“Guilt and shame is debilitating”, Oprah says back to the lovely brunette lady with the large brown eyes, as my brother from a different mother roommate, Bob, hands me another cigarette and proclaims,
“Damn straight Buddy, now that is the Truth!”
Oprah, now there’s a person with soul. Annoying at times, yes; self-riotous a lot, for sure; but no one can ever accuse Oprah of not having soul.
They say in New Orleans “a person with soul, is a person who has the ability to make someone feel better about themselves, regardless of their condition”.
My best friend Bob has soul.
I met Bob when I was twenty-one. I was on the heals of what should have been the end of my Junior summer and the beginning of my Senior fall at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. However, financial need; the art of waiting tables; visiting and revisiting the “deprivation of sleep” broadway play; and the need to be desired, all played a part in my collegiate regression. I was barely a Sophomore by the Fall of 92′, although I did have a 2.15 GPA (you couldn’t continue at UTC if you had below a 2.0 GPA, so I was always pretty proud of myself for always managing to just skirt the “you can’t come back” enrollment line).
I had accumulated $23,450 in student loan debt and I had managed to pay cash for a black 1968 MGB, all this, while partying my ass off at bars like, The Stone Lion, Michealangelos and Yesterday’s.
As Bob walks into my Poli-sci class my Fall 1992 morning, I think to myself, “now there is one beautiful man” (little did I know back then, the hand of God was reaching down inside my soul and untying the biggest Christmas present I could have ever prayed for or asked Santa Claus for), Bob smiles at me and sits down right in front of me. “Holy Shit, this guy is too damn pretty”, I think to myself.
“Hey, whats your name?”, I ask the tall dark handsome man, with endless legs and a sheepishly, yet “I’m gonna get you in trouble” grin, who has sat in front of me for three days straight,
“Bob, what’s yours”? He says back, with his inquisitive brow,
“I’m Michele E. Peterson, what’s your deal, are you a poli-sci major”? I ask him,
“No, I’m an English major, with a minor in philosophy”, He says back.
“ooh ok cool….since you and I are gonna be fast friends, listen you know how this teacher takes roll call everyday?” (I know Bob is a model or something because unlike most guys I’ve met in my three years at UTC, he is different, in a good way of course, but different; shy but tenacious, quiet but loud, welcoming yet guarded, and certainly not someone I’m likely to ever meet again. Though I don’t know it at the time, I’m sitting behind my original, soon to be non-biblical soulmate).
“mmmm hummmm” he nods,
“ok cool! Ya know, I’ve been thinking……since you and I are friends now, do you think you can do me a favor? Do you think if I’m not in class, do you think you could sign my name on the roll call sheet the professor passes around every morning?” I ask with a twinkle and a lean.
Bob sways back in his seat, as if I’ve just offended him in some small way and then he leans forward with the conviction of seriousness and complete and utter integrity and proclaims,
“Suuuurrre!!!'” (his face lights up and his eyes sing, The HILLS are alive with the sound of music) “and will you sign my name too if I’m not here?”
“Fo sure!” I gesture back to him, with a nod, a wink and a thumbs up signal.
“Awesome”!! He says as he shuffles his feet around to face our incoming professor, who looks like a cross between a homeless person and a Civil War veteran.
“Great!!!” I say out loud to anyone who’s listening and I lean back and think,
“I’m all set now, I can breeze through this class with my new fastidious, stud muffin, yet seems like he takes academics very seriously new friend”.
And so as I untie my too long, needed a haircut three months ago, ponytail; I start counting and regrouping my herd of sheep sleeping buddies and I begin to plan my next visit to the”I’m gonna get to sleep late, Twenty-two year old fireside”, I’ve been visiting and revisiting since I convinced myself there are no Boogiemen coming to get me at my apartment in the Robert E Lee building (where I live alone) when I turn the lights off “sleep ranch”.
This is gonna be great!! I’m gonna make at least a B in this class, all with the help of my new, dark and handsome Poli-Sci best friend, Bob!
And I don’t even have to show up!
Because I know he will sign me in and I’ll be able to call him and have late night library sessions and copy his notes. This is great, this is great, I am beside myself with sleep deprived ecstasy.
Little did I know about life at the time and how most well thought out five minute strategies should be picked up and looked at over and over again before implementation.
Unfortunately, my new “Rock Hudson” best friend soulmate, didn’t show up for class either…