Orientation: Part 2

I almost didn’t answer, but then he’d have to call back.

“Hello?” I could at least pretend I didn’t know who was calling.

“Hi.” Sean sounded tired. “This is Sean.” Pause. “From school.”

Like I had any confusion about which Sean he was.

“I’m calling because… I’d like us to get along better.”

That was close to an apology. It moved vaguely in that direction without using the words.

I didn’t say anything.

“I don’t want to cause trouble for you. So… that’s why I called.”

I thought about it. I didn’t want to be friends with him. I didn’t even want him to think things were okay between us, and I felt like that was exactly what I was supposed to do. When someone apologized, weren’t you supposed to accept it, and forgive the guy?

It felt fake. I struggled to think of something to say, and then I found some words—even if they weren’t the best words.

“You want us to get along better? Leave me alone. It’s really simple. It’s all I’ve ever wanted from you. Don’t make my pens roll away. Don’t close doors on me. Don’t make snide comments about me or my friends. Don’t hit me. It’s not hard.”

And then I hung up.

The words had come all at once, but once they were over I found myself sitting on the bed, staring at the phone in my hand, not sure of what to do next. I couldn’t convince myself that what I’d said made things better.

Sure, Sean hadn’t made much of an apology, but it was closer to one than anything else he’d ever said to me.

On the other hand, maybe it was good for Sean to know that after you treat someone badly enough they don’t really care when you apologize.

I could tell myself that.

I put my phone back into my pocket.

Haley had gotten off my bed just before the phone rang. She sat down next to me, and took my hand. With her senses, she’d probably heard both sides of the conversation, my rising heartbeat, and smelled… well, whatever reactions my body betrayed there.

Then she put her right arm around my shoulders. I leaned into her, and put my arm behind her back. We stayed that way until I felt better.

* * *

A little over a week and half later I found myself moving into my college dorm room at Grand Lake University.

I’d been assigned to dePuit Hall, a long, brick, rectanglar building. Built in the 1960’s, Grand Lake University had designated it as one of the default dorms for freshmen. Whenever it had been designed must have been some kind of low point in the architecture of institutional buildings. It wasn’t much more than a five story rectangle with one long hall that stretched from one end to the other.

It was almost impossible to get lost, but it had to be among the most boring buildings I’d ever seen.

I didn’t bring much with me—my books, clothes, and bedding. I’d grown up in Grand Lake, and I assumed that I’d be able to pick up anything else I needed from home. The fact that I didn’t have a car would probably make that more complicated, but I’d figure it out.

Anyway, between my dad, Haley, and I, we brought everything up in one load.

Dad gave me a hug before he left. Once he was gone, Haley and I put my clothes into drawers, made my bed, and set up my laptop.

It didn’t take long. While we worked, we couldn’t help but wonder about my roommate. He wasn’t there when we arrived, but all of his stuff was.

According to the information I’d gotten about my room assignment, his name was Jeremy Barrows, and he was a physics major.

A quick look over his books gave a more interesting picture. He seemed to be interested in aliens. In addition to the textbooks on his desk, I noticed a book called Aliens Among Us. It had a blurry picture of a Xiniti on the cover.

The picture looked like it dated from the 70’s—back when the League would have been meeting the Xiniti for the first time.

“Nick,” Haley said, “look at this.”

She pulled a book off the shelf on top of Jeremy’s desk. It was a copy of Teachings of the Eldest, a book Lee, my martial arts teacher, had co-written as part of a scam.

I laughed, and was about to ask her to pass it over so I could look at it when I heard a voice from the open doorway behind me.

“Hey, that’s mine.”

26 thoughts on “Orientation: Part 2”

  1. I was going to suggest that not having easy access to his equipment and suit would be a problem.

    Nope, good decision not to keep it around.

    Nick’s finally going to have to put some work into keeping his ID secret.

    Still, this whole Teachings of the Eldest thing makes me wonder if Lee’s a part of any religions.

    I mean, he’s just an otherworldly, undying being beyond human comprehension who appears differently to various people and is physically unbeatable, but yet still capable of having a human child with a woman.

    I mean, really, how many people like that could there really be in the various religious mythologies throughout history…

  2. i am sensing a new bromance of tech and geek with Jeremy Chris and Nick. I think if he has a book written by Lee and one with a xiniti then he might be connected to the league (i.e. another super villain’s kid) speaking of Chris they really should have told him the latest alien stuff

  3. Except that they can’t. Remember Vaughn couldnt even mention it to the others while at the Stapledon introduction?

  4. I somehow doubt they’d actually room Stapledon folks with non-scholarship kids. This guy’s probably another ‘Super’.

  5. With or without smilie that ? I think Sean’s last antics pushed Nick’s emotional dial a bit into the red zone.

  6. I half suspected they’d put Sean and Nick together in a room in some misguided attempt to get them to be friends.

    Still, it does make sense for them to group people together like that. Plus, he’s a physics major. I mean, at my college they generally roomed freshmen together. If that’s the case here, how many freshmen are really going to start off as physics majors?

  7. Also from my experience, everyone who ended up as a physics major started there as a freshman. We lost a few by our sophomore year. We never gained any new ones.

  8. Mazzon: Yeah. I don’t recall messing with a roommate’s stuff the first day. I waited until I knew what did and didn’t bug them.

    PG: Lee would tend to affect religions over time wouldn’t he? Generally I think he’d try not to stand out though, and being worshiped as a god tends to make one stand out.

    Captain Mystic: That remains to be seen. Actually, whatever happens we’ll be seeing more Chris in the not too distant future. Also, DWwolf is right to point out Vaughn’s inability to speak.

    Anvildude: Jeremy should be interesting whatever his background.

    Bill/DWwolf: As much as Nick might want to have people treat Sean fairly, that still doesn’t mean he’s anywhere near liking the guy.

    PG/Notto Mention: Wow. Nick and Sean as roommates. That would be funny, but they’d both be looking to swap rooms immediately. As for the question of majors… In my experience anyone who wanted to get into a science or engineering started during their freshman year. Otherwise it was a challenge to get in all the required courses within four years.

    Parahacker: I’m glad it worked for you. Nick’s response felt natural to me. It’s what most people who are being bullied want, and it’s a lot easier to say so when you know the person you’re telling off can’t do much about it.

  9. I had a thing once where I went through various majors and simplified them.

    History: Shit happened
    Biology: Shit happens
    Political Science: Bullshit happens
    Economics: Why shit costs so much
    Religious Studies: Holy shit
    English: Excrement occurs
    Spanish: Mierda sucede
    Physics: Shit hits the fan
    Psychology: Your mother shit
    Psychiatry: Take some shit
    Sociology: How society shits
    Anthropology: How other cultures shit
    Geology: When shit turns into oil
    Geography: Where shit is
    Archeology: Digging shit up
    Cryptology: itshay
    Creative Writing: There I was, at 2 in the morning, standing over a dead body, the cigarette in my mouth growing steadily colder along with the barrel of the gun in my hand. I told her not to get in my way. I told her I had to take a shit. She didn’t listen, and now there would be hell to pay…

  10. So….what is a physics major? Come to that…freshman and sophomore? I’m rather lost in some of your comments…

  11. You forgot Math, Computer Science, Medicine and Education.
    I could list a lot more, but then I work at a university, and have access to the courses of study all the way back to 1892. Sometimes, working in the Records office is fun.

  12. math: calculating shit medicine: fixing your shit computer science: simulating shitt education: teach how to shit

  13. Silas: In the US, the major is your main area of study. You can also do a minor in something else in addition to your major. Some people double major. This generally makes them insanely busy.

    Getting a bachelors degree is supposed to take 4 years, and certain names correspond to the year you’re in.

    1st year=Freshman
    2nd year=Sophomore
    3rd year=Junior
    4th year=Senior

    In theory at least. In most places they officially correspond to the number of credits you have. Thus you can be a sophomore four years after entering college if you go through slowly enough. One guy who graduated with me actually had been in college 8-10 years by then.

  14. PG: If anything, he was completely unlike Van Wilder. Imagine someone who likes new and upcoming indie rock, started a literary magazine while in college, (and who I met through the school poetry magazine) and you’ll get a more accurate picture.

    Oddly enough, one of his original classmates was mayor of the city I lived in while I was in college.

  15. Oh I see. I think. Maybe. It doesn’t work like that at all here. So…how do you deferentiate between a physics major bachelor and a physics major masters? Or do you just say it as long as that? Or something else entirely?

  16. With a bachelors degree (B.A. or B.S.), you have a bachelors with a physics major. With a masters degree (M.A. or M.S.), you have a masters in physics. No major because you can’t minor in anything during a masters degree.

    In the US, masters degrees are usually 2 year degrees of focused study in one discipline. In the sciences, a masters degree is sometimes the “consolation prize” for people who find they can’t make it through the doctoral program.

    Bachelors degrees by contrast are usually composed of a person’s major, possibly a minor or second major, electives (stuff you took because it sounded interesting), and core curriculum (required courses from a variety of disciplines that the college/university thinks an educated person should be familiar with).

  17. These days, a BA or a BS is the equivalent of a high school degree, except if you went to work straight out of high school you’d have 4 more years work experience on someone getting out of college. Tuition costs have been rising as well, which is why student loan debt in the U.S. recently reached $1 trillion. Many are expecting it to be the next big bubble to burst, like the whole mortgage thing. Except student loan debt doesn’t go away when you file for bankruptcy, I hear.

    There are also political pressures. A narrative has been woven in the U.S. claiming that people who have gone to college have been indoctrinated to atheism, liberalism, and communism, and thus the only way for good American parents to protect the minds of their precious adult, legal-age children is to keep them from going to college. College is also noted as being a place where people can experiment with drugs, enjoy alcohol, explore their own sexuality, and meet people of diverse backgrounds, except they treat that as a negative.

    So that’s the dark side of college. I doubt Nick is going to have much to worry about along any of those lines, but now foreign people can find out all kinds of negative things I was emphasizing about college and people’s attitudes towards it at the time I posted this.

  18. ” These days, a BA or a BS is the equivalent of a high school degree, ”

    I didn’t realize college degrees were worth THAT much.

  19. On the flipside, PG (and yes, I realize you probably won’t come back to read this) There has sometimes been too much of a focus on college education, in my opinion. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but the constant narrative that every teenager hears is “You have to go to college if you don’t want a shitty life.”

    Thanks to that, I wasted a year and a half and close to $10,000 in loans (and I got off easy, financially speaking. I live real close to the Colorado School of Mines, where one semester of in-state tuition is upwards of $14,000) just to realize that I had no idea what I even wanted to do with my life.

    Education is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean it has to happen the way society tells you it has to happen. I’ve learned just as much, if not more, through my own curiosity leading me to research things than I ever did from any schooling.

    But, I’m ranting again, and that’s taking valuable time that I could be using to read more LoN.

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