Previous installments: Part 1
, Part 2
, Part 3
, Part 4
, Part 5
, Part 6
, Part 7
, Part 8
, Part 9
, Part 10
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Mat didn't return until the next night. I wasted no time in giving him the good news
"Aw, f*** me, Shelly's coming? That's great!"
Yep, Mat was pretty thrilled about Shelly's impending visit, which would occur in two weekends. He was so thrilled, in fact, that he went ahead and had five minutes of sweaty relations with Jennifer
later that night. Say what you will about him, but Mat knew how to celebrate good news.
Now, my friends will tell you that I have a habit -- good or bad, depending on your point of view -- of giving unsolicited advice when I see someone doing something stupid. Normally, I'll open with a statement like, "Dude, that's stupid," and follow it up with a list of the reasons I think it's stupid.
This advice usually goes over about as well as a peanut butter and human feces sandwich. I've come to realize over the years that when a person behaves stupidly, they (usually) already know somewhere deep (or not-so-deep) inside they're being stupid but don't want to give up whatever selfish desire they're going after. Therefore pointing out the stupidity isn't helping them so much as reminding them of something they were trying to repress. And nobody likes that.
For example, I have a friend who's head-over-heels in debt, but he recently insisted on renting a two-story condo with a basement (despite the fact that he lives alone) and buying both a new Mustang and a new special edition Triumph Trophy motorcycle similar to the one Steve McQueen rode in The Great Escape
. Now he's talking about buying a house, although I have no idea how he'd do it. (This "I'll accumulate as much insurmountable debt as lending institutions will let me" model is a big reason why our economy has failed by the way.) This is the same guy who had to cancel a recent visit because he couldn't afford gas money for the trip from Indianapolis to Chicago. Yet when I try to council him to financial caution, he gets pissy.
At any rate, with Shelly coming to town and Mat having both a regular girlfriend and
a continuing series of one-night hookups, I saw the potential for disaster. Forget the fact that lying to all the women involved was wrong, I couldn't see how he was going to keep the girls from crossing paths in some way. I mean, what if Jennifer called and left a message while Mat and Shelly were getting it on? (We still had the free-standing answering machine that played messages out loud as they were being left.)
Of course, Mat had a plan. He wasn't going to make any dates. (Mighty considerate of him, huh?) He was going to tell Jennifer he'd be busy all weekend. As for the phone, he was going to turn off the ringer and disconnect the answering machine. There was at least one problem with that plan.
"Uh, how am I going to get my
calls and messages?" I asked.
"Aw, you can help a brother out for the weekend, right?" (Yes, he occasionally referred to himself as "a brother" and on rare occasions the N-word.) This wasn't a threat. He was actually asking
me. Nicely even. And it totally worked. It's kind of like when an abusive husband brings his wife flowers. She's so used to being treated like a dog that any sign of human kindness makes her melt. Mat spent so much time ignoring me and my feelings that when he acted like he cared just a little, it made me feel a surge of fraternity with him. Because, of course, I was a sucker.
I was still dubious about whether Jennifer would really stay away from the room. She often stopped by even when she knew Mat wasn't going to be there. Believe it or not, she didn't seem to be trying to catch him cheating on her. She just really hoped she'd be able to see him, and maybe surprise him with a gift or some Taco Bell. (Jennifer never gave me the Taco Bell intended for Mat when he wasn't there, and I often wondered what she did with a huge bag filled with tacos and burritos. That stuff doesn't reheat well. It's barely edible when it's fresh.)
"She'll stay away because I tell her
to stay away," Mat said, and that did
sound like a threat.
The days passed by. Mat's professors were starting to call and leave messages for him, requesting that he call them back. He never did. I figured the calls likely had something to do with the fact that he never attended classes. At least, as far as I could tell. I was usually on campus all day and working at the food service in the early evening. But on the rare days I had a break or a class got canceled, I would come back to the room to find him sleeping until an hour or so before practice.
Meanwhile, I was spending more time with Susan. We figured the best way to get through our pledgeship was to do all our hours together. Of course, she had ditched our last service activity
. Apparently, she'd been nursing a huge hangover and couldn't get out of bed.
"You drink?" I asked, somewhat surprised because I was an idiot.
"Uh, yeah. You don't?" She said.
"Er...no, not very often." Not very often? I never drank! (At that time, anyway.) But I didn't want to sound like a complete lameass, even if I was.
"Well, if we're going to spend this much time together, that's got to change. Me and my roommate are having a room party on Friday. You should come by."
Since I was a complete nerd, I brought up the fact that we both had to be up early the next day to pass out flyers outside the football stadium. It was actually a pretty sweet deal, because this particular service event earned us free tickets to the game. The game was against Notre Dame, and the tickets were impossible to get. (I wasn't that into football at the time, so I had no idea how big this was until someone at the food service offered me $100 for my ticket.)
"You don't think you'll be able to wake up the next day if you party?" she asked.
"I'm actually more worried about whether you can wake up."
"Then just crash in my room and wake me up yourself," she said. "I'll even let you get me coffee."
If I remember correctly, I forgot to breath for the next minute or so. Still, I assumed that Susan's comment was entirely innocent -- and it may well have been, I never asked -- but when I told Aimee about it during our nightly phone conversation, she freaked out a little. "I don't like Susan," she said.
"You don't even know
her," I countered.
"Yeah, well, I still don't like her," she said in a pouty way. "I think she has a crush on you."
"Based on what?" I asked. Then I said, "It doesn't really matter anyway, does it? You still don't want to be my girlfriend, right?" I had her in a checkmate there, and she wasn't happy about it. Nor was she pleased that I had received another card from Latrisse. Still, she got along with her roommate so well she didn't say anything for fear of damaging their relationship. But all in all, she was wary of any women who gave me attention.
That's why I didn't tell her about getting a call from Nancy. I didn't call her after Sunday's service event, so she got my number from the student directory. She asked if I wanted to hang out at her place on Saturday night, maybe watch a movie. I had nothing else to do, so I agreed. It didn't occur to me then, but for such a "lonely" guy, I somehow ended up getting my share of attention from girls.
Shelly's phone calls were increasing in frequency and length, which required Mat to be home during the week more often than he typically preferred. It also blew his booty call schedule all to hell. Fortunately, Jennifer was willing to come over whenever he asked. That's probably another reason she became his only regular thing: she was terribly convenient.
Although Mat was always excited to hear from Shelly, there was something almost ominous about the phone calls. The conversations were becoming more serious. There was more pillow talk than there had been. Instead of beer and pot, they had started discussing the future and the possibility of taking trips together. Her visiting him Holland the next summer was brought up. Mat started occasionally using the L-word. Only in a "Love you too" kind of way, but it was stunning nonetheless.
"So," I asked one night, "things getting serious with Shelly?"
"F*** me, man," he said, "I have no f***ing idea." Experience has since taught me that particular answer to that particular question in those particular circumstances is a man's way of saying, "Yes, they are becoming more serious, and I am helpless to stop it. Also, I am scared shitless."
Friday night arrived. I went to Susan's party and found her dorm room stuffed with people I didn't know. There was her roommate Jen (a true BBW), her friend Jodie (an unfortunate girl who looked like the Rocky character from Mask
), and some other guys and girls I didn't know and never bothered to get to know.
When I walked in, Susan -- already well on her way to "very drunk" -- ran across the room (which took all of three steps) and jumped into my arms. "My pledge brother...WOOOOO!" she screamed as she slopped beer on me.
One by one, Susan introduced me to the partygoers. When she offered me a beer, I politely declined. This was met with a chorus of boos, after which Susan kept attempting to feed me her beer every chance she got. "Oh yeah," she said, "getting my pledge brother drunk! I'm gonna corrupt you yet."
Jen took me aside the first chance she got. She wanted me to tell her everything I knew about Mat. "Oh my God, he's so
gorgeous," she said in that breathless, "his mere existence makes my panties wet" way. "What's he like? Is he cool? Is he funny? Is he dating anybody?" I went ahead and told her everything I knew, most of which was not very complimentary. She eyed me suspiciously after that, as if she couldn't imagine Mat being anything less than super-awesome.
Unlike the frat party I went to
, I made a real effort to mingle at this party. But chatting up a bunch of drunk people you don't know when you're not getting drunk yourself becomes increasingly difficult as the night goes on. Plus, at the time, my mingle gland was two sizes too small. So, after an hour or so, I excused myself. Susan was very disappointed.
"You have to staaaaaay," she moaned. "How am I going to get up tomorrow morning if you leave?"
"I'll come by and pick you up. I promise." I really put the "me" in "lame" didn't I?
Susan wasn't happy with the resolution, but she reluctantly accepted it. On the way out, Jen gave me her number on a scrap of paper and asked me to give it to Mat. I said, "Okay, I'll put it next to all the other girls' numbers." She gave me a beady look of pure dislike.
When I got back to the room, Mat was pacing around waiting for Shelly's call. It came shortly thereafter, and Mat rushed through it. "Baby," he said. "I's got to get up early tomorrow morning. De coaches are holding practice extra early. I have get my sleep."
He was out of the room less than 20 seconds after hanging up the phone. I dropped Jen's number on his desk amidst the rest of the mess there knowing he'd never find it.
I was about to put on an old Celtics game, but I forced myself to go down to hang out with the D&D group for a while. Sadly, I spent more time roleplaying that night than partying with a girl I was destined to fall in love with. Have I mentioned that retelling these stories makes me hate myself a little bit?
The next morning I went to Susan's dorm to wake her up. I called from the courtesy phone downstairs and had to let it ring 20 or 30 times before she finally picked up. "I'll be right down," she grumped and hung up.
Susan was cranky and dragging ass, but she came. We arrived at the football stadium 10 minutes early and she complained that I could have let her sleep at least nine more minutes. After everybody arrived, the event organizer started splitting us into pairs. Just as Susan and I were about to get paired off, this greasy guy named Steve said, "Oh, I'm Susan's friend, I'll go with her."
Not only did this piss me off, it left me as an odd number, and ended up having to pass out flyers by myself. I put "Kill this Steve guy" near the top of my to-do list.
Steve continued to dominate Susan's attention during the game. His method was to cover her like a blanket and block everyone else from talking to her. If this had happened a year or two later, I would have chewed the guy up and spit him out. At the time, all I could do was sit back, watch, and mentally kick myself in the ass.
The game was an embarrassing blowout at our team's expense (we didn't even score a point), so the three of us left early. To Steve's great dismay, Susan wanted to go back to her room and take a nap. I offered to walk her home, but Steve said, "Don't worry about it kid, I've got it" and off they went. I spent the next few hours fuming silently but bitterly.
However, I had plans that night, which meant I didn't have to sit around by myself, and that was a good thing. Nancy and I watched a movie, although I can't for the life of me remember what it was. Girls she knew kept coming by and saying things like, "Oh, that's Matt?" or "Is that the guy who likes pro wrestling?" and then giggling like crazy. That -- along with the fact that she had looked my number up and invited me to her room for a movie night -- would have tipped off someone with even the smallest shred of social aptitude. But I had none, and so I noticed nothing.
At the end of the night, Nancy said, "So, what would you like to do now?"
I was tired, so I told her that and said I'd probably just go home and go to bed. She seemed disappointed, but said she understood. "But hey," she said as I she walked me out of the building, "a group of us are going to Olive Garden tomorrow afternoon. Would you like to go with us?"
The dorms didn't serve dinner on Sunday, so I said that sounded great.
On the way back to my room, I saw Nathan's door was open. He was praying or something like that, so I asked if I could use his computer to check my e-mail. This was a novelty for me. I had gotten my e-mail account a few weeks prior, and it was my first. Mind you, personal Internet usage was still very new, and my school's e-mail system used a VI editor
. I might as well have been carving onto stone and tossing it in the direction of whoever I was writing to.
I knew checking e-mail was probably a waste of time, but I had given Aimee my e-mail address earlier in the week and was hoping she might have e-mailed me. She hadn't...but Latrisse had. The message said something like, "Hey baby. Aimee gave me your e-mail address so I thought I'd send a note to say hello. Write back soon!" I sent her a note thanking her for e-mailing me, then left Nathan to his prayers.
Mat was not in the room nor did he return that night.
The next day I went to Nancy's room for this group trip to the Olive Garden. Kokomo didn't have an Olive Garden the time. In fact, I'd never even heard of the place before, so this was a novelty for me. I assumed it was some fast food place somewhere off campus. I wore my default outfit, which consisted of a t-shirt, jeans and my basketball shoes. When Nancy opened the door, I realized that was a mistake.
Including Nancy, there were three girls and two guys. The girls were wearing dresses an the guys were in khaki pants and button-down shirts. At first, I was like, Everybody dressed really nice today. That's weird
. Then it hit me...this was a couples thing. This was a date!
Nancy looked scandalized by my attire, and the other girls looked at her sympathetically. The guys looked at me like as if to say, "Damn, I didn't know I could have worn jeans."
Suffice it to say, it was a terribly uncomfortable dinner for everyone involved. I felt like a schmuck for not realizing this was a date, even though there was no way I could have known. When the bill came, I only paid for myself, and Nancy looked stricken. The car ride back to campus was deathly quiet. They dropped me off at my dorm and Nancy mumbled something like, "Talk to you later."
I shuffled back to my room feeling like the world's biggest fool. My every experience with women felt like an exercise in humiliation and futility. I once again thought to myself that I'd probably die a virgin.
Mat still wasn't home. He had a dozen or more messages on the answering machine, and half of them were from Shelly. It sounded like he would be in trouble when he got home. I spent the rest of the day studying, taking breaks to call Susan (to see if she'd recovered from her hangover), Joe (to set up a time to play basketball), and Aimee (to increase my frustration with the opposite sex). I asked Aimee to thank Latrisse for e-mailing me hoping it would make her feel guilty for not doing it herself. Instead it made her suspicious. "Don’t you think it’s weird that Latrisse keeps sending you cards and e-mails?"
"One e-mail," I corrected, not even remotely seeing her point.
I hadn't been in bed for very long when Mat returned. He kicked open the door, flipped on the Heineken light, turned on MTV and flopped into his giant chair. "F*** me," he said to no one in particular. "Long f***ing weekend." Shelly called shortly thereafter, and I eventually fell asleep to the sound of Mat talking dirty to her.Livin' Large: The official Cast List
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