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Because I didn't keep close track of Mat's schedule and he rarely shared anything important with me, I have no idea when exactly he retook his SAT. All I kinda-sorta know is that it happened shortly before Thanksgiving break. To the best of my knowledge, he did nothing to mark the occasion. I had expected Mat to scream with with primal rage, party until a major organ failed, throw an orgy...something. But he "celebrated" by hanging around the room and sleeping a lot. In retrospect, it makes sense. Not only had he been forced to use more brain power than, well, maybe ever, but he also wouldn't know whether he'd actually passed until some time after the break. Ergo, there wasn't any cause for merriment just yet.
Meanwhile, I was very much in the mood to celebrate. I reached the end of November of the first semester of my freshman year. I had an "A" in every class. My professors were impressed by me. I was working for the school newspaper, and the adult advisor was likewise impressed. My basketball skills were being honed by the superior (compared to my hometown) competition at the Co-Rec. And, most importantly, Aimee and I had been a couple for almost a month. College wasn't all that. In the immortal words of Dr. Peter Venkman: I came, I saw, I kicked its ass.
So my upcoming trip home for the break seemed (to me anyway) like the return of a conquering hero. I was now a successful college student with his first serious girlfriend. Sad as it sounds, I couldn't wait to parade Aimee around in front of my old friends. My hometown buddies either weren't dating or weren't seeing someone as attractive as Aimee, so naturally I felt like The Man. (In fact, Gauvin had tried and failed to date Aimee in high school, so there was some unspoken oneupsmanship going on between us.) And speaking of Aimee, I was almost literally frothing at the mouth to see her. We hadn't had a face-to-face since she'd visited me on November 5th (and left the 6th). Two and a half weeks was waaaaaay too long to wait. My hormones were starting to eat each other. But such were the lives of the Young and the Car-less. (Or, in my case, the Car-less on Campus, since my school didn't let freshman have a car on campus.)
Officially, my school held classes until the day before Thanksgiving. However, my professors cancelled their Wednesday classes. Apparently, they weren't thrilled by the prospect of dealing with countless hyper freshmen who weren't going to retain anything they learned that day anyway. As a result, I had more goof-off time than normal. I used that time chatting online, watching old NBA games on VHS or just laying around daydreaming about Aimee.
My mom was picking me up on Wednesday afternoon. By 10 a.m., I was packed and ready to go. By 11 a.m., I was pacing the floor. By noon, I was ready to climb the walls. The wait seemed unbearable. I tried to kill a little time checking to make sure I had everything I needed for my four-day holiday. Four shirts and one pair of jeans? Check. Four pairs of underwear and a pile of (hopefully matching) socks? Check. One ginormous bag of dirty clothes for my mom to launder? Very check. Yep. That was everything.
Even in the midst of my irrational exuberance, I couldn't help but notice that Mat -- who, shockingly enough, was already awake -- was more subdued than usual. In fact, he looked downright bummed out. It suddenly occurred to me that Mat didn't have any family in the U.S. And while I was fairly certain the Dutch didn't celebrate American Thanksgiving, he still had to watch everyone around him leave to be with friends and loved ones. That made it a pretty a shitty time to be stuck by yourself in a stinky dorm on a deserted college campus.
I groaned inwardly. By this point, my pity cup should have been bone dry. I shouldn't have cared less about how Mat was spending Thanksgiving. But I've always been a sensitive, sympathetic idiot. It's caused me a lot of grief over the years. And it looked like it was going to happen again.
"So," I said, "what, uh, what are you doing for the break?" I didn't bother to ask whether he celebrated Thanksgiving to avoid the appearance of cultural ignorance.
"Dunno," he grunted. "Don't have any plans." He didn't take his eyes off the TV.
Damn it. Now I had to ask. "Are you...eating Thanksgiving dinner with anybody."
"Dunno," he said again.
"My mom always makes way more food than my family can eat," I said, mentally punching myself in the groin. "So if you don't have anything else to do, you could, you know, come to Kokomo and have Thanksgiving dinner for us."
Now he looked at me. "Seriously?"
"Seriously," I said, hoping my mom wouldn't freak too much...and also hoping that, if he did show up, Mat wouldn't wolf down so much food that there wouldn't be any leftovers.
"Hey, thanks," Mat said. "If I got nothing else goin' on, I'll come." He looked genuinely grateful.
"Uh, cool," I said. "I'll just leave my home phone number and some directions. Just call me if you think you're gonna show."
"Okay," he said. I had no idea how he was going to travel the 50-some miles to Kokomo if he chose to accept my invitation, and I didn't ask. I figured someone as worldly as Mat could figure it out. Besides, I didn't want him to ask me to come pick him up. I wasn't even sure if he'd fit in my car.
My mom finally showed up a little after 1 p.m. We had been on the road for maybe five minutes when I dropped the bombshell.
"Hey, Mat didn't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving, so I invited him to our dinner," I said.
"Really? That was nice of you," she said, and she seemed to mean it.
"Is that cool?" I asked.
"It should be fine," she said. "You know I always make enough food to feed an army." Then she said, "Can you imagine what your grandparents will say when they see him?"
By the time we got back to stately McHale Manor in Kokomo, the phone was ringing off the hook. My closest high school buddies -- Greg, Gauvin, Dave D., Mikey (a.k.a. Statbuster), Hornbuckle -- all wanted to get together. And of course there was Aimee. I told my friends to me us at Pizza Hut. I got the feeling Aimee would have rather had me to herself -- the part where she said she'd rather have me to herself was the tipoff -- but she was a good sport about it. I think she liked the fact that I wanted to show her off to my friends.
Pizza Hut was a blast. When I first went away to college, it had been tough adjusting to life on a campus with 30,000-plus students where nobody knew you and all of your past accomplishments were meaningless. I had felt like a nameless, faceless number. But I had made it (or so I thought). I had survived and prospered. I felt big. Much bigger than my dinky little hometown. So during that meal of pizza and breadsticks, I acted like a king holding court. And it was good to be king.
Until the bill came, that is. It was something like $35. Or, put another way, $5 per person between seven poor college students. Nobody had any money except me and Hornbuckle. Now mind you, Hornbuckle was wealthy (at least by Kokomo's standards). In fact, he had over $100 in random bills wadded up in his pocket. But Hornbuckle was a cheap bastard, so he categorically refused to pay for any more than his share of the meal. That stuck me with the other $30 plus tip, which pretty much wiped me out, cash-wise. I really hoped Aimee enjoyed the "date," because there wasn't going to be another one on this trip home.
When we finally left Pizza Hut, Greg, Gauvin and Dave D. went home. Mikey and Hornbuckle followed me and Aimee back to her house, where we spent the next few hours goofing around with Mikey's video camera (he wanted to go into television production or somesuch). At one point, we used some of Aimee's hair products to style Hornbuckle's hair into a faux hawk, spikes, and various other weird shapes. Just another wild night in Kokomo, Indiana. But what more could you expect from a town where the night life often revolves around trips to Wal-Mart and Meier. And no, I'm not kidding.
When I woke up the next morning, my first thought was: Holy crap. What if Mat actually shows up to my Thanksgiving dinner?! But he never did, and he never called either. Apparently, he found better things to do...much to my secret relief.
As it happened, my mom was having Thanksgiving lunch and Aimee’s mom was having Thanksgiving dinner, so I was able to attend both. I probably consumed about 30,000 calories that day. Seriously, I suffered the Turkey Coma to end all Turkey Comas. I remain convinced to this day that it was nearly the first recorded Turkey Death. I had so much to eat that day I have never once been hungry since. True story.
Friday was spent munching halfheartedly on leftovers and chilling out with Aimee. I think the most ambitious thing we did that day was play a game of Scrabble.
Then Saturday came, and that was a day I was dreading. Even though I had done everything in my power to avoid it, I knew the time had come to tell Cindy I was dating Aimee. And by "the time had come" I actually mean "it was long overdue." But my plan had always been to tell Cindy in person, out of respect, and this was (more or less) the first chance I'd had to do that.
I called her. "Hey, Cindy. How was your Thanksgiving."
"Fine," was all she said, and I really should have known I was in trouble by the tone of her voice.
"Cool," I said. "So, uh, are you doing anything today? I figured maybe we could go out for a milkshake or something..."
"Wouldn't you rather go have a milkshake with Aimee?"
I was struck speechless.
"My sister ran into Melanie Z., who's friends with Aimee's sister, Lesley," Cindy said. "She said you guys have been dating for a month. Is that true?"
"Well, uh, the, erm..." I stammered out.
Then the hysterics began. "HOW COULD YOU?! HOW COULD YOU STRING ME ALONG LIKE THAT?!"
"I never intended to..." I began.
"NEVER INTENDED TO? NEVER INTENDED TO WHAT? TELL ME THE TRUTH?!"
"...never intended to string you along, I just wanted to tell you in person..."
"...CAN'T BELIEVE YOU..."
"...but I wasn't going to be home..."
"...SUCH A JERK..."
"...because I really care about you..."
"...NEVER THOUGHT YOU'D DO THIS TO ME..."
"...things just sort of happened..."
Yeah. At some point during all that I just blanked out. I wasn't really interested in being yelled at for an hour or whatever, but I had kind of screwed her over, so I figured the least I could do was let her vent her outrage. You know, get it out of her system. During the tongue-lashing, I was forcibly reminded of Mat being told off by Jennifer, and how he just sat and listened to it without really caring. It sent cold shivers up and down my spine. Was I really like Mat? Even just a little bit?! It wasn't a pleasant thought.
Suffice it to say, Cindy and I didn't talk for a while after that.
Getting blasted by Cindy had nearly singed my eyebrows off, but fortunately I had Aimee and her gentle kisses to make me forget. (Although my inner voice taunted me by saying, "That's such a Mat thing to do.") We spent the rest of the break holding hands, snuggling up and sneaking kisses whenever possible. What little time I didn't spend with Aimee was split between my friends and my mom...which succeeded in pleasing no one. My friends felt I was putting hoes before bros (even though that phrase hadn't been invented yet), and my mom felt like I was putting everybody ahead of family (and in this case, "family" meant her). For my part, I couldn't understand why people wouldn't just let me enjoy having a girlfriend for once.
When I returned to school on Sunday, my room was in a state of serious disarray: beer bottles, pizza boxes and random trash was all over the floor. But on the bright side, my stuff had been more or less left untouched (except for my case of Coke, which was now empty). All I really cared about was that nobody had been sleeping -- or doing anything else -- in my bed.
I briefly considered the pizza boxes and wondered of those has been Mat's Thanksgiving dinner. I wondered if maybe I should have offered to drive him to Kokomo. I quickly banished those thoughts, though. He was a big boy. A very, very big boy. He knew how to use the phone. (Although it only occurred to me as I was writing this that his long distance calling code might have been deactivated. Oops.)
Against my better judgement, I started clearing away the trash. Not to help my roommate, but because I hate messy rooms. During the cleanup, it occurred to me that there were only a few more weeks left in the semester. Then I'd get three weeks off. I couldn't wait. It also occurred to me that Mat might not pass his SAT, which would mean he might be gone by next semester. I almost danced a jig just thinking about it.
Of course, I couldn't get that lucky.Part 23
Labels: college stories, Livin' Large