He is your RA, or works for admissions, or someone your friend knows. You bump into him at the first party of the year, and you cling to him because it is your first college party ever and you feel out of place. The party gets shut down, and you walk out into the night, which is colder than you expected for August. He puts his arm around you because you’re shivering, and you begin to walk back to your dorm. You feel lonely at college, and so his interest in you is a lifeline, something to hold onto when you feel lonely at night, trying to go to sleep while your roommate is on the phone with her boyfriend from high school.
He never goes to parties with you — he only meets you after them. You think about going on birth control. He breaks up with you after you get the prescription for the pill. He is the only person you know with a car, so you have to take the shuttle to go into town to fill the prescription. The shuttle is grey and dirty and makes you feel carsick. The pharmacy of CVS is closed when you get there, so you wait outside for twenty minutes for the shuttle to pick you up. It is freezing. You wonder why you chose to be here, in the middle of Ohio. The shuttle picks you up. You go home and go to bed.
The English Major
This boy is really into either Jack Kerouac or Charles Bukowski. “I wish I had more time to read for pleasure” he moans whenever you ask if he wants to hang out. His favorite book in high school was The Catcher in the Rye. His favorite book now is Infinite Jest. He knows more about the human condition than you do, or so he says.
“The most important part of life is empathy,” he says, after blowing you off for a lunch date. He loves Allen Ginsberg, but finds Sylvia Plath too emotional. He carries a worn copy of Leaves of Grass on him at all times, but has never heard of Zadie Smith. He wears ironed button-downs and dirty sneakers. He is constantly “to busy” to shave, but somehow maintains a ten-day stubble year-round. He will eventually stop texting you back, and this will leave you with a strange sense of relief, as if you’d just gotten years of your life back that you didn’t know you’d almost lost.
He talks about how important it is to learn how to handle rejection on your second date. He is constantly working out, the same time every day. This is to immerse himself into his latest role, he tells you, but you wonder if he secretly just wants to look good on stage. After sex, you observe him watching himself in the mirror, clenching and unclenching his arm muscles. You wonder why you cannot make him pay attention to you.
You know he has a sensitive side. You know this because he told you this, unprompted. He was bullied when he was younger, and it made him stronger as a person. He talks about being bullied as if he were reading lines from a monologue. This sad childhood story makes you want to kiss him, which you do. He never asks you about your childhood, but is strong enough to pick you up. This makes you feel feminine and giggly enough to forget to be mad at him for never asking you about your childhood.
It will end after three weeks. He will talk about how hard it is for him that he is attracted to other people, and that the easiest thing for him would be a clean break. You remember what a hard childhood he had and feel sorry for him, and try to forget that he just said he was thinking about other people while you were dating. You will break up. You will try to be friends, but he will be distant and you will be sad.
He doesn’t buy anything for himself besides cigarettes. He writes long think pieces, and you share them on Facebook for him (he doesn’t have a Facebook). He is nice to everyone, so when he’s nice to you, you can’t tell if it’s real or not. He does a lot of acid. You can’t figure out if this makes him deep or not, but he makes you feel a little scared and somehow you think that’s good for you. He shows you how to use his bong, and after, you can’t stop coughing. He laughs at you. You can’t tell if he thinks you’re endearing or just immature.
He is cute. Tall. His apartment is disgusting. You never see his room with the lights on, and you don’t really want to. You wish he was cleaner. Sometimes he texts you at three in the morning, after you’ve gone to sleep. You always text him back when you wake up in the morning, even though you know it’s a missed opportunity and he’ll never respond when he isn’t high. You wish he was reliable. Sometimes you text him at midnight. He never responds. Eventually you stop smiling at each other on Middle Path. Eventually he stops being nice to you, and you can tell he’s being real.
He will always ask you about what new music you are listening to, only to interrupt you and talk about what new music that he is listening to. He listens to Bjork, and feels that you should be impressed by this. You are. He plays the guitar, and was in a band in high school. You never hear him play. You love his taste in music. He doesn’t like your taste in music. Eventually, his taste in music becomes your taste in music. He still doesn’t like your taste in music.
A month into the relationship, he tells you that he is “bad” at relationships. This is the excuse he uses whenever you try to talk about your relationship. You remember how nice he was to you before you started dating. You remember how he would always ask you questions, and would text you if you seemed sad. You try to make yourself smaller and sadder so that he will pay attention to you. You never thought you’d ever do that. You do it anyway, and it doesn’t work.
You break up after two months, and you want to listen to music but all the music you listen to now is music he showed you. He tells your friends that he’s worried about you, but never texts you back. You go to a concert alone a few nights after you break up. You feel very small but very alive. You remember why you came to college, and think about the difference between being sad by yourself and being sad with a boyfriend. You take a deep breath and go home to your Lit Theory textbook.