What He Had In His Shirt

I belong to to a FB subgroup (is that what they’re called?) made up of people who lived in the dorms at Sonoma State University in the 70s. One former dormie just asked us to share our earliest memory of living in the dorms. This is what I posted:

1978. There was this guy who lived in Barbera, and the first week I moved in; hell, what was I—17?—I ran into him. He was skinny, and so much older than I was, and he had this thing in his shirt— a lump and I asked him, “Hey, what’s that?” And he said, a bit startled by my slap-in-the-face curiosity, “It’s my papers, my important papers—I keep them close to me.” And so I skipped off, believing him of course. A long while later I learned that he’d fought in Vietnam, and that his bulge was actually a colostomy bag. I felt like a fool, and found myself looking away whenever I saw him—from embarrassment as well as from ignorance. Why would anyone go fight a war? I couldn’t understand it then, because I was too busy eating woody mushrooms, and picking blackberries behind the duck pond, and making out with boys in hastily-constructed lofts (you know who you are), and learning how to think critically while sitting with a cigarette in the back of  Professor Paul’s class. But I get it now. I get why people think freedom is a terrible thing to lose, even if it’s not ours to lose. And I get why so many young men didn’t have the chance or the courage to say no to defending the paranoid elite who held the rule books. I wish I knew his name so I could apologize. —- Okay, that’s my first memory of the dorms. My #2 memory is Bob Holmes trying to pick me up while I was checking my mail for the first time.

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