The following post is the second part of a four part story. Click here for Part 1. I have been waffling over posting this one. It’s a bit different from other posts in that the bulk of it was written several years back in an aborted attempt at semi-autobiographical fiction. As I have alluded to in the past, this period of my life is know as “The Great American Novel” for the ridiculous convolution of it. I confess, what follows has been fictionalized quite a bit, and “artistic” license has been taken (if a blogging hack can refer to his scrabbling as “artistic”). I’ve done a bit of editing in the past few days to “bloggify” the post, and insert a little anonymity. To be honest, it’s a story that I find highly embarrasing, and am extremely self conscious about. So naturally I am putting it on the internet.
Enough disclaimers…on with the story.
My friends, I swear to you, it was not my intention that night to start a new relationship. I hadn’t even known she would be at our apartment. Returning home from a few hours playing basketball at the gym, I was soaked in sweat, and couldn’t have smelled much better than the horses that pastured in the field outside. But there she was, unforeseen, unwanted, and irresistible. As we stood in the doorway saying goodnight, I was afraid to ask her out and go down in flames with Scott and Kristine listening from behind his bedroom door. So I let it go at goodnight. Not content with a simple goodbye, she said “Well, have fun doing whatever it is you do.” and blushed.
When she left I laughed out loud. She was nervous! This beautiful, engaging girl was nervous over me. How could that be? When I saw Kristine the next morning she came running over to me jumping up and down, “She likes you, she likes you! When are you going to call her?” I hesitated. I wanted to run right home and pick up the phone and ask her out that very night, but I didn’t want to seem desperate. I decided to wait one more day, and ask her out for next weekend. That night I walked around like I held a winning lottery ticket in my pocket.
On Sunday evening I called her, and after a half hour conversation that held all of the electricity and tension of our first, we decided on dinner. She chose a little family diner in her hometown of Canton, just ten miles away. I picked her up the following Friday and drove her to dinner. We took turns telling stories, more hungry for knowledge about each other’s past than we were for supper. She was a North Country girl, and had grown up on a dairy farm outside Canton. Her Dad was president of the local milk cooperative, and her mother came from a moneyed family down in Cortland.
The more we spoke, the more I felt like I had always known her. After dinner I offered her anywhere she wanted to go. She chose my apartment. Sitting in our drafty apartment in the dark of a winter night, talking until well past midnight I felt my grip beginning to slip. I hadn’t planned on a relationship. With graduation looming just three months away I didn’t want to find a girl I couldn’t leave behind, but here she was, and how could I say no?
I wanted to see her again the next night, but she had plans and I would have to wait. I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake looking up, as the headlights of passing cars projected shadowy figures on the ceiling. I was falling for her, and as much as I wanted to hold back I knew I couldn’t. So I fell. On Tuesday I went to the florist to get her a rose for Valentine’s Day. When I knocked on her door her roommate answered. She was at class, so I left my rose on her desk next to a bouquet of carnations, and I worried.
I could see it coming, but it was already too late. Like a car accelerating towards an intersection as the light turned yellow, I had already committed. There was nothing to do now, but press the pedal down further and hope the cross traffic would brake.
When she called to thank me for the flowers her voice dripped like honey from the receiver. We would see each other soon, next Friday. No dinner or movie, she just wanted to come over and play. It was just as well. I could hardly eat anyway.
She showed up at the door with a school bag over her arm. It held a pack of construction paper, scissors, and four cans of modeling clay. She said I made her feel like a little kid. So we sat on the floor in my room, making cutouts of animals, and clay figurines. She’d finish hers and set it on the desk next to mine, then squint as she cast a critical eye on them. “Yours looks more lifelike.” she’d decide, and her brow would furrow.
We set a date for the next weekend. Nothing fancy, just dinner and a movie. All week I felt a pain deep down in my gut, like a hunger I couldn’t feed. I survived on coffee and beer.
When I picked her up, I knew something was wrong. She was subdued in the car on the way to the theater, and when we parked downtown and crossed the street she cast furtive glances all around. Before the movie began I asked her what was wrong. She told me she wasn’t feeling well. I offered to take her home, but she insisted on staying for the movie. I put my arm around her as the lights went out.
After the movie she was full of questions about the plot. At some point she had fallen asleep. A fact she steadfastly denied, and only became upset with me as I teased her about it. Midwinter break was beginning, and my roommates had left for home already. When we got to my apartment, it was obvious that she was still in pain. I made her sit down, and gave her a glass of water. She insisted that she was fine, and did not want to leave. Looking up at me from the couch she said “I’m seeing someone else”, and I started hurting too.
She told me she hadn’t intended for it to happen. The night after we met she was at a party and had met another guy. He called her the night after I did to ask her out. What could she say? We hadn’t yet had our first date, so she was under no obligation to me. She consented and they had their first date the night after ours. The problem for her was she liked us both.
She hadn’t told him yet, and wouldn’t tell me who he was except to say that he was a classmate of mine. I was devastated. “What do we do next?” I asked. She had no answer. We sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity. She needed time to think, and told me to go home for the weekend. That she didn’t want to see either one of us until she knew which one she wanted. I got up and left the room.
I drove her home, and then I packed my bags. Hidden in my dresser drawer was a note. On a neatly folded piece of tablet paper in red ink letters it read “I think I like you.” I was more confused than ever. I lay down in bed and turned off the light. Laying there in the dark I looked up at the shadowy silhouettes hoping that if I could decipher them I’d make sense of the pain.