With the wedding coming up quickly -- exactly 3 months to go -- I've been doing some thinking about everything that has happened in between the night B and I had our first date almost four years ago and today. All the things that have changed, and more importantly, the one thing that has stayed the same. You can read part 1 here.
I hurried through the halls on my way to the first day of creative non-fiction class with Mark Bowden. Must not be late, must not be late, gotta get a good seat, Mark Bowden, oh boy. I readjusted my bag on my shoulder as I wondered who else would be in class with me. Loyola was a relatively small school. During junior and senior years, it would be rare to walk into a classroom on the first day and not find at least one familiar face.
Just as I was about to rush through the classroom door, I looked up at exactly the same time as another body, moving equally quickly and coming from the opposite direction. We came to a stop, milliseconds from a collision, and once again I found myself face to face with B.
We both erupted into nervous laughter. Two near collisions in less than 24 hours. He had jumped in front of me the night before as I pushed myself to the back of the crowded bar, my face inches from his neck. And here I was in the same position the next morning, clutching my fresh notebook to my chest.
"Creative non-fiction?" I asked. Mojo was NOT going to believe this.
"Yeah," he smiled. I hadn't realized how charming that smile was the night before. It must have been smokier than I realized inside the bar. We laughed again over a few of the funny stories from the previous night. Before B and his friends had made it to Swallows, they'd been stopped at the door of a popular senior bar down the street, Craig's Tavern. The bar was too crowded, or someone forgot their ID. Some words were exchanged, and the doughy bouncer with the finely shaved head had ended up calling B's particularly skinny friend, Brendan, a pencil neck before shoving them all down the street towards Swallows, where my friends and I had been spending the better part of our night.
"ALL RIGHT, PENCIL NECK, YOU'RE OUT," B repeated this morning. This would later become one of our favorite sayings of the year. As we laughed, Brendan walked up and joined us at the threshold of the classroom. "PENCIL NECK!" we greeted him.
"Heeeey, you're in this class too?" he asked me as he greeted B. The three of us walked into the classroom and slid into the remaining three seats. I was happily situated in the second row, B was directly behind me, and Brendan and his girlfriend ended up in the row next to B.
I was ecstatic about this class. I spent the 40 minutes enamored with Mark Bowden's tales of how he got to where was that day, but spent equal parts energy listening to Bowden speak, and controlling myself not to turn around to talk to B. When Bowden would pause for questions, I could feel B's eyes on the back of my neck.
"Hey," B tapped me on the shoulder. "Can I borrow a pen?" I pulled one out from my bag and handed it back to him. He pulled the cap off and handed it back to me. "Here, you keep the cap, otherwise I'll chew on it."
I put the cap in the groove at the top of my grey desk and smiled. He chews on pens. Cute. As class rolled on, I couldn't not play with the cap, rolling it between my fingers. B handed the pen back to me as we all walked out of class together. "And I didn't put it in my mouth once," he assured me.
"So ..." I started. "Are you guys going out tonight?" Syllabus week was in full swing. Everyone was thirsty, happy, and eager for a few more wild nights out before the semester began in earnest the following week.
"Yeah! Where will you be?"
"I'm not sure. Probably be at Swallows or Craig's."
"Yeah, us too. I'll probably see you tonight then." There were five dive bars within two blocks of each other in Baltimore that were THE Loyola College bars. No matter who you were, it was likely that's where you'd be on any given night. Swallows and Craig's were the two most popular spots for the upperclassmen, and they were relatively small. If you were looking for someone inside, you'd find them.
We set off separately in the two directions that we'd come. I smiled as I walked over the crowded Charles Street walking bridge from the center of campus to the west side, to my apartment that I shared with my five best girlfriends. This was going to be a great year ...
B and I ran into each other more and more over the next week. We chatted online every day. And we went from hoping to seeing each other out, to planning on meeting out, to spending entire nights out together. And of course, we always had Bowden.
After the bars, we crammed into pizza booths with our friends and dunked our pizza in blue cheese dressing while Mojo and one of B's friends exchanged TMI stories and got feisty over the credibility of Dolly Parton.
"DOLLY PARTON BETCH," Mojo yelled from our cab outside the pizza shop while B leaned in the window and gave me his phone number. "DOLLYWOOD OR BUST," B's friend yelled back, as they burst into laughter.
"Call me right now, so I have yours," he told me.
One night, B was the designated driver. "Get in the car! Get in!" His friends called from the trunk of his black Ford Explorer. Mojo and I climbed in the back, and we all screamed songs from the radio with the windows down while the warm breeze whipped around us. When we got to our dorm, B circled the building over and over again. "ONE MORE TIME," we all yelled each time he got to the entrance. Our stomachs hurt from laughing.
This went on for weeks. And then it was a month. And then a month and a half. B would invite me back to his place after nights out, but would always call for the campus police to come and drive me home when the late night parties died down. One of the regular police officers became so familiar with me, that she'd often call and invite me out to da club with her and her bitches . You know, dat club that white women can't go to, but I'd be cool wit her. My backseat dancing at 3 a.m. had convinced her I could hang. [Editorial Note: If I had a dollar for every time I'd voluntarily gotten into the back of a city cop car for a dance party, I'd have, like, twelve dollars.]
When B and I were together, we were oblivious to anyone else. But we never kissed. Not even once. It was driving me INSANE. The air between us were electric, and the tension was rising with every passing day.
"ANYTHING?" Mojo would ask each night I walked into the door. "Nothing." We'd dissect every move from the night. "It seemed like he was flirting," she'd suggest. "I dunno. I just can't tell. It's hard when they're just NICE, ya know?"
"Maybe he's actually not interested. I can't even tell if he likes me. Every time I think somethings going to happen, I find myself in the back of the campus police car trying to explain to Officer Brown why I can't shake my booty at the club."
"He'd never call you so much if he didn't like you. What is WRONG with him?"
"Ugggh I have no idea. Want some nachos?"
By this time it was mid October. The air was growing cooler, but the electricity between us so hot it was shocking. Mid October also meant my 21st birthday was coming up. This was going to be huge. 21st birthdays are like national holidays. Only bigger. And drunker. This would be it. Something was going to happen, but I had no idea how ridiculous it was about to get first ...
... To be continued.