Part 3, Chapter 10
“…and then when we woke up Michigan Girl and I went out for breakfast on that last morning before I left. We finally didn’t try to order the same thing as each other, but then when we went back to the cabin her dad said that he had ordered the same thing that I had, just a few hours earlier! And then…”
That’s what I did, the second I was back in Cleveland. It didn’t matter who I was talking to: my roommates, coworkers, friends, and even my ex-girlfriend became uncomfortably intimate with the most insignificant details of my trip to Michigan, and the girl who had become, for me, the living representation of the entire state. If you live in Ohio you have to hate the University of Michigan, but I was in love with Michigan Girl.
“…and then I was about to leave, but I saw my bathing suit on her clothesline, you know, drying? Which obviously means that I forgot to pack it. But, I figured, why say anything? Because now she’ll just have to…”
I simply would. Not. Shut. Up.
But look, what was I supposed to do? My every waking moment was a euphoric daydreamy explosion of happy thoughts about brown hair and perfect eyes. I literally saw her everywhere. I was ass over teakettle in love, and I wanted everyone to know about it.
Except for her.
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now!”
These are the kinds of e-mail subjects HCE used. I would have to google them to learn, for example, that they were actually lyrics from popular songs with a reasonable amount of cultural significance, and feel dumb.
“You came up on just the absolute most perfect days. It was rainy after you left, so I got to put on boots and go outside and splash around in puddles, but it wasn’t as much fun as having you here.” Listen, if you’re 19 and your idea of a good time is splashing around in puddles, (or multivariate calculus, or knitting, or talking hypothetically and sarcastically about revolution) then I might have a crush on you. Actually, no I wouldn’t, because you’d be 19, and, ew. Assume it’s also 2002 and I’m 21.
“Also, you left your bathing suit, you silly boy! I’m going to bring it to Cleveland with me in the fall.”
I just figured that, since she had been complaining about how her boyfriend treated her so much to me, she would just break up with him soon enough, and then I’d be able to ask her out. Which is ridiculous for about twelve reasons. Here’s one: complaining about a boyfriend is still talking about him, a universal danger signal. By now, I’ve known enough girls to know that when they really like you, they don’t talk about their boyfriends at all.
At the time, I would just play along. “He doesn’t like your haircut?” I would say. “Why, that’s ridiculous! What an ass! I can’t wait to see it at the end of the summer.”
It just didn’t occur to me at the time that I should make any sort of indication to her that my feelings were anything other than best-friendish. My thought process was simple. I just needed to pretend to be just a friend to make sure I wasn’t creepy or too forward, and everything would work out fine, I thought.
But as the end of the summer approached, I was getting more and more nervously excited to see her. “I will have literally boxes of mail at the newspaper office,” she told me. “You should come help me sort through them before classes start, since you are the new movie critic. There will be movie things in there! And I have presents for you.” Just the idea gave me drunken butterflies.
I was pretty incredibly on-edge and adrenaline filled when that day finally came. Standing in the little funny-smelling student center basement hallway outside the undergraduate newspaper office, I took a deep breath and told myself to be cool, then stepped forward to open the office door.