it was like my father wanted to throw me onto a potter’s wheel and mold me into the boy who should have lived.
And yes, on that day, I picked up the disturbing thought that maybe I should have been the one to die and that death was just taking it’s time, playing with me, until the day I finally decided to myself in—as Kris was the one wanted by everyone; the one who would play football or maybe excel in business. The one who would have a happy prom picture with, maybe, Karen Anne English and have that wedding with hundreds of people and he could then come to a cemetery and note the small plaque on a tiny plot on the far side of a grey and cold graveyard. He could see that he had a little sister; if his parent would tell him.
Micheal laid his hands on my shoulders and I snapped back to reality.
“Uh-huh, just-just a little tired. You really need a shower.”
“Want to join me, one last time?”
“Have we before?” I asked.
“No, because it is kind of cramped and—“
“Let’s do it anyway,” I replied with as I closed my binder.
Two hours later I was at the university office; a building I stepped foot in once to hand in registration paperwork. The building was old, but, so was the rest of the campus and it still had that ancient but dignified look to it. The Martin Luther-esque letter left on our door did not state what the meeting was actually for; for all I knew it was simply about how I called Richard "dick" and he didn't like it.
I was escorted into an office with, I suppose, an academic counselor by the name of Mark Styles. He had a PhD after his name and reminded me of my dad by the way his face scowled as I stepped in.
"Thank you for meeting with me, Kristopher."
"Kristi," I replied.
"How long have you gone by that name?"
"In my mind, all of my life. Outwardly, a few months. Here? a few days."
"Do you think of yourself as female?" He asked as he raised his eyebrows up. They were so bushy, I had to wonder if he brushed them in the morning or had to go to a stylist every month.
"But you're in a male dorm room."
"Yes, because that's what is on my birth certificate."
"We are here to discuss an issue that occurred in Miss Peterson's lecture on Monday."
"Then why bring up what dorm I'm in, I--"
"Miss Peterson reported that you disrupted her class and attempted to assault her."
"Wow, I didn't know this meeting would be about that."
"Did you disrupt her class?"
"She wasn't in the room at the time and I don't know, maybe two minutes had gone by, it was at the start of the block."
"She states you were insubordinate to her."
"I only disagreed with her; and that was after class; after she made me stay late."
“And then there was the assault.”
“Assault? You said attempted.”
“Did you attempt?”
“No, but she did scratch me.”
“Are you asking me this to prove anything or to say it would be a defensive attack by Miss Peterson?”
“What I’m saying-“
“I know damn well what you’re saying,” I yelled as I stood up form my chair. “You’re trying to get into my head like Miss Peterson did. Find some way to piss me off so I’ll say or don't the wrong thing, like stand up for myself when I’m getting the third degree by someone who isn't campus security and I don’t even get to face my accuser.”
“Miss Peterson does not have to be present for these proceedings.”
“And you know what, Mr. Styles, Miss Novoselic isn’t going to be present for this facade either.”
I grabbed my satchel and walked out the door. I was pissed that I didn't lean across the desk and throttle him but I was also proud of myself for holding onto my temper—as I was ready to explode and it wouldn’t take much to do it.
My cell phone rang with a number on the screen that I never heard of. It was a Knoxville number but I had no idea who it was and the thought about chucking my phone onto the roof or into the nearest trash can sounded great at the time.
I kept my composure, took a breath and answered the call in a stern but not too bitchy way “Hello?”
“Is this Kristina Novoselic?”
“Yes,” I replied with a bit of annoyance to the “old man voice” on the other end of the call.
“This Donald Marks at Wyatt Industries.”
“Okay,” I asked, trying to not sound annoyed at the probable sales pitch that I sometimes got due to my father’s name.
“We have you listed as a personal contact for Mike Nelson.”
My demeanor changed instantly. “Yes?”
“There’s been an accident.”
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