April’s dorm was on the opposite side of campus from mine so I had a long walk and plenty of time to think about what I would say and how I would say it. April and I were good friends. She and I had kissed a couple of times but I knew that this weekend, the weekend that Guido was coming to visit, would be a big hurdle. If I had her affections by the end of the visit, then I was confident that I would have won her heart. I needed something big and since I come from a family that wears their hearts on their sleeve I figured that my best play was to let her know exactly how I felt.
I got within sight of her building and paused at the edge of the parking lot. I took some time to practice what I wanted to say and went through several different scenes in my head that seemed epically stupid, a couple that seemed marginally dumb, and one that was passable. I decided to go with one of the epically stupid ones so I puffed up my chest and crossed the final few yards to her dorm.
April lived in an all girls dorm where guys were forbidden to wander the halls unaccompanied. When I got there, at about 8:30 that morning, I had to call up to her room to have her come down to the lobby.
“Hello?” she answered in a sleepy voice.
“Hey, it’s me, I’m downstairs. Can you come down for a second?”
“Yea. Let me get dressed first.”
I didn’t have to wait too long. She came into the lobby wearing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. She had just gotten up from being asleep and she looked lovely.
I have to pause a second and let everyone know that I think now, and did then as well, that April looks more beautiful to me when she hasn’t done anything to get ready. I love the “wake up in the morning” April as much as the “been working in the yard all day” April and have always loved those aspects of her more than the all dolled up version. Blond, pale and dotted with freckles is a lovely combination and there isn’t a lot to improve.
I gave her a wave and she came over.
“Hey. What’s up?” she asked in a curious and cautious tone.
“I, um…well. I wanted to talk to you. Here, let’s go into this room.” I motioned to a room just off the lobby. It was one of those rooms with paintings of important people, large dated furniture and a piano that no one ever played and it smelled like dust and old furniture polish. It was private enough for us to be discreet but public enough so that we didn’t get in trouble with the “anti-guy” policy of her dorm. I sat her down on one of the couches and took a mental deep breath. I was nervous. She knew it and I knew it. I was drawing a blank on my plan but I decided to just go ahead and jump right in.
“April. I know that Guido is coming to visit this weekend. I just wanted to say that if you decide to stay with him, I…well, I understand. But I wanted you to know that I really, really care for you and hope to see you after the weekend is over.” I stopped. There it was. I was too nervous to come up with anything else and as far as I was concerned, I went as close as I could to saying “you’ve bewitched me body and soul” (a line I totally would have used if I had known it at the time) without actually wearing period clothing and talking with an English accent.
April paused a second, looked at me and said “Okay.”
Um, not quite what I was expecting and not at all reassuring. What I was hoping is that she would give me the “Hey, don’t worry, I’m planning on breaking up with him. In fact, I’ve already done it because you’re so awesome. Let’s go have breakfast.” But all I got was the timid, you’re-a-little-weird “okay.” Man, she wasn’t making this very easy.
We said our goodbyes and I crossed back over campus to my first class.
The day went as usual, my body in class and my mind on her, and at the end of it I found myself back in my dorm lobby reviewing the drama of the day. I cringed at my appeal but ultimately decided that it was done. I have a Harry Truman like ability to be comfortable with my decisions. I had made the decision to show my feelings and I would wait until Sunday to find out the result. The best thing I could do was hang out with the guys on my floor and engage in our nightly ritual of watching Jeopardy, eating dinner and then hanging out in the lobby and playing ping-pong.
I thought it would be best to whip some poor sap in ping pong and release my aggressions. And that’s what I did until one of the guys watching the match stood up, walked over to the window and said “Hey Clay, isn’t that your girlfriend walking across the parking lot?”
I dropped my jaw and my paddle and walked over along with the seven or eight other guys who were hanging out. “That’s her right?”
“Uh, yea. But I didn’t think she was coming over tonight.”
“Who…that blond?” one of them said.
“Yea, that’s her.”
“Daaaamn Clay, she’s hot.” said another.
“I know she is. Alright, everybody stop staring. You’re going to freak her out.”
“You’ve only been at school a month and you’re already with that girl? We’re going to start calling you Romeo” said a third.
“Yes, fine. Get away from the window.”
“How tall is she?” said a fourth.
“Look. Everyone watch me. This how you walk away from the window. See. Here I go, back to the game.”
“I think she just waved at me.” said a fifth.
“You guys are a bunch of idiots.”
“She just walked into the building.” said a sixth.
“Crap. What should I be doing? I’ll be playing ping pong. No, I’ll be watching TV. Should I be watching TV? Yeah. I’ll stand here and I’ll be watching. Or sitting. Maybe I’ll sit. I’ll sit.”
“Christ Clay. Just sit down already.” said a seventh.
I was sitting and facing the TV when she came in. I waited half a second and then gave one of the guys the silent queue. He rolled his eyes and said, “Clay, someone is here to see you.”
“Oh really, who?” I said a bit too loudly and turned in the wrong direction so that I was looking at the opposite side of the lobby. At a door that led to the dorm rooms. The door where no one who was actually visiting would be.
“Your girlfriend you moron.” said an eighth.
I stood and faced her and smiled. She smiled too and we met in the middle of the floor. “Hi. What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to come and see you.” she said.
“What happened to Guido?”
“He didn’t feel good so I took him to his hotel room. Actually, he’s going back home tomorrow morning. I’m pretty sure he knows that it is over between us.” she said as I started to realize that April was with me, and only me.
It was a good weekend.
Well, I think that’s it. But there is a lot more to the story of April and me as we went through that first semester and that summer back in 1989. There is my painful meeting with her parents. There is her crazy meeting of my parents. And there is the 1900 miles that were traveled to make those two events happen. There is the difficult parting at the end of term and a summer plane trip made by April to visit me in St. Louis. There was the “out West” trip that Gary and I made to visit April. But I need to know if all of you want me to continue. I’m not quite the writer that April is and so it takes me a little longer to churn these out. No really. It does.
So let me know if you want me to continue this story for a few more chapters.