Okay. Some good stuff happened last week, but it's all part of a bigger picture that I don't quite want to spill the beans on yet. But to tide you over until I get that story written, we'll continue the tour of some of my past writing. Here's an eight part story dealing with one of my roommates back in college. I originally published this story back on my old MySpace.com blog three years ago in January of 2006. It made the semifinals of a rather large writing contest that year and got me a little bit of attention. I often said that I'd be telling stories about this kid for the rest of my life, so I figured a few of these stories needed to go down on paper so my often booze soaked brain would never forget them. Strap in, this one is a little long, but there's a good message here. At the time we thought we were making this dude a better guy. It turned out that he made us better people. A quick disclaimer, as with all my Dorm Days flashbacks, time, and a couple thousand beers, can make things a little bit fuzzy. This was how I remember things went. If you were around back then and you noticed that I screwed up the details a little bit, let me know!
"The Passion of The Dave"
(March - May 2000)
I awoke from my afternoon nap around 4:30 on Tuesday afternoon on March 28, and wiped the sleep out of my eyes. Suddenly I heard a faint ringing from the apartment's main phone line. This was never a good sign, none of us even knew the number for that phone and every time it rang, something bad was about to happen. Only administration types had that number. I saw the caller ID on the phone; it was the Student Life Director's office, which probably meant we were in trouble again. It had been about a month and a half since the party we had thrown in our dorm apartment, room 302 - The Penthouse of Residence Hall 3. The story of that party will be told at another time, but just so you know, there was fallout involved. Ever since, we felt the ever-watchful eye of the Dean upon all of us. She made it pretty clear to us that she was not to be fucked with. "Hello?" I picked up the phone.
"This is Britton Bates, Director of Student Life, do you have a minute?"
"Yeah no problem, what's up?" I slurred out groggily.
"We have a solution to your roommate problem Mr. Nickas"
"I wasn't aware we had a problem."
"You have two empty rooms in your unit and we just found you a new roommate."
"Well, the more the merrier, I guess." I replied.
"But there may be some issues," she continued, "He grew up in a troubled home, and lived a sheltered life. We figured down here, that if anybody can crack his shell, it would be you guys."
"So what are you getting at?" I questioned.
"Listen Nickas, he's suffered through a traumatic childhood, but he's a brilliant student. It was all he had. If you guys can show him a few methods of peer interaction, and try to make him feel a little more normal, it'd go a long way toward smoothing out your reputations with the Dean." She absolutely sledgehammered that last point down. From what I could gather, helping this kid out might buy us a little bit of leeway and get our crew to the end of the semester without getting kicked out of school.
"When is he moving in?" I asked.
"In about three hours."
"And it's a done deal?"
"Yeah, he'll be there about 7:30."
I took inventory of the situation. We're getting a new roommate in three hours. There's only one month left in my first school year away from home. Where the hell were the other guys? Junior was at work, Big Nick was down at the weight room, and The Nate was in class. I've got class in a half hour! So I called Junior at work, he was not pleased, but empathized with the situation. He was the new guy just three months previous. On my way down to the cafeteria, I ran into Nate. He was not very hot on the subject to say the least. I grabbed a tray of food and plopped down into a booth where Big Nick, lean protein fanatic, was crushing his post workout meal of a couple of grilled chicken breasts with salsa.
"Are we going to make this work?" he asked.
"We don't have any choice in the matter. She sounded pretty serious on the phone, at least this might get us out of trouble."
With everybody warned and ready to roll out the welcome wagon, I cruised to class where I endured an hour and ten-minute lecture on the consequences of the deteriorating European treaty system in the late 1800's and how it eventually led to WWI. Doc Welsh was a fascinating teacher, but this was one of the less interesting lectures he'd given all year and I was chomping at the bit to get back to 302 and figure out a plan.7:15 hit and it could not have come soon enough. I was back to the penthouse in a flash. Big Nick and his Tuesday night girl Heather, Nate, Junior, and my girlfriend at the time Jules were all in the kitchen having a drink. They asked me exactly what was said on the phone, so I grabbed a Michelob and relayed the story again. Nobody was thrilled. We all agreed to meet over breakfast in the morning to discuss what we were going to do. Room 302 had been a revolving door since December when Jerry Flynt and the Mormon kid had left. The Dowder had quit school just three weeks ago. We just wanted some stability. But as I grew to learn, stability was a luxury we never were going to enjoy.
There was a knock at the door. I opened it up and found an unruly mop of dandruffed hair staring back at me. He looked up, his Peter Gallagher style eyebrows arched, "I'm David, your new roommate."
"Welcome to the club dude! Come on in!" I exclaimed in a manner that didn't exactly convey my true emotions at the time. Dave took one step in the door, caught our doormat in just the wrong way and went flying ass over teakettle, crashing to the floor in a heap! We're talking Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford style here. His little shaving kit burst open, spilling pill bottles all over the kitchen floor.
"Holy shit dude! Are you okay? Let me help you," as I started putting the bottles back into his bag. I noticed a few of the names on the prescriptions, Lithium Carbonate, Xanax, Haldol, and penicillin. "Nice cocktail of anti-psychotic, and mood stabilizers," I thought silently, just happy to have remembered any of the shit from Psychology outside of the classroom. I helped him to his feet. "David, this is Big Nick, Doug or as we call him Junior, Nate, Heather, and Jules. I'm Nickas. Anything you need dude, just let us know. Your room is right over there, just don't touch the wire coming out of your wall. It's our cable hookup." Jerry Flynt had a cable TV hookup in his room that they conveniently forgot to shut off. A little creative wiring later, and we all had cable.
"Do you need any help carrying anything in bro?" Big Nick offered.
"I've got everything in my bag here, but thank you." He said quietly. His whole life was in a little duffel bag and a backpack.
Everybody sort of separated. Big Nick had to work on a paper so he sent Heather home. The Nate hit the sack. Junior took off to find himself some strange ass, and Jules and I retired to my room to finish our drinks and kick back. About a half hour later, I see Dave walk past my door toward Big Nick's room. For about fifteen minutes there was dead silence. I peered out the door to see Dave staring at Nick while he was typing. Five more minutes go by. Big Nick finally looks up, "What's up buddy?"
"Thank you." Said Dave creepily, as he slowly turned walked back towards his room. Jules and I finished our wine and said goodnight. I was more than a little nervous and slept with one eye open that night.
The next morning I met Big Nick and Junior down at the cafeteria. You could tell none of us slept a wink the night before. Where the hell was Nate? As I got up to grab another cup of coffee Nate crashed into our booth looking a little worse for wear. "What the hell happened to you, amigo?" I asked.
"Dude, I'm alone with him on that side of the apartment. He's fuckin' weird, man."
"Care to elaborate?" Junior quipped. "Yeah, this morning I woke up to hear him making noises in the shower. Strange noises. Like the Three Stooges or something, NYUK! NYUK! NYUK! WHOOOO! I don't know what he was doing in there, but it was freaking me out!" Two minutes of masturbation jokes went by and then we finally decided to storm Ms. Bates' office and find out what his deal was. She was less than thrilled to see us, but gave us what information she could. It turned out that he had found his father swinging from a shower rod when he was a small child and grew up with an alcoholic and abusive mother. He had some serious emotional issues growing up. We still weren't sure how we could help, but we figured we would just try to treat him like a normal, everyday Joe. Little did we know, just how tough that would end up being.
None of us saw Dave until three days later, until I returned home from my job one afternoon to see him sitting in the living room talking to Annie, our hottie RA. Typical situation for anyone new to the dorms, but a very atypical scene based solely on what he was wearing. That is, he wasn't wearing any pants. All that he had on were just a pair of briefs and a sweater. For the first time since I moved to Salt Lake I did not know what to say. You could tell that Annie was uncomfortable as hell to say the least, but her policy was that she always had time to listen to her residents. She got up to leave looking at me like she had just seen Elvis alive or something, said hello to me and walked out the door. "Everything all right?" I asked, as I snagged a Michelob out of the fridge.
"Everything is great." Dave muttered with a goofy look on his face as he went into his room and closed the door.
"Well, that wasn't weird or anything." I thought to myself as I threw Anthrax's The Sound of White Noise disc into my stereo and plugged in my guitar.
A few days later, I was alone in the apartment cooking up some Philly cheese steaks in the kitchen and in walks Dave. He was dragging his right leg, which seemed to be encased in some kind of giant full-length splint. "Christ dude, are you okay? What the hell happened?"
"I just...I just woke up this morning, and my leg felt like it was broken. So my grandmother brought me a brace."
"What did the doctor tell you?" I asked. "He said he couldn't find anything wrong. I don't believe him though." Dave replied and walked into his room before I could ask any more nosy questions.
I finished plating my sandwich, grabbed a beer and went into my room. Five minutes later I hear somebody running past my door, slamming into Big Nick's door, and then running back past mine again down the hallway. I opened the door, peered down towards Nate and Dave's half of the apartment and saw nothing. Ten minutes later, I heard the same thing. Same result, only I heard a door slam on the other half of the apartment. "It sounds like he's running ladders or something." I thought, plucking the strings on my Epiphone. The next day I had two separate conversations with both Big Nick and Junior who had heard the same thing over the course of the previous week. Double weird.
The next weekend, I went home to Price for my family's Easter celebration. We typically barbecue a whole lamb on a spit, and make a big party out of it. The local Orthodox priest even joins us, about twenty-five people in all. It is always nice to see everybody, even if it is only once a year. Anyway, that Saturday night, WWF wrestler The Rock, with special musical guests AC/DC hosted Saturday night live. Thinking that it might be a good show, I dialed up The Nate to ask him to hit record on my VCR when the show started. "I might not be able to." The Nate said quietly over the receiver, almost whispering.
"What's the matter?" "I'm stuck in my room. He's outside my door, wigging out at the mirror."
"What the hell?" I said, "What is he saying?" I wasn't really buying it, but who knew?
"He's wearing a jacket with a clip-on tie. Get this though, he is not wearing any pants, just his underwear! He's yelling shit at the mirror like "YOU LOSE! YOU LOSE! YOU'RE RUINING MY LIFE!"" The Nate started to sound scared. "I'm watching out the peephole in my door. Uh-oh," He stopped.
"Nate, what the hell is going on?!" "I think he saw me. Jesus Christ, my door is shut, but I think he knows I've been watching him. He looked up in the mirror!" The Nate paused momentarily, "I think he just left." He said exhaling.
"Okay, keep your door shut and lock it tonight before you go to bed, and if he leaves, hit record on my VCR bro. Just sit tight, I'll be back tomorrow night."I hung up the phone. That episode of SNL was probably the high water mark of that particular era. The Nate managed to hit record in time.
It was two in the morning a week later, Jules and I were curled up under a blanket watching "She's All That" or something equally Prinze-ey. The credits rolled, "I've got to go home. My friend's coming to visit in the morning." She said.
"I'll walk ya over there, kiddo." I replied, not sure if I was still asleep or not. As she was putting her shoes back on, I smelled something burning. Like a melted tire. "Christ almighty, what the hell is that?" We creeped down to the end of the hall to the little sliding door that we had taken to shutting lately. This sealed the Big Nick/Junior/Nickas half of the apartment from the main area. I could hear someone milling around in the kitchen so I cracked the sliding door open very quietly and peered into the darkness. There was Dave in his familiar sweater/jockey shorts garb standing in front of the microwave. All I could see was something blue spinning around in there. But the smell was something else entirely. It could strip the varnish off a footlocker! "You better wait a second darlin'." I whispered.
"Let me see." She said, poking her head through the sliding door. She pulled back quickly. "Wow. Just...wow. Does he do this all the time?" she asked.
"Naw, this is the first time I've seen this," I said as the eerie blue light emanating from the microwave grew brighter and brighter. By this time, Big Nick and Junior had joined us in the hallway. And all four of us were quietly watching the scene unfold. Dave started rummaging through the utensil drawer.
"Shit! He's using my tongs!" Big Nick hissed.
Dave used the tongs to remove some kind of smoky, dark mass the size of a softball out of the microwave. The smell threatened to knock us all over. He dropped it into a little black bag, zipped it up and shuffled down his and Nate's hallway, quietly closing the door. We collectively exhaled and made our way into the common area. Suddenly Nate slipped out of his room in his blue bathrobe, wild look in his eyes. "I told you he was crazy! You assholes thought I was nuts, but what do you call that?"
"Pretty weird." Was all I could muster as I walked Jules across the floor hallway to her room and gave her a kiss goodnight. We never did find out what the blue thing was.
Junior was sitting in his room typing up a paper on his laptop one afternoon. In shuffles Dave. "Doug, do you have any scissors that I could borrow?" he asked.
"I don't, but ask Nickas, he might have some." Junior said, probably wary to give him any sharp objects.
I overheard this and dug through my shoebox full of school supplies. I did not have any decent scissors, but I managed to come across a pair of those shitty rounded safety scissors from the fucking third grade. "I know they suck bro, but will these work?" I asked as he came into my room.
"Thank you." He muttered quietly as he walked away toward his and The Nate's half of the apartment.
About half an hour later I heard the main door close. Dave must have taken off to get some chow or something. Nate soon came home from work. The guy had started to get a little less personable over the last month or so. Dave's antics were obviously a little too much for him and seemed to be wearing him down little by little. Nate obviously saw shit that none of the rest of us had, but was reluctant to talk about it. I think the episode with the mirror really fucked with his head. And he was clearly agitated that he had to deal with it after he paid $20,000 a year just to attend the school.
"You guys! Get in here and check this out!" he hollered. Junior and I grabbed our beers and cruised down the hallway. In the bathroom sink, there was a large pile made up of clumps of hair of varying length. My shitty ass scissors lay on the floor. Dave had given himself a haircut.
I arrived home from class a few days later to find Dave in my room perusing my CD collection. I had an open door policy with my room. If you wanted to borrow a disc or a movie or something, feel free. Just let me know when you see me. He looked up as I walked in. "What's up buddy?" I asked.
"You have quite a strange collection. Of music." He said quietly. I had everything from some Johnny Cash gospel albums to Morbid Angel in there. Kind of contradictory, but I like it. "Some of this is, well, kind of Satanic. You're not into the occult or anything are you?" He looked almost scared holding my copy of Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss. Having had this same conversation with my grandmother the previous summer, I patiently explained to him that it was all an act, they did not really worship Satan and neither did I. Hell, I was a Christian, just not necessarily of the fire and brimstone type.
"I just like the guitar work." I said.
"Oh, you play guitar?" He spied my shitty little Epiphone Strat sitting in the corner.
"I just like to dick around with it a little bit, I'm really not any good." I said laughing. "I straight up suck! You play?" I asked.
"A little, but I haven't played in a long time." He said.
"Well here, strap it on dude." I handed him my axe and kicked the power button on my shitty little Peavey amp. Next thing I know, he's laying down a bitchin' little bluesy guitar solo! "Dude, where'd you learn how to do that!?"
"My grandpa played a little bit for me when I was a kid. I only know that one." He said, turning red in the face. "Nickas, can I ask you a question?"
"I'm all ears bro, what's on your mind?"
"Do the other guys hate me?" I was a little taken aback. "No, nobody hates you David, but to be totally honest, you have made us a little bit nervous from time to time." I said honestly. "How so?""Well..." and I kind of laid out some of the stuff that had happened over the last month. "Now listen" I told him, "I'm trying not to be judgmental or anything because maybe it's just your shtick, but some of this stuff might be seen by a lot of people as, well a little strange. At first everybody was a little weirded out, but now we're kind of concerned."
"Sometimes my medicine makes me kinda black out and I don't know what's going on. I'm sorry about that."
"I've been meaning to ask you about that bro. Now I know it's none of my business, but my textbook says some of that shit shouldn't be mixed together. You might want to narrow it down to one doctor who knows his shit and can take care of ya." He nodded in agreement. "And trust me," I added, "If we didn't care about you, you and I wouldn't be having this conversation. If you live in this unit, you're one of the family. We're all a little bit fucked up in here. Hell, I think that is why they put us all together. We just don't want to see you getting hurt. And for god sakes, next time you need a haircut let me know and I'll loan ya $20, leave that to the pros!"
That was the first time I'd seen Dave laugh since he moved in. I shook his hand, and told him that for the next week, if he was not sure about his response to a certain situation, to not be afraid to ask what to do. And he definitely took us up on it. We even got him to lob his first middle finger at some asshole in the cafeteria! For the first time in his life, he was just one of the guys.
A week later we all went our separate ways for the summer. None of us are really sure what happened to Dave. But I heard from a fairly reliable source that his grandpa had passed on and left him a rather sizeable inheritance. Dave was no longer crazy. He was eccentric! I ran into him recently on the train ride home from work one day. He still had the unibrow, but he looked anything but the disheveled outcast we knew back in the days of Dorm Apartment 302. He even had a steady job working at a little watering hole downtown, not that he has to work anyway. He said he just liked being around people. I learned a lot from that kid, and I am glad to see he is doing okay.