My first birthday after breaking up with The One That Got Away was a doozy. I almost made out with Mr. Temptation (ok not almost, actually, but only for a minute…or five) at midnight, missed a birthday celebration with my roommates because of it, and was completely hungover for my actual birthday day. My roommates, none to pleased with me for disappearing, spending the night in Mr. Temptation’s room and refusing to talk about any of it, still intended on throwing me a formal birthday party that night, but first I had to make it through dinner with my family. Dinner with my entire family, who were driving up through a snowstorm come and take me out. Meanwhile, I couldn’t move my head without the room spinning too, and I looked like I had lost a fight with a tube of mascara and can of hairspray.
Since my roommates were firm believers in hair of the dog that bit you, it was time for yet another shower beer, this time with a straw, as I rushed to get ready for my family’s arrival. One of my roommates, we’ll call her Charlotte, was going with me, thank the heavens, and she fixed me to the best of her ability for presentation to my family before going to get ready herself. I slumped on the couch as I waited, wishing I could melt into the sofa and not have to go anywhere or be seen by anyone. No such luck. Before I knew it we were off to dinner, and Charlotte was holding my arm like a date on prom night making sure my inebriated butt didn’t hit the cold hard ground as I wobbled in my heels into the restaurant. My grandmother would later ask if Charlotte was my girlfriend, just out of curiousity because “Whatever makes you happy,” and she’s “all for the gays,” as she put it. I think she might have been a disappointed when I told her no.
Anyway, after an arduous dinner where Charlotte accidentally ate an entire garlic clove and my brother caused a huge fuss about the restaurant not having ketchup, my family dropped us back at my dorm, where my roommates were in full party preparation mode. I hid in my room, wondering if we could cancel the whole thing. I already missed one celebration, why not go two for two? I didn’t feel like celebrating one bit. Not knowing that The One that Got Away wouldn’t be there, and that by now Dennis had most likely told him about my night spent in Mr. Temptation’s room.
Pull yourself together, woman. That’s what I told myself as I dressed for the party. It was I, after all, that had taken the fight as a final break up. I was the one who wanted it to be over. Granted, it all sounded a lot better in my head while I was still feeling angry and not missing him so deeply, but I hadn’t changed my mind either. I wasn’t going back to a relationship that wasn’t working. So on that note, I waded into a sea of people in our living room, with a smile plastered on my face and the resolve that I was going to move on.
I should mention that for this party we had made a “punch” and when it was time to prepare, it in a moment of clarity, I had carefully measured the amount of alcohol to put in to prevent one cup from knocking people on their butts, and then stashed the bottle under the bathroom sink. At some point, three individual roommates decided I had not put enough in during the mixing process and added more to the dispensing cooler. As you can imagine, that went splendidly.
After one glass (and by glass I mean generic brand solo cup) of the triple spiked punch, I was in more of a party spirit and enjoying the attention a friend of friend was paying me. In fairness, at this point I would have called him my friend, but I would have been dumb to do so. This guy would later become known as The Sociopath, so we’ll just refer to him with that moniker from here on out.
The Sociopath was a friend of one my roommates and had been making a conscious effort to inject himself into my life for some time now. Feeling unappreciated by The One That Got Away and in need of attention, I foolishly let myself enjoy the interest him showed me. He shared the same science course that Mr. Temptation and I did, and every day of class became a sort of game of who is eyeing who and who will be waiting to walk with me after class. When it came to do a project with a partner he had immediately requested me, giving us another excuse to spend “innocent” time together. And I won’t lie, I enjoyed spending time with him. He was handsome and intelligent, and very good at saying what a person wanted to hear. With each passing week, we spent more and more time together, causing even more problems in my already crumbling relationship with The One That Got Away. It didn’t help The Sociopath’s relationship either, with a girl who hung around on the outskirts of my friend circle and who I could not stand, for much better reasons than her relationship with The Sociopath (she was the kind of person who would grab another girl’s chest or butt and make inappropriate comments, all of it unwelcomed and unwarranted. You do not enter my personal space without permission.).
But back to the party. The Sociopath makes a bigger impression than usual that night, showing up with a birthday gift for me, something that not even my roommates have thought of, in a neatly wrapped package. I usher him into the privacy of my bedroom to open the package, partially because people are staring at us after the gift exchange and partially because of the way he’s looking at me waiting too expectantly for me to open it. I’m relieved to find a pretty black top when I open the box (I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the look on his face had made me a bit nervous.).Not wanting to seem too superficial, I don’t inspect it too closely and stow it on top of my dresser before we head back out into the chaos, all eyes on us once again. But he doesn’t seem to mind.
The rest of the night he stands a little closer than usual, and when he can’t hear me over the noise (or at least pretends he can’t), he leans in close and puts his hand on my lower back as he listens. I apologize for yelling in his ear and he tells me he loves the sound of my voice. Any doubt I had about his interest in me is totally erased by the look on his face after he says it, but he doesn’t go any further than that comment and the gentle touch of his hand on my back.
At the end of the night I’m starving and another one of my roommates decides we should go to a diner. I decide this is a splendid idea and it just so happens that her boyfriend and The Sociopath are friends, so they’re coming too. On the way there The Sociopath sits in the back with me, even though he’s way too tall to ever ride anywhere but the front seat and his knees are squished up like a grasshopper. I giggle about it and when he asks why I’m too punched up to have a filter and repeat my grasshopper thought. He makes a comment about how everyone can’t have tiny legs like me and rests his hand on my thigh as he says it, leaving it there for the rest of the ride. It’s both an innocent and intimate gesture, and one that in the past only The One That Got Away would be allowed to do. But it doesn’t make me sad or awkward like when Mr. Temptation touched me. Instead it feels nice, which brings its own mix of weird feelings.
We go into the diner and sit together like a couple across from my roommate and her boyfriend. At some point he rests his arm on the back of the booth behind me, and I don’t mind as it slides down a bit to be more around my shoulders. I order a gyro, but by the time it comes I don’t want half of the stuff in it and pick through it like the clumsy drunk I am removing this and that, and then finally deciding I don’t want it all. To my horror, my friend’s boyfriend decides he’ll eat it after I’ve already had my fingers all in it and it makes me feel suddenly ill.
I don’t feel good the entire way home and wind up resting my head on The Sociopath as we drive back. When we arrive at the dorm, he sees me to my bed and covers me with my blankets. I tell him I want to talk to him about something, because I’m afraid I’ve given him the impression that there’s something happening between us and I’m neither ready for that or sure I want it. He tells me not tonight with a smile and leaves me there to pass out from lack of sleep and abundance of alcohol.
We never do have that talk, and I make the mistake of thinking anything The Sociopath has done has been genuine, or uncalculated because I truly suck at love, and I just don’t know it yet. But that’s a story for another time…
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.