That Time In College When I Terrified My Classmates…

About a month ago or so, I joined a Facebook group for people who went to college at Central Michigan University during the decade of the 1990s. It’s been a great way to go down memory lane!

Today, one of the members asked people to share their “frozen in time” moments that were also “warm and fuzzy.” The only one that came to mind for me – was not exactly “warm and fuzzy,” but still…frozen in time for me.

So what was my “frozen in time” moment? That time I took on the persona of a 14 year old boy who murdered his entire family (and also the horses). I was taking an “interpretive reading” class to satisfy the speech requirement for graduation, and our assignment was to recite something from memory. It could be a poem, song…what have you.

The poem I chose to recite was written by a woman who used the pen name Ai (birth name Florence Anthony, 1947-2010). I had no idea at the time that she was multiracial (which would be a huge hit in today’s inclusively-driven, politically correct climate), but per Wikipedia, she described herself thusly: half Japanese, 1/8 Choctaw-Chickasaw, 1/4 black, 1/16 Irish and southern Cheyenne and Comanche. She was born in Albany, Texas.

The poem of hers I chose to memorize and recite was The Kid. I don’t know how I came across it, but I think my boyfriend at the time recommended it to me (we would later get married – we are still married). The poem gets into the goings on of the mind of a 14 year old boy who…kills his whole family – ultimately leaving the scene for a new life. My boyfriend at the time and I worked very hard together to make sure my performance was flawless!

For my “costume,” I wore my dad’s old weathered black motorcycle jacket, and a leather Harley Davidson hat. Rather than merely standing at a lectern, I had the freedom to move about the room while I descended into utter and complete darkness. I don’t have a photo to share from that day, but here’s a close approximation from around that time:

Leather jackets were great for not absorbing smoke odors from bars as much as cloth jackets did! This was not the only article of clothing I “hijacked” from my dad, LOL! Another of his things I commandeered was a blue and white plaid flannel shirt. I washed it with a red shirt and it wound up being pink. My dad, needless to say, didn’t want the shirt back after that.

Here’s a snippet:

I laugh, remember the one out back.   
I catch her climbing from the truck, shoot.   
The doll lands on the ground with her.
I pick it up, rock it in my arms.
Yeah. I’m Jack, Hogarth’s son.
I’m nimble, I’m quick.

Standing at a lectern and giving a speech would have scared the shit out of me! I’m glad I had this option for satisfying the speech requirement instead! Yes, I was still scared to go in front of the class, but felt that when I took on this boy’s persona, that it wasn’t actually ME reciting the poem, but him telling the story about what he did. You can do all sorts of mental gymnastics if you try hard enough! 🙂 Some people pretend they’re seeing all of the audience members in their underwear, well – I pretended I was a psychotic 14 year old boy who’d reached his breaking point! You do you, I do me?

I remember seeing one girl in the room in particular who seemed…mesmerized. I had her in the palm on my hand during that reading! The end of the poem is…haunting:

I’m fourteen. I’m a wind from nowhere.   
I can break your heart.

I don’t remember what grade I got for my performance, but as far as personal triumphs – me overcoming my fears of public speaking, fighting my inner introvert – it was A-plus! But knowing that I scared the crap out of at least one student? What did those old credit card commercials say?


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