One week from today I will be leaving for New York City! Here, in random order, are my Top 10 Favorite Memories from college and the place I will be leaving behind:
The Battle for the Old Mountain Jug
Some question whether or not the mountain rivalry between Western Carolina University and Appalachian State University is a true collegiate football tradition or a clever 1970's marketing ploy, but for those of us who took down the goal posts in Whitmire Stadium in 1998 following Western's first win over ASU in 13 years and subsequently left one of them on the Chancellor's front yard, it will always be a favorite, genuine and unscripted college moment. Sheer joy. True bliss. Solidarity among thousands. Whenever I think of that moment, I will forever have an image in my head of Tokii and me, linked arm in arm, racing onto the football field and screaming as the goal post fell and narrowly missed both of our heads.
Summer in Park Place
As much as we hated it at the time, we love to laugh about it now. The summer that Jessica, Daphne, Shameika, Dominique, Travis and I all lived in a two-bedroom (single-wide) trailer in Park Place will always be one of my most unforgettable and vivid memories. This was not just any trailer. It was undoubtedly the worst trailer in the world. To briefly describe it, there was a hole in the living room floor under the stapled-down carpet that everyone used to stumble over; mesh netting was duct-taped, thumb-tacked and stapled over the windows (a quick fix by Travis after the landlord continued to ignore our requests for new screens); a system of box fans in different windows served to facilitate airflow through the trailer in the absence of air-conditioning (it was basically a metal box sitting in the sun); the hard water, which smelled of sulfur, left an invisible film on your skin after showers and was unsuitable to drink (ask Dominique about the time he accidentally made a pitcher of Kool-Aid using the tap water); about half a dozen stray cats lived under the trailer (which was my fault because I kept feeding them); there was a wasp nest with an indestructible force field and super, incredible-hulk wasps above the back door; we woke up to our neighbor's Mexican music on full blast every morning at a quarter to eight; there was only one bathroom so we all got to know each others' scents a lot more than any of us would have liked; a crack head showed up on our doorstep one day when I was home alone and tried to sell me a boom box and a box of cassette tapes; I slept in one bedroom, Jessica and Shameika slept in the other, Daphne slept on a couch, Dominique slept on a futon, and Travis slept on his 6x1' military cot. Dominique and I used to ride around in my little, green Saturn or hang out in Burger King just to be in an air conditioned environment. Late into the night when he and I were the only ones left awake, we'd watch infomercials about exciting products like the Revostyler, the Perfect Pancake and steak knives. And after Travis moved out, Dominique was the only male with four women, who would all go on their period at the same time. I think that may have been the closest we have come to hell. But there is no other group of people with whom I'd go to hell and back ... again.
Hide & Go Seek in Hunter Library
Hunter Library, on the campus of Western Carolina University, is the largest library west of Charlotte. In the basement there is an endless sea of enormous bookshelves and study cubicles with group meeting rooms along the perimeter. I will never forget playing Hide & Go Seek with my girlfriends and a bunch of the players from the Men's Basketball team in the basement of the library during my sophomore year. You know it's a big library, when there are over half a dozen 6'6"+, 250+ pound dudes running around and nobody can find anybody else.
The Brothers I Never Had (besides my real brother)
Dunston, Jon and Pat were three of my best friends from my college daze: sledding and snowball fights in the winter time; summers at East Laporte; riding aimlessly around the Cullowhee-Sylva-Dillsboro triad; do-da-do-da-do by the track; dragging furniture into the elevator in Walker Hall, sitting in the chairs and waiting for someone to call the elevator to their floor; educating me on Sports Center; hanging out at the airport or on a random mountainside; showing me my first porno film; taking care of a puppy that my freshmen roommate and I adopted and illegally housed in our dorm room. BJ was initiated into our little clique later and never failed to make us laugh with his impersonations of Bernie Mac. They were the brothers I never had - in addition to my nearest genetic match, David.
The greatest hamster to crawl the Earth - or to ever run on a stationary wheel - went by the name of Coco Cherry. His first name was Coco because I love to name animals Coco. And his last name was Cherry because his eyeballs looked like cherries. He was the illegal dorm room pet of Helder 350, the room Tokii and I shared our junior year. We bought him in Greensboro (the same night that Jagged Edge spotted our clique in the mall, and gave us free tickets to their concert during A&T's Homecoming) because he was the only hamster we have ever seen who would chase your finger if you dragged it along the bottom of his cage and would crawl into your open hand on his own. His only flaw was that he had really bad gas - unless Tokii and I were always placing him to blame. He had a long, happy hamster life and ended up living out the remainder of his days at my parents' house while I was out of the country. I did not get to honor him with an appropriate hamster burial because I was studying abroad in Spain when he died, but I believe my parents buried him in the backyard. It was either that or they sent him to the happy farm where all of our other pets have gone.
The Night I Met Rickey
Rickey and I saw each other on campus for the first time when he approached our parked car near a short row of commercial buildings - jokingly referred to as the Cullowhee Shopping Strip - and flirted with my friends. I knew by the way he peered curiously at me in the back seat that he liked me immediately. We were formally introduced later that evening on the University Center Lawn during Valley Ballyhoo, a welcome back event hosted at the start of each fall semester. I was a sophomore and still dating my high school sweetheart at the time, and Rickey and I would not end up dating until almost a year later. However, the way he genuinely approached me that night and the perseverance and sweetness in which he pursued me over the following months was so remarkably sincere that we became inseparable almost immediately after the distance between WCU and UNC-Wilmington ended my three-year relationship with my high school boyfriend. Rickey and I dated for almost four years ...
He died unexpectedly in Augusta, Georgia. One of the hardest things for me to deal after his death was my foolish immaturity following an argument that we had two weeks before he died. That would be the last time we would ever speak. My biggest regret is that I tried to make him suffer after our last fight by ignoring his phone calls. I foolishly wanted him to really fear that he was losing me for good. The morning his father called to tell me that Rickey had died, I saw his number appear in my cell phone. Just before I decided to answer the call, I remember thinking to myself, Ok - I'll talk to him now...
... Losing him that way with so much left unsaid - just losing him at all - was nearly unbearable. Sometimes I go back to that moment in mind. Just before I answered his father's phone call. To a moment when everything in me knew that I was about to speak to Rickey. When hearing his voice still felt familiar. And I wish for that feeling. That feeling of knowing that I am about to talk to him. I don't know if I'll ever get over the fact that I can't anymore. That no matter what I do, his absence is permanent. That I can't change it. That I can't go back. That I'll never see him or talk to him again. That every day, his existance becomes more and more distant in my memory. That if I live to be 70 years old, he will still be 27.
I do know that now, when I forgive someone, I forgive them without any games or stipulations. I'll never play around with time again.
The Pretend For-Real Marriage of Daphne A. Moore & Kevin Garnett (The Newly Weds, Season Going-On-At-Least-Five)
I don't know when they were married exactly, but I recently found an email from 2002 regarding this blessed union, so this serves as direct evidence that this charade has been going on for at least four years. Daphne Moore, the self-proclaimed Daphne Moore-Garnett, has been living an imaginary life in which she is married to Kevin Garnett, #21 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. It's almost like having an imaginary friend with a mild case of borderline stalking. Yet despite the fact that my boyfriend's best friend plays for the Kings, our sorority sister's ex-boyfriend plays for the Wizards, another friend's brother plays for the Warriors, and two members of our college circle dance for the Bobcats, she has never had a chance to meet him and inform him of their nuptials. How can something so beautiful be so sad?
Ms. Sue Ella
My best friend Tokii is a master of impersonation. She is a gifted actress, who will soon begin her fourth year as a drama student at The Juilliard School of the Arts in Manhattan. Give her 30 minutes and she can mimic most - if not all - of your personal idiosyncrasies. Those nearest and dearest to her, and some random bystanders from time to time, have had the pleasure of meeting one of her alter egos, Ms. Sue Ella. Ms. Sue Ella is a combination of several ghetto-fabulous women, including a former coworker of Tokii's who always ate beanie weenies and Spam during breaks. It was always a pleasure to run into Ms. Sue Ella in one of the residence halls, especially when we were on RA duty. We've got several encounters on videotape!
Flipping for Directions
My current boyfriend Terrence and I started dating after I had graduated from WCU and had joined the university as a member of its staff. My closest friends, and even my family, were initially concerned that I was using Terrence to fill the void created by Rickey's death. I even tried not to worry about that, too. But our friendship eventually became the relationship we have today, and both of us believe that it would not have developed so deeply had it not been for a classic case of the right place at the right time. The summer I graduated from college, Terrence and I used to pass the time by jumping in my car (when gasoline was less than $1.50 a gallon) and flipping a quarter to determine whether to take a right or a left at each intersection. Our 25-cent (plus a tank of gas) adventures led us to a giant chessboard in Dillsboro, a hidden dirt road along a beautiful area of the Tuckaseigee River, and the train and bus wreckage purposely leftover as a tourist attraction from the movie The Fugitive, among other places. Well, we went to college in a place where a Super Wal-Mart is downtown.
Unbreak My ... Splat!
Another cameo from Tokii makes the Top 10 Favorite Cullowhee Memories. Our clique will recall a particular night when she and I were on RA duty. Since we couldn't leave our post in the RA station, our friends came over to hang out with us in the lobby of Scott Hall. While sitting on a couch, I used a video camera to record Tokii as she strutted atop a coffee table, singing Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart to the camera as if we were shooting a music video. Through the lens, I recorded Tokii's sexy rendition of the sultry verse "unbreak my ..." and then a nanosecond of sheer horror crossed her face just before she disappeared from view. I immediately panned down to the floor, where Tokii had fallen at my feet between the coffee table and the couch and was laughing uncontrollably. The tone and volume of surrounding laughter on the video is sharp and piercing, yet contagious, endearing and characteristic of my girls. I will love them always.