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Harold B.
By Bernadette Luckett

I went to an all-girls Catholic high school for four years. Puberty hit hard and without an appropriate target to aim it at. The only male I saw all day was the guy who filled the vending machines. Every girl had a crush on him. We would stand by the machines watching him and vying for his attention. I fantasized about my future as Mrs. Vending Machine Man. That was as good as it got. After graduation, all I thought about, cared about, and wanted, were boys boys boys. I was consumed by the idea of them.

My parents offered to buy me a car if I'd attend the same university as my sister. I rejected their bribery and opted for the local junior college where I knew a lot of cool guys from the nearby public school were going. My academic interest was zero. I was socially retarded and put my every effort into educating myself about the opposite sex.

The atmosphere at the junior college was relaxed and experimental. I took art classes with real naked male models and a teacher who urged us to "free ourselves." I didn't understand what "freeing myself" meant. You must first discover that you aren't free. You see, it wasn't a very deep time for me. I cut classes, hung out on the lawn and smoked pot, not because I wanted to, but because that's what everyone else was doing. That's what every boy I liked was doing.

One of my classes was Psych 110, a group therapy course. It was part of the new wave of self-analysis and opening oneself up. What we were supposed to do once we opened up, no one quite knew. But we were all willing to try and besides there was no homework.

We sat in a circle for an hour every Monday, Wednesday and Friday under the supervision of Mr. A., the psychology teacher. We were expected to bare our souls and help solve each other's problems. Our grades would be given on some strange criterion like our willingness to speak, or our ability to express compassion. All we really did was bitch. A bunch of eighteen year olds, nattering about parents: "They don't understand me." Boyfriends and girlfriends: "I think he/she wants to break up with me." Or whining about not having a boyfriend or girlfriend. Occasionally, a girl would cry. That was always good. We'd try to be sympathetic. Nothing ever got too heavy and the time passed quickly.

Harold B. was in my Psych 110 class. I knew him casually but he wasn't the kind of guy I'd ever have a crush on. He was too goofy looking; tall, with thick, greasy dark hair, black rimmed glasses and he dressed like a lumberjack. Harold never talked in class. The rest of us would babble endlessly and agree how unfair life was, but Harold just sat and listened.

One Friday, after the usual round of complaining, Harold spoke for the first time. It was a refreshing change and everyone paid attention because we were all completely bored with each others' stories and his was a new voice. He began quietly and somberly. He told us that the first time he had sex… was with his sister. Wow! His sister had then become pregnant, was sent away, and the baby was given up for adoption. What?! We all sat in silent shock. What was he saying? None of us had ever heard anything like that before. These were the pre-Sally, pre-Jerry, pre-Povich, pre-baring your innermost secrets on national TV days. Then before anyone, even our teacher, uttered a response, the bell rang. Everyone jumped up, grabbed their books and headed off to their next class. A few of us passed Harold, patted him on the back and stammered ill-fitting words of sympathy. I mean, what do you say to a guy, who in this little group of students, has bought into the "mock trust," opened his heart and bled for us? "I'm sorry you fucked your sister. Have a nice weekend." Jesus!

When we returned to Psych 110 the following Monday, Mr. A. told us the news. Harold B. was dead. He had hung himself over the weekend. Shit! I imagine Harold went home and the reality hit him. He had shared his deepest, darkest secret with a bunch of shallow, idiotic teenagers.

It was a good class that day. We talked about death and a lot of people cried. Not about Harold, but about parents or grandparents or pets that had died.

Mr. A.'s mishandling of the whole Harold B. situation resulted in him getting fired. He became an alcoholic, his wife cheated on him, and his dog ran away. At least that's what I like to think happened. Truth is, his Psych 110 class became more popular than ever. I guess people wanted to take it on the chance that someone else might freak out.

Sometimes I wonder if I could've done anything to make Harold feel better that Friday afternoon. Maybe, but I didn't even try. I was in too much of a hurry to run off and stand in the lobby so I could flirt with (Fill-in-the- blank) as he walked by. I was only interested in cute boys. Sad to think that if Harold B. had been cute, maybe I would've made an effort.
My original Diary entry for that day in Junior College:

Saw Steve Simpkins - no reaction. He acts like he doesn't like me.

There was a rally at noon. I sat next to Jim from volleyball. We walked down to the swimming pool and back together. He's such a fox!

Harold B. in my psychology class killed himself. That's sad. Harold had so many problems.

I really like Tim Jeffries. I like so many boys. I wish Steve S. would ask me out.

Geez. I'm sorry, Harold.

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