Catch up here.
I hang up the phone as Simon Le Bon asks, “Where is the life that I recognize?” before I turn off the stereo.
I spot J.D. through the security door window standing in front of the mailboxes. He is in a light green dress shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his hands tucked in the pockets of his black dress pants. The slight curls at the end of his wavy hair flutter in the cross-breeze from the open doorways in the front and back of the tiny lobby. My heart flips around and I suck in a breath before opening the door with a cautious smile.
“Hey.” He returns the smile and meets me as the door closes behind me. “You look great.”
“Thanks. So do you.”
He settles a hand on my upper arm as we peck each other on the cheek. We walk through the back doorway to the parking lot. He opens the car door for me and closes it as soon as I am in. I reach over and unlock his door.
“I made reservations for Duke’s,” he tells me as he closes his door.
He turns the key in the ignition and David Gahan’s voice reverberates in the car, “I feeeeeeeel you.” I let out a small titter.
“What?” he inquires.
“Depeche Mode. I should have known.”
“I could be David Gahan.” He smirks then sings along.
My roommate was moved out by the time I returned from work on Friday. I put Yaz’s Upstairs At Eric’s into my stereo and listened to the heavy synthesizers as I packed until dinner.
“What’s up tonight?” I asked Brad then placed a forkful of kalua pig and cabbage in my mouth.
“Not sure. I need to talk to Patrick and the guys when I get back. Everyone’s been busy packing. Come by when you’re done.”
“Okay. I need to see J.D.,” I said casually and I took another bite.
Brad stared blankly.
I pushed the food to the side of my mouth. “What?”
He raised his eyebrows.
“I haven’t seen or talked to him since last Saturday. If he’s not going to make the effort, I need to.”
I finished packing after dinner. Only You played through the speakers as I stacked boxes in my armoire and on my desk. I piled the suitcases between my desk and the corner of the room. I stopped the tape and disassembled the stereo leaving it on top of my mini-fridge.
“We’re going to Mama’s then Moose’s,” Brad informed me when I poked my head through the door.
“I’m going to J.D.’s. I’ll meet you there?”
“Want me to go with you?” he asked as he taped up a box. “This is the last for me.”
“No, I’ll be okay.”
“Good luck,” he said sincerely.
“Thanks. I’ll meet you at Mama’s.”
I heard The Space Between by Roxy Music coming from the apartment before I reached the door. Mark, Dan, and Keoki were busy sorting what belonged to whom and packing. I helped Keoki wrap up dishes and pack them in a box. J.D. walked between his room and the kitchen several times without looking at me.
“See you guys later,” J.D. said twenty minutes later as he walked out the front door with his keys in hand.
Pain bloomed in my chest as I watched him leave.
“Eh¸ Ari,” Keoki said to get my attention.
I turned back to him with my eyes stinging.
“No worry ‘bout him.”
“I wish it were that easy, Keoki,” I said mournfully. “I should hele on.”
“Shoots. Laters,” he said and leaned over for a kiss on the cheek and goodbye hug.
I cut through the practice fields and the athletic complex on my way to Puck’s Alley. I choke back the tears, but they flowed as soon as I was off-campus. I rubbed my face several minutes later before I rounded the last corner onto University Avenue and passed Moose McGillicuddy’s.
I was greeted by a plethora of friends when I walked through the opening of the fence in front of Mama Mia’s. Brad pressed a mug of beer into my hand.
“How’d it go?” he asked.
I shook my head as tears threatened to resurface. He pulled me to his table next to the outer wall of the building, slid a chair out for me then sat across the table.
“Spill,” he ordered.
“He didn’t say a word to me. Not one. He didn’t even look in my direction. Then, he left to go out for the night.” Tears run down my face again. “I feel like a knife is stuck right here,” I said placing my hand over my heart.
“I’m sorry.” He reached across the table and covered my hand with his. “I don’t even know what to say, Ari.”
“I can’t think about this. I’ll end up curled up in a corner and back where I was nine months ago.” I used the back of my hand to wipe my eyes. “It’s Summer break, dammit,” I said as I slapped my hand on the table.
He lifted his beer mug. “To Summer break.”
My mug clinked against his and I took a swig. We left the table and mingled with friends.
A finger tapped me on the shoulder while I was joking and laughing with a football player. I spun around and found myself facing Jerry. I pointed a finger in his face. “So help me, Jerry, if you hit on me again-“ I started.
“I’m really sorry, Ari,” he interrupted. “I had no idea you were seeing someone.”
I dropped my hand. “It’s everything I told you repeatedly before that should’ve mattered,” I said angrily.
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“You should be,” I said sharply and walked away.
I met Aaron a few mugs of beer later. He was tall with light brown Johnny Depp style hair, an uneven smile, and light green eyes. I was vaguely aware of Brad and Patrick telling me they were headed to Moose’s while I was talking to him at his table.
“Last call!” one of the servers shouted.
“I should get back to campus. I need to be up early tomorrow,” I said when I realized the time.
“I’ll give you a ride back on my moped,” he offered standing with me.
“No, I can walk back just fine.”
“I’ll feel bad if you walk back alone.” He cocked his head to the side and grinned.
“Okay,” I relented.
We were lying on my bed facing each other, lips and tongues locked before I could think. I ran my hands through his hair as he ran his hand down my back. He grabbed my thigh and hauled it over his leg.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You don’t even know him! Stop! NOW!
I broke away, rolled off the bed, and backed up into my desk chair staring down at Aaron shaking. “I’m sorry, I can’t,” I blurted out then caught my breath. “You can stay and use my roommate’s bed if you want, but I can’t do this.”
“It’s okay,” he assured me as he sat up.
“I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry,” I said panicked and trembling. I clenched my teeth to stop from crying again.
Aaron moved to the edge of the bed and took my hands into his. “It’s okay. I get it,” he reassured me then let go of my hands and leaned back on his. “Handsome stranger, lots of beer, lowered brain function.”
“I-“ I suck in a breath then spoke with rapid pressure, “I don’t do this kind of thing, Aaron. I don’t bring home guys I just met and make out with them. I’m not into one night stands. I had a bad night and was drinking to forget someone.”
He reached over and took my left hand then tapped my ring with his thumb. “This someone?”
I pulled my hand away. “No. The ring is mine.”
I quickly removed a quilt from a box then tossed it to him. I grabbed my basket and pajamas then left for the bathroom. I leaned forward on the sink gripping the sides and hung my head.
What were you thinking? Oh right, you weren’t. Holy crap. Get it together!
Aaron’s jeans and shirt hung over my roommate’s chair and he was lying on her bed smiling, half covered by the blanket when I returned. “Good night, Ariana.”
I turned off the light. “Good night, Aaron.” I crawled into bed, pulled my quilt up, and closed my eyes.
I woke with a start the next morning and tears erupted as the previous night sunk in.
J.D. gave me the cold shoulder. I got drunk. I brought a stranger back to my room and made out with him.
“Ariana?” Aaron called quietly.
I used the quilt to dry my face and took in a breath before I turned over. He sat on the edge of my roommate’s bed with the blanket covering part of his lap.
“Morning,” I greeted him sleepily.
“Are you okay?” he asked concerned.
“Just reality setting in.” I tossed the quilt to the side and sat up.
He stood up and started dressing. “Hey, we all do stupid shit now and then.”
“This goes beyond stupid for me, Aaron.”
I walked him down to the front door. “I’m really sorry about last night.”
“Ariana, stop apologizing. My feelings aren’t hurt at all and we’re both in one piece.”
We said our good-byes and kissed each other awkwardly on the cheek.
You are lucky he wasn’t psycho, Ari. Damn lucky.
The swim team hosted a swim meet in October and threw a party for the visiting teams. David used his stereo to blare Queensryche from the open windows of his room. I sat on the top of one of the picnic tables behind Johnson Hall people watching. Brad and Patrick were getting more beer.
J.D. stopped in front of me with glassy eyes holding a red Solo cup in his right hand. “You told people I was your boyfriend,” he said harshly.
“I told Jerry I had a boyfriend to get him to leave me alone,” I said defensively.
“I dated a girl once for two years and never called her my girlfriend,” he raised his voice. “I wasn’t your boyfriend!”
“I never said you were,” I said starting to match his tone. I suck in a breath to relax. “Is that why you got so drunk at Max’s then ignored me?”
“You had no right to tell people I was your boyfriend.”
“You just mess up everyone’s lives.” Paul stepped in.
“What?” I asked taken aback.
“You’re a bitch and buzz kill!” Paul yelled.
“Stay out of this, Paul,” I said frustrated as my body tensed.
“Make me, bitch!” he taunted.
Tears welled and my hands shook against my knees. “Can we go somewhere to talk, J.D.? Please?” I begged.
“No! We’re through!” he shouted.
My face burned and I balled my hands into fists. I jumped off the table and snapped. “Yeah, I got that loud and clear when you completely ignored me months ago! I haven’t seen either of you since last semester and I get this shit from both of you? Fuck you!” I pointed to Paul, “And you! Go fuck yourself!” I ran off.
David blocked my path at the next table and simultaneously caught me in a bear hug. I threw my arms around him and sobbed.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he said soothingly.
“What happened?” I heard Brad ask.
I let go of David and swiped my face with my hands. “J.D. and Paul.”
“Did you at least find out what was bugging J.D.?”
“He thinks I told Jerry he was my boyfriend the night I had to drag him back to the apartment. I’m guessing Paul told him.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“I wish I was. And I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with Paul.” I crossed my arms over my chest.
“Good thing I’m not rooming with him this year,” he said relieved.
“I probably would have killed him already,” I seethed.
“Here,” David says handing me a red Solo cup filled with Jungle Juice.
“Thanks.” I took the cup and sipped the sweet red liquid. I looked at Brad. “Don’t let me do anything stupid tonight. Drag me out of here if you have to.”
“Aye aye,” he affirmed and gave a mock salute.
J.D. pulls into the Outrigger Waikiki and a valet opens my door. J.D. hands another valet the keys in exchange for a claim ticket. He places his hand between my shoulder blades as we start for the restaurant then seems to remember himself and slips it in his pocket.
©Debi Smith, 2013