My experience at Miami University was far more than I expected. I gave a reading on Tuesday night, and I spoke to two delightful classes the next day before heading back to South Bend. That I expected. I even expected to have a great time seeing my dear friend Jody Bates (a.k.a., Joseph Bates, the Nighttime Novelist). And I did.
What I didn’t expect was to have such a nice conversation over Seitan Marsala with Eric Goodman, or to have a full house at Leonard Theater, or to have my two girlfriends from Cincinnati drive up for it, or to have my other girlfriend and her son drive up for brunch the next day, or to get quite so caught up in my memories of the one year I spent at Miami University lo these many years ago.
I attended Miami University for my freshman year of college (and transferred to Xavier U. to play soccer for the next four years). So Miami has always been this anomaly year in my life. I’m not in touch with any of my friends from that time, except the ones I already knew from high school, so it’s easy sometimes to forget that year ever happened.
Except for the fact that Miami University is the setting of my origin story.
Which goes a little something like this:
I was living in Dorsey Hall, sleeping through Chemistry class, crushing on my teacher in Geography class, and playing Ultimate Frisbee in, well, Ultimate Frisbee class. I tested into the fourth semester of Spanish and went on to take a Spanish Literature class (which may explain why the Radio Gods blessed me and my roommate with a free trip to Cancun when we were the correct caller during the month of February Getaways…), so that was good. I wasn’t so hot in Freshman Comp, where we were told to write personal narratives of our dull personal lives. Nonetheless, I decided that I might like to be a high school English teacher, and so in my second semester I enrolled in an advanced British Modernist lit course that, as a freshman, I had no business being in.
And there I first heard the sounds of Big Ben ringing out the hour: First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable.
There I first read J. Alfred Prufrock’s Love Song.
There I first encountered The horror! The horror!
There I became, if not yet a writer, a serious lover of literature. Even if I didn’t understand it at all. Especially because I could not understand it all. For that was the beauty of it: I could not comprehend what I read, I could only feel it. (And isn’t that love?)
I’ve referred to that class many times over the years – as the first place I encountered Virginia Woolf, as the first time I really encountered literature that was both beyond me and piercing through me. But I haven’t actually been back to the place. I’d almost forgotten that the memory was associated with an actual place.
And so I was taken aback by how fully my senses responded to the geography and walking paths and new spring smells – and how utterly I was transported back to that freshman year that I’d all but forgotten.