He was charming. Handsome. Ambitious. Fun.
<Insert lavish sigh and girlish giggles here>
On the heels of my first real break-up, I met Bryan.* We lived in the same dorm and despite my role as big bad Resident Assistant, he continued to underage drink in his room. He was the coooolest.
One night after a few too many Natty Lights, Bryan and his friends decided it would be the manly thing to do to hoist each another up and parade around the dorm halls. It’s all fun and games until a pal with no spatial awareness smashes your face off the door frame. As blood oozed over his Abercrombie & Fitch collar, Bryan proclaimed himself a “GLADIATOR!” and proceeded to jump up and down on his bed, banging on his chest like a skinny King Kong.
Could it be? I was falling for him.
Fast forward a couple of months, and The Gladiator and I were inseparable. Back off, ladies, I was wearing his ring…or whatever the 2001 collegiate equivalent was: being his designated driver? Pretending to love the band U2? Whatevs.
Bryan was a real social butterfly, a party animal if you will. I liked being associated with him; made me feel real special. I rode the hell out of his popular coattails, too. To parties, to events, to anywhere on campus where we could be seen together. Only this girl went home with him. Only this girl rode shotgun in his junker of a car. THIS girl gently guided his drunken swagger into his apartment after another Thirsty Thursday fiasco as to ensure he didn’t commit a Jimi Hendrix and aspirate on his own vomit.
*Brushes shoulders off*
This girl was living the dream.
Summer break came and the original plan for four of us, two girls and two guys, to share an apartment and its expenses, fell through. I signed a lease as the only female. That meant I was living with this guy who I guess was kinda sorta my boyfriend? and his I-don’t-do-dishes friend.
I’ll tell you who was really jealous: my dad.
So there I was, under the same roof as my (maybe) man! I never understood why my parents didn’t appreciate how lucky they were to share every nook and cranny with the one they loved; is there anything better than running into your Schmoopie right after your morning dump? I think not. Parents just don’t understand.
Summer at college was da bomb, ya’ll! Softball leagues. Day drinking. Sunshiney fun.
But then summer lovin’ turned into dates at the driving range to “analyze his swing.” After a July of holding the end of a three-wood to his forehead, I had had enough. We got into a big fight about him being selfish. He bought me the new Janet Jackson CD. Apology accepted.
With the fall semester on the horizon, Bryan started saying stuff like:
I can’t commit to you; I want to keep my options open…(and he wasn’t talking about grad school).
…your make-up reminds me of my mom’s…
You’ve got great abs, but your thighs could stand to lose a few.
Hmmm. That’s weird. I thought love was more about sharing and hugging and, well, loving. Guess I was wrong?
The new school year was in full swing. In between classes and work, my girls and I were planning for our epic spring break, and Bryan was preparing for some boring golf something. We still spent time together, but quality time it was not. It was mostly time after Happy Hour or after midnight or…you get the picture.
I left for spring break feeling…confused. And a little angry. Okay, a lot angry. But as soon as that warm Florida breeze combed through my freshly highlighted hair, I was all “Bryan who?” The new friend I met on the beach also helped me forget my troubles; we’ll call him Mr. Boston.
Mr. Boston: You girls going to the ba’ tonight?
Me: I’m going wherever you’re going.
WHOA! All of a sudden, I was this confident kitten who knew she was totally worth Mr. Boston’s drool. I vaguely remembered this gal; she existed a few years back before a life-altering break-up, and before she sold herself out to run with the popular crowd…
After a fabulous spring break, it was back to college and classes. And Bryan. Oh, Bryan. Sad, sad Bryan. How insignificant he became. How incredibly indifferent I became. It was like our very own version of Trading Places, and I was Eddie Murphy. Or at least as Eddie Murphy as a middle-class white girl can be.
My gut kept gnawing at me to tell Bryan about Mr. Boston. It was the responsible thing to do. He deserved to know. Blah blah blah. So I told him. And you know what that bastard did? He cried. CRIED!!
How dare he kick my heart around for the better part of a year, disregard me like the liquor bottles overflowing in every recycling bin on campus, and then make ME feel bad about it?!
That day, I said goodbye and went on my merry way.
But he followed me.
The next morning at SIX O’CLOCK (when you’re a junior in college, 6am is, like, illegal), he knocked on my apartment door bearing gifts of hot chocolate and a McDonalds breakfast burrito.
Damn you, scrumptious burrito. I could have ignored the knocking had your greasy deliciousness not wafted in from under the door and tempted my nostrils.
I sat down at my computer, Bryan crawled into my bed (alone), and in what can only be described as stalkerish and creepy, yet blatantly voyeuristic, watched me eat.
Sip. Bite. Sip.
Still there? Shit.
Bryan cried some more. He said he was hurt, but he now realized the way he treated me was wrong. He should have been kinder. Devoted himself to me. None of that mattered, though, because PRAISE JESUS, he had seen the light, and–please sit down for this one–he was in love with me.
I’m sorry, whaaat?
I had waited for-ev-er to hear those words pass his lips. I did everything to be the recipient of his affection. I pretended to like golf. I went to the Big Butler County Fair and drank warm beer and listened to The Clarks and inhaled the stench of goat. I put up with his drunken binges, and for reasons still unbeknownst to me, didn’t take him down to China Town when he continually disrespected me and my family. Stephanie circa 1999 would’ve laid the smack down immediately, but post-broken heart Stephanie tried to replace a lost love with a new one, and in the process, lost sight of herself so much that she had forgotten what it felt like to really be loved.
But he loved me now. BRYAN LOVED ME! I was getting what I wanted.
I finished my hot chocolate, asked him to leave, and instantly felt lighter.
And those breakfast burritos? To this day, they still make me sick to my stomach.
*Name changed by adding a B to kinda sorta protect his identity but not really because who gives an eff?