The first time I saw him, I was helping his friend stitch a name tag on his jacket. He walked sauntered in – drunk and slightly sunburned – wearing a shirt with the sleeves cut off that said, “I piss excellence.” One of the girls that came in with him was crying and the other was comforting her, the way only drunk girls can. I made a joke, a reference to his shirt, but he didn’t get it and I thought, “Ugh. What a tool.”
It was summer break and I was on vacation. I was going to get tattooed and a little bit wild, and I could have cared less about the jerk that made girls cry and didn’t understand funny jokes. But the next day he wouldn’t look at me.
He came home for lunch and regaled us all with stories about the morning and we listened raptly, entranced by his excitement, by the feeling with which he spoke. He looked at everyone else but no matter what I said or did, he wouldn’t look at me. He directed any answers to my questions or responses to my comments to his friend, to my friend, to the wall. I was awash with insecurity.
Why won’t he look at me? Do I have something huge in my teeth that makes looking at me unbearable? Is my hair arranged in a way that makes my face look funny? Does the sight of my moving lips annoy him? WHY WON’T HE LOOK AT ME?!
He went back to work and I spent the afternoon plotting. If it was the last thing I did, I was going to make this boy look at me. There was no way I was going to allow this jerk to get away with ignoring me.
When he got home that night, he drove my friend and me to the commissary. I sat in the front seat and told him about the night before when his friend, drunk and infatuated with a girl he knew nothing about , had knocked on the door of the closet room where I was sleeping, told me I was smoking hot, and asked me if I wanted to make out.
[Side note: I didn’t.]
He laughed but he still didn’t look at me. I was intrigued and confused and annoyed – all of which made me bold. I warned him that I was going to come knock on his door later. I actually said the words, “You better watch out or I’ll come knock on your door later.” I might have been embarrassed but instead I felt daring and clever. He laughed again, seemingly startled, and he finally looked at me.
The four of us (my friend, her boyfriend/his roommate, he, and I) spent the rest of the night watching YouTube videos and knocking on pantry doors, countertops, and cabinets. “You want to make out?” was our mantra and each time it was repeated, we’d erupt into uproarious laughter.
He shared his own story from the night before. The crying girl he’d stumbled in with the was a friend from home who’d come to visit expecting something more (because what girl crosses the country to visit a guy who’s just a friend?). He told the girl he wasn’t interested, but fueled by liquid courage, she tried anyway. When she started crying, he panicked and left her in the care of another girl. Apparently, he wasn’t a jerk; he was just a guy who didn’t know anything about women.
Bleary eyed and yawning, we all finally staggered off to bed sometime after midnight. I brushed my teeth, changed into my pajamas, and lay down but I didn’t feel tired anymore. I got up, heart hammering, and walked into the hallway. I took a deep breath and before I could overthink it, I knocked softly on his door. I don’t remember what he said but I opened his door, peeked in, and whispered, “Hey, you’re smoking hot. You want to make out?”
Two years later, I married him.