My Freshman Experience

by Joel Young

Chapter 1

A Rough Start

The following story is a fictionalized version of my freshman year at a private, Christian college. Most of the characters in the story are based on real people I knew back then. Many of the events described actually happened. I have, however, taken a liberal artistic license. I wish to offer my deepest and most sincere appreciation to Peter A. for all of his guidance, encouragement, and suggestions as this story took shape. Some parts of 'My Freshman Experience' would never have been written without his invaluable input. This work is the third in a series of stories about the life of a young man who is mostly gay and struggling with depression. If you are offended by gay male relationships, or if you are not legally allowed to read adult erotic literature, please skip this series. I will appreciate any feedback you wish to offer about this story. Please send your thoughts and comments to me by clicking my name at the head of any chapter.

I wish I had been able to drive myself to college, but Oberlin Wesleyan University in southwestern Ohio didn't let first-year students have cars on campus. So, I had to leave my car at home in suburban Detroit. On freshman move-in day, my dad drove, and my mom came along. My parents were excited about their only child starting college. I couldn't wait to be out on my own.

We found Pilgrim Hall, and I checked in at the front desk. My parents and I carried my stuff up to the second floor of the dorm. As I opened the door to my room, I noticed that my roommate had already moved in and unpacked his things. He wasn't there, and I knew nothing about him. My parents helped me put my stuff away on my side of the room. Mom told me where everything should go.

Although I typically would have argued with her, I didn't even bother. I knew I could move things around any way I wanted as soon as she went home after lunch.

We ate at 'Munch a Lunch,' a local sandwich restaurant near campus. Then, Mom and Dad drove me back to my dorm. They got out of the car, and Mom started tearing up as she gave me a long hug. We were in front of the main entrance to the dorm. I was so embarrassed!

Dad slapped me on the shoulder. "Go get'em, Champ!" he said. "Remember, you're as smart and talented as anyone else on this campus – maybe even more so. If you work hard, and you don't take crap from anyone, you'll be fine. I'll be back at Thanksgiving to pick you up."

Although I had been anxious for my parents to leave, I felt very much alone as I watched them drive off. I knew no one on campus, and I had no idea what my life was going to be like as a college freshman on a campus with 8,000 students.

I set out on my four-year adventure by exploring the campus. As I walked around, I thought I could tell who was a freshman and who wasn't by the looks on their faces. The freshman seemed a little disoriented. Those that I thought must be returning students had a noticeable air of confidence about them . . . or maybe it was the look of superiority.

I saw a guy walking by himself in the same direction that I was going. He was holding a small map of the campus, and he stopped to look at it.

"Hi," I said. "Are you a freshman, too?"

The guy immediately smiled at me. "Is it that obvious?"

"I think we're all sticking out like sore thumbs," I said. "By the way, I'm Joel Young."

"Nice to meet you, Joel," he said. "I'm Mitch Ferris."

We shook hands. "Good to meet you too, Mitch. What dorm are you in?" I asked.

"Pilgrim Hall," he answered. "I heard that a lot of freshmen start out there. What dorm did they put you in?"

"The same," I said. "I'm on the second floor – Room 241."

"Really?" he said. "I'm right below you – Room 141!" Then, he grinned at me. "I hope you're not the loud, rowdy type. I don't want to hear any moaning - or bouncing up and down on a squeaky bed - right above me!"

I was quite surprised that Mitch would make a sexual joke like that so soon after we met. But, maybe that's just how college guys talk. Not to be outdone, I joked back. "Well, if you do hear something like that, feel free to exercise your right hand. I guarantee that won't be as good as what's going on right above you, but it might make the noise a little less irritating – or maybe even enjoyable."

Mitch looked as if he were about to say something. Instead, he stopped and grinned. He held up his right hand for a high-five.

"I'll assume that the only exercise your right hand has had today is from moving your things into the dorm," I said as I returned his high-five.

"Well," he said. "I was a little keyed-up this morning – before we left home. But, don't worry; I'm a lefty."

We walked together silently for a short while. Then, Mitch asked me where I was headed.

"I'm just walking around – you know, to learn the layout of the campus before classes start on Monday," I answered.

"I'm going over to the Financial Aid Office to sign some papers. Want to come with me?" Mitch asked. I agreed, and we walked toward the administrative buildings on the south side of campus.

I liked Mitch. He seemed easy to talk to, and his sense of humor amused me. Although I tried not to focus on it, I also thought he was very cute. He was the same height as I was - about 5'10". He had a medium build. I was slender; some people called me skinny. Mitch had medium brown hair that was a little long. My hair was dark brown, and I had an Ivy League cut. When Mitch had joked with me about a squeaking bed, he had a devilish gleam in his eye.

The Financial Aid Office was busy, and there was a long line of students waiting to talk to a counselor. Mitch said that he didn't want to hold me up, so I decided to continue exploring the campus. "Hey," he said as I started toward the exit. "Want to meet up for dinner? I'm going to the cafeteria across from Pilgrim Hall."

"Sure," I said. "How's 6:00 o'clock?"

"Great!" Mitch said.

"Okay," I replied. "See you then!"

I walked around for almost another hour before I decided to go back to the dorm and go over my class schedule again. I needed to map out all the places where my classes met. Then, I could figure out the best way to get from one class to another. I knew I'd feel more confident if I planned my routes. I've always been nervous about finding my way around new places.

As I walked down the 2nd-floor corridor of Pilgrim Hall, I noticed that the door to my room was open. I heard several guys talking and laughing. One of the guys said, "Nah, I'm done with that bitch! I'm playing the field this year."

I stepped into the room, and the conversation stopped immediately. I smelled marijuana. The guys in the room stared at me.

"Hi," I said tenuously. "I'm Joel. The school assigned me to this room."

A guy near the back wall spoke. He was tall and heavy-set. He had long, sandy colored hair and a scruffy beard. He looked like he might be a linebacker on the football team. When he spoke, I realized that he was the one who was "done with that bitch," and planned to play the field.

"I'm supposed to live here this semester," he said. "But I'm ditching this freshman sewage tank as soon as I can get a room at the frat house," he said. "You mind coming back later? We're kind of busy here right now – frat brothers' only kind of stuff."

I was taken aback by my new roommate. He certainly didn't attempt to welcome me, let alone to be friendly. And, he hadn't even told me his name before asking me to get out.

"Ah, no problem," I said. I grabbed my orientation packet and left. I headed down to the study room on the first floor. Only one other person was using the room. I sat at a small table by myself.

It took me a long time before I could focus on learning the layout of the classroom buildings. I couldn't concentrate because I was pissed! I didn't like being thrown out of my room, and I was a little upset with myself for politely leaving when my roommate so rudely dismissed me. I wondered if this was what Dad meant when he told me not to take crap from anyone.

The other guy in the study room looked directly at me. He gave me a questioning look, and that made me feel uncomfortable. I was glad when he turned away and went back to whatever he was doing. I forced myself to focus on the campus map.

In about fifteen minutes, I had committed my schedule and the locations of my classes to memory. I was pleased that it looked as if I wouldn't have any trouble getting from one building to another in time for the start of my next class.

As I got up to leave, the other guy in the room said, "You're done studying already? Oberlin recommends that all students study at least three hours a day. The serious students double that."

I thought the guy's comment was rude. Why would some total stranger stick his nose into my business and make assumptions about my study habits? And, I resented his implication that I wasn't a serious student. But, maybe he was trying to be friendly and didn't know how else to start a conversation. Or perhaps, he was the judgmental jerk that he seemed to be. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"I was just learning my class schedule," I explained. "My roommate kicked me out of our room so he could hang out with his frat brothers. I came down here to study the campus map and find the locations of my classes. What about you? Are you studying your textbooks even before your classes begin?"

"Of course!" he said. "You'll find that college is very different from high school. You'll have to work harder than you ever did before - if you want to graduate at the top of your class. Next semester, you'll probably have assignments that are due on the first day of class. So, read the syllabus for each of your classes as soon as you can get ahold of them. The professors put them in the bookstore."

I appreciated the information. "Thanks," I said. "That's very helpful." I headed toward the door of the study room.

"Hey, you look familiar. What's your name?" the guy asked.

"Joel Young. What's yours?" I asked.

"Sean Owens," he said. "I live in Wesley Hall, but their study room is old, and it smells." He hesitated for a moment. "You're from Detroit, aren't you? Were you on the debate team at Joliet High School?"

I had been the captain of Joliet's debate team two years ago. Our team had won the State of Michigan Championship.

I hated to talk about that time in my life. My debate partner, David McAndrew, and I had fallen in love. I was devastated that we had to break up when he moved away. I was still in love with David, and I missed him terribly. But, I had to put him out of my mind. Otherwise, I would never be able to move on.

"Yeah," I answered. "Were you on the debate team at your high school?"

"I was," Sean said. "And, I remember you and your swishy partner. You guys got us thrown out of the state championship over some ridiculous technicality. We would have won the title if you hadn't stolen it from us!"

Now I remembered Sean. I had debated him twice during my junior year of high school. He and his partner were from Lansing Kettering, and they were both arrogant snobs. Sean and his partner beat David and me the first time. But the second time, at the state finals, we beat them when we proved that they had falsified evidence. The tournament coordinators disqualified them, and we won the championship.

I couldn't believe that Sean and I had wound up at the same college. Now, he was confronting me about a contentious high school competition from two years ago! And, he had referred to David as my 'swishy partner.' There was absolutely nothing 'swishy' about David, and Sean's comment upset me.

Yeah, David and I are gay, or at least bi. But that didn't mean that either one of us was 'swishy.' After David had moved away, and after one regrettable relationship with an older guy, I had started dating girls. I didn't want people to think of me as queer. I thought that I was starting over with a clean slate here at Oberlin – where no one suspected that I was mostly attracted to guys. I had promised myself to lead a straight and religious life throughout college – and beyond.

I wasn't sure what to say to Sean, but I wasn't one to shy away when someone challenged me. Still, I tried to be conciliatory.

"That was a long time ago, Sean," I said. "How about we just put high school behind us? College is a time to start over. I'm not debating anymore, so there's no reason for us to be adversaries. No hard feelings - okay?"

"Ha! Wouldn't that be nice? For you!" Sean said in a spiteful tone. "But you know what they say – all's fair in love and war."

I thought Sean's words sounded like a threat. I had tried to be civil. I had suggested that we put aside past differences. But apparently, that hadn't worked. Sean was still as arrogant as I remembered him to be. And now, I was pissed off – for the second time that day.

"Okay then," I said. "Bring it on! But remember what 'they' also say – what goes around comes around."

I walked out of the study room feeling tense and disturbed. I decided to go for a run to work off some of my nervous energy. That, however, would mean going back to my room to change clothes, and I didn't feel welcome there. "Screw it!" I thought to myself. "That room is just as much mine as it is frat-boy's. Just because Oberlin stuck me with a real jerk for a roommate doesn't mean I have to be pushed around!"

My roommate and his frat buddies were still in the room when I went in to change. One of them was sprawled out on my bed. Again, they stopped talking when I entered.

"I have to change into my running gear," I said. "I'll be gone in a minute."

The room was shaped like an oblong box. My roommate had taken the bed next to the only window. The shared closet ran along one of the longer walls. There was no bathroom. The communal bathrooms and showers were at the other end of the hall. That afternoon, there was no place for me to change clothes with any privacy.

I don't like changing my clothes in front of other people. I'm not exactly shy, and I certainly have no reason to be ashamed of my body. I keep myself in shape. And from my gym classes in high school, I knew I was in the group considered to be quite respectable in the 'size' department. Still, I was self-conscience about being naked when other people were in the room.

I decided, however, that it would be a mistake to appear shy in front of this group of guys. If I looked embarrassed, I would be inviting their teasing and harassment. So, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, I went over to the closet, took off my outer clothing and undershirt, and I found my running shirt and shoes. Wearing only my briefs, I walked to my dresser and pulled out my running shorts, a jock strap and athletic socks. I took off the last of my underwear without trying to turn away from the guys. I dressed quickly, but I tried not to appear rushed. I put on my socks and running shoes while sitting on the small corner of my bed that wasn't already in use. I left without saying a word.

I had seen the running track on my walk earlier that day, so I knew how to get there. I enjoyed a good 45 minute run by myself. I was glad I had decided to get some exercise. It gave me time to think, and I felt much calmer once I had burned off the excess adrenalin in my system.

When I returned to my room, my roommate and his friends were gone. That was a relief! I looked around the room, and I saw a letter on my roommate's desk. It was addressed to 'Andy Toolson' in room 241. "So that's his name," I thought to myself. Then, I chuckled. "I wonder if he'd punch me in the face if I called him 'A. Tool' for short."

I had about half an hour before I planned to meet Mitch in the cafeteria, so I decided to grab a quick shower.

I undressed and put my sweaty running clothes into the fancy new laundry hamper that Mom had picked out for me. Reluctantly, I put on a Turkish Cotton bath wrap with a Velcro closure, also purchased by my Mom – without consulting me. I wrapped a large, brand-new white towel around my neck, and I found the 'shower slippers' and 'shower caddy' Mom had insisted I buy. Walking to the group shower room at the other end of the hall, I felt like a model showing off a new line of 'bath fashions for the young college man.'

Ugh! How embarrassing!

"Note to self," I thought. "Just because Mom bought it doesn't mean I have to wear it!"

The bathroom looked old – and smaller than I expected. There were partitions between the toilets - but not between the urinals. The open shower room was in the back, off by itself. There were no shower stalls like I was used to in high school. The shower heads seemed quite close together.

Two guys were already showering. I hung up my bath wrap and towel. I put my slippers in the caddy and took out soap and shampoo. I ignored the other guys, and thankfully, they ignored me. I finished up in the bathroom quickly and went back to my room. "I'll probably get more comfortable with all this 'communal bathroom' business in a few weeks," I thought, trying to reassure myself that things would get better soon.

Mitch was sitting at a table when I arrived at the dining hall. He had already gone through the food line. He waved at me. I got my food and joined him.

"Glad you made it," he said. "I hate to eat alone. And, I'm not good at just sitting down at a table with people I don't know. It makes me feel like I'm crashing their party."

"I know what you mean," I said. "I feel unwelcome in my own dorm room. I met my roommate today, and he's a jerk. He must be an upperclassman because he's already in a fraternity. He didn't even introduce himself before asking me to leave so he and his frat brothers could hang out – without me around."

"Wow! That really stinks!" Mitch said. "Oberlin is supposed to be a college that promotes Christian beliefs and fellowship. For an upperclassman to treat a freshman like that on the first day, well, that just sucks!"

"No kidding!" I said. "And then I ran into a guy I knew from high school. He's still carrying a grudge over losing a debate competition to my partner and me two years ago! I hope your first day wasn't as bad as mine."

"It hasn't been too bad. I like my roommate," Mitch said. "He seems nice – you know, real friendly. His name is Sam, and he's a freshman, like us. He lives a few miles from here, so he calls himself a 'townie.' He wanted to live at home, but Oberlin makes all freshmen live on campus. That seems like a rip-off to me. I mean, why can't someone just take classes and save the cost of room and board if they can commute from home? And, the tuition here is outrageous! I had to get student loans for almost everything. I was lucky to get a scholarship from my church. At least that covered most of my books."

I didn't know what to say to Mitch about college costs. My parents were picking up all four years of my expenses. I didn't want to say anything that would make Mitch think I was some spoiled rich kid.

I raised my glass of Diet Coke and made a toast. "Well, here's to the good paying jobs we get with our Oberlin degrees!" Mitch smiled and clinked his glass of milk against my glass of soda.

We talked easily during the rest of dinner. Mostly, we shared basic information about ourselves - where we were from, our families, high school activities and potential college majors. Mitch was from a small town in Kentucky, and he said he wanted to be an accountant.

We went to Mitch's dorm room after dinner. "Where's your roommate?" I asked as we came into an empty room.

"He's sleeping at home tonight," Mitch said. "There's some special event at his church tomorrow."

I was surprised. "What about the required meetings?" I asked. All freshmen in Pilgrim Hall were supposed to attend the second service at the campus chapel in the morning. Then, there was a luncheon, followed by orientation sessions all afternoon.

"I had the same thought," Mitch said. "But, I wasn't going to stick my nose in his business the first day we met. So, what do you feel like doing? Want to play some cards?"

"Sure," I said. "I don't know how to play very many card games, but if you explain the rules, I'll give it a try."

"Have you ever played Rummy 500?" Mitch asked as he stuck his head into his closet and looked for some cards.

I had heard of Rummy, of course, but not Rummy 500. "No," I said. "But, I like trying new things. So sure; I'm game."

Mitch stepped back from the closet, turned, and gave me a shocked look. "You're gay?!?"

His question startled me, and I felt a rush of adrenalin as I tried to figure out why he would ask me that. Then, a pretty simple explanation occurred to me. "I must not have enunciated well enough," I thought to myself.

"I'm game!" I said. "Not gay! I meant I'm willing to give 'the game' a try. Geeze!"

Mitch smiled. "Just making sure I heard you right," he said.

Mitch showed me how to play Rummy 500, and the rules seemed simple enough. Mitch appeared to be an experienced player, and I lost the first few hands without a clue as to what I'd done wrong. Then, I started to get a sense of the strategy behind forming melds. Keeping close track of the cards already in play seemed like a good idea. And, I figured out that I could watch the cards that Mitch picked up, as well as the ones he discarded, to determine what melds he was trying to put together. That way, I could avoid throwing away the wrong card and giving him a win.

I tried out my new strategies for a few hands, and I started winning. A little before midnight, Mitch and I were tied. I suggested calling it a night. Ending the evening with a tie sounded good to me. Mitch had just taught me how to play, and I didn't want to beat him and come across as a 'smarty pants.' Neither did I want to lose; I always play to win.

But, Mitch insisted on one last game. "We can't leave things up in the air," he said. "How about this? Whichever one of us loses the last hand treats to pizza some Sunday night."

Oberlin only served 20 meals a week; not 21. Students were on their own for Sunday dinner. I assumed that the pizza places and the sub shops got a lot of business on those nights.

I agreed to one last hand to determine the winner of the game. That final hand became very competitive. When we were nearing the end, I was pretty sure I could win. I had figured out that Mitch was probably trying to form a meld of Jacks. I suspected that he needed only one more to win. I had a Jack in my hand that I didn't need. I decided that I shouldn't discard that Jack on my next turn - if I wanted to win.

Then, I had a strange thought – one that went against all of my basic instincts. Should I let Mitch win? I didn't want to show him up – at least not on the same day he had taught me how to play. And, from what Mitch had said at dinner, I knew he didn't have much money. I didn't want to make him pay for me if we went out for pizza some Sunday.

I decided to be strategic - not with this particular game of cards, but with the goal of developing a continuing friendship with Mitch. When it was my next turn, I discarded my Jack to let him win.

I was very surprised when he didn't pick up my Jack. Instead, he drew a card. "Yes!" he said as he put down a meld of three 7's, discarded a Jack, and won the game.

I must admit that I was a little upset. I had deliberately tried to let Mitch win by giving him the card I thought he needed. But, I was mistaken, and Mitch beat me – fair and square. I had not only lost the game, but I had also failed in my analysis of how to lose. That felt like a double loss. But, it was only a game, and I was pleased with the actual outcome.

"Congratulations," I said. "And thanks for teaching me the game. It was fun."

"You're welcome," Mitch said. "You caught on fast. You might even have a chance of beating me – in a year or two."

"Don't be so cocky," I said as I got up to leave. "Challenges only make me more determined to win." We high-fived, and I headed upstairs to my room.

The stairwell to the second floor was not well lit, and neither were the hallways. My room was the corner room right across from the stairs, so I found it easily. When I reached to open the door, I felt something strange in my hand. I looked down and saw a sock covering the doorknob. "What the hell?" I asked myself out loud.

The door was locked, so I pulled the sock off the knob and took out my key. Entering the room turned out to be a big mistake.

The room was dark, and I could barely see anything. I heard the sounds of movement near the window. All of a sudden, my roommate screamed at me. "Get the fuck out of here you little pervert! Didn't you see the damn sock on the door?" I heard a girl's voice giggling. Without speaking, I left the room and closed the door as quickly as I could.

I took only a few steps down the hallway before I turned and leaned my back against the wall. I slid down slowly into a squatting position in the dimly lit corridor. I felt dejected. I put my head in my hands, and I wanted to cry. I felt so out of place and unwelcome! If it weren't for meeting Mitch, my entire first day of college would have been a disaster.

I stayed there for a while, wondering what I should do. Then, an older looking guy came out from the stairwell. He stopped and looked at me.

"What's wrong, Kid?" he asked.

I was relieved that someone had taken the initiative to speak to me. I thought maybe this guy was an upperclassman who might offer me some assistance. But, that was not what was happening.

Before I could speak, he added, "Did your mommy go home and leave you here all alone?"

I hated being mocked, and I started to get angry – for the third time in one day! But, for some reason, I explained my situation.

"I walked in on my roommate with some girl. Now, I'm kicked out of my room with nowhere to go."

The guy looked down at me, and then he noticed the sock that had fallen to the floor in front of my room. He picked it up. "Boy, you really must be fresh off the farm. Listen up, Newbie!" he said. "If there's a sock on your doorknob, it means don't come in because your roommate's getting laid!" The guy threw the sock at me and snickered as he started walking away.

"There are some sofas in the pit on the first floor," he said without looking back at me. "If you're lucky, maybe there's one with your name on it." He kept on walking and stopped at what must have been his room. "And before the next time," he hollered. "Find some other dorks and make a friend!"

I sulked in the hallway until I heard the loud, guttural sounds of sex coming from my room. "That's it," I thought to myself. "I'm out of here!"

I went down the stairs to the first floor, hoping there would be a sofa that I could use 'in the pit.' I was walking past Mitch's room when I realized that I might have another option. Mitch's roommate had gone home for the night. Maybe, I could crash on his bed. But, I didn't want to intrude or wear out my welcome with Mitch. Considering my limited options, however, I decided to go for it. I took a deep breath. I knocked on Mitch's door, prepared to ask if I could spend the night.

It took Mitch a long time to open the door. When he did, I saw that he was wearing only a towel wrapped around his waist. He seemed surprised to see me. I got a quick glimpse of some tenting under his towel, and I realized that I had interrupted his private time.

"Hey. I'm sorry, Dude. But, I think I might have dropped my wallet down here," I lied.

Mitch politely allowed me to look around his room for my wallet. I noticed a pair of blue, plaid boxer shorts on the floor by his bed. It was time for me to leave – as fast as possible!

"Guess it's not here," I said. "I'll look for it tomorrow. Sorry to bother you!"

"That's okay," Mitch said as I left and walked quickly toward the lobby.

The 'pit' was like a sunken living room between the entrance to the building and the front desk. There was no one in the pit, so I had several sofas from which to choose. But, the lights were still turned on and very bright. I found the switch, and I turned off the lights. I curled up on the orange plastic cushions on one of the sofas. I wished that I had a coat or something to use as a blanket.

It took me at least an hour before I finally fell asleep. My mind swirled as I relived the events of my first day of college. Why were most of the guys around here so mean? Or, could it be me who was the problem? Were all the upperclassmen guys just here to make fun of the freshman and 'play the field' by having meaningless sex with random girls? Why did I ever pick Oberlin over the other colleges that had accepted me? And what was Sean thinking when he called David 'swishy?'

"If I stay here," I thought to myself, "I've got to find a girlfriend – fast!"

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