Chapter 42: Behind the Masks
Glenda called me one evening sounding somehow different. She wanted to come to my place for a change, so I gave her the address. Half an hour later she arrived dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, looking uncommonly common. Glenda was wearing little makeup, only sparse jewelry, and her duck tailed hairstyle gave her a boyish look. I was used to seeing her elegantly dressed, a touched-up billboard glittering expensively. Tonight Glenda was real. A condition I found more disturbing than I wished to acknowledge.
"I wanted to see you one more time," she said embracing me.
"Why--are you going to stop seeing me?"
"My husband has been called to Mexico City for six months and wants me to go with him. I cannot refuse to go."
"The bird in her gilded cage," I said sarcastically.
Glenda did not respond. She knew I was right. In a way, I guess that we both felt this would be our last night together. Taking Glenda into my bed, I peeled away the husk of her clothing, discovering for the first time the exquisiteness of her naked body. That night we were truly intimate, flesh touching flesh. For the first time, I felt Glenda within my soul, felt her pain, as she whimpered release into my ear. Then I, too, succumbed, descending into a pleasant sleep.
The next morning, I awakened to find Glenda gone. On my dresser, a hand-written note reading simply 'You will always be inside me', and a single earring from a pair she wore the first night we met. To my surprise, I missed Glenda after that. I cannot say why, exactly, only that final evening we shared something real, something that would last beyond life's mortal restraints.
The end of fall quarter, I received a letter from the campus director for a rendezvous Friday morning concerning my academic performance. I thought it was about my grade point average, which had fallen below 2.8. Entering the office of Mrs. Fine reminded me of when I was in grade school upon receiving a failing mark in a particular subject.
"Upon review of your records, it has come to my attention that you have not yet declared a Major."
"I always assumed that English was my subject."
"Yes, you have taken many of the primary English courses, including French as a second language. But you have also taken Sociology, Psychology, Physics, a class on the Holocaust, and even a series on the plight of the North American Indian. Unfortunately, most of these do not provide you with the credits you need to complete an educational curriculum."
"I am under the impression that a University is a place of learning. I thought that was my criterion. I am here to learn what the world knows, and understand the foundation elements of knowledge."
"It is, of course that too, but you also have a certain obligation to the terms of your grant. Let us see if we can make any of these credits work for you."
She was a nice lady, whose job was to ensure the proper processing of a future alumnus. This is a disappointing example of education reduced to a formula. I suppose that is why the more specialized an academic becomes, the less versatile in terms of common sense. It is the metaphorical destruction of a forest at the cost of a single tree. UCLA had an experimental project at the time, to allow students to design their own academic program with the approval of the student councilor. An hour later, I left the office of Mrs. Fine with a custom newly declared major. I was an American Studies Major with a primary in English literature. Now I was able to apply some of the Psychology, Sociology, and American Indian classes as credits toward my degree. It seemed all very political to me, but now I would be able to graduate in six more Quarters as long as I took an array of certain English requirements.
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Distance Traveled: A Chronicle in TimeNon-Fiction
This is an autobiographical novel beginning in a small town in old south America. It records the life of a young man growing up in the shadow of the escalating Viet Nam war and eventually joining the United States Marine Corps to become a part of t...