Chapter 4: August 1994: Hendrix Orson

So… it turns out that I shouldn’t post anything after 11 pm because my brain turns off. Apparently, it’s necessary to click “Publish”, lol. I typed it all out on Saturday AND Sunday and never actually published anything. I went to scroll through my home page and realized I didn’t have anything up on the page. Sorry! I’ve learned my lesson… Now then, on with the story.

The air was so thick it felt like he was wading through a pool of syrup. By the time he made it up the two flights of stairs to his room he was covered in a heavy sheen of sweat. It was a miserable day to move into college!

Thankfully Orson had always been a light packer. Apparently having a nomadic mother did have a few select benefits. The ability to condense ones life into a suitcase turned out to be one.

He made his way down the hall, watching the numbers on the doorframes rise until finally he found 506 at the end of the hall. The long florescent light above its frame flickered sporadically, making Orson queasy. Wedging his body and his oversized duffel through the door Orson suddenly came face to chest with a behemoth of a roommate.

This man-child had to be over six and a half feet tall. His muscles rippled out from his body in an unnatural way and caused his head to appear too small for his frame. It sat atop his thick trunk of a neck and peered down merrily with an impish smile stretching across its surface..

His roommate stuck out a meaty hand toward Orson’s dainty (in comparison) one. Dropping the duffle to the ground Orson took hold of it.

“You must be Hendrix. Cool name dude! I’m Anthony, but you can call me Tony.”

“Actually, uh I go by Orson instead of Hendrix. Nice to meet you Tony.”

“Orson?”

“Yeah.” He shrugged nervously, “It’s a middle name.”

“Dude. Why in the world would you go by Orson instead of Hendrix? You were you named after Jimmy Hendrix, right? Hendrix is a sweet name!”

“For that reason. I don’t really follow music. When you go by a name like Hendrix, people assume you do.”

This seemed to stop Tony in his tracks. A look passed across his eyes. Orson had seen it hundreds of times. Maybe it was the realization that his roommate wouldn’t be one for talking about the groupie forming impact power cords or the genius of whammy bars. Or maybe after seeing him it became obvious to this jock that his roommate was a nerd. Either way, Orson clearly saw when the light of interest in Tony’s eyes dimmed.

Turning toward his desk Tony spoke over his shoulder, “Well, man it’s nice to meet you Orson.” Without waiting for Orson to respond Tony sat down, put on a bulky set of headphones and gave his full attention to his computer monitor.

“Well, this should be fun.” Orson muttered bitterly to himself. The housing directors had to have gotten a good laugh out of this pairing. Why else would you put astrophysics major with a roommate who, Orson could only assume, was a physical education or health science major. What would they possibly find in common with each other?

With a resigned sigh Orson turned his attention to his bags. Unzipping the smallest of them he started to unpack his clothing, shoving handful after handful in the small dresser built into the wall.

Nearly to the bottom of the bag a sharp rapping sounded at the door. Hunched over his things, Orson shifted his head toward Tony. Even from a distance he could hear the earsplitting base thumping from the muscled teens headphones. Eyes closed and head bobbing to the beat, Tony had no clue anyone was there.

Orson crossed the room, opened the door and froze. His carefully assembled smile disappeared as he stared at the short statured woman in his doorway.

Of course it would be her. He hadn’t told her the day he’d move, the dorm, or the room number he’d be in. But, leave it to her to misconstrue these actions as an invitation.

“Hello Mom,” he announced with scathing disapproval.

“Hendrix,” she nodded in response and walked around him into the center of the room.

Mockingly splaying his hand out to show her the way in, “Do, please come in…” he muttered under his breath after she had already passed.

“Wow, it’s bigger than I would have imagined.” She rotated in place to see every angle of the room.

“Well, even moderate rooms can seem large when you live your life out of an RV.”

“Har, har. You know, a lot of kids would have been thrilled to get the chance to travel the country, never have to go to public school, live life on their own terms.”

“That’s just it though, those weren’t the terms I would have chosen,” he sighed and shook his head to clear it. “Well, enough with the pleasantries. How’d you find me and why are you here?”

“Can’t a mother want to be with her son when he moves in to his first day of college?”

“Yes, a mother could want that. However, I somehow doubt that’s my mother’s motivation. So why don’t you save both your time and mine and just tell me.”

“Alright. Well, I wanted to share some good news with you. Something I thought you of all people would appreciate.”

“Okay… lets hear it.”

“Well, it looks like I’ll finally be putting some temporary roots down. I’ve been offered an interim professorship in women’s studies.”

Orson’s whole body froze in an odd sort of terror. Was she serious? The woman who rejoiced in the freedom of the open road, traveling from lecture to lecture never stopping long enough to form any real connections with those she impressed her beliefs upon was actually settling down. Temporary roots or not it was an unsettling sort of miracle.

The air rushed out of him as he considered this new information. “Really?” Then before she could answer the terror sunk even deeper, saturating his body down to the bone as a premonitory realization set in. “Hang on,” his voice rising above the ambivalence his mother usually inspired, “where? I mean, where will you be teaching?”

He felt deep down in his gut that he already knew the answer. Even so, when it pressed its way from between her lips it felt like a rock thudded to the bottom of his stomach.

“Here,” she smiled. “Isn’t that great!” He found her enthusiasm ominous.

It wasn’t that Orson detested his mother. He did love her. But, that loving was easier to do from a distance. Confined in such tight spaces for so many years might not have been such a struggle had he and his mom found more in common aside from their genes.

Vianne Arch was born into an age of free thought and free love. She more than embraced her generation’s credo. An unplanned pregnancy plunged her into a self-inflicted life of independence fueled by pure female empowerment. She’d built a life out of it. Two PhD’s in sociology and women’s studies, five best selling books and a huge female following meant mothering had become a secondary obligation. And for that, he had never really forgiven her and wasn’t entirely sure he ever could.

“Well?” sounding a little impatient. “What do you think?”

“Er… that’s great mom. I’m glad to hear your settling down, even if it’s for a little while.” He cleared his throat. Wanting to be free of this uncomfortable conversation, he grabbed hold of the ragged messenger bag on his bare matrice. Throwing the strap across his shoulder he stood awkwardly in front of her. “Uh, I’ve actually got to be heading out for orientation. So…” he let his voice trail off.

A single nod from Vianne communicated she knew he was trying to usher her out. Still she fixed a smile dripping with warmth and charm across her small face to mask the disappointment he could still see buried deep in her eyes. “Ah well, I wouldn’t want you to be late for that. I’ll let you get ready. I’ll see myself out.”

Without hesitation she turned and headed toward the door. A foot in the hallway she turned her head and looked him directly in the eyes, a sad hope hovering over her features.

“When you get settled in, give me call. I’d really love to take you out to eat. Take some time to chat.”

Sidelined by the effort to connect, Orson couldn’t respond for a minute. “Uh, yeah. Sure mom. See ya later.”

One final nod and she was gone. Orson stood in the middle of his room trying to find his way back from the forest of confusion his mother had just given him a tour of. Just then he felt an overwhelming presence come up behind him. Toni’s music had stopped and he now stood awkwardly close to him.

“That’s your mom, huh?”

“Yeah” he responded, still dazed.

“Dude, I don’t want be that guy but… your moms HOT.”

And just as quickly as it had come the confused fog had dissipated and pure revulsion took its place.

“Ugh! Your right, you don’t want to be that guy. And I’d really prefer if you were never him again.”

Tony gave way to a throaty chuckle. “Fair enough. Just seemed like an opportune time to mention it. The tension between you two seemed a little thick.” One eyebrow rose as he looked down at him. After a long pause he continued, “So, I heard you talking about orientation. Mind if I walk with you?”

A little shocked he barley managed to spit out a weak “sure.”

Maybe there might be hope for this roommate thing after all.

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