Places the heart goes. I wish I could stop you, from getting hurt, like I did, so I will just repeat, don’t be a dumb girl. When you get to college.
The first thing that happened was that TA, who was in charge of all my grades, and he was married too. His wife had just had a baby, and guess who he was following trying to carry her books across the campus? Me.
I was there to study Art History.
After the mess of that first quarter full of D’s and F’s because 1981 was the worst year of my life, I knew it would take years to get my GPA back up. So you never want to let your GPA fall. Just don’t.
Alan helped me find my first little apartment and it was on Figueroa Street, right across from the Police Station. It was behind an old Victorian house from the turn of the century, and it was one in a row of three studio apartments over garages. Like most things in Santa Barbara, every square inch was rented out, to somebody. But I was 22 and I had my own studio apartment at last! I had a tiny little balcony off my kitchen, and I planted my very first garden out there, in pots. I went down to Home Improvement, because that was my first job after High School, that was serious. My mom had gotten me my first job. I was a model for Trunk Shows at Robinson’s. Alan’s girlfriend Cathy had a sister that lived in the front house, and I could walk to work, if I wanted to.
Suddenly I had three rooms all to myself, and they were from the 1930’s. I had a Murphy bed, that folded down from the wall, so when it was folded up? I had a living room! Futons didn’t exist yet, at least in America. I had my own kitchen! I had a parking spot! I was becoming grown up at last. I had utility bills to pay.
I was learning how to cook.
There was only one problem.
He followed me.
The post cards kept on coming, and they came to work, too.
I started seeing a therapist, who I met because he was the boyfriend of the man who ran the Arts Library out at UCSB. When I think of all the actual angels who have crossed with me in life? I am probably the luckiest girl on the face of the earth.
The panic attacks had stopped and now I had a plan. A safety plan.
At work, because I was in the Composing Room, I didn’t have to take his calls anymore. If the phone rang at my place at night, I didn’t have to answer it.
My therapist Dennis was like the biggest angel I ever met.
He said one sentence to me.
“You have to get away from this man.”
He was right.
So when that married TA tried with me, I was secretly laughing. No way, not ever, not ever, I thought to myself about him. All he ever talked about was something called “The Snuggery.”
Except that night I threw my first party. I invited everybody.
I began the process of splitting up with him by deciding to date others.
By my second quarter, my grades were going back up.
It was so different than working in the cage had been, it really was.
I wasn’t trapped anymore, and the whole Composing Room buzzed and hummed and I guess I looked pretty fashionable because, well, that was all I knew. We didn’t wear much make-up in the years when I was 22, but we wore mascara, blush and lipstick. I guess you could have called us pretty natural that way.
I loved Perfume the most. Lipstick, too.
Your personal style sets in when you are in your early 20’s. You will probably keep that all your life.
I threw my very first party, in that apartment. I had taught myself to cook by getting a few cookbooks. I made a huge vat of Italian Cioppino for everyone. It was “Bring Your Own Bottle” so everyone had stuff they wanted to drink, and some of that was quite fancy, because my generation loved cocktails, but there was also wine and beer. My mom loaned me some huge serving platters and I made canapes, and all kinds of things from my little books. I invited Dennis and Felipe and there were so many bodies packing my little apartment, it looked like that movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The only weird thing was the next morning, when I had kind of a hangover and I woke up with Alladin curled against me, and padding me. I was off that day, and I planned to start the day with the biggest best bubble bath ever, only, when I pulled back the shower curtain, there was a tiny bag slipped over the spout in the tub. Like a muslin bag.
I was wondering what the hell it was, frankly.
I looked inside and saw something really dark red. Red Rose petal red, actually. Ewwww, I thought. Maybe somebody had their period and like, left this here.
I shook it out, and it was a pair of panties, from Dior.
There was a typed note, that said, “You are Very Beautiful, Adrienne.”
I was totally creeped out, because I had like 75 people, that had come and gone all night at that party. So? Who had done that.
The whole thing totally bothered me.
It was the creepiest thing that had ever happened.
It was that TA, who carried my books.
He had been there, too.
All the arty types I knew had been.
“Did you do that?”
I asked him the next time he tried to carry my books.
He was blushing.
Well, he wasn’t my type, anyway. Also he was married with a new baby. Just like that photography teacher, the fact I was a student at college, he thought he could. That’s what it was like in 1982. Just like that Photography teacher, he thought he could. Because they controlled our grades. I don’t even remember his name, but I remember how scared I was that he would give me an F grade, that whole quarter.
He didn’t, and nothing ever happened beyond that because he was never a TA I saw again. Do they still even have TA’s? That was a Teaching Assistant job, because Ph.d’s got a job out at UCSB and they could have Married Student Housing, too. He lived in one of those.
Can you even imagine not being able to call my Dad with a thing like that?
I was only 22, and he was making movies guys like that TA were watching.
How creepy is that?
Walking to all my Art History classes meant, I had to walk by Art Studio classes. And that is where my heart longed to be. It really did. Every time I passed those classes I wished I was in there, instead. Mostly it was guys who were.
They told me I wasn’t going to be able to get a job unless I took Art History.
When you are just a young kid, you take advice from just about anyone. Including school counselors. I was around the coolest bunch of teachers, ever, out in the Art History Department, but I was jealous of the people in Studio. So, I started taking art classes in my spare time, just for fun, because in my town almost everyone is an artist. In one form or another. If I had gone to UCSB straight out of High School right after all the art teachers I had, had in town? My whole life would have gone differently.
But the places you will go, the things you will do?
Nobody knows what those are at 22.
You can think you know, but probably not.
The paths we take in life are ever evolving.
That’s how I met Hacker.
Those sculptures of his were the most monumental things I had ever seen. He was older than me, too, and he was living where the Alhecama Theatre was, in some kind of tiny little room where he was sleeping on a foam pad. His face was craggy like a boxer’s, like he had been through everything on earth. He’s the one who was washing dishes at the Paradise. All of us were working our way through college, except Jim. All of us had taken so many paths in life.
I was a girl who was studying Art History with her own studio apartment.
He must have thought it was Paradise.
In those days I cooked for my friends who dropped by, and they were always hungry. Like Jim and Stevie B. My first big pans were speckled enamel, and I got them at the market where they had displays of pans you could get. Mine were black with white speckles.
Spend $30 and you could get a pan for $1.
Something like that.
Suddenly I had my first pans, my first tiny kitchen, and my first herbs, growing on my balcony. Suddenly I planted my first roses. I had four of them in pots out there. I think my place must have been Paradise for the men I let sleep there, in those days.
I was in the process of growing up.
It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, let me tell you.
During that time, I met a man who couldn’t. It was a first for me, as I thought men were all the same. They aren’t.
They are just as different as women are.
The first time that happened I didn’t know what to do.
I was lying under him, and he apologized.
I remember I put my arms around him and hugged him, and whispered, “It’s okay.”
Then I got up, put on my kimono, and said, “Let’s have dinner.”
I guess for me, feeding people that need it?
Well, that was going to become something I would get to be good at.
Sometimes your life might not have anything to do with what you declare as a major in college.
Maybe your life will be “Cioppino for all.”
Copyight 2021, November 7th by Adrienne Wilson – all rights reserved