Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Memoir: Chapter 48: The die is cast

I thought I only had two classes that I thought were going to give me serious trouble, after I had been in school a couple of weeks and had time to see how my changed  policy was going to go.  Both were education classes, and it was easy to see how I might get into serious trouble with those.  All my education classes had been dull and unsatisfying, but these two had problems that bordered on the extreme.  One had the worst teacher I had ever encountered in college or high school. His lectures were so hard to sit through, that it finally occurred to me that this is was also what I needed to rebel against.  What did I have to lose?
I had tried to tell my dad every way possible that I had been shaped by the fierce and scarring fire of his upbringing.  Because of that it was not going to be possible for me to teach unnoticed like his sister Nethella did.  She went on year after year highly respected in every single position she held in the community, from teacher in Sunday school to elementary school to County Supervisor of education. I just as well get thrown out of college now because of my behavior in one of these education classes as get thrown out of a job later because I taught a class the way I thought it ought to be taught and alarmed the parents.
Dull was safe.  That is what happened when a state was dominated by religion. The Mormon Church still revered the prophet's teachings who had introduced polygamy as a divine revelation.  Nothing had changed except the main stream Mormons had given up polygamy in order for Utah to enter the union without severe opposition and controversy.  These dull classes were what the parents preferred to a teacher who might spout opinions they did not approve of.
Utah Mormons were going to have their way in their own state, which is why educators, teachers, professors, everybody tended to conform to Mormon beliefs.  Dynamic teaching that seemed the least bit critical was always going to be regarded with suspicion.  Even other religions had never been tolerated to any degree. 
I was resisting this mold and was probably going to have to leave the state before I'd have any peace of mind. So I just as well get it over with.  If I had to leave college my dad could not very well demand that I teach.  I was going to hunt for some other job to earn money.  I was sick of agonizing.
As for the other education class, it was on how to teach English to high school students.  The Dean of Women was in charge, and she was an unbelievably eccentric lady I thought would have been driven completely up the wall had she tried to teach in high school.  In the first place she was obsessed by gum chewing.  The second she spotted a student in her class chewing gum she would immediately stop and give a considerably lengthy lecture on the evils of having to teach in the face of disrespectful chompers of gum.
I had not run into a teacher that hated gum chewing since grade school, but eventually all the students had found out about her obsession and everybody had quit chewing gum in class so she could settle down and teach what she was supposed to about how to engage high school students in English classes.  So the first thing I did as soon as she stopped looking for jaws that were moving suspiciously was dispense with taking frantic notes like all the rest of the students were doing.  I had always followed suit but now I figured if what she said didn't stick with me, it was not worth remembering, so I was the only one in class who was looking directly at her and carefully weighing whatever she said.
At first I received A's on some of my assignments, but then she would let down on her intensity, and I would respond accordingly with papers she decided were D grade.  Well, even I was somewhat disconcerted by the dizzying way I leaped from writing excellent papers to failing ones, but I was responding very honestly so I didn't protest any of her grades.
At about that time a new factor entered into the proceedings.  Lees called me to take a part in another play he was taking on the road.  When I went to rehearsal and read the part he wanted me to play, I considered turning him down but didn't quite dare.  I was to play the second female lead, a simple sweet innocent submissive Amish girl.  I thought well if I wasn't getting the message here of how he preferred me to act, I would never get it. After three years interacting with him, starting on my fourth year, he had no concept that I was rebelling against being this kind of girl with all my might.
In fact, I was at the very moment engaged in behavior that might cause me to be ridden out of college on a rail.  But I planned not to do anything too drastic so I would be able to finish the run of the play at least.  I rehearsed but the week before opening, I reached another crisis in the dull education class.  I just decided not to take the mid term on which my grade would depend.  We were only going to have two tests we were informed, a mid term and a final.  I wasn't going to stay in college.  I was going to leave because of this terrible class, if for no other reason.  It was time!
Poor Lees went on with his play, unknowing.  I wondered when one of the teachers, either the idiot male teacher or the Dean of Women would report my conduct to somebody.  I really thought it would be the Dean of Women who unexpectedly called me in a couple of days before the opening of the play in a town three hundred miles away fairly close to the canyon country where I had been raised.  She said to me that she simply could not teach with me in the class just looking at her.  She told me the amazing decision she had made that she would give me the credit for this class if I simply would not attend.
I nodded, trying to take in the connotations of this unheard of concession. Remembering the other guy, I finally said, "Oh you don't have to do that, I am in trouble in my other class.  I will be leaving college very soon."  I was finished talking but before I left I decided I would just look at her directly in the eyes a second or two, something I had been trying lately, because I never expected to see her again.  I wanted her to remember this moment.  I felt because of how rattled she was I was looking into her soul, and then I got up and left and never went back.
So now I had told her I was more or less through with college, how long would it be before Lees got this information filtered down to him?
The opening of the play was routine on Friday night. Mormon audiences were of course pleased that there was nothing in this play from the University that might disturb.  They seemed to applaud with guarded enthusiasm.  The next day we all got in our caravan of cars and headed for another location.  That night to my surprise, Robert, the sadistic professor I did not like, showed up at the play.  Afterwards he and Lee acted gloriously happy.  I thought this was curious.  This was not a play that the sophisticated and intellectual Robert could possibly have liked. Somebody said Robert was on vacation, and he, and Lees, and several others of the merry band all went over to the motel where Lees were staying, but of course I was not invited to attend the party, and went to my own motel with some other players who were not invited to go to the party either and went to sleep.
The next day on the way home, Lees demanded that the cast who were all riding in the van with him, do a line rehearsal.  I hated Lee's line rehearsals.  He did not want you to put any emotion in your lines, you just had to go through the play with as little feeling interjected as possible.  Talk about a way to make being in a play dull!  Lee's line rehearsal ruined my night.  Why didn't he just leave us alone.  I had too much I needed to think about that was worrying me.
I woke up just as we started to climb up the University hill on the way to my room in the Phi Mu house.  I became aware that my head was on the shoulder of some unknown male and he was holding my hand in the darkness with such warmth and passion I was surprised he had not progressed further into intimacy.  Maybe because I was asleep.  I did not even know who this was.  I had not noticed the male sitting next to me.  I glanced at him as I got out of the van and recognized him as a tech person.  I needed to ask Marilyn about him!  He was blond, quite handsome.
So on Monday I finally found out who he was by asking Marilyn who confirmed he was a tech person, and he was also married.  I had appreciated his genuine raw passion for me under the circumstances, but I was going to have to nip this delightful interest in me in the bud, if he was married. I was sure he would expect more of the same on the trips to the hinterlands to come, 300 miles from home.
I also found out about a month later that people who were present to the line rehearsal that night said that right in the middle of it, I fell into a profound sleep.  They tried in vain to wake me up to continue, but I did not respond.  I was sure that this delightful act of rebellion was what inspired the passion in the guy sitting next to me.  Nobody I had ever heard of would have dared fall asleep in one of Lees' line rehearsals.  But it figures that I did it considering my state of mind, and didn't even know I had done it!   
I was busy thinking about him that Monday when I was notified Lees wanted to see me in his office. This was sometime toward noon.  I was to see him at 2:30.  I was thinking the Dean of Women must be the informant if I was in trouble. I doubted that the news of my missing a mid term could have traveled that far yet. 
Well, 2:30 came and went, and an hour later the secretary said that Lees must have had something come up, so he would have to see me the next day.  We made another appointment for Tuesday.
I slept well.  The die was cast.  In fact, I even felt fairly cheerful.  All this agonizing I had been doing would soon be over.
When I arrived to the appointment the next day, Lees was not in the office nor did he show up for close to another hour.  I could not help but feel that he really did not want to do this, so when he came, he said without any fanfare, "So what are your troubles?"
I just didn't answer him.  I looked at him, but stayed silent, according to my new stronger way of asserting myself.  So he didn't waste any more of his time.  He said, "If you won't talk to me, will you see the school psychiatrist?"
Well, this was an amazing new idea he was springing on me.  Why hadn't he thought of that novel idea when I wrote the paper about the student covered with sores everybody just ignored.  It was too late now.  I was gone, although I would reassure him as soon as I had a chance that I would finish the run in the play.  He didn't have to worry about that, if that was what was bothering him.  
I was thinking on the way over to the psychiatrist's office that I had never actually been to a psychiatrist before.  I needed to experienced everything I possibly could before I left. He probably led a very dull life administering to all these conforming students. Maybe I could give him a refreshing bit of honesty before I departed, too.
Dr. Andersen did look as though he had been bored for a month of Sundays when I met him.  He started asking me a few routine questions as though my answers would not have mattered to him if I had been stark naked.  I thought boy, he really needs to be brought back to life.  So the next question he asked me I held his eyes and did not answer.  It took quite a lot of nerve for me to do this to a psychiatrist, but I wanted him to remember this encounter.  So I did it twice more.
My theory is that Dr. Andersen fell madly in love with me on the spot and just could not let me get out of his office for fear I would be gone forever.  He was right.  I was well on my way to disappearing from the university.  I was just going to wait until that damn play was over with.
Dr. Andersen got up and abruptly left the room. I was confused.  I had thought I had surely gotten his attention but maybe not.  Maybe he was beyond hope.  After I waited another half an hour for him to return I decided just to leave.  This was insulting.  Such a shocking lack of interest.  Like Lees. What mundane business could possibly be occupying his mind elsewhere this long.
I was just going out the door when Dr. Andersen confronted me.  He said, "Geraldine, I think you should be admitted to a hospital." 
I immediately snapped back to what ever passed for the sane meet-the public state of mind I had been in before I started all this.
"No, I don't think I need to go that far," I said, "I am acting in a play, you know, for Dr. Lees, the head of the theater department.  I have to go to southern Utah this weekend.  Maybe I can receive some therapy?"
He said, "Geraldine, you are going to a hospital!"  I saw the armed officer standing just outside the door for the first time.  Dr. Andersen pointed to him and said, "I have arranged for this gentleman to take you there!"

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