My gut said she was evil. My gut said nothing good would come from this roommate situation… I didn’t listen to my gut.
It was a Nike Tennis camp at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana circa 1991. It was my first overnight camp and at age 11, I would soon find that I was the youngest one there. I was assigned to Tarkington Hall, the dorm my brother would later call home his Freshman year. I went to the front desk, checked-in and was given my room key.
I headed up the stairs to my room, unlocked the door, and walked in. My would-be-roommate-for-the-week’s things were already there. She wasn’t, but her stuff was. Okay. So, I guess the bed on the left was mine.
I’d seen enough movies to know how camp worked, and I knew that even if we didn’t hit it off quite at first, we’d eventually be fast friends. The movies never lie.
I started unpacking my things. I began placing my clothes in the drawers provided and storing the snacks my mom sent, like my precious Fig Newton’s, in the cabinet above the desk. That’s when she walked through the doorway.
Shasta Elliott, heretofore referred to as Shasta McNasty, a well-to-do suburbanite from somewhere in Indiana, sauntered into our room like she owned the place. The monogrammed towels I saw dripping with pretense near her bed would have been all the foreshadowing needed had my life been an effective young adult novel. If I knew then what I know now, the garishly popular Palace Script used for the initials was the telltale sign, because fonts never lie. And I suppose her initials S.H.E. (for SHE DEVIL) was perhaps another context clue… Okay, admittedly, I don’t recall her middle initial, BUT accurate is accurate and so for the purposes of this post, S.H.E. were her initials.
She was fat. I was chubby and she was fat. I would later abhor those types of judgements, as we all should, however, this was then, and looking a person up and down, judging them based solely on the superficial information at hand, is what 5th graders did (as well as the rest of society).
She was 13. Probably one of the next youngest at camp, hence why she got stuck with the baby camper.
She talked a lot. Anyone that knows me knows I talk A LOT, yet somehow, she made me look like a church mouse.
I was somewhat in awe. Here was a fat 13-year-old girl with the confidence of Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn combined. We were at the ages where we should have been awkward and uncomfortable. And here was Shasta McNasty who had no qualms about changing clothes in front of me, flaunting her wares like they were the best-in-show, and commanding the attentions of anyone in the room…which, unfortunately, was me.
That first night, as we laid in our rather uncomfortable twin beds staring blankly at the ceiling while getting to know one another, I learned officially that yes, her family had wealth. They owned a tennis court. It was on their estate near the pool … and just so you understand, this Hollywood Hills style living that she relayed to me, in that bored tone you see snobby affluent folks use on TV, was not commonplace in Northern Indiana farm country, so I was hanging on every word. I’d never really met a “rich” person before. That night is when I also learned she’d had sex. A. Lot. And with older boys. My little 11-year-old mind was blown!!! Shasta McNasty was….….doing it! My roommate had just gone from spoiled suburban rich girl to a Hoosier harlot in 5 seconds flat. Because I judged. Because that’s what people do. Regardless, I was completely engrossed in the tales she was spinning of her fast and loose ways. That night and those stories are why she became Shasta McNasty. I still can’t shake some of the images she so colorfully painted.
The next day was the first official day of camp. After listening to Shasta McNasty regale me all night with story after story of her many sexual encounters, I’d simply assumed we were now camp friends. Clearly, we’d bonded in the dark of our dormitory room. But apparently outside of our little abode in Tarkington Hall, this was not the case. I wasn’t even on her radar.
That’s okay. I had tennis to focus on and being the youngest at a Nike tennis camp wherein we had to run five miles a day, in addition to day drills and calisthenics I’d never done, I needed all my energy to make it through. The average age of a camper was 16. I was 11. It was a lot to keep up.
The camp atmosphere, I quickly learned, was extremely competitive, so befriending Shasta McNasty didn’t really matter to me once the day had gotten underway. I was too busy dying in the 100-degree heat to be concerned about making camp besties with anyone, let alone my experienced supercilious roommate. At the end of that first day, I was sore and in pain. I was beyond exhausted. I’d never had 8 hours of high school level athletics thrust upon me. I was ready to shower, eat, and go to bed.
As I walked into our room to do just that, however, it appeared my suffering had only just begun.
To be continued….