The massacre at Virginia Tech has upset me. After all, I teach at a university and work with students. So maybe that’s natural. And a few years back, at UCSB, a student used his automobile as a lethal weapon and drove it directly into a group of students. Four died as I recollect.
For some reason I started thinking about loner students I have known over the years. Maybe 15 years ago, I got to teach some classes that were designed for low income and minority students. This was back when affirmative action was still legal. The special think about the classes really was that they were smaller (18 per section, rather than our regular 25) and all students were members of EOP (Equal Opportunity Program).
Calvin was in one of these classes. He was a black guy from East L.A. He had one of those faces that seemed prematurely gnarly and aged. Also he clearly was not a stereotypical black athlete. This dude did not pump iron. His father was a minister and his mother was a police officer. He had braces, huge ones, and I don’t know where he got his clothes, maybe from a golf shop because he word that golfer pants, with plaids I think they are called.
Calvin did not fit in anywhere. The number of black students where I teach is pathetically small, but I expect Calvin didn’t fit in exactly even in East L.A. Not with a minister father and a policewoman mother and those damn plaid pants. And a name like “Calvin.” I would see him now and again around campus and just like me he was always walking alone. He would call out, “How’s it hanging.” I would say, “A little to the left.”
One day in class, he said a lot—for Calvin I mean—something like: “Like high school is supposed to prepare you for college. Middle school is supposed to prepare you for high school. But middle school don’t prepare you for nothing but middle school. And high school don’t prepare you for nothing but high school. And college…” And then he shrugged.
He said he was sleeping way too much and without his parents constantly looking over his shoulder, he was “drowning in freedom.” I liked Calvin, but I figured he wouldn’t make it, and sure enough when I asked around the next year, I found he had not returned.
I have thought about Calvin over the years and wondered how he made out finally.
The murderer at VT has been described repeatedly as a “loner.” The way the word is used and the context in which it is employed might make it seem as if being a loner is a bad thing. It’s not. Calvin was an OK guy and actually pretty interesting. I mean just because a guy doesn’t have friends and eats alone in the student cafeteria doesn’t make him any more a threat to society than all those non-loner people. Hell, if you don’t believe me, take a loner out to lunch.