I revised the last two “Patrick Miles III” posts and combined them. So, here’s a the new introduction to Patrick’s story! I hope you guys enjoy it.
College: the time when stupid teenagers become stupid adults, and all the rest of us get a front row seat to the show. Even Palixton University, one of the most prestigious universities in Texas, has its circle of idiots. What’s the point of college if you don’t want to learn anything? Obtaining knowledge should be a form of entertainment, but it’s not. Instead, we become zombified versions of ourselves, engrossed in watching television, binge drinking, and gossiping.
I thought college would be different. But haven’t we all made incorrect assumptions at one point? My name is Patrick Miles III and I don’t think I’ll ever understand.
Understand what? Everything and anything. I watched the world through a polished stain-glass window at Miles Manor in Gladewater, Texas. But I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been sheltered your entire life: everything outside of your original life seems surreal. You learn something. Not just about the world, but about yourself. And sometimes realizations are incomprehensible.
So where did this epiphany stem from? My first year of college, when I finally stepped into the real world. It wasn’t as pretty as I had hoped. On the first day, someone tapped a tiny hammer in my stain-glass window, cracking it. Sure, it was a small crack, but I noticed it.
I noticed it like I noticed the scuffs that stained the white walls in my new dorm on my first day at Palixton. I counted thirteen in total. Thirteen stains and one giant boot print planted on the wall above my bed. I had prepared myself for a flawed room, so it shouldn’t have bothered me.
Besides my twin brother, Mason, I would be the first Miles to attend college. It was a bit nerve wracking, and my father laughed when I told him I wanted to go, but it’s all I ever dreamed about: Attending college and learning. The possibilities seemed endless, although I knew where I would turn up after college: sitting behind my father’s desk, watching over the Miles Oil Co.. That’s my namesake, and I hate it. I know I shouldn’t complain, since I’ve been spoiled my whole life, but it sucks having one path to follow in life. At least college would add some shortcuts.
My mother walked into the room, dragging a duffel bag that bulged with clothing and shoes (each wrapped in a plastic bag, of course). She huffed and grunted before giving up and dropping it on the floor.
“Oh,” she gasped. “Isn’t this lovely? It’s a lovely room, Patrick. Look at that view of the—what is that?”
“I think it’s the back of the dining hall.”
We watched in silence as a man pushed through the door of the dining hall, carrying a huge bucket full of—well, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. He proceeded to dump the bucket of brown slosh into the dumpster. Then, he wiped his nose and wandered back inside.
“Well, you get a beautiful view of the sky,” she pointed out.
Ladies and gentlemen, my mother–forever the optimist. Maybe she lost her mind, or those self-motivational tapes brainwashed her, but to her, everything had a positive side. And I mean everything. Mason crashed his car into a truck a year before we started college, and instead of scolding him, my mother just shrugged. It’s just a part of growing up, she claimed. If crashing a car was a rite of passage, I decided to remain forever young.
“Well, this place sucks!” Lacey suddenly appeared in the door, dragging more luggage from the car.
“Don’t use that language,” my mother demanded.
Lacey was right, though. Besides the horrific view and the stains, gunk covered the floor. I silently thanked my mother for forcing me to pack slippers. Lacey placed my laptop bag on the desk. Next to the bag, carved in large, deep letters, were the words “EAT ME.” Who the hell carved that into a desk that wasn’t even theirs? The concept of respect must have flown right over their head.
I tossed the backpack, which dangled on my shoulders, onto the bed. The springs squeaked from the weight. In fact, the bag sank into the mattress. I suddenly missed my Tempur-Pedic.
Mason and my father brought in the last of my luggage just Lacey and I started to unpack my duffel bag. Mason snickered as he examined the room. “You ain’t gonna survive here, Patty.”
I threw him a glare; he knew I despised the nickname ‘Pat’, so he took it a step farther. Irritating me was his favorite past time. I tried not to let him get to me, but he drove me nuts. Up a fucking tree nuts.
“I’ll be fine,” I assured him.
“I don’t know,” he grinned. “I think my closet’s bigger than this.”
My father suddenly whacked the back of Mason’s head.; the smile on Mason’s face immediately fell. My father, Patrick Miles II, dressed (that day, and every other) to fit the ‘typical Texan’ stereotype. A huge cowboy hat sat upon his balding head and a gun holster was strapped to his belt. I’m sure he could fit me and Mason on his shoulders.
Even though he granted (and yes, granted is the correct word, according to my father) me both his and my grandfather’s name, the two of us were nothing alike. While he passed the time shooting at squirrels and bunnies (whatever hunters hunted), I curled up in the armchair in my room and read until my eyes burned. If he could go back in time, I’m sure I would have been Mason Miles.
Both Mason and my father are men’s men. They hunt, they fight, they argue, they play sports. Hell, they watch sports. I barely understand football, which is a sin in the Miles household. Football bores the hell out of me. I pretend to enjoy it, for my family’s sake, but I cringe every time new stains appear on the player’s white pants. Yeah, I know it’s dumb. But why would they use white pants if they’re going to be rolling around in the dirt? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
It took about four hours to unpack and organize and re-organize the room (six times, to be exact). Finally, after switching the positions of the bed and dresser, the room opened up. It shocked me how much, in fact. My mother’s a designing genius. Miles Manor fits right in with a Homes and Garden’s house. She put a lot of time and effort into making our home perfect. Well, maybe not effort (unless you consider calling the contractors effort). With her skills, the dingy, prison-like room transformed. It took the edge off a bit; I felt a bit more at home. But those scuffs…
I used White Out to cover them. But no matter how many times I painted them over with the White Out, they managed to peak through when it dried. My father winded up running to the hardware store and buying eggshell white paint. It finally concealed the stains. When the paint dried and they remained hidden, I finally sighed with satisfaction.
“So, I guess I’ll see you guys later?” It was more of a demand than a question.
“I’m gonna miss you so much!” my mother suddenly blubbered, throwing her plump arms around me. “You’re growin’ up so fast. Come home soon, alright?”
“Whatever you say.”
I ushered them out the door, thanking them over and over for their help. My mother hiccuped one last sob before my father had to grab her arm and drag her down the hall. It was strange saying good-bye. The longest I spent away from them was when I went to New York City with my private school for a week. Don’t get me wrong, New York City is nice and all, but I was homesick as soon as I stepped off the plane. Besides, that place is dirty.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. My mother apparently texted me, reminding me (again) how much she loved me and how I shouldn’t listen to my father because he doesn’t understand.
About a week before I arrived at school, my father sat me down in his study and interrogated me to check that I was ready to leave. I assured him I would be fine, but he just laughed and bet I wouldn’t last a week. It wasn’t very encouraging at the time, but I guess that was his intention.
And when they finally left and I was finally alone, I started to wonder if he was right.
Maybe it was the silence of the room, or the fact that I didn’t have a bookshelf to hold my favorite books (instead, they were crammed on the top of my desk), but I suddenly realized how alone I felt. I was far from home, far from my comfortable bed and my perfect room. I glanced at the spot over my bed where the boot print had been. Even with the paint covering it, the fact that it was once there irked me.
If people threw their shoes at the walls in the college, I figured I would never fit in. It’s not like I fit in anywhere else, though. At prep school, I never understood the other kids. Their actions and reactions were so foreign to me. The thing is, they all liked me. They thought I was clever and funny, but I couldn’t say the same for any of them. And at home, I was always the odd one out. I never appreciated sports like my father and Mason, or understood the importance of ‘being a man’. It all seemed trivial to me. Besides, my family’s a bit snobby. They think they’re better than everyone. But I never thought like that, not me (at least, that’s what I believed when I started at Palixton).
I tossed my phone on the bed, trying to figure out what to do next. There was some freshmen orientation occurring in the dining hall, but I wasn’t in the mood. Besides, what would I learn at the orientation that I didn’t already know? I decided I would re-attempt reading the first of Ezra Pound’s cantos. Just as I reached for the book, someone pounded on the door.
I hesitated before I walked to the door and opened it. Two guys stood in the door way, grinning like idiots. They both wore cheap white t-shirts and baggy shorts. One had tufts of bright red hair peeking out of a dirty black skull-cap. He reminded me a bit of a parrot, those annoying kind who scream the same sentence over and over.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hey, we’re your neighbors! I’m Chris and this is Art.” Chris pointed at the red-head, who smirked as his eyes scanned me. Suddenly, an unexplainable, uncomfortable feeling bubbled in my stomach.
“I’m Patrick.” I extended my hand towards Chris, which he immediately slapped. I yanked my hand back from the shock. I know it’s some sort of guy thing to acknowledge each other by high-fiving (or whatever), but my hand stung and turned bright red.
“Wanna come play football?” Art asked. He had a strange accent, which was neither Texan or southern. I had heard the accent before, but I couldn’t place my finger where. “We’re asking everyone on the floor.”
I hesitated, glancing down at the Rolex watch strapped around my wrist and my baby blue Tommy Hilfiger polo. I definitely wasn’t dressed for football; then again, I rarely was.
“No, I think I’ll just hang out here. Thanks, though.”
“Kay. See you ’round, then.” It hit me where I heard the accent: New York City. His words weren’t drenched with the typical ‘New Yawk’ accent, but it was subtle.
Just as I went to close the door, I caught Art’s glance one last time. He threw me a small smile. The uncomfortable feeling rushed back. Maybe football wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Half of the college experience was socializing, after all.
I swung the door back opened and called out to Art and Chris. “Where are you guys going to play?”
“Right on the quad,” Chris said.
“See you in a bit then?”
Chris seemed like a decent guy. But, I found myself hoping the rest of my floor mates weren’t as odd as Art. He was from New York, after all.
I threw on something a bit more casual (which took me ten minutes of digging through clothing to find) and headed for the quad. I reassured myself over and over that football wouldn’t be so bad. After dealing with Mason’s beatings when I was younger, I could take the pain. However, I wasn’t sure how much I enjoyed the idea of getting thrown into the grass. No, actually, I was sure; I despised the idea.
Still, I found myself on the quad, facing about ten guys wearing obnoxious grins on their faces. We introduced ourselves, but most of their names slipped from my mind. Chris explained some rules, which I didn’t hear, then broke us up into teams. Guys spoke to me, and I answered, but don’t ask me what we said because, truthfully, I have no idea. The only thing I remember was the fear of getting dirty creeping up on me.
When we formed a line, I found myself facing Art (who was on the other team). At this point, the terror struck me and I felt my knees growing weak. I managed to maintain my composure (a skill I practiced over the years).
Just as the ball was passed to the quarter back, Art said, “Don’t fall.”
Then he rushed at me. For such a scrawny kid, he knew how to tackle. I tried to brace myself, but the mixture of fear and his power knocked me right onto the grass. My cheek smeared against the dirt as he stumbled off me.
“Christ, aren’t Texans supposed to be all rough and tough?” he asked as he helped me up.
I could almost feel the dirt particles digging into my pores and burying themselves under my skin. I rubbed my cheek with the back of my hand, but it was no use. The panic set in and my breathing escalated.
When I was young, Mason decided it would be funny to throw me into a puddle of mud. He used to be jealous of me or something, since I got father’s name instead of Mason. So, he’d just release all his frustration on me whenever he had the chance. One night, we were on the porch, watching the storm, and (as always) Mason got bored. I guess his idea of entertainment was dragging me off the porch, down to the sopping wet lawn, and throwing me into the mud. I couldn’t fight back; he’s always been stronger than me. He held me down and I could feel all that dirt rushing up my nose and into my ears. I remember thinking I was going to go deaf. I started to cry. Hell, wouldn’t you if you were four? Then, the mud got filled my mouth up. For a half hour, he kept pushing me down and nearly drowning me. He thought it was the funniest thing in the world, watching me squirm and cry.
Needless to say, my mother grounded him for a week. I finally stopped crying when she scrubbed me clean. Even when she finished, I demanded she keep going. “You’re all clean, sweetie. You’ll be okay,” she told me over and over. But I felt the filth in all my crevices and the taste still lingered on my tongue.
I could taste it again, that bitter sensation. It clouded my mouth and I spat, missing Art’s shoe by an inch.
And then we were lining up again. I prepared myself, this time, planting my feet firmly into the ground. The quarterback grabbed the ball through his legs, and I charged towards Art. He had this shocked expression on his face as our bodies collided, but he held his ground. We wrestled as he tried to get passed me.
Then, someone fumbled and it was all over. We panted, glancing at each other. “Well shit,” he laughed, wiping the sweat dripping from his forehead.
The rest of the game, we were each others targets. I just wanted to hold my ground as he tried to knock me down, but the bastard was strong. A few times, I found myself sprawled across the grass. He always helped me up, laughing as my frustration escalated.
I finally understood why football was so intoxicating. A mixture of the adrenaline pumping through my veins and the boiling anger distracted me from my anxiety. By the end, we won the game. Art and I shook hands and laughed, but I still couldn’t bring myself to like him. And with the dirt clinging to his fingers and cheeks, he was more unappealing. Besides, I couldn’t get passed that terrible hair color.
The group split by the end of the game. I collapsed on one of the lawn chairs, studying my dirty finger nails. As the adrenaline wore off, my heart started racing for other reasons. I needed to shower. My fingers trembled as I attempted to wipe my hands on my ruined shorts (which I threw out later). No matter how intoxicating the adrenaline rush was, it wasn’t worth the after math.
“We’re gonna grab some food. You coming?” Art asked. Chris and Cameron, one of my floor mates who lived a few doors down from me, were already heading for the dining hall.
“I think I’m going to shower,” I muttered as I pushed myself off the lawn chair.
My knees suddenly grew weak and I grabbed the lawn chair for support. I needed to shower. I could almost feel Mason burying my face into the mud. Suddenly, my stomach somersaulted and I wanted to vomit.
“Come over later. We’re gonna watch a movie.”
“What movie?” I restrained my voice from cracking.
“I dunno yet, dude. See you later?”
He ran off, catching up with Chris and Cameron. I took deep breaths, but the anxiety expanded in my chest. It became difficult to breathe deeply as I headed back to the dorm. I tore my clothes off and nearly ran to the shower.
At that point, no one had used the showers yet. They still glistened in the flourescent lights. I turned the handle, sighing as the water poured down my body. I scrubbed my cheeks with face wash until they burned. Even then, I still felt the particles hiding in my pores. I held my face under the hot water, ignoring the stinging. When I was somewhat satisfied, I started on my body. The washcloth’s rough texture dug into my skin, but it felt better than the sweat and dirt. Hell, anything felt better than the sweat and dirt.
After about an hour, I finally turned the knob and dried myself off. I had broken some skin, but I was used to it at that point. I just needed to be clean.
Back in my dorm, I curled up under my covers and gazed the blank ceiling above me. Between Art and the dirt, the day wore me out. I suddenly wanted to go home, but I didn’t want my father to be right. He’s the kind of man who always thinks he’s right but rarely is. I couldn’t add to his hot-air balloon ego. Besides, classes hadn’t started yet, and they would distract me from any doubts I had.
I started to drift off, dreaming of the garden behind my house, filled with lilies and hydrangea bushes. Then, someone tapped on my door. I sat up. Another tap.
“Coming,” I grumbled as I shuffled towards the door.
Of course Art stood in the doorway. Who else would it be?
“What’s up?” I asked, suddenly conscious of my bed-head. I smoothed my blond hair down.
“We’re gonna watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. You coming?”
“No, I’m tired. I think I’m just going to stay in the rest of the night.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Seriously? Dude, it’s Fear and Loathing.”
“Suit yourself. Night,” he waved and headed back to his room.
I can’t tell you exactly why I despised Art so much. So far, he was the friendliest person I met, yet I still didn’t want anything to do with him. Maybe it was that stupid smirk he always had on his face, or his too casual appearance, I don’t know. But I couldn’t stand him.
I sank into the bed, closing my eyes. Exhaustion waved through me. At home, a typical day consisted of reading and (sometimes) hanging out with my best friend, Julie (who, no matter how much I love her, always manages to drive me crazy). And just like that, my first day at college ended.