On August 26th, 1997, at 10:00 pm, I got on an airplane with two suitcases, leaving friends, my boyfriend, most of my stuff, and memories of home, to go to graduate school at Setauket University in New York.
Eight hours later, after a layover in Chicago, I arrived at LaGuardia. I had never been to New York before. I expected skyscrapers and subways. Instead, I found the suburban sprawl of the Straight World.
The admissions guy said that Setauket was 30 minutes from New York City. He lied! From LaGuardia Airport it took 2 hours by train, with a change at Jamaica station.
Exhausted after a night with no sleep, I got to the campus at a little after noon, only to find the Housing Office closed for lunch.
When I returned at 1:15, they had no idea who I was. There was no application for graduate student housing on file.
I was standing in the middle of Long Island with two suitcases, a day before classes started, with no place to stay!
"Don't worry," the housing clerk said. "We can move you into emergency housing until a graduate student apartment opens up. It shouldn't be longer than a week or two."
She gave me a key to a room in the freshman dormitory!
Two bunk beds, four desks and chairs, two shared closets, bathroom down the hall. With three freshman boys as my roommates.
I know what you're thinking -- were they cute? Did you get a sausage sighting?
The answer is, it never occurred to me.
1. I was not yet a twink magnet, not used to the idea of guys who were substantially younger.
2. I was already feeling self-conscious about my age, being the oldest graduate student in my program by about ten years. And now I was surrounded by 17 and 18 year olds. They would think I was a freshman, too. I was too humiliated to think of biceps and bulges.
3. Twinks were uncommon in San Francisco -- the money and energy it takes to live in Gay Heaven were beyond the means of most 20-year olds. So I had spent the last two years surrounded by guys in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. From my perspective, a 17 year old looked a little kid.
Sniveling homesick babies crying into their pillow and getting various fevers that made them go to the nurse constantly.
Rambunctious Bart Simpsons wearing "Dare to Misbehave" t-shirts as they skateboarded down the hallways at 2:00 am.
The staff treated us like kids, too. Nightly room inspections to make sure we don't have any contraband -- including free weights, musical instruments, open food containers, and porn magazines.
Daily "hall meetings," required even for me and the 10 or so other grad students put in emergency housing. With required ice breaker activities like "You're going on a picnic. Everybody has to bring something starting with the first letter of your last name."
I'm bringing dynamite.
The next day I went to the housing office to see if an apartment had opened up. And the next. And then it was Saturday; I took the train into Manhattan, but had to be back by the 11:00 pm curfew.
Yes, freshman dorms had curfews, even for 36-year olds.
Monday was Labor Day. Campus offices are all closed.
On Tuesday I went to the housing office again -- nope -- and then started my classes: two graduate seminars and teaching assistant for an intro class.
Two of my roommates were my students!
Then I went back to the freshman dorm to sit at a table full of rambunctious kindergarteners for dinner, followed by a required "hall meeting" with ice breaker activities for little kids.
"Write down three things about you, two lies and one the truth. We have to decide which is true."
I had a four-way with Brad Pitt.
I went down on a guy with 11" backstage at the Hollywood Bowl.
I can suck a golf ball through a garden hose from 50 feet away.
No, I didn't use those. I said something about having studied 10 languages, owning a pet iguana, and having starred in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
After the ice breaker they served ice cream sandwiches, but I wanted to high-tail it back to my room to hide from the humiliation of being treated like a 17 year old. But on the way, one of the freshman coat-tailed me.
His name was Jesse, and his true statemnt had been "I spend summers on a ranch." He was tall and slim, with thick black hair, pale skin, and a snarky grin.
"Hey, sir, do you really speak 10 languages?"
"Studied, not speak. Ni hau bu hau?"
"That's cool. Want to play pingpong, sir?" He emphasized the "sir" in a snarky way.
Why not? It beat hiding in my dorm room, with no computer and no tv, for the next four hours, until lights out.
Still, as we played, I couldn't help thinking of the humiliation. Having lived in my own apartments for 14 years, I was playing pingpong in the lounge of a freshman dorm with a little kid.
"17, Sonny. I stopped counting birthdays in 1978."
He did the math. "You're only two years younger than my Dad. Cool!"
Jesse also found it "cool" that I was from California, that I had studied Comparative Literature at USC, and that I knew a lot of celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt (ok, so I made some up).
"I never met anyone yet. I'm just a farmboy from Ulster County."
"How old are you?" I asked.
"42. I'm young looking for my age. So I guess you have to call me Daddy. So, what brings you to college, sir? Senior citizen tuition remission?"
"I like little boys, and this is the best place to find some," I said with a leer.
He stared at me for a moment, then laughed. "You got a good sense of humor on you, sir. Hey, do you want to see something cool? I've been here for a week -- baseball practice -- so I know my way around. Meet me in the 3rd floor bathroom at 11:30. They don't do dorm checks until 1:00, so we'll have about an hour."
At age 36, having lived on my own for 14 years, I was in a freshman dorm, having a late-night adventure. I just hoped Jesse wasn't taking me on a panty raid.
Jesse was carrying a blanket and a pair of binoculars. He led me to a stairwell, up two flights of stairs, down a hall, up another stairwell, and we were on the roof.
It was a warm, clear night. We lay side by side on the blanket, and Jesse handed me a pair of binoculars and pointed.
Bare chests, once a bare butt.
"It's like a dozen little live theaters. I keep hoping I'll see someone beating off, but it hasn't happened yet."
"The night is young."
I overcame my humiliation long enough to go down on Jesse (the age of consent in New York is 17). Small with a mushroom head, cut, big load. He called me "sir."
But mostly from that night I remember the "live theater" of a dozen lit windows.
The next day an apartment opened up, and I met the roommate from hell.
See also: My Date with the Teenager and his Mom; Gay Panic and the Obnoxious Roommate; My Most Embarrassing Date