With the wedding coming up quickly -- 11 weeks 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 catch up here.
It was now mid October and B and I were great friends. But that was it. And it was driving me insane. The air was growing cooler, but the electricity between us so hot it was shocking. We talked every day. Grabbed lunch after class. And went record shopping, digging through stacks of dusty music together.
I spent a few evenings a week working in the school's darkroom, where I would monitor the chemicals and get some of my own photography work done at the same time. I loved those quiet nights, the smell of developing chemicals seeped deep into my skin. In most cases, it was just me in there, alone with the soft buzz of the dim orange lights. But recently B had started visiting me.
When he walked into the darkroom office for the first time, emerging from the unlit hallway, my heart skipped a beat. Holy shit, every darkroom fantasy I'd ever had was about to come true. Hands grasping for hands in the darkness, backs pressed against walls, lips searching for lips. I gave him a tour of where I spent so many hours of my week, and saved the best part for last.
The room where we take the film from out of their rolls and wind them into the canisters for development was so dark you couldn't see the hand in front of your face. To carefully break open rolls of film and correctly wind them around the developing reel without the use of your eyes heightened all of your other senses, especially your sense of touch. Every time I stepped into that room, I was keenly aware of everything that passed under my fingers, the sharp blades of the scissors, the smooth counter top, the rough surface of the walls.
We walked in and I shut the door behind us so B could get the full effect of total and impenetrable darkness. A matter of seconds passed before we were back in the dim hallway again. The moment had passed before I even knew what happened. WHAT LE FECK?
After about an hour of sitting in the all too well lit photography office, talking and laughing (and completely aware of all the touching we weren't doing), my shift was over and we both headed home in opposite directions. He disappeared into the darkness of the east side, and I walked over the bridge to the west.
"So let me get this straight," my friend Emily started as soon as I walked in the door. "He walked all the way to the darkroom and you guys didn't even KISS? SERIOUSLY?"
In the mean time, my 21st birthday was quickly coming up. And in college, 21st birthdays are like national holidays. Only bigger. And drunker. This had to be it. This had to be what he was waiting for.
The morning of my birthday I woke up as usual. Took a quick shower, ate a bowl of cereal, and headed to class. My mom called to wish me a happy birthday, and reminded me not to be too hung over for the next day. She, my two aunts, and my cousin were all coming down to Baltimore for a 21st birthday celebration that had become our family's tradition, embarrassing hats and obligatory birthday scavenger hunt included. I invited B to the big event, and he had eagerly agreed to come along.
I slipped my cell phone into my bag and opened the stairwell doors on the ground floor of my building, where I was greeted, face to face, with one of the most absurd pictures of me that I had ever seen. It had been taken at Bonnaroo the summer before. It was late, I was dirty, and we were all slightly out of our minds. Typical Bonnaroo.
This poster was a close up of my face, with BRIDIE'S 21! written in huge block lettering across the top. My roommates had printed out close to 100 of these pages, and taped them to lampposts, trashcans, billboards, doors, and even the bricks under people's feet on the bridge. It was amazing.
I spent the entire day giggling with my girlfriends, and deciding which bars we wanted to hit that night. When I got home from my last class later that afternoon, I got a call from one of my best friends from high school who wanted to wish me a happy birthday.
"So what are you doing right now?" she asked.
"Nothing, we're about to have some dinner and then later we'll head out."
"Awesome. So ... could you come downstairs and let us in?"
I ran down the steps and found Lauren and our friend Bill -- both students at St. Joe's University in Philadelphia -- standing on the steps. Lauren, with a bag of ringpops in her hand, and Bill with a large pumpkin. They'd driven down from Philadelphia to Baltimore in the middle of the Thursday afternoon to go out for my birthday, and they were planning on making it back to Philly in time for their 6 a.m. crew practice the next morning. This was going to be huge. Now there was no choice.
All of our closest guy friends -- who also happened to live directly across the hall from us -- came over and the celebrations began in earnest. Obligatory birthday jell-o shots were passed around, and we all took turns wearing the leopard cat ears that Falko had given me as a birthday present. Falko really knows how to please the ladies.
Bill played designated taxi driver in Lauren's purple family mini-van, the Hubble, which had been our trusted mode of transportation everywhere since we were 16. We headed down to Federal Hill and spent a few hours at The Thirsty Dog, where round after round of flavored beers were passed around. And, of course, a few too many shots of whiskey with the bartender.
B had called earlier that night to wish me a happy birthday. I told him I was going out with my friends, but I was sure I'd see him when we went to York Road after Fed Hill. After the Thirsty Dog, we all piled back into the Hubble and headed for York. Bill pulled to a stop in front of Craig's Tavern and we tumbled out. By this time it was close to 1 a.m. and Lauren and Bill decided it was time to turn the car around and drive back the two hours to Philadelphia in time for their early morning practice which, by the way, they attended.
And then it all gets a little fuzzy. But when I did find B, pushing one of his roommates into a cab outside Swallow's, WHILE WEARING A SKIRT, I was speechless.
"I gotta get this kid home, he's not doing too well."
"Um, skirt. Err?"
B was really working to get all of his roommate's limbs inside the cab. "Yeah," he grunted. "Magic eight ball night." B and his friends had determined his entire night by asking questions to a magic eight ball. Does B want to take this shot of tequila? Probably. Should B buy us a round of drinks? Yes. Will B wear a skirt to the bar? Most definitely. "Happy birthday again and I'll see you tomorrow!"
Tomorrow. My family. Oh my gah.
I went home slightly disappointed, again, but still generally on cloud nine from an amazing night with my best friends. "THAT IS IT," I declared to Mojo as I slumped to the floor, my back against the front door of our apartment. "I'm telling that big, fat MORON that I like him."
"Do it," Mojo encouraged.
"Are you sure you should be telling her to do anything besides go to bed?" her boyfriend asked from the kitchen. "Oops boobie, let's put that back where it goes, not looking, not looking, good job."
"No, I'm telling him that I LIKE him like him. Just watch me make my moves."
B answered his phone quickly. "Hey!"
"YOU just SHUT UP with your HEYS"
"Listen to me now. I am tired of wondering if you're wondering if maybe I like you because THAT is so sixth grade."
"Well, I do. Not that YOU'D ever DO anything about it. But I do."
"Bridget, I like you too."
"Oh, well I think I knew that. You do? Okay, well I'm glad we got that cleared up."
I woke up the next morning to my cell phone ringing under my pillow. It was my mom. "Are you awake? Get up! We're right down the street." Oh gaaaaah. I lifted my head. Oooohhhh gaaaaaaahh. I pulled a blue ring pop out of my hair and walked to the bathroom to look in the mirror. Ooooooohhhhh gaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.
The entire left side of my face and a large patch of my blonde hair was stained blue. I was in the same clothes from the night before. And my family was down the street. I jumped in the shower while my roommates entertained my family as they walked in the door. My aunt however dropped some bags off in my bedroom and opened up my laptop screen to dozens of windows of instant messaged happy birthdays. She pulled up the most recent one, an IM from one of our friends and an ex-boyfriend of one of my roommates, Buddy.
Then she started typing. Thanks for the birthday wishes, I'm so nervous though.
Why are you nervous?
Well, my mom and my aunts are coming and I'm going to tell them.
Tell them what?
You know, TELL THEM. I'm coming out today. OF THE CLOSET.
LOL, this isn't Bridget is it?
As I was getting dressed I got a call from Buddy. "Hey, kid. Are your aunts there already?"
"Juuust making sure."
We did the birthday presents thing, then headed out to the campus book store so my mom and aunts could replenish their Loyola College gear.
"Oh no." It was coming.
"Are you okay? You don't look so good." My cousin turned around.
I made it to the student lounge and stumbled to the trashcan, where it all came up. "Are you SERIOUS?" my mom asked while my aunt took pictures.
"That's my girl! And it's the aunts!" It was Buddy. He patted my back as I leaned over the trashcan while greeting my family face to face. This was just wonderful.
After a dinner in Little Italy, we re-joined my roommates and B at our apartment, and split into cabs to go down to Fell's Point, another popular Loyola neighborhood. It's safe to say that B had no idea what he was in for.
We bar hopped through the neighborhood, took over rooms, started conga lines, and danced forever, and B was along for the entire ride. Inside Slainte, I sat down for a rest next to a group of new friends my family and girlfriends had picked up in the bar. B was surrounded by three middle aged gay men, and the woman they were with turned to me.
"Is that your boyfriend?" She nodded towards B.
"Oh. No, just a friend."
"Girlfriend, please. Not for long. He hasn't taken his eyes off of you all night. It's obvious he adores you."
I was floored. "He's been looking at me? Really?"
"Mmhmm. Totally obvious."
My face flushed. "Wow."
The night wore down and we ended the evening inside a small pub singing along to The Sound of Music's "So Long Farewell." We all split a pizza from the small shop down the street, the best pizza in Baltimore, I'll add, and reviewed the complete scavenger hunt. Picture with police officer. Check. Pinch 21 random guys' butts. Check. Get five random people to buy you a drink. Check. Get the entire bar to sing you Happy Birthday. Check. Check. Check. Check.
We made it back to my apartment, and my family eventually headed back to their hotel. My roommates scattered to their bedrooms. Finally B and I were alone in the hallway, the same spot where I had slurred my confession the night before, those words from still ringing in my ears. This was finally, FINALLY it.
"I had an awesome time tonight. Your family is so much fun."
"I know they're amazing. I had a great time too. I'm so glad you came out with us."
We inched closer.
"Of course. I wouldn't have missed your birthday."
"Well, you know, after last night's little skirt debacle ..."
"Magic eight ball night ... never again."
"Well ... thanks again for coming."
And he was out the door and down the steps before I could even take a breath ...
... To be continued.