Further reading: Part 1
. Also check out the official Livin' Large FAQ
, Cast List
, Flow Chart 1.0
, Flow Chart 2.0
and Parts 1
of the Livin' Large Epilogue.
Well, this is it: the final installment of Livin' Large. Many thanks to everybody who has been following and enjoying the series. You people drove this series. I guarantee this story would have been much shorter and much less interesting without all the encouragement. And for the people who have just wanted it to be over for one reason or another, consider your wish granted. Mat's tale is near the bottom, so if that's why you're here, scroll waaaaaaay down.The Larry Bird shorts
Between my sophomore year in high school and my junior year in college, I probably wore my Larry Bird shorts more than 1,000 times. Easy. Maybe even close to 1,500. This is mostly because I wore them at night when I was chilling out or whatever.
Unfortunately, the graphics and lettering weren't stitched on. It was one of those iron-on numbers. Now, if I had washed them using a gentle cycle and maybe let their air dry, they might have lasted. But I was a teenage male. That meant my method of doing laundry consisted of jamming everything I wasn't currently wearing into the washing machine, choosing the maximum strength cycle, pouring in about half a bottle of detergent, pressing start, and praying that overloading the washing machine didn't cause it to break or explode.
So, naturally, after a great many washings -- but probably far fewer than they deserved -- the Larry Bird parts of the Larry Bird shorts peeled off completely. Once they had been reduced to nothing more than a pair of faded navy blue shorts, I tossed 'em.The VHS basketball video collection
I still have it. Oh yes. In bags and boxes and stuffed into an entertainment center in my spare room. I need to convert those bad boys to DVD. I should probably do it soon before they're lost forever. It just takes so much damn time. Maybe next year. Of course, I seem to say that every year...Bonus story: Evil Ted
By now, most of you know about Evil Ted, my pickup buddy and occasional contributor to Basketbawful. Even though he isn't part of this story, how we met is related to the end of my college career. Shortly before I finished my second degree, I started looking for jobs, mostly in Chicago. I had a couple jobs in the queue -- one a public relations position, the other an hourly technical writing job -- when I got a callback for an entry level tech writing gig in the Chicago loop. I drove into Chicago for the interview, which was conducted by the senior tech writer at that company...none other than Evil Ted.
I remember only two things from that initial interview. First, ET actually asked me, "If you were a tree, what tree would you be?" When I hesitated to answer, he said, "A horny maple, perhaps?" That was my introduction to ET's rather strange brand of humor. The second thing I remember is rocking the hell out of the interview. I drove back to school utterly convinced that I had that job in the bag. And because the opportunity with that particular company had impressed me so much, I immediately called the other two companies I had interviewed with and turned down their offers. That was on a Thursday.
On Friday morning, ET called me at precisely 8:13 a.m., waking me up in the process. "Hi, this is Ted," he began. "I wanted to thank you for coming in yesterday, but I'm afraid we won't be able to use you at this time. However, we will keep your resume on file in case there's another opening in the future."
I wigged out. In less than a day, I had gone from what I had thought were three guaranteed jobs to none. There was only a month and a half until graduation. And I had recently become estranged from my mom, so I didn't have the option of moving back home and looking for a job when the school year ended. I either had to find a job or, well, that was the only option.
That same day, several friends got together to celebrate getting jobs. I felt like such a schmuck. I went home that night and spent the evening preparing 50 or so resumes and cover letters, which I dropped in the mail the next morning. That was on a Saturday.
On Sunday morning, I decided to write a thank you letter to Ted for the interview because, well, that's what I had been taught to do. As I was writing it, I suddenly came to a horrifying realization: I had used an old version of my resume and cover letter template the previous day.
That meant the contact information -- home address, e-mail address, phone number -- were all wrong. Even if any of those 50-plus places wanted me to come in for an interview, they wouldn't be able to contact me.
Now I wigged out a second time. But even in that wigged out haze, I decided to go ahead and write that thank you letter. I pulled out my printer with shaking hands and immediately dropped it to the ground, where it broke into pieces that, like Humpty Dumpty, could not be put back together again. I stormed out of my room and stalked down to the dorm's computer lab. I cranked out the thank you letter, jammed it into an envelope, and stuffed it into the outgoing mail box at the dorm's post office. Then I set about looking for other job openings.
On Monday morning, my phone rang at about a quarter after 8 a.m., waking me up yet again. It was Ted. "Yeah, so things have changed, and I was wondering if you wanted to come in for a second interview."
Hardly believing my own luck, I said, "Yes, absolutely."
When I arrived on Wednesday morning, ET said, "You're going to talk to a couple of the managers, but first, we need to talk about something." ET pulled my thank you letter out of his pocket. Two things were circled with red magic marker. One was his name, which was misspelled. The other was the company name, which was also misspelled. Because I hadn't expected to ever hear from ET again, and because I had been so wigged out about the botched resumes and cover letters, I had written that thank you letter in haste without giving any though to actually proof reading it. Bad, bad, bad mistakes for a would-be technical writer.
"Should I be worried about this?" ET asked.
Head prickling with sweat, I replied, and this is an exact quote, "That is a terrible faux pas. It won't happen again."
"That's all I needed to hear," ET said.
I then interviewed with a lovely woman named Leanne (after which I was certain the job was mine) and a seemingly scary guy named John (after which I was sure the job was not mine). ET and I had a wrap-up chat, during which we uncovered our mutual love of Larry Bird. Then I made the long drive back to school.
The next morning, ET called and offered me the job. I accepted, and I've been with that company ever since.
As a postscript, ET later admitted that I had been his first choice based on qualifications but that he had extended an offer to a female applicant because he thought he would be more comfortable working with a woman (less intimidating). Only she turned down the offer shortly after ET had called to say the company didn't need me, which forced him to call me back the next day for the second interview.
"Thank God she turned me down," ET once said. "Hiring her would have been a big mistake."
I agree.Aimee (and other random stories)
When Mat moved out a week into the second semester of my freshman year, I was thrilled for several reasons, not the least of which was that I suddenly had a single room. And that meant unlimited time alone with Aimee, if I could ever get her to visit me at school. That dream died a couple weeks later when Aimee broke up with me.
At the time, Aimee was pledging a sorority, and there was a dance. Apparently, it was important to attend the dance with a guy who was pledging a frat at the same school. So she planned to go with some guy that wasn't me. I found this out via her roommate, Latrisse, which led to some ugly words first to Latrisse and then to Aimee. One thing led to another, and suddenly I was single again.
But I wasn't buying it. After all, Aimee had said she loved me. I figured she was just confused and needed some time. Besides, we'd already made plans to attend the Residence Hall Formal at my school a couple weeks later. She agreed to keep up her end of that bargain, so Nathan and I drove down to Indy, picked her up, and brought her back to my school. As was customary, I presented her with a corsage. When I tried to get sentimental about it, she reminded me, "You do realize going to this dance doesn't mean we're back together?" Talk about a buzz kill.
We went out do dinner with my friend Joe, his girlfriend, Andrea, his girlfriend's sister, and the sister's date. We went to dinner at -- of all places -- Olive Garden. (Sorry, Nancy.) Then there was the dance. Let me just say it's really, really awkward to spend the night dancing with someone who recently broke up with you because she
had been kinda-sorta cheating on you. But here's the funny part. At one point in the evening, we ran across Susan, who was newly single and there with her friend Josh (who was even more hopelessly infatuated with her than I was). Susan asked what was up with Aimee, and I said we were there as "just friends." So Susan asked for a dance with me, at which Aimee grabbed onto me like I was the last lifeboat of the Titanic. The girls stared at each other for a few seconds until Susan broke the tension by saying, "Maybe later, then." Aimee may not have wanted me...but she didn't want Susan to have me either. It was an all-around rotten time. And it was one of the last times I saw Aimee that semester.
So I was rid of Mat and had my own room, but I was much more miserable than I had been during the first semester. I moped through those months in a haze, particularly after Susan started dating Stu. I did end up going on one date. I had a study buddy named Jen, and in the process of calling her I'd gotten friendly with her roommate, Miranda. I asked her out for the Saturday night of a major party weekend at my school. (Hint: it revolves around a go-cart race.) She agreed, and we were having a pretty good time (even though I almost threw up after a ride on the Gravitron) until we stopped back at my dorm for a s'mores roast. Some lonely guy who lived at my dorm started whining to us (but mostly her) about not having anybody to hang out with. Feeling sorry for him, Miranda invited him to join us for the evening. He happily agreed and didn't leave our side for the rest of the night. I was pissed -- particularly in light of how Aimee had rejected me -- and we didn't go out again.
Summer came, and I went back home to a new step-father, a new house, and a new temp job with the Kokomo Parks and Recreation Department. It was a real joy, let me tell you. Four days a week, I had to use a push mower to trim sections of the many parks in Kokomo -- believe it or not, that little burg has 27 parks! -- and one day a week I had to help empty garbage drums at the parks. Trash duty. It was the worst. Basically, another guy and I had to life these 55 gallon cans over our head and shake the hell out of them over the edge of a garbage truck until all the trash fell out. Only the cans were rusty, full of holes (out of which leaked a horrifying substance we dubbed "trash juice"), and covered with giant, biting ants. Oh, and there were bees, too.
Another note about the trash runs. Two things you found lots of in park trash cans were dead pets and porn. Apparently, people who didn't want to bury their deceased pets or pay a vet to take care of the remains would simply drive by the park and dump them into a trash can. This happened all the time. Furthermore, in the pre-Internet porn era, guys who wanted a quick peek at tits would simply buy a dirty magazine, flip through it at the park, and then throw it away. I kid you not. These magazines always ended up in the back of the park trucks. There were hundreds of porn magazines stashed behind the seats of those trucks...which sure helped pass the time on breaks.
(Funny side note: One week, one of the KPRD guys and I were riding on the back of the trash truck when we saw this total hottie reading by herself under a tree. The guy, Jason, said, "Hey, maybe I should go ask her out." To which I replied, "What are you going to say?! Hey, baby, I don't pick up trash every day. Most of the time, I mow grass!" He cracked up...and didn't ask the girl out.)
Anyway, a week into the glorious summer break, Aimee called me up and asked me out. When we got together, she said she loved me, had made a mistake, and wanted to get back together. So back together we got. For a whole two weeks. That's when she (again) hit me right between the eyes. We were talking on the phone one night, and I suggested doing something or other the next night, to which she replied, "Oh, right. Uh, I'm going to be busy tomorrow night." When I suggested doing whatever it was the night after, she said, "Uhm, I'm actually going to be busy for about a week. And we probably won't get to talk much, maybe not at all."
For a week?! Whaaaaaaaa...?! Apparently, she had -- like her roommate Latrisse -- gotten addicted to online chatting during her second semester and met some dude who attended school at the Citadel. He had immediately made plans to visit her over the summer...plans she intended to let him keep. She explained that he maybe kinda-sorta thought the trip was romantic, and she wanted to spare his feelings by not revealing that we had gotten back together. As you can probably guess, that went over with me like a dead cat sandwich, so we broke up yet again.
I ended up spending the summer mostly just working and hanging out with friends, and semi-dating Cindy. Right before school started back up, Aimee and I got together, and she told me she intended to remain single during her sophomore year. I said fine, and that I would more than enjoy my freedom. Which I did, for about a week. But after a steamy game of Truth or Dare, a date with Cindy the Woman, and a made date with Susan, Aimee called. Or, as BadDave would put it, summoned me. And, sucker that I was, I went.
And we got back together.
I will say this. It wasn't the worst mistake of my life. In fact, that sophomore year ended up being the best and happiest year I spent dating Aimee. We never broke up. We had great times...times you get to share with another person only once in a lifetime. It wasn't all violins and roses, but it was close. To me, anyway. I'm sure BadDave remembers it differently. But I felt like the things we shared that year not only justified all the bad things that had happened before but also foreshadowed a long and happy life together.
Things started going bad the next summer. Originally, I was going to work at my college and live with BadDave over the break. But that failed for a couple reasons. First, BadDave got taken down by a stat curse. He had spent most of our sophomore year mocking me for spending so much time with Aimee, for letting her keep me "prisoner" on the weekends, while stating and restating emphatically that he would never let a woman control him that way. Well, guess who else was staying at school over the summer? BadDave's girlfriend. And guess who expected BadDave to spend every night with her? Yup. In the two weeks I stayed at school, BadDave and I hung out exactly zero times.
(Side story: Earlier that year, during a rare visit from Greg, I had -- at his urging -- invited over some girl we had met in a chat room. The beast, a girl named Annie, came over and threw herself at me, basically offering to be my NSA sex slave. I turned that offer down, and if you'd seen that monster, you'd know why. Anyway, the first night of living-with-BadDave-but-not-really-living-with-him, I was skulking around the apartment by myself feeling annoyed. I opened the front door just as someone else was opening the door of the apartment across the hall. It was Annie. "Matt!" she squealed. "I can't believe it! What luck! Now I have somebody to hang out with!" I said, "Uh, yeah, I'm busy." She said, "How about I make you dinner sometime?" I said, "Uh, sure, just knock." And I never answered that door again. Fortunately I moved in a couple weeks. The funny thing is, years later, when visiting BadDave at the dorm he was an R.A. at, I ran into Annie again. She was now a senior dating a freshman at BadDave's dorm. Not all that surprising. Freshman guys will have sex with almost anything that isn't tied down or on fire. And if it's on fire, they'll probably put it out and have sex with it. Anyway, I digress.)
Then, out of the blue, my grandma got sick and was diagnosed with cancer. It didn't look like she was going to make it, so I moved home to be there for her and the rest of my family. (Fortunately, Grandma 'Bawful pulled through and is still with us today.) But money was an issue, so I ended up getting two full-time jobs. By day, I moved furniture. By night, I stacked piles of newspapers onto wooden skids and then pulled those skids from one room into another. Basically, I was working from about 5 a.m. (or earlier) to midnight (or later) at two very physically demanding jobs. Aimee got off work around 1 a.m., so I met up with her for an hour or two, got an hour or two of sleep, and started over the next day. I did that for the rest of the summer. It nearly killed me.
I basically became a zombie. I shuffled from place to place doing what I had to do, but my brain was usually a blank slate. If I wasn't working or actively engaged in some kind of activity, I would fall asleep. My body got beaten up. I ended up with busted ribs, a torn shoulder muscle, countless ugly bumps and bruises, and aches and pains of every variety. But I was in a situation where I either earned money for school or I didn't go to school, so I endured that schedule...even as it wreaked havoc with my personal life.
Aimee and I barely got time to see each other as it was, and I was barely alive when we did see each other. Naturally, she began to feel neglected. One night, I even fell asleep while we were making out. "Okay, this is getting ridiculous," she said. She wasn't wrong.
I worked right up to the day I moved back to school. I literally got off work, loaded up my car, and drove to my dorm. BadDave had already moved all of our stuff back into the room from the on-campus apartment he had been staying in. But he wasn't there, having opted to spend the night at his girlfriend's place rather than try to arrange the mess that was our room. The place was a shambles. I spent maybe five minutes trying to move things around before I just broke down and started crying. Looking back, I think I was having a nervous breakdown. Three months of getting only a couple hours of sleep a night combined with working two physically grueling jobs had literally almost destroyed me, both mentally and physically. I was a mess. And I had let my relationship with Aimee fall into disrepair.
It didn't seem to matter at first. We were still together, and things seemed mostly normal. But the drifting apart process had already begun, and it continued over the course of the first semester and into the second. Sure enough, we broke up about midway through the second semester. I found out from her sweet mate, who had developed a crazy crush on me (that's a story in itself), that Aimee had started dating someone else before we had officially broken up. I never found out whether the "before we had broken up" part was true, but she was dating the guy. And she ended up going to Mexico to hang with him over the summer. Oh, and he was two years younger than I was, which really pissed me off for some reason.
I turned my attention to Susan, but as you know from the second part of this epilogue, that didn't work out. So by the time Aimee got back from Mexico at the end of the summer, I was open to pretty much whatever. We spent a weekend together at my school, taking advantage of the fact that I was now an R.A. and therefore had my own room. We even went out dancing with Susan and Brett, and Aimee made sure to impress upon Susan that we were an item in a way that only a girl dancing up on a guy in a crowded club can.
We might have officially become a couple again, but Aimee was spending the semester in Washington D.C. That was fine by me, because I was really into Susan. The only problem being, of course, that Susan was dating someone else and preparing to move to Seattle. When she made plans to see her boyfriend, Torrey, over our fall break, I made plans to visit Aimee in D.C. What a disaster that was.
So here's what happened. I made plans to leave on a Wednesday night after a major Statistics exam. That morning, I was driving to Kokomo to pick up some things Aimee wanted from her parents' house when my car broke down. I ended up walking five or six miles until some guy in an old pickup truck offered to drive me the rest of the way to Kokomo. I had the car towed to my mechanic, and he told me that some kind of air flow module was busted and that my car wouldn't be repaired until they could special-order the part. Suddenly I had no way to get to D.C. But I was determined.
My grandparents drove me back to school. The clock was ticking. I looked into airfare, but the cheapest ticket I could find was $700. I didn't have that kind of money, so I looked into Greyhound. There actually was a bus leaving my town for D.C. that night at 7:30 p.m. My exam began at 7:00 p.m. I figured that gave me 20 minutes to take the exam, after which my buddy Jeremy (who would be waiting outside) would drive me to the bus depot. Nooooo problem.
Problem. The T.A.'s giving the exam didn't hand out the test form until almost 7:20. I now had five minutes to take the exam. I did the only thing I could think of: I checked every C on the Scantron form, handed it in, and left. I thereby disproved that particular Urban Legend by failing the exam. Yay me.
The Greyhound trip lasted 24 hours, during which time I had to transfer buses seven or eight times. I sat next to every freak you could imagine and some you couldn't. One woman had bloody bandages on her feet and started to punch me when I tried to sit down (it was the last seat left on the bus). There was one guy who told me his best friend had recently been eaten by a bear while he was forced to watch. Another dude said he was a construction worker and claimed that he had just seen a man get disintegrated by touching a damaged electrical box. "All that was left," he said, "was boots and dust.” At one stop, this hillbilly family came in with eight or 10 garbage bags that were acting as their luggage. They stowed them in some seats and then walked off the bus. While they were gone, some people kicked their bags into the aisle and took over the seats. When the hillbillies returned, a brawl broke out and the bus had to be evacuated. It rained the entire trip.
By the time I reached D.C., I was exhausted. Aimee had convinced me to rent a room so we could have privacy. Only she ended up not staying with me. And she was so busy with school that we barely hung out at all. Except for one day of sight-seeing and one night of pub crawling, I felt like I was more or less on my own. And then I had to take the Greyhound back to Indiana. By the time I returned, I was ready to shoot myself in the head.
The semester ended and Susan moved away. Shortly after that, Aimee came calling. She told me she had made mistakes, that she hadn't treated me the way I deserved. I told her hell no she hadn't, and that I was done being her whipping boy. She said it wasn't going to be like that anymore, that she was going to show me what love was. It was pretty dramatic. And I believed her, so we got back together once again. For most of the rest of that semester, things were great. In some ways, they were even better than that fabled sophomore year. Aimee was putting her all into our relationship. She wrote me letters. She made a huge deal out of my birthday. She made a couple surprise trips to see me. When I got stuck doing R.A. duty over Spring Break, she came and stayed with me, even jumping in to help clean up a hallway that got flooded when a pipe broke.
I really thought we had finally become the couple I had always wanted us to be. Aimee had never been so sensitive, so loving. We started to talk openly about life after college. Marriage came up. There was one little snag. We were both about to graduate. Because my R.A. job was earning me a full ride, I had decided to attend grad school. But there was more to it than that. During the first semester, BadDave -- who was an R.A. at another dorm -- told me that he was going for a Staff Resident position. Staff Residents were basically the bosses of the R.A.'s. I had no interest in doing that at my dorm. Why take on the extra responsibility? I had enough on my plate. But then -- and this shocked the hell out of me -- BadDave laid down some trash talk. The implication seemed to be that maybe I wasn't up to the task...that maybe I wouldn't even be able to become a Staff Resident if I wanted to be. He further suggested that I hadn't put in the same amount of work at being an R.A. as he had.
To be fair, he was probably right about that last part. I was a good R.A., but BadDave took it all much more seriously than I did. Which makes sense, since he's now in Residence Life. But even though I didn't care, I couldn't stand by and let a challenge go unanswered, even if it was a gentle challenge from my best friend. I went for the Staff Resident position at my dorm and I got it. But, when the position was offered, my dorm's assistant manager asked me as a personal favor to only accept if I honestly planned to stay at least one more year. In other words: don't back out.
I agreed. But Aimee didn't like that. She wanted to go straight from undergrad to law school, and she wasn't planning to stay in Indiana to do it. But I was bound by my word...plus I had been accepted into a graduate program. We came up with a compromise. I was holding off on going to grad school and instead use my fifth year to complete a second undergrad degree. She would live in town and work that year, after which I would get a job wherever she was going to law school. I'd support her through law school, and then she'd support me through grad school. It was a good plan. And, like many good plans, it was destined to fail.
A few weeks before the end of the school year, Aimee dropped a bomb on me. She rather casually mentioned that she'd be living in Texas soon.
Once I'd picked my chin up off the floor, I said, "Wh...what? Texas?! What are you talking about?!"
"Oh, you know," she said, "I got that law internship in Texas. I told you that."
"Uh, no you didn't. I'm pretty sure I'd remember something like that."
"No, I know I told you," she said. "You must have forgotten."
Not friggin' likely. But that was that. She moved to Texas. We kept in touch. She told me about some guy she was dating, and how he broke her heart, and how the situation reminded her of that Jewel song Foolish Games
. This made me want to throw up. In fact, it still does a little bit.
During my fifth year, out of bitterness, I started dating like crazy. Friends said I should install a revolving door in my room. I wish I could say that being off the leash was rewarding, but it wasn't. I was pulling out of the funk around Christmas time Aimee returned to Indiana to visit family. We spent a week or so together, capped off by a weekend in my staff resident apartment. She professed her love to me and vowed to finish her next assignment (she was at that time doing travelling consulting) and then move to my town until I graduated, after which we would start a life together. She seemed so earnest that I bit, hook, line and sinker. I remember watching her drive off and thinking, "It's finally going to happen."
Can you believe I fell for it again?
Aimee had promised to call me when she got to where she was going, but she never did. I knew she hadn't died, because her parents would have contacted me. I had to conclude she had chosen not to call. So I tracked her down. This was before you could Google people and places of employment, so it took me two weeks to find her through the company she was working for. She was staying in a hotel in Minnesota. I called her room dozens of times, but no one ever answered and she never responded to my messages. I just kept calling, more out of anger than anything else. I wanted answers.
After a couple of hundred calls, the woman at the front desk said she felt bad for me. "Are you...with...this woman?"
"Supposedly," I said.
"Well," she began, "then you should probably know, she's staying with a man. And I'm pretty sure they're together. Like, you know..."
"I get it," I said.
"I'll tell you what," she said. "I'm going to tell her it's an emergency and she has to take the call. Hold on."
I held on.
"Hello?" It was Aimee. She sounded suspicious.
"Hey babe," I said, and it took every ounce of free will not to scream or sound angry. "Man, I was starting to think something bad had happened to you."
"Oh, well, I'm fine," she said.
"I love you," I said.
"Thanks," she replied.
"Thanks? Don't you mean 'I love you too'?"
"Sure," she said.
"Say it," I demanded.
"No. Why are you trying to force me to say it? It should come naturally."
"Because I know you're there with some guy, and that's why you won't say it, why I haven't heard from you in weeks. Right?"
She didn't reply. I unloaded holy hell on her and hung up. Then I ransacked my room. Chairs, couches, tables, trash cans...everything went flying. And once I calmed down, I was fine. Like, I felt better than I had felt in years. That's one of the funny things about relationships. You never know the last straw is going to be until it gets dropped on your back. But when it happens, you know. You just know.
However, the story wasn't quite over. A few months after I moved to Chicago, I got a phone call from Aimee. "Guess what?" she said. "I just moved to Chicago!"
She came over to my apartment and made her pitch. "I moved her to be with you," she said. "Please take me back."
I didn't take her back. I had moved on. It was over. I think Aimee had difficulty believing that, and even more difficulty accepting it. Which isn't surprising. She probably thought I'd keep taking her back forever and ever. I had told her that before with words, and I had taught her that with my actions. But our relationship was finally and irrevocably over. A couple months later, she moved back to Texas.
Over the course of Livin' Large, there have been two schools of thought: that Aimee was a bitch and that I was an idiot to keep getting back together with her.
Regarding that first school of thought: yes, Aimee did a lot of stupid and even cruel things. However, I don't think that made her a bad person. In fact, the situation reminds me of the fable of the scorpion and the frog. In case you don't know it, here it is: a scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too." The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?" The scorpion shrugs and says, "It’s my nature."
The point isn't that Aimee was a scorpion, simply that it was not in her nature (at that time) to commit to things. She constantly wanted new experiences, to meet new people and do new things. When she had an impulse, she followed it. When she tried to live a more conventional lifestyle, things didn't work out. Because she loved me and saw me as someone worthy of spending her life with, she tried to fight her nature. I also tried to make her change her nature through persuasion, manipulation, etc. See, my nature was to seek stability, which ran counter to her desire for freedom from commitment.
Any relationship predicated on the need for one or both people to change on a fundamental level is doomed to failure.
As for why I was "stupid" enough to keep taking her back, well, I was brought up to believe that if you loved somebody, you had to be willing to sacrifice anything to be with them. I hadn't yet learned that love alone can't sustain a relationship, and that sometimes loving someone means letting them go for the good of everybody involved.
Aimee and I kept in touch for a few years, but eventually it all just faded away. I still keep in semi-regular contact with her parents, whom I have always thought the world of. Particularly her father, George, whom I've written about on this site and consider one of the top three men I've ever known. But I never ask them about Aimee, and they never tell me anything about her. It's like an unspoken agreement or something. A high school friend recently told me she's currently working as a viticulturist in California.
Believe it or not, I did have a brief e-mail exchange with Aimee a year ago. I received an auto-generated e-mail from a high school reunion Web site that somebody had just searched for my name, and that person lived in the last place I remembered Aimee living in. A few days later, after her birthday, I received another auto-generated e-mail that the person who had searched for my name just had a birthday. So I figured what the heck, and I sent a short happy belated birthday e-mail to her last known (to me) e-mail address. A few days later, I received a brief response, basically saying hello and asking what was new with me. I sent a long reply...and never heard back.
Maybe it's better that way.Mat
After dropping the Shelly bomb on him, Mat and I never spoke face-to-face again. I saw him at various times, like when he was riding his bike around campus or hanging out at the local bars (always with an unreasonably hot girl in tow).
Susan spoke to him once. She and her roommate Jen (who was mildly obsessed with Mat) ran into him at a party. Jen asked if he remembered me (this was during my sophomore year). Mat said, "Yeah, that guy's a loser." Then Susan (according to Jen) went off on him. I always appreciated that.
Mat spent his freshman season as a redshirt. In the ensuing three years, he went on to become one of the school's greatest basketball busts. Here was a seven-footer with Shaq size who simply could not play. Watching him try was like watching an elephant attempt to ice skate up hill. Mat had no feel for the game, no sense of how to play it. The physical skills were there. He just didn't get basketball.
During his senior season -- by which time he was playing alongside another future NBA All-Star -- Mat made token appearances in 13 games, averaging 0.5 PPG (on 33 percent shooting), 0.5 RPG, 0.1 APG and 0.0 BPG in 2.5 MPG. And that was his best statistical season.
When I finished my first degree after my fourth year, I went ahead and walked through the graduation ceremony (mostly because my mom insisted on it). There were two lines of graduates going into the building. By some strange twist of fate, Mat was standing almost directly across from me in the other line. Some guy behind me remarked to his buddy, "Hey, look, it's Mat [Last Name]. They dude actually graduated?" The buddy replied, "Apparently. But I don't see any honor cords on his gown." Then they both burst out laughing. That was just one of the many jokes Mat was the butt of during his college career.
I lost track of Mat after he graduated. However, I was back on campus a year or so after I graduated and happened to be in a bar where the men's basketball coach was doing a radio show. He mentioned that Mat was playing pro basketball in Africa. "He told me he scored 25 points last night," the coach said. "I was shocked. I don't think that kid scored 25 points while he was here. And that includes practices!" And the running joke continued.
In 2003, Mat showed up to the annual midnight magic event for a men's basketball alumni game. And here's the shocker: Mat played 20 minutes and finished with eight points, 2 boards, an assist and a steal for the white squad. Despite his best-ever performance in the name of his former school, the black squad won 47-44.
A few years ago, when Basketbawful was still very new, I decided I wanted to do a post about Mat. Yep. Just one post. I still have the draft in an old Microsoft Word file titled "The Worst Basketball Player I Ever Lived With." It's awful. I basically tried to cram the entire Livin' Large series into about 1,500 words. It lost a lot of its charm, mostly because it was hard to provide perspective and context to a lot of the situations. But that isn't why I failed to complete it. Originally, I wanted input from Mat himself. So, to that end, I spent a few weeks trying to track him down on the Internet.
After quite a bit of effort, I finally found an e-mail address. In my initial e-mail, I didn't explicitly state that I was his former roomie, but I used an address that was basically my first and last name followed by a number. I figured either he'd put two and two together -- although, admittedly, math wasn't among his strengths -- or he wouldn't. I basically said I was interested in knowing more about his college experience and asked whether he could share stories, stats and maybe some pictures with. To my great surprise, Mat replied two days later. He said he'd be happy to share the information with me, but that he was busy coaching a girl's basketball team in Europe. He promised to send me a lengthy reply the first chance he got. A week or so went by and I didn't get any e-mails, so I sent a short message asking if he still intended to write back. He replied the next day that he would as soon as he got a chance. This went on for a month or so until he simply stopped replying.
I was bummed. I had been this close
to getting inside information from the protagonist of my story...and it fell through. I kept searching for information about him on the 'Net, but I never came up with anything substantial about his college career or his life after.
So I sat on the story. I would go back to it every so often and give it another try. But it quickly became apparent that I could never squeeze the entire saga into one post. That's when I got the idea of doing a series. By that time I was working for Deadspin. I pitched the story, it got rejected, and so I sat on it yet again. Then, this summer, I sat down at my computer and started fresh.
Oddly enough, writing the Livin' Large story helped me find out that Mat is currently (it appears) an MMA fighter. It seems fitting. Although the one fight I saw was rather sad, I can only presume that someone with his size and strength can probably kick some major ass. Then again, it sure seemed like someone with his size should be able to grab a rebound, so who knows.
I also came by what appeared to be Mat's current e-mail address. Yes, I sent an e-mail. Yes, I explained who I was and why I was writing. No, I never heard back. I figure that either he never received the e-mail (bogus address?) or he actually heard about or read some of the Livin' Large series and wanted nothing to do with it. It's too bad. I would have dearly loved to get his feedback, even if it was negative. In fact, especially if it was negative. I think Mat deserves his chance at a retort. And if I ever hear back from him, he can have it. I will post whatever he has to say, completely unedited, on this site.
Just don't hold your breath.
In the final analysis, Mat and I were, simply put, a bad match. I suppose that, had I been less into studying and more into partying, I would have loved living with him. Plenty of freshman men in our dorm thought I had the best possible situation. I'm sure Mat was just as unhappy with me as I was with him. He was the villain in my story, and I was the villain in his.The school
I love my school. To this day, I still bleed school colors. So many memories...fountain runs, studying in the engineering mall, saying "hello" to people on the Hello Walk, sand volleyball outside my first dorm, the giant map in the memorial union, the late and lamented Stripe Shop, the brick buildings, the way the campus came alive on football weekends, Breakfast Club, the bars that are gone (like Kazoos and T.A. Toms), sitting in Harry's with BadDave from noon until close munching the free popcorn and drinking toxic amounts of beer, working out and balling at the Co-Rec, working for the school paper, climbing the clock tower, intramural sports, the residence hall formals, on and on and on again.
Those were and always will be some of the best years of my life. I will always feel like my life, my real life, began in college. I can't imagine having gone anywhere else. I imagine most people feel the same way.
And yet...sometimes I think about what-ifs. I actually received a full ride from Indiana State University in my original chosen major of journalism. Obviously, I chose to go elsewhere. Now most people, when they imagine having chosen another path for themselves, they tend to think, "Wow, I wouldn't have done this thing, or I wouldn't have met that person." What I usually think is this: had I gone to ISU instead, I likely would have met people who would have become my friends for life, made a different best friend, and fallen in love with other women. Those people are out there right now...people I would have shared the best times of my life with. But I'll never meet them. We'll live and die never knowing the other person's name, or if they even existed at all. That always gets me for some reason.
Of course, if I'd gone to ISU, I never would have lived with Mat, and there would have been no Livin' Large, maybe even no Basketbawful. So even though rooming with Mat was the worst five-month living experience I ever had, I'd say things worked out for the best in the end.
Labels: college stories, game over, Livin' Large