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"I'm sorry, what was that?" I asked. Aimee's words had been crystal clear. She had finally said what I'd been waiting for months to hear: that she wanted to be with me. But I needed to hear it again. I had to be sure.
"I want us to be together," she repeated.
"Boyfriend and girlfriend? Committed?"
"Yes," she said somewhat breathlessly.
"Wow," I said. "Hey, can I call you right back?"
"Wh...what?" She sounded utterly dumbstruck.
"I just, you know, need a few minutes to mull this over."
"Are you for real?" she asked, confusion giving way to panic. "I thought this was what you wanted? This is
what you want, isn't it?"
"Uh, yeah, I think so," I said. "But like I said, I've gotta think about it."
"I can't believe this," she said.
"Right, okay, talk to you in a few." I hung up.
Now THIS was a dilemma. I had spent most of the past three years longing after two girls who had repeatedly rejected me, and now both of them were at my
mercy. At the same time no less. I now got to choose between them. My head was spinning at this strange twist of fate.
Mat, who often showed an unexpected interest in my love life (or lack thereof), had been listening intently to the conversation. He was watching me expectantly.
"Now Aimee wants to date me too," I said. "Both of the girls I've always wanted want me
"That's cool," Mat said. "So, whatchya gonna do?"
"I have no idea," I said.
"I thought Aimee was the one you wanted to be with," he said.
"She was. She is. But now I don't know. Everything's happening so fast."
"Don't pick between 'em then," he said.
"Don't pick between 'em," he said again.
"I don't see how that could possibly work," I said.
"Didn't you tell me they don't talk? That they never gonna see each other?"
"Uh, yeah," I said.
"Then it's easy. Fuck 'em both
. That way you get what you want."
I gaped at him. "I can't do that."
"You should. You're gonna regret it if you don't. Trust me." Satisfied with his sage-like advice, he put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his giant chair while a self-satisfied smile spread across his face.
That advice wasn't going to work. Maybe for Mat, but not for me. I sat back down behind my desk to think but immediately decided I wanted more input. I went next door to talk to Nathan.
"Forget for a moment who you want
more. Don't let petty lust guide you," he said. "Ask yourself this: who's the better person? Who walks in the light?"
"I don't care about the light, Nathan."
"Of course you don't. Not right now, anyway. But you will," he said with the same kind of confidence Mat had when telling me to fuck them both. "Make the right choice today and you'll have fewer regrets tomorrow."
"And, just to be clear, by 'who walks in the light' you mean..."
"The Godly woman," Nathan said.
"And barring that," said Nathan's roommate, Ron, who poked his head around a book he was reading, "choose the more attractive
of the two."
"Cool, thanks," I said, even though that wasn't the advice I was looking for either.
I walked down to the lobby and used the courtesy phone to call my basketball buddy Joe. He said, "Aimee's the girl you've been pursuing. Cindy sort of came back out of nowhere. It seems like you have a lot invested in Aimee and very little invested in Cindy. If it were me, I'd go with my big emotional investment and see what happens."
Next up on the call list was Susan. "I'm not going to tell you what to do," she said. "You've got to figure that out for yourself. But I don't see how you can have any faith in Aimee at this point. She's really been jerking you around. You might want to see how things go with this Cindy chick."
Okay, so that was one vote for fuck them both, one vote for the Godly woman, one vote for the hotter one, and one vote each for Aimee and Cindy. So much for coming to a consensus. You know, the thing that kills me the most about this particular memory is how I actually thought that my friends found my drama as compelling as I did. That's a teenager for you: nothing could possibly be any bigger than what they're going through at that moment
I slumped back into the room. "You figure it out yet?" Mat asked. He seemed to be enjoying this.
"Not really," I said. Then, on impulse, "You know what? Screw it. I'm picking Aimee."
"You sure 'bout dat?" Mat said.
"Yeah. Yeah, I think I am."
I called Aimee back. I gave her my answer. We talked love and relationships late into the night.
That was Monday, November 1st. As luck would have it, Aimee had an upperclassman friend who was dating someone at my school. More importantly, that girl, Colleen, had a car and was visiting her boyfriend that Friday night. She had agreed to bring Aimee with her so we could see each other as boyfriend/girlfriend for the first time.
I was so excited that I immediately told Mat about her visit, mostly because he was the closest and most convenient human being available. "That's cool," was all he said. I briefly considered asking him to make himself scarce when she arrived, but it hardly seemed necessary. He always disappeared on the weekends. That was one of the few things I could always count on with him.
The week passed with me in a state of agitated excitement. All I could think about was Aimee's visit. Classes seemed more boring than usual. The only point of interest that week was an odd moment in my calculus class. My professor, Mr. Swenson, was the world's biggest dork. He stood about 5"4, looked like he weighed 98 pounds (assuming he had bricks in his pockets), wore giant honkin' glasses, and sported an ugly comb-over/wispy mustache combo. Worse yet, he was terribly clumsy. Professor Swenson could barely walk from one end of the chalkboard to the other without tripping, dropping a piece of chalk or fumbling an eraser to the floor.
Now, a lot of times guy like that lack self-awareness. Not Professor Swenson. He realized he was a dork and seemed to live in a constant state of embarrassment due to that knowledge. But he was confident in one area: math. So during a recitation that week, one of my classmates asked some meaningless question about some meaningless problem from one of our assignments. I was only half paying attention, so I don't remember what the question was, but I do
remember Swenson saying, "I could solve that problem in two, three, perhaps even four different ways. With my ability in mathematics, I can do almost anything!"
The whole class just stood and watched him for a moment. Once again self-conscious and embarrassed, Professor Swenson went back to scribbling out answers on the board.
Friday arrived. I had only one class and I was too jittery to sit around the room, so I wandered around campus for a while and met with my German Language Club for lunch. I stopped by the APO office, left a note on the message board for Susan, signed up for a couple service events, and then went to pick up a few things for Aimee's visit. And by a few things I mean one bottle of water, a bag of chips and some chocolate chip cookies (despite the fact that Aimee didn't particularly care for cookies). I was ready for some wild times. Er, make that mild times.
When Aimee was about an hour away, I returned to the dorm and took a shower. I got shaved, dressed and put on some cologne. I made my bed and straightened up my four or five possessions. I even swept the dust bunnies off the floor and out from under my bed. As I was finishing up, Mat walked in. I checked my watch. It was almost 7 p.m. on a Friday night. Except for the weekend that Shelly had visited, I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen Mat on a Friday night. What the hell was going on?
"What's up?" I asked.
"Nuthin'," he replied.
"I mean, what's up tonight? Like, what are you doing later?"
"I don't have any plans," he said.
What? How could he not
have plans? I couldn't believe it. "Seriously?" I asked.
"Seriously," he said.
This wasn't happening. It couldn't be.
"Oh come on," I said, trying to lay on some bullshit, "as popular as you are, there's gotta be something going on somewhere. A frat party or something."
"Nope," he said. "Nuthin's going on dat I know of." With that he flipped on MTV and collapsed into his giant chair.
I checked my watch again. Aimee was going to show up any minute.
"You're sure there's nothing going on?" I asked one last, desperate time.
"I'm sure," he said without looking at me.
The phone rang. It was Aimee. She was down in the lobby. I sprinted down to get her. She didn't hesitate to hug me this time. "So," she said with a sly smile, "want to take me up to your room?"
"Yeah, about that," I said, "Mat's there."
"What? Seriously?" she said.
"Seriously," I said. "And he won't leave."
"I thought you told me he was never around on the weekends."
"He usually isn't," I said. "But he claims there's nothing going on tonight."
Aimee was incredulous. "It's Friday night at one of the biggest colleges in the state."
"Yeah, I know," I said. "Trust me, he'll get bored and leave eventually." I hoped so anyway.
Holding hands, we walked back to the room. Mat was still there watching MTV. He barely acknowledged us when we walked in. We sat on my bed talking quietly for a few minutes when an idea hit me. "Hey," I said, "let me introduce you to some of my friends."
Friday night was when my roleplaying group usually met. The roleplaying sessions almost always took place in Duke's room. Duke was an R.A. in a section of the dorm called "The Basement." That meant Duke had a bigger room than most other R.A.'s. He took advantage of the extra living space by bringing in a sectional couch, which made his room pretty awesome by dorm standards. Anyway, I took Aimee down there and introduced her to my motley crew of friends. Nathan was wearing shorts and suspenders. BadDave was in his ever-present sweat pants / t-shirt combo. And Ron -- the same fat guy who had accidentally walked into my room wearing a too-small towel on my first weekend at college -- had squeezed his extra-large caboose into black spandex pants with a large lavender stripe down the side of each leg. And he was wearing a skin-tight white t-shirt.
"Welcome to the den of rogues and fools," Ron said. That's nerd talk for "Hello." Then everybody took turns introducing themselves.
I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed. The group hadn't seemed quite this dorkrageous until there was a living, breathing girl in their midst. I was afraid Aimee would judge me by the appearance of the company I kept. But she didn’t. In fact, she thought the guys were funny and kind of cool. It shouldn’t have surprised me that she’d like geeks. She was now dating me, after all.
That visit killed about an hour, after which Aimee and I journeyed back up to my room in the hope that Mat had wandered off to wherever he usually wandered. No such luck. Apparently, he was serious about spending this Friday night -- of all Friday nights -- in our room.
Grasping at straws, I called my buddy Joe, who had himself recently started dating a girl named Andrea. I quickly explained the situation. He said, "Tell you what, why don't we do a double date?"
Aimee and I met Joe and Andrea at the Ben & Jerry's that used to be at the edge of campus. Each couple told the story of how we’d met and how we’d come to be dating (although Joe already knew most of my story) over the dreaded Vermonster
. Then we took a nighttime stroll across campus.
All of a sudden, it was almost midnight. Aimee started tugging on my sleeve, which is the universal signal for "Let's ditch your friends and go back to your room." So we did.
When we got there, my room was empty. Mat was gone! I very nearly let out a whoop of joy. I snuck Aimee into the bathroom across the hall so she could brush her teeth and pee. I only had to forestall one bleary-eyed guy. "Hey, could you wait for a second? My girlfriend’s in there," I said, feeling a little too proud of myself. He just grunted and waited for her to finish what she was doing.
After Aimee came out of the bathroom, she said, "Can you give me a minute to go in and change?" All I could think of was her getting naked in my room. I literally felt like I was going to explode.
"Yeah," I said, trying my damnedest to play it cool, "no problem."
While I was standing outside my room wondering what she was planning to change into (or, hopefully, just out of), I heard something. A sound coming from down the stairs and one hallway over. It was somebody whistling. It was somebody whistling Bob Marley.
"No," I muttered. "No. It can’t be..."
But then the whistling stopped and became a telltale chanting: "You got da horse race, you got da human race, but dis is da rat race…raaaaaaaat raaaaaaaace."
And then Mat's huge, shaved head popped up out of the stairwell. All I could do was stare at him as he lumbered my way. He actually made it as far as reaching for the doorknob before I could say, "Whoa, wait! Aimee's changing in there!"
"Oh, sorry," he said, and he turned around and went into the bathroom.
I knocked on the door. Aimee popped her head out. "Mat's here."
"You're kidding," she said.
"I really wish I was."
Her head disappeared back into the room and the door closed. When Mat came out of the bathroom, I knocked and asked if she was decent. She said she was, so we both walked in. Aimee was now wearing a pair of my sweatpants and one of my sweatshirts. I had a feeling that wasn't her original plan.
"So," I said, and it was really hard to disguise my irritation, "couldn't find anything to do?"
"Nope," he said. Then he picked up a phone and ordered a pizza, a sure sign he wasn't going anywhere. Aimee and I just looked at each other. We spent the next hour just snuggling on my bed and talking quietly. When the pizza came, Mat offered us some. Aimee and I shared a piece. After he finished eating the rest of the pizza, he turned off the TV and said, "You goin' to bed?" We said we were, so he turned out the lights.
My roommate -- the man who had been livin' large all semester -- was at home and in bed by 1:30 a.m. on a Friday night. That had never happened before...and it never happened again while we lived together. If I could shoot lasers with my eyes, there would still be a burning crater where Mat had been that night.
Aimee laughed softly. "I can't believe he's still here," she whispered. "It's almost like he doesn't want to leave."
"I have no idea what's going on," I whispered back. "I hope he walks in front of a bus tomorrow."
"Ssssh," she said. "Let's just make the best of it." And we did. No, we didn't have sex. But we had one of those marathon, hours-long make out sessions that college kids are famous for. At one point, I remember thinking it was kind of ironic that, for once, I was in bed fooling around while Mat slept alone five feet away. But that thought was mercifully brief. The rest of the time, my mind was elsewhere.
The next morning, Aimee woke up sick as a dog. She had a sinus infection, although we didn't know it at the time. I didn't have any medicine in my room, so I had to wander around until I found a pharmacy. (I would late discover there was a small pharmacy only five minutes away.) I bought Robotussin, cough drops, decongestant, Kleenex…basically anything that had the words "cold" or "cough" on it.
I got back about 40 minutes later (I ran back from the pharmacy). Aimee was miserable. Mat was still asleep. I doctored my new girlfriend up as best I could and then watched her sleep a little more. That was a real novelty to me.
Aimee woke up around noon, and Mat work up shortly after her. He turned on the television and resumed his silent MTV vigil. Was he ever going to leave??
Collen called around one o'clock. She was heading back to Butler soon...and Aimee had to go with her. I ushered Mat out of the room so Aimee could change. The only thing she changed was her shirt. "I'm taking your sweats," she said, smiling. "They smell like you."
"I really hope that's a good thing," I said. She probably had no idea how many times I'd passed gas in those sweats, a fact I kept secret.
I walked her to the front of the dorm, where we hugged and kissed until Collen pulled up. We said our sad goodbyes and I watched my girlfriend drive off. I felt empty.
By the time I got back to the room, Mat was gone. He didn't return until Monday. I was furious all day on Saturday, wondering why in the hell he couldn't have disappeared on Friday so that Aimee and I could have had the room to ourselves.
Then it hit me. I thought about all those times I was home studying when Mat might have wanted a little solitude, the times I studied or tried to sleep through his many romantic encounters...encounters that might have been best enjoyed without me hanging around. By staying in the room the one and only chance I had to see my brand new girlfriend, was Mat getting me back for the many inconveniences I had put him through?
That was the first time it occurred to me: if Mat was the villain in my story, maybe I was the villain in his.Part 18
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