In this excerpt from Lazarus, I write about one of the occasions the Beta pledges were on line and had to navigate the campus while on strict social probation. Enjoy.
After having purchased extra white shirts and black slacks for our line brothers, Ed and I stepped off of the bus and paused at the front gates. We were both dressed identically, from shoes to shirts, and even our thick winter coats happened to be black.
“How are you feeling?” Ed whispered.
“Fine,” I said. “Let’s do this.”
Our book bags on our backs, and shopping bags in our hands, we walked side by side through the campus. Our goal was to meet our line brothers in the smaller of our two cafeterias and have lunch together before we split up for class.
As we walked through the diagonal red brick path toward the heart of campus, my heartbeat sped up. Dozens of white kids passed us by, without so much as a second look. It could have been that our stoic faces disturbed them, but it was also highly likely that they did not notice us. We willed ourselves to be invisible so that we would not be forced to ignore our friends.
I noticed that our pace was quicker than it would have been had we not been pledges. Only about a minute had passed, and we were already walking through The Square, the symbolic center of campus as well as the busiest place at midday. We were nearly through The Square when someone called out for Ed.
“Ayo, Ed!” the male voice called. I resisted the urge to turn to Ed, and we walked on.
“Ed!” the man called again. We continued to walk, not daring to break social probation. The sharp voice cut through the winter air like a blade, for as busy as it was, The Square was still relatively quiet. I could sense Ed tensing up, but we walked on.
“Hey Ed, I know you hear me!”
I prayed that whoever was calling Ed would not try to confront him right there in front of everyone. It just would not do to have an argument in the middle of campus on our first real day of pledging.
We stepped up our pace and finally were clear from the center of campus. We only had two more buildings to pass before we reached the cafeteria. There were more people of color walking on this side of campus, but fortunately, we did not know most of them. Several smiled or nodded, which we could handle with a small smirk or nod back.
Every now and then, I touched my collar to make sure my pledge pin was still there. The golden disc with the burgundy letter P was smaller than a dime, and we all were paranoid about losing them since we had to wear them at all times.
We reached the cafeteria and got in the longish line to have our identification cards swiped through the card reader so that we could eat. Ed and I surveyed the dining area and saw Calen and Micah already seated at a square table near the rear of the room. We made eye contact with each other, and they rose to begin getting their food.
Kathy, the middle-aged lady who swiped the cards took one look at me and Ed and knew our story.
“Oh my God!” She quietly exclaimed as she held my card in her hand. “Y’all are pledging, too?”
She smiled as we looked at each other, unsure of what to do.
“Well, babies,” she began. “I know y’all can’t talk to me, but don’t worry about it. You just do your thing. It’ll all be over soon enough.”
We couldn’t help but to smile at Kathy, as she was the first person to really wish us good luck in the process.
“Yeah, babies,” she said as she swiped Ed’s card through the reader. “I seen a lot of young men – and ladies – be on line throughout the years. Y’all will be just fine.”
If you liked what you read and want to know what happens next, please purchase Lazarus today!