Chapter 1 – Brightly House
The Brightly House was mostly a shabby-old excuse for a dormitory, and not the lavish boarding home that my grandmother advertised. But she remembered it from the days of her youth, when I’m sure it must have been simply splendid; with a two-page waiting list of stary-eyed college students just clamoring for a room at the well situated house. Now, it was still well situated, but there were dozens of cheaper, more modern (well kept) dorm buildings just as close, and frankly, most students didn’t give a shit for history.
I stayed there because it was free. That and the fact that some day I might actually have to own the place. Grandma Kelly was my only remaining relative, and while she wasn’t exactly a replacement for my mother and father, she cared for me enough to do something horrific like pass the damned thing on to me in her last will and testament. It was one of those situations that you just have to shut up and take like a man in order to have anything resembling a family to fall on.
The room on the top floor, next to the water heater and straight across from my own room, had been empty for nearly five full semesters now. Nobody wanted it because the plumbing made a frightful crooning each morning as everyone woke up and took showers and baths. Why the builders of the house had chosen to put a water heater on the third floor is beyond me. Perhaps things worked differently back then. In any case, I had gotten used to the sound when I was still a pup. Now, I can sleep right through the cacophony without stirring. Other, less fortunate tenants would run screaming from the room with their hands over their ears, no doubt thinking that hell itself was about to burst through their wall.
So I was somewhat surprised one August day while studying, to hear someone come up the stairs, unlock the door, and close it again. I sprang out from behind my desk as though it were on fire, and dashed to prove my own ears wrong. I suppose that I expected to whip open my door and find a sign-plaque proclaiming the new tenant or something, but it was the same featureless portal marked with a nondescript “3C” that has always greeted me each day since I was five.
That morning at breakfast I asked my grandmother about it.
“Oh, yes,” she said while pulling a loaf of bread the size of Nebraska from the oven. One thing that she had not forgotten was how to cook. It almost made up for the stiff price and lack of modern-day phone sockets. “I rented that room late last night. A lovely girl. Very polite.”
It took me a few moments before her words finally triggered the switch in my brain having to do with sex and relationships. My eyebrows went up, and had Grandma Kelly actually been able to see me across the table, she probably would have commented that I looked taller or something. Like most guys, I wasn’t currently getting any. Hell… It had been so long since I’d been laid, that my wet dreams were about me masturbating. It was a sad state of affairs, and so I was naturally interested in the new potential so close to my own room. I ate breakfast in silence, my mind uselessly set on autopilot while my hormones ran things for a while.
I was waiting, you see. I was waiting for this girl to come down the stairs and notice me. That’s how these things work, isn’t it? The female is free to go about her business, and actually contribute to society in productive ways, while the male sits around waiting for a chance to get noticed by said female in the hopes that she will find him of appealing nature and take him directly to bed for wild and satisfying sex. Hey, it had always worked in the past. Some guys will tell you that you have to do this or that, be a “gentleman”, buy her roses, see sappy movies that are all dialog and no action, or god forbid, be “emotional.” I don’t care what anyone says. My experience has always shown that no matter how much you do, or with whatever level of passion, romanticism or aplomb, if a girl likes you, she will eventually make you wait for her. You can waste your time and money if you want, but after being broke most my life, I final figured out to just skip right to the waiting part.
Unfortunately, this method does have its drawbacks. You need to be in the right place to get noticed, for example. I figured that anyone in the Brightly House would eventually pass through the kitchen on their way out the door. And under normal circumstances, that would be true. But not, apparently today. Before long, I had seen every other tenant save for Grandma herself leave the place on their way to campus. This in itself was a semi-entertaining spectacle.
Seven people now paid rent to my Grandma, four males and three females. Back in my childhood, the Brightly House was a male-only dorm, but I fixed that the moment I got old enough to start seriously thinking about girls. I sat Grandma down and had a long talk about keeping up with the times and competition in the marketplace. She listened quietly while I gave my long-winded speech and praised the virtues of a co-ed dorm while offhandedly suggesting that she needed to let go of any past moral constipation that would hinder her from accepting this inevitable change in society. I was in near panic, after all. I was just learning about the wonders of the feminine form, and I figured that if I had even the slightest chance of getting laid, I simply HAD to have females around in my close proximity to do so. And in essence, it was true. Without a car, you’re trapped. Not many girls will let you take them up to “lover’s lane” on the handlebars of your bike. Not for free anyway…
I ended abruptly, having said my piece. She waited a moment more and then got up and went to the six ton armoire that had been in the corner of our livingroom for as long as I can remember. It was one of those pieces of furniture that a carpenter comes out and builds in the very room it’s to be installed in because there’s no possible way to get the thing in or out the door.
Grandma opened the glass panels and found a large scrapbook on the top shelf. She pulled it down, risking her very life under its weight, and set it on the coffee table in the middle of the living room. Opening it, she flipped through a few pages while I sat in reverent silence until she came to a series of photographs. Pointing to them, she said with a smile, “I was a Flapper once. You don’t have to explain accepting moral change to me.”
My brain missed her words for a few seconds while my eyes took in the images before me. They showed a number of couples, some obviously included my Grandma although you wouldn’t have recognized her unless you were a blood relation. In all of the photographs, she was dressed in what had to be the most revealing dresses I had ever seen. And more so, she looked great!
Mind you, I was only twelve at the time, and the sexiest thing I had ever seen was an “Archie” comic book. (I still get a hard-on whenever I think of Veronica.) So these pictures of actual people in low, low, low cut dresses of beads and silk, with little or no backs, was enough to set my mouth open. Gran only smiled and watched me. I had no idea what a Flapper was, but in my pubescent mind, it had to fall somewhere between a nude dancer and a prostitute.
Needless to say, the dorm went co-ed that afternoon.
So, being the only resident with a late morning class, I was able to sit and silently smirk at the ever-rushed tenants who, like most college students, choose to wait until the very last possible moment before finally pulling themselves out of bed and dashing into the shower for a thirty-second cleaning frenzy which left them exactly fourty-five seconds to pull on some clothes, and a generous ten full seconds for breakfast.
It sounded like a boulder was bouncing down the stairs every time one of them would come crashing into the kitchen, slap something into their mouths and be out the door leaving only a hint of overly-compensated aftershave or cheap perfume lingering in their wake. One male renter was so hurried, that he failed to notice that the pink pastry he was trying to cram into his mouth wasn’t a pastry at all, but rather a kitchen sponge. Oh well, it was probably more nutritious.
The female tenants this semester were sadly disappointing. One turned out to be not only a hard-core feminazi, but also lesbian. The mere mention that they possibly go out and catch a movie or some other standard “get-to-know-you-better” activity had sent her into a fifteen minute diatribe that left me apologizing profusely for being male. The other had long-term boyfriend and made it plain that if I ever breathed in her direction, she would alert forementioned lover, who would then pound me into something resembling fresh hamburger when he returned from his latest special ops military exercises in the Pacific. Still, they were nicer to look at than the male tenants, and the very fact that they were present meant that my social life had the tiniest glimmer of potential.
And then there was the new girl, who, it seemed, didn’t have a morning class at all. This left me with a profound moral dilemma because I knew that my professors wouldn’t let me skip class so that I could chase tail. So should I say, “what the fuck” and do it anyway for the sake of love, or do I bite the bullet and accept that fact that I am just going to have to take up my watch post at another, more favorable time? With a sigh and a hormonal groan, I chose the latter, pulled myself out of my seat, and headed back up to my room to prepare for my own class.