We Don't Like Perfect People

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Picaresque, pt. 2

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Fun fact:  I am a prematurely old lady.  This partially explains why I prefer going to bed at a reasonable hour to partying, and why I am so fond of pretending that I know anything about anything.  However, I am technically still a teenager, despite my elderly personality.  So I am forced to substitute pictures of my pets for pictures of my nonexistent grandchildren.

I like animals better than kids anyway.  It works out.

In case you were wondering, this is what my most beloved border collie-spaniel mix Oreo looked like:

I still miss her.  She was a good dog.

But the narrative must go on!

My teacher George promised to help me fix my college predicament, while I sniffled and sobbed and contaminated his office with no small amount of my snot.  Looking back, I’m not entirely sure what I thought he could do.  This is a man who dresses like a homeless person and openly mocks those in positions of authority.  He smokes behind the dumpsters outside school and collects baculums.  One day, he brought a cooler full of live clams to class, and made us practice catching by throwing them across the room at us.  He’s just not the type of guy who’d be adept at bargaining with admissions officers.

However, he might be a little bit magical.  Because, the very next day, an admissions representative from Millsaps College dropped by.  George pulled me out of class to go speak to her.

The logical explanation for this turn of events is that since Millsaps has rolling admissions, they send their admissions reps around one last time in April, to pick up stragglers like me.  It was just a lucky coincidence that this bouncy young redhead named Emma showed up the day after doomsday.  George must have put in a good word, because Emma all but promised that if I could get an application to her within the next week, I’d have a spot at Millsaps come fall.

You know what I think about logical explanations?  BO-RING!  Let’s dispense with coincidence and pretend I’m the fairytale princess I wanted to be when I was small.  George is perfect Fairy Godmother material, right?

*

Once upon a time, way back during the first quarter of my junior year, George assigned our class a short story by a guy named Rick Bass.  The story’s called “Cats and Students, Bubbles and Abysses.”  I forget what we were supposed to learn from it; probably something about Voice.  What I do remember is that the main character really hated his roommate, who thought he was hot shit because he graduated from Millsaps.

“What’s Millsaps?” a girl asked, wrinkling her nose.  She was the type who’d apply to every college in the Ivy League (but unlike me, would actually get in).

“It’s in Mississippi,” said George.  “I got a coupla writer buddies who went there.  It’s not bad or anything.”

George makes a living writing about the South.  He bemoans the slow disappearance of the kind of southerners who populate the works of Flannery O’Connor and her peers.  Southerners like my great aunts, who worked in mills and drank Royal Crown cola and set their hair with stale beer, and who speak like they just wandered off the set of Gone with the Wind.

“Southern lit is disappearing!” George railed.  “Who cares about people who live in New York City?  They’re not interesting.  The guy who sells face jugs at the jockey lot is interesting.  Write what you know!”

Yet I still dared to tell him that I hadn’t applied to a single school east of the Mississippi River or south of the Mason-Dixon.  No wonder that when he played Pink Floyd backward and waved his magical raccoon baculum, he sent me to Millsaps!  That school would be in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico if it were much further south.

My fairy godmother might be willing to do me a favor, but in doing so, by god, he’d teach me a lesson too.

*

The weekend after I graduated from high school, my mother and I took the nine hour drive from Greenville to visit Jackson, so that I’d have some idea of where I was supposed to live come fall.  As we crossed from Georgia through Alabama, the towns became fewer and farther between.  The humidity rose (from around 90 to 95 percent…Greenville is in the South too).  We began to see dead armadillos on the shoulders of I-20.

“We call those possums on the half shell!” Emma informed us later.

“I think I hear banjo music,” said my mother.

We drove through a solid hour of forest before we arrived on the outskirts of Jackson, the treeline broken only by the muddy trickle of the Chunky River.  The next morning, we toured Millsaps.

The students had already gone home for the summer, so the campus was eerily empty.  Emma had to turn on the lights in every building we entered.  I was trying to keep an open mind, but it was really hard when Emma pointed out a mossy mausoleum on the pathway between the liberal arts building and the chapel.

“That’s Major Millsaps’ tomb!” she said.  “He and his wife never had kids.  When they died, they were buried on campus, so they could always be near the students they came to think of as their children.”

I could end my story here, with a dire warning to high school seniors:  if you don’t pick a safety school, you’ll end up living out the opening scenes of a low-budget horror movie.  But honestly, that’s not fair to Millsaps.  I kinda liked it there.  The dorms smelled like a nursing home, and the cafeteria food was atrocious, but my professors were brilliant and I still miss the friends I made there.

For example…

My roommate was a Kazakh exchange student who polished off a 20-pound jar of pickles in two weeks and taught the frat boys to take flaming shots of Sambuca.  She shouted in Russian at her friends back home, via webcam, at 2:30 in the morning.  Her name was Kseniya.

I joined the Beekeeping Club, which didn’t have bees yet.  We mostly sat around listening to Duran Duran and planning elaborate fundraisers that would allow us to purchase said bees.  After a while the two founders would need a cigarette, so the meeting would disband.

My friend Kailey started a Quiz Bowl team! I joined, of course.  We spent my last weekend at Millsaps at the Admiral Ackbar Invitational quiz bowl tournament at the University of Alabama.

I took a class on the history of the U.S.S.R. that slightly changed my life.

And I saw a live crayfish!

    I would not by any means discourage anyone from attending Millsaps.  In the perfect vision of hindsight, I realize that the school itself was a better fit for me than I thought.  Jackson gets a little scary at night, and the dining options aren’t as posh as those in Greenville, but neither of those would have killed me (though one might have mugged me).

    I left anyway.  I felt that being successful at Millsaps, regardless of the effort it took, would have been a pyrrhic victory.

    A nagging little voice in the back of my head needed me to prove that I was better than everyone else, or else I would be a complete failure.  Going to Millsaps had bought me a little time, along with the chance to prove to admissions officers that I could be successful in college.  But graduating from there was out of the question.  Having to list Millsaps as my alma mater for the rest of my life just didn’t sound impressive.

    On the other hand, if I kept my grades up and wrote a killer essay, I just might be admitted to Oxford College at Emory University for the spring semester….

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    Written by Estie

    March 1, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Posted in College, Me

    2 Responses

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    1. I’m enjoying your blog immensely. I like the way you splash humor and fantasy into your narratives. Too much modern fiction is dreary and (to steal a phrase you used in this post) BO-RING, so it’s nice that someone is using it to describe the living, as well.

      Literary Dreamer

      March 2, 2010 at 8:04 am

      • Thank you very much! I’m flattered to the point of bashfulness. Gawrsh.

        Estie

        March 2, 2010 at 6:42 pm


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