Everything falls apart

There are days when the kids ask me to help them with their 6th grade Math homework, that I am puzzled at how I ever managed to graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree. If long division is a struggle for me now, derivatives, and differential equations may as well be hieroglyphics scrawled across a page. No, my engineering degree is a testament to the elasticity of the human brain. Stretch it often enough in any one direction and you can expand its volume. Let it sit still and it will shrivel until it is the size and shape of a raisin.

It amazes me that once upon a time my brain was more trained in the complexities of science, and mathematical logic, than it was intuition and cognition. How could it have been so different? Did the fact that my neurons flowed through other portions of my brain effect my personality, or change the core of who I am? These are the questions that keep me up at night.

I should have seen it coming. The indications were there even during the height of my engineering studies. The clues were written in my textbook:

“Like all other physical laws used in classical thermodynamics, the second law cannot be proved but is a statement of observed phenomena.” – Howell & Buckius, Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics, (1987) pg. 183

I can remember the effect that the 2nd law of thermodynamics had upon me at the time. I began to realize the presence of entropy all around me, yet it took me another 2 years to come to a full understanding of them.

Science is the application of mathematical logic to explain the way that the world operates. Every equation we learned for determining strength, stress, or motion included a small fudge factor to account for losses & friction. The problems we were given to solve required us to ignore the world around the problem, and focus on an arbitrary ideal system.

But no system is ideal, no process is completely reversible. The world is non-linear.

By the end of my senior year I was pointing it out to class mates with incredulity. “This is bullshit. You cannot leave out the effects of friction and losses on these problems. You cannot isolate a system from the world around it for the simplification of calculating an answer.”

They looked at me and shrugged.

But I knew the hollowness of it all. Logic could only approximate what actually happened around us. Reality often defies logic. We become so conditioned to ignoring the effects of chaos and loss that we block out their presence in our life, and pretend they do not exist. And when we are faced with events that do not fit into our neat definition of the world, we kick and cry like spoiled children.

Not fair! Not fair!

Life is not fair. Human behavior is not completely predictable. We are constantly choosing to do things that we know are illogical, that we know will lead to results that are not in our own best interest.

Emotion is not logic.

Love is not beholden to mathematics.No equation can determine when and why a lover will sacrifice themselves for another.

So I learned to not ignore intuition. We need it as much as reason and logic to function in this world.

This is why there are two halves to our brains.

This is what makes us human.

In the end, everything



The Thermodynamics of Loneliness

The snow squeaks like Styrofoam underfoot as I climb the hill to my dorm after my shift at the Radio Station. Overhead, the stars are frozen in the midnight sky. I have no idea how cold it is, but I know when the snow squeals like this it’s below zero. I dig my hands deeper into the pockets of my wool coat, and try to pull my head down into it like a turtle.

All year I have been working this 11pm – 2am shift with my roommates, but tonight I flew solo. There was something peaceful, yet exciting, to cue up records in the silence of the studio then send them beaming out into the frozen darkness. Invisible waves of sound to bouncing off the ionosphere, and into the radios of total strangers. Tonight as I trudge home on the snow covered sidewalks my mind wanders.

I’m 3 years into the mechanical engineering program, and have become a hermit. My days and nights spent hunched over a desk beneath a yellow cone of light, scribbling hieroglyphics across tablets of paper. This left brain existence has tipped me off of balance. My dreams have become swirling fractals of color, dividing down again, and again into an infinity of inner space. During the daytime I scratch out formulas and equations to calculate the movement of bodies, but at night those bodies take on a life of their own, impervious to my attempts to deconstruct them. Ones and zeros multiplying through the synapses of my brain, as I chase after them trying to decipher their meanings.

The second law of thermodynamics has taught me that work can be pulled from a body only when that body interacts with another at lower temperature. But out here in the night air my body leaks its heat away into the void and what am I accomplishing? I think ahead to the empty bed that awaits me, and wonder what calculations are necessary to reverse the entropy of loneliness. I dream of a body that awaits me there, her breath rising in the cold of the room. I can feel her warmth as I slip beneath the blankets. What laws of thermodynamics can explain love? Electric sparks flow up and down my spine as human touch connects  us, and heat begins to flow.


Cities in Dust

I woke to steel gray skies this morning, and the first few flakes of snow sifting down like dust from the heavens. By the time I was out of the shower the snow had increased until the street and steps were already covered in white. Remember that post I wrote about Spring arriving at last? Yeah, not so much. Winter is like that last guest at the party. Everyone else has gone home, the dishes are in the sink, the bottle of wine is empty, and you keep stretching your arms above your head and yawning, but they just don’t get the hint.

Remind me not to invite Winter to anymore parties.

After dropping the kids at school, I slipped a CD into the car stereo, and began inching my way to work on the snow covered roads. As the first notes of the song began to play, I began to drift away to a far and distant time…

It was October 1988, and we were headed to Montreal on a whim. The only three friends I had with any musical taste had decided at the last moment to make the 2 hour drive from Potsdam through the leafless, windy St. Lawrence valley to see Siouxsie & The Banshees at the St. Denis theater. Looking out the window of the car at the darkened landscape, the lights of industries along the river glimmered like distant constellations. The headlights of passing cars caused our dim reflections to flare briefly into light. Montreal always felt like stepping through the looking glass.

Stepping through the glass doors of the posh and ornate old theater only added to sense of displacement. In our hiking boots, long hair, and flannel shirts we stood out among a lobby full of people dressed in black. The Goths looked at us as if we had walked in on their conversation, scowling with contempt at our lack of conformity to their rebellious fashion. The irony was not lost on me.

We bought what tickets were left at the box office, and settled into our seats in the last row of the lower level, beneath the overhang of the balcony. I’d never seen a band in such baroque surroundings before, but when the lights went up, and Siouxsie Sioux stepped on stage dressed like Marlene Dietrich in the Blue Angel, I couldn’t imagine seeing her anywhere else. I was mesmerized. She prowled the stage like a cat, toying with the audience, and holding the eyes of 4,000 people transfixed. There may have been a band, and other people in attendance that night, but for the next 2 hours it felt for all the world like it was her and I alone in a theater in Weimar Berlin. For the first time I truly understood the meaning of femme fatale.

Only music has the ability to lift your soul out of your body, and transport it to a place so far from reality. As the snow falls outside my office window, I turn again to music to take me away. Shhh… listen.


 In the sharp gust of love
My memory stirred
When time wreathed a rose
A garland of shame
Its thorn my only delight
War torn, afraid to speak
We dare to breathe
A bridge of sighs
Solitude sails
In a wave of forgiveness
On angels’ wings

Reach out your hands
Don’t turn your back
Don’t walk away
How in the world
Can I wish for this?
Never to be torn apart
Close to you
‘Til the last beat
Of my heart

At the close of day
The sunset cloaks
These words in shadowplay
Here and now, long and loud
My heart cries out
And the naked bone of an echo says
Don’t walk away

Reach out your hands
I’m just a step away
How in the world
Can I wish for this?
Never to be torn apart
Close to you
‘Til the last beat
Of my heart

How in the world
Can I wish for this?
Never to be torn apart
‘Til the last beat
‘Til the last fleeting beat
Of my heart


The Monkey Wrench Gang Rides Again

Last night God turned on the air conditioning, and a strong northwest wind blew our humidity away. Today is one of those lovely, comfortable days that makes Minnesota summers a wonderful payoff for suffering through a Minnesota winter. I’ve worked in a lot of different cities during my travels, and while I don’t have any scientific data to back me up, I’d have to say that the Twin Cities has some of the cleanest air of any metropolitan area. In fact, despite the dire predictions of looming environmental disaster, I would have to say that our air, water, and land seems less polluted today than it did 30 years ago.

Of course, there’s more to environmental assessment than visual appearances, and while I can’t say for certain that our environment is in better shape now than it was 30 years ago, I think it is safe to say that we are much more aware of the environment than we were then. Personally, I think our environmental awareness began with the crying Indian commercial. Say what you want about Iron Eyes Cody (aka Espera Oscar de Corti) but the man had a big effect on me, and countless others. Next to Louis Prima, he’s probably one of the best known Sicilian American’s from Louisiana.

I still feel guilty for littering

By the time I went to college in the mid 80’s, environmentalism was mainstream. In fact, Clarkson even offered a major in Civil & Environmental Engineering. When I enrolled at Clarkson my major was “Undecided Engineering”, which really didn’t mean much as all first year engineering students took the same core courses regardless of their specialty (Mechanical, Civil, Chemical, Electrical). For a while I flirted with the idea of majoring in Civil and Environmental, but for the life of me I couldn’t imagine what type of job that would actually entail, other than working construction. In the end, I chose the mechanical route as it offered the most variety of different industries and fields (Automotive, Aerospace, Power Generation, etc…) I was always the pragmatist, even at 19. I guess I get that from my Father.

While I didn’t choose environmentalism as a vocation, I did flirt with it as an ideology for a few years. (all the cool kids were doing it). One of my roommates at the time was a Civil & Environmental Engineering major, and given the fact that he was also prone to looking for a fight, activism seemed like a natural outlet for his anti-authoritarian streak. During the fall of 1989, our senior year, Chris came home one Friday afternoon and announced that he was heading to an Earth First! Rendezvous in the Adirondacks. Clarkson being Clarkson, there never was much entertainment to be had on a weekend, so Scott and I jumped at the chance to go camping and tagged along. And so late one Friday afternoon in October of 1989, we headed south down Route 56 in Chris’ VW GTI, with a tent, some sleeping bags, 2 cases of Genny Cream, and a pound of bacon. (If that ain’t the definition of a guys weekend, I don’t know what is)

My kind of green revolution

I had never heard much about Earth First! other than their penchant for “Monkey Wrenching”. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Monkey Wrench”, it originates with the book “The Monkey Wrench Gang” by Edward Abbey. In the novel, Abbey’s hero’s and heroine’s fight against the forces of corporatism, and big industry. They resort to destroying bulldozers, and equipment in order to save the red rock canyons of Utah. As novels go it’s nothing special, but Abbey is a patron saint of environmentalists, cranks, and “don’t tread on me” localists everywhere, so the monkey wrenching idea kind of caught on, and life began to imitate art.

Now Scott and I were no radicals, and the extent of our environmental involvement amounted to recycling, but a weekend in the mountains is nothing to say no to. So we went along for the ride. Arriving at the rendezvous site, south of Tupper Lake, we found tents, Subaru wagons, and VW microbus’ scattered about and knew that we were either in the right place, or the Grateful Dead were playing somewhere nearby.

As movement’s go, Earth First! is a little to the left of Trotsky politically. There was no real “membership” list, and the organization is about as close to a true anarchist organization as you will probably find. The folks scattered about in the woods around the place typically fell into one of two archetypes. Scary looking, bearded rednecks, and patchouli smelling dreadlocked hippies. To say that we three college boys stood out a little is an understatement.

We found a spot a little off into the woods from the main group, and I have to say that even Chris seemed to have some reservations. We needn’t have been worried though, when darkness came the campfire was lit, and people began wandering in out of the woods to sit around it, and talk and sing. One of the great things about hippies is that they usually carry musical instruments with them, and one of the great things about rednecks, is liquor is usually not too far away. It made for an entertaining evening. I’m sure most of the folks sitting around the fire figured us to be undercover FBI agents, or narcs, but they didn’t seem to have any problem sharing their beer. Over the course of the night, the discussion turned to the Earth First! agenda for the north east region. While the details are a little fuzzy, the jist of their plan was to advocate for the depopulation of large swaths of the United States, to be converted into wilderness areas where nature would be left to flourish without the impediment of evil humanity. The biggest discussion point seemed to be which parts of which states would be included in these green zones. No one seemed to get too hung up on the logistics of convincing millions of people to pack up and move somewhere else.

The next morning, the Earth Firsters convened for “roll call”. This amounted to the Northeast regional leader calling out the names of the different “clans”, each one named for a different animal, and the clans responding by making the noise of said animal. Watching grown men wiggling about on their hands and knees barking like seals was a little too surreal for us. When the groups split up for “class” sessions on such finer points of monkey wrenching as tree spiking, and bulldozer disabling, we decided it was time for a nice little hike. So Chris, Scott and I grabbed our backpacks with our homework (we were still students after all) and found a nice clearing in the woods where we could sit, and read. It was a glorious fall afternoon in the Adirondacks. The leaves were ablaze with color, and the sky was deep cerulean blue. We passed the afternoon hanging out, doing homework and talking, and when evening came we joined the group around the campfire for another night of singing and drinking. Freaks or not, cold beer and a roaring campfire is hard to turn down.

The next morning, as most of the Earth Firsters were heading on to Lake Placid to take part in a protest, we packed up our tent and made the drive back up to Potsdam. Our beer gone, and our bacon devoured, it was back to reality. I have to say it was quite the cultural experience. It taught me that no matter how much “Mother Earth” might suffer, deep down, I could never be an environmentalist. I liked personal hygiene too much, and I could never stop pining over girls long enough to get that worked up about saving the Earth. Always the pragmatist I knew that my future lay elsewhere. In less than 12 months I was traveling the country working at coal plants, serving “the man” as just another cog in the military-industrial-complex. I’m sure that somewhere in a file in Washington is a grainy spy photo of me standing around the fire that night, with my name, social security number, and personal information written on the back. Someday I might have to send off a letter and request a framed copy of it.

Smash your head against the punk rock

Ask any kid preparing to leave for their first year of college, and they will attest to the importance of choosing the right posters to hang in your dorm room. After all, these will be the cover art to your new identity, so you need to make sure you impress. Needless to say, my Beatles and Rush posters failed to make an impression, other than confirming what people could pretty much guess by looking at me. Loser.

Luckily for me, my roommate more than made up for my pedestrian J.C. Penney tastes with his Lou Reed poster. In fact, when he showed up for orientation, the last kid on the floor to arrive, and came striding into the room with his dirty blond hair, f-you attitude, and 6’-4” presence I nearly peed myself. WTF did I get myself into? Little did I know a door had been opened into a whole other world of music.

Chris was, and still is, one of the biggest pains in the ass you could ever meet. He’s one of those people who goes out of his way to piss you off, and yet you still come away liking him for some reason you can never quite figure out. He was into bands that I had never even heard of, or knew existed. But he came with a stereo, a huge collection of tapes and CD’s, and all the things that I couldn’t afford, like a car, and a fridge. Despite his attitude, and personal crusade to offend as many people as humanly possible, he took me under his wing, and adopted me. We were roommates after all, and nothing would change that, so we might as well get along. And while I didn’t embrace The Exploited, or G.B.H. or any of his hardcore, I did take a liking to Husker Du, and some of his more accessible punk.

Bob Mould and the Flying V, a whirling, sonic, hurricane of angst
Bob Mould and the Flying V, a whirling, sonic, hurricane of angst

By the second semester I had made other friendships, with less ornery kids, who also stretched me musically. From Scott I was introduced to REM, and The Replacements. Scott and I bonded at the end of the first semester, as we studied together for finals. When Chris announced that he was leaving at the end of the year to either enlist in the Army Rangers, or attend Villanova (I forget which) it was Scott whom I planned to room with.

Before they were Rock Stars-TM
Before they were Rock Stars-TM

It was during the 2nd semester that Chris joined the college radio station, and took the training to be a D.J. At first he went alone for his shift, but soon Scott and I began to accompany him to get access to the stacks of records at the station. WTSC 91.1 was, and still is, a true open format college station catering to college rock. It was a ramshackle affair, with each D.J. having a 3 hour shift to basically play whatever they wanted, although we were strongly encouraged to play from the red file of new releases. By sophomore year (Chris had returned after all) the show began to fall more and more to Scott and I. Don’t tell the FCC, but we never had no training, and basically made it up as we went. But with a transmitter range of about 5 miles, and a shift from 11pm – 2 am on a Thursday night, what harm could we really do?

Those late night shifts were a blast. Having access to the new vinyl gave us a chance to listen and experiment with whatever we wanted without spending a dime. We bootlegged music from the back, and made mix tapes. Music was never as much fun for me as it was then. Outside of our little cocoon, the music industry plodded on churning out krep like Phil Collins, Debbie Gibson, and Guns ’n Roses, but we could have cared less. Instead we were streaming REM-The Replacements-Husker Du-The Feelies-Dumptruck-The Connells-The Smiths-Big Dipper-Big Black-Throwing Muses-Billy Bragg-Dinosaur Jr.-Guadalcanal Diary-fIREHOSE-The Jesus and Mary Chain-Superchunk and The Pixies out into the frozen night. Trapped in the solitude of the North Country, we had music, and cheap beer to entertain us, and precious few coeds to distract us. Not that we wouldn’t have minded a little distraction. God, how I wished for a distraction. Instead I alternated between inward self loathing, and outward contempt for the world. Still do, really. Punk Rock was right in my wheel house.

It doesn't get any more earnest than St. Billy Bragg
It doesn’t get any more earnest than St. Billy Bragg

If I ever write that great American novel, it will take place in the North Country. There, my stand in, will come of age as he chases unattainable girls, and continually self destructs despite his best efforts to get out of his own way. In the movie version, my stand in (think a young John Cusack) will stumble through the self inflicted trials of Job, in pursuit of that illusory muse (think a young Catherine Zeta-Jones) to a soundtrack made up of these bands.

We’re talking “Top Five”…

Weezer, before there was a Weezer
Weezer, before there was a Weezer
Then God is Seven! Then God is Seven!
Then God is Seven! Then God is Seven!
If Flannery O'Connor, Harper Lee, and Truman Capote started a band...
If Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and Truman Capote started a band…
Levi Stubbs' tears run down his face...
Levi Stubbs’ tears run down his face…
Husker Du - Warehouse, Songs and Stories (If this is selling out, where do I get in line?)
Husker Du – Warehouse, Songs and Stories

Stay tuned for Part 3 Tomorrow – When Mr. 20 Prospect Sells Out

My head told my heart, “Let love grow”, but my heart told my head, “This time no”

The water cascaded down over the rocks, white with foam as it churned in whorls and eddies. I sat in the sunshine along the West Branch of the St. Regis River, sipping on my cheap beer, trying my best not to think about her, and failing miserably. My friend Tommy climbed the rocks along the falls, and I looked up at his silhouette in the bright April sunshine, mathematically determining if the drop were high enough, and the water deep enough to jump. In the end I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, and another beer seemed infinitely more productive than suicide.

The river roared with the fresh snow melt of the Adirondacks, as the temperature soared, and my soul warmed to the alcohol. Surely, this would heal me; an escape from class, and responsibility, to spend a few hours sitting amongst the grandeur of nature trying not to think about her. It wasn’t working. I’m not sure why I ever thought it would. I clung to my thoughts of her the way a drowning man does to a life preserver. Yet her memory was only a rock pulling me deeper into the icy darkness inside my head.

There beneath the glorious spring sunshine, all of nature seemed to be in order. The sun rose and set, water flowed downhill, and the birds waited downstream for unlucky fish. Yet here I was alone while somewhere in this little town she was with him. A six foot plus, fraternity boy, who had become the embodiment of everything I hated in this world. How could this be? How could a just God allow such unnatural things to occur?

I leaned back upon the bed of pine needles, and pictured her eyes, oh Lord, her eyes. I could never forget them. Wide spaced, almond shaped, their brown depths consumed me. The sound of the cascading water was broken only by the cry of gulls circling above.

When the time came, we hiked back to the car through the dappled light of the pine woods. I dropped Tommy off at his apartment, and thanked him for the company. It was still afternoon, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being alone, so I drove aimlessly around town. The warm weather brought everyone outside for the first time in months. Windows were open, and music was playing, and everywhere was the long lost sight of human flesh, a color as rare as green in the wintertime.

I held my breath, hoping to see her out walking somewhere, and dreading it at the same time. When I did finally find her car parked out in front of campus, my heart started racing, and I felt sick to my stomach. I laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. How the mere sight of a blue Plymouth K-car could create such pain. If only I’d have studied biology instead of engineering, perhaps I could explain it. Instead I turned around and headed back out to our apartment in the country.

When I got home I lay on the mattress on my bedroom floor, staring up at the ceiling, wondering how I was going to make it through another night. I went to the fridge, and stared at the emptiness before I opened another beer. I had already lost 20 pounds since September, the result of living on $20 a week, and not knowing how to cook, so another night without food wouldn’t make much difference.

Outside the light began to fade, and the shadows deepened. I sat at my desk, and pulled out the journal for my creative writing class. If I couldn’t see her with my eyes, I would see her with my pen. I wrote until the room went dark, the world shrinking around me until there was just the cone of lamplight on the desk. I hoped the ink would capture her. I hoped that it would make permanent what had already slipped through my fingers. Instead the cans began to pile up, until my writing became illegible, scrawled like a foreign language across the page until the words disappeared into scribbled lines, the ink flowing down the page like the water down the falls. When my eyes finally closed, I hoped that they would never open again.

Nature knows nothing as selfish as a boy in love.

Sheena is a Punk Rocker

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you might think that I am still stinging from every girl that ever dumped me. However, that’s not the case. Most of my relationships never got far enough off the ground to crash and burn, and some of them I was even responsible for ending. So you see I’m not really hung up on every girl I’ve met, just the ones who read this blog. (Hi Mrs. 20 P!)

Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, but even lonely, pathetic old me has broken up with someone. May Lord have pity on my soul, and may the record show that it wasn’t them. It was me.

No seriously. My bad.

The relationships we have in our teenage years are just spring training for the ones that really matter. If we are lucky, we commit all our errors during the preseason, and learn from them before opening day. Still, that doesn’t make the memory of beaning someone in the head any better. Of all the stupid, bonehead ways that I have found to hurt women, I think the one that I am most ashamed of, occurred during my Junior Year at Clarkson. I still wince thinking about it. So of course, I am going to share the story with you now. (Blogs were made for picking at scabs.)

She was a punk rock girl, and no, her name wasn’t Sheena. We met one night while we were at a bar to see a mutual friend play with his band. They weren’t much of a band, but in the frozen wasteland of the North Country, four guys banging out classic punk rock tunes was about as good as it got for live entertainment. Our only other option was the crappy 80’s dance tunes at the Bali Hai.

Their name was Wayneless, because the guy that was initially supposed to be their bassist, Wayne, never showed up for any practices or gigs. They never cut a CD, or went on tour. How they managed to convince one of the local bar owners to let them play is quite beyond me. But somehow they did, and so one Saturday night in early December of 1988, my friends and I dusted off our fake ID’s so we could get in to see Wayneless pound away at 3 chord punk tunes from The Buzzcocks, The Ramones, The Clash, The Damned, The Sex Pistols, Killing Joke, and others.

Among the crowd there that night was the punk rock girl. I had seen her before at some of the parties that my friends hosted at their apartment in Woodstock Village. She hung out with another girl, and they were notable for being the only 2 girls on campus that even remotely looked like they were into punk rock. They were both about 5 foot tall and were always together, to the point that I just assumed they were dating. (She drove a Subaru, so cut me some slack here folks!)

So I was surprised when about half way through the night, as we sat next to each other on a bench between sets, that her knee started rubbing up against my thigh. At first I thought, she must have confused me with the table, so I scooted over to give her some room. About 30 seconds later, her knee was rubbing against my thigh again.

Now, I wasn’t the smoothest operator in the room, so it took a few minutes for this turn of events to sink in, but when it did I realized that for the first time in my life, a girl was actually hitting on me. I was at a total loss as to what I was supposed to do now. After all, this was a unique occurrence, and one that the good Sister’s at Notre Dame and St. Joseph’s never prepared me for. So I put my hand on her knee and started rubbing her leg. Before the last set was over, she had whispered into my ear to ask if I wanted to go home with her.

Now, I was beginning to suspect that she was part of an elaborate practical joke. However, none of my friends were smirking, or smiling, or even seemed to notice all the footsy going on under the table. My first thought was “Damn, I don’t have a toothbrush along, or even a change of clothes.” For the first time in my life, I finally understood why Mom always wanted to make sure I left the house wearing clean underwear. (Thanks Mom!)

Needless to say, I eventually came around, and after stuttering, and stammering like an idiot, we put on our coats and excused ourselves. My friends looked puzzled. I’m sure they assumed that she had just ruptured an appendix, and I was taking her to the hospital.

Her apartment was just a few blocks down Market Street from the bar. She roomed with her girl friend in the upstairs of an old house that had been divided up into apartments. We held hands as we walked, and I had absolutely no idea what I should say to her. After all, I may be cheap, but I never considered myself “easy”. The thought of being picked up in a bar by a punk rock girl was slightly intimidating, not the least because until that evening I had assumed she was gay. What was she expecting when we got back to her apartment? Was I supposed to ask? Was I supposed to make the first move, or would she?

Well, I needn’t have worried. As soon as our coats were off we were sitting on the couch making out. Thankfully, making out was all that was required of me that night. (Stop! The Nun’s didn’t raise me to be that kind of boy!)

After the clock hit 4 am, I finally got up and excused myself and walked the six blocks back to my dorm. It was cold, I was sober, and all I could think was “What the hell just happened?” I had no idea how, or why we had ended up together. She wasn’t someone that I had ever looked at and been attracted to. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do next, so I climbed the steps to my dorm room, and slept on it.

In the morning I was just as confused. A little after lunch time the phone rang, and it was the punk rock girl. We talked for a bit, and before we hung up I asked her out for the following night. I had absolutely no idea what we would do on our date. In the end, it didn’t matter. We pretty much spent the night listening to music and making out on her couch again.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I wasn’t there against my will. But I knew in my heart that I did not have any feelings for her, and that what I was doing was wrong, but I just did not know how to say no. Saying “no” to a girl is not something I ever thought I would need to worry about.

After the first date, I felt obligated to ask her out again.

After the second date, it became even more apparent, that aside from music, we didn’t really have anything  in common. She was Jewish, drove a Subaru, and lived in rural Vermont. I was a Catholic kid from po-dunk Western New York that shopped at J.C. Penney’s. I even discovered that she was in a sorority, which struck me as most irreconcilable difference between us.

During Christmas break she called me up, and told me that she was going to be in Rochester for the weekend, and wanted to know if we could get together and see a show. That night in some dive bar, watching some forgettable Ska band, she asked me to go to her Sorority Semi-Formal when we got back from the holidays. Like a fool I said yes.

Now I was getting really deep into it. I spent the holiday break shopping the after Christmas sale at Penney’s for a sport coat, a tie and dress pants. It had been 3 years since I had dressed up for anything, and none of those old high school clothes fit me anymore. So I settled on a Navy blue blazer, some grey flannel pants, and a pink and blue paisley tie with matching pink suspenders. (I thought she’d appreciate that I was comfortable enough with my sexuality to wear pink.)

The night of the dance, she asked me to pack a bag and plan on spending the night. The party was at the American Legion, just a few doors down from her apartment. I bought her a corsage, and picked her up, and even in her fancy gown, I wasn’t attracted to her. All night long, all I could think was “How am I going to do this? I don’t love this girl. I hardly even like this girl. When and how do I go about telling her?”

So I looked in the bottom of several bottles of Utica Club beer to see if I could find the answer. Alas, it wasn’t there. Instead I just got sloppy, embarrassingly drunk. We walked back to her apartment, and she climbed the stairs. My heart was pounding audibly inside my chest. She led me to her room. My mouth was dry, and I was sweating all over. She dimmed the lights. I started feeling light headed. We were half undressed, when I finally blurted out that I-wasn’t-ready-for-a-commitment-it-wasn’t-her-it-was-me-can-we-just-be-friends?, and every other excuse I could come up with. Then I got dressed, gathered up my overnight bag, and slunk home like some venomous reptile.

I managed to avoid her until late March, when we saw each other at a party. She was very cool about it, and we pretended that none of it had ever happened. My cheeks burned red with embarrassment the whole night.

In the end, there were two things that I learned from my short, failed relationship with the punk rock girl.

1.)    I look pretty good in pink suspenders.

2.)    You can’t fool your heart into doing something it doesn’t want to do.

Ever since then I have added those lessons to the rules I try to live by.

Well, except for the part about the suspenders.

the conclusion

It took another two weeks of discussion and negotiation before the end. During that time Kristine continued to feed me inside information about what she was doing, and how things were going between her and Steve. Every mention of them made me sicker, but I couldn’t control myself. I just had to know. Knowing only made me feel hollow and empty inside. So I proceeded to fill in that emptiness with alcohol and self loathing.

Spring break was coming. From Kristine I had learned that Steve was going to Daytona, and had gone so far as to tell her that he couldn’t guarantee that he would be faithful on the trip. Surely this would convince her I was the better guy. I would be going back to Batavia for the week, and I asked her to come with me. Then to my surprise and everlasting hope, she agreed. She would spend a few days, meet my family and friends, and then I would bring her back to Canton.

The day before break began, I had planned to pick her up and bring her over to my apartment for dinner. She was going to spend the night, and leave for Batavia with me the next morning. But when she walked out of the dorm, and climbed inside of my car she wasn’t carrying a suitcase. “I’ve changed my mind.” She said. “I’ve made a commitment to Steve, and I don’t think it would be right to go home with you.”

Outside the rain drummed down upon the roof. The windows began to fog up, closing out the world outside. We sat in silence. She made no move to open the door, or leave. Finally, I started the car and put it into gear. I went on a long, aimless drive into the countryside south of town. On the back roads down near Hannawa Falls, she asked me to turn into the beach.

“I used to lifeguard here during the summer” she said.

The beach was desolate, and ringed with a crust of melting snow. The pines crowded in behind us, ringing the beach with gloomy shadows. Out on the river, the ice was already wormy and dark from the rain and the slow approach of spring. I parked the car, and we got out. She walked to the edge of the river, it was so gray in the slanting rain.

“It looks so different this time of year”, she said.

I tried to imagine how it must have looked in the summer time, with boats out on the water, and kids building sand castles on the beach. I realized that summer was coming again, but I wouldn’t be here to see it. By the time the ice was out, and the beach was open I would be far beyond the wilderness of the North Country, but she would still be here. There was no escaping it.

Eventually we got back into the car, and I drove her home.

“I don’t think we should see each other anymore.” She said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s making either one of us happy.”

I couldn’t argue with her about that. I hadn’t been happy since we had first met. The last few months I had been alternating from despair to mania, but nowhere would I say that I was happy.

So the die was cast, and my fate was sealed. In June I would report to the headquarters of ABB Combustion Engineering with all of my personal belongings in the trunk of my car. I would spend 3 days there in orientation, and then receive my assignment in any one of 9 different regional offices around the country. I would spend the next few years of my life living in hotels, and eating in restaurants, as I toured the country one power plant at a time.

She had made her choice as well. In the end I did not pass the written test, and the job was offered to someone else. I couldn’t decide which of the three of us I hated more, but the only one I could punish was myself. So I focused my energy on that. I spent the last month of college, skipping class, turning in half finished assignments, and drinking just to forget. It didn’t work, and by that point it didn’t matter. I graduated with a 3.2 GPA, and weighed 20 pounds less than I had at the start of the year. When I left town after graduation, I did so hoping never to return.

Try as I might though, I could not escape myself. As Yogi Berra would say “No matter where you go, there you are.” I moved on with my life, and eventually came to realize those moments for what they truly were, an aberration. A peculiar and uncharacteristic period in time when I had lost my mind over nothing more than a set of brown eyes, and a soft voice. As my stories reveal, I spent the next 3 years of life drifting around the country, exploring every back woods nook and cranny I could find. I met people that would have profound influences on me, and help me to find out who I really was, deep down inside that dark well of the soul.

In the twenty years since then, I have occasionally thought back to those six months, and what if anything I would have done different. Despite the pain and the heartache that I brought upon my own head, there is a part of me that thinks it was the best six months of my life. For like Cortez, if I hadn’t burned my boats on the beach, I never would have been able to commit to heading into the wilderness in front of me. In all honesty, this story embarrasses the hell out of me. I was young and stupid, and had no idea what love was in the first place. But if I hadn’t self destructed so spectacularly, I would have never figured those things out for myself.

A friend once told me that she had a rule. Don’t ever date a man younger than 25, because it takes them at least that long to figure out what they want out of life. I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I’d have a hard time arguing with her on that one. It took me at least until then to sort myself out, and begin building the person that I am today.

I don’t know whatever became of any of the characters in the melodrama, besides me and Scott. I think all kids eventually learn the same lessons. We realize that the life we have lived is just make believe, like kids playing house. We try on identities, and act out roles as we think we are supposed to do. Eventually we come to realize that the world we inhabit is just a fantasy. Real life, and real experience lies in the dark woods in front of us. Some never accept it, and go on building castles in the sand. While the lucky ones step out into the forest and begin building relationships that really matter, and love that endures.

part 3

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.

When I returned to school the following week, I had to speak with her. I had made up my mind that we were meant for each other and decided that I had to let her know it. I called, but she didn’t want to talk. She had told “the other guy” about us and he’d told her she had to choose. It could be one or the other of us but not both. She didn’t want to speak to either one of us until she had made up her mind. I tried to protest, but she hung up.

I went out of my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I thought about her every minute replaying the events of the past two weeks over and over in my mind. Our dates together had always been in out of the way places, she had obviously been trying to hide from him. If only I had called her right away. If only I had taken her out the night after we met she’d have never met him.

I interrogated Kristine. She admitted that she had known since the first week, but had hoped that she would see that I was the better guy. I pressed her. She gave in. His name was Steve, and not only was he a senior, but he was in my major. In fact, we were in the same classes. I did not know him, but he apparently knew me. Kristine told me that he was the captain of the swim team and president of his Fraternity. I was torn with jealousy. I hated him, and I couldn’t even pick his face out of a police line up. I had to talk to her. I had to tell her that she would be nothing more to him than another swim medal.

So I wrote her a letter, and told her all of the reasons why she should be with me instead of him. In my letter I painted a picture of him as a shallow man, more in love with the idea of himself than he could ever be with any woman. On my way out of town to a job interview in Connecticut I slid it under her door.

When I got home from Connecticut the next day I had a phone message to call her. It was after ten when I called her, and she told me she was driving right over because we had to talk and it had to be face to face. I feared the worst. She covered the six miles out of town to our little apartment above the soap shop in what must have been record time. I felt a lump in my chest as I opened the door and saw the raging fire that was burning in her eyes. Scott and Kristine must have seen it too because they cleared the room in an instant.

She had my letter in her hand and had highlighted it like it was an assignment in Relationships 101. “How could I write such a thing? What did I mean by this?” she screamed. I apologized, I tried to explain how I felt. Since I couldn’t see her or talk to her, I had decided to write her a letter to show her the difference between him and me.

She didn’t understand, and I doubted she ever would. Hell, I don’t think I understood what was going on inside my head either. We had been dating less than three weeks and I had managed to lose almost ten pounds. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Like a mad monk I was fasting in the hopes of a revelation, or a vision, anything that might tell me how to put the pieces of my rapidly spiraling life back together.

She calmed down, and I told her that I knew that what I felt between us was genuine and real. “Don’t tell me you don’t feel it too.” I pleaded, “I can see it in your eyes.”

“That’s not the point.” She argued. “How dare you tell me how I feel. How dare you try to manipulate my feelings.”

I begged and pleaded for her to forgive me. Like a scene from a daytime soap opera, she tried to leave, but I caught her in my arms. She sobbed. I felt her warm breath, and tears moisten my shirt.

“I came here to tell you one thing” she said, “but now I want to tell you something else”.

And then she cried some more.

We sat down on the couch in silence. After a half hour she told me that her Dad was having heart surgery that Friday. She was worried sick about the chance that she might not ever see him again. I had no idea what to say, except the usual empty assurances. After a few more minutes of silence, she stood up, put on her coat, and left. She told me as she walked out the door that she was meeting Steve for breakfast the next morning. Her honesty killed me.

In the following days I tried to focus on my class work. I ate food for the first time in what seemed like weeks. I slept. I thought that if I could just focus on the details the pain would go away. It didn’t. Every time a car crested the hill I looked to see if it was her. Every time the phone rang I held my breath.

On Sunday she called. We talked about her Dad’s heart surgery. He was doing better. If all went well he’d be home in a few days. I told her about the job interview in Connecticut. I was in consideration for two positions, one on the engineering staff in their Hartford headquarters, and another in the field service department. The field service job paid a little more, but it meant that I would be living on the road all the time. I probably wouldn’t have an apartment for at least a year, and even then it could be in any one of the fifty states. If I took the job in Hartford I’d only be five hours away.

It helped to talk about nothing. I knew that after spending the weekend at the hospital with her Dad she didn’t have the strength to talk about the one thing we couldn’t stop thinking about. I asked if we could see each other during the week. She hesitated. “I’m not sure I’m ready yet.”

“When will you be ready?” I asked.

She couldn’t say.

“Are you seeing him?” I asked.


I didn’t know what to say. I felt like I had just wandered out on a frozen lake, and heard the ice beginning to crack. Should I stand still? Should I try to run?

“Call me when you’re ready” I said, and I hung up.

Winter was ending. It rained the whole week. Water pooled up in the still frozen fields, and flooded out onto the highway. Passing cars left plumes of water behind them like comets. I wrote poetry, awful poetry. I wrote poems about love and death, the worst kind of bad poetry. It didn’t make me feel any better. It just made me feel like a sap.

I wished I was a hero from a Hemmingway novel. I wished I could hang up on her, then drink scotch and shoot animals without feeling remorse. Instead I sat in my fetid little room, drinking cheap beer and listening to the most morose music I could find. Graduation was just 10 weeks away. I should be dancing with coeds in the neon lit bars downtown, and spending my nights in wild Bacchanalian carnival. Instead I was lying on the floor of my bedroom staring at constellations of shadows on the ceiling, holding my aching stomach and drowning in self pity.

I asked around to find out who he was. It didn’t take long for me to find someone that could point him out in class. He sat in front of me everyday and I didn’t know it. Six foot two, with his receding blond hair cut so close to his scalp that he looked bald from a distance. He definitely was more physically imposing than my ever shrinking 155 pound frame would ever be. “My god, he must just tower over her” I thought. I pictured them together. I wanted to stand up and make a scene.

Instead I just sat there taking notes as the professor scrawled formulas across the blackboard, and spoke of the laws of thermodynamics. Letters, numbers, symbols, that created a language only scientists and engineers could understand. I thought about how absurd we must all look scratching hieroglyphics into our notepads. Little pencil and paper machines for calculating the flow of heat from one body to another, as if our little calculations could control it. “No”, I thought, “We can’t control it. We can only measure it.”  I wondered how she measured it. The movement, the heat, a clinical detachment as she compared us in her mind. What formulas did she have scrawled in her notepads that could take such things and assign a value, calculate a number, raise it to the nth power, and divide it all down again into love.

I drank until I threw up. And then I drank some more. When the world finally went dark I didn’t dream. Daylight just brought more pain, real and imagined. Kristine told Scott she was worried about me. Scott just wondered what my problem was. “Love.” I told him. He nodded and took another sip of his beer. What could he say? It was a problem without a solution. He had his own concerns with graduation looming, no job offers, and a fiancée with two years of college left before they could be married. I didn’t blame him. I envied him.

The job offer from ABB arrived in the mail on Wednesday. I had been accepted for the field service job, but turned down for the one in Connecticut. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time.

I stopped by her room, hoping she wouldn’t refuse to see me. Standing outside her door I swore I could hear the sound of my heartbeat echoing down the hall. What if Steve was in her room at that very moment? What if she slammed the door in my face? I swallowed hard and knocked. She said “Come in”. She was alone thank God. Sitting at her desk with her reading glasses on typing on the computer, she instinctively took her glasses off and tried to hide them in the top drawer. I smiled.

“Didn’t know I wore glasses did you?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“I bet you thought I was perfect in every way.” She said and smiled, looking up and to the side in that way of hers that drove me crazy.

“Oh well” I said, “The secret is out, you’re human after all.”

“Damn. Will you ever be able to look at me the same way again?”

I laughed relieved to see she didn’t hate me. Not openly anyway.

“I’m sorry I hung up on you.” I told her.

“Let’s not talk about it.” She replied. “I’m over it.”

“OK, That’s not why I came here anyway” I said. “I got the field service job.”

She was happy for me, and the smile on her face was genuine. She wanted to know details. I sat down in the chair opposite her desk, and drank in the attention in her eyes. Sitting there in that crowded little room talking beneath the yellow cone of light from her desk lamp I felt relieved. Whatever had happened between us could be put in the past. When the time came to leave, I stood up. She didn’t move from her chair. “When can I see you again?” I asked.

“What if I just want to be friends with you?” she answered.

I didn’t know what to say. Surely I didn’t need any more friends. I wanted her in ways far beyond that.

“I’m not sure I could be happy just being friends.” I answered.

She frowned, and said, “Well, to be honest, I’m not sure I can either.”

“Have you made a decision yet?” I asked.

She looked away, and I could see she was crying. I wanted to go to her, I wanted to comfort her, but I was frozen with indecision.

“I can’t stand to see you hurting like this” I told her. “I’d rather give you up than cause you pain.”

I don’t know what made me say that. Perhaps it was the mushy love songs I had been marinating in for days. Maybe it was the old cliché about loving someone and setting them free. But whatever the reason, I said it.

“I think you better go now” she told me. And I turned for the door.

The Girl from the North Country cont.

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.

The next morning I drove her back to campus, looking over at her sitting in the passenger seat with my baseball hat, and sweatshirt on, I felt like I was dreaming. She had exams coming up, and I had a job interview in Connecticut, so it would be a few days before we could see each other again. Just knowing that, made me feel sick to my stomach.

I had made the drive down to rural Hartford that morning, jacked up on cheap coffee, replaying over in my mind how I would answer their questions, and sell myself. With sweaty palms the drive seemed to take forever, but I made it in time for the afternoon interview. This was my third round of interviews with this company and it would all be made, or broken by this trip. I needed this job badly, before graduation dumped me into the back bedroom of my parent’s house, over educated, under employed, and awash in debt.

The interviews had ended well, but late. I took my suit coat off, and loosened my tie, not wanting to let the feeling go. Alone, in a strange city, with nothing but my car, and a briefcase full of empty notebooks, and corporate brochures, I felt so grown up. No, I wanted to savor this feeling of freedom.

I climbed back into the car, and began the four hour drive back to Potsdam. It was the middle of the week, and I had blown off class to make the interview. Winter was ending in Connecticut, and already the brown grass was showing through the scraps of snow around the office parks. If all went well, I could be back in her room by 9 o’clock. She would want to know everything about the interview, what they asked me, what the position offered. I couldn’t wait to tell her.

Traffic was flowing fine all the way up I91 to Springfield, where I pulled onto the Massachusetts Turnpike and headed west. By the time I reached Albany, and turned onto the Northway, the sun had already set. Traffic thinned as I got north of Glens Falls and the highway began climbing into the edges of the Adirondacks. Just tractor-trailers, and myself, climbing and descending the hills, playing leapfrog on our way North.

Exiting the Northway, onto US 9, I left even the trucks behind, and turned up and into the mountains. When US 9 turned off towards Elizabethtown I continued on to NY 73, and the trees closed in on the sides of the road, until only a tunnel of pines remained. The banks of snow rose like hay bales along the shoulder. The road narrowed, but I only drove faster. It was past 7 o’clock, and I had the road to myself. The little engine in the Plymouth strained on the climb, but I wouldn’t let up. I knew she was waiting.

Through the heart of the High Peaks and the winter desolation, I kept on the gas. Husker Du was blaring inside the car, but outside only the silent trees saw me pass. I was driving too fast, and I knew it. One patch of ice, one deer in the road, one misjudgment of a curve, and all could have been lost in darkness, and ice, but there was no thought of slowing down. I threw the car into the turns, and downshifted on the descent to save the brakes. When the road straightened I jumped back on the throttle and accelerated over the frost heaves, the car leaping forward into the small cone of light in front of me.

Down into Lake Placid, and on through the slow, sleepy, towns of Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake, I caught my breath. When I turned onto 56 to follow the Racquette River out of the mountains and back across the blue line, the race resumed, but the adrenalin had faded. Around 9 o’clock I pulled into the parking lot outside her dorm. The lights from inside glowed like gold. Stepping from the humid warmth of the car, my breath billowed like fog in front of my face. I put on my coat, and stepped forward toward the lights.

When I got to her room the door was open, and there were several other girls sitting around talking. I felt like I was interrupting something, but once she saw me she immediately put me at ease. She walked up to me, and put her arms around me and kissed me right there in front of everyone.

“How did the interview go?” she wanted to know. So I proceeded to fill her in on all the details.

Her friends took her hint, and excused themselves one by one, until it was just the two of us. She wanted to know everything about the job, how much it paid, how far away it would be. We had only just met, but I was already doing the math in my head figuring out how long it would take me to drive up to visit her on weekends next year.

“Has anyone ever told you how hot you look all dressed up?” she asked.

“No.” I responded. “Most girls tell me that when they see me naked.”

She laughed out loud, and I smiled wondering how long I would have to wait before she had the chance. I crossed the room, and sat down next to her on the edge of the bed. The door to the hallway was closed, and her radio was playing in the background. I leaned across to kiss her and she met my mouth with hers. She pulled my tie off over my head, and placed it around her neck.

“How do I look?” she asked.

“It looks better on you than it does on me” I answered.

“Do I get the job?”

“I’ll have HR put an offer together tomorrow.” I said

“What makes you think I’ll say yes?” she teased. “I’m sure there are lots of companies that would kill to have me.”

“I have a good benefits plan.” I said. We lay back on the bed kissing for half an hour, until she apologized that she had an early class in the morning, and had to get some rest.

I drove back out to the apartment, my mind racing ahead, already making plans for the future. By summer I could be setting up an apartment in Hartford, and she could come down to visit. We could make trips to the shore, and spend days together in bed, like people did in the movies. For the first time in my life, I began to imagine a life beyond college. A life cut and pasted from L.L. Bean and J. Crew catalogs, with ocean breezes and Labrador Retrievers running along the beach.

I had to get this job now. The only other interview I had been able to land was for a job that required me to travel 100% of the time. When I had first interviewed for that position, I had yet to meet her and it sounded like a great opportunity to escape Upstate New York, but suddenly I had a reason to stay. Leaving now would be the worst of all possible outcomes. She was only a sophomore and still had two years before she graduated. How long would she be willing to wait for a boyfriend she never saw? I didn’t want to think about it, but the thought kept creeping back into my mind.