I Guess That I Don’t Need That Though

One of my costume students brought a crazy man into our midst.

But before that someone knocked on my front door one day and I opened it to find Richie standing there. It took a few eye blinks for me to establish it was Sean. He looked so much like Richie! His hair was salt and pepper gray and it was cut close to his head. My brother no longer looked like Bon Jovi. He told me his car had broken down right outside the city limits and he was wondering if I could give him a ride to Fargo.

Sure! But I made him drive. I still hate driving. I asked why he was going to Fargo. He said Amy had gone crazy, for no reason, like Tonia had, and had left him. They were divorced or about to be and she had the house and the girls. So he was moving to Fargo and staying with friends. Sean insisted he didn’t know why Amy had left him. He was angry about some asshole living in his house with his girls. He still had hopes that he and Amy could work things out.

I’d lost too many loved ones to not come down on my brother’s side. But I had also grown up with him and lived with him and I was sure there was more to the story that he either didn’t know or wasn’t admitting to. He never really told me what happened. I’ve only recently been able to reconnect with Amy and their girls so I haven’t felt comfortable enough to ask what happened. I knew living with Sean could be difficult. I dropped him off in Fargo. The next thing I heard was he’d reunited with a high school girlfriend who claimed her son was his and they were all moving back to Minot to try to make a go of it. And he was using again.

Honestly it was all too much for me. I was still dealing with Bram being gone, even though Joyce was eager for me to start dating again. She was willing to set me up if I was interested. I was not. The idea made me nauseous. I talked to Bram every day. No one was ever going to measure up to him, and I was smart enough to not put anyone in the position of trying until I could let him go.

AJ had finally moved out of Joyce’s house after years of bringing home girlfriends and moving them in. They had ‘married’ the latest girl in Jerome’s boat, parked in the driveway, with Joyce officiating. Joyce isn’t even an online minister, but least she was finally accepting the girls as AJ’s love interests. 

At UND I was asking where my tenure-track position was. Cherry and Ali had both come aboard as tenure-track professors, but I was told there were no lines available to me. I was also told customers are never tenured. Which was funny (except not), because the costume professor at North Dakota State University was not only tenured, but chair of the department. So you couldn’t even argue it was a North Dakota thing. It was a UND thing. A Michelle Thing. I was angry, but all I’d ever had was a verbal promise from Kathleen. What could I do?

My Generation

I was now in charge of the Stage Managers and the Stage Management program. I was also in charge of small props. Not beds or furniture–that was still Brad’s job–but bed coverings, knick-knacks, TVs, shelves, etc because Brad refused to draw the props or give the props master pictures of what he wanted. As a result, the prop shop was always running out of time and money. The blue plastic ice cube trays in a show set in the 70s and the yellow #2 pencil in a Jacobean-era play wounded me and I bitched until I was ‘gifted’ the small props duties. 

Between all of these duties, I once spent 21 straight days in the theatre without a break. At the end of this time, I told Brad he couldn’t have students hanging lights on the weekends without a staff or faculty member present. He said I’d been in the building, so there wasn’t a problem. But I hadn’t known the students were hanging lights and I was supposed to be watching them. What if I’d left?

A Chorus Line

Brad called me a busy-body, and a junkyard dog, and literally chased me down the hall to Cherry’s office, where he stood above us, all 6’4”, 300 pounds of him, and yelled at us for expecting him to work on weekends. I asked for mediation. The mediator told me my emotions show on my face. Brad was not reprimanded. He was given tenure and rewarded himself with a brand new car. 

Gaye was doing psychologically damaging things to the students she was directing and teaching to act. She told one student to lock himself in a closet and sit in the dark, while thinking about how it would feel to lose everyone you loved and be alone in the world. She said you couldn’t act what you haven’t experienced. I sent the student to the Dean. Nothing could be done, according to the Dean; Gaye was tenured. I asked what would happen if she caused someone to have a psychotic break and was told I was overreacting.

And THEN one of my costume students brought a crazy man into our midst.

Loren and I began calling this man PITA, for Pain In The Ass. At first PITA just came and visited E in the costume shop. He’d bring his emotional support puppy which wasn’t house trained and would go in my shop. PITA left me to clean it up. PITA then began auditioning for shows. Finally he joined our department as a student and all hell broke loose. 

When PITA was still just hanging out in my shop, he followed me outside one day to have a smoke. He told me he’d been in the Air Force, Special Forces, couldn’t talk about what he did because it was top secret. Uh huh. He said he’d seen some things he couldn’t unsee. I still wasn’t responding to him. He asked me if I’d ever seen someone die before. I blew my smoke into his face, flicked the cigarette past him. I said, “My husband died in my arms while my children were performing CPR.” I walked inside, leaving him alone.

It didn’t get better from there. PITA liked to talk about all the guns he owned. He accosted a woman at the mall for begging. He told me he was a self-made man and when I told them there was no such thing, he got pissed and started shouting at me that he was of Mexican descent and had had to pull himself up to get where he was. I told him I didn’t care what his last name was: he looked white, his first name was white, and he had no accent; he had privilege that others around him didn’t. He made fun of the Occupy movement and I asked him why he thought some people deserved better pay than others. He started shouting at me that I had no right to question him since he’d fought for our country and deserved respect.

I told him no one DESERVES respect; they have to earn it and fighting in a needless war that we’d been tricked into fighting wasn’t really protecting our country, but making enemies in the world. PITA tried to talk over me, ranting about all the times we’d been attacked by terrorists on our soil. When I told him that had only happened exactly one time in our history, he slammed out of my costume shop in a rage. I hoped that would be the end of him, but he was soon back with a play he’d written in which an air-headed hippie chick embraced all left-wing protests. She was obviously me and the play neglected to tell us why she was so ‘stupid’ for being a liberal. I laughed; I still have a copy of the play. It’s not good.

But the real kicker came the next semester when PITA went to the campus police and demanded they arrest Cherry for kidnapping him. Cherry was the new chair and was meeting with all the students one-on-one to find out what they hoped to achieve at UND. He said she’d kidnapped him since he hadn’t felt free to leave the meeting. The police of course had to investigate and then PITA showed up at auditions that night to try out for Cherry’s show. PITA had an outburst in my stage management class when he found out Stage Managers can’t audition for the show they are managing. And by outburst I mean he jumped up out of his seat, screaming that it wasn’t fair, ran to the door, kicked it open, and ran downstairs.

After a stunned moment, I followed him, worrying about whoever he might run into. But he was long gone. When I went to the Dean about PITA’s unpredictable and frightening behavior, I was offered classes in how to manage a class. I am perfectly capable of managing my classes when they don’t have crazy and dangerous people in them. Then it was decided that Loren would sit in any classes I had with PITA since I wouldn’t take the class management classes. Still suggesting I can’t manage my classes, but whatever. I had a Paramedic come to the stage management class and teach us how to do CPR, use the AED, administer an EpiPen. PITA argued with the paramedic about everything the paramedic said, because PITA used to be military and knew better. As if any of us actually believed at that point that PITA had ever served. 

Other students began making complaints to the Dean about PITA’s frightening behavior. I began having dreams about coming up out of my basement costume shop to find PITA had gone on a shooting spree and killed everyone on the quad. Even though PITA had tried to have our chair arrested, was scaring our students, disrupting classes, and making everyone fear an active shooter situation, nothing could be done. The University didn’t want to get sued. I told Nick and Monica if anything happened to me, they should sue the shit out of the university. See something; say something, my ass.

I was the only faculty or adult on my floor, sometimes the only one in the building. I set up a three way mirror so I could see everything on the floor by looking out my shop door. I was promised a panic button in case PITA came into my shop and wouldn’t let me out. It was never installed. The Campus Police promised they would do daily walk-throughs in the afternoons, just to make their presence known. They never did. I told all of the students to start a buddy system so no one was ever alone.

We kept making complaints about PITA to TPTB to no avail. He and E married, to everyone’s horror. 

Senator Heidi Heitkamp came to speak on campus. PITA stood up in the auditorium during the questions from the audience part, and asked what the senator intended to do about UND’s theatre department and how it played favorites. He said he himself had donated one million dollars to the theatre department and they still treated him like shit, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. When the Senator couldn’t answer because she couldn’t make sense of his word salad, he got angry with her and was eventually escorted off campus. They blocked him from returning to campus, effectively ending his career as a student there. 

So to recap: Threaten students, professors, citizens? *Shrug* Nothing to be done. Threaten a US Senator? Be banned from campus and kicked out of the university. Lesson learned: some people matter more than others. 

But by the time PITA got himself banned, I was already gone.


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