Robertson Hall is about some computer geeks in college. The completed story (and some supplemental material) is available as a free PDF and eBook (ePub format) on the author’s site, and a print volume is available at Lulu.com. Enjoy!
Chapter 13: Art
[SIZE=3]I woke up around 07:00, having gone to bed early. The dining hall didn’t open until 10:00 on Sunday, so after dilating and a shower, I worked on the developer documentation I had promised for robotics team. I got wrapped up in that, so when The Clan got together at 11:00 I went with the rest of them. Megan wasn’t around to join us, but at breakfast I spotted her eating with some of her other friends.
Keith joined us mid-way through D&D—Tim had put his character on NPC status for the first half of the game—and we completed the first goal of the campaign.
Monday at Robotics team, Kraus, Dale, and I discussed our progress. I supplied the documentation I had promised, but had not completed much else. Dale was struggling with the vision subsystem, but had a meeting with Sandy scheduled, hoping for some insight.
Kraus was the coding king of the week. He had looked over my code, figured out the messaging interfaces, and finished off ‘the consciousness.’ Next, wanting to test it, he created a program that supplied the necessary interfaces, emulating the other components based on data in XML configuration files. He had only set up the vision emulation so far, but the rest were easy compared to that; this meant a large share of testing and debugging could be pre-robot and off-robot. I remembered thinking something like this would be helpful, and expressed my gratitude to Kraus for the huge effort.
I left, feeling happy to be working with Kraus, wondering why Dale was doing the eyesight instead of Kraus, and missing my weekly dose of Roger who had been absent.
Tuesday I ran into Kimmy coming from dinner as I returned to my room after A&P lab. She looked tired. “Still feeling the effects of Friday night?” I asked.
“Uh?” she looked over at me. “Oh…Uh, yeah.” She seemed even more exhausted than she looked.
“Go to sleep early,” I suggested. “Studying when you’re tired is useless. You’re better off with less study time when you’re refreshed, than studying a lot when you’re tired.”
“Thanks,” she nodded.
Thursday morning I slept in ’til 09:00. I gathered my things for a shower, and as had become my ritual, took off my diaper just before I left for the shower. Today, however, after taking it off and starting to roll it up, I suddenly realized I had to pee now! Before I could do more, I felt my bladder let go, and a few ounces of urine squirted out onto the floor. “Shit!”
As I tamped the rug with a few tissues to pick up worst of the leak, it occurred that both awareness and the ability to retain even a few ounces—instead of dribbling continuously—was a sign of returning bladder control. I hopped into the shower in good spirits.
There was a knock on the door Thursday night; Keith answered it because he had to go shift laundry into the dryer anyway. It was Megan, and I was glad to see her—Saturday had been the last time we had spent any time together, and I was beginning to think she was avoiding me. “Hi! How are you? Come in! It’s good to see you,” I set down my book and got up from where I had been studying on the bed.
“It’s good to see you too. Sorry I’ve been…” She ran out of words.
“It’s no problem, I know how it is. I’m busy too.”
She nodded. “Do you know about Coming Out Day?”
“October 11. Coming up on…ah…” I tried to figure out what day it fell on.
“Monday,” she finished for me. “I heard the GLBT Fellowship is doing an awareness raising event at noon in the student union. I’m going to go and show my support. Would you like to go together?”
“Sure. I’ve got class until noon—I’ll meet you there.”
“Great.” She took a deep breath. “How have you been?”
“Busy with classes. Missing you a little. Come, sit, let’s catch up,” I said, patting the bed beside me.
“No, I’ve got some work to do, and I need to get started. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said as she left. ‘Maybe she is upset with me about something,’ I thought. I speculated on why until Keith returned from moving laundry, which broke my meditations.
I was dilating shortly before 23:00 when Keith returned again, now with his finished laundry. “Have you seen Kimmy? She looks terrible, like she hasn’t slept in a week.”
“Still?” I filled him in on dancing last week, and her looking exhausted on Tuesday, finishing, “It can’t be dancing anymore. She must be having insomnia or something.”
On Friday I connected to Kraus’s CVS archive, retrieved the source code for his emulator, and made a few portability fixes for the Mac before checking it back into source control. ‘Maybe I should set up a ValOS CVS, too,’ I thought, so I made a note to myself—finding I already had a note to myself about a shell script I was supposed to write to send me reminders.
I also downloaded electronic documentation for the micro-controller we were using, since that would be easier to carry than several tomes.
Megan joined us to dinner, which was nice. When Keith raised the idea of Battlestar, I reminded him that I needed to crash early for Saturday’s road trip. Neither Chris nor Bert were willing to allow it in their room, so it was kiboshed. Instead, we board gamed for an hour before several of us escaped to get some sleep.
Valerie woke me up at 06:00. While I was dilating, I heard a soft knock on the door. It was Jane knocking me up on the way to the shower. “Thanks. Is Megan up?”
“She just went into the bathroom.”
“Great. I’ll be in momentarily.”
I finished dilating and took a shower myself. By the time I was dressing, Jane was at my door again. “Are you coming?”
“I’m getting dressed. I’ll be out in a moment.” I finished dressing, put on my pre-loaded backpack, and locked the door on the way out. Jane rolled her eyes when she saw me lugging Valerie, but didn’t say anything; Megan commented, “You don’t go anywhere without that, do you?”
I shrugged. “Tall woman with a laptop.”
“Huh?” I explained the euphemism, but they still didn’t get it; I guess you need to know a number of transsexuals to understand the stereotype. We met Clarisse and Jake at the dining hall just after 07:00, and after a quick bite we piled into Jake’s minivan and hit the road well before 08:00.
We talked for the first hour or so, touching on school, art, politics, and an assortment of other topics. When we ran out of stuff to talk about, Jake put on David Bowie’s Space Oddity, which I didn’t care for, so I put on headphones, started the soundtrack to Neon Genesis Evangelion, and buried myself in memory management.
Jake wasn’t a bad driver, except when he had taken a call on his mobile; then he was terrible. With gas, lunch, and bathroom stops, we arrived in downtown Cleveland at 12:45. I stuffed Val under the seat, got the purse out of my backpack, transferred one brief into it along with my wallet, and climbed out.
“Sorry about that guys,” apologized Clarisse. “When I looked up the price, I looked up general admission, not the exhibition. But we’ll have entry to the rest of the museum too this way.”
I squinted up at the admission sign. “Is that with college discount?” I asked.
“Discount?” Clarisse turned to look at the sign again.
‘Idiot,’ I thought as I got out my ID. But this was good: the trip would only be $10/head over budget, which was acceptable.
“I think his use of gesture in this piece really brings it to life,” Clarisse babbled on for the latest painting. “And the color gives it a vibrancy, while the value lends it realism. When we compare to the study, you can see…” I tuned her out and admired the painting, then studied the corresponding statue.
Megan came up next to me. “What do you think?” she asked.
“The paintings are good. But I’m all about these sculptures.” She nodded.
“Ooh, now that…” I said as we wandered through the regular collection later in the day. “It’s obviously staged, and I don’t know that the cherub is necessary, but…” I looked at the piece’s plaque: The Sleeping Faun by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer. “She really captures the human form in this.”
“But has she conveyed an idea with this piece? What’s her message?” Clarisse questioned.
I shrugged, while Jane suggested, “Men can be pretty.” Megan, who had been rolling her eyes, smiled at Jane’s suggestion.
“It also symbolizes the way the common in our life can retain aesthetic value,” Clarisse finished.
“Yeah, I guess I don’t get it. It’s a can of soup,” I said, staring the Warhol print of Beef with Vegetables and Barley.
“Maybe it’s our engineering background, but I’ve gotta go with Li on this,” Dale agreed with me.
“Don’t make trouble,” Megan said quietly to me.
“But it’s a can of soup,” I repeated quietly. Despite the glare she returned, I detected a smirk underneath.
The museum shut down at 17:00, which was good because I was getting arted out. And tired of Clarisse’s color commentary the whole time, occasionally supplemented by Jake or Megan—but at least they contributed worthwhile insight.
We stopped for dinner at a Stake ’n Shake in the outskirts of the city. After ordering, Clarisse started on her post-game review, so I took some time to visit the bathroom for a change and dilation. She was still going when I came back; we eventually all agreed on one piece we all liked: The Age of Bronze, by some French guy in the 19[SUP]th[/SUP] century.
I drove the next leg of the way back, then handed the wheel over to Dale for the last two hours. Megan fell asleep, leaning against me; it had been a long day. I eventually nodded off too, waking up when Dale stopped for a traffic light after exiting the interstate. I started gathering my things for departure.
“So what’s with the soup cans?” Jane asked Megan after separating from Clarisse and Jake.
Megan sighed. “It’s what Clarisse said at the museum about finding the beauty in the common, everyday item. It’s supposed to make you open your eyes, really look at something that you’ve habituated to, so you can see the details you’ve been missing. But as much as I understand Warhol’s vision, he often focused on a subject even more than I care for.”
“More like obsessed on them,” Dale commented. Megan nodded silently.
Dale held the door for us as we made it to Robertson. Riding the lift, Megan asked, “Sleepover?”
“Sure, but I need to dilate before bed. I’ve got to make up for today.”
[/SIZE]I caught a scowl from Jane. ‘What is she pissed at now?’ I wondered.