Free Souls, Chapter 13

An afternoon towards the middle of her first semester, hardly five months later.  In the large lofty space just off the entry hall of the School of Architecture building, Sandy stood gazing with particular absorption at a set of drawings signed with the initials “J.C.”

Clear north light beaming through the windows in the clerestory high overhead indirectly illuminated the displays of 24 x 36 inch whiteprint drawings tacked to the acoustical carpet-covered walls. The room had been specially designed as an exhibition hall and periodically hosted shows of the work of famous architects and designers. Ordinarily, it featured student projects, the best work from the various studios.

There was a movement at her side.  She turned and saw she’d been joined by her best friend Tracey.

“Whose are those?” asked Tracey carelessly, pointing to the plans with her T-square.

“‘Those,’ as you so casually put it, are Jeff Chesters’ plans for the Main Street office building assignment.” It gave her a thrill to be able to say his name, to be allowed to take it on her lips.

“Oh,” said Tracey, unenlightened. “Who’s Jeff Chesters?”

“You don’t know who Jeff Chesters is?” She was astounded.

“No. Who is he?”

“Only the best designer in the whole school!”

“OK, and? Give me some help here!”

Sandy felt a sudden reluctance to impart more than the most superficial of information. To say too much would be a profanation. “He’s a senior, and he’s in Professor Sutpen’s AM studio.”

“Oh, good grief, Sandy, stop playing coy. You’d think you liked him or something. What the hell does he look like? Would I know him if I saw him in the hall?”

“Oh, all right. He’s about six foot tall, he’s got curly reddish-brown hair that he wears about shoulder-length (“a luxurious mane of chestnut curls,” Sandy translated to herself), and blue eyes, a high forehead and a straight nose (“Like a Grecian statue. Perfect”).  Remember that statue of Apollo we saw in Architecture History?  Kind of like that.”

“Oh!” Tracey said. “So that’s Jeff Chesters! I thought his name was Jesse or Jason or something. I’ve been so busy drooling over him the last six weeks I never bothered to find out his real name. God, no wonder you’re all starry-eyed. I think every woman in the school has a crush on him, including Professor Baxter. Rotten for us freshmen, isn’t it, stuck over there in the West Annex and the seniors getting the cushy studios on the top floor. We hardly ever see them.”

Sandy deliberately mounted her high horse. “Well, I care about more than a man’s physical appearance. We women don’t like it when they objectify us and we shouldn’t do it to them. I look at a guy’s mind and his skill!”

The other young woman snorted.

“Tracey,” Sandy persisted, “just look at these drawings. Now I’m only a freshman and not that experienced. But don’t these look like a professional did them?”

Tracey was heard to mutter something that sounded suspiciously like “maybe one did” but Sandy chose to ignore it. She went on. “Now look at the way the space flows in this plan!”

“Space doesn’t flow,” Tracey objected. “Professor Robbins says so. You define it, it doesn’t flow.”

“Oh, all right! Picky, picky! Look at how he’s defined the space between the main entry and the elevator lobby!”

Tracey leaned closer. “Yeah, looks like it’d work all right.”

“’Work’! It would do more than work, it would be gracious, uplifting, inspiring!” Just like its designer, Sandy was sure.

“OK, if you say so,” Tracy said dubiously. “So what else?”

“The South Elevation, the one on the Main Street side. Just look at his South Elevation! Isn’t it exquisite?”

Tracey peered in, assumed a very knowing look, and said, “Oh, yeah, I agree that Jeff Chesters’ south elevation is exquisite. I do admire a tight ass on a man.”

Sandy tried again. “No, Tracey, be serious. We can learn from him. The mezzanine level for instance. Look what Jeff has done with the interpenetration of space!”

Her friend could not resist. “‘Interpenetration of space’? I wish he’d interpenetrate my space sometime!”

Sandy nearly exploded. “Good grief, Tracey, I wish you wouldn’t be so vulgar!

Tracey affected mock innocence and shrugged. “Guess I didn’t come up with your cultcha. I’m a hillbilly from the sticks, remember? Vulguh’s mah middle nay-um,” she drawled.

Resuming her normal voice, she asked, “You coming back to Studio before heading back to the dorm?”

“In a little while. I still want– ”

“I’ll leave you to your meditations. Seeya later!”

Tracey took herself off, presumably to the West Annex, but Sandy remained before Jeff Chesters’ drawings, now distracted a little by what Tracey had said. It was true: most of the girls were more or less in love with him. And the guys? Some envied him, some wanted to be him, and for some it was a little of both. She, however, honored and appreciated him. Such beautiful work! If only she could design like that someday!

She wasn’t sure why she kept Tracey for a friend. The girl seemed to have sex on the brain. Now she would never dare to think of Jeff Chesters in that salacious way. It would be sacrilege to make him into a sex object, “lust in the heart,” as the Gospel said.

But Sandy had not noticed that, already, her concern was no longer that she not sin against Jesus Christ, but that she not sully the idea of a certain very talented senior in Professor Sutpen’s AM studio.

___________________________

by Catrin Lewis, 1983; revised 2013.  All rights reserved

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