This time I had a plan. I really did. After years of not even trying, never making a move, I finally had gathered enough courage to do it. There I was, sitting in the same room as the girl I had a crush on. Unlike so many cliche romantic comedies, she knew who I was. I was not the shy guy the girl had never heard of. We’d spent so many hours on the phone, spilling to each other our fears and fuckups. I had lots of both. She was heavier on the fuckups than fear, but as naive as I was, I found it all so interesting and exciting. Here was a girl who had no fear, no delusions about who she was, or so it appeared to me. She told me things she’d done, so nonchalantly, things that I had only read about. My eyes had been widened.
So there I was in the same room with her with a plan. It was winter break from my freshman year, and I had traveled to visit Sheila who was a classmate of mine, and also her best friend. My friend Randy had picked me up at home, just a few days after Christmas, and we made the trip to the top of Minnesota to meet her and Sheila. With New Year’s Eve coming up, it seemed the perfect time to make a move, to make a change, to change my fortune. During the drive to Sheila’s, I worked out the plan in my head. I bounced some ideas off Randy, since he was planning on being my wingman through the entire trip.
It was not a forgone conclusion that my plan would be successful and that she would instantly fall for me. I knew I was putting myself out there in a way I had never done before. While I felt so old, I was only eighteen, but even then I felt I was slipping behind everyone else around me. At college, all my friends were hooking up, and some were even dating. I was shy and never knew the right thing to say to girls. I spoke too softly, stumbling over every word. And I still wasn’t sure what I had in common with most girls. All the stigma from high school carried over to college, even though intellectually I knew high school didn’t matter.
Some of this changed when I met her on weekend during a party in my dorm. As I’ve already mentioned I was classmates with Sheila, and one day Sheila introduced me to her. Oh, I was not introduced in any sort of “here you two should meet because you’ll hit it off”. Sheila did it because she was nice. Instantly though, I was attracted to her. I was eighteen, extremely naive, and so any girl who didn’t instantly turn her head away from me was attractive to me. We talked a lot more than I expected we would. She seemed interested in what I had to say about school, going to college, and the myriad of guys who were trying to hit on her. I wouldn’t say what I was doing was hitting on her. I had no expectations of anything happening at that point. I was just a dork who was talking to an objectively pretty girl who didn’t run away. That was enough some nights.
After she had left to go back home, we kept talking via the phone. Sometimes it was a Friday night call, sometimes a Saturday night one. I would avoid drinking those nights as I wanted a clear head, and I knew even then I was prone to being morose when drunk. I had to keep a clear head. My friends wondered what was going on. Why was I avoiding parties and drinking just to talk to a girl eight hundred miles away? I always just said we were friends, and for a while that was enough to get people to stop asking me. But two months later, when we were still talking every weekend, they kept jokingly referring to her as my girlfriend. I would laugh nervously, but the seed was planted. Why was she so into talking every week like this?
We finally made plans to hangout again, over winter break. After three months away from the parents, I wasn’t ready for a long winter break at home. I enjoyed being on my own far too much. Randy was in a similar position as I was, a homelife he didn’t care for. Sheila would let us crash at her house, as they had plenty of room. Randy and I would be sharing a space in their attic, much the same size as a dorm room. When we did arrive, Sheila gave us each great big hugs, and we felt so welcome. I was happy. I was ready to make my move. I was ready to put myself out there. I was ready for her, Anita.
The first night we were there, I told Randy I was going to make my move. I thought if I waited too long, I would chicken out. So that first night, I would tell Anita how I felt, and hope she felt the same.
Sheila, Randy, Anita and myself were in Sheila’s basement with a bottle of cheap vodka and Kool Aid making very crude drinks. I kept myself to a relatively low limit of three shots because I needed my mind to be clear. It was not what you would call a raging good time, but a good vodka buzz with friends, basking in the feeling of independence from my family, I was pretty happy. Nervous, but still happy. Finally, my opening came. Sheila had decided to go to bed early after a few too many shots. That left Randy, Anita, and myself. I let this go for a bit longer before I gave Randy the signal.
The plan, though, was to be very obvious that I was giving Randy a signal to beat it and leave. The idea was, that if Anita saw me do that, she would get the hint that I was interested in being alone with her.
“Hey Randy, you look pretty tired, why don’t you get some sleep”. My move was made.
He yawned, perhaps overacting, and started to get up to go. Anite locked eyes with me. I made a little smile. I think I kind of cocked my head. She looked at Randy, then back to me, then back to Randy. My heart was kicking the inside of my chest while I waited.
“No Randy, why don’t you stay here and sit next to me?” she said to Randy, while she sat just a couple feet away from me. Her hand patted the floor next to her. She gave me a quick glance to me, and smiled. Not a mocking smile. Not a mean smile. It was a smile that gave no hint that she was acknowledging what I had said. She knew I had made a move, but she decided to act like it didn’t happen, while at the same time making a move on my friend.
Randy was a little confused at first, but he sat down next to her. She put her arm around him, and pulled him closer and started laughing while she poured him another drink. The kicking of my heart was now replaced my a painful ache in my chest and a sick stomach. Was this heartache? Was heartache more than just an analogy? I started to rock in place, feeling physically ill. Randy and Anita ignored me. They were off in their own little world.
Not knowing what to do, I got up and looked around for a place to go. I wasn’t ready to leave yet. While I wasn’t trying to be a voyeur I was just so stunned, I wasn’t thinking straight. I stumbled over to an arm chair, grabbed a magazine off a shelf and tried to act like I was just relaxing. I flipped through the entire magazine twice, but didn’t read a single word. When it become so painfully obvious that I was being ignored, I left the basement, and went to bed.
Unfortunately, the heating ducts were configured in such a way that Anita and Randy’s laughing could be faintly heard in the attic as I tried to sleep and forget this night had ever happened. I was wholly unsuccessful. My heart was still racing, and my stomach was still in knots. I had never experienced anything like this. I was shattered. I was alone. I was numb.
Some hours later Randy returned to the room after doing whatever he had done with Anita.
“Hey, you awake?” he asked me, perhaps not noticing in faint moonlight that my eyes were indeed open.
“Yes, I am”.
“Hey man, I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” I was so lying here.
“You know, I wasn’t planning on anything happening.”
“She just really dug me.”
“Yep appears so.” My breathing felt so loud at this point.
“You know, we must be really good friends, that you’re fine with this. I thank you for that”.
“I agree we must be really good friends.” Again I lied. We were friends in the past, but I wasn’t sure at that point we could be friends anymore. It felt like such a backstab. Randy went to bed after that, and somehow, I managed to fall asleep.
The next morning I put on my best mood and acted like nothing happened. Randy and Anita were all over each other, which surprised Sheila. I think she knew I had a crush on Anita and seeing this in front of me, she gave me an understanding look, and when Randy and Anita were out of site, gave me a hug. I told her I was fine, I would be able to deal with it. She probably didn’t believe me, but she couldn’t argue with me either.
That first day after that first night was one of the longest days I’d ever lived through. I had to watch Anita and Randy flirt, kiss each other, steal a squeeze here and there. Each time they did it in front of me, I felt pain in my chest. I was getting beat up. That night we all went out to dinner trying to have a good time. Anita was telling every person at the restaurant what a great guy Randy was, and telling other girls to keep their hands off of him. I just kept smiling, acting like nothing had happened. I barely touched my food, my stomach was feeling so sick
When we got back to Sheila’s house, it hit me that I was trapped there for a few more days. Randy was my ride and I didn’t see any way he would leave early now that he’d hooked up with Anita. I was in someone else’s house, hurt, feeling alone, and a good eight hundred miles from home. A few days earlier I was happy and riding a high from being on my own, and now I was feeling as low and as insignificant as I’d ever felt.
We all settled down to watch some tv show, but I couldn’t tell you what it was. I was just in a daze trying to keep up a smile. Only a few minutes in, Anita and Randy got up and left. I heard Randy’s car drive off to who knows where. Sheila gave me another hug, saying she was sorry, but I have to say, it didn’t help much. I just felt so awful. I couldn’t have imagined it would go this bad. I thanked Sheila for being so nice, and just went to bed. I didn’t remember Randy coming to bed. Maybe I was so mentally exhausted I slept through it, or maybe he hadn’t come home.
The next morning I came down to breakfast a little late. Everyone was already there. For the first time in a couple days, Anita said something to me.
“Hey, I have to work today. Why don’t you two stop by to say hi and talk?”
“Sure” I mumbled, barely looking at her. Just hearing her talk to me felt like I was being stabbed.
Sure enough, later that day we did stop by. I’m not really sure if Anita had a plan in mind, but the way it went down was, she wanted to talk to Randy for a while alone, and then talk to me a while. If I had any pride, I may have turned her down. But, really, how bad could it get?
“So, Randy and I had sex last night in his car after we drove off”.
“Um, ok” I replied, not really sure why she was telling me this. Then I remembered. She ALWAYS told me this stuff on the phone. I knew a lot about the last ten time she’d had sex. She didn’t tell me really fine details, but I could recite the guys she had fun with and the guys she’d wished to never see again.
“He was really insistent on it. Then he told me he was a virgin. I think he cried a little.”
“It didn’t last too long either.” This might normally be considered too much information, but remember when I said my eyes widened? This was why. I was too naive and immature to know if this is how real people talked
“So, I do like him, and I wanted to get your opinion if you think I should have a long distance relationship with him.” As I heard the words, it really sunk in that she was going to act like I hadn’t made my move.
“I think if he makes you happy, sure”. Why anyone would ask me for relationship advice was beyond me. I hadn’t even had a real girlfriend by then, and Anita should probably have remembered how poorly it went for me the last time I made a move.
“You really think so?”
“Yeah, I do. Randy is a good guy. You never know how things will go.” I really was just making it up as I went along at this point.
“I’m worried about it being too hard. You guys are at college, I know how you meet women all the time.” Clearly, she had forgotten who she was talking to. I never met women, and the few times I did, well, as she knew, they shot me down.
“Yeah, well, Randy isn’t like that. He doesn’t meet that many women” This was a slight attempt to insult Randy. I was trying to be mature, but a little anger slipped out.
“Thanks. I really appreciate you listening”. And with that she came over to hug me in thanks. It was the closest physical contact we’d ever had. I don’t know if she was trying to apologize with the hug, or she was still acting as if I’d never made my move. I had to admit, the hug got me to soften a little. I kissed the top of her head, which for me and my history was a bold move. It was pretty platonic though. I wasn’t trying for more, I was just trying to be normal.
The next few days were filled with Randy-Anita flirting in front of Sheila and I. I kept a positive attitude, and a tight smile. And every time, Randy-Anita drove off to steal a moment (that’s as long as Randy would last Anita had told me, remember) of car sex, I felt a little more physical pain. I had stopped eating, and lived on caffeine pills and booze for the next few days. Sheila’s parents, who had maintained an amazingly low profile while we were visiting, started to worry for me. Sheila’s mom practically begged me one dinner to eat everything on my plate. Instantly I was teleported back to my youth, when as a fussy seven year old I wouldn’t eat my spinach linguini. While Sheila’s mom meant well, what she was really doing was chipping away at what little self confidence I had left. I was so messed up apparently, I needed to be mothered again. On the last night, her begging finally got to me, and I finished a plate of some chicken dish. But right after dinner, Anita and Randy drove off again, which drove me to do a couple shots of Everclear, which then essentially ejected my dinner into the guest toilet. My last night of the trip that I had hoped would change my life, ended with me passing out on the floor of the bathroom, a small pool of vomit leaking out the corner of my mouth.
The next morning, I was surprisingly left without hangover. Perhaps throwing up all the alcohol had a positive effect. We hugged our good byes, with Anita giving Randy a really big kiss, with more visible tongue than I had ever seen before. When it was time for her to hug me, I took a deep breath and stiffly reached my arms out. The hug started out looking like the world’s most awkward hug, but as the seconds ticked, I softened up a lot. A lot emotions flowed through me, and I felt my eyes get a little misty. I hid this of course, because I didn’t want to explain it. I wasn’t misty because I was going to miss Anite. I was misty because I had never felt so much hurt.
The drive home was so quiet. I didn’t feel like talking, and I guess Randy felt like he shouldn’t start. Two hours into the drive, I attempted a conversation.
“So Randy, what did you and Anita decide to do about the long distance things.”
“Oh, we’re totally going for it. She’s wonderful, I’m so lucky.”
“I’m happy for you.”
“Hey, man I didn’t plan any of this. Honestly. It just happened. What would you done?”
“I would have done the same thing you did.” It was a lie.
“Yeah, so thanks man. We just have gotta be great friends, to be able to be cool about this all.”
“Yeah, we must be. But, hey, next time you’re into a chick, let me know, it’ll be my turn.” I joked. Well, tried to joke. It was an awful joke. One that killed the conversation. After that I didn’t talk for a while, and actually eventually fell asleep.
“Hey, look out!” I heard Randy yell. Apparently, while I was sleeping we’d run into a snowstorm and slick roads. When I woke up, we were sliding sideways down the highway, my side facing down the road. Suddenly, the car whipped around and were sliding off the road and into huge snowbank along the side of the road. The car came to a quick stop as we smashed into the pile of snow.
We were okay. The car was fine, but stuck. We didn’t have any bruises on us. I looked around to get a better idea of where we were. A hundred feet down the highway was an overpass for a country road. To the east of the road, on the side of the road we were, I could see a road and a few houses, just a couple hundred yards away.
“Hey, I think we can push the car back onto the road,” Randy asked me. Randy was asking for help. He needed me to get his car out of the ditch. I seem to remember a recent time when I needed his help. That didn’t work out so well.
Instead of helping Randy with the car, I instead grabbed my dufflebag from the back seat, and climbed out the passenger window and out into the cold. And god damn was it cold.
“Randy, you need my help? Fuck you.” I said matter of factly. I was done with Randy. We weren’t friends, we were dormmates who had forged a faux friendship out of the mutual fear of not knowing anyone at college. We didn’t have anything in common. And when I asked him to do one thing, to leave me alone with Anita, he didn’t do it. Oh, it wasn’t his fault Anita rejected me. But he didn’t have to rub it in, by sucking face and god knows what in front of me the whole week. I spent the drive up telling him how much I liked her. A real friend would have politely said no to Anita. I don’t know what would happen from there. I still would have been heart broken, I still would have been a mess, but I would have had a real friend by my side.
After telling off Randy, I trudged through snow and barbed wire to one of the houses I could see from the road. Probably because I looked like a drifter carrying a body bag, it took me a few tries to find someone to let me use their phone to call my dad to make the six hour trip or so to pick me up in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t going back with Randy. Randy could go fuck himself.
I never looked back either. I don’t know how or when Randy got his car back on the road. The next time I saw him was in our dorm three weeks later. I never said another word to him. He and Anita broke up three weeks later because he was lying to her. How did I know this? Because Anita continued calling me on the weekends for our weekly calls once I returned to school. For the first few weeks, I kept up the charade, partly because I thought I was being a good friend and partly because somewhere deep inside me I still thought maybe she dug me.
Our calls slowly faded. Every week became every two weeks. Every two weeks became once a month, and then suddenly, it was gone. Anita, the first girl I made a strong move for, was no more. By the time summer rolled around, we were strangers. I sent her a birthday card, she sent me a letter back, and that was it. I never spoke to her or saw her again. Her rejection affected me the rest of the school year as I had no confidence. It took me years to build it up again. A cold, cold winter like that affects you a while. It gets into your bones, and into your head. A cold winter indeed