When The One that Got Away and I broke up, I was in a very weird place — about to leave college, and my friends and everything familiar and safe and go out into the real world. I made the unwise choice of drowning my fears and sorrows in a toxic mix of alcohol and other men…and that’s how I missed my own birthday celebration. Our break up occurred during my birthday week, yes you read that right, “birthday week.” Up until this point, I had always celebrated my birthday for an entire week and I wasn’t about to let a little break up with the man I once considered to be the love of my life change that. So on went the drinking and partying right up until the night where midnight would mark my birthday.
In an already buzzed stupor, I beg my roommates, five of them at this point, to do something with me later that day when midnight hits to mark the occasion in a desperate attempt to keep convince myself that happiness could be found at the bottom of the bottle if enough people made enough noise with me. But since it’s the end of a winter semester mid-school year for them, everyone has assignments they have to get done and handed in before we can celebrate my official birthday party a day later. I retire to my room dejected and hop on AIM, ready to complain to a friend from home when a message pops through asking me what I’m doing at midnight for my birthday as if the boy who sent it had just read my boozed-up mind. I hesitate for a minute before responding. I can tell him I have plans and nothing at all will happen. Or I can tell him nothing and something most certainly will. Another message pops through asking if I’m there and I respond. “No plans.”
He immediately invites me over, telling me he’s going to throw me a party at midnight. I stare at the cursor on the screen telling myself it’s not too late to back out. I can tell him I’m not up for it, don’t want to go or just shut the laptop screen, but instead I say “Ok.” He sends another message saying to come by at 11 and I sit back in my seat still questioning whether or not I’m actually going to go.
There are multiple reasons this is a bad idea, above and beyond that fact that I’ve only been broken up with my boyfriend for four days. This boy, we’ll call him Mr. Temptation, had made it very clear he was interested in me, and even tried to get me to leave a party with him once when my boyfriend made a fool of himself and ruined a game of beer pong by projectile vomiting into the cups. Is that TMI? Anyway, I had declined his advances and tried to turn his interest to a friend who I knew fancied him, but he didn’t bite…for her at least. Instead, he continued to flirt with me, sitting beside me in the one class we shared and writing suggestive things in my notebook as I tried to gain some scientific knowledge…much to the chagrin of my friend who had a crush on him as she sat beside us. Just breaking up with the boyfriend and hurting my friend’s feelings weren’t even the top reason I knew this a bad idea. No, the worst part of it all was that I was pretty sure he had a girlfriend at home. And yet I get ready to go.
I stand in the shower stall of our shared suite bathroom listening to an old radio show one of my roommates had done over the campus station on the waterproof radio that hung from the showerhead, trying to pump myself up and get the courage to go over to his room. Of course this includes a shower beer because reasons. One roommate, then another comes in asking what I’m getting ready for and we’re I’m off too. I’m irrationally upset with them, because I feel like they should have at least been willing to do a shot at midnight with me, but mostly because I feel like they’ve taken my ex’s side in the breakup, and I’m pretty intoxicated — that too. I tell them I’m going out for a bit, but won’t elaborate on where or why. They press me for details but I don’t give in, even as I walk out the door into the night.
I arrive at Mr. Temptation’s dorm room to find that the party he has thrown me is made up of his roommate and two other people I tangentially know through mutual friends. Awesome. But he’s excited I’ve actually shown up and begins to excitedly ask me what music I want to listen to, what I would like to drink, even where I want to sit. Enjoying my minor celebrity status in room 201b, I make my requests and make the best of this non-party. Mr. Temptation is his usual cheeky self, devilish smile and innuendo laced comments abound. He makes a point of occasionally touching my leg or adjusting my hair back behind my ear and I act like I don’t notice, because that’s what I always do when I have no idea how to respond to flirting.
After a drink or two I decide it is incredibly important that I go wake a friend who lives next door to come and join us. I should know this is a bad idea, because the friend, we’ll call him Dennis, was originally more my ex’s than mine, but this doesn’t register in my boozy haze so I begin banging on his door like a woman on a mission. Dennis answers in his pajamas confused and sleepy looking. I tell him we’re doing shots for my birthday, and he sticks his head out into the hallway looking for the “we” I’m referring to. Next door, I add, and he looks at me, concern evident on his face. He knows that’s where Mr. Temptation lives and is was his party Mr. Temptation had tried to take me home from after my ex’s mishap. He tells me to give him a minute to change and reemerges to follow me next door. We return to find Mr. Temptation wearing my coat and scarf and sitting in the chair that use to be mine. He beckons me to come sit on his lap and Dennis gives me a very clear what are you doing look. I sit on the floor instead and begin taking pictures of Mr. Temptation posing like a fool in my bright pink coat. He puts his coat and scarf on me, and coaxes me off the ground to take pictures in our “matching peacoats.” As one of the tangential friends snaps pictures he kisses my cheek and pulls me close.
At this point Dennis has tired of the shenanigans and tries to convince me I should go home, or stay in his room, or be anywhere but here. But I’m having no part of it. He stays a bit longer, tries to convince me to leave again, but I tell him I’m fine and eventually he goes with reminding me he’s right next door and if I need help I can scream. It’s a bit of a sobering downer and Mr. Temptation can tell whatever Dennis’ partying words to me were have changed my mood. He tells the other people, including his roommate, to call it a night, and I wonder if Dennis is right that I should have left.
When the room has cleared, he sits across from me on the floor and looks at me for a long time without saying anything. The silence is painful as I flip-flop between telling him I’m going to leave and waiting to see if he’s going to kiss me. I haven’t yet made a decision when he announces “I’ll walk you home now, if you want to go.” My hand is forced, and I’m sure I must look like a deer in headlights because he smiles as he watches me before leaning forward and kissing me. My heart pounds. My brain feel swishy from all the alcohol. He stops and looks at me just inches from my face and asks “Ok?” but I don’t know what the question is referring to. I nod anyway. His lips come back down on mine and then we’re on the floor his hands tentatively caressing my body and I realize I have not let a man other than The One that Got Away touch me like this in over two years. My eyes tear up and I push him away to sit up and get my wits about me. He begins to apologize and I tell him it’s me, not him. I start to grab my belongings to go, but he stops me, his face an unreadable mix of emotions as he says I should stay “just to sleep.”
I don’t know why, but I agree to stay and he gives me outfit to change into while he waits in the hall. I tell him he can come back in and when he does he makes me comfortable and puts something on the television for me to watch while he cleans up the mess our party has caused. I’m already drifting when he crawls into bed beside me and in my sleepy state it feels nice to have someone laying beside me. He kisses my forehead and says “Happy Birthday” and then I’m asleep, or passed out, or both.
I wake up the next morning with a killer hangover and the panic of not remembering what I did or didn’t do for the first minute of consciousness. It quickly comes back to me and I’m a healthy mix of relieved and embarrassed. I throw my jeans back on and stuff my shirt into my purse, opting to leave in the one he’s loaned me. He never stirs, and even snores as I bundle up and ease the door shut, heading back across campus to my own room.
It’s 5 a.m. and my roommates are all asleep, so I try to tiptoe in, but am stopped dead in my tracks by the decorations hanging everywhere. I figure they’ve gotten an early start on decorating for my birthday night and sneak into my own bed for more sleep. But I don’t get much. I awake to five girls surrounding my bed yelling at me that I must get up, it’s my birthday after all, and as soon as I’m fully awake and talking they chastising begins. The only thing I hear clearly among the barrage of where the heck were you and why didn’t you come home, is the announcement that I missed the birthday surprise they had planned for me at midnight. Turns out no one was actually busy and I would have had a nice little surprise party with my roommates if I had stayed home. Oops.
The day didn’t get much better from there, and the full story of my actual birthday day will have to wait for next week, but I will say Mr. Temptation skipped my big birthday party that night. I wasn’t too surprised given how weird things went…and the fact that I left without saying anything. But that wouldn’t be the last I saw of Mr. Temptation or the last time we flirted with intimacy, because I suck at love and just don’t know when to call it quits, especially when a crazy hot guy is involved. And in case you were wondering, I did eventually find out he had a girlfriend, much later, but not soon enough.
As Rebecca Wells so brilliantly put it, “There is the truth of history, and there is the truth of what a person remembers.” I’ll try to bridge that gap as I tell you the story of how I eventually figured out I suck at love. Come back weekly for new installments.