Thursday, May 07, 2009

Having Plenty to Say Doesn't Mean You Say It

Cover of "Lady's Not for Burning"Cover of Lady's Not for Burning

I have posted -- really posted -- very little lately. It has been a difficult semester in many ways, and talking about it publicly wouldn't help. Oh my no.

Is anonymous blogging cowardly? Maybe. But certainly therapeutic.

In happier news, tonight we have the annual dinner for Media Studies seniors at the Villa Romana in San Francisco. That's where we had it last year, and I thought it a big success. I don't think students want their senior years to dribble away in a series of fragmented moments. This will be a pause, a signpost. Friends will be embraced. Faculty will be honored.

The last week of my own senior year of college went by well enough without such a moment, I recall. From one point of view, that last week was one big moment, a great holding of breath. E. and I had been secretly married for six months, and if that fact had emerged, even at the last minute, I would have been tossed out of school, and my lovely fellowship at Duke lost as well.

You may say: secretly married? Expelled??!! There you have Whooping Jesus Bible College in a nutshell, and why my memories are less than fond.

I'd already been expelled once my senior year, for having a roommate whose oil lamp set the room on fire. Not ciggies. Certainly not the dopeawanna, of which I knew nothing. It was just an oil lamp that turned over on his desk when we were out of the room.

What I remember -- my signpost -- from those final days is the night before graduation. (E. was driving in from Detroit the next day; we would announce our marriage to our parents in the parking lot outside the gym immediately after I had my degree in hand.)

Carl Haaland suggested we drive down to Ball State in Muncie to see a student production of Christopher Fry's "The Lady's Not for Burning."

In his car. In that vintage Volvo. I considered him quite the sophisticate.

I remember the play and then the drive back through the dark Indiana countryside afterwards, remember it so clearly. Carl and I talked about the future, and its uncertainty, but also how it was going to be okay, Vietnam or not. (As it turned out, Carl went. I didn't.)

I thought about telling him E. and I were secretly married, but ... no. No point showing off, and he was a pretty religious fellow, Volve or not, maybe more than he let on. Still, this conversation, this good fellowship, has to mean something, I thought, because this is a moment meant to mean.

But it didn't. Fifteen years later, after I had got the rest of my degrees, lost a job, moved around, come here to work for the San Francisco Chronicle, I got a note from Carl. He and his family were going to be driving through, from Arizona on the way to Oregon, and he wanted to stop by.

I wrote back saying he was so very welcome. As long as he didn't talk about Jesus. Because I didn't talk about Jesus anymore. And I never heard from him again.
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Jules said...

Hi! Love it. I remember our Senior Dinner somewhat, but mostly remember your pep talk in the elevator which convinced Joe that he should still marry me, despite what I said at the Senior Dinner. Good times.

(typo in graf 11, "volve" unless you're trying to go all Latin on me and I'm missing it in my I-have-too-many-kids-haze).

....J.Michael Robertson said...

I think I told Joe to get down on his knees and crawl through broken glass to prove he was worthy. I definitely remember someone crawling through broken glass after that senior dinner.