Thursday, December 27, 2007
"Really?" I said. "Wow, that's great. Good for her." I tried to think back to the last, and perhaps only time I had seen her. My uncle's long-time girlfriend, she had shared our Christmas with us once, when I was about nine or ten years old, my sister about six or seven. She had played with us all afternoon, keeping us entertained with doodles on yellow sheets of legal paper. She would start, drawing a small, meaningless shape, then hand the pen and paper to us, encouraging us to use our imaginations to incorporate it into something bigger; a squiggle becoming a snowman's scarf, a scalloped edge turned into a flower, zig-zags into a spaceship. We loved her, but in the car on the way home, my mom told us not to get our hopes up. "Your uncle will never marry her," she said. "It's sad, really. She wants to get married and have children, and she still hopes that Steve will marry her, even though he's made it clear that that's not going to happen." But why? we asked. She told us about my uncle's brief marriage years before, when I was just a baby, and subsequent divorce. "He doesn't like answering to anyone," she said. "He prefers being a bachelor."
Occasionally I wondered about Nancy. At some point I assumed that she and my uncle had broken up over the years, but then, during one Christmas get-together or another, my uncle would mention her casually, in passing, and it was clear that they were still in touch, and still together in some way, though what the exact nature of their relationship was, I was never quite sure.
And then this year, a card arrived. On the front, a gray and white Japanese landscape of a snowy mountain, the knotty branches of a tree in the foreground. The inside of the card covered on both sides with her flowing cursive writing, continuing on the back as well. She breaks the news, saying she doesn't know how to tell us this, or if we had already heard. She says a dear friend, who had been by her side helping her take care of her elderly parents, had asked her to marry him, and she had. She says that she and Steve haven't spoken in over a year. "I had truly hoped it would someday be Steve that I would marry," she says. "Twenty years later, our relationship was not growing." She says that she realized that only seeing him a few times a year and talking on the phone was not enough. That she needed someone who would be by her side, as she would be for him. Things are going well, she says. She had returned to college, briefly, and is now back at work as the cosmetics manager at Bloomingdale's.
And then, the kicker: "I still miss Steve deeply. Give him my love." With that line hitting me full force, it all became clear to me. What my life could have become. You stay because you love, and because you love you hope, until you wake up one day twenty years older and alone, with the realization that you've let life pass you by, and there's not a thing you can do about it. I could have stayed. I wanted to stay, with every fiber of my being, I wanted to hold on and never let go. He didn't want me to go either, not exactly, which made it even harder. But he wasn't willing to make any promises, either. Over the years, dreams and talk about the future had diminished, reduced to "I like being with you. I want to be with you now. Isn't that enough?" It might have been enough, and I might have continued on, hoping that he would change, hoping that I would be able to persuade him to love me the way I needed to be loved. But in the end, my natural pessimism won out over the status quo. I knew deep down that people don't change, not really. I knew, even then, that if I kept on I ran the risk of waking up one day years later, realizing that I had let life pass me by, and with nothing I could do about it. And suddenly this card from a woman I barely know and haven't seen in eighteen years, and my decision is confirmed. It was the sensible thing to do.
Though in my occasional correspondance with his family members, and my thinly-veiled questions regarding his welfare, if I had more guts, what I might be saying is this: "I still miss him deeply. Give him my love."
Monday, December 24, 2007
Christmas in my family is always a somewhat disappointing affair. There's no tree, no decorations, no warm, glowing hearth. It wasn't always this way, but over the years the decorations started coming out later and later, until one year, when I was about twelve, they didn't come out at all. For a few years I struggled to carry on the traditions by myself; dragging the aluminum tree upstairs piece by piece, setting it up, decorating it, alone. And reading this, it's really a wonder I've never had to undergo therapy, isn't it? Anyway, eventually I recognized that it was all an exercise in futility, and I gave up caring long ago.
My family does do gifts, though in the same kind of scattered and half-hearted way you might expect. For instance, last Christmas my parents gave my sister an iPod and an electric piano. I got a book. No wait...a book and a calendar. I almost didn't find out about it, since my sister didn't even show up for Christmas last year. Apparently she had "better things to do." Though she did stop by the day after to cart off her loot.
"Hey, I just saw your sister carrying an iPod and a keyboard out to her car," my future ex-boyfriend informed me.
"What? Wait...what?!" I said calmly. I calmy and nonchalantly marched down to the basement. "Hey Mom. Hey Dad," I said nonchalantly. "So uh...Becca got an iPod and a keyboard for Christmas?"
"Well, that's what she asked for."
"Wait a minute...since when do people get what they ask for around here? You know, I asked for an umbrella two years in a row. An umbrella. And I never got it."
"So, are you saying you want an iPod, too?"
"No...I mean, yeah, I mean, of course, but that's not the point..."
And then my mother, filled to overflowing with the spirit of the season, took out her checkbook and wrote me a check for $500, which I then promptly used to
Merry Christmas, everyone! However your holiday season goes, at least you can rest assured knowing that, in any case, it's probably better than mine. Here's to a happy new year, and fond hopes for a fantastic (or at least much-improved) 2008. Cheers!
Friday, December 21, 2007
I hope everyone's holiday shopping is going equally smoothly. Thanks for reading, and I raise a virtual glass of egg nog to you. Cheers! (You totally have a virtual egg nog mustache now. Ha!)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Unlike everyone else in the class, he already spoke French perfectly. I had assumed he was North African, but I would find out later that actually, he was half Russian, half Ethiopian. He was tall, lanky, and angular, with dark hair and amber skin, and sharp, almost sinister features. Sketchy hot, I would think, and I was hopeless for him. He had a foreign air of worldliness about him that set him apart from all the other white bread frat boys on campus. He belonged in a café in Paris, on a beach in Algiers; he belonged on a train rushing through the frozen Russian countryside, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette by an open window. He did not belong in Westminster, MD, home to a small private liberal arts college and the Carroll County Farm Museum.
One night I went out with a couple friends to a newly opened bar down the street, that with its grand opening brought the sum total of bars in town to an unheard of three. A little drunk already with the novelty of the situation, to be drinking beer in public and not shut up in a tiny dorm room, swaggering a bit with our newfound age of majority, we huddled around a table, glancing around the room and pointing out people we knew. Students and locals, old and young together, drinking peacably, and nary a campus safety officer in sight to break up the party. I thought for a second that this might just be what heaven is like. Then I spotted Mike, and suddenly I was sure.
He came over, introductions were made all around, and we sat and drank and talked for the next two hours. In a cozy tête-à-tête, he and I became engrossed in conversation, half in French, half in English, as he drank Guinness and chain-smoked cigarettes. He told me about everywhere he had lived, everywhere he had been, and I glowed in his attention, in my foot touching his under the table, in how easily French was flowing from my mouth, in the fact that our conversation must have seemed mysterious and incomprehensible to anyone else listening. And then, finally, after all this..."You know," he said, glancing across the table, "your friend is really pretty when she smiles." Suddenly, the glow evaporated; we were just in a dark, smoky bar, and my head hurt. It was time to go.
Some weeks later, I called my friend Dave, bored. "Hey, whatcha doing?" I asked.
"Oh, just hanging out with Mike," he said. "Drinking gin."
"Mike?" I said. "You mean Tall Mike??? I'm coming right over."
And the three of us proceeded to get drunk in Dave's tiny corner single room, playing video games, watching porn. I was boisterous, happy in a way that anyone who knew me would have been able to tell was trying too hard. I had a chip on my shoulder, and something to prove. When the alcohol ran out, the party was over, it seemed. Except..."I have more gin in my room..." I mentioned.
"Yeah?" Mike said. "Well let's go."
Having rid ourselves of Dave, we trekked across the deserted quad to my room, where we sat and talked on my floral-covered twin bed. Finally, interminably, Mike said, "Have you ever heard of a vacuum kiss?" I hadn't, but I was intrigued. "Can I show you?" he asked. Could he? Of course he could. He started out with his lips barely making contact with mine, followed by a whispery inhaling, exactly as if he were vacuuming up crumbs. I started to kiss him back, but he stopped me. "No, no," he said, and he continued the breathy inhaling, varying the suction against my lips, until he apparently reached a stopping point. "So," he said, "do you want to try it now?" It was all the invitation I needed. We started kissing in earnest, and it escalated rapidly until I found myself lying on my back with his weight pressing down on top of me. Something about the position, his insistence, bothered me, and I struggled slightly to free myself. But my efforts were fruitless; I was pinned against the bed, and this realization made me slightly frantic. I struggled harder, becoming desperate, like a caged animal, and still he bore down on me, holding my arms so I was unable to move. I said no, I'm sure I said no, but I was breathless, and he was on top of me, and I felt helpless, like in a nightmare where you're unable to scream, or make even the slightest of sounds. I summoned all my strength, using my core muscles to push against him, and into an upright position once again. I took a deep breath and exhaled a huge sigh of relief at this new freedom, but before I could even think, before I could chide myself for getting into this situation, he had pushed me back down again, holding me with even more force this time, as I felt my tired muscles grow weaker. Thoughts flooded through my mind; What will I do, I thought, if, you know, it comes to the worst? And then I knew; I'll call Pat, I thought. That's what I'll do. And he'll come over and he'll hold me and take care of me, like he did when I drank much too much and got sick much too early on Homecoming night. And he had; not only did he put me to bed, removing my shoes and taking off my necklace so it wouldn't fall in my mouth when I got sick, but he held vigil over me all night long, though I wasn't aware of it until the next day. In my leopard-print folding chair he positioned himself next to my bed, and he strummed my guitar, quietly, and he watched me. Everyone else was out drinking and partying- his friends, frat brothers- but he stayed sober, and he stayed with me. He answered my phone, he sent away visitors, and the next morning I woke to find him bundled in my sweatshirt, stretched out next to me on a strip of mattress only inches wide. Yes, that's what I'll do. I'll call Pat, and everything will be ok. As this was going through my mind, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye; the glowing digital face of my alarm clock. Three a.m.?! There's no way I can call Pat at three a.m., no matter what happens! I would be on my own until morning, then. Somehow this thought, the lateness of the hour, and classes rapidly approaching the next morning, panicked me more than anything else. "Holy shit!" I yelled. This seemed to startle him, and he stopped momentarily and looked at me, confused. "It's three a.m.! You have to go! I have to go to bed, I have a spanish test tomorrow morning. You have to go!"
"Mais," he said, dazed, "mais on n'est pas satisfait?" He said this incredulously, as if never in his life had anyone dared refuse him before satisfaction was attained (for one party, at least). I shrugged my shoulders silently, exaggeratedly, palms up. Tant pis. He stretched himself up to his full height, still eying me with disappointment and reproach, and ambled towards the door. He stopped suddenly, and selected a cd from my collection. Bob Marley. "I'm taking this," he informed me. "I'll give it back," he added, unconvincingly. I knew I would never see it again. At first I was resentful, but then decided it was a small price to pay to be rid of him, when it all could have ended so differently.
And, just like that, I was cured of my obsession. I stopped wishing for him to sit next to me in French class. When I saw him around campus, I looked the other way. All I had wanted was to prove to myself that I could get him, if I wanted to. That I was as pretty, as desirable, had as nice a smile as any other girl. That he could be interested in me. I never dreamed victory could taste so sour.
Somewhere in the night, a moth gets too near a bright and fascinating flame, and singes its wings. This time it escapes, alighting into the dark relief of the cool night air, mostly unharmed. Off on a new adventure, it turns its eye to the dimmer but more plentiful lights of the millions of stars, twinkling overhead. And as it goes, it sings: No, woman, no cry. Little darlin, don't shed no tears. No, woman, no cry. Everything's gonna be alright. Everything's gonna be alright. No, woman, no cry.
Monday, December 17, 2007
O frabjous day! Callooh, callay!
So, one response out of six (I, uh, sent out a couple more e-mails last night)...that's...well, it's better than nothing, in any case. And the old self-esteem meter creeps back up just a smidgen.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Three days ago when 12 inches came down and people were freaking out and all the news could talk about was the snow, my god, the snow!, I was all, pfffftttt. It's winter. I stayed home all day and worked on my paper. The next day when I had to go to my office, for the most part the roads were plowed, the sidewalks were cleared. No big deal.
But now, four to eight more inches?! Seriously?!
Yet another day homebound, and all I can do is think wistfully that it would be a great day to be snowed in with someone...
Friday, December 14, 2007
I'm down, discouraged, and feeling all too acutely the effects of the R-word once again. In the past week alone I've undergone more rejection than I feel equipped to handle at the moment. Case in point:
Friday night: Go out with roommate and psychic friend. A certain male friend of roommate will be joining us. Have previously engaged in mild flirtation and one goodnight kiss with said friend, which didn't lead anywhere. Still, though. Could be interesting. Think, stupidly, This could be fun. Get hit on repeatedly and insistently by short, trollish man who can't take a hint. Look around desperately for male friend, who has disappeared. When he finally returns, encourage him to put arm around waist with a pointed help me! nudge. His arm looped half-heartedly around waist, turn to troll, still hanging around at level of right shoulder, and shrug. Hey, that's life. Troll does not take hint and keeps coming back. Obviously wasn't clear enough. Nudge male friend again, who doesn't respond. Must have nudged too gently. Nudge again. And again, harder. Realize am being pointedly ignored by male friend who is engrossed in deep conversation with fake hair-wearing psychic friend. He will spend the rest of the night with her on the dance floor. "He's a subtle dancer," she will say later. "Like me." At the end of the night, they will make plans to get together the next day. Note to self: never go out again.
Saturday: Text message from snuggle friend asking if I would like to take a break from paper for a drink. Am wishy-washy. Need to work, and yet, need to drink. Fed up with texting back and forth, call him. No answer. Leave voicemail. He finally calls back an hour later. He didn't see my missed call at first, he says. He had multiple missed calls, thought they were all from his "friend", Tyler. So, where do you want to go, I say. You really don't like making decisions, do you, he says. Um, we've gone out once, I say. So I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. He huffs and puffs and says he really can't think about any of this right now. But if I decide where I want to go, give him a call. But, you probably won't, will you, he says. I shrug, out loud. But I do call, an hour later. I will say, this is silly, let's just go somewhere. I've been in the house all day. He doesn't answer, again. This time, his voicemail box is full. I wait for him to call me back. He doesn't. Ever. Next day I send a text, saying, What happened to you last night? No reply. So. Now that's over, too.
Wednesday night: Searching for any possible distraction from paper-writing drudgery, turn to Craigslist personals. The lowest of the low. Respond to three ads of men with no photos; who knows what I'm getting myself into. Send three short e-mails with attached photo, as requested. Continue to check my e-mail for responses that never come. 0 for 3. Kind of want to die.
Friday: Find cute and interesting prospect I seem to have previously overlooked on Okcupid. Seems like my kind of guy. Height considerably above average: check. Ability to grow facial hair: check. Similar taste in music, movies and food. Sense of humor. Send a short and hopefully cute e-mail. Wait anxiously for a response. He views my profile at 7:43 p.m...That's all. No reply. The ubiquitous and unstated thanks but no thanks.
So. A streak of bad luck? Stars aligned against me? Emitting desperate vibes and/or foul odors via the internet? All of the above?
My question for you is, at what point do you throw in the towel? At what point do you say, I can't take this anymore, and I give up?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I'm not making as much progress as I would like. Then I look at some titles of books other people have written about him:
Mallarmé and the Art of Being Difficult
And then I think, Yeah, that sounds about right.
I will be finished (have to be finished) by Monday a.m., at the latest. And then I can finally get down to the serious business of sleep, glorious sleep.
Wish me luck. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to figure out how to write 10 more pages about the poet of nothingness. A bientôt.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
As in: "Dear professor, I am sorry for missing class. I developed a stomach flu that kept me up interspertantly throughout the night."
Kids! So cute! Although if I were teaching an English class I might feel a bit more discouraged.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Last night's dream at least took a semi-interesting turn. While I was walking through the endless rooms wringing my hands and fretting over my lost purse, I ran into Johnny Damon, and we chatted a bit. In my dream he was still with the Red Sox, and he seemed a bit taken with me. He even wrote me out a note that would allow me to get into practice to see him. And, I mean, I don't even really like Johnny Damon, don't tend to go for the dumb jock type, but I mean, I was still flattered. Then I remembered that in real life, Johnny Damon is married, so I knew then that I was dreaming. Because in my dream world, the Red Sox line-up is still composed of members of the original 2004 World Championship team, and major league baseball players are all faithful to their wives.
Then I woke up and realized that Johnny Damon is with the Yankees, and baseball season is long over, but at least I know exactly where my purse is. The End.
And now, that's it. That's all you're getting from me until after I've finished my paper. And this time I mean it!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Class finally over, I caught a few quick minutes of shut-eye on the couch in the office and then joined a couple of my fellow test-takers and friends for wine (French, bien sur) and mac and cheese at Silvertone. Afterwards, I stumbled home through the ice and cold, my internal clock swearing that it was 11:30, although my watch protested that it was only 8:30. Then, it was home and a quick cuddle with my new friend, who happened to be in the neighborhood (as it also happens to be his neighborhood), and stopped by to say hi.
Calling it a long day would perhaps be an understatement, but at last, I made it to bed (alone, thankyouverymuch), and drifted off into a restless slumber. After doing a fairly good job, I think, of remaining pretty calm and nonchalant and frankly-my-dear-I-don't-give-a-damn about this test, I woke up in the middle of the night panicked, and I couldn't figure out why. It's over, I told myself. What's wrong with you? Go back to sleep.
In any case, my subconscious perhaps knew better than I, that it is not in fact over, unfortunately. Oh, and if you can help me write a 20-page paper on Mallarmé in 5 days, send me an e-mail or something. Otherwise, drink some wine for me, and try not to miss me too much. I should be back sometime before 2008, though I will likely be reduced to a hollow ghost of my former self, a mere shell of a human being. And just in time for Christmas!
Cheers, all. A bientôt.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
"What are those?" he asked.
"Oh, those are my flash cards," I said. "I study them on the bus."
"I like thinking about you on the bus, with your flash cards," he mused.
Then, later: "I can't stop thinking of that story you told," he said, "about when you were a little girl and the sheep kicked poop in your mouth. It's so endearing."
I mean, can I really turn down a guy who finds the fact that I once had sheep poop in my mouth endearing? He even thinks my moles are adorable. I keep looking for a loophole, or some kind of explanation for why he's trying so hard. As far as I know I'm not the heiress to a large fortune, so it can't be that. But what? What is it?
He played a game with me, where I answer a series of seemingly innoculous questions, and this is supposed to say something about me. Only I don't learn the supposed significance of the questions until after I've already
But, here. Before I ruin it by giving away the trick, you try it. Write your answers down on a piece of paper so you don't lie and change your mind later when you figure out what you should have said.
1. Favorite animal
2. Second favorite animal
3. You're stranded on a desert island, and you can do anything you want. What do you do? (It's vague. You can do anything. Go with it).
4. You're walking across a field and you come to the edge of a deep, dark forest. What do you do?
5. How do you like your coffee?
Here's how it went for me:
"So, favorite animal," he said.
"Well, interestingly enough, what with that sheep poop incident and all, I'm still going to have to go with sheep," I said. To my dismay, I found out that this question is supposed to symbolize how you see yourself and/or how you think other people see you. Great. So I see myself as a big, dumb, conformist. I mean, is there any animal less sexy than a sheep? I might as well have said lemming, or dodo bird, or hippopotamus.
Your second favorite animal is supposed to represent what you seek in a mate. Here was my answer: "Dogs. Because they're loyal and they love you and they lick your face." Heh. Indeed.
The third question was a little more of a thinker. "Wait, what do you mean I can do anything I want? It's a desert island, right? I mean, how many choices do I have?" I thought through my potential options, and said, "Well, I guess I would build a swing. Yes, I would swing."
"Hmm," he said. "That's interesting."
Do I even have to tell you that this question is supposed to represent how you feel about relationships? And that I actually said, I would swing? Either this test is tapping into some unconscious desires that I didn't know I had, or I utterly and completely failed this stupid test.
The forest question is supposed to symbolize how you feel about death. I said, "I would turn around and walk away." I mean, wouldn't anybody?
In response to "How do you like your coffee?" I replied, "With cream." Apparently this is supposed to represent how you feel about sex. To which I say, huh? I mean, if I had known maybe I would have replied more specifically, with whipped cream. (Just kidding). ((I think)). Although the more accurate answer these days is more like, "Uh, it's been so long I can't remember." Seriously.
Although as to this question's ability to accurately tap into one's true subconscious desires, he offered this story as proof: Apparently he asked his friend this same question, and the friend replied, "Only at night. And black." And, he swears to me that not two nights ago, said friend hooked up with another friend of his. And she's black. So, there you go. It's magic. Try it on all your friends. Then come back and let me know if anyone has dumber answers than mine, because I'm feeling a little self-conscious over here.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Me: "Hey, you know, I think maybe we would be better off as friends."
Him: "Well, maybe I'm a little disappointed, but ok. Sure."
In actuality, it went a little more like this:
Him: "What? I don't...I don't understand. You're not...attracted to me?"
Me: "No, I mean, I think you're really cute. You are."
Him: "But you don't want to...have sex with me?"
And oh, Internet, if you could have seen the look in his puppy dog eyes...Between the eyes and the fact that I'm a total pushover and apparently defenseless against men who manifest any kind of interest in my general direction, perhaps you can understand why I found myself back-pedaling and wildly overcompensating.
"No...it's just...Hey, let's kiss," I said. "Hey, let's kiss, ok? Maybe I could like you...Just forget I said anything." He walked me home, and perhaps sensing a moment of weakness, invited himself in for a glass of water. We kissed more, and...well, I suppose it wasn't that bad. But I ask you, how can I be with a guy like this?:
"Hey, your shirt, it's all holey," I said. "I saw a couple holes before, but it's covered in holes. You bought it like that?"
"This shirt is from Barney's," he said.
"So you paid a lot of money for it, then? For a shirt with holes in it?"
"David Bowie has this shirt."
"So, you bought that shirt because David Bowie has it?"
"No, I had it before David Bowie did."
I mean, really. Can the fashion maven and this Old Navy girl ever really see eye to eye? (Except in the physical sense, as we are literally eye to eye and nose to nose. He tried telling me that he was 6'1", and I had to break the sad news, with the help of The Measuring Tape of Truth, that really he was only 5'10". I didn't understand why he was so upset until I realized that his whole adult life, he really believed he was 6'1". So I had to bring him down a few notches, literally. Heh).
And of course, as this is Cambridge, and my route home from school overlaps his route to school, who should I hear call out my name from across the street when I was on my way home this afternoon.
"Are you stalking me?" I asked. But no, apparently he was simply on his way to hold office hours at Cambridge's most ivy league of institutions. And now I have plans for a study date tomorrow. As if I have time for a study date tomorrow, four days before the most important exam of my career. We're going to...read. Together. And seperately, of course. But together.
Really. Are there any more stupid decisions I could make or weird situations I could get myself into right now? Please, send me your dating/relationship/life/school/work-related questions and/or solicitations for advice now. Then make sure you do the exact opposite of what I recommend, and you should be just fine. Seriously, act now while the bad decision-making and clouded judgement last. Results not guaranteed.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Carrie: It's not that simple anymore. The real question is, is he a straight gay man, or is he a gay straight man?
Samantha: Hopefully, he's a gay straight guy, which means he's straight with a lot of gay qualities. Whereas, a straight gay guy is just a gay guy who plays sports and won't fuck you.
According to the wise, wise words of SATC, apparently I have found myself the elusive gay straight guy. He plays sports, he has impeccable taste, he gives good backrubs, he seems quite interested in yours truly, and yet...
But let's back up a bit. The answer to the question, will he call?, is no, he will not.
But he will text. Last night found me returning to the scene of the debauchery, leaving a detailed note for my roommate directing her to my whereabouts, in the event that the police would later need a clue as to where to find my mangled remains. (You never can be too careful). The verdict: not a psycho-killer. We drank wine, he made dinner, and it was good. The chemistry however...that was not so good. So apparently I'm not super attracted to short and gayish. Who knew? (Oh wait, I did).
He seems to think he can beat me at ping-pong though, so perhaps I'll come out of this with a pong partner or a new friend, at least. Plus, I bet he would totally go shopping with me.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
What? You mean that isn't how everyone celebrates Thanksgiving?
I should clarify by saying we weren't actually dancing, drinking and getting high with a professor of Cambridge's most ivy-league of insitutions, but rather with one of said professor's grad students who is loft-sitting for the next few months.
It started at dinner, at one of the few restaurant/bars open in Cambridge on Thanksgiving. He was sitting by himself at the table next to us, and he started talking to Erin while I was in the bathroom. I came back and introduced myself, and we talked about our grad programs, teaching, and how good the roasted beet and frisée salad was. He excused himself to the bathroom, and Erin and I held a quick conference.
"I think he's gay," she said.
"I know, I do too," I said. "But you don't know what guys around here are like. You never can tell, with them."
"I still think he's gay," she said.
"Yeah, probably," I agreed.
He came back, and said he liked my watch, its blue face. "That's so funny," I said. "Someone said the same thing to me earlier today, in the exact same words."
"So do I have to think of a new compliment, then?" he asked. "Since someone already told you that one?" He looked at me evaluatively, contemplating my face.
"I got a great compliment the other day," I said. "It would be really funny if you told me that one, too."
"What was it?"
"No, I want to see what you say."
"Well, I'm thinking of like, three things. But...no. I don't want to say the same thing as the other guy and sound really unoriginal."
The conversation turned to other topics then, and we continued to eat, drink, and chat.
"Hey," he said. "I have kind of a crazy idea. I mean, I don't know what you guys have planned for the rest of the evening, but do you maybe want to hang out? I mean, it is Thanksgiving..."
Erin and I looked at each other and shrugged. "Sure. Ok, why not?"
"Ok, great. I don't know what else is open, but I'm house-sitting for my professor, and he has a pretty nice loft. We could go there?"
"Ok, sounds good."
"So, are you ready for your compliment now?" he asked me.
"Of course," I said.
He leaned closer, raised his hand to my face, touching his finger to just above the corner of my mouth. "Here, this part right here. I love this."
I raised my own hand, touched the skin where his hand had just been. "This? You like...?" I mumbled in confusion.
"Do you not realize? You have a beauty mark there. It's adorable."
I might have blushed, and tried to signal "possibly not gay?" to Erin with my eyes.
Shortly thereafter we found ourselves chez le professeur, fresh drinks in hand. It is possible that shots of tequila were consumed. We discussed music, art and Mallarmé. It is quite possible that I didn't understand a single thing that he related on any of these topics. Not for any chemical reasons, mind you, but in the way that it seemed like I could almost see the ideas he was constructing fly by in the air above me, ten feet over my head. They were all so nearly accessible, and yet I was unable to grasp onto a single one of them. We eventually gave up on deep conversation, and smoked instead.
Now, I don't usually smoke anything. I'm not against it, per se, but it's just not something I usually do, even if the opportunity affords itself. I tried it a few times in college with no real results, and I've seen enough people get freaked out or sick from it that it never looked very appealing to me.
So, when he sucked a mouthful into his lungs and leaned towards me, gesturing for me to breathe the smoke from his curled hand poised against his mouth, I shied away warily.
He exhaled in a loud burst, disappointed. "No, it's ok," he encouraged me. "This is how people do it."
I looked at Erin. "This is a real thing?" I asked suspiciously. "This is how people smoke?"
"Yeah," she assured me.
"Well...ok," I said. He went through a dry-run with me, made me exhale all my breath, place my mouth against his hand with his mouth on the other side, inhale. Then we did it for real.
"Hm," he said. "I'm not sure you really got the full effect there. We may have to cut out the middle man."
"Hm," I said.
"I mean, the other way is to do it without the hand," he said. Then he inhaled another lungful, and pulled me into him. No middle man.
He turned some music on, and he and Erin got up to dance. I just watched, mostly. He came over to me, massaged my shoulders. "So, Rachel, we should hang out again. When should we get together again? Sunday night? I'll cook for you."
"Ok," I said.
"Or, hey, why not Saturday night? Yeah, let's get together Saturday night."
"I think I'm busy," I said.
"Ok, well, Sunday then."
He took my hand, pulled me out of my chair to dance with him. He put his hands on my waist and pressed his mouth to mine, no exhaling this time. No smoke, and no middle man either. After a little while I broke free. "We should probably stop," I said. "My friend..."
"Well, we could all three of us kiss," he suggested.
I didn't respond, I didn't have time to before he, perhaps noticing my lack of immediate enthusiasm for the idea, started frantically back-pedaling.
"Oh, no! Rachel, that's not what I meant," he said. "Now you think that that's what I'm into, and it's not at all what I'm into. I was just joking... heh."
At that point he excused himself to check his phone. He had been on his phone all night, tapping out messages on the glowing screen. He went upstairs and was gone for quite a while, this time. When he came back down, "So, are you guys heading out?" he said.
"Um, yeah," Erin said, looking at me. "We are."
"No, I mean, you can stay...it's just..."
"No," I said, "we should get going."
We exchanged numbers, he escorted us out, and with that, our Thanksgiving adventure came to a close, not with a bang, but, much like a fully-cooked turkey hitting the kitchen floor, with a resounding thud.
Cordially escorted out to make way for someone's Thanksgiving night booty call. Indeed.
Still, though. I wonder if he'll call?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
It was quite a night. Here's what I remember:
I wore a dress. I avoided the club photographer all night, turning my head and ducking out of photos at the last minute, until he showed up directly in front of me, his camera inches from my face, saying, "Smile."
"Oh, no," I protested. "I'm really unphotogenic."
"Yeah," he said. "Right."
"No, really," I pleaded. "It's true."
"Just smile," he said.
I threw my arm around the girl next to me, and smiled. He took the picture, and then, looking at it, frowned and said, "Uh, let's do that one again."
"See!" I shouted triumphantly. "I told you so!"
"No," he said, "she closed her eyes. She fucked up, not you. Now, one more time."
I once more assumed the standard deer-in-the-headlights picture pose. "No," he said. "No, don't do that."
"Don't do what?" I said.
"Don't duck down like that. She's shorter than you, that's a fact of life. Deal with it." Interesting theory. I stood up straight.
He finally took a picture that he seemed happy with. Then, as he melted back into the crowd..."You're not unphotogenic," he yelled over the music. "You have amazing cheekbones."
I felt like I was floating. Amazing cheekbones! A girl waits her whole life for a compliment like that. Perhaps that compliment was the small ego boost necessary to bring about the events of part two of the evening. And here a little background info becomes necessary.
I don't know if you followed the comments on this post, but it seems that I was found out, my cover blown, my blog discovered by an unidentified former date from the internet. Horrors! Naturally I frantically went through a list of potential suspects in my head, narrowing the choice down to two, and beyond that burning in the agonizing suspense of the unresolved mystery.
And, still glowing from the cheekbones compliment, who did I see across the dance floor in one of those 'only in Cambridge' moments, but Suspect Number One. "Holy shit!" I yelled. "I went out with that guy!"
"Ok," my roommate said, "what do you need us to do?"
"Dance me over there!" I said, and they did, my roommate and her friend, dancing me across the crowded floor to the other side of the club, where I "accidentally" bumped into Suspect Number One. "Hey, I know you!" I yelled over the loud, thumping music. "We went out!"
"Whoa," he said. "Hey!"
"You never called me!" I said.
"You never called me!" he said.
"Have you been reading my blog?!" I blurted out.
He looked first taken aback, then bashful, and then he laughed. I took that as a yes. "I knew it was you!" I said. "I can't believe you're here!"
"I can't believe you're here!"
We danced and caught up a bit, screaming at each other over the music. I remember insisting that he buy me a drink. Not that I'm incapable of buying my own drinks, mind you, but my purse was all the way over on the other side of the room. He very nicely complied, although I am quite certain that I did not need that last drink. We danced closer. We kissed. At some point he suggested leaving, and I went with him. We walked the mile or so back to his apartment, which I remembered from our first and only date. When he asked if I wanted to come up though, I declined, this time. He offered to walk me the few more blocks to my apartment, and I said ok.
Then he called me Jen. "What?" I said. "Did you just call me Jen?" Suddenly a couple of puzzling moments in the noise and confusion of the club earlier became a bit clearer. "You've been calling me Jen all night, haven't you?"
"Yeah, well, that's your name, isn't it?"
"So what's your name then?"
"Heh. No seriously, what's your name? Are you sure it isn't Jen?"
"I can't believe you don't know my name! It's in my blog! Have you even read my blog? You say you have but now I'm not sure."
"I know your blog's name..."
"Oh, come on, why are you getting so upset about this? We went out so long ago, and I've gone out with other girls since then..."
"How many dates have you gone on since we went out?"
"I don't know, ten?"
"Ten? I scoffed. Ten? I've gone out on so many more, and I still remember your name."
"Come on, tell me your name..."
Of course, not thirty seconds later I fucked up and said my own name. I don't even remember the context, but I think I was quoting something someone said to me. Also, I was quite drunk.
"Rachel! Of course, I knew your name was Rachel!"
We reached my street, made up (and out), and said goodnight. Then we parted, walking in opposite directions. When he got to the end of my street, he called out. I didn't hear what he said, so I turned around, and as I did I tripped rather spectacularly over a (quite large and, one would think, noticeable) pile of Tuesday night garbage on the sidewalk. I cursed, forgot why I had turned around in the first place, and concentrated on walking in something approximating a straight line and getting safely into my house without tripping over anything else. Once inside, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, had some special quality time with my toilet, and then fell into bed and didn't get up until noon today.
But I still don't know what he said.
Monday, November 19, 2007
When I expressed my concern at being able to find each other, he had this to say in response:
I will see you at noon then. It will probably be crowded, but I will wear one of those giant foam hands with the extended index finger so you will be able to recognize me.
Heh. What a joker. Unless...wouldn't it be awesome if he actually did wear a giant foam finger? In fact, I think I'll be a little disappointed if he doesn't. After all, you know what they say about guys with big, latex hands, don't you? No? You don't? Well...I bet they never have any trouble hailing a cab, for one thing. And they have really big...hearts. Yes, that's it. Huge, throbbing hearts.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
This is what happens when you have nothing to blog about and every single animal protection league, society, and association in the continental U.S. won't stop sending cloyingly adorable and guilt-inducing gifts.
Please, PETA, ASPCA, and animal rescue leagues of the world; this has to stop. The notecards, the return address labels, the wrapping paper, the desk calendar, the dog tags, the calculator, the umbrella; they are all so lovely and thoughtful and squishily adorable, but the problem is, I don't have a dog to put tags on, I don't write that many letters, and honestly, I'm not totally convinced that that umbrella is even waterproof. You see, several years ago I had a full-time job and a salary and made a couple modest donations to what I assumed was a local animal rescue league, but in fact turns out to be located inNew York state. (Duped!) However, I am now what we call
Anyway, Animal People Whose Mailing Lists I Am On, I would just like you to know that I can't be guilted anymore. As I don't have any money at the moment (or most likely throughout the forseeable future), I am unable to contribute to your very worthy cause. But please, for the love of kittens, please stop sending me your crap. Because the days are long, the blogging is slow, and I still have piles of cards crying out for a felt-tipped pen and an irreverant hand. Please, APWMLIAO, don't make me do it.
Friday, November 16, 2007
"So, you play the guitar?" I asked.
"So, have you seen any movies lately?" he replied.
"Oh, I...well I don't really get out to the theater much anymore, but the last movie I saw was Darjeeling Limited."
"What did you think?"
"Oh, I loved it, it was great. Yup."
"So, do you see your family often?" he asked.
"No, actually not that often at all. I'm not even going home for Thanksgiving this year, because I need to stay and study. But I have a friend who's coming to visit, so it won't be that bad. I'm actually kind of nervous about entertaining her, because, I mean, where do you go on Thanksgiving? Everything will be closed. But we'll figure something out, I'm sure."
"So, are you going home for Thanksgiving?" he asked.
"Uh...no....I'm...not. Because I need to...study."
"So, you play the guitar?" I tried again.
"Yeah, for about fifteen years or so, I guess."
"I would love to play the guitar," I said. "I've tried but it just didn't work out."
"It's really easy, actually."
"I hate people like you."
"Uh, I mean, it's really hard? But I mean, the first part, learning all the chords, is the hardest. It becomes kind of mindless after a point. I just play while I'm sitting on the couch watching tv. I'm sure my roommates don't appreciate it so much, but it's relaxing for me."
"I would love it if I had a roommate who played. I find it soothing, maybe because my dad always played when I was growing up, and I could always hear him play while I was in bed at night. He would play all the time, I mean, he used to have a music store, actually, and he plays the guitar, banjo, anything with strings. Luckily he never tried to force it on me. He tried teaching me a couple times, but I just had no interest. It wasn't until college that I decided to learn, and then I just taught myself chords from a book."
"Did you ever take lessons?"
"Just a few times, at my dad's store, because I figured, why not? But it didn't last very long. And my dad tried to teach me a few things, but it's hard learning from your parents, you know?"
"Oh, does your dad play?"
"Uh...yeah. I...I give up."
"What? Why are you banging your head on the table like that?"
Perhaps it was more the effects of the second beer kicking in, but we finally (finally) managed to connect on a somewhat meaningful level when the topic turned to food. Then, suddenly we couldn't stop talking; about our favorite foods, cooking classes we had both taken at the same culinary school, gushing about our favorite restaurants, and discovering in the process that we live just blocks from each other (of course). And he's not a vegetarian, so perhaps there is hope.
Though I'm just not sure how much a shared passion for food makes up for. I mean, sharing an appreciation for a good, stinky cheese has its merits. But I'm envisioning down the road, when I ask him five times to pick up milk on his way home, and he comes in and I say, 'Did you get the milk?' and he says, 'Oh, did you want me to pick up milk?' And then I will be forced to kill him and will spend the rest of my life in jail, because my lawyer is an alcoholic and the judge hates me. I mean, I'm just not sure I'm ready for that kind of commitment.
I think we're going to go out again. But I swear, if he asks me what I'm doing for Thanksgiving one more time, I cannot be held responsible for my actions.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
1. Make-or-break exam coming up on Dec. 5 which theoretically I have been preparing for for the last year and a half. I'll modify this a bit by saying that while I have been aware of the existence of this exam for the last year and a half, actual studying did not commence until May. For the last 6 months, however, my life has been nothing but class, homework, lesson plans, performing those small acts of maintenance required to sustain my mortal existence, and studying for this effing exam. And what are the requirements for passing this exam? you may ask. Oh, just a passing knowledge of the last eight hundred years of French literature, is all. In case you were wondering how one would prepare for this impossible and thankless task, here's what's worked for me:
- Read 100 of the most important works of French literature from the Middle Ages through the 20th century.
- Realize that you cannot remember a single thing you read.
- Go back. Read them again. Make some flashcards.
2. More time spent studying means less time for dating. Less time for dating means fewer posts regaling you with my dating (mis-)adventures. However, lack of free time isn't the only thing preventing me from dating, which brings us to the third Thing That Sucks About My Life:
3. I have run out of guys to date. Seriously. There is no one on the horizon, no e-mails being exchanged, no winking, no wooing, THERE IS NO ONE ELSE. I have dated Boston, and I have lost. Have you ever seen that commercial that was on a while ago, with that guy, and he's typing away and then his computer is all, "You have reached the end of the internet"? Yeah, it's kind of like that over here, only more boring. All I can do now is sit and twiddle my thumbs and wait for them to start shipping men in from other cities, or hope that someone somewhere breaks up with his current girlfriend. (I do put the hopeless in hopeless romantic, don't I?)
4. Daylight Savings Time and the joy that is November in Boston. (I can and will totally blame Daylight Savings Time for not posting). The cold, the dark, they weigh on my delicate poet's soul. I come home and put on my pajamas at 3:00. At 4:30 I'm starving and think it's dinnertime, and by 7:00 I'm all, what, it's not bedtime yet? It's all I can do just to hold a glass of wine in one weary hand and a copy of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu in the other. The only thing I feel capable of writing at times like this are weepy letters to my ex-boyfriend, and that's not good for anyone. (Unless you want to read weepy letters to my ex-boyfriend, in which case let me know, 'cause man, do I have a stockpile of those. They could keep this blog going until spring, at least).
So there, you see, for these reasons and so many more, posting may be light around here until January. But! I will make it up to you, I swear! And I will start with this gift I have made for you. Behold, it's a mix cd!
Well, I guess it's actually a playlist, but it started out as a mix cd, which I made as a belated birthday present for Talia, after discovering that origami notecards aside, what she really was hoping for on her birthday was another mix cd. Anyway, I spent a really long time (oh my god, so long), time that really should have been spent reading Proust, putting this list together, and then uploading it (my god! the uploading!) so that I could share it with you all. I had this idea that instead of writing a post I would just put up the playlist instead, and then making the damn thing ended up taking much longer that writing a post would have (so much longer!) and then I ended up writing this whole post around it anyway...
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I really hope you enjoy it.
Anyway, I'm sure I'll be around, writing a bit here and there, but for the next couple months posting will be light. So, listen to the music, enjoy, and try not to miss me too much. I'll be back soon.
Now if you'll excuse me, I must be In Search of Lost Time.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Oh my god, is that really what I look like? Is that really what I SOUND like?
I always kind of suspected that my shoulder blades stick out further than my boobs, but now I have proof.
I can't believe how many people are going to watch me doing this.
Will it ever end? My god, it's been almost an hour...
And then the absolute worst, the one thing you never want to think in that situation, or ever, actually:
Oh my god, I look like my mother.
As I was watching it, parts of it came back to me, and I remembered, oh yeah, this is the part where I become acutely aware of the camera...and now this is the part where I realize my sweater is coated in chalk dust and I start frantically brushing myself off...
Because I was teaching, I mean. Why, what did you think?
I've been dreading this project all semester, and it's finally almost over. Now I just have to choose a short clip to show to a group of my peers in our teaching methods class on Tuesday. But what will I show? Me writing on the board? The students mumbling half-hearted responses? But it's all so very scintillating!
I'm assuming there will be wine at our meeting. Hopefully lots of it. I'll drink to another 27 years of never seeing myself on the wrong end of a video camera again.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
The perfect new pair of black leather boots and and a cozy and delicious pre-departure brunch were just icing on the (cup)cake(s).
Happy birthday, Tal!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
So what's a girl to do when even the good guys are assholes? It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world, for sure.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have some brooding and unhealthy fixating to do. If you need me, I'll just be in bed for the next 12 hours to possibly a week.
Monday, October 29, 2007
He's kind. He's chivalrous. He's a vegetarian. He runs marathons. (Oh yeah, that too). On our last date, I caught him looking at me, several times. No, not just looking, but dare I say it, looking at me adoringly. Yes, adoringly, really! Deep, deep into my eyes, until I would blush and look down at my lap. We shared a dessert, two spoons. We lingered until the restaurant had emptied out, everyone else in Boston in search of a good spot to watch the Red Sox game. We left, and as soon as we got outside he slid his arm around my waist, and I put mine around his. He walked me to my bus stop across the street. "You don't have to wait with me," I said, but he insisted. "It could take a while," I warned. "You don't ride the bus, you don't know." But he stayed, and we waited, snuggled against each other, his arm around my waist, me tucked into his side. We kissed and watched the DirectTV blimp, like some fat, white wishing star, and kissed some more. The bus came, and a crowd of people waited to board. "Well," I said, "goodnight." We kissed. I got into line. The person in front must have been paying all in change. Nickels, probably. The line didn't move. An interminable amount of time later, I turned around. He was still there. "I'm still here," he said. "So am I," I said. We kissed again, because it seemed the right thing to do. Finally the line moved, and I said goodnight again. We kissed.
I went home, and the weekend passed in a blur of reading, exam-grading, Halloween party festivities, and mooning about in mildly lovesick puppy-like manner. Today I realized I hadn't heard from him since our date on Thursday. I looked up his online profile, as one does, wondering when he had last been active. 24 hours? 3 days? The last time I had checked it had been over 5 days. Maybe he does like me, I had thought. I entered his username. Nothing. I tried again. Still nothing; it was almost as if he had never existed. Maybe his account expired, I thought. But no, when your account expires you can't send or receive e-mails, but your profile doesn't get deleted. He must have taken it down. But what would lead someone to take their profile down? Maybe he met someone. I briefly wondered if...no...but we've only been on two dates. Do you think...? But if that were the case, if he liked me enough to take his profile down, you would think he would be a little more enthusiastic. I mean, you would at least think that I would have heard from him between Thursday and now. Right? Unless...unless it's someone else. Someone he likes more. Someone he calls, e-mails, tells about his day. Someone who gets his weekends, and not just the occasional weeknight dinner. I e-mailed him this afternoon, and I haven't heard back. Perhaps not everyone is the compulsive e-mail checker that I am. But in my (perhaps warped) mind, he's stalling, trying to figure out a tactful way to say, Sorry kid. Or just hoping I'll forget about the whole thing altogether.
I don't want to say watch, but...watch. I hope I'm wrong. I hope I don't have to say I told you so.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
When I first met him a week ago, I walked in and saw him standing by the bar. I introduced myself, and scoping out the chair situation, saw two empty stools next to one with a bag on it; his, I presumed. I walked to an empty stool next to the bag, and he followed me there. Oh, sorry, I said, thinking that that must have been where he was sitting. I turned and walked to the next empty chair. He followed me there too, at which point I turned around and walked back to the first chair. This awkward dance went on for an uncomfortably long time, until I was flustered, slightly annoyed, and just wanting someone to sit the heck down, already. I only realized much later in retrospect that he was probably just trying to pull my chair out for me. But, I ask you, how was I to know?
Chivalry takes some getting used to, but I have to admit, it is kind of refreshing. So, he sounds really great so far, right? But there is one thing, though. One tiny little fly in the ointment. He's...the V-word.
Vegetarian. It's not that I have anything against vegetarians; they're perfectly lovely people. I just have no idea how to act around them. I find myself stressing over decisions like, is it ok to order a hamburger? If I order a hamburger, is it ok to ask for it rare? Should I get tofu when I really want chicken? Will he judge me??? Or I find myself saying things like, "Ok, so you know when you're eating a hot dog, and...oh, wait, no, of course not." For instance, not even five minutes after he told me he was a vegetarian, not even five minutes later, I found myself having this conversation:
"Oh, so you live in the South End? That's one area of Boston that I really never get to, but I'd like to sometime."
"Yeah, it's nice, I like it."
"I hear there's some really good restaurants there."
"Oh yeah, definitely."
"Like, um, The Butcher Shop? I hear that's really good." At this point I notice he's making a sort of strange face, and yet I forge ahead in confusion, as his face keeps getting stranger and harder to read. "Oh, I mean, I just heard...that it's...good...Is it...not...good? I mean, I've never been I just...OHHH...right..."
"Right, well it's just that it's more...you know...meat-based."
"Right! Of course! Ha." And then I excused myself to rinse my mouth out after having gracefully extracted my foot from it. He started to half-stand up too. "Oh, do you have to go, too? I mean...oh. Right. Um, thanks?"
For some reason he still seems to like me. We'll see.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
For those of you with the good fortune of never having been to church camp, a little background information may be necessary. Church camp was a week-long hormone-laden frenzy of matching up two by two, Noah's Ark-like. Seven emotionally fraught days of frantic hand-holding and covert kissing while the adults weren't looking. Touching between the opposite sex was strictly forbidden, and boys and girls were technically supposed to maintain a person-wide distance between themselves. Also, girls' shorts were to be no shorter than an inch above the knee. No tank tops. Obviously, these rules were bent to the breaking point as often as possible.
The goal of church camp, along with dedicating your life to the Lord, was to "go out" with someone, or else admit failure as a human being. I attended church camp several years in a row and came away unloved each time, at least by any earthly being. Until one night during the summer of 1994, when we were all hanging out on the big rock, eating M&Ms and drinking Coke before curfew.
"Hey Rachel, have you talked to Chris?" Alex asked. He reclined lazily, eyes half-closed as some girl massaged his shoulders. "Ohhh yeah," he murmured. "That feels sooo good."
His attention thrilled me, and my heart started beating faster. Alex was the long-time object of my secret adolescent affections; he was (and according to his MySpace profile, still is) a musician. The bottom half of his head was shaved; the top portion of his hair was chin-length and blond. He would flip his head to one side and then the other, keeping it tilted at an uncomfortable-looking angle to keep the hair from falling in his eyes. He was 15, and he was so cool. When I was in kindergarten through third grade, he used to send me Valentines that his mom had helped him make, professing his love for me. About the time that I started caring was about the same time that the cards stopped. But it was too late; I was hooked. I spent close to eight years of my adolescent and teen years hopelessly and quietly in love with him.
And now he was talking to me!
"Chris? Um, no, why?" I asked.
"Cause he really likes you," he said.
Likes me! Someone likes me! Who likes me? Chris likes me! Chris, Chris...who's Chris?
"Hey look, here he is now."
Oh. Chris. My heart sank a little. Chris was small and shaggy-haired, with freckles and buck teeth. He was no Alex, certainly. In the interest of beggars not being choosers, however, I agreed to go on a walk with him. There wasn't much time, so we had to get straight to the point. "So, um, Alex says you...like me?" I said.
"Well, yeah, I think you're cool and all, and you look good and stuff..."
Whatever hesitation I had melted away. He thought I looked good! No one had ever said that before! (Attention men : flattery will get you everywhere). Although, a brief break for honesty here; Internet, I did not look good. I have seen the pictures. I was too tall, too skinny, too flat, and hmm, now that I'm thinking about it, I guess not all that much has changed since then. (I'll tell you what's changed; makeup. Thank the gods for makeup). Though his compliment was obviously a bald-faced lie, I decided to accept it. When he asked me the all-important question, though, 'So, do you want to go out?' I did hesitate just a bit. While instinct told me I had no shot with Alex, like, ever, years of watching teeny-bopper movies and reading The Babysitters Club had taught me that the cute, popular boy will eventually fall for the shy, awkward girl, once he gets to know her and finds out what a great personality she has. I wondered if perhaps I should hold out a bit longer. I weighed the options in my head and decided in favor of the one that would allow me to return to school in September and tell everyone all about my boyfriend from the summer. No one would ever have to know what he looked like, anyway.
"Yeah, ok," I said. And not a minute too soon. Just then the announcement came over the loudspeakers: Campers, to your cabins. It's 10:00.
The trouble started the next morning at breakfast. "Hey Rachel, there's your boyfriend. Aren't you going to sit with your boyfriend?"
"What, I have to eat breakfast with him now? Just because we're going out?"
As soon as he was seated next to me, ten other people stood up from the table in unison, in a clatter of trays and silverware, leaving Chris and I alone and somewhat dazed. Great, I thought. What are we supposed to do now? Talk? By that evening, I had had enough of other people giggling and pulling Chris or I aside for whispered conversations, and clamping our limp and sweaty hands together in a forced embrace. They were way more excited about this than I was. The van back to Maryland couldn't leave fast enough.
The day of departure finally arrived. Chris and I exchanged addresses and had a much more complicated conversation than was completely necessary, regarding who would write whom first. But why can't we both write each other at the same time? I wanted to know. No, no, that would never do, he said. I would have to write first. I acquiesced and gleefully threw my arms around him, free! Free at last! and ran into the van before he could attempt anything else. A goodbye has never been so sweet.
Upon arrival at home (home sweet home!), I dutifully took out a piece of stationery and penned a letter, detailing all the impossibilities of our continuing our relationship. Namely that he lived in Ohio and I lived in Maryland, and well, neither of us could drive. But it was fun while it lasted. Sincerely, Rachel. I licked a 29-cent stamp and pasted it on the envelope, and put it in the mail. I never heard back from him.
A few weeks later, I saw Alex in the parking lot after church. "So, have you heard from Chris?" he asked.
"Nah," I said nonchalantly. "I broke up with him. It just...wasn't working out."
"Ah." He nodded understandingly.
I smiled as I walked away, thrilled at our brief conversation. I practiced saying "My ex-boyfriend lives in Ohio..." It had a nice ring to it. I was 14, life was confusing, my skin was a mess and my mood changed more often than the weather, but for a moment, life was good. Yes, for that moment, at least, life was good.