WHAT FOLLOWS IS A VERY LONG POST INDEED. CONSIDER YOURSELVES WARNED.
Last week, when I was in a fit of ennui (can one be IN a fit of ennui, or is it simply too much to bother with?), I asked you, gentle readers, to come up with ideas for me to post on. True to form, you deluged me with ideas, from rage poems to posts on science to stories of cooking disasters (which I have not yet done, but am thinking of), to the one I'm going to give you today, which is from our dear dear Tracy Lynn, who wanted this:
I want a story that includes these things; college, drinking, waitressing, boys, rivalry and someone's utter humiliation. It does not matter to me who is humiliated. And you can use them in any order.
At first I wasn't sure if this story should be from REAL LIFE or if it could be fiction. Thinking on it a little more, I decided to see if memory served up a juicy hunk of humiliation/waitressing/boys/drinking/college. I trolled through the memory banks, and snagged the very thing out of the dark morass of swirling idiocy that is the bulk of what is in my brain at most times. A disclaimer: a few things may have been changed to either 1) protect the innocent, or 2) make the story more interesting. Mostly #1.
Being as how my waitressing days were fairly limited, I'll have to stretch the "college" to "grad school," for I did not work as an undergraduate student, being as how I was spending ALL MY TIME studying and acting like a very good girl indeed. If, by good, you mean attending the bare minimum of classes, discovering Busch Beer and Everclear and Virginia Slims Menthol Light 100's, cramming before finals, and sitting in the very way back of every classroom so I could chat with cute boys more easily. Because that is certainly what I mean when I say "I was a good girl."
In grad school, however, I was out on my own. The parental financial safety net had been removed at long last, and I was traversing the high-wire of graduate school and general life all on my own. I got a teaching assistantship in the Biology Department, which was half the reason they let me in at all - they needed the TAs to cover the Bio 101 labs. One problem, though....the 500 bucks a month that the school paid me to do my TA was not cutting it as far as paying all the bills was concerned, and so I went out and got me another job. Which was against the rules. Oopsie! The Dean called me into his office about 3 months after I started my 30-hour-a-week extracurricular activities, and sternly scolded me for going outside the bounds of my agreement with the school.
Yeah, right, whatever.
I pointed out to him that every other person in the Biology Department graduate program was either MARRIED to someone with a full-time job, or was LIVING with someone with a full-time job, and so they didn't have to really WORRY about things like how to pay the electric bill or whether to eat two weeks out of the month. I told him that if the faculty noticed my grades slipping or my work suffering, they could force me to quit my side job, but to otherwise please leave me alone to my hyperactive bizzy life.
So, not being able to argue with my fancy-schmancy econ 101 argumentary skillz, they did leave me alone. In the 3+ years I taught and attended class and did my thesis work, I never heard another peep out of the school about that issue. So, HA!
ANYHOW, that is a long way to say that while I attended grad school, I worked also.
This story is about my days as a deli goddess. You read that right, a DELI GODDESS.
JMs. Mid-80's. I was desperate for money and because the Iranian guys who owned the place after the former owner killed himself didn't think I was bartender material, I interviewed with the deli manager and was hired. Hooray! Money! Free food! Excellent!
My first day there, I go down to the basement to get another tub of herb mayo, and what do I see at the meat slicer but a long tall drink of water wearing scruffy jeans, a tee shirt, and a backwards ball cap. He didn't see me, because his back was turned, and so did not realize how instantly in LUST with him I was. It hit me like a ton of bricks, it did. I so totally was in L-U-S-T.
Wow. And whew!
Imagine my surprise to find out that Mister Meat-cutter man was one of the guys I'd sat in the back of the classroom with when I was pretending to want to be an audiologist. Back in the classroom he did NOT look like he did in that basement, oh no. Somewhere along the line he'd ditched the glasses and grown a beard and got all manly and stuff. I had to have me some of that manly, ohyesidid.
Turns out, we started to get friendly, in that "holy crap all my pheremones are doing jumping jacks when you're around" kind of way. Oh, there was bantering and eyelash fluttering and arm touching and smiling, oh heavens yes. There was mention of CD listening and bong usage, oh yes there was, and so the plan was hatched that I would go to his townhouse that night (fully a week after we'd met, and fully 6 DAYS longer than I would have liked) to listen to some tunes and hang out.
No pressure. We were friends. With similar interests. Like, uh, music. And pot. Friends! No interest in a new relationship! Just friends, one of whom reallyreally was hot in lust with the other one but didn't want to make any assumptions about his level of interest and so didn't say one single words about that part of her that was wild with carnality whenever he walked into a room. Friends!!!
Nightfall. Meet the roommates. Go "oh wow" over their Grateful Dead tape collection. Hurry upstairs. Get high. Listen to music. Talk. And talk. And talk....edging ever so slowly toward one another. Return trips from the bathroom find us in closer and closer proximity, until I get all edgy and nervous and sit on the floor rather than his bed. Oh yes, I was SMOOOVE....all wanting in that man's pants and getting way nervous when he gets close...
It was a long night of back and forth like that. A LONG night. By about 4 in the morning, I was totally beat, and said I needed to get going home. That's when he said:
"Do you want to spend the rest of the night with me?"
EEEeeeeeeEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeEEEEEEE! OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG!!!! Did he just say what I thought he said???!?!!!?!! OMGOMG. He's looking at me. He wants me! Did I hear that right? Does he?
He did. A lot.
And this is the part that got a little weird. We were BOTH scared to death of our attraction to one another, and so, in short order, put a horrific limitation on this budding relationship. Well, OK, I put a horrific limitation on it, because I didn't want to have my heart broken (again!), and thus I declared that we should have a relationship built on physical interaction ONLY.
And you know what? That's really really hard to do.
Oh sure, I could walk around him at work and be polite, or walk right PAST him on campus and not even look his way, but it burned me up to do so. I wanted to be holding his hand and kissing in public and showing him off, and yet, I thought that he wanted only the physical and was happy with that and so I had to hold up my end of the bargain.
Only he didn't really want to hold up his end.
Several months went by, with us fighting this stupid deal by day and having smoking hot "relations" by night. I was growing closer to him that I wanted to. I fought it. Stupid, stupid girl. Why couldn't I just let go?
Here's why: because I knew him and therefore knew that something was going to go horribly wrong, which it finally did, in the form of an art-student/waitress at a lodge on the Skyline Drive, where he gigged as the dinner entertainment a couple of night a week. Oh, the first time he didn't show up for one of our "dates" his excuse was "well, it got late and so-and-so let me sleep on the floor of her room."
Friends, THAT should have sounded my BS alert right there.
Then, there were the repeated no-shows for planned "events." The increasing amount of "her" talk in our conversations. The new fascination with art. The slow dimunition of attention, until, like smoke, he was gone.
Then she got pregnant. Then they moved in together. Then his brother and I became friends. We went to watch Mister Meatcutter sing one night, and I saw her for the first time....bloated with pregnancy and very unhappy looking. A redhead. Young, much younger than him. My rival for his affections that he didn't know I wanted, who had beat me at my own game.
And I got over him, pretty much, right then and there, because I was still free and single and he was going to be a daddy to a baby with this very unhappy looking young girl.
Inevitably, the baby was born. My former flame was kicked out of their home a year later. Paternity tests, that he ordered, proved the child was not his. 2 years of his life led down the utterly wrong path, ending in his humiliation.
Somehow, it didn't feel as good as I thought it was going to, to see him hurting like that. Somehow, I hated her more for her dissembling and lies and for wresting him away from me on the pretense of a baby, than I was glad to see him feel bad. How DARE she? I was enraged for him, at her. NOT the reaction I expected myself to have. Perhaps I hadn't COMPLETELY gotten over him at all.
18 years later, thank to the magic of the internets - he and I reconnected. We are now friends. Still, sometimes I can't help but wonder "what if I'd done things differently? where might we be now?"
Ah well, it's impossible to change the past. All we can do is plan for the future, and enjoy this moment.
My story, she is done. Thanks to Tracy Lynn for the prompt.