A TEMPERING OF DREAMS is a novel: pure fantasy with imaginary characters, and no effort whatsoever at historical accuracy. It is based on remembered images of a bygone time, and has no particular purpose beyond enjoyment. It will appear serially as each chapter is completed; there is no schedule. MG,Jr.
A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 1
8 May 2022
A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 4
13 May 2022
“Laundry costs $2 a bag,” said the PO Manager, they were standing in a narrow windowless rough-walled cement cave behind the University Post Office, with four washing machines lined up along the right, and four dryers lined up opposite on the left side of the narrow cement passageway. “Cloth bags, one load size only, they can use their own or buy ‘em at the Bookstore. They pay me up front, just cash, put their names and date on a ticket for each bag. They pin the tickets to the bags, and put ‘em in the ‘to wash’ bin.” Two sets of bins lined opposite walls at the front of the passageway. “You do ‘em oldest to newest, one bag to a washer. Scoop out one cup of soap per load, dump it in, close the lid, and turn the knob to ‘wash.’ Be sure to keep its bag on top of the washer. Wash should be done in twenty minutes. Put the wet clothes into the dryer behind you when it’s empty, and hang its bag on the door handle, close the door, push the button. Always keep its bag with the clothes! No mixups! Drying takes twenty minutes. Dump the dry clothes in its bag, cinch it up, put it in the ‘dry clothes’ bin. That’s where they can pick ‘em up.”
“What about whites and colors, and hot and cold water?”
“Whatever they put in a bag gets washed all together. And don’t touch the dirty clothes!, you aren’t getting paid enough to hafta do that! So don’t drop any. Water’s all the same, cold. You don’t gotta’ fold, wrinkles are their problem. That’s the job, an hour each time, do at least eight bags, twelve if you can. You get $10 an hour, paid in cash each time you work. If we’re caught up, you hafta hang around for your hour ‘case some loads come in you can do ‘fore you go. Okay, you’re scheduled twice a week. Stop by other times if you’re looking for more work ‘cause sometimes people go missing, and it piles up here.” This was called a “partial work-study scholarship.”
Sergio emerged from the laundry cave into the dazzling sunshine of a balmy Sunday that skittered in from both sides laterally under the large entrance archway of the Mens Dormitory Quadrangle at 38th Street, to dilute the usual shadiness of its walkway plaza with added luminosity. Everyone had moved into their dorms during the previous four days, and classes began tomorrow. He called Angie from the pay-phone next to the array of letterboxes for incoming mail to the Quad rooms. He hadn’t heard from her yet. The Hill House desk told him she had the same suite as last year, when he first called a few days ago. No answer this time either. It was dawning on him that “Man must wait” might be a Law of Nature regarding the Feminine Arena. He walked out into the wide treeless sunny Quad Green within the western half of the Quad, and found a spot to lie back in and look up into the clear blue with a few wispy feathery clouds drifting by as their white filaments slowly curled and braided themselves in a ballet of entanglement gradually changing the entire shape of their cloud.
“Hey,” it was Bernie! He looked his usual good self, in an oversized T-shirt hanging over faded blue bell-bottom jeans, with open-toe leather sandals soled with old tire treads, and with his beaded necklace talisman, and a wide dark brown leather wristband with a watch attached. He settled himself next to Sergio, and they both sat up cross-legged, watching guys further off playing frisbee.
“So, what are you doing?”
“Just hanging out before my job.” By this, Bernie meant his “partial work-study scholarship.”
“Cleaning out cages in the Bio Lab, rats and mice mostly.”
“Yeah, I’m doing laundry. You living in the Quad?”
“Yep, right back up there at the west end of South Quad, in Willoughby-319. I’m rooming with another bio guy, so that’s cool. But I kind of want to get into an apartment for next semester if I can.”
“To pick better room mates?”
“Yeah, well that, but also I’ve been saving my seeds for flowerpots, and I can’t do that in the Quad.”
“Bernie, what’s going on with Joe?”
“Oh, he’s bummed out. He almost flunked out last semester and his father almost didn’t let him return. So he’s got to get B’s, especially in economics, or its back to Colorado for good.”
“Is he in the Quad?”
“Yeah, at the east end of South Quad, in Smith-283. He’s rooming with a real straight guy, an econ major.”
“Poor Joe,” said Sergio with genuine sympathy.
A red frisbee winged upward into a long slanted arc toward them and then curved downward until the disc impacted the ground and rolled nearly up to their feet, where it flopped over. “Well look who’s here!” It was Seth Green who had come loping over to retrieve it. He was with a bunch of his frat brothers who had taken over half of the Quad Green to play their frisbee game, since there was no room for that on the postage-sized lot of Iota Phi Theta, and the general purpose playing fields were a further walk away near the stadium.
“How are you guys doing?,” was the beginning of Seth’s announcement. “It’s great being out of the freshman dorms, isn’t it? I got a first floor room looking right out onto Locust Walk. I can get to class in five minutes.”
“That’s great, Seth! Did you ever get a car?” Sergio asked pleasantly.
“No, but I can drive my brother’s Cougar when he’s not using it. Hey, you know what? We’re having an awesome kegger on Friday night, only five bucks a head, girls free. We got a great sound system, too, so it’ll be a real live scene. You oughta come.”
“Can I bring a date?” Sergio asked innocently.
“Yeah!” and then Seth’s frat brothers, tired of waiting for the frisbee and now thinking more about beer, called him to rejoin them for the walk back to their fraternity.
“An awesome kegger,” Bernie said as they watched Seth’s group recede toward the 38th Street Archway.
“Seth’s an asshole,” was Sergio’s rejoinder.
“Ah, do I see the repugnant one receding in the distance?” It was Joe, who had walked up behind them.
“Joe! Good seeing you, man!” Sergio said, genuinely delighted.
“Indeed, it is always a pleasure to join your company, gentlemen.”
Sergio told Joe about Seth’s upcoming frat party, and Bernie then repeated solemnly “an awesome kegger,” which quip uncorked all their laughter.
“Yes, indeed,” said Joe, “Seth is smug, conceited, insolent, arrogant and insufferable.”
“Yeah, aside from that he’s okay,” and Bernie, glancing at his watch, said it was time for him to go visit the cages, and off he went in his natural easy way.
“Joe, can I buy some grass?”
“Follow me, and we will see if the coast is clear.” The room mate was gone when they arrived at Joe’s, so he was able to extract a sandwich-sized clear plastic bag stuffed with marijuana. “Here, take it, $15, you can pay me later.” That was the usual rate for a “bag,” which was always understood to be a half-filled sandwich baggie.
“Joe, this is at least a $30 bag. This would last me a year.”
“It is necessary that I remove temptations, distractions — and evidence — because I must monk-like seek my salvation.”
“Yes, Bernie told me.”
“Take it, fifteen is good enough, I can always get more if I become irredeemably desperate.”
“Hey!” On Sergio noticing, “You have a private phone!”
“Yes, a great convenience,” Joe said writing the number on a scrap of paper he handed to Sergio, adding “and it allows inquiries from Denver to come through with the least delay.”
“Well, at least I know how to get hold of you, we can go to dinner sometimes. But I have to study a lot, too. I’m living in Paine-103 if you ever want to stop by and visit, it’s way up at the northwest corner, where both North and West Quad meet. Hey, can I make a call? I want to see if Angie’s back and we can go to the movie thing at College Hall tonight. We can go as a threesome.”
“Of course, most important, use the phone. But I will remain here. I have to do some catching up.”
“Angie! You’re back!” Sergio lit up when she answered the phone. “Let’s go to the Movie Party tonight in the College Hall Lounge, free popcorn. Starts at 7, we can eat first.”
“Wow! It’s good to hear your voice. I got your messages, and I’m rooming in the same suite with Janet again. But I’m not sure when I can get out yet. We’ve been having lots of mixers with food all day between sophomores and freshman in Hill, to help the new girls out, answer their questions, warn them about all you guys! I’ve got a big group of girls here interested in psych, and I don’t think we’ll be finished soon.”
“So, what’s Janet doing, same thing?”
“She’s out at the field running cheerleader tryouts. The Athletic Department has its own big thing planned for all those girls.”
“Well, I can call you back later to see. The College Hall thing will go on for a while. It’s two movies and then music.”
“Okay, that sounds good, I’ll talk to you soon. It’s just crazy here now!”
And then it was “byes” and hang up the phone.
“I guess I’ll go get a bite, check out that scene, see what happens later. Thanks again, Joe.”
“I’m glad we’re back, we will see each other again. Now, on to the barricades!”
“Indeed!,” and Sergio left happy to see his last quip prompting a chuckle from Joe, as each entered separate solitary paths into the evening, and their uncertainties.
The evening air had turned cool as he walked down 38th toward College Hall, with the night deepening ahead of him and the dusk extinguishing behind him. He went down into The Underground to get a twelve inch cheesesteak with pepperoncinis and a punchy cola, then called Angie again from the pay-phone by the vending machines. No answer. Well, she knew where he would be. So he went upstairs the two flights to the big Student Lounge. It had been set up for the Movie Party, with a big white screen against the wide back wall, and a long folding table to the right with stacks of paper bowls and big metal pots filled with popcorn. He could see light from the window of a projection room above the entrance to the lounge, as a movie reel was being mounted onto the projector. The lounge was already quite filled with students, seated in the close-packed rows of folding chairs, and sprawled on the floor against the walls in back and by the popcorn. So he went over to the big door-like windows on the left, opened entirely for fresh air from 38th, which was below, to diffuse into the lounge and dilute the hot stuffiness of the massed body heat being given off by the audience, and found a spot on a broad flat window sill to sit on. The lights were turned off and the movie begin. It was ‘Yellow Submarine,’ with The Beatles.
Sergio was positioned at the boundary of the event where the sounds of the movie, mixed into the hot fetid stuffiness of the room air, laced with cigarette — and did he detect marijuana? — smoke oozed out of the darkened room toward an escape into the vast fresh outside world, clashed at the window with the incoming drift of ever cooler crisp night air infused with noises of traffic along 38th and the unceasing hum of the cityscape beyond. He could lean out the window and have his feet planted within the close-feeling miasma of the lounge while his head and shoulders were gently washed over by currents of expansiveness as if atop a peak in the White Mountains. He took his poetry journal out of a side pocket on his corduroy jacket, opened it on the window sill, and waited for his mind to drift into an idea he could capture with his pen. This was his way of waiting.
“You got a cigarette I can bum?” It was Elena Feldon, standing right next to him. She was wearing a dark maroon longsleeve stretch turtleneck sweater that was well filled out in front, a short opened blue-jean jacket with snaps, bell-bottom blue-jeans, dark zip-up boots with squat inch-or-so heels; her masses of hair were bunched into a haphazardly twisted swirl that was held together against the back of her head to one side with a big shiny spring-clip, and she wore a brimless baggy pullover red and brown patterned knitted wool cap on top and slanted to the other side. She was giving him a smiling quizzical look to accompany her question.
“No, but I could use one. I’ll go buy a pack if you want to wait here.”
“Okay,” she said smiling, and then just followed him downstairs to the vending machines.
“I’ll put the coins in,” Sergio said in front of the cigarette machine, “and you pull for the kind you want.” She pulled for Marlboro. “Let’s go see if we still got our spot.”
“Back to the window! Good place to sit!” she chimed in agreement. It was free. He opened the pack, each took a cigarette, and she pulled out a book of matches to light them up with.
They took the first most satisfying drags from their cigarettes and leaned out the window to blow out their smoke. Then they introduced themselves to each other.
“Yeah, I remember seeing you at Smokey Joe’s,” she said, explaining herself, “so I thought you’d have one.” She was majoring in journalism, and was writing stories for the Campus News.
“I wrote one about the College Hall Sit-in last semester.”
“Ah, so maybe it was you I saw go into College Hall that afternoon.”
“Yep. I had to get the story! There were tons of people there, how’d you know it was me? Were you inside?”
“No. I was out on the Green, but I thought I recognized you from seeing you that time at Smokey Joe’s.”
“Wow, good memory. Yeah, I go everywhere looking for stories.”
“So what do you have to take for a journalism major?”
“Socsh (sociology), econ (economics), am-hist (American History), anthro (anthropology) and maybe psyche. What’s your major?”
“Yeah, yeah, but it’s what I want to do.”
“You gotta’ do what’s right for you.”
By then they were well into the second movie, the Disney animated version of ‘Alice In Wonderland.’
“I love the Cheshire Cat. He disappears into his own smile. And the caterpillar sitting on a mushroom smoking the water pipe.” Elena loved this story, and many other children’s fantasies, like ‘Peter Pan.’
“I’ll bet all the people on the floor here are seeing psilocybin in that mushroom and marijuana in that water pipe,” Sergio guessed.
“They’re probably feeling it!,” Elena knew.
And in this way Elena and Sergio chatted by the window, smoking a few cigarettes while backlit by the low artificial stars twinkling out of the distant urban expanse to shine their rays into this Student Lounge cocoon with its huddled budding chrysalises of youths privately saying their final farewells to the caterpillar childhood they were now racing far away from while both enthused yet timorous about spreading their wings and thrusting themselves headlong into the tumult and turbulence of independent adulthood of unknown outcome and from which there could be no return, no escape.
The movies were over, music was turned on to modest loudness and room lighting raised to a moderate dimness, with the half-filled room now clearing out at a steady rate, and showing the many kernels of popcorn strewn everywhere across the darkly carpeted floor, like a mass of halestones dotting a forest ground carpeted with fallen dried brown autumn leaves. Elena and Sergio walked out onto 38th Street, said their goodbyes, and turned their steps into opposite directions, she to her suite in Hill House and he to his little warren at Paine-103.
As Sergio walked through the clear night up 38th Street, he thought about Elena, this funny animated fluidly-contoured tall girl who seemed to suddenly hop in and out of scenes like the White Rabbit in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and would disappear into her own smile. He got back to his room and wasted no time in putting himself to bed. The hustle and bustle of classes would begin the next day.
A Tempering of Dreams, Chapter 6
19 May 2022