Sunday nights were stromboli nights my freshman year at Central Michigan University.
Pizza King sold them for $1.25 and it was a favorite of the freshmen in Saxe Hall who were usually starving by 8 pm because the cafeteria closed at 4 pm.
Roommate William often had a little bit more money than us because his parents lived in nearby Remus and they often dropped off a little cash for him Saturday afternoon. So William bought an entire medium pizza.
And he always insisted that I got the first piece even before he took the first bite out of his own pizza. I thought it was odd until one of my roommates told me the reason behind getting the first piece.
“You don’t know what’s going on?” roommate Warren from Okemos said. “He is afraid of you. He’s never seen a black guy before coming to Central and he does not want you to beat him up or rob him.”
This confused me. I thought I was one of the nicer kids on the floor who loved to laugh and pull pranks. So I consulted with my friend Kirk.
“So what’s the problem?” he asked. “Just get the free pizza and move on. It’s not your fault he is afraid of you.”
There was a problem. I did not want a kid living in fear because of me.
William was a tall skinny kid with a scraggly beard and a puff of hair that was parted down the middle. He sort of looked like a goat. I called for a private meeting with William and I could finally see his nervousness, something that had escaped me the first several weeks we lived together in Room 4 Saxe.
William said he was not scared because I was black, but confessed that I made him nervous. All indications were I was a good guy, but he needed to be assured that was the case because of the way he saw black people portrayed on television.
I told William I was not out to harm him. I appreciated the pizza, but did not want the slices to be used as protection money. I was a kid just like him and that sometimes I cried at night because I miss my family.
My goal was to graduate from CMU and become a sports writer. Over the next four years I wanted no fights, no confrontations and no robberies. I wanted to live in peace.
After our meeting I still ate his pizza, but our relationship changed for the better. He joked with me more. He picked on me more and I could tell he was at ease around me.
I even gave him his new name — Fart Goat. He once broke wind in front of all of us in the room. Thus the nickname, which he loved.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: