Pledging a fraternity can be very exciting. I had a host of all new friends, by force. Part of the pledge process was interviewing each man in the fraternity, interviewing everyone of the men in my pledge class and cleaning the fraternity house itself. In my opinion, fraternities get a bad wrap. The majority of these men were good students who bonded over a common interest: drinking. I liked to drink. My roommate Kenny liked to drink. That was about the extent of any common interest I had with anyone in the fraternity. I was now just a guy, living in a college dormitory on his parents money, drinking and cleaning a frat house.
There was a guy in my fraternity who I felt close to, however. He was a big guy with a loud voice. He was 6’2, a solid 250lbs and a great drinker. Women were drawn to his “I don’t give a shit what you think about me” attitude. For some reason he seemed drawn to me. My nights were spent in the bars with him, chasing college coeds and drinking. His name was Wolf. Wolf always had money. Sure, I didn’t have to work to pay for the books under my bed collecting dust but I didn’t have drinking money. Wolf always paid. I never really questioned where he got his money from… I just tagged along and drank. The strange thing about chasing women, when you are in a bar drinking, is there are just as many women there drinking and chasing men. In my experience throughout my life this is a constant truth about bars. Sometimes I was the chaser, however, most times I was the one being chased. I know it wasn’t my money or physique that women sought. I had no money and my physique was gone due to spending all my time now in bars. The women in those bars, just like the men, were there seeking a willing participant. Maybe it was to serve as a distraction from constant studying. I never asked them their reasons. During this time of my life I was broke, unemployed, spiritually bankrupt and a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. However, the one thing I did possess was a willingness to participate with a woman who chased me. Any woman. I was giving up on life, however, on some level I still wanted to live. Promiscuity was keeping me alive.
Wolf never judged me. He would just laugh at my insanity. Maybe I was a jester to him keeping his mind off of his own slipping grades. He never seemed to go to class either.
After pledging the eight weeks required to fulfill our commitment to the fraternity, we had to spend a week living in the house itself. This week was called “Hell Week”. It was named appropriately as it would turn out.
It was around this time the men around me noticed I wasn’t going to class. They approached me, warning me of the consequences not going to class. I wanted no part of those discussions. I felt gone, by this point, far beyond the point of no return. My first semester was a wash. I hadn’t gone to class or attended any of my finals. I believe the biggest positive of fraternity life is other people are there to help pull you along. By this time in my life anyone who pointed out my struggles were the enemy. I couldn’t hear criticism. I misunderstood it for an attack. At one point, near the end of my tour in college, a fraternity brother walked straight up to me and punched me in the nose. I can’t, for the life of me, remember why or what caused him to do so. I am positive, without any reflective investigation, that I deserved it in one way or another. This was just my how life was for me at this point. I had long since become a roommate from hell for Kenny. The late night drunken wrestling matches with anonymous bar women, the R.A. (residential assistant) constantly harassing us about a suspicious “marijuana-like” smell always coming from our room and my overwhelmingly cluttered side of the dorm room had caused Kenny to distance himself from me. By this time another B-Town crew member, Dave, had enrolled at W.I.U.. Dave pledged Sigma Pi the semester after we did. Dave and Kenny were now well immersed in college fraternity life. I was hanging out with Wolf.
Toward the end of the second semester Wolf got kicked out of the fraternity. He had done some atrocious act like fuck a girlfriend or a mother of someone in the house (fraternity brothers reference to the brothers as a whole was ‘the house’). I couldn’t get a straight answer from Wolf and Kenny wouldn’t tell me due to my closeness to him. It didn’t matter to me. I was about to be expelled from the University for academic reasons. Regardless of the reason he had been blackballed from Sigma Pi, Wolf and I continued to drink. I finally asked him how he always had money. The question seemed to snap him sober, pulling him out of the thick self pity that had engulfed him. He told me he was in the Army. I was shocked. I was almost interested enough to stop drinking, however, he just kept buying me beer. So I listened to him as I drank. As it would turn out, Wolf was a Combat Medic in the United Stated Army. He did a two year tour in Germany on active duty then went into the reserves so he could attend college. He spoke of being a medic with such pride. It was like he was on fire with life just talking about it with me. I remembered my father was a medic. We spent the whole night outside the bar under a willow tree talking about his life as a medic. I never went to sleep that night.
At 9:00am, when the office opened, I walked into the Army recruiter center in Macomb Illinois, right outside the Western Illinois University campus and enlisted. I signed a contract for five years of active duty and three years of inactive reserve duty. I was hoping to do just 2 years, like Wolf, however I was still drunk. They told me if I wanted to be a medic I would have to do atleast five years of active duty.
Made sense to me.
The only class I passed during my one full year of enrollment was University 100.