(reprinted from Writers Post Journal)
My mother and I arrived on Christmas Eve. Snow piled high on the streets of Pittsburgh. A white Christmas. Such incredible sight for a southern boy who had never seen or touched snow before.
After we settled in at my mother’s friend’s apartment, we strolled across the street to my new school, a private, Catholic university in downtown. We’d called earlier to make sure someone would be there to greet us. As we approached the Administrative building, Father Bryant, one of the Deans of the school, welcomed us at the door with a warm and broad smile.
“Good evening,” he said, shaking my hand. “Welcome to Duquesne.”
He offered us a tour of the school and the dormitories, even though much of the campus was closed for the holidays. The library, the gymnasium, the student lounges -- all deserted, like a ghost town. I followed Fr. Bryant like a kid being led through a candy store, my mother and her friend by my side, . This had been my first visit to the city, and would have been my first year in college. My first year as an adult. My first year away from home.
After we had a less-than-satisfying cafeteria dinner (for me, a Coke and a soggy ham sandwich), Fr. Bryant took us to the dormitory, to check out the room to which I was assigned.
“Your room is on the first floor,” he said as we entered the building. “It’s the freshmen floor. The boys on one side of the building, and the girls on the other.”
My mother glanced at me. I knew what she was thinking. Girls. I can’t wait.
“Your roommate is a good boy,” Fr. Bryant explained. “His name is Eric, and he’s from Oklahoma. A real nice, quiet, country boy. I think you’ll like him.”
We stopped at a door around the corner close to the elevator. Fr. Bryant took out a set of keys and, after about a minute trying to find the right one, unlocked the door. Like a horde of tourists, my mother, her friend and I followed him into the room, excited about the place I was going to call home for the next year.
And what a home.
Plastered all over the left wall were pictures of naked women in extremely suggestive poses. The myriad of words like “Playboy,” “Cherries,” “Penthouse,” and “Hustlers” popped up here and there. Fr. Bryant took a quick turn, left the room in less than ten seconds, and my mother and her friend did the same. I lingered long enough to take in some of the more hardcore, pornographic pictures depicting various sex acts. At that time, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at exactly -- I was that naive. But I was sure my mother knew.
As I exited the room, dragging my feet, lingering, wanting to take another look, Fr. Bryant said, “I hope you like it here.” He seemed cheerful, all grin and squinty eyes, but his face was plump and red like a giant tomato.
The day after Christmas, I officially moved into the dorm, and into another room on the same floor: bland walls with nothing on it but a school calendar. My roommate was Tim from Sewickley Height. A real nice, all-American boy. Or so Fr. Bryant thought (more stories later).
Eric from Oklahoma turned out to be really nice, indeed. I learned a few things from him.
What a Christmas Eve to remember: first time in a city, first year in college, first snow, first dormitory room, and first pornographic pictures, a Catholic priest and my mother by my side.
Category: Ray, Writing