In August of 1998 I left rural Prospect Heights to the urban setting of Milwaukee to pursue higher education. Marquette University invited its incoming freshman to campus nearly a week before classes begin for Freshman Orientation. This involved a battery of events ranging in various ice breaking formats.
One of the earlier events was bowling at the nearby university-owned "sports bar." Yes, MU owns a sports bar on campus and yes, there is one of the crappiest non-manual scoring bowling lanes in the nation in its basement. I was randomly assigned to a foursome that included "Europa." (Name changed to protect her innocence)
Before the night had ended I developed the first (sadly of many) crushes during my tenure at Marquette.
I signed up to go to a nearby mini-golf / batting cages place for the next night's activity. When I saw Europa in the Union minutes before she was about to depart to go see the IMAX movie, I instantly changed my mind. The IMAX movie was a refreshing 15 or so walk down Wisconsin Avenue to the Science Museum. I also remembered that I sat next to Europa in the movie theatre. I had no clue what we were going to do after the movie, but I was certainly looking forward to it.
Before we left the IMAX, Europa had to use the ladies room. I waited outside. Also waiting outside, for her friend in the same ladies room, was "Grim." (name also changed to protect her innocence)
One thing led to another and all I can tell you is that I left the museum with Grim and her friend. I can not tell you why I stone cold left Europa in the ladies room because I will never know myself. I still wonder what Europa felt walking out to see me gone, and that will also remain a mystery.
My crush on Grim was more solid than my crush on Europa. While the Europa crush was based in her physical beauty, Grim's ability to quote The Simpsons made me putty in her hands. My loss of self control around her resulted in many regrettable actions.
Allow me to pause this story for a quick flashback of the current culture in August 1998. For some reason, swing music became the cool thing. Dorm rooms were playing music by The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Mighty Blue Kings. Students were renting every available copy of Swing Kids (on VHS back in that era) and dancing like Japan had just surrendered.
When Grim asked me to be her partner in a Swing Dancing class I accepted.
MySister loves to dance. As does my Father. I, not so much. It breaks MySister's heart, to see me not dance at family weddings. However, MySister has recently succumbed to the understanding that only a romantic interest will ever get me to dance.
I went to about three Swing Dancing lessons with Grim. Today I saw the below clip on YouTube, which looked nothing like our class in Brooks Hall:
The Swing Dancing lessons with Grim ended when she told me she didn't want to get into a relationship so early into her time at college. I also heard from her lips a line said to me for the first time in my life: "I don't want to ruin our friendship." Little did I know that would be a track stuck on repeat for most of the girls in my life... A track said out of a mutual deception, irony, torture and manipulation.
My actual friendship ended with Grim after two distinct phone conversations:
1) Grim calling me very excited about this boy she had a huge crush on and wanted to date. A boy in the Navy ROTC program and hoped he'd invite her to some dress-up-in-formal-whites-like-the-end-of-Top-Gun-and-dance Dance.
2) Grim calling me in tears because this very same Officer But Not A Gentleman wanted to dance out of his Formal Whites back at his dorm room.
Still, Grim did not see me as a legitimate romantic possibility. I stopped talking to her and pretty much stopped acknowledging her presence.
Speaking of not acknowledging one's presence:
In October my friend Stefan (who is not only still my good friend but also someone who's first short story should be bought and read by you) and I were riding down from our 11th floor dorm rooms to the cafeteria. The elevator stopped on one of the girl floors and the two of us were joined by Europa herself.
Europa began to put on a little elevator exhibition for Stefan and I. She leaned against the Elevator wall and gave her most sultry, Elizabeth Shue worthy, look while slowly inching up the bottom of her tank top to reveal a navel piercing. As the elevator continued its descent, she began playing with her navel piercing while continuing her "look what you left in the ladies room of the science museum you heartless pig" stare.
The doors opened on the ground floor. I bolted out of the chamber as fast as humanly possible. Stefan stopped me to ask, "WHAT?!....Was that?!" My telling of the story to Stefan occurred in near real time as my memory began flooding.
My path crossed again with Europa in the winter of my senior year. We both worked at the same campus job and had some nice conversations. All with my mind blackened my this freshman year atrocity. Finally, I confessed my sins and apologized to Europa. She had no recollection of the ladies room incident or the elevator show. This made her laugh hysterically and embarrassed me more.
I'm happy to say that I went on a few dates with Europa after that - none of them ending with me leaving her in the ladies room. The short courtship ended amicably. We actually continued to be friends because our "first date" was to go see the first Lord of the Rings movie, and in an odd sense of tradition the two of us watched the other two movies of the trilogy together in the theaters (even if I was already graduated and she was still in Wisconsin).
Today Europa is far away in Europe, living her dream of making-it in a culture more cosmopolitan and enlightened than our barbaric America. Grim remains far off my radar. In fact, is been years since I have even thought about her.
Moral of this story: Beware of YouTube - you never know what memories it can trigger.