Remember moving into the dorm freshman year of college and meeting your floormates? Remember how you were ALL BIFFLES for about six days, and then you realized you only liked two of them? Remember how you stopped trying to do names after about a week, and everyone became “Hunchback” and “Guy who shaves his legs” and “Anime kid?” I’ve forgotten most of those boys over the years, but one will always be fresh in my mind. For legal purposes, let’s call him Terry Cooper.
Terry Cooper was the squarest square in Squaresville, Wyoming, a square state. He tucked in T-shirts and made his bed in his college dorm. His eyes were beady and his lips pursed. He bought plants for his room to purify the air, not because he liked plants. Terry did not have a single decorative article in his room. Terry majored in Civil Engineering, and the other civil engineers made fun of how lame he was. If Terry Cooper were a figure from Greek myth, he would be a demon named Practicality whose three heads endlessly scream “Sobriety!” “Caution!” and “Prudent Financial Management!” and who kills by citing statistics.
Terry Cooper and his roommate were both so unpleasant that we nicknamed them “Sour and Dour” and imagined a passive-aggressive Itchy and Scratchy relationship.
SOUR: Did you move the remote? Did you, Goddammit?”
DOUR: Yes. I did it because I hate hearing you breathe.
SOUR: I hope you die.
DOUR: I hope your mother dies.
SOUR: [pointing] Cancer.
Our next discovery was that Dour was almost never there, because he hated Sour/Terry so much. We wondered about this at first, but then it became blindingly, archangel-descending-to-Earth-with-a-message clear. Our dorm walls were tiled, so people would leave messages for each other by the doors in dry-erase marker. Since we were a group of twenty eighteen-year-old boys, they were usually pretty salty. Terry would walk around and edit the profanity out of these, and one day he got so furious that he confronted a friend of mine about it. He knocked on the door after having edited a message I’d written, and when my friend answered, Terry, white-faced and shaking with barely suppressed rage, launched into a tirade about foul language. His last line was “Some of us were raised with CLASS!” before stomping off.
Terry was not done. Our dorm floor had the obligatory Kerouac-inspired guy who did drugs “to gain experience” instead of to get fucked up, and one day he posted a chart on his door inviting us to say how many illegal drugs we had done. Everyone had at least drunk underage, save Terry, the jewel of Lancaster County D.A.R.E. Terry’s Response read “Zero. I have legally drunk alcohol.” Underlined so we would know Terry followed the rules.
So, of course, whenever he came up in conversation someone would scream “Rules! RULES!” This wasn’t funny enough, so we started to speculate on his sex life and personal habits. We gave him an imaginary girlfriend named Matilda. Every night, she talked him into going down on her, and every night she waited until he got into position before farting right in his face. We imagined him looking up with tears in his eyes and saying, deeply hurt, “Matilda, you gave me your word!”
Eventually, this wasn’t enough either, so we decided that he had the worst case of irritable bowel syndrome in medical history. “I have to wear two pairs of Dockers shorts in case there’s an accident. I have to buy the outer pair a size larger so they will fit over the inner pair.”
Eventually, even shit jokes couldn’t mock this guy enough, so we started on child abuse. In our fantasies, young Terry carefully labored to make his mother a perfect martini, just how she liked them, and brought it to her on a spotless silver tray. Terry’s mother would take the glass, pause, and then fling the contents in Terry’s face. Every day.
We kept on like this until we stopped having to make anything up. Senior year, the ugliest girl I’ve ever seen transferred into our school. She looked like an Easter Island head in a dirty wig. She and Terry fell on each other like wolves on an ailing sheep. I wondered at the attraction until I sat near her in the cafeteria one day and overheard her say excitedly, “Guys! Come fill out these forms!” Easter Island Head was a “bisexual” “swinger” who was “into” “threesomes.” She actually used the phrase “into threesomes,” as though life were a cocaine-and-Zima fueled key party in 1993. She somehow roped Terry and some desperate or very kind-hearted woman into having a threesome. Terry was later overheard to remark, post-threesome, “I don't know what's happening to me... but I think I like it!”
The process continued. Terry now rides a motorcycle and wears a beard. He’s become an actual person, by all accounts, but I’ll always remember the beady-eyed little prig who couldn’t stand to see “fuck” written on a dorm wall.