Before my alarm went off, I woke without opening my eyes. I stretched and grinned like an idiot. I let out a deep, contented sigh. I woke up happy. Really happy. The kind of happy usually only reserved for syrupy musical romances. The kind of happy that makes you tell everyone who’ll listen how wonderful a day it is (you also tell everyone who doesn’t listen). I was stupid happy. I thought nothing could sully my mood. I thought.
I performed the usual morning tasks, then got ready and drove to campus. I was in a good enough mood that I actually went to my eight o’clock class. Afterwards, I walked over the Student Center where I usually hung out.
“Good morning,” I said as I walked in, “Look at this sunshine!”
“Someone’s in a chipper mood,” grumbled one of my friends.
“How could I not be on such a wonderful day? Hey, let’s all get breakfast. We should all go to Red’s and get doughnuts. And cinnamon rolls. Doughnuts and cinnamon rolls. And chocolate milk. Chocolate milk is a necessity.”
“I take it your date went well?”
“Extremely well. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Are you going to go out again?”
“Wow, two dates with you. That’s some kind of record.”
Ordinarily, this would upset me, but not that day. My joy was invincible. “She asked me to call her and I even think she actually wants me to call her,” I said.
“So are you going to?”
I mentioned something about the sky being blue, grass green, and several other analogies that indicated that I meant to call her.
“Well, just go call her then.”
“Why?” I asked.
“So you’ll stop talking to me.” Some people just don’t want to be happy.
I went to the phone and called her.
“Hello,” she answered.
“Hey,” I said, “Last night really was great.”
“Yes, it was,” she agreed.
“I was wondering when you wanted to go out again.” The words came easily because I knew the outcome. At least, I thought I knew. Instead of her expected answer I got silence and what sounded like muffled sobs. “Um, are you crying?” I asked.
“I can’t talk right now. I’ll call you later.”
“Okaaaay,” I said. Something seemed off, but I wasn’t worried like I should have been. I gave her the number to where I was and she said she’d call me back soon.
Waiting right by the phone for her to call would be desperate and make me look like a total loser, so of course that’s exactly what I did.
Later, I answered the phone on the first ring (actually, I’m not entirely certain I even let the first ring finish).
“Hello?” I said. It was her.
“Last night was kind of good, but it’ll have to be it for us.”
“Okay, I was thinking . . . wait, what?”
“I can’t see you anymore.”
I wasn’t prepared for this. Even though I had heard that phrase more times than I care to recount, I didn’t think I’d hear it from her, especially after our amazing date. Those five words on that day may be the reason I never regained my confidence in asking women out, including my wife who, you know, has to go out with me.
“But, but, I thought we had a great time.”
“We did,” she said and there was an odd sound on the line. “Well, somewhat good,” she quickly amended.
“What’s going on? I thought we hit it off.”
“We sort of did, but I’m getting back together with my boyfriend.”
I heard the same odd noise again and suspected that he was on the line.
“Is this really what you want to tell me?” I asked.
“I can’t talk to you anymore. I’m sorry. It’s over.”
I wanted to say, “It hasn’t even begun,” but the line was already dead.
I sat down on the floor with the receiver still in my hand. I was hurt and confused. Mostly hurt. I gambled that he wasn’t actually at her house, so I counted to one hundred and called her back.
“Hello?” she answered. My heart raced at hearing her voice again.
“Are you alone?” I asked.
“Will you be honest with me?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Was he on the line before?”
“He wanted to make sure I said what he wanted me to.”
“What did you want to say?”
“I don’t really know.”
“Do your really want to be with him?”
“He wants to get back with me. He called me. He wants us back together.”
“But what do you want?”
“I love him.”
“Okay, but what do you want? What do you fell right now?” Nothing but silence. “Let me ask you this, then. How do I make you feel?”
She immediately answered, “You make me feel great. I always smile when I’m around you and you make me so happy. You make me feel so good and pretty. you even opened the door for me. No one did that before.”
“You are pretty. You’re beautiful.” I swallowed and then asked the questions I didn’t want to, but needed the answer, “How does he make you feel?”
A pause. A breath. The creak of a telephone cord wrapped around a finger. “Well,” she said, “He treats me like dirt and I cry a lot. He never opens the door for me.”
I felt a flash of anger. After just one date I wanted to make her happy. He made her cry. It seemed so wrong. The anger faded as soon as it blossomed, though. I spoke again with barely a beat between her answer and my next question.
“So why do you want to be with him?”
“Because I love him!”
“If he loved you, he wouldn’t make you feel like dirt. He wouldn’t make you cry.”
“But I love him.”
“You said he treats you like dirt.”
“I love him.”
“He makes you cry.”
“I love him!”
“Well, good luck with that.” I knew I was beaten.
“I’m so sorry,” she said sincerely.
“I hope not,” I replied, but she was already gone.
When I told a friend about this ordeal, she said, “She really got back with a guy she said treated her like dirt?”
“I guess you hope they’re miserable then, huh?”
“No, I don’t,” I answered truthfully, “I want her to be happy.”
“Really? You want her to be happy even after all that? Even with him?”
I thought of our brief time together. I thought of our one perfect date. I thought of her face. I realized I only knew one way to explain, so I said, “Because I saw her smile.”