Author’s note: I am back after a lull. I am rewriting some of the earlier stories using new techniques. I appreciate your feedback. Please note that this story has multiple pages. Click on the number at the bottom.
The letter from the landlord just said that the room I had rented will not be ready for at least a month or more. The house has to undergo major plumbing and electrical repair, it said. They addressed me as “Miss” as it happens frequently. Because my name is Ashley they just assume I am a girl. The fact is that my mom was reading Gone with the Wind when she was expecting me and she loved the Ashley character so much that she decided to name me after him.
The spring semester at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, was to start in a week. With the unexpected unavailability of the room I was at a loss to know what to do, where to stay. Being a graduate student meant I had to stay off campus. Not a big deal, I thought. I was sure the Dean of students will help me out. Dad had said that he couldn’t support me financially on his meager savings. The savings I had from summer jobs, mowing lawns, was sufficient to stay in a hotel for a day or so, but I had to act fast to get something permanent.
I took a Continental Trail ways bus to Norman. It was the cheapest deal to travel from Phoenix. I took a room at the Holiday Inn. It was early January, 1963. As I combed my hair the next day, in preparation to go the campus, I wondered what the meeting with the Dean was going to be like. His phone had been busy every time I called from Phoenix, and I couldn’t get on his calendar.
It had snowed. The roads on the campus were covered with a white blanket. As I climbed the steps to the Dean’s office I slipped and tumbled down two steps. It was around nine thirty a.m. on a Friday and the campus was empty. I tried to get up but slipped again. Somehow I managed to get up on my hands and knees and started climbing the steps. A young girl came from nowhere and asked if I needed help.
“No. I’m fine. Thanks,” I said.
“Okay, but just be careful at this time of the year.” She said as she disappeared just as she had appeared. She looked slim and attractive even with her winter jacket and the ski cap. I could have talked to her more.
No way to start the day at a new place. What’s the dean going to think of me with my hair disheveled and snow all over my jacket? I brushed the snow off my clothes; finger combed my hair back as I approached the dean’s office. Will the dean see me without an appointment?
It was not going to be. The Dean’s secretary informed me that he will be out-of-town for a week and he would probably see me then.
My heart throbbed as I left the Dean’s office, and I felt hot in spite of the cool weather outside. I suddenly felt alone. Mom was right. I didn’t know anyone in this university town, and what if the dean couldn’t help me next week, what then? And what am I going to do for the whole week ahead? The meager money I had was to be used for books and food not for the hotel stay. I didn’t want to think anymore.