|Outside Deco Lounge, the Ducal Courtâ€™s reigning Miss Royal Baby Jazzmine Diamondz Leggz, Royal Crown Princess Sandra O. Noshi-Diâ€™nâ€™t, Grand Duchess Pollo Del Mar and Miss San Francisco Gold Rush Anjie Myma model fashions sold at a charity auction.
Notorious Sainted Glamazon About Town
Sheffia Randall and I met the weekend before we started college. In my own little way, I think it was love at first sight.
I was among the many other incoming students gathered on the campus tennis courts for â€śorientation,â€ť a way to introduce us to fellow freshmen, when I spied her. With her smooth, dark skin, wide-set brown eyes, shoulder-length black hair and smile that lit up the chilly fall night, she stood out among the predominantly Caucasian populace of our small, northeastern Ohio school. The first time I heard her laugh â€“ a loud, infectious boom that was entirely unforced and undeniably infectious â€“ I knew immediately we were going to be friends. All I needed was a proper introduction.
That chance came during one of the many â€śname-gameâ€ť-type activities that night. While I donâ€™t remember the specifics, I do recall we had a set time to introduce ourselves to as many other students as possible and remember their names. With the sole purpose of meeting this beautiful, vibrant young African-American woman, I worked my way through the crowds to her side. When she told me her name, unusual by any standard, and to this day the only one I have ever known to have it, the din was simply too loud.
â€śSophia?â€ť I asked. Obviously wrong, she repeated it again for me, to similarly incorrect results. Selena, Maria, Ophelia. I tried a gamut of incorrect responses, but still couldnâ€™t get it right. Finally, as the timer buzzed, she repeated it for me again.
â€śSheffia,â€ť she said, obviously accustomed to people misunderstanding. â€śMy name is Sheffia.â€ť
Looking at her smiling face, the name fit.
After the first day of classes, Sheffia introduced me to Kim Putnam. A pretty blond from Michigan, Kim lived in the same dorm as Sheffia â€“ which happened to be only one building over from my own - and shared her musical theatre major. I loved Kimâ€™s bubbly, free-spirited personality. She made me laugh. And sheâ€™s a fellow Aquarius, so the signs were good that weâ€™d be fast friends.
I was right, of course. Within weeks, time spent in classes aside, the three of us were practically inseparable. We even auditioned for and were cast in the freshman play together.
Over the next four years, we pushed each other toward our individual goals, celebrated each otherâ€™s triumphs and drank away heartaches. I watched both grow into tremendously talented stage performers and singers, attending many plays and musicals in which both starred. They blossomed into women in front of my eyes.
Meanwhile, they enthusiastically supported me as I joined a fraternity and rose through the ranks of our college newspaper, ultimately becoming the youngest editor-in-chief in campus history. Both were by my side when campus politicking saw me expelled from that position a year later in painful and humiliating fashion (thatâ€™s a story for another time). And, of course, they were among the very first I told once I came to terms with being gay.
Over the next several years, our circle of friends grew significantly larger. A year ahead of us was Dan Kilbane, â€śThe Bisexual,â€ť a theatre major who became the first out person I ever really knew and, as is so typical, the first guy I ever tried to â€śdate.â€ť There was Sandro Galindo â€“ â€śThe Mexican,â€ť as we so lovingly called him - who dated both Sheffia and Kim at one time or another and with whom I shared an apartment my last two years in Ohio. My high school best friend Jim Jarrell, the one who had convinced me to attend that small, private college in suburban Cleveland and later surprised us all when he dropped his chemistry degree to join the theatre department, was a frequent compatriot as well.
After graduation, we all remained close. At various times, Kim, Sheffia and Dan shared apartments with one-another. After rooming together for two years in school and another two after, Jim and I decided to get our own places â€“ and Sandro and I became roommates instead. During those days, many more â€” former college acquaintances and new friends â€” joined that close-knit group. Writing this, names and faces are flashing into my mind too fast and numerous to list to any effective degree here, but one thing is undeniable. It was a wild and wonderful time.
Young and without a care in the world, we spent our early twenties together in a haze of late, drunken nights, messy house parties, hook-ups, countless evenings of karaoke at area gay bars - and laughter. Whenever any combination of us was together, there was always laughter.
As time passed, we became much more involved in our own grown-up lives. Dan found a partner, with whom he recently celebrated more than 12 years. Sheffia, the most sexually liberated of our group, became the first to marry and have children. Kim relocated to Chicago before settling in Indianapolis, where she, too, is happily married with a young son. Shortly after I moved to San Francisco in 1999, Jim moved to New York, then to be closer to his family, found Orlando a better fit. Sandro is still living the life of a bachelor in Cleveland.
Most of us stay in touch by email, through Facebook and with occasional phone calls. Whenever we speak, the old chemistry is still there. Conversation flows easily at first, but soon the gaps between our lives become apparent, and, eventually, itâ€™s time for each of us to go back to those. Every time reminds me of exactly how far on our individual paths weâ€™ve come from those care-free days together.
For some reason, the holidays make these memories come a little more frequently. Whether it is a time to think of those who have made an impact on our lives or simply marks another year gone by, something about this time of year always makes me a little reflective. Recently, those bygone days with friends I have not seen in far too long but still love no less fiercely have drifted through my mind quite often.
Quite unexpectedly, last weekend I logged onto my email to find a message from Sandro titled â€śOld Photos.â€ť My heartstrings immediately tightened. When I opened it, a series of pictures, the newest now taken over a decade ago, were waiting. There, staring back at me from the computer screen were those familiar, wide-set brown eyes, that same luminous smile, and we were on the tennis courts again.
â€śSheffia,â€ť she said, â€śMy name is Sheffia.â€ť
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