Previous installments: Part 1
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Mat was in a very
happy mood this particular week, and with good reason: Shelly was coming for a visit. During our time together, it seemed like Mat had three basic moods. Occasionally, he got pissed about something. That was scary but rare. Most of the time, he stalked around with an air of bored indifference. At least when I saw him, which was almost exclusively in our dorm room. When Mat was happy, you knew it because he would sing. In the room, in the shower, in the hallway on his way to the cafeteria, while sitting in his giant chair watching MTV. He'd usually croon something by Bob Marley, which was as funny a sound as you were likely to hear. I mean, imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger singing reggae and you'll know what I'm talking about.
With Shelly's arrival only a few short days away, Mat was singing all week. Normally, the constant rasta chants would have grated on my nerves, but I actually found his behavior a little endearing. Remember, I was still a sucker back then, so I became filled with hope any time Mat displayed what I considered to be normal human emotions. Shelly brought that out of him, and it made me think maybe he wasn't some big, dumb ogre after all.
Mat was so jolly he took a minute to look out for me. He checked our mailbox one evening and discovered yet another card from Latrisse.. "You need to cut that shit off, man," he said as he handed the card to me.. "Aimee's gonna flip her shit if this don't stop."
I still didn't see the problem with getting cards from Latrisse. Of course, it had progressed a little past that. We were now e-mailing each other every day. We had even "met up" in an Internet chat room. Mind you, Internet chatting back then wasn't what it is today. The "Coffee House" (which is what this particular chat portal was called) used the same VI editor that the e-mail system used. It was basically a big free-for-all with everybody chatting away like mad at the same time. You just had to kind of try and pick out the lines being typed by the person you were chatting with...and it wasn't always easy to do. Still, it was entertaining in a "brand new technology nobody really knows about" kind of way.
Meanwhile, I had only received one e-mail from Aimee: "Hey checking to see if email works - Aimee." I guess you could say I wasn't exactly feeling the love.
Jennifer stayed away that week, probably on Mat's orders. He wasn't taking any chances of Jennifer and Shelly crossing paths. Mat only disappeared for one night during the middle of the week. In his absence, he missed a phone call from one of the assistant coaches of the basketball team. The players had been given a couple days off from practicing, but he was expected to show up for practice at 4 p.m. (one hour earlier than normal) the next day. I took a very careful message and left it on Mat's desk next to his beloved container of animal crackers. I then left a second note with arrows pointing to the first note so he'd realize it was important.
When I got home from working at the food service the next night, Mat was in the room and on the phone apologizing furiously...for missing practice of course. I was chuckling quietly to myself until the end of the conversation, at which point Mat glanced at me and said, "No, coach. You don't need to say anything to him. I'll take care of it. No, it's okay, I'll talk to him. Yeah, I know. Okay, bye."
My eyes narrowed. "Who was that?"
"Coach," he said, referring to the head coach of the mens basketball team. The head coach was pretty famous at our school and even kind of famous away from it too, both because he was a great coach and because he looked like an angry, marauding troll. He also happened to have the worst hair in college basketball, maybe even in the entire world. And that's not hyperbole either.
"Who didn't he need to say anything too?" I asked, suspicion oozing out of my pores.
Matt shrugged. "He wanted to talk to you about not giving me my messages."
"I get home until a few minutes ago, so I didn't see your note until I'd already missed practice," Mat said. "Coach was pissed, but I just told him you didn't leave me a message, 'cause we're not supposed to stay out all night. Man, he really wanted to tell you off."
Mat just laughed as I gaped at him. "You're gonna tell him the truth, right? You're gonna tell him you found the message...aren't you?"
"F*** no," he said, waving me off. "It's not a big deal. It probably won't even happen again."
That was Mat. He didn't care who got blamed as long as it wasn't him. For some reason, I felt nervous about the fact that my school's head basketball coach wanted to tell me off. I mean, I didn't do anything wrong, so I shouldn't have been in any danger. But rules kept getting bent and broken in Mat's favor, often at my expense. My dorm manager had taught me that lesson all too well. What if the basketball coach got me kicked out of the dorm? Or even out of school? I know it sounds silly, but at that time anything seemed possible.
Shelly arrived on Friday afternoon. I happened to be at the dorm because Friday was a one-class day for me. She burst into the room -- as beautiful and busty as ever -- and jumped into Mat's waiting arms. They didn't waste any time on conversation (unless you count her girly "squee!" conversation) and instead immediately started making out. I left to give them time alone for, you know, whatever. I came back a couple hours later, but the door was locked and barricaded from the inside. That annoyed me a little bit, but I tried to remind myself this was a special occasion.
I tried again after another hour had passed. (I had made the mistake of leaving without either my wallet or my bookbag.) This time the door was unlocked. Shelly was sleeping alone on Mat's bed. He was gone, most likely at practice. Shelly woke up when I came into the room.
"Hey baby," she said in her telltale raspy voice. After stretching and wiping the sleep from her eyes, she said, "Sorry about kicking you out earlier, but Mat and I were really
excited to see each other. It's been forever!"
"No problem," I said, trying to play the role of cool roommate guy. "I totally understand."
sweet. Mat's lucky to have a roommate like you," she said. I knew she was buttering me up, and there was definitely a calculating gleam in her eyes. "So...tell me about how Mat spends his time."
"I'm sorry, what?" I asked, attempting to play dumb even though I knew exactly what she was getting at.
"Oh, you know, like, what does he do when I'm not around?" Her voice was light and playful, but there was an edge to it.
"Well, that's really most of the time isn't it? I mean, since you don't live here and all." Rule Number One of Evasive Conversation: Answer questions with questions and try to redirect.
"Oh, I know that, silly," she said. Her eyes hardened. "You know what I mean. It's just that, there's a lot of time in Mat's life I can't account for."
"Account for?" I asked. I was starting to get really uncomfortable now.
"Well, listen to him tell it," she began, "he spends all his time practicing, going to class and sleeping. Seriously, who goes to bed at 11 or 12 every night? Who needs that much sleep?"
How I kept from laughing I will never know. Going to class? In bed by midnight? She could not
be talking about my roommate. But she was. And she could tell something was up when I didn't answer immediately.
"Matt," she said, and there was fear and anger in her voice, "something's up, isn't it? He's lying to me isn't he? He's cheating on me. Oh my God he's cheating on me isn't he? Matt, you have
to tell me what's going on."
There was no way in the nine levels of hell I was going to tell her what was going on. I valued breathing and being able to walk without assistance too much to have Mat come home and find out I'd told his girlfriend he was an unfaithful liar. And yet Shelly was starting to freak out. I had to calm her down, and I had to do it fast.
At first, I had no idea what to say. Then it hit me, like a bolt from the blue. "Shelly, there's something you need to understand," I said. "Student athletes are...special people. Mat's under a lot of stress. Balancing classes and practice and stuff, it's really hard. You've got to be patient with him. Remember, he's giving of his mind and body every day, you know, to be a student and play basketball. Don't you think that the least you can do is give Mat a little patience and understanding?"
It was a slightly less articulate version of the speech the hall manager had given me
when I requested a room change.. And it worked like a charm. Shelly burst into tears, then came over and hugged me. She smelled like wildflowers.
"Oh God, thank you, Matt," she whimpered into my shoulder. "It's just that I love that big guy so
much, and I'm afraid. Like, I don't want to get screwed over. I just want to believe he really loves me, that somebody loves me. How stupid is that, right?"
I suddenly felt like a first-class douchebag. But I was already committed to covering for Mat. There was no turning back now. "It's not stupid at all," I told her in my most sympathetic and comforting voice. "Everybody wants to be loved."
"You really are a sweetheart," she said, gulping back a new wave of tears. "That Annie girl is really stupid for not wanting to be with you."
Now I really did laugh. "It's Aimee, actually," I corrected, "but yeah, she is pretty stupid. Then again, that 'Little Matt' nickname you stuck me with hasn't exactly been helping me with the ladies." Now we both laughed and everything felt better. You know, except for the fact that I had totally lied to her.
I tried to make myself scarce for the rest of the weekend. I had a few APO activities to attend, and I spent time with Nathan and the roleplaying group. Part of me wanted to call my mom and ask her to bring me home for a day or two, but I was trying to force myself to stay at school. I didn't want to look back on my freshman year and regret spending my time in Kokomo.
Mat and Shelly didn't leave the room all weekend. Pizza boxes and LaBamba's bags piled up next to the door. I walked in on them having sex once, and I walked in on them fighting twice. I never figured out what they were fighting about, because I didn't stick around to find out (nor did I ask about it later). I didn't come home before 2 a.m. on Friday or Saturday night. I got up as early as I could on Saturday and Sunday morning and left almost immediately.
By the time I returned from the library on Sunday night, Mat was in bed alone and looking thoroughly bummed out.
"Is Shelly gone?" I asked.
Mat heaved a deep sigh. "Yeah. She left like an hour ago."
"Looks like you're pretty sad about it."
"F*** me, that's the truth," he said. "Shit's f***ing crazy.."
Well, he certainly could emote.
"Hey," he said, "did you tell her anything about me?"
Uh oh. "No. Why?"
"I dunno," he said. "She was acting all weird, like she thinks I'm cheating on her or something."
"Well...you are cheating on her, Mat," I said.
He blanched. "Yeah, well, she don't know dat. How can she pissed at me for some shit she don't even know about? Innocent 'til proven guilty, right?"
I shook my head. "I guess women are just a mystery."
"That's the f***ing truth," he agreed, completely missing the sarcasm.
"Is Shelly coming back any time soon?" I asked.
"I dunno," he said. "She wants me to visit her in California."
"Are you going to?"
"Maybe," he said. "It depends." He never said what it depended on, although I assumed the deciding factor would be whether she'd pay for his trip.
"Oh, by de way," he said. "Some girl called for you."
Some girl? "Was it Aimee?" I asked.
"Carolyn or Tiffany?"
"No, not them."
I was stumped. "Was it my mom, Mat?"
"It wasn't your mom," he said.
"Dude, that's, like, every woman I know. Why didn't you write it down?"
"I thought I'd remember," he said.
I wondered briefly if I could sic the head coach on him for forgetting my
Mat's brain was working so hard I could almost smell toast burning. Finally, the light bulb went on. "Oh, right! She said she was 'Cindy from Kokomo.'"
Cindy from Kokomo. She was the last person I expected to call.
"Well," I said. "F*** me."Part 13
Labels: college stories, Livin' Large