Just after my sophomore year of college I found myself homeless. Not houseless, as in, I was living with all my earthly possessions under a snug overpass near the freeway. No, just homeless, the word spoken in the wistful tones of Dorothy Gale's "There's no place like home, there's no place like home..."
When I was 20, my mother decided to sell our childhood home in the North Georgia mountains and move to Florida.
I should have seen it coming. My folks had moved to Georgia from New York back in the 60's and they were just behaving instinctually, like all Snowbirds, continuing the migration south as they got older. And I was long aware that my mother's vision of paradise included sandy beaches and a wide expanse of crystal blue water.
My mom wanted me to go with them, but although I loved my family dearly, I couldn't see myself living there - still can't. Florida was fine to visit, but frankly, I despised the majority of the state. Muggy, buggy, sand-in-your-everywhere, tourist traps and surf shops comprising the majority of the "cultural" landscape Florida? I'll stay in Georgia, thanks a bunch.
I figured I had some time to figure out my living arrangements. But. when they put their house on the market it sold in two weeks. They had to move almost immediately, and quite suddenly, I was homeless. The weight of what this meant, that once they were gone I could never go "home" again, settled over me.
Enter my best friend Pacer, Georgia Tech student, frat guy extraordinaire.
"You know, during the summer our frat house takes on boarders to pay the mortgage."
"Seriously? I could stay with y'all? Do the guys care? Does Tech care?"
"Tech just wants their money. They don't care if the boarders are male, female, a llama with a checkbook...and the guys love you. Come stay with us."
Now that sounded hella-fun to me.
Four other "ladies" had already signed on to live at the house that summer. I wouldn't be the only girl there and my parents trusted Pacer to defend my honor, so they agreed to this plan. As a parent myself now, sometimes I look back and really question their judgement.
So, that's how it happened that on moving day, as my parents passed through Atlanta on their way to their new life in Florida, they made a side stop at Georgia Tech, dropping their only daughter off at a fraternity house in the midst of a drunken bonfire bacchanal. Luckily, all the action was out back or they probably wouldn't have let me out of the U-Haul.
As they pulled away, the ache in my chest was unbearable. I knew this was the right choice but it hurt like hell. I did my best not to start crying on the sidewalk in front of my new housemates.
'There goes my childhood' I thought, their taillights rounding the corner. And then they were gone.
It was one of the hardest moments of my young life. I just wanted to crawl into my bed and hide until morning. Luckily, we had dropped my furniture off before the big move and I'd started to get my room ready for occupancy earlier in the week.
I was not in the mood for a party but the house was in full swing. I hurried through the dim and crowded common area, a direct contrast to the brothers and their girlfriends and friends drinking, smoking, laughing loudly.
Music pulsing through the paneling, the stairs were deserted as I quickly climbed to the dorm area, gritting my teeth and willing myself not to break down for few more minutes.
I pushed open the heavy metal door, peeling red paint exposing peeling grey paint exposing an institutional green door. The party had reached the dorm upstairs. Of course it had, that's where the bedrooms were. The private drug stashes, the secret video vaults, and my empty bedroom.
Walking down the long hall I was barely hanging on. 'Just breathe. Don't cry. Just breathe. Almost there.'
I smiled at Gumby and Allison, heads close together in conversation.
10 feet. I weakly accepted a hug from Gonzo.
5 feet to the door and I brushed off Mike McDaniel, I didn't have the energy to talk about his girl troubles tonight.
And then the door was within reach.
I grasped the handle and pushed, feeling my face start to crumple, my chest collapse with a sob even as I stepped inside...and found a girl, naked to the waist, cigarette in her hand, sitting at my desk. I'd seen her around, a petite blonde, what the brothers referred to as a "frat mattress" because she'd sleep with anyone with Greek letters.
"Hey! she started cheerfully, not even having the decency to look surprised. Her inebriation was evident in her speech, her posture, the fact she hadn't made a move to cover her tits. "I just had sex in your bed!" she chirped.
Now, I wish I could say this turned into a scene from your favorite co-ed college porno, but my crap day meant hanky panky was the last thing on my mind.
In an instant, my sadness turned to rage.
"You did what in my bed? You were fucking in my bed?! Get the fuck out!" I screeched, snatching her shirt off the floor and her tarty neon bra off my desk and thrusting them at her chest.
I grabbed her arm and shoved her out the door, still topless, slamming it as hard as I could in her face as she protested "They said you weren't coming home tonight! Like, your parents were moving or something?" as if my absence made screwing in my sheets acceptable.
The sheets. I turned to my bed, sheets a tangle, the indentation of a head still visible on my pillow. There were even two moist spots, about three feet apart in the center of the mattress. Apparently she'd been on top and working it hard, leaving some thigh sweat behind, IN MY BED.
I grabbed the pillow and yanked the case down. Then I snatched the corner of the sheets and stripped the bed nude, balling all the fabric up in my arms and stalking out into the hall.
It was quiet as I stormed past everyone to the exit door. Cat fights were the best entertainment some of those folks might see all night.
I threw the door open and stepped out into the night, onto the balcony atop the fire escape. Below me, the bonfire blazed in the backyard, ringed by boozy boys and girls sucking on beer bottles and solo cup straws.
"Attention!" I cried. "May I have your attention?" Several eyes drifted up to see what was going on, the rest were too trashed to even care.
I held the sheets aloft. "No one is ever to fuck in my room again - except me, of course!" I decreed, and I threw the offensive ball of fabric into the air.
The sheets unfurled as they fell and settled atop the bonfire for a moment before bursting into flames. There were whoops and cheers at this dramatic gesture and I whirled around and stomped inside. I turned to the first brother I saw. "Now, could someone please get me a drink?"
A little liquor and a little laughter later I was feeling alright, and quite pleased with myself...until I got back to my room and considered the fact that I owned one set of sheets, and I'd just thrown them on a fire. Shit.
Ah, the fervor of youth. These days, if someone told me they'd just had sex in my bed, I'd probably say "At least you didn't do it where my kids sleep" and send them to the laundry room. Hindsight is 20/20.
That night I slept on a bare mattress but I woke feeling rested and ready to face the fact that it might be time to grow up.
In truth, I probably ought to thank that little hoochie for her interference, for forcing me not to wallow in self pity. And, I suppose, for giving me a good reason to go shopping for some lovely new sheets.