Monday, May 19, 2014

In College: Never Be the One to Break the Bad News

If there is any hard and fast rule for college students it is: never be the one to break the bad news. In that way station on the way to adulthood, keeping your head low is crucial.
About the same time America was getting used to the electric light and flush toilets I went to college. I was a townie at Syracuse University, back when Social Security would help pay for college if you only had one parent. 
One day I walked into the Varsity restaurant and recognized a woman from one of my classes. She was sitting in a booth pretending to read the New Yorker, and wearing one of the 200 sweaters she brought to campus from New York City. When a guy spotted her you knew she was wondering: "Is it me or my Cos Cob shirtwaist?"
Since I'd had less dates with girls then Truman Capote, I agreed to take her down to Colgate for a party weekend.
We arrived at this one fraternity and all of a sudden she was kissing and hugging all the guys in the fraternity. I asked one of the guys what was going on and he told me she used to date a fraternity brother who'd graduated. He'd told her they couldn't get married because he had a brain tumor. The brother told me this  graduate was presently working on Wall Street and had wanted to dump her.
So I watched for a while and drank with a bunch of guys who knew the story. After I was there a while I didn't seem so much  a stranger as somebody they'd adopted. The joke seem to have some bonding aspect to it.
Finally it became time to make the drive from Hamilton (Colgate's home) back to Syracuse. On the way back, she couldn't stop crying. Feeling sad for her, I told her the truth. Soon the inside of my '54 Ford felt like I was competing in the Iditarod without a parka. We never spoke again that year.
In my senior year she made an attempt to renew the relationship. It seemed tempting, she was gorgeous, but I knew it would take a a guy who wouldn't care very much to make it work.

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