Previous installments: Part 1
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Well, dear readers, I have another confession to make. Identifying Aimee as my high school sweetheart was not, technically speaking, totally and 100 percent accurate. But it was never my intention to deceive you. No, really.
When Livin' Large
began, I honestly had no specific plans for how long the story would last or how detailed it would become. I figured I'd write five or six posts worth of anecdotes and that would be it. At best, I hoped to milk a couple weeks worth of content out of it before the well ran dry.
However, I miscalculated in two ways. First, I somehow forgot that I'm a natural storyteller. And I'm not necessarily talking about my ability to spin a yarn -- although I do have something of a knack for it. The fact is, I love
telling stories. That's part of why I started Basketbawful in the first place: to have a forum for sharing the basketball-related stories that had been back-and-forthing their way among my friends for years.
Now, as BadDave
will no doubt attest, my tendency has always been to over-tell stories, cramming in as many little details as possible. Specific words and phrases, gestures, facial expressions, clothing choices, times and places. It's like Grandma Bawful's famous homemade spaghetti sauce. The more herbs and spices she used, the better it tasted. Just as long as she went light on the bay leaves.
My second misunderestimation
had to do with reader interest. I figured the hard core bawfulites would enjoy this series...period. But it seems my narrative has struck a chord with a lot of people. The funny thing is, back when I was working for Deadspin
, I pitched the idea of running this series on that site. Will Leitch, who was still the high muckety-muck at the time, was like, "Whoa there, settle down, young fella. Let's stick with the content people want
I was actually kind of embarrassed. I mean, here was Will frickin' Leitch more or less telling me the story wouldn't "sell." I'd gone into that pitch with the intent of running the story here if Will turned it down, but the way
he turned it down killed my enthusiasm. So that's part of the reason you all had to wait for something you didn't even know you were waiting for.
Now...where was I? Oh, right. So I didn't know how much of my sad and awkward past I'd be sharing in these posts. It was easy and convenient to say Aimee was my high school sweetheart. It kept things clean and allowed me to move on to the meat and potatoes of the story. And she was
my high school sweetheart...at the very tail end of things. But in reality, the girl who had me in the grip of irrational infatuation for most of my high school career was a girl named Cindy.
The bad news: she had a boyfriend until the last half of our senior year. I just kind of hung around waiting for her to break up with him. When she finally did, I was helplessly trapped in what my buddy Statbuster calls "The Nice Guy Zone." Statbuster's theory goes thusly. Women have four types of men in their lives:1.
The guy they're f***ing.2.
The rich guy.3.
The gay guy.4.
The nice guy.
The guy they're f***ing, that's self-explanatory. The rich guy is the person they turn to when they need help (and by "help" I mean "money"). The gay friend is the person they feel safe snuggling, shopping and talking about guys with.
The nice guy, however, is the one who gets stuck with all the responsibilities of being a boyfriend without getting any of the nookie. The nice guy helps the girl move, stays up until 3 a.m. listening to her problems, eats an entire carton of chocolate ice cream with her after she's broken up with the guy she was f***ing, etc. The nice guy believes in his heart of misguided hearts that dogged determination and just plain old being there for her will eventually make the girl fall madly in love with him.
For two years of high school, I was Cindy's nice guy. When she and Carl -- who was an utter tool, by the way, even more so than me at that time -- went splitsville, I assumed I would just swoop in and pick up the pieces. But as we said back then: psyche! Cindy wanted no part of dating me, despite having spent a year or more claiming that, "If I hadn't met Carl first, we'd be dating."
The worst part? She almost immediately fell for and started dating a guy who came out of the closet right after we graduated. She chose the gay guy over me. Ouchies.
We actually did go on a few dates, which included the Senior Dinner Dance, after which I told my mom we had shared "a really great hug." And it was
a great hug...but it was also a sure sign that I was the nice guy. (And maybe even the gay guy for getting my panties in a bunch over a damn hug.)
Fast forward to my freshman year in college. Cindy actually did send me a letter during the first or second week. But it was one of those "Oh, gee, it's so nice to have a pen pal who went away to college!" kind of things. Like Greg and Gauvin, Cindy chose not to leave Kokomo. Like Greg, she was attending classes at IUK, the local community college. Her letter was nothing but trivial banter like IUK is good, hope you're enjoying classes, the family cat had kittens, I dusted my room today, my sister just got her braces off...you know, stuff I couldn't have cared less about. You see, I had made a conscious choice: I was no longer Cindy's nice guy.
Meanwhile, Cindy went from getting all my love and affection to getting none of it. Suddenly, she didn't have me around to provide sympathy or arm candy if she wanted to go to her sister's school play or whatever. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that may well be the case, because now, deprived of my constant and unrelenting presence, Cindy missed me. A lot.
And so it was that she called me.
Her call was so totally out of the blue that I almost didn't call her back. My first instinct was, "Okay, what does she want? What went wrong? How much crying am I going to have to listen to?" But the flipside of my budding cynicism was the very real desire to have human connections. I had started to become a hermit during the first few weeks of school, and it sucked. Big time. So there was no harm, it seemed, in revisiting an old friendship.
At least, that's what I thought. Of course, this misconception proved that I hadn't been listening to my more worldly roommate when he very wisely (and surprisingly) told me, "Guys and girls can be a lot of t'ings, but dey cannot be friends."
I called Cindy back. She was thrilled to hear from me. After some idle chitchat -- things here are fine, how are things there? -- things got serious.
"Matt, I've been doing a lot of thinking," she said, and men of the world should beware when a woman starts a new conversation thread by telling you she's been thinking
a lot. "Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone."
To my credit, I sensed what was going on. For once. My first instinct was to avoid, so I said, "I know what you mean. That's always the first thing I think when I realize I don't have any more clean underwear."
"Sorry," I said. "You were saying?"
"Uh, right, okay" she stammered, caught somewhat off her guard by the mention of my soiled undergarments. "Anyway, I've been really missing you. Missing you so much that sometimes I can barely stand it."
"Huh," I said. "That sounds pretty unhealthy."
"I know," she said, either ignoring my sarcasm or just not getting it. "I talked to my mom about it, and she said I needed to call you. So...I called."
Silence. Wait, make that uncomfortable
"Matt," she said with a deep sigh, "I have no right to ask this. You were always really patient with me, and I know I screwed things up, but if you're still interested, if you still want to, I mean, I don't even know if you're dating anybody, we haven't really talked in a long time, I have no idea what's going on in your life, and we used to talk so much, and..."
"Whoa, wait, calm down," I said. "That sentence would send Mrs. Stepp (our old English teacher at Kokomo High School) into cardiac arrest. Just, you know, calm down, use a few periods, and tell me what's on your mind."
Now, see, those are the kinds of pithy things you can say when you just don't give a you-know-what. Again, I had escaped the Nice Guy Zone, and I wasn't going back behind those iron bars.
"What I want," she said, and it sounded like she was choking back a sob, "what I want...is for you to give me another chance."
More uncomfortable silence. This time, I was the one to break it.
"Look, Cindy," I said, "I have to be honest with you. I'm trying to date Aimee right now."
"Aimee," she said. Despite the fact that she had just been on the verge of tears, she made the name sound like a hiss. See, here's the thing. Aimee and Cindy had a very interesting little rivalry during high school. Neither one of them was willing to be my girlfriend, but they both wanted to be the primary (maybe even the only) girl in my life. So naturally they hated each other. And I mean with a red-hot, fiery passion.
The funny thing is, I'm not sure they ever even spoke directly to each other when we were in high school. I don't know that they ever actually met. They didn't know each other. The only thing Aimee knew about Cindy was what I told her, and vice versa. That was enough to create a dark and festering dislike. When I brought one up to the other, it was like I was pouring a bucket full of crawling insects on them.
"Well, I think that's a mistake," Cindy said.
"Thanks for your concern," I said, feeling genuinely offended. "But like you said earlier, you have any right to pass any judgment on my personal life. You had your chance and blew it."
Once again, she sounded like she was going to cry. And of course I felt bad. I had been harsh. Maybe not harsh by normal standards, but Cindy was an emotional girl. Telling her that she'd blown her chance with me was like kicking her in the baby maker.
"Look," I said, "I'm sorry..."
"No," she interrupted, "no, you're right. And I probably deserve it."
"Still, there's no reason for me to be a jerk about it," I countered. "All that's in the past now. I mean, based on my reaction, I think I must have had some leftover bitterness. But I'm over it. So, you know, let's start fresh."
I could almost feel her smile over the phone. "Sounds like a good idea."
"But," I said in warning, "I still want to date Aimee, and if that happens, and if you really want to have a fresh start, you've gotta be cool about it."
"I understand," she said, although I could tell she wasn't happy about it.
We finished up with some light chatter. When I finally hung up, Mat started laughing, and I mean laughing hard.
"Aw f*** me, man" he said between guffaws, "that was some serious shit, wasn't it?"
"Yeah," I said, plopping onto my bed. "It sure was."
"Now I feel a little better about missing Shelly," he said. "At least I don't have to put up wit all dat."
"Well, I'm so glad I could help you out."
I tried to study but it was pointless. The conversation with Cindy had left me drained. However, it had also filled me with a little piss and vinegar. Here was Cindy, a girl I had spent years longing for, finally coming around and realizing I was worth dating. What the hell, then, was Aimee's problem? I was getting tired of waiting, tired of her excuses, just flat out tired.
When I called Aimee that night, she was in a crappy mood. That sealed it. It was time to go on the offensive. "You know what," I said at one point, "this is bullshit."
"Whoa, what?" she said, clearly shocked. I never cussed to her. "What's bullshit?"
"This whole mess of a relationship we're in," I said. "Wait, I'm sorry, we're not in
a relationship are we? And why is that again? Oh, right, because you can't figure out what in the hell you want. Well, guess what? Whatever you may think, I'm not going to wait around for you forever. And trust me, when I'm gone and dating someone else, you're going to regret it."
"Dating someone else?" she said, and it sounded like she was reeling. "Why, is there someone you want to date?"
"Well I sure as hell want to date someone," I said, practically yelling. "If you're not interested, maybe I'll ask Susan out."
"I knew it!" she said. "I knew Susan liked you."
"Oh, come off it," I said. "I was just using her as an example. But who knows? Maybe she does
like me. And if she doesn't, I bet I can find someone else who does."
Now it was time to drop the hammer.
"Hell," I said, "maybe Cindy wants to give things a try."
That did it. Now Aimee was pissed. "I can't believe
you just said that," she spit out. "After all the crap Cindy put you through, you'd really consider dating her?"
"How is what she did to me any different than what you're doing?"
Ah yes...even more uncomfortable silence.
"You did not
just compare me to Cindy," she said in a voice of forced calm.
"Actually, I did," I said. "And you don't like it 'cause you know I'm right."
"I don't like it," she said, "because Cindy's a bitch
I'm sure you can guess how I felt about that comment. And let's just say that the conversation didn't improve any after that. Eventually it ended with bad feelings and slamming phones. And I thought, very seriously, that me and Aimee might never talk again.
"Damn, dude," Mat said, laughing once again at my expense. "You're having a rough night."
I didn't have the strength of will to respond. I slipped into some shorts and a t-shirt, and then crawled into bed. Even Mat's damn Heineken light couldn't keep me up that night. I didn't stir when Jennifer showed up and (one assumes) pleasured Mat in her own special way. I was dead to the world.
But the last thought I had before drifting off to sleep was that maybe it was time to move on. Meanwhile, the the answering machine was blinking with messages that Mat probably shouldn't have ignored...Livin Large: the official Flow Chart 2.0
Labels: college stories, Livin' Large