Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"Yeah, as long as I don't have to eat my foot again..."

Monday, January 25, 1993, 8:46pm
McKellum Hall, room 238
Organizational Behavior Seminar

She must see me staring at her.

The funny thing is, she's not what I would call traditionally hot. She's small, for one thing, barely five feet, with comic book-character eyes, a little too big for her face. And though curls can be sexy, hers aren't; her hair is coiled tightly, like the spring in my pen.

So why do I find myself swiveling around in my chair every two minutes?

She's Jewish. I don't know exactly how, but I can tell. It might be her nose; though it isn't the deformed beak you are imagining, it's definitely not the frail, girlish one you'd see on some southern chick at her debuttante ball.

It's too hot in the classroom, and the air is dry. She licks her lips, and right away I want to fuck her. Her mouth is small, her lips thick and pouty, jutting slightly from her face. Her teeth shine with flawless white, and suddenly there is no group decision making or benchmarking; there is only my racing pulse and the subtle line of sweat on my forehead.

"I'm gonna let you cut out a little early today," Jodi says. Thirty-two notebooks snap closed; backpacks zip and unzip.

She came to class late. That meant the parking lot outside the classroom would have been full, and she must have parked in the rear lot. She'd probably take the long way, out the front door and around the building; if I walk out the back door, I'll get there first, and our paths will cross.

I walk a narrow hallway and open a door marked "Fire Science Department". Immediately, I'm hit with the smell of burning plastic. Wispy blue smoke drifts from an open classroom door, and inside, two Asian men huddle over a table, talking animatedly in another language. I exit the building, and my lungs hungrily suck the fresh air, though it's only a few degrees above zero.

A single street light blares blindingly, illuminating the billowing clouds of my breath. The hairs in my nose begin to freeze, and I realize that today is not the day for idle chit-chat, as intrigued as I am by her. Besides, what if I was wrong? What if she didn't park in the back lot at all?

She rounds the corner of the building, in her puffy pink jacket and matching scarf, her curls spilling out from a white knit cap with a pom-pom on top.

I stare at my shoes. It's important not to look like I planned this; it needs to seem like an accident that we bumped into each other. My plan has worked perfectly--she's all by herself, not a classmate in sight. Now is my chance to talk to her without interference from anyone.

I look up as she steps onto the curb. "Hey, Renee!"

"Oh. Oh! Hi, Steve!" Her mouth spreads into a sweet smile. Somewhere between the classroom and here, she put on a face completely different than the one I saw a few minutes ago. She is no longer an overachieving grad student, just a girl looking to get home and curl up underneath a warm blanket. I can't blame her.

"Nice of Jodi to let us out of class early, huh? So we can get started scraping our windshields."

She laughs. "Tell me about it. I'm gonna have so much reading to do when I get my book."

"You don't have one?"

"Bookstore was out."

"Wanna borrow mine?"

"If I take yours, what will you do?"

"I'll just fail," I smile.

My stomach leaps. I'm no pro at this, but I know that giggle, that little bat of the eyes. I actually have a shot with this girl!

"Wanna meet me at the library tomorrow and copy the pages you need? I have some money on my copy card."

"Oh, I'll pay for the copies."

"Buy me a burger instead."


I wasn't thinking now, but what the hell?

"Sure, you hungry?"


Parthenon Diner

She's from Minneapolis. She graduated last spring and moved right on to grad school. "I enrolled before senioritis set in," she said.

"Good move."

I can't stop staring at her mouth, the way her lips glisten wetly as she lowers her coffee mug, and how her dainty tongue slides slowly across them. I shift uneasily in my seat, burning to jump across the table and slip my hands under her purple turtleneck.

"It's so nice talking to you, Steve. Thank you for the coffee. You made my whole day!"

She must know I want her. She must know how urgently I want to take her home and rip her clothes off while Barbara Walters cackles incessantly on a TV that neither one of us is watching. And she must feel the same way, too, or else why would she have come out with me? And why would she have made such a flirty comment?

I wasn't as confident then. I analyzed too much, tried to read into every little clue. I'm sure I looked horribly unsure of myself.

"So, do you... need a ride home?"

"Steve. I drove. Remember? I followed you here!"

"Oh yeah, that's right," I stammer, as my ears burn.

"Are we still on for that burger tomorrow?" she smiles.