Catch up here.
Don’t turn around. Don’t turn around. Don’t turn around. I repeat to myself as I leave J.D.’s table.
We met my freshman year at the University of Hawai`I at Manoa. I had no interest in a relationship at the time.
I was at my swimmer friend, Brad’s, campus apartment on a Saturday night. We were sitting around a table in his living room with his roommates, Paul, Philip, and Jerry playing Mexicali.
Jerry slammed the cup and dice down on the table then peeked underneath. He slid the cup covering the dice to me. “Thirty-two,” he said with a straight face. His short light brown hair waved from the oscillating.
I studied his face for any sign telling me he was lying. He kept his expression passive, yet the tiny gleam in his hazel eyes dared me to call his bluff. I held my left hand under the edge of the table and swiped the cup over my hand dropping the dice in my palm. I dropped the dice back in the cup and shook them for a few seconds before turning the cup over on the table. I tipped the cup back just enough to see the top of the dice. “HA!” I yelled unveiling the dice. “Mexicali! Everyone drink!”
“Dammit, Ari!” Paul exclaimed as he ran his hand through his thick, short black hair.
“Suck it up, Paul.” I snickered.
The guys poured and took a shot of Southern Comfort together.
I passed the cup and dice to Brad. His chlorine bleached blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail and he wore a grey Hawai`i Swimming t-shirt with faded red shorts.
“What’s up, guys?” a voice asked from the open doorway.
We all turned and a tall man with dirty blond hair that waved and ended in slight curls stood in the doorway with a cup in his hand.
“J.D.!” the guys bellowed.
“Come in.” Philip beckoned with one of his muscular arms. He was wearing a snug blue t-shirt and showed off his definition underneath. “Ariana, this is J.D. He’s on the tennis team with me and Paul.”
“Hey,” I said smiling politely.
“Hi. Rousing game of Mexicali?”
“So rousing if we keep it up, everyone but Ari will be drunk,” Paul whined.
“I thought you were going to suck it up,” I said.
“You just told me to suck it up. I have no plans to do what you tell me to do,” he retorted.
“You can grab one of the chairs in our room if you want,” Philip told J.D.
“Thanks.” J.D. walked by the table back into Paul and Philip’s room and returned with one of their desk chairs.
Paul and Philip moved to give J.D. room to fit between them at the table. We spent the next hour playing Mexicali and taking shots before turning on the TV to watch the football game.
I sat in the window leaning against the frame at the start of halftime to catch some of the trade winds blowing through. J.D. stepped outside and leaned back against the railing across from me.
“How do you know Paul and Philip?” he asked.
“Are you on the swim team, too.”
“Hell no,” I said with a smile. “I only play sports and swim for fun.”
“How did you meet Brad then?”
“One of my neighbors in the dorm is on the diving team. She took me to a party with her the first night in the dorm and I met everyone on the teams there. And some of the football players.”
“You from here? Because you look local, but don’t sound like it.”
“Moloka`i.” I nodded. “I spend a lot of time on the Mainland. The pidgin English comes out when I’m with family and close friends, tired, or drunk. You?”
“Hawai`i Kai, but I grew up on the Mainland moving around wherever my dad was stationed. He’s a Marine. Do you know what you’re majoring in?”
“Don’t head shrink me!” he exclaimed while smirking.
I rolled my eyes. “Like I haven’t heard that one before.”
“Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.”
“What made you choose Psychology?”
“Helping people comes naturally to me. I decided three years ago it’s what I wanted to do. What about you?”
“Doctor J.D.? Has a nice ring to it.”
We continued to get to know each other through halftime before returning inside to finish watching the game.
Depression hit me right before Christmas break. I wasn’t sleeping much. I barely touched my meals in the cafeteria. I was detached when socializing with friends. I stopped drinking because I knew it was dangerous ground. I forced myself to go out to parties just to be out of my dorm room, but I felt no joy when I was surrounded by laughter. The nights I wanted to stay in and brood, Brad and his brother, Patrick, showed up at my door to make me leave.
Brad, Patrick, and I were wandering around the campus apartments one night two months into the Spring semester when we walked by J.D.’s. Paul and Philip were standing outside his open door, leaning against the railing. Philip was wearing jeans and a black The Cure Disintegration t-shirt, his blond curls tamed for the moment. Paul was in jeans and an un-tucked white collared shirt making him look taller and lankier.
“Heyyyy!” Brad called out as we sauntered down the open walkway.
“Looking good, guys.” I hugged them both.
“Thanks. What’s going on?” Paul asked.
“Just cruising,” Patrick answered and flipped his blond hair back that was long on top and short on the sides and in back. Where Brad was long and lean, Patrick was stocky and had broader shoulders. “Where are you guys headed?”
“Moose’s then The Wave. J.D.’s driving us,” Paul replied.
J.D. steps through the doorway dressed in black. Dress shirt, jeans, belt, and shoes. His dirty blond wavy hair was smoothed back with product making it look like ripples in water.
My heart suddenly added a few more beats, heat rose through my body, and my mouth decided it was unable to say, “Hi.”
“Hey,” he said smiling at us. Two small pools of chocolate held my gaze for a moment before he turned to Paul and Philip. “You guys ready?” he asked pulling his keys out of his pocket and closing the door. The three of them headed for the stairwell as we continued on.
I tossed and turned in bed that night unable to get J.D. out of my head. It’s time to shake the disease and get yourself on track, Ariana.
Brad and I were playing quarters after dinner on a Friday. I decided the week before I could drink again without fear of drinking to escape after a long talk with Brad about the cause of my avoidance of relationships. I had a light buzz going by the time we left his apartment to look for a party.
J.D., Paul, Philip, and two of J.D.’s roommates, Mark and Dan, were leaning against the railing outside their apartment and listening to Depeche Mode’s 101.
“Howzit,” Mark greeted as we get close.
“What’s going on?” Brad asked.
“J.D.’s playing bartender tonight,” Paul responded.
“You two want a drink?” J.D. offered. He wore a white t-shirt and sky blue board shorts with plain black Locals slippers.
My heart started skipping.
“What are you making?” Brad asked.
“Ari?” He asked making eye contact with me.
I watched him stroll into the kitchen, retrieve two plastic thirty-two ounce cups from 7-Eleven out of one of the cabinets, and fill them with ice.
“What are you doing?” Brad whispered in my ear as he moved into my line of sight.
“Huh?” I looked up at him as he pulls me out of my reverie.
“You’re watching him like a hawk.”
“I am?” I turned around, folded my arms on the railing, and looked over to the apartment building across the courtyard.
He moved between me and Mark, faced me, and used his left arm to lean on the railing. “Yes. Out with it.”
I glanced back into the apartment over my shoulder. J.D.’s attention was solely on mixing our drinks. I looked back at Brad. “I like him.”
“You should go for it.”
“I don’t know. It’s been a while.”
“Which is why you should. Maybe it’s time to start putting that other business behind you and move on.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Sorry,” he apologized. “I won’t ever understand what it was like for you. I just want to see you happy like you were when we first met.”
“What are you two whispering about?”
I turned my head and J.D. stood there holding out our drinks to us.
“Thanks,” Brad said taking his.
I turned the rest of my body and took mine. “Mahalos,” I said raising my cup before taking a sip.
J.D. smiled then winked at me before going back inside for his drink. Brad elbowed me. I pressed my lips together and pointed my finger at him. He snickered. I leaned back against the railing and took another sip.
“You never answered my question,” J.D. pressed when he returned.
“We were wondering if we should call Patrick.” I shrugged and took another sip.
“You can use our phone if you want.”
“Nah. But, thanks. He’ll find us if he wants,” Brad replied.
Three hours and two more extra-large Long Island Ice Teas later I was seated on the ground with my back against the railing. Paul and Mark stood on my right trading stories of their sexual escapades. I blocked them out while J.D. and I discussed music and occasionally sang along with Depeche Mode. Brad and Philip had returned to their apartment with Dan playing Tetris.
“I could be David Gahan,” J.D. proclaimed.
I laughed as he sang Sweetest Perfection with an air mic in his hand.
“WOOO!” I yelled and applauded when the song ended.
He stood up and bowed. “Do you need another drink?”
I peered in my cup spotting only ice. My head was swimming. “Maybe just water.”
He chuckled and took my cup. I watched him through the doorway mix another drink for himself and pour some water into a clear plastic cup from the cafeteria full of water for me.
“Thanks.” I took the cup from J.D. and slugged several gulps of water before resting it on my leg.
“You’re welcome. Can I ask you a question?”
“Go for it.”
“Are you going out with Brad?”
I let out a peal of laughter.
“What’s so funny?” he asked confused.
“You have no idea how many times we get asked that question. Or Patrick and I,” I answer as my laugh settles to a giggle.
“Nah. We’re just friends. They look out for me and I look out for them.”
“Oh. I thought you were since I always see you at his place or out with him.”
“Cary cornered Brad and Patrick in the bathroom at Mama’s a few months ago and asked which one of them was dating me.”
“He didn’t believe them either. He thought they were lying to him.” I yawned and covered my mouth.
“Do you want to crash here?”
“Nah. I should get back to my dorm.”
“You sure? You can have my bed. I’ll sleep out in the living room.”
My heart started beating faster. “Positive,” I said standing up slowly and taking my cup in to the kitchen.
“Let me walk you back,” he offered as he got to his feet.
“I’ll be fine. It’s a five minute walk.”
“I’m walking you back,” he insisted and gave me a don’t-argue-with-me look.
“Okay, okay.” I headed for the stairwell and J.D. followed with his cup still in hand.
“If you’re not with Brad or Patrick, what about this?” he asked taking my left hand and fingered my class ring on my ring finger.
A buzzing ran up my arm from my hand. I take a quiet breath. “It fits better there and it keeps the freaks and creeps I don’t know from hitting on me.”
“Freaks and creeps.” He snickered then peered at my ring closely while we were still in the lit stairwell. He brought our hands down gently then let go. “So you aren’t seeing anyone?”
I shook my head.
“It’s a long story.”
“We have a few minutes,” he prompted as we walked across the courtyard towards the walkway that led to my dorm.
I paused as I pondered what to share and what not to tell him. He set his right hand on my left shoulder softly. I turned my head towards him.
“You don’t have to tell me. I shouldn’t have asked.” His eyes pierced mine.
“It’s just difficult, J.D.”
“Then forget I asked,” he said casually. “I’m sorry someone did something to hurt you that bad.”
We veered off the walkway onto the grass to get to the back door of my building.
“Thanks. And thanks for walking me back.”
“Anytime.” He grinned and his brown eyes brightened up in the dark.
I smiled in return and opened the door. I stepped inside and made sure the door closed behind me. I looked at him through the floor-to-ceiling window and gave a small wave. He waved back, turned around, and walked back to his apartment. My heart thudded heavily in my chest.
If men can be sneaky about making the first move, I can, too.
I reach Gary and his friends then sit down and take a long draught of my water.
“You okay?” Gary asks leaning in.
I nod. “Yeah. Thanks.”
©Debi Smith, 2013