What you are about to read was, for some time, the defining experience of my young adulthood. It was only with the events at the end of the story that I was able to – heh – unhinge myself from this revolving door of romance, so that my very existence no longer depended on it. Let’s begin.
Since childhood, I had self ostracized, and my peers were only too happy to help. The result was that by the time I entered high school I had constructed walls around myself. These were no ordinary walls, no sir. These were FDA Approved, USDA Grade A Certified Impenetrable Walls, MD, PhD, EdD, DDS, FTP, QED, etc. Nothing got in or out of these walls, no matter what. I had secured myself in my own little world, where everyone knew my name. What’s more, around the outside perimeter of these walls I had installed state-of-the-art “get away from me” vibe emitters. No one even dared come near.
Until I got to college, that is, and a girl named Emily drove right past the emitters with a wrecking ball and smashed it all to pieces. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. It was the summer of 2003, right before I started at RPI. Summer orientation number four, two days in which roughly 240 incoming freshmen converged on the campus to learn their way around, sign up for classes, meet with professors, meet each other, and so on. At one point they herded us all into one of the larger auditoriums on campus. They had broken us up into groups of about a dozen, based on where we were staying for the two nights, so we entered this auditorium one group at a time. Naturally, the groups were segregated by gender, all boys or all girls.
So my group entered as one of the first and filed into the second row of this particular auditorium. You all know me – I was at the front of the line, and so I would have had the seat on the end. Ordinarily, this would be no problem, except that the seat in question wasn’t one of the shiny yellow ones that comprised the rest of the assembly space, The real chair had broken or something, and been replaced with a small ugly red one. I refused to sit in it, and so I moved up to the last seat in the next row. As it happened, a group of girls began filing into that row, and the girl at the head of that line ended up sitting next to me.
There she was, and boy was she ever there. Never let it be said that redheads or blondes are somehow inherently more attractive than brunettes. If you were to look up the word “cute” in the dictionary … well, I think you see where I’m going here. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was utterly captivated. What’s more was, they then began splitting us off by major to go talk with our advisors. Guess who else was a physics major? Yup. I had managed to sit next to the only [del]female[/del] phemale physics major at that orientation. If I wanted, I could go right now and find the seats we sat in.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Awww.” Well, hang on to your hats, because here’s where it gets interesting. I went home again, and nothing happened for about two months. Except I think something did happen. At the time I had a retail job working a cash register in a clothing store, and some of you may know that gets rather boring. So I had plenty of time to think. ‘Nuff said.
Anyway, the end of August rolled around, and back to RPI I went. I found her again at the end of that round of orientation. Classes started. My life quietly became Classes and Her. We hung out a couple of times.
One Saturday night, about two weeks into the semester, as I was lying in bed, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I suddenly felt as if I was hanging over an abyss. A bottomless abyss, an abyss of pure oblivion. It was the abyss … of emotional independence. Scary, right? Well, fortunately, I was saved. My salvation came in the form of none other than the face of Emily, staring – no, smiling down at me, and all was right in the world again.
Except, I sorta had a confession to make. I had gone from not knowing to knowing exactly how I felt about her, and, raised like the mensch I was, I couldn’t just not tell her I was attracted to her. So the next day, we talked. I told her. And, raised like the mensch I was, I impressed upon her that she didn’t need to give me an answer. No pressure.
But there was pressure on me. Slowly it weighed more and more heavily on my heart. As the days passed, the weeks passed, I became consumed by it, saturated by it. I was no longer me; I became a walking mass of affection and adoration disguised as me, taking my classes, doing my work. (It did an okay job). Slowly I went insane.
Two weeks passed in this manner. Finally I knew what I had to do. I cornered her after lunch one day, and my world came crashing down. I cried. For hours, I cried. I know I mentioned this before, but RPI’s male/female ratio is so bad that the first girl I fell in love with was taken two weeks into the semester. I suspect it wouldn’t have made a difference, actually. The spark just wasn’t there. And for most people, that would have been the end of it. Cry for a while and then move on. But you all know by now I am not most people.
I kept it going. Yeah, that’s right. I held on to my feelings for her. Why? I don’t know. The romantic in me wants to say it’s all I had. I think that’s correct, to a point. I hung on for dear life and didn’t let go. I convinced myself that I was happy this way, loving someone who did not love me back. Someone whom I was lucky to run into every so often. And yet, someone whose smile literally made my day. How could I do otherwise? I saw no alternative. She made me feel how she made me feel and that was that.
Two months later. I had hiked up the hill a ways to a local church. Her concert choir was performing, so I figured I’d go. Of course, her boyfriend was there. Duh. Of course, they sat next to each other while the other groups performed. Duh. Of course, they were quite comfortable with one another. Duh. I walked home in tears that night, and that’s when I knew I had to change things. I had a conversation with a close friend of mine, and he convinced me to cut off all contact with her until I was okay again. So I did. One month later, we started talking again. She was remarkably accepting of what I had done and why I needed to do it.
It’s been two and a half years since then, and that is when our friendship began in earnest. It has developed to the point where, in a few weeks, she will be driving 5.5 to 6 hours from her home in Maine to my home in New Jersey, from which location we will be going into New York City to see Avenue Q.
Naturally, she’ll need to stay the night – at my house. If I could, I’d like to go back in time almost three years, and find myself while I was still infatuated with her. I’d say to myself, “Look. In three years you’re going to have her in your house, sleeping in your bed. Only you’re not going to be in it with her. And you’re not going to care.”
Now, I suppose you’re wondering what happened in that 2.5 year gap. That’s really another MMP in and of itself, but in brief: the day after I cut off contact with Emily, I started noticing that I had been talking to another girl, named Selina. Selina and I were together for 19 months, until the relationship hit a brick wall named Rebecca. Rebecca and I were together for maybe 3 months, until some very unusual issues about kissing poured down like acid rain and dissolved it away last October. I’ve been single since then.
[Paul Harvey] And now you know … the rest of the story![/Paul Harvey]
In keeping with this post about love, here’s today’s Alcoholic Beverage: Rum!