Her name was Myrtle. It was with some reluctance that I moved in with her during my sophomore year of college. I had no rent money, so she took care of my basic needs. She came from a well-to-do family that I knew would never approve of me, a lower middle class white boy from Orange County, California. She was not a particularly brilliant conversationalist and struggled with her college basic English composition classes. I did the best I could to take time away from my studies to help her along. She just wasn’t very smart. But she was quite beautiful.
We spent time at the beach during the summer. I was struggling to find my impoverished white identity among her wealthy, snobbish Bay Area friends, who drove their Mustangs to Carl’s Junior restaurants on Saturday nights, ate super-star burgers with onion rings and treated me with abject contempt. I struggled to be well-mannered, when my visceral inner voice told me to yell at them and call them the spoiled rich bitches they really were. But they were her friends. She thrust them upon me, just as life itself had thrust being broke and white upon me, like a microcosm of class warfare gone willy-nilly mad in a cruel world.
I knew it would never work for us in the long term. She told me she loved me. I nodded my head in appreciation. She begged me to share my innermost thoughts with her. She was boring, almost insufferably so. I thought constantly of my future and the heights to which I would rise, knowing she would someday be nothing but a distant memory, because she could never have understood what it meant to be poor and white in a world that was packed full of her stuffy, egotistical friends and family.
I sought out the losers in society. In high school I often smoked in the bathroom with the hoods. I was searching for something unattainable in my tumultuous psyche, something that drove me to light just one more cigarette and try to assuage the pain of my pitiful tract home upbringing, as I stood lookout, watching for the vice-principal.
In college I graduated to pot and I sought out the lowest forms of rejects, which is to say all of the non-tenured Sociology professors who seldom bathed and never got their hair cut. I identified with the sophisticated statements about the world that their soiled, wrinkled attire and their unkempt beards made in a very dignified, elegant way.
I was finding my way along the path toward my destined greatness. Myrtle was but a flat stone in the road, onto which I reluctantly stepped. But she was beautiful. And she wasn’t flat. We broke up at the end of my senior year.
She went on to become a high school English teacher.