The summer after H.S. graduation was epic. The B-town crew, the women we hung out with and the entire graduated class of every local school knew this was it. It was the last time we would be this free to do what we wanted, without restraint, for the rest of our lives. There were parties, get togethers, beach outings, swimming pool fiestas and what seemed like a non stop smorgasbord of fun. I had no strings to anyone or anything, but I always looked for Elle. Her and her new man were always around.

I had graduated “by the skin of my teeth” and felt the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I found out my friend Kenny, from the B-Town crew, was also going to W.I.U.. Kenny and I decided to be roommates in the same Dormitory.

My father told me he would pay for the entire first year of college. He said, “your mother and I will cover everything for your freshman year: your tuition, room and board, food and books. After your freshman year, we will look at where you are academically then talk about sophomore year. We will take this year to year. However, if you fuck this up you are on your own.” I didn’t really hear anything he said after “we will pay for your freshman year”. That was all I needed to get my life together. I had the summer, to have as much fun as possible, then id take care of business. Everything had fallen into place for me.

I drove to college with Kenny and his family. We had a station wagon full of things for our room. Food, clothes, art, music, fridge, stereo and hair gel. We had decided together that we would not allow any distractions into our first year. No girls and no excessive drinking. I wouldn’t bring any weed to the campus and neither of us would pledge a fraternity. All of Kenny’s family had attended college. He told me the first year of college is most important. People who fall behind academically freshman year rarely finish with a degree, or something along those lines. I wasn’t worried. I signed up for a class called ‘University 100’. University 100 was a class that taught new college students how to study at the collegiate level. It was a pass/fail class that lasted one half of a semester. I knew I had no idea how to study, however, I expected to be a studying maniac by the end of that class. I had no doubt.

Twelve credit hours per semester was considered a full time student. Every class was worth a set amount of hours. The average class was worth three hours. Four classes, again on average, gave students full time status. The amount of hours a student had received determined their status level. For example, in order to be considered a sophomore, as student would have to have thirty hours. In order to graduate, generally speaking, a student would have to have one hundred twenty hours. The hours depended on a students major and the major itself required different amounts of hours then the next major. Hours and majors seemed confusing to me. I chose to take seventeen credit hours during my first semester. I took four three hour classes, a four hour class and University 100, which was a class worth one hour. I took fifteen hours worth of classes during my second semester. The pace I set for myself was against my parents wishes, however, they allowed me to set it. I had an “Undecided” major with hopes of being inspired somewhere along the road.

Within three weeks Kenny and I were drunk at a party and had been invited to pledge the Sigma Pi fraternity. We both accepted. Somehow, we seemed to forget about our “no distractions” policy. It was during the pledge process that I became aware of how Kenny and I were like apples and oranges. Kenny knew how to study. He would prioritize his time, commit to his work then use his spare time to relax. This baffled me. I couldn’t even wake up on time to go to class, let alone prepare for one. No one was there to wake me, push me, prod me or motivate me. Successful college students, as it turns out, know how to motivate themselves. Obviously I forgot to pack my self motivation in the station wagon when leaving home for college.

In the middle of the year I met a girl. “Stacey” was nothing short of a young looking Marilyn Monroe. She was blonde and voluptuous. She approached me in a bar, took me home and basically moved in with Kenny and I. She was an incredibly warm and loving woman. She grew up in southern Illinois somewhere. Chicago, and the surrounding areas, in my experience, bred a certain kind of person unique to the state of Illinois. The rest of the state spoke with a southern drawl and had been raised on what I would learn later on to be “southern type principles”. Southern type principles, to me, means a strong church background, a matter of fact faith in Jesus and a strong sense of familial obligation.

There were literally scores of men chasing Stacey for her attention yet for some reason she chose me. I knew then, even as a self centered and grossly immature eighteen year old, how lucky any man would be to spend time with her. She just oozed sensuality and charm like jelly from a half eaten donut. She was the type of woman who could inspire men to greatness. That type of woman, the ‘muse’ type, come along once in a mans life…if they are lucky. She was also creative, spontaneous and intelligent. She had a host of friends, both male and female, because people just flocked to her. She sung me to sleep, once, rocking me in her arms because I was sick. Those women just don’t stop by the bar every day. Those are the keepers.

My problem was I compared every woman to Elle. Elle was unique. For me, the sun rose and set with Elle. Elle didn’t graduate H.S.. Her parents marriage was falling apart and she rebelled as a result. I kept tabs on Elle. It had been two years since she left and I couldn’t shake her from my head. I could still close my eyes and see her. No one smelled like her. The way her skin felt on my skin while we were intimate was nothing short of euphoric to me. I felt sentenced to a life with her on my mind, and I honestly didn’t mind doing that time.

Stacey ended our relationship when I didn’t show up to meet her on Valentines Day like I had promised. Out of frustration she broke into my room and woke me up by hitting me in the face with the bag of cookies she had baked for me. I wasn’t ready for Stacey. I wasn’t honest with her about not being ready. That seems simple enough to say now, however, I didn’t know how to say those words at that time in my life. I felt like I was stuck in quicksand, slowly sinking into the mire of heartbreak. That was the inside. The outside appearance looked like I was a slut.

After the cookie assault, I tried to kill the pain with women and beer.