You’ve graduated from high school (finally!) and now you’re going to college.
Everything is different, including sharing a dorm room with a stranger.
One thing about transitioning from high school to a university is that you find out who your dorm roommate is. Not might be, or will be, but is. That’s thanks to social networking, i.e. Facebook, etc. and the fact that once Cal Housing defined who the roommates were going to be in each dorm room they let them know about each other. That meant sending each of us the other’s name; in addition — if you are willing — your cell and home phone numbers, email address, social networking links, and other information. I was willing.
Dorm signup, at least at the University of California in Berkeley (a.k.a. Cal) is done online. After filling out the forms and selecting the dorm I preferred, and asking for an extra-long bed because I’m six-five, and being sure to check the required box that confirmed that I understood that I might not get my selection, all I had to do is sit back and wait for a response from Cal Housing with the name and — hopefully — all of the details about my roommate.
I’d picked the Foothill La Loma Dorm based partly on visiting most of the dorms on CalDay last summer when incoming and prospective freshmen got to tour the campus and all of the facilities. My decision was also based on a recommendation from Kent Westergaard, a guy I know who lived down the street from me and my folks. He graduated from Cal a year ago. He said I’d find Foothill the best dorm with the best people. I wasn’t sure what he meant by the ‘best people’ part, but I trusted Kent about the best dorm part. He’d lived there and loved it, so I figured that was a recommendation I could trust.
The dorm room I’d selected was in a suite with two two-bed rooms and one three-bed room, and a shared lounge that was sort of like our family room at home, but smaller. I would be in one of the two-bed rooms, the one on the corner. I didn’t tell my folks that our suite was co-ed. Guys and girls. Not co-ed in the same room; each room was single-gender and there were separate bathrooms for each of the rooms. Kent told me that would be the best choice, with sharing of a bathroom and shower limited to me and my roommate.
I’m gay and I came out during my sophomore year in high school. There were a lot of out gay kids at my high school, so coming out turned out to be a big ‘so-what’s-new?’ with almost everyone. However, when it came time to fill out the forms for my dorm, for some reason the four checkboxes with the captions Bi, Gay, Lesbian, and Trans scared me. I ignored them, left them blank, pretended that I didn’t see them, pretended that they weren’t on the form. I justified my decision by telling myself that no one would care, so why did I have to tell anyone in advance? Also, would I want to room with another gay guy, which might happen if I’d checked the ‘gay’ choice? What if he was a flamer, or would keep bringing guys into the room to have sex? Of course, I ignored the possibility, or even more likely the probability, that a straight roommate would keep bringing girls into the room to have sex. Anyway, call me a wuss, but I wasn’t ready to declare my gayness before actually getting to Cal, finding my dorm, meeting my roommate, and scoping out the scene. Maybe I could even wait until my sophomore year. As if!
I received an email from Cal Housing announcing that I got my dorm room of choice. It included the name and contact information for my roommate, Ryan Pierce. His information included his address and his home town, Lakewood, California; his high school, Lakewood High; his email address, cell and home phone numbers; and his Facebook and LinkedIn ID’s. So, he was willing to share his information as well.
I wrote him an email, basically saying ‘Hi’ and including my major, Computer Science in the EECS Department and that the abbreviation was short for Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. I told him a bit about me: that I was seventeen years old and my birthday is on December seventh; I went to Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek; I’m six-five, 207 pounds; and that I’d been on the Las Lomas varsity basketball team starting in ninth grade. I included a bit about my family: mother, father, a brother who was fourteen years old, and a sister who was eleven. I attached a picture of me with my family taken the week before. I hesitated a bit before clicking ‘Send’ — I wondered what he’d think about having a black roommate.
In less than fifteen minutes I got a reply to my email. His email included the same kind of basic information: his major, Chemistry and his minor, Math; his family: mother, father, twin fourteen-year-old brothers, and a sister who was twenty years old and attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He included information about himself including his height, six-two; weight, two hundred on the dot; he was seventeen and his eighteenth birthday would be on September twenty-third. He wrote, “Not boasting (much) but I was a straight-A student. I’m going to be focused on my studies.” He attached a picture with him and a cute girl I assumed to be his girlfriend because he held his arm around her waist. He had red hair and freckles, and what my mom would call an engaging smile. He was what I’d call cute. But apparently he was straight, so no cute gay guy as a roomie for me.
His email was a lot chattier than mine, telling me personal things about him. He liked to read science fiction and mysteries; he liked action-adventure, science fiction, and “serious” movies; he didn’t do drugs or drink or smoke anything; his folks were Baptist but he wasn’t; he had a 1995 Ford Mustang convertible that he got for his seventeenth birthday. He wrote that the Mustang had motor and transmission problems, and he and his dad rebuilt it over the next six months. He loved that car, he wrote, but he couldn’t bring it to Berkeley because anyone living in the dorms couldn’t get parking permits which basically meant we weren’t allowed to have cars. His favorite things were to drive his Mustang, to go backpacking and hiking with his best friend Kenny, to go cross country skiing, and to ride rollercoasters. He apologized for his Facebook page, saying he didn’t take the time to update it very often. He wrote, “When I grow up (ha-ha) I want to teach chemistry and math in a high school.”
He wrote that he’d played football in high school, but he wasn’t going out for any sports in college. He asked if I was going out for the basketball team at Cal. He ended his email telling me that the only recent picture he had was one with his sister, and that he was the good looking one in the picture. That made me laugh. Ryan had a sense of humor, and the girl in the picture wasn’t his girlfriend. In fact, he didn’t mention a girlfriend at all. Hmmm.
I wrote back that I was also a straight-A student at Las Lomas High (“just boasting a bit”) and that I would also be focused on my studies at Cal. I wrote that we shared an interest in books, and that I also read computer books for fun and — okay, I was a little geeky. I had an eight-inch Android tablet and did most of my reading on that using the Kindle and Nook apps. I generally liked the same kinds of movies he did, though I wasn’t sure what he included in his “serious” movie category. I didn’t drink or do drugs or smoke anything, my folks were Presbyterian but I wasn’t, and I didn’t have a car but my folks promised that they’d buy me one as my college graduation present. I added that my favorite things were to go hiking though I mostly did it alone because none of my friends were into that much exercise, riding roller coasters, cross country skiing, and playing basketball for fun. I told him that I wouldn’t go out for the basketball team at Cal because I’d need to spend most of my time studying. I told him that I did keep my Facebook page up-to-date by posting pictures of places where I went hiking and new restaurants that I liked. I wrote, “When I grow up (finally!) I want to be a programmer and work for a company like Adobe.”
We continued to email and text each other over the next few days. It seemed to me that we were becoming friends. One morning I heard my cellphone ringtone. I didn’t recognize the area code, 562, but I answered anyway.
“Is this Rob Mayhew?”
“Hi. This is your soon-to-be-roomie, Ryan Pierce.”
“Hey, Ryan! Great to hear a voice to add to the picture I have of you.”
“I got my move-in stuff from Cal Housing today. Did you get yours?”
“Not yet. The mail comes in the middle of the afternoon here.”
“I’m excited about starting school, and especially about moving into the dorm with you. We have a lot of the same interests. It should be a lot of fun living together at Cal. Just curious: how did you pick the Foothill Dorm?”
“A couple friends and I went to CalDay this summer, and I spent some of my time scoping out the different dorms. Then I asked a neighbor — who graduated from Cal last year — where he’d lived, and he said Foothill and recommended it as the best. I looked it up on the Cal Housing website and that helped me make my decision.”
“Why did you pick a co-ed suite?”
“Because each two-person room has its own bathroom. A heck of a lot more private and convenient.”
“Not to scope out the girls, ‘eh?”
“You realize that even if it’s co-ed, all three rooms in our suite could have guys, right?”
“Actually, I didn’t think about that. Anyway, you finessed my question about scoping out girls.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think you picked our suite because you could scope out girls, or you don’t think you finessed my question?” I heard him laughing.
“Uh… I’m gonna have to think about what that means. Anyway, I’ll tell you that I didn’t pick the suite because there might or might not be girls in the other rooms. I picked it because it’s a corner room so we have an extra window, because our room is just a little bit larger than most of the other two-person rooms on the floor, and because we have our own private bathroom. Also, I don’t want to be in a part of a dorm that’s party city. I’m going to need to focus on studying to get my degree. Is that okay with you?”
“Ryan, my friend, we’re on exactly the same page.”
“Excellent! Now, tell me a bit about where you went to high school.”
We spent the next hour talking about all sorts of things, about our high schools and our favorite classes, what it was like for me to be on the varsity basketball team, what it was like for him to be on the varsity football team, what sports we liked to play for fun and to watch including favorite teams, our families, our friends, how we liked where we’d lived, clothes, were our rooms neat or messy, and lots more. He asked if I had Skype on my laptop and I said yes, so we switched to that. It was more fun seeing each other and talking. After about an hour his mom called him to have lunch, so we ended the call. By that time, I realized that we had actually become friends, that he didn’t seem to care if I was black or white or green or purple, and that I was looking forward to meeting him in person.
Fall semester was going to start on Tuesday, August sixteenth, and freshmen would move into the dorms starting on Monday, August first. Each dorm floor had their own start date so things wouldn’t get too jammed up in the elevators and halls. The schedule I received listed our move-in date as Wednesday, August tenth. My folks were fine with that, but it caused some problems for Ryan. He emailed me to tell me his folks would drive him up from Lakewood, a suburb south of Los Angeles, on Friday August twelfth. They contacted Cal Housing and found out that we could move in any time from our move-in date through the day before the start of classes. For fall semester that was Monday, August twenty-second. The start of classes was one week after the start of the semester; that way students could get settled in, buy books, and so on.
Anyway, I would go ahead and move in on the tenth because my dad had arranged to get off work that day. My mom’s a writer and she works from home, so her time is usually open.
The room had a small built-in refrigerator. I’d told Ryan that my folks bought me a small microwave oven, perfect for our dorm room, and I’d bring that along with my Epson color printer/copier and a router so we could share the printer. He said he’d bring a nineteen inch LCD TV with a Fire TV stick and a toaster oven. Hotplates were not allowed, but electric kettles were. We figured out that making real coffee would be a problem, but Kent had told me that we could go down to the dining hall and there was a coffee service near the entrance. It was free if you had a full meal plan, and both Ryan and I had that plan.
So I moved in on Wednesday the tenth. Dad drove us to campus early, and there were only a few people moving in at eight in the morning. We didn’t have any problem getting the elevator. Our dorm room was on the third floor at the south end of the hall. As we moved my stuff into the room Dad said I should pick the bed I preferred. From the pix I’d seen on the Cal Housing website I’d expected that we’d have bunk beds, but we actually had two beds. They were a little wider and a lot longer than a twin. They must have moved in two extra-long beds since I’d asked for one. I couldn’t see any real advantage or disadvantage to either bed, so I picked the one furthest from the door. That way if Ryan wanted to sneak in late some nights he was less likely to wake me.
The dorm suite was made up with the two two-person rooms at each end, and the three-person room and our shared lounge room in the center. Our room, as Ryan had said, was a corner room so we had windows on two walls. Our bathroom was between our room and the three-person room’s bathroom. The bathroom for the other two-person room was at the far end, and later I found out that it backed against the bathroom for the next dorm room. For us this bathroom arrangement was excellent, and it acted as a noise shield between our rooms. Each of the rooms had their own door to the shared lounge room. Across the hall the basic room setup was the same, except there was no corner room.
After my folks said goodbye, with the requisite tears from my mom, I got my stuff unpacked and put away, made my bed because they’d just left the sheets and blankets stacked on the mattress, and unboxed my books, CD’s and DVD’s and put them on the bookshelf next to my desk. I set up my laptop and printer but found that I couldn’t connect to CalWeb, the campus network. I found out from the RA that the instruction sheets for signing up hadn’t been delivered yet, but he had one from last year. He made a copy and gave it to me. Getting registered and signed up for CalWeb was easy, and I was connected to the campus network and the internet. The campus had high speed internet, something very important for me as a CompSci major.
I explored the campus system for my courses and found the syllabus for each of them. I’d already checked which books I needed and had bought them online. For fall semester my books cost me $398.93 including sales tax. There was only one book I could get used, $40.87 for a used copy of Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs instead of $52.25 for a new copy. Yeah, big deal… I saved $11.38. I decided that I wouldn’t spend it all in the same place. As if! Also, none of my textbooks were available on Kindle. Too specialized, I assumed.
I’d left the door to our dorm room open and opened the windows. The cool breeze off San Francisco Bay was nice. I heard someone knock on the door jamb, and turned around. A girl stood there grinning at me.
“Hi. I’m Lynda Ball, your next-dorm neighbor.”
I laughed and stood up. “Hi, Lynda. I’m Rob Mayhew.” We shook hands. I pointed to the other desk chair. “Have a seat. When did you move in?”
“Originally, last year. My roommates and I are sophomores. We had to move out at the end of spring semester. Then we moved back in this fall, just like you guys. Our advantage is we could, if we wanted to, move into the same dorm room we had the prior semester. We did.” She looked around. “Your roommate hasn’t arrived yet?”
“No. His folks had problems getting time off work so he’ll be here with them sometime on Friday. He’s from Lakewood — that’s near Los Angeles. Where are you from?”
“Redding. You know where that is?”
“Yup. It’s up Interstate 5 near Mount Shasta. I’ve been there a few times, mostly to drive through on our way to Oregon to visit my grandparents in Medford, and a few times when I went hiking on Mr. Shasta with my brother and dad. What’s Redding like, to live there?”
“It’s hot as hell in the summer, cold as a witch’s tit in winter. Spring and fall are nice.” She grinned and I laughed.
“Did your roommates move in yet?” I asked.
“Yes. As returnees our move-in date was August fifth, so it was a real breeze. I saw you moving in early this morning. I assume it wasn’t too crowded that early?”
“No, like you said, it was a real breeze. What’s your major?”
“CompSci. You know, computers and programming and stuff like that.”
“You’re kidding! That’s my major, too.”
“That is so cool. What classes are you taking this semester?”
“Okay, here’s my schedule. I have Physics 7A, Reading and Composition R1B, Machine Structures 61CL, and User Interface Design and Development 160. That’s sixteen units.”
“I’m taking 160 this semester,” Lynda said. “Which class do you have?”
“Let’s see. The instructor is Rayno; lecture is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at two, Lab is Monday at eleven, and Discussion is Friday at eleven.”
“Good! They’re the same as mine. We can study together.”
“I’d like that,” I said. I smiled and so did she.
“You’re a freshman. So how did you get into 160? That’s an upper division course.”
“I tested out of 61A and 61B, the introductory C and C++ programing courses, and got the instructor’s approval to take 61C and 160 during my freshman year. You’re not upper division either, how’d you get it?”
She grinned. “When I took 61A and 61B last year, my instructor gave a recommendation to the instructor for 160 so I could take it in my sophomore year. The instructor for 160 just happens to be Beverly Rayno. She was also my instructor for 61A and 61B. So that’s how I got in.”
“So you’re a Brainiac, ‘eh?” I said.
“I suppose. That’s so non-girly but it fits like a glove. I take it you’re a Brainiac as well, testing out of 61A and 61B.”
“Well… maybe. I got straight-A’s in high school, including all the AP classes I could get into. I also took community college classes during the summers including the equivalent of 61A and 61B and they all transferred to Cal. I’ve got all of my liberal arts courses covered by AP classes or community college classes. All except Reading and Composition R1B. What’s that all about?”
“Every incoming freshman has to take R1A and R1B. You must have tested or credited out of R1A since you’re taking R1B.”
“I don’t know about that. I took an English exam; I think they called it the Analytical Writing Placement Exam. I figured it got me out of dumbbell English. I also took a couple writing courses and a Linguistics course at DVC — that’s Diablo Valley College. It’s the community college near where I live.”
“You can’t test out or credit out of R1B. Even undergrad transfer students have to take it. It’s the worst course I’ve ever taken, including college, high school, and middle school. It teaches you how to write reports, how to use footnotes, how to format reports, how to write a technical report, how to write a thesis. It’s boring crap, but you have to take it. At least there’s no final. When you need a shoulder to cry on about R1B, just knock on my door.”
“I might just take you up on that offer. So tell me about living in this dorm.”
“It’s great. We’re at the best end, where our roommates have always been quiet. Foothill has the second-best dining hall. The food is great. Are you on a meal plan?”
“Yes, a full meal plan.”
“That’s perfect. There are a lot of food choices, including Asian and Italian and so on. There are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and Kosher and halal meal choices as well.”
“No African?” I asked, then grinned.
“We’ve been ignored, sad to say. There are some Southern choices like really good fried chicken, and grits and spicy pork sausages at breakfast. But, no African or Black American. What’s your roommate like?”
“Ryan seems like a really nice guy, not into partying or drinking. He says he’s focused on his studies. He’s a Chem major with a Math minor. How about your roommates?”
“Debbie Leong is Chinese and really cute. She’s a Sociology and Psych major. She wants to go into counseling of kids in the foster system. My other roommate, Sara Berch, is also African-American and she’s my girlfriend. She’s an English major. All three of us are gay… we don’t like the term lesbians. Are you gay?”
I thought about that for maybe a half a second. “Yup.” I smiled. “Is it that easy to tell?”
“My gaydar started tingling when I saw you moving in. You know, girls have much better gaydar than guys. Guys’ gaydar sucks. I guess that’s appropriate, ‘eh?”
I laughed. “Oh, that’s bad, Lynda, bad! I’m gonna have to remember that line.”
“How about your roommate? Is he gay?”
“Don’t know. I haven’t outed myself to him. Yet. He hasn’t said one way or the other. We did tell each other that we didn’t picked our suite because it’s co-ed or so we could scope out girls. So maybe there’s hope for me, maybe not.”
“Yeah, that is a little ambiguous. Do you have a boyfriend back home?”
“No. I came out when I was a sophomore in high school. I was a jock, played varsity basketball all four years. However, I was focused — no, make that riveted — on getting straight-A’s so I could get into Cal or Stanford or Cal Tech, so no boyfriend to distract me. Anyway, Cal was my first choice, and here I am. How long have you and Sara been girlfriends?”
“Since we moved into the dorm last year.”
“How about Debbie? Does she have a girlfriend?”
“Yup. Her name is Joyce Ng. She lives in Spens Hall in Unit 3, but she spends a lot of time here so you’ll get to know her. She’s in the Unity House Theme Program, that’s an LGBT-focused program and those in that program all live in that dorm. It’s not only co-ed, it has mixed-gender room assignments. Joyce is in a two-person and her roommate is a guy — a gay guy. People in that program mostly have Ethnic Studies and LGBT Studies as their majors or minors.”
“Rooming with someone other than another guy might be sort of limiting at times, like getting dressed and showering and… you know….” I closed my fist and moved it up and down a couple times.
Lynda laughed and pulled the fingers on her right hand together and pointed them down, then moved her hand up and down a couple times. “See, girls do the ‘you know’ thing, too.”
“Gee, I had no idea,” I joked, and we both laughed.
“Oh, for sure you’re gonna learn a lot of things here, Rob. Maybe more than you need to know. You know, WTMI, way too much information.”
“I can hardly wait,” I said.
“Getting back to serious stuff,” Lynda said, “I have a year of experience living in the dorm that you can borrow from. Like if you want to do something that’s not necessarily on the approved list, I can tell you which RA’s are easy and which are not. I also know where the best parties are, not the rowdy kind but the ones my roomies and I like and that I think you’d like too. I know where you can get lots of free stuff, like paper for your printer, some brands of ink and toner cartridges, concert tickets — lots of things.
“Since your roomie isn’t going to be here until Friday night, I’d like to invite you to go to dinner with me and Sara tonight. We’re going to the dining hall at Clark Kerr. It’s a nice one-mile walk from here. Clark Kerr has the best dining hall on campus, even better than International House and ours here at Foothill, both of which aren’t shabby.”
“That’s great. I accept. I assume we’re going Dutch?” I grinned.
“Dufus!” she retorted. “Yeah, we’re each paying with our own meal tickets.”
“What time do you want to meet to go to dinner?”
“How about five thirty? It’s about a twenty-minute walk to Clark Kerr, so we’ll be there before six. After that it starts to get crowded. Is that okay?”
“That’s perfect. My door will be open, so just give a shout when you’re ready to leave,” I replied.
“If you don’t have anything else planned for today, there’s a great campus tour. Because all the recent construction on campus is finally finished, my roomies and I decided to take it since it’s free. It’s four hours long, and includes a no-host lunch break. The break for lunch is at Sather Gate. We’re going to walk to International Alley on Durant, a couple blocks from where we break.”
“What about Bear’s Lair? My neighbor said it has fast food that’s not bad and it’s always crowded and noisy. It sounds like a lot of fun.”
“It’s gone. The Bear’s Lair space is where the new student union was built.”
“Aw, that’s too bad. So, what’s International Alley?”
“Just about every kind of food you can think of. Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Cajun, barbeque, burgers, sandwiches, donuts, ice cream. And lots more. It’s called that because it’s along what at one time had been an alley. Now it’s just a walkway.”
“Okay, that sounds like a plan. Where does the tour start and what time?” I asked.
“You should have a campus schedule in the mass of paperwork that they left in your room.” She walked over to what would be Ryan’s desk and found a sheet titled ‘Campus Schedule’ and today’s date. “Here it is.” She looked at the clock on the wall above my desk. “It starts at ten at Hearst and Oxford. There’s a map of the tour on the back of the schedule.” She looked at her watch. “If we leave now we’ll get there just before the tour leaves, but we can join it anywhere on the route.”
I looked at the map and the tour schedule. “This looks great. I’ll join you and your roomies. Thanks, Lynda.” I grabbed my camera, sunglasses, and a cap and locked the door on our way out. Lynda went into her dorm and returned with two really stunning girls.
I introduced myself. “Hi, Sara, I’m Rob, your next-dorm neighbor.” Then I turned to Debbie who had just locked their door. “Hi, Debbie. I’m Rob.”
They said, “Hi,” in return, and Lynda led us down the stairs. “The elevator’s going to be busy so this will be faster,” she said.
On Friday I was nervous. Ryan texted that they had left at seven a.m. and expected to arrive in Berkeley around two in the afternoon. I went to the dining hall and grabbed a banana, a breakfast sandwich, and a large coffee, and then went back to the dorm to do some advance studying while I ate.
Lynda knocked on my door, which I’d left open. “Hi, Rob. Do you have any plans for lunch?”
“Nope. How about you?”
“Same. I was thinking that maybe some Chinese. There’s a good but sort of fancy Chinese restaurant on Addison about three blocks west of the campus. Are you interested in some walking exercise and some lunch?”
“Let’s see… it’s about ten minutes after twelve. Ryan, my roomie, will be arriving at two or maybe even a little earlier. I want to be sure that I’m here when he and his folks arrive. How long will it take to walk there?”
“About a half hour, so that won’t work. How about Hummingbird Cafe? It’s about five minutes from here.”
“I haven’t been there, so going somewhere new and having it a short walk from here is a great combination.”
We ordered our lunch and while we waited Lynda grinned. “You excited about meeting Ryan?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“You worried about his reaction when you tell him that you’re gay?”
I shrugged my shoulders. Then I took a deep breath and nodded. “Actually, I am. I’m worried that he’ll wonder why I didn’t tell him up front more than I’m worried about him being homophobic.”
“That makes sense to me. Why did you decide not to tell him?”
“I got the impression that he’s straight. Like me, he left the sexuality check boxes unchecked. Then we became friends, maybe even good friends. It became one of those ‘now it’s too late to tell him’ deals.”
“So, how are you going to broach it when he gets here?”
“I have no idea. Do you have any suggestions?”
We were interrupted because our sandwiches were delivered. We spent a few minutes eating which delayed her answering my question. That gave me time to think about how I’d respond to different suggestions that Lynda might make.
“So, like I asked, do you have any suggestions?”
“First, don’t say anything when Ryan’s folks are here.”
“Yeah, that’s got to be a given.”
“Second, introduce him to us as soon as the two of you are alone. We’ll tell him that we’re gay — and please don’t call us lesbians. That will let us know if he’s okay with gay people.”
“As soon as the two of you are back in your room and alone, tell him you’re gay. Not before, but even more important, not later. Do it like, ‘I probably should have said something earlier, but, by the way, I’m gay, too.’”
“But if he’s not okay with the three of you…”
Lynda interrupted. “Tell him anyway. Don’t live a lie of omission. You need to be able to live your life as a gay college student at U.C. Berkeley. If you don’t tell him, and you meet a guy who’s gay and you like, Ryan will find out anyway.”
“Yeah, I see what you’re saying. That makes sense. What if he’s homophobic?”
“If he’s a homophobe he’ll ask for a dorm reassignment. For him that’s the disadvantage of living next to three gay girls and with a gay guy: he’ll feel surrounded.
“There is another option. When Ryan meets the three of us he might say, ‘I’m gay, too.’ Then you say, ‘Hey, I am, too!’ And the two of you are good to go. You might not become boyfriends, but you’ll both be okay when one of you brings a boyfriend to your room. You’ll be able to go together to some of the parties at Spens Hall. That’s where Debbie’s girlfriend has her dorm.”
“I remember that. Barbie. Spenser House. Right?”
I laughed. “I always try to do my best.”
We got back from lunch at twenty after one. I was so nervous my hands were shaking. I kept reading the same page in my Structure & Interpretation of Computer Programs textbook, retaining none of the content.
I almost jumped out of my skin when there was a loud knock on the door, which was open. I twisted around and saw Ryan. He had a duffle bag and backpack slung over his shoulders, and he was carrying two large boxes. They looked heavy.
I jumped up and said, “Ryan! Lemme take those boxes. Good to see you!”
“Instead, just let me drop these on my bed.”
“Okay, but I’ll help.” I grabbed the box on the top and set it down on his desk. He put the other box on the floor at the foot of his bed. He pulled the duffel bag off his shoulder, and I grabbed it and put it on his bed. He dropped his backpack next to his desk.
We stood there smiling and looking at each other. He grabbed me in a hug and I hugged him back. We stepped apart.
“Damn, you’re tall!” he said.
“Playing basketball tends to do that to you, it makes you tall. I used to be short.” I grinned.
“Yeah, you were short until you were what, ten years old, right?”
“More like until I was seven years old.”
We both laughed.
“Where are your folks?” I asked.
“Guarding the car in front of the dorm. My dad parked in sort of an illegal place. I assume a red curb means the same thing here as at home. He decided he’d hang there in case someone came by to give him a parking ticket.”
“You have more stuff to bring in?” I asked.
“Uh huh. Mostly clothes. You want to help?”
“Sure. Let’s go down and get it now. One trip going to be enough?”
“Okay, let’s do it.” I locked our door on the way out.
When we got outside Ryan looked around. “Where’d my folks go? Dad parked right here.” He pointed at the curb, which was painted red.
“Maybe he was asked to move his car. We can wait here until they show up.”
So that’s what we did.
“How’s our dorm room?” he asked.
“Great. I met our next-dorm roomies. It’s three and sometimes four girls.”
“What’s three and sometimes four mean?”
“It means one of the girls has a girlfriend in Spens Hall, that’s another dorm, so she spends some time over there and her girlfriend spends some time here.” I motioned to their dorm with my thumb. “The other two roomies are girlfriends.”
“Yeah. All three.” I saw his expression change. “That going to be a problem?”
“Oh, hell no! I was just trying to figure why a girl in a three-person dorm room has a girlfriend in another dorm instead of the two of them being in the same dorm. Seems like it wouldn’t be very… convenient, if you know what I mean!”
“That’s a good question with two good answers. First, there are only three beds in their room, and like ours they’re singles. Second, the girl who lives in Spens Hall has to be there because she’s in an LGBT program and has to live there. And I agree that it wouldn’t be very convenient. I certainly wouldn’t have planned it that way.”
I watched him to see how he’d react to what I just said.
“Me either. Uhh… I guess I should have asked this… well, before…. No, that’s not right. I guess I should have told you something about me before….”
I interrupted what I hoped he was about to say. “I am, too.”
“Oh my god, really?”
“Me too!” He grabbed me in a real hug and then kissed me, on the lips, right there at the corner of Hearst Avenue and Highland Place. I, of course, returned the kiss. Two guys walked by and whistled, and then they laughed. Ryan and I laughed, too.
“Why didn’t you say something?” We stopped and laughed at each other. The reason was because we both said that at the same time.
I raised my hand and waved it around like I was in a middle school classroom, mouthing ‘me, me, me!’
Ryan looked around, then back at me. “Alright, I see Robert Mayhew thinks he can answer the question. So, Robert, do you know the answer to my question?”
“Yes, Mr. Pierce, I do know. Even though it’s the kind of question that’s really hard to answer.”
He looked at me and then let his gaze drift down to my crotch. “Yes, I can see exactly how hard it has been to answer.” Of course, it wasn’t. Not outside at the corner of Hearst Avenue and Highland Place. And that was a good thing because Ryan saw his folks walking up Hearst toward our corner.
“I wonder if they saw us?” I asked.
“It’d be fine. They know I’m gay. Are you out to your folks?”
“Yes. I told them when I was in middle school.”
His folks walked up, and Ryan made the introductions. Jeff and Janet Pierce were very nice. Jeff was definitely a non-nonsense get-things-done kind of guy.
“We’ll have to walk to the car to get the rest of your stuff, Ryan. We were invited to move out of the no-parking zone by a member of the local constabulary. I’m parked about half a block that way on La Loma Avenue.” Jeff pointed sort of randomly toward the north. “Let’s do it now, then we can all relax and get to know each other.”
“Ryan, you’ll have to pick a place where the four of us can go out to dinner,” Janet said. “I’m starting to get a bit hungry.”
“I’ll leave that up to Rob,” Ryan said.
“Rick & Ann’s has good food and reasonable prices and it’s a short drive from here,” I suggested. “It’s American food, mostly.”
They said that sounded good.
“Where are you two staying tonight?” I asked.
“We made a reservation at the Bancroft Hotel. It’s supposed to be close to the campus.”
“It is,” I said. “It’s about five blocks from our dorm.”
We moved the rest of Ryan’s clothes into our dorm room and Ryan put them away, Jeff and Janet got a tour of our room and our neighbor’s room. I introduced the three girls to Ryan and his folks. It was ‘accidentally’ mentioned by Lynda that all three girls were gay.
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Janet said. “Did you meet here at U.C. or did you know each other in high school?”
So that started a conversation where Ryan and I announced that we were gay, too. Then it was decided by Jeff that he would treat all of us to a meal at Rick & Ann’s.
After dinner Jeff and Janet dropped the five of us off at the Foothill Dorm, and they left for their hotel. When we got to our room, Ryan said he was tired, and I said I was, too. That was because we were tired. Both of us. I helped Ryan make his bed, and then each of us showered and got ready for some well-deserved sleep.
The beds weren’t large enough for sleeping together. It wasn’t the length; that was fine. It was the width. Ryan and I kissed each other goodnight, and he got in his bed and fell asleep almost immediately. I could understand that, considering that they drove all the way from Lakewood to Berkeley, a seven hour drive, and then he moved all of his things into our room, and then we went out to dinner with his folks and our next-dorm roomies. He had one really busy day!
My last thoughts before I went to sleep were about how perfectly everything had worked out. Ryan, our dorm room, and the three girls in the dorm room next to ours.
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