| "Sophie's Surprising Spring Break" (exhib)
copyright May 27, 2001
I sat at my desk, staring at the blank computer screen in
front of me. "Write a paper," my psychology professor had
said. "Write about your most life-changing experience."
With those few words, the writer in me had taken over and
I'd wrestled with whether to be honest and write from my
heart, or to just give the professor what I thought she
wanted to hear.
I took a deep breath and blew it out. Well, if Dr.
Rodriguez wanted my most life-changing experience, she'd
get it. I only hoped that my candor wouldn't earn me a big
"You know, I can tell my skin's soft, even without
touching it," Carla announced as she emerged from the
bathroom, draped in a skimpy towel.
"Mmmmm-hmmmm," I muttered.
"Come on, Sophie, stay with me here."
I finally looked up from my book. "Okay, and what does
that have to do with analyzing Saul Bellows' `Looking for
"Can't you forget about school for just ten seconds?" She
swept the book out of my lap, and knelt in front of me. "I
know how important it is for you to do well. You've told
me, and I haven't forgotten. But can't you just let go,
just for a couple of days. is almost over."
I put my hand over hers and rubbed it. "You're right -
your skin is very soft." I smiled.
She shook her head, and headed into her bedroom. Kenny,
Amanda, and Rich were supposed to be over soon, and I
assumed she wanted to be dressed when they arrived.
I picked up the discarded book and set it aside. Spring
break, my freshman year at college, away from home at last,
and how was I spending it? Studying in my dorm room. Yeah,
just call me "Miss Party Animal."
I sighed. I hadn't lied when I'd told Carla I had to do
well in college. I'd heard it myself all my life . . .
"You have to do better, Sophia."
"Just look at Angela, she made straight A's again."
"Why can't you be more like your sister?"
Angela was five years and I'd spent my life living
in her shadow. It was always the same thing, no matter
if it was from my mom, my dad, or my numerous aunts, uncles
and cousins. Angela was the perfect one who could do no
wrong. And stupid me had been talked into going to her
alma mater. The same small, privately run that my
mother had gone to 27 years before.
Sometimes I just wanted to scream in frustration. Didn't
anyone care about me? About who I wanted to be? I didn't
want to be some clone of my -- I longed to be
original, spontaneous, carefree. Easy to wish for, harder
to do. Especially when you've had close to 19 years of
"responsibility" and "duty" hammered into you.
The arrival of Kenny, Amanda and Rich, and the aromatic
pizza they carried interrupted my musings. Carla joined
us, clothed by then, and we dug in.
The five of us had all met in our U.S. History class, and
had become quick friends. I was the shy, quiet one of the
group, Amanda was the of some politician and had
the blonde, blue-eyed good looks of the group. Kenny and
Rich were both majoring in business administration, and
were as different as night and day, in both looks and
personality. Carla had been my assigned roommate since day
one. Vivacious and a bit promiscuous, she was Italian,
like myself, and had short dark, wildly curly hair, while
mine was long and a mousy-brown color. Despite our
personality differences, we got along quite well together.
"You know what we should do?" Kenny was saying. "We
should go out and have some fun tonight. Off-campus for a
"Where at, in town?" Amanda did have a point. Los
Alpinos, in the heart of central Texas, was a small town,
and not known for its hot spots.
Kenny grinned widely. "Oh no, not in town. I've got
"Anything beats sitting around here watching some lame-ass
movie on television," Carla put in.
Her statement pretty much summed up the way all of us were
feeling. had seen most of our mates
traveling off to Cancun, or Florida, or even California,
for some fun in the sun. They'd come back with a killer
tan (or a killer sunburn) and tales of fun and adventure,
and we were some of the unlucky few who were too broke to
even travel to San Antonio for a few days rest and
"Well, out with it!" Amanda prodded, slapping Kenny on the
"We, my friends, are going to crash a fraternity party!"
He looked around at us with this goofy expression on his
face like we were supposed to instantly start worshipping
"Hello, there are no fraternities around. What are you
going to do, shit one?" Carla's sarcasm kind of grew on you.
"No buttmunch, we're going on a road trip," he countered,
dangling his car keys. He leaned forward getting serious
for a change. "Texas A&M is only a couple hours drive from
here. Alpha Chi Rho is having their annual Spring Slam!
tonight. We, my lovelies, are going to crash it."
"But it's a fraternity, dude," Rich finally spoke up.
"How're the gonna get in?"
Kenny slapped him upside the head. "Think, moron. Do you
actually think that the biggest frat party in four counties
is not going to have chicks there?" He shook his head.
"I don't know--" I started to say.
"No!" Carla shouted. "You are not going to do this. If
I'm going, you're going. And I'm damn well going! I'm not
taking any shit excuses off of you. You can let go and have
fun for one goddamn evening, you hear me?"
Oookay. I was cowed just enough to give in. "I was just
going to say that I don't know if I have anything clean to
wear," I covered.
Carla grabbed my hand and jumped up. "Come on, you can
wear something of mine." Amanda trailed after us. I
wondered at the butterflies in my stomach.
After an uneventful drive down I-45, we arrived at Texas
A&M, and the two Georgian mansion that served as
Alpha Chi Rho's frat house. We'd been forced to park
several blocks away. No one thought to ask Kenny how we
were going to convince people we were A&M students and were
supposed to be there. I figured that if someone asked me
questions about my classes or where I was staying, I'd just
claim a stomachache and run to the bathroom.
"Come on!" Amanda pushed lightly on the middle of my back,
and I stumbled forward. I was wearing platforms, something
I'd never done before, and it was going to take walking
around in them for a while to get used to them.
I was dreading this with every part of my being. I wasn't
used to going to parties, to being in social situations. I
was a wallflower to the core. I was beginning to wonder if
Kenny had slipped some type of drug into the pizza. I
couldn't believe I'd gone along with them of my own
The inside of the house was ablaze with lights, and
blaring music from a small band set up in one corner of the
living room. I could barely see them through the crush of
people. Kenny and Rich had disappeared as soon as we'd got
there. We had arranged to meet back at the car at 2am. That
would give us close to four hours to party. Amanda was the
designated driver and I knew she'd take the responsibility
I stuck close to Carla. I wasn't ready to be cut loose on
my own, and probably wouldn't be ready any time soon. She'd
dug up the platform shoes for me, along with black leather
pants, a halter-top and a black leather jacket. I felt
alien - it was so unlike anything I'd choose on my own. At
the same time, I imagined it could be pretty liberating,
like playing a role. If only I could shed the years of
inhibitions that I wore like a shield.
I followed in Carla's wake, one hand on her shoulder, when
someone shoved me from behind. I stumbled into a guy
standing next to me and almost knocked him over. Those
dang shoes again! "I'm so sorry," I apologized, already
looking around for Carla.
"No problem, honey," the stranger said. I finally looked
up at him. He had to have been the biggest guy I'd ever
seen. Even his teeth had muscles. I wondered just what he
was majoring in -- intimidation?
"Here," he said, shoving a plastic cup of what I assumed
to be beer into my hand. "A pretty lady like you needs a
"Uh, I have to find my friend," I said. I sounded like
such an idiot, even to my own ears.
"Oh, I don't know about that, honey. In this crowd it'd
be like trying to sow a field with a broke plow and a lame
horse. Just stick with me, I'll make sure no one bothers
you," he replied. Actually he was yelling, as was I. You
had to, to be heard over the band and everyone else yelling.
He tipped the cup gently, pressing it to my lips. I only
meant to take a small sip, but he upended the cup, and I
ended up taking a gulp. I was not much of a drinker,
having maybe two glasses of wine a year, and those at
I coughed, earning a bone-crunching pat on the back from
my new-found friend. "Are you okay, little lady?"
I nodded my head vigorously. Now that the beer had gone
down, and gone down the right way, I decided that it wasn't
as bad as I'd first thought. Maybe one glass wouldn't hurt.
"Where are we going again?"
"You said you wanted to look for your friend, right?" The
guy, who I learned was named Chet, was leading me at a fast
clip through the crowds in various rooms. "You can look
for her while I find my buddies."
I was dragged through so many different rooms, saw so many
different people, my head started to spin. "Wait!" I
shouted, needing to catch my breath.
"You need to rest, honey? Okay, Chet'll find you a quiet
room where you can rest." We were upstairs now, and he
flung open the next door we came to. It was occupied.
"Holy shit!" I exclaimed, then immediately slapped my hand
over my mouth. I never cursed like that. I blamed it on
the second glass of beer I'd drunk.
The kneeling woman, didn't even look up. Neither did the
guy who was with her.
Chet slammed the door. "Sorry." The big guy actually
"Hey Chet, how's it hangin' pardner?" Another wrestler-
muscled guy came up to us, grabbing Chet in a bear hug and
lifting him off the floor, something I didn't think was
"Better'n yours, Squeaky." Chet grinned.
"Who's this?" Squeaky nodded in my direction.
"Oh," Chet grabbed my hand and pulled me forward. "This
pretty lady is Sophie. Sophie, meet Squeaky, my roommate
and frat brother."
I stuck my hand out toward him, and was rewarded with
another plastic cup of beer, instead of a handshake.
"Come on, ya'll," Squeaky was saying, heading for the
stairs. "Let's find Tiny, Scarlet and the others. I got a
Chet pulled me along after him. I sipped on the beer. I
didn't know what the big deal about drinking was - this was
my third one and I felt just fine.
"Sophie? What the fuck are you doing?"
I turned my head and looked down. "Hi Carla!" I shouted,
waving down to the blur that I thought was her. I giggled
"Get down from there before you break your neck."
"Don't be such a spoilsport," someone admonished her.
"Yeah! Don't be a spoilsport!" I seconded.
I ignored the commotion below, and resumed the pose I'd
affected, stretched out on my back, slightly propped up by
my elbows. I was perched atop the brick Texas A&M sign,
naked as the day I was born. It's amazing what four beers
will do to a person. I'd lost inhibitions I never knew I
A head appeared over the top of the sign.
"Chet! How'd you get up here -- you can fly too?" I
frowned. No, that wasn't right, people couldn't fly. Silly
me. I looked down at the small crowd below. But how had I
gotten up there?
"Come on, Sophie honey. Your friend is raisin' a big
ruckus about you bein' up here."
"Oh, Chet Chetty Chet Chet. I'm sooooooo sleepy. Just
ten minutes, okay?" I laid back down, all the way this
time, and closed my eyes.
Chet grabbed my arms and pulled me to a sitting position.
"Let's get you down from here, then you can sleep as long
as you want, honey pie."
I gave what I hoped was a sexy pout, but allowed Chet to
help me down the ladder. Once on the ground, Carla wrapped
her jacket around me. "What in the hell were you doing up
there?" she started questioning.
"I was just playing Truth or Dare with my new friends,
Carla. Warla." I giggled, I couldn't help myself. "Guess
which one I picked?"
She ignored my question. "It's 2:30am, Sophie. We were
getting worried about you." She looked around. "I don't
suppose you know where your clothes are?"
Someone handed her my discarded clothes, and she took them
with a terse, "Thank you."
"Bye, Sophie. I'll see you around campus," Chet called
out as Carla led me away.
I looked over my shoulder and blew him a kiss. Carla just
"What got into you, Sophie? You're the last person I'd
thought would ever do something like that."
"I know, Carla, and that's what's so neat!" I had to force
myself to concentrate on what I wanted to say. "I didn't
have to be staid, stuffy Sophie tonight. I could just
be Sophie, the who drank beer and played Truth or Dare
with Chet, Squeaky and the gang. I didn't have to uphold
anyone's honor, or image, but my own."
"But that's not who you are--"
"How do you know?" I was thinking more clearly now. "How
can I be myself if I'm so busy being who my and the
rest of my expect me to be?" I stopped and looked
at her. "I enjoyed myself tonight, Carla, for the first
time in a long time. Is that so bad?"
She smiled softly. "No, I guess it isn't. But you put
yourself in a very vulnerable position, Sophie. Any one of
those could have raped you, and we wouldn't have known
where to find you. "
"I hadn't thought of that." I felt like crying.
"Just ease out of your cocoon gradually, okay? No more
leaps off tall buildings. Or onto tall signs." She grinned.
I got the giggles again. "You have to admit, that was
pretty cool, huh?"
"How many beers did it take to `convince' you?"
I scrunched up my nose. "Four, I think. Or maybe five."
"No more beer for you, lady." She started leading
me toward the car again. "Let's duck behind those bushes
over there and get you dressed again. I think this is one
story that we won't share with Kenny or Rich, okay?"
Impulsively I hugged her. "I wish you were my instead of Angela."
I think she almost blushed. "We're better than sisters --
we're best friends."
It would have been nice to forget that the night ever
happened, only it gave me a taste of freedom that I'd never
known before. I still buckled down to my studies, but I
didn't automatically turn down the group every time they
invited me out. I started borrowing Carla's clothes on
occasion, and even took a big step and had my hair dyed a
rich auburn. My were shocked at first, but as
there wasn't much they could do about it, they didn't raise
too much of a stink.
Another side effect of that night was "the picture." Just
my luck, someone in the group that night had a and
caught me atop the A&M sign, in all my naked glory. Kenny
brought a flyer by the apartment one night. He said a
friend of his over at A&M had had a bunch of them lying
around his room. There on the flyer was the of me,
with a heading, "Sexy Shows All." Underneath was a
plea for the mystery woman in the to come forward.
I almost died of embarrassment. Once the mortification
wore off, I realized that it was titillating, knowing that
tons of people had seen the picture, and were right now
searching for the . . . searching for *me*. When I'd
been naked, up there on the sign, I hadn't thought about
being seen as a sex symbol, or being the object of some
guy's fantasy. I was just enjoying doing something so
totally unexpected. Now that I thought about it, it turned
me on, knowing that some out there might be looking at
my and jacking off.
I sat back in the desk chair, and stretched. I wondered
what Dr. Rodriguez would have to say about my paper. Then
I realized that it didn't matter as much as it might have a
few months ago. What mattered was that I'd told the truth -
that night *had* been the most life-changing experience in
my life. It'd given me the confidence to break out on my
own, and start to explore who I was, and who I wanted to be.
I looked at the transfer request on the corner of my desk,
ready to be turned in to the registrar's office in the
morning. I was transferring to A&M in the fall. It was
something I knew I had to do. My had bitched and
threatened to not pay a cent of my tuition. I solved that
problem by getting a writing scholarship. I figured they'd
come around eventually.
Carla was transferring with me. She said someone needed
to keep an eye on me. I smiled. Personally, I think she
wants to keep an eye on those frat boys. Now that I think
about it, that's not a bad idea.