I, Fraternity: A Novel In Progress: Chapter4
Eta Iota Mu Fraternity House
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Eric wasn’t the only Eta that ignored me. I saw Ian a few times on campus either leaving or entering the Student Association building, saw Justin at the food court at Taco Bell, John in the library, George at the campus bookstore, and Andrew everywhere, usually flirting with some sorority girls. In each occasion they all behaved much the same way which, was contrary to the letter I received from them. I began to wonder when the Brothers would get in contact with me and about my place as a rushee of their organization, having reached my breaking point that following Friday.
He scared the shit out of me. He was dressed in black jeans and a black shirt and wore black sunglasses and his hair looked like a smoldering black flame. I recognized him right away when he crashed through the hedges as I was on my way back to my dorm from class.
During rush, he would stay in the back of the room with a contemplative, suspicious look whilst rubbing the coarse black stubble on his chin. I’d felt his eyes bore inside me so deep I wondered if he could see my heart beating. He gave me the chills. Once when I looked over at him Brother Andrew came over to ask me if I wanted to meet him. “No, that’s all right,” I said. “Thanks.” Brother Andrew smiled and then told me that within the fraternity, he went by “Shade.” I guessed that it made sense. I thought it funny that when meeting each the brothers of the fraternity I learned instantly their first names. But with Shade, his first name was unknown. Maybe his parents really did name him Shade and Shade is not his nickname after all. Weird, I thought.
So Shade rushed out at me at about ten feet from where I stood. I almost screamed like a bitch. Had I done so, I would’ve run as fast as my legs could carry me as if to escape death itself. But I didn’t. I couldn’t, frowning at my own cowardice as this shadow of a brother fast approached me with a blank expression. Cold sweat was forming above my brow and at the nape of my neck. Shade was walking towards me and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I thought that he was going to kill me. Instead, when his eyes and mine were about an arm’s length apart, he pointed his fist at me, making me believe he was going to beat the piss out of me. Then suddenly, the fist opened up—his palm flat. At first I flinched, cocking my head back, causing me to practically lose my balance and double-over. When my eyes came back into focus, letters, numbers, and symbols it seemed, appeared out of nowhere on Shade’s palm. It was in bold, blue paint.
ETA HOUSE INVITE
TONIGHT @ 7 O’CLOCK
PLEASE BRING $33
Shade didn’t say a word and made no sound. The only sound, I realized, was my heavy breathing from fear and nervousness. I read the message three times then looked at him, trying to see through those sunglasses of his to see the eyes hidden behind that black veil and couldn’t. He gave me one nod and nodded back. Just as soon as he appeared before me, he disappeared like a ninja; he scurried away and made no sound.
I let out a deep breath and wiped away the moisture from my forehead. I was relieved that Shade was gone, and again, I was alone with my thoughts. I began to think about the last part of that message, the thirty-three dollar bit. Why thirty-three dollars? I just didn’t understand it. It was just so specific. Understand it or not however, I did what was requested and bought thirty-three dollars right after taking a quick shower and a fresh change of clothes. Little did I know then that strange requests such as these were only the beginning. Stranger requests later on, I would find, became so frequent that I would come to expect it and deem it as being normal because it had to do with the fraternity.
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At a quarter to seven I was on foot, walking towards the Eta house. I figured that it wouldn’t take more than twelve minutes or so to get to the house. On the Saranac campus, nothing really was very far away. The popular joke around here was that if you couldn’t walk there, it was simply labeled Outside of Town.
As early as two in the afternoon on Fridays, the beer and liquor begins to flow—earlier if the weather was really nice. No one on campus wants to go to class when it’s too nice out. Anywhere that there is grass, guys are throwing balls around and playing catch. On the fields people are throwing frisbees and in front of the dorm, students are playing hacky-sack, talking and hanging out with one another and smoking cigarettes.
While passing underneath some of the windows of the dorms, I can smell a dozen flowery fragrances of girls getting ready to go out and can hear the sound of their blow-dryers as they stare at themselves in front of their mirrors. Although the weekend certainly has begun, it’s still too early for anyone to go downtown to hit up the bars or the house parties that charge admission. Anytime before nine or ten o’clock is referred to as the pre-game and during pre-game, you bought your own booze or whatever else you fancied yourself or chipped in with others. It just wasn’t practical to show up at a party or downtown completely sober—it’s just too expensive to just start “cold” as saying goes.
By the time you reach either the place, you should be either two or three sheets to wind rather than Stage 1. As the years wound down at Saranac, I found that anymore than twenty dollars spent on myself downtown is really too much. Twenty was really enough for four drinks plus tip if you knew what you were doing, drunk or not and one should not buy unless they know that their getting laid. Because then of course, your money is not entirely going to waste. The drinks you buy downtown should be keeping the fire going rather than to start the fire cold, if you know what I mean. College is just too goddamn expensive and being a student, you should know better for Pete’s sake.
The Eta house was a large-split two family house that was painted bright blue and gold with white trim. The first floor, which was the commons area, connected the horizontal-split house. In all, there were a total of ten bedrooms and of those ten; four were shared between eight brothers who were NIBs (Newly Initiated Brothers) or fairly new brothers. The rest of the bedrooms were reserved for Brothers with the most tenure within the fraternity. At the front of the house there was a wrapped-around porch. Three sets of stairs led up to the porch but only two led to two sets of double-entrances. If you were to enter through the middle, you would pass through the front lawn that was well kempt, housed inside the C-shaped hedges.
Above either side of the front of the House were screened in patios lined with couches. Those were best during the summertime when you wanted to smoke or drink without being pestered by the mosquitoes or simply needed some privacy with a hook-up. When I reached the House, there were a total of four Brothers outside atop the wrapped-around porch with big cups of beer in their hands. I decided to enter the house through the middle in which I met the wall of the front of the house, underneath a big wooden sign that said, “Eta Iota Mu” in blue, gold, and white. The Brothers called for me upon seeing me approach their house as if they had known me their entire lives. I can feel the excitement and electricity of what the night would bring. I felt as if I was just waking up at the start of a party.
“We have a guest!” John announced out loud. His words were slightly slurred. All of the brothers on the porch looked up. When they spotted me they all began to clap and cheer. I felt very welcomed. I never had anyone ever clap for me before. “And there’s another one! Oh, give me my trumpet!” I turned to see Mattie coming from across the street. His hair tangled as usual. Again, the Brothers welcomed him just as they had welcomed me.
“But you don’t have a trumpet, John,” Eddie, who was sober said. John looked hurt.
“How come? Listen, we need to buy a trumpet.” I watched as Brothers were continuously sticking the upper portions of their bodies through the opening of the two windows of the patio first, with empty cups of beer and then reappearing with their cups refilled. “Here,” Brother Ian said to me from behind. “Have a beer.” He handed me a pint-sized beer inside a blue Solo cup. It was almost a rule: Every time you went to a house party in Saranac, you drank your beer from a plastic Solo cup. Accept no other substitute.
Let's Keep It Going! (Hub 5/30)
Inside, music was playing just low enough to not attract local Saranac police and just loud enough to hear. The song that was playing as I made my way up the stairs to the patio was “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf and just about every Brother that I could see was singing along. It was a good time that was about to get even better.
“Hey, what’s up?” Mattie said to me.
“What’s up?” I said back to him. The reality was that I had no clue what was up. Mattie and I were both told to bring thirty-three dollars and we didn’t know why. I looked at him while as he stood drinking his beer. “Did you bring thirty-three bucks?”
you?” I told him I did. Mattie had the same scared-as-shit look on
his face like the last rush, yet his decision to join rested with the Eta
Brothers. I guessed that he had yet to
tell his brother Bobby about his decision.
Maybe he’s waiting to see first if
he was going to get a bid. That made
more sense. That other fraternity was kind of like a safety for him. He wanted this just as much.
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