How an “Empire” moment almost got me suspended from college in 1995

How an “Empire” moment almost got me suspended from college in 1995

In our sophomore and junior years at Boston University, my roommate and I lived in Myles Standish Hall. For our junior year we had a magnificent view of the Charles River—but we’d paid our dues sophomore year with a view that ended on the other side of a narrow alley, where we looked into a different wing of the same dorm.

Despite what you may know, remember, or have heard about what college students get up to, the dozen or so rooms we could see were profoundly boring. Most of their occupants just kept the blinds shut, because why wouldn’t you? I don’t know why we didn’t. Actually, I do: it was so we could get a sliver of sun for ten minutes a day, and lazily watch the one guy who ever did anything remotely interesting.

He lived across the alley and one floor down, so we had a pretty clear view of his room—and he routinely kept the shades up. He had a pretty spacious single room, which he kept very tidy. He had what seemed to be a girlfriend who would come over and hang out, often just studying on the bed while the guy worked on his desktop computer.

The two seemed to be dating, based on their familiarity, regular visits, and little gestures of affection—but we never saw them so much as kiss, let alone full-on make out. Of course, anything could have been happening when the lights were out, but their relationship still seemed kind of intriguing.

One night, they were more affectionate than usual. She was sitting on his bed, and he was kneeling before her in a kind of embrace. Their heads were close to touching, but there was no conspicuous canoodling. We decided to take action.

My roommate held up a handmade sign reading “FUCK,” while I manned the light switch, repeatedly flicking our overhead light on and off. I think the sign was meant as both a suggestion and a provocation; basically, we just wanted to see how long it would take for the two to notice us and shut their shades.

It took a while, but eventually the guy across the alley looked up, and looked annoyed. I doused the lights, and my roommate hit the floor. We giggled for a couple of minutes…and then there was a knock on the door.

My roommate silently indicated that we shouldn’t answer, but when the knocking became more insistent, I thought maybe we’d better face the music. When I opened the door, there was our across-the-alley neighbor, looking very peeved in his BU Terrier sweats.

“First,” he said, “give me the sign.”

We played dumb. “Sign? What sign?”

“Dude, I saw the sign. I know you have a sign. Give it to me.”

“We don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He sighed. “Do you know I’m an RA?”

We shook our heads, indicating that we didn’t.

“I’m not gonna report this,” he continued, “but you guys better cut it out. I don’t know what your problem is…with two people who are just trying to pray.”

Shaking his head, he turned and walked down the hallway.

From then on, his shades stayed down and the show was over….until last week’s episode of Empire, when Jennifer Hudson knelt down on the floor between Trai Byers’s legs. I should have seen what was coming, but of course I didn’t.

Jay Gabler