by Shaun Terry
Getting into a competitive university was a little like going into a fancy restaurant, ordering the most expensive dessert, and failing to pay before leaving. It’s decadent and liberating, like a fantasy, but you feel out of place, and you get the sense that everyone’s staring at you. At the very least, you realize that you don’t belong. You feel a little guilty because you know your friends would never dream of being there, but for that same reason, you also feel like you’d damn well better enjoy the shit out of it.
It was never supposed to have been that way. To say that I came from poor white trash is an understatement. We were poor, but not the poorest. The trashest, though? We were a Stepford Family driving my grandparents’ hand-me-down Buicks, while my crazy parents were losing the house thanks to 900-number bills, in between beating the shit out of us and each other, avoiding the truth about psychological diagnoses and engaging in creative forms of abuse and neglect. Trash. Yes.
But here I was, secretly much older than I was supposed to have been (I didn’t go to school until my
mid- late-20s), sitting in Medieval History behind a sorority girl with perfect boobs and 3/20ths of her ass residing below the frayed edge of her denim shorts and next to a boy whose ballhair was just months old. I could grow more hair off the end of my nose than he could in his whole groin. That’s a weird thing for me to have said. Excuse me. This has been the part where I slightly loudly say something salacious to the worldly waiter while the middle-aged couple next to me cuts off their conversation about summer plans for the portico so that they can scoff at my faux pas. It feels good, honestly. So fuck you. I’m excused. I excuse myself.
It’s a break-in, really. You’re in this insulated club, where everyone’s giving each other smiles that are so big and so self-congratulatory that, if you haven’t gotten used to it yet (and I sure as fuck haven’t), it feels something like a cross between a white supremacists’ meeting (because that’s really what they are) and a mutual masturbation session. You half-expect them to wink at you from across the room and mouth You’re welcome. In a way, it feels good. It’s empowering. But you also know that, one day, you’re going to walk into a situation in which you’re supposed to remember where you came from, you’re supposed to remember your friends who stunted their potential for the sake of loyalty, you’re supposed to remember that you’re representing the adversity, the grit, the determination, the realness, the humility of the people from whence you came, but instead, you fuck everyone in the ass and you drink some Chandon while tears stream down your face and you can’t figure out whether it’s because it feels so bad or because it feels so good. Maybe it’s both.