Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Charlie Dickinson

It was a memorable summer. I was all of nineteen and had a job where palm trees stood by the Gulf of Mexico waters. Corpus Christi, Texas. Away from work, I would read Ian Fleming and spend hours skateboarding neighborhood sidewalks and once found myself at a concert by the immortal Sam Cooke, who sadly was dead six months after I saw him on stage.

            Still, it was my first experience living wholly on my own and left me feeling more my own person. I’d been emboldened to peroxide my forelocks, setting them off from my brown hair.

            At summer’s end, I’d taken the Greyhound bus back to California and we pulled into the Pomona transit center, a hub for Greyhound buses, RTD metro buses, and cabs. I quickly figured out which RTD bus ran north to Claremont and my college, but it would be a wait. It ran but once an hour.

            Before I knew it, and as I sussed out what to do, I was standing next to a coed, attractive in the girl-next-door sort of way, long straight hair, and a no-pretensions look. She wore something like huaraches, if a bit more stylish.

            Once we learned we were both headed for the Claremont Colleges, she to Pomona, I to HMC; we decided to split cab fare and forget the bus. Which we did. We were in the back seat and exchanged some of our details. She was a senior at Pomona College, a school I’d once considered, before I chose the sci-world of Harvey Mudd College, where I was returning as a sophomore.

            We must have made small talk during the fifteen minutes up Indian Hill Boulevard. What it was I have no idea, but I remember we did not share names, an inconvenient oversight I’d later decide.

            I could not get out of my head the openness, the calm acceptance I felt being next to this woman in the cab and how she looked me in the eye, without guile, when she left the taxi and walked away in her open-toed, leather-strapped, better-than-huaraches sandals. A natural woman came to mind.

            I got set up in my dorm room, met my roommate, who–HMC then having a reputation-hungry, Darwinian brutality (half my class did not make it to graduation)–would commit suicide the following school year. I unpacked clothes from my lone suitcase and saw the room had a phone.

            A day or so went by, but then realizing the social-life sacrifices I made to get into and stay in the college, I–perhaps with a summer wind at my back–impulsively decided to ask X for a date. Except I didn’t know her name, much less where she lived, or any phone number. What to do?

            Every student at the Claremont Colleges had what was popularly called the Look Book, a directory of students assembled from college applications, including photos. (At Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg would have an ur-Facebook equivalent.) I scanned the Pomona senior women, keying on Tucson, where she’d said she lived.

            One was listed, a Hennessy from Tucson, and the hall she lived in. I called and asked for her. She came on the phone and I said who I was, how we’d shared a taxi the past Saturday. She remembered. I didn’t waste words and simply asked if I could take her to a movie the next day. She said yes.

            A sophomore taking out a senior! Maybe early in the school year, I had little competition. It mattered not. I’d been on campus less than a week and I was dating a Pomona senior. My confidence went out-of-bounds.

            I have no idea what the movie was, but I remember to this day, she was nearly my height and we had nice chats going to and from the theater. She looked radiant under marquee lights as we waited to go into the movie. Afterward, walking back to her college, she mentioned she was in the ski club. I was not a skier, but I did impress her by knowing outside Tucson Mt. Lemon had ski slopes. At the dorm, we might have shook hands, said good-bye. Surely, for both of us, it was a one-off.

            Fine by me. I’d started the school year (one in which I would finally quit Harvey Mudd) on a high note. I, a lowly sophomore, had dated a senior coed and done so with quiet confidence.

            I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but in my younger days, I’d honor her memory: My cognac was always Hennessy. And even today, I keep handy a 200 ml. bottle for cooking.

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Charlie Dickinson has published short fiction at Amarillo Bay, Eclectica, Mississippi Review, and elsewhere. He posts a blog at, and lives in Portland, Oregon, USA.

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