I remember fear and temptation. The laundry room had been installed on the eighth floor, the halfway point between ground level and roof off which a boy, strung out on speed, flew, presumably imagining that he could. No one knew him, one of the street kids and homeless runaways who found temporary shelter among the resident hippies, radical students, and cultural fringe groups of Free Alternative Academy, or FAC, an innovative, experimental, high-rise college in the centre of the city. The double glass entrance doors to the lobby were seldom locked. Bikers also invaded the premises when the fancy struck them. Towards the end of my watchman tour well after midnight, carrying a baseball bat as protection, more symbolic than real, as I couldn’t envisage myself swinging it against someone’s head, and hearing noise in the laundry room, I investigated. I saw two bikers stripped to their underwear. I wondered why they hadn’t included their boxer shorts in the wash, and why they still wore their motorcycle boots and leather jackets emblazoned with their biker insignia after removing the rest of their clothes. Crumpled on the floor by the vibrating machines like the hides of animals, their leather chaps. Odd: well, it was a cool October night. The boots: hefty, black, corrugated soled footgear designed for kick-starting engines, kicking doors, kicking ass. And who would have imagined that bikers, burly, hairy, leather jacketed and chained kinds of guys, wore boxer shorts anyway? Perhaps I had expected studded leather pouches or bulging thongs. And fear, yes, sudden fear flashed up like a movie title, if dry mouth and muscular twinges in the groin were anything to go by. Bat firmly gripped, I failed to retreat before they noticed me.

The bikers brooked no opposition, their reputation for manhandling and breaking rules legendary. On their previous visit a couple of weeks ago, they had raped a girl I had slept with, only once, mutual attraction followed by mutual dissatisfaction. She told me over a dish of fried tofu in the vegetarian cafeteria, whispering as if not to be overheard, as if divulging a shameful secret. Not just her, but they had also raped another girl, both in their ashram. Since our last and only sexual encounter, we had only nodded in the corridors, and I don’t know why she wanted to confess to me. Almost mesmerized, I studied her balletic gesticulations and caught the cinnamon scent of her breath. She was chattering, her words repetitive and hurried as if laced with speed, about a big biker forcing himself on her, and I wanted her again at that very moment. To fuck her among the bean sprouts and white beans and sunflower seeds. The second time might be better. If rivulets of shame trickled through my lust, I had no trouble damming them up.

Her five fellow residents of her ashram, including the other girl, decided against speaking up and pursuing the matter with the college administration, a committee of students and advisors, the latter mostly disaffected academics, counterculture philosophers, and irritating gadflies on the body politic. They preferred not to call in the police and would sort out the problem on their own. Maybe speak to the bikers first, politely, and say what? I wondered. Police never looked kindly on the establishment in the first place, and we couldn’t expect justice. Besides, everyone knew the bikers also dealt in drugs.

Despite their reputation and public mythology, the bikers weren’t always disruptive or otherwise violent, notwithstanding the proclivities of a few, and some had even volunteered their services to the benefit of the college. The institution welcomed the outsider, encouraged alternative ways of learning, and cooperative, communal living guaranteed not to meet with the approval of the “man,” or the entrenched privilege of the middle class, or the fascists, the latter a common generic term applied to anyone who presumed to issue orders of any kind. It was a better policy to welcome bikers, the good guys at least, if such could be determined, rather than forbid their entrance, because from a certain perspective, they embodied some of the founding principles of the college. A consensus emerged: the four guys of the ashram persuaded the two girls not to disturb the peace and tranquility of the ashram, restored after the violence.

Besides, the girls involved were also acidheads and hangers-on, often not pulling their own weight, and had banged each of their male roommates and other residents, so one of the guys told me. They hadn’t been beaten or otherwise hurt as far as they could see. Jealousy twitched around the corner of my mouth. They had been “easy,” so…you can see where that line of thinking would go if she officially complained. A double standard operated still, even among the radicals. Listening to the girl, I believed her. You could see the colour of shock in her eyes and the tones of betrayal in her voice. Why on earth would a young woman who slept with everyone, according to commune lore, claim rape? She had said no, she wasn’t interested at the time; the bikers had not listened, she told me. They pushed her down on the beanbag and one of them held her legs as the other raped her, then they changed position. Also stoned, her friend waited her turn in a fog of private dreaming. That was my silent assumption. Where were the four guys when the rape occurred? Did they participate in any way? Watch? And wouldn’t their voyeurism be a form of consent and participation? I didn’t believe that bikers found the girls alone in the ashram? Who had invited them? Or did they kick the door down with their preponderant boots? She described the scene slowly and in detail, and, lifting her orange and blue and green tie-dye blouse, showed me the scabby wound where a belt buckle had cut and dug into her soft belly. Listening and whispering sympathy over my green tea, I wanted to embrace her, press her body into mine, and take her to bed, knowing that was not what she wanted or needed, and I only mumbled stupid anodynes to mask my own confusion and suppress my boner. Shame and guilt were great drivers of my lust.

Who really listened to the female voice in those days? Even among the most socially conscious of men who had the welfare of society and revolutionary change at their heart’s core, rape did not concern them except as a distraction or inconvenience. I think no one listened to girls because all crucially important moral and political matters rested on the shoulders of radical men in the sixties and seventies who had revolution, Vietnam, corrupt capitalism, expanding consciousness on their minds, the popularity of Joan Baez notwithstanding. The problems or status of women who made coffee during seminars on Marcuse or Leary, or typed copy for underground newspapers and pamphlets, paled before the concerns and egos of politically beleaguered and harassed men who demanded full attention.

Perhaps to purge myself of from mixed and nefarious motives, I encouraged her to complain vociferously, I’d even accompany her to the college administration office or police if she wanted to report the rape, but she recoiled. After walking to her door, I leaned over and kissed her neck, imagining myself with her on the beanbag. She pushed me away and I heard the door lock behind her. I did not pursue the rape story, put off to some degree by her own refusal to lay blame, by her refusal of my overture, and by my cowardly reluctance to engage in something that I persuaded myself didn’t concern me even though I knew it did and I was in a way complicit and guilty.

Speed, hash, grass, mescaline, and peyote: one could smell the various pungent and spicy aromas exuding through the walls of ashrams and apartments on several floors of the building. For the committed and serious student seeking an alternative to traditional academic structures, tutorials were offered on a variety of subjects, including the safe usage of drugs, the dangers of diluted speed, the qualities of marijuana, the effects on the brain. In some ways, the attitude towards recreational drugs was more advanced then than it is today. One doesn’t forget, however, the boy who fancied himself a bird who had to be scraped off the interlocking brick terrace, but the buying and selling of illegal substances was strictly forbidden, as if the college were a sacred precinct. His problems undoubtedly existed before the flight of fancy. This prohibition against dealing in drugs was more theoretical than real, because it seemed that everyone smoked dope or mainlined or baked hash brownies. One couldn’t buy them at the local supermarket. They had to come from somewhere and it wasn’t free, although I do remember one middle-aged lady with a grey braid hanging down her back, wearing Indian sandals and a silvery starry purple pseudo-sari for a dress, offering her hash brownies on a blue plate for free to whomever she met in the corridors. Not much else was forbidden in a communal society that worked towards the elimination of authoritarian patriarchal chains of command, despite the rapes, the liberation of education from the suffocating stranglehold of the academies, and the lifting of sexual repression.

Fucking formed a religious rite among some residents, who extolled its spiritual benefits like yoga or tantric sex. Respecting one’s desire remained a preeminent virtue, but I often sensed that to say no somehow indicated a failure to transcend the limitations of our anti-erotic, stifling background of the fifties. The girl who had been raped had not sufficiently understood that universal love was often confused with universal availability. Her frequency of coitus had invalidated any exclusive rights to her body. The last I ever saw of her, not long after her refusal at the door and moving out of her ashram into another occupied where one of my friends lived, she was bucking on his naked lap, his long hair tied back in a ponytail, humming a Jim Morrison lyric as she rode him on a futon. After all these years, I still remember scents like a Proustian narrator. The room was redolent with sandalwood incense, and hazy with spirals of sweet smoke. Avoiding eye contact and mumbling, directing her words to the floor, she wouldn’t have objected if I had joined in, but I became impotent with embarrassment, as much for myself as for her. I smelled the drugstore perfume, a heady combination of apple and lilac, which she liked to spray behind her ears and on her neck, and between the legs of her skinny body.

So many young people who experimented with their lives in FAC: the medical student with Shirley Temple curls enjoyed life as a suburban rich kid who played counterculture radical as an undergraduate and shot speed into his veins. He hung around philosophy seminars, pretending he had read Hegel and Marx. A history major, who eventually graduated from a conventional university, returned to normalcy and became a high school teacher. Most of us returned to normalcy by rejoining the world outside the college, our radicalism more a pose than a purpose. Everything handled by committee, by cooperation, by talking things out; sometimes the sex felt like an exercise in perfect democracy, not imposing one’s will on another, and the majority fucked at will, or so it seemed. These two bikers, only one of whom boasted a hard, hairy belly, the other, as he turned to see me, could have been a bodybuilder, were both capable of imposing their will on me. I remember the girl telling me her story. The bodybuilder biker’s biceps and ripped abdomen put me at a disadvantage, even as fleeting admiration streaked through my brain. There was no beanbag in the laundry room.

Of slight build, the kind of skinny, stereotypical nerd often depicted in movies with glasses slipping down his nose, supercilious or apologetic manner, depending upon the script and characterization, with weighty tome in hand, I liked to think I was intense and mysterious. My dour and somewhat sullen demeanour was the result of recurring bouts of depression and self-consciousness, although I looked intellectual like some cosmically disaffected French existentialist, at least poetic enough for interested girls to want to sleep with me, even if I didn’t sport the turtleneck sweater and exhale Gitanes in a shadowy bongo-drummed coffee house. My brown hair reached down my backside, long hair being a protest against—well, against everything a man was supposed to look like. I showered daily and used aftershave lotion. Some of the drug-addled girls in the commune, and a few who smoke grass now and then, found me appealing for some reason. They also considered me somewhat liberated and radically sexual, regardless of skimpy appearance and general lassitude, because like them, I lived in Free Alternative Academy. I could quote Marcuse and Timothy Leary and Marshall McLuhan and really couldn’t care less who fucked whom. Mutually consensual. I loved sex, thinking about it, reading about it, talking about it, doing it. I read John Donne’s sonnets to my paramours and relished the Kama Sutra as I followed its sexual guidelines. I masturbated to the illustrations. Mattresses on floors, like beanbags, were conducive to multiple orgasms involving multiple partners.


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