Well hello. Are you new here? I'm currently sharing pieces of my memoir every day. You can go here to read from day one.
We get to his apartment and there are people waiting there. My old roommate, some friends from freshman year — mostly acquaintances. Apparently, our dinner we planned for us three has turned into a thing.
He looks at me apologetically. “I told her you were coming into town, thinking she knew, and she immediately wanted to plan something. Said they would want to see you.”
It was fine, really. Just like freshman year, I’m completely oblivious to any sort of intention he has for the evening. Despite my moment of clarity back at the store, I’m still trying to play it cool. So I smile and shrug and he reaches around me for a plastic trash bag.
“I got you something,” he says. A secret look passes between us.
“You got me something in a trash bag?” I raise an eyebrow. He laughs.
“Just open it.”
I glance at Heather who lifts her hands in surrender. “I had nothing to do with this,” she says. I know she didn’t. She would have demanded he wrap it properly. I reach my hand inside and feel my fingers brush against plastic.
Plastic like a tube.
Plastic like a…funnel.
My eyes grow wide and I look at him.
He winks and my heart skips a beat and I pull it out of the bag completely and dissolve into gleeful laughter.
My old roommate grimaces. “What…is that?”
I ignore the question. I’m holding it in my hands like he got me a puppy or something.
“You got me a cola bong?” My voice is a whisper. I can feel the tears beginning to form and I have to blink fast to prevent them from growing.
For a moment, he doubts himself. I can see it in his eyes. But then I start laughing and I wrap my arms around him and I wipe my cheeks because the tears are coming and I’m looking at Heather and I feel like I’m in one of those movies where someone gets a gift that only they can interpret because this? How can I explain that it’s so simple but it means so much? I look down at it again and rub my hands along the curve of the tube.
This says everything.
Heather leans in close.
“Is that…is that what I think it is?”
I swallow and nod because I can’t find my voice.
“It is.” I finally manage to whisper and her eyes go wide because she knows and I start laughing all over again. My old roommate asks why it’s such a big deal, and I just look at Russ and smile, thinking about the couch and the carpet and his sticky legs and the look.
“It’s just part of our story.” I say. And I leave it at that. I don’t know if she remembers. I don’t know if it even would matter to her. It means everything to me. I think of his arms around me again and a buzzing fills my pores.
Something is happening. Something alchemic.
Things move fast after we get back to Oklahoma.
We talk every night, now by phone. My friends are expecting updates every morning. By Spring Break, he stays with me for a couple days and meets my parents. Our first kiss is in the stairwell after everyone goes to sleep. I cuddle next to my sister afterwards and whisper in her ear, “he just kissed me.”
At sixteen, she’s less than impressed. She mumbles something in her sleep and turns away from me. Nothing can stop my grin, though.
On my way back to school, I stop and spend a few hours with him and meet his family. His roommate takes pictures of us and before I even get back to my dorm I’m dropping off the film to develop. I can’t even get to my room that night. All of my fellow RA’s plus Daree are waiting for me and want to know everything. I tell them we’re official, that our first date was on the riverwalk, and I think my parents are freaking out a little bit.
They’re squealing. It’s loud. I’m sure we’re waking up some of the residents, but I don’t even care. My smile keeps growing.
Two weeks later, he surprises me at school. He’s supposed to be on his way to Port Aransas for a concert. I have a feeling though, call it a gut instinct, that he may be on the way to see me. No one has said anything, but before he signed off of instant messenger he called me love and I remember thinking, “if he’s coming here — if he’s surprising me — he may say I love you. In fact I’m pretty sure he’s close to saying it. And I’m not gonna say it. You hear me, self? I’m not gonna say it back.”
I’m freaking myself out with this one. There is the gut-level knowing that feels completely different than the ex-boyfriend. With Russ, I feel home. It’s the only way to describe it. He roots me and makes me feel like I can breathe again. And yet, I’m terrified. Even though this is different and I know it’s different, I’m still psyching myself out over it. I’m still waiting and expecting the other shoe to drop. So that night, I’m hopeful but overly cautious. No need to expect something only to be disappointed because he’s actually going where he says he’s going. So I settle into the couch in the corner of our lobby and start watching a movie.
Here’s the thing — I’m not one of those girls who will run toward someone and leap in their arms. I’m just not. I think it’s sweet, and I will absolutely tear up when I see it happen, but typically when I lose my shit it’s still very….contained.
When he walks through the double doors, though, all bets are off. One moment I’m sitting, and the next I’m running toward him. I cannot get to his arms quick enough. He’s here.
He’s here he’s here he’s here he’s here.
All of my freak out moments vanish the moment he wraps me in his arms. Everything quiets. It’s like all I can hear our hearts in tandem because that’s the only thing that matters.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
“You’re here.” I mumble, nestled against his chest. I’m surprised by how emotional I feel. I blink away tears and try to settle the way my heart is going crazy against my chest.
“I am.” He kisses my temple and squeezes me tighter. “I couldn’t wait another day without seeing you.”
Before I take him to a room Heather reserved for him in the guy’s dorm, he pulls me to his car. He has a gift for me: a set of champagne glasses, a book, and some sparkling grape juice.
“I found these glasses a few years ago at a garage sale,” he says. “I’ve been waiting to use them for something special.”
I lean forward for a kiss, and he whispers against my skin, “I’m falling in love with you.”
The whole earth stops and I rock back on my heels. I stare at him, wide eyed.
“I love you too,” I whisper back. I don’t even think about the promise I made myself. We laugh afterwards, him admitting he never intended to tell me so soon and me filling him in on the promise I made in my room before he showed up at my door. This is who we are though: together, all bets are off. We cut to the quick. It feels like Truth because it is true and we can’t be anything other.
Two weeks after the surprise, we’re looking for rings. I don’t know this, but he’s already got one reserved. My friends know this, they’ve been chatting with him over AIM for weeks and I have no clue. All I know is everything is happening fast. I know it appears that way from the outside. But between us, we know. We know what it feels like when Truth guts you and starts you over.
One day that spring I walk to the student center to check my mail. There’s an envelope stuffed inside the small square, and it’s full to the brim. I have no idea what it’s for, but I recognize Heather’s handwriting. I open it up on my way back to the dorm and before I even reach the street I’m bawling.
Inside the envelope are pictures that have been cut to pieces. I know them immediately. They’re the pictures I gave Heather and Daree months ago when we cleaned out my dorm room. On every tiny piece, I’m smiling. What’s not there: my ex. He’s been cut from every single shot. There’s a slip of paper inside and I pull it out to see that all of my Precious Happy Baby Girls were behind it.
We are so excited to see this smile again, the note says. Don’t worry. We had fun with the other half of the pictures. I laugh and place the piece of paper against my chest and let the sun beat down on my face for a few minutes before walking inside.
When I see them next, I start crying all over again and they wrap me in their arms. I know then no matter what happens, no matter where we go after college, these hearts will forever be wrapped in my own.