I drove for hours and by the time I got there I was having second thoughts, but it was too late and too far to turn around and go home. I didn’t feel much like partying at all, but maybe my friend was right. Maybe it would help to be around new people and get my mind off of the same conversations with Eddie that played on loop in my head. Maybe it was time to stop dwelling on what I could have done differently or how I could get him to come back and embrace the moment for a little while. Besides, what if he found someone else and never came back? Was I just supposed to mope around at home, a lady in waiting, until I received word from Eddie about whether or not I was good enough for him after all? Forget that.
My friend gave me a tour of the small house he lived in with a few friends. I remember being surprised that he had his own room. All of my other friends who were away at college had tiny dorm rooms that they shared with roommates. For some reason, this revelation of unexpected privacy seemed to seal our fate in my mind. Not that he had done anything at all to give me that impression, he was being a perfect gentleman.
He gave me some privacy to rest and get ready while they got the basement ready for their party. At one point he came up from the basement and found me near the top of the steps. He looked down at me and said, “I’m glad you came. You look beautiful.” Then he kissed me. I gasped, surprised, although his advance was not unwelcome. He pulled away quickly and apologized, saying I probably wasn’t ready for something like that and he didn’t mean to push me. We didn’t talk about it anymore and before I knew it the house was crowded.
I don’t think I drank anything. I probably did my patented “just walk around with an empty red Solo cup and pretend to take a sip occasionally so that people leave you alone and stop asking you why you’re not drinking” move. I tried to smile and be polite, but frat parties just really aren’t my scene. Mostly, I sat on a sofa and thought about the fact that someone who was not Eddie had just kissed me and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Actually, I did know how I felt: I felt attractive and this was a big surprise to me and also a big relief. I had been spending a lot of time, money and energy getting my body to look the best it possibly could, and I was actually pretty confident about the way I looked, but I wasn’t used to getting that kind of attention from other men. Or any attention really.
In high school everyone knew me as “Eddie’s girlfriend” and no one would dare to come onto me. Since I went to a women’s college, there weren’t any men there either and my only other guy friends were Eddie’s friends from college. No one in any of those situations was going to be putting the moves on me.I wasn’t the type of girl to pick up random men in bars. So where was I going to meet anyone now that we were both supposedly out spreading our wings or whatever we were doing?
I realized that when Eddie left I had been scared that I didn’t really have any other prospects, whereas he was literally surrounded by thousands of women at College Park and he’s never been one to have a hard time making friends. I have always had a irrational insecurity about just being myself. I’m scared that once people really get to know me they won’t like me any more. It makes me shy and reserved. Eddie leaving really brought it front and center and made me scared that if even he didn’t like me enough to stay then no one ever would. Having a friend who knew me well confirm that I was still likeable was a big relief. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to articulate that to myself until I was standing in dingy basement counting the minutes until yet another tedious fraternity party would end.
Every fraternity party at every college is the same. A bunch of people stand around a basement taking turns playing beer pong, which people claim is a ton of fun, but is really just bouncing ping pong balls into cups. The guys drink from a keg and the girls are supposed to drink something called “jungle juice” that is a disgusting mixture of cheap alcohol and Kool Aid or juice. Then people make a lot of bad choices and wake up in the morning feeling like they have the flu. When you are in college these parties are labeled “having fun” and attendance is mandatory if you want to be “anybody.” If you have ever had actual fun, you probably know that it generally does not involve drinking mystery substances in a dirty basement then spending half the night in line for an even dirtier bathroom. I don’t know how many fraternity parties I endured in college, but there were a lot of them. This one was pretty much par for the course.
That night, like he said he would, my friend gave up his bed and made himself a makeshift pile of blankets on the floor. He listened to me for hours talking about how I lost the person I thought I was going to marry. It had been a little less than a year since I had done the same thing for him.
He apologized again for kissing me earlier. I told him not to be ridiculous. His friendship meant a lot to me and it made me feel good to know someone else could see me the same way Eddie did.
Then I invited him back into his own bed.
We kept seeing each other for a few weeks. I guess you could call it dating, although we didn’t call it that. We both realized fairly quickly that it just wasn’t going to work between us. Finally, one day we sat in his car and had the “What exactly are we doing here?” discussion.
I told him that I didn’t think this was going to work because the distance was too far and he had any number of girls fawning over him all the time, football star that he was. One in particular I met once when he took me to the pool hall. She was head over heels in love with him and being very obvious about it. She invited herself over the minute she found out he was there with me. I wasn’t interested in playing the role of a jealous long-distance girlfriend and I told him so. He laughed at me and told me to just admit what it really was already.
“Yeah, yeah, all that. And you’re not over Eddie.” He was smiling, without a trace of hard feelings.
“I will never be over him.” It was a simple statement of fact. It wasn’t that I had rushed into something too soon or that I didn’t like this person I was seeing. It was just that nobody else would ever be Eddie.
“You have to try to work it out with him. If I could go back and save my own relationship I would, but that’s over. You and Eddie? That’s not over yet.” It was a big deal for him to say something like this, considering the intense dislike that he had for my ex-beau.
“How do I even do that? How do I save it?”
“I have no idea, but probably not like this,” he waved his hand back and forth in the space between the two of us, indicating our connection.
I knew he was right. I also knew that it meant I would probably never see him again if things worked out with Eddie.
It was the first time that I ever had to make a conscious choice to walk away from a friendship I that I truly valued.
It hurt, but I did it. I turned and walked away, towards the past that I hoped would also be my future.
I haven’t seen him or spoken to him for about eight years, but don’t worry about my friend. He married the girl from the pool hall.