Here's Excerpt Three from Cloyne Court: Image from markstivers.com
Continuation of Excerpt Two:
“Most of them. My Political Science professor is a Nobel laureate,” I said. I wanted to reassure her the tuition money was well spent, but in a lecture hall with five hundred students, my Nobel laureate professor, M.S. PhD. B.F.D., would never learn my name or recognize my face.
My father entered the kitchen. He was holding a gift-wrapped package behind his back. It was my birthday present. They had remembered and had waited for me to finish dinner. “Happy birthday!” They cheered and presented me with the gift.
“Thanks Mama. Thanks Dad. Listen, I have something to tell you.” I hoped they could see the seriousness in my face.
“This isn’t about dropping out and going to that photography trade school again, is it?” my father asked. Trade School had been my fallback plan if Berkeley had rejected me. “I’ve told you before, we will not pay your tuition for any school other than Berkeley. If you want to reject the best thing that’s happened to you, we will not pay for it. Right, mama?” He looked at my mother for support.
“Derek, we know you’re having adjustment problems at Berkeley. Everybody does. That’s normal,” said my mother.
“Mama, Dad, I am not dropping out. But, if I’m going to college for the next four years, I want to experience a real college life. I don't want to spend a quarter of my life on a BART train.”
They paused and looked relieved.
I continued, “I need to live on campus. I’m tired of commuting back and forth every day to Berkeley. I have no friends. I have no social life. I want to do more than go to class and come home.”
“College isn’t for social life, it’s to get ahead in life,” my Dad said. “Study hard now. Get a good job. Then you can have a social life.”
“But, you had a social life while you were in school,” I said.
“That was different. I was married. I was completing my Masters in chemistry and your mother was having children.” He looked at her, as if she had been the sole cause of the children being born while he studied at some mid-western podunk college.
“What he means,” said my mother, “is you have a safe, warm place to live while you go to school. You don't have to work. You don’t have to worry. You can focus your energy into your studies without distractions.”
Their reasons made sense. I had a free place to live. I had student loans to pay for my part of my tuition and federal work/study grants to pay for books and incidentals. However, it still wasn’t good enough. I wanted the distractions.
“I’m not meeting anyone.” That was the true reason I wanted to live away from home. I wanted to meet a woman who would meet me after class for drinks at the Café Med and take me back to her dorm room.
“Don’t make the same mistake I made,” my father pleaded. “My whole life …” He glanced at my mother. “Both our futures were changed because I had the same urges--the same desires you have now. I could have waited. But I didn’t. I was young and foolish. I should have concentrated on school. I should have never fallen in love at such an early age. But it happened, and I--we paid the consequences.”
“What consequences?” I wondered. They met. They fell in love. They married. They had children while they were still in college and graduate school. Their lives turned out fine.
My mother looked at my father for a moment and sighed. He came over to her and gently placed his hand on her shoulder, “Go ahead. Tell him.”
She took a deep breath. “You weren’t a premature baby. I did not go into labor early because I slipped and fell,” my mother said. “That’s the story we told your grandparents when you were born. You were a full-term baby.”
She told me this, as if she were admitting to murder, ashamed of my conception. My father kept his stoic face as practiced as any professional poker player.
I did a mental calculation. My mind began to spin. I was a love child. “You were three months pregnant with me when you married?” I said. I was shocked. Not because they had premarital sex, but because they had admitted they had sex. Nobody wants to hear that from their parents.
Note: My wife and I did not have pre-marital sex. Dodie's writing is fiction this time, just for dramatic effect. But the essence of the conversation between the three of us is true.
Excerpt Four coming tomorrow! ______________________________________
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