You began an Arts degree because it was free and you were clueless. Whitlam saved you from the draft, the uni fees and any prospect of employment. First day on campus terrified and atomised you: the forecourts, lawns and colonnades streaming with people of every shape and madness, the air jammed with slogans, the walls fluttering with invitations to buy a bicycle, share a house, join a society, march, dance, strike, stop, protest, freak out.
You were open to suggestions, and suggestions fell like hammer blows. You were waylaid by the Christian Fellowship, spat upon by drunken engineers, terrified by radical lesbian separatists, patronised by Young Liberals, given a condom by Family Planning, and dunned for money by the Free Chile Foundation, the Student–Worker Coalition Against Social Fascism and the Thylacine Protection League.
It took you three hours to find your way from the gate to MacLaurin Hall to enrol, where you stuffed up all your forms, queued in all the wrong queues, stammered all the wrong answers and failed to ask any of the right questions. You walked out two hours later enrolled in Traditional and Modern Philosophy, Anthropology, Social Work and Biology, thinking that this was broad enough to prepare you for anything.
Each day you travelled two hours to attend, two hours to get home. Your mother packed your lunch as if for school. Unable to read a map or timetable, you were haphazardly late. You grinned sheepishly as you slid into the front row of all your lectures, and even then, concentrated, alert, you could not see or hear enough.
You scouted the Union building for three days before you went inside. How did everyone know what they were doing? And why were you so specially inept?
Fisher library thrilled you: those bottomless perspectives of books, those metal stacks of industrial strength literature. You hadn’t really known such wealth existed. You browsed at random Dewey decimals. You pupated in distant corners.
In your first essay — ‘What differentiated the early Greek philosophers from the sophists?’ — you wrote:
With Socrates philosophy began to commence its eternal struggle to answer the questions that are most central to the life of social human beings such as what is the proper role of the individual in society and what is the proper role of government and religion and what is right and wrong. The philosophers were not prepared to let religion answer these questions with dogma but thought that they would find the right answers with reason and argument. This was the great step forward that made true civilization possible and unlike the sophists who were only concerned with winning arguments the philosophers were determined to find the truth wherever it lay. Instead of using rhetoric to win arguments Socrates used it to reveal the weaknesses in ideas and then hopefully to find the truth.
You concluded: Upon Greek philosophy the entire reason and scientific progress of our society is based. Your tutor gave you a B+, which must have been intended for encouragement, and wrote “more critical analysis and less breathless praise next time”, which left you deeply embarrassed. You knew that he was right and you were wrong and that Socrates himself would have laughed at your enthusiasm.
Nonetheless, you began to open like a flower.
You were pissing in the august toilets of the quad when approached by a nice young man of a foreign persuasion who wanted somebody to hold the door while he went to the toilet. His dark skin and soulful eyes did not scare you in the least.
He wanted you to hold the door, he said, because he was shy and there were no locks on the doors. Please. He moved to the cubicle, beckoning you.
All right. But then he said, not outside, inside. Hold the door inside.
Really? You supposed that you would look ridiculous standing outside, should someone come.
He dropped his trousers and sat to reveal a cock that pointed skywards. He wanted you to hold it, and although by this time you had twigged that his story was not entirely candid, it seemed simplest to agree. He rapidly spunked across your thumb and forefinger. He was grateful and quick to dispense tissues, and openly disappointed not to be able to return the favour, but you wished only to depart.
As much as you wanted a friend, this was not it.
© 2021 Craig Bingham
Next: A to F. Part 1.6. Follower.
Read something similar:
A to F. Part 1.1 Aurora, A to F. Part 1.2. Bibliophile, A to F. Part 1.3. Candidate and A to F. Part 1.4. Drunk [if you haven’t read them already]
How Tobin found the iron statuette [and lost a girlfriend]
Hear something different:
Audio: departure [17 minute audio: An unknown Russian futurist embraces his fate]
Read something different:
Crazy house [Australia is becoming a society divided into property speculators and exploited tenants, but it doesn’t have to be that way]
Off track [a chance meeting cracks reality]
Free research – one article at a time [on the weirdness of the research publishing system]