It was right at the beginning of my second year of college when I met Stephanie. I had been hanging around campus before classes started, acting as an orientation leader, guiding freshman during their first days at the University of Chicago – a tumultuous time for them, indeed. I was standing in the hall waiting to speak with one of my media studies professors when I saw her. She piqued my interest. She was thin and waif-like and I had never seen her before. She was not a freshman. I could tell that just by the looks of her.
At that time of the year, I was feeling friendly. Everyone is noticeably more affable at the beginning of the academic year. There are so many new, innocent faces, and nobody has any studying to do yet. I had also been in the habit of being very open and welcoming to anyone I saw during the orientation period, and I was still under the sway of this orientation leader attitude.
“Hello,” I said. “Are you a new student? You don’t look like a new student, but you seem unfamiliar.”
She explained that she was a new transfer student and she introduced herself. She wanted to study economics and third-world development. Hm, I thought. That seems serious and philanthropic.
“That seems serious and philanthropic,” I said. She laughed a little, which was gratifying. Our conversation was brief; of course, I thought she was very attractive, but in those days I didn’t really have any game, and I couldn’t think of an interesting way to ask her for her number or suggest we see each other again.
I rarely saw Stephanie after that. Once I saw her when I was out to dinner with friends, and then the same evening I saw her pumping gas. We did not exchange any words, but she gave me a mysterious look that seemed to say, “I know about you.” I was perplexed; I wondered if she had overheard me say something stupid or offensive to one of my friends while at dinner. Eventually I forgot about it, because I never saw her again that year.
In this time, I fell for girl and got into a relationship with her. By the end of the year it was over and I was sad. There was another affair that lasted for about five weeks, free of romance or commitment. That made me feel slightly better, because I was really surprised that I was able to see someone without going “simple” and being clingy, over-involved, or behaving in an otherwise objectionable way.
When I arrived back in Bryn Mawr that summer, my hometown, I was beginning to feel better about things. Up until the point where I met that girlfriend during my sophomore year, I had felt rather insecure about my romantic prowess. But I thought to myself that summer, now I’ve got a serious relationship under my belt, and a five week-long casual sex affair to boot. I stroked my ego. A friend loaned me the book The Art of Seduction and I ate it up. I suddenly became much more aware of “game” and how I lacked it – but I was going to change all that! I said to myself.
That summer I visited two friends from the University of Chicago who were from New York City. We met at my friend Jordan’s girlfriend’s place in a place called Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Jordan’s girlfriend, Amelia, also went to UChicago, but I was not especially close with her. She was not from New York, but she had found a place with two older artists so she could do an internship there.
Our friend Debbie was going to meet us. She mentioned to us that she could take us to a party in Manhattan hosted by some FIT students – Debbie’s new friend had invited her to come. Amelia’s artist roommates called their drug dealer and he brought some blow for us to do. We did that blow.
We arrived at the FIT party. I was in a state of excitement. I talked to some girl with cool glasses about cool glasses. I was really sped up, and it seemed like our conversation covered a lot ground in only a few minutes, so much so that I think she got sick of talking to me. Well, damn it! I thought, I’m sick of talking to you, too. A version of the same thing happened with several people, with one of us tiring of the other’s conversation in short order. It seemed like there was a whirlwind of activity, propelled by blow and an Adderol Jordan had handed me when we arrived.
I walked in the kitchen to find a beer. Stephanie was there, from out of the past. I was taken aback. She handed me a blunt. I got blunted. People came and went, and we sat on the floor against the wall and talked.
Even high on drugs, she was extremely lucid and composed, whereas I was talking nonsense. I was talking about how a Seinfeld rerun I had seen the other day had spoken to a recent experience, and she was talking about her tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend.
Suddenly, my attention was grabbed when I realized she was talking about an “ex,” and not a current boyfriend.
“I’ve realized that so many of my relationships, including this last one, have been empty and shallow and all about the sex. Guy was a model before he came here from Paris and the sex was so crucial to our relationship, he was so attractive. But I’m beginning to feel empty, you know?”
“Hm. I haven’t found that to be my experience,” I said. We continued to talk about the Serious Things, or rather, she did, and I listened attentively. Does she want me? I wondered. I felt inadequate to the experience. I thought about all the thinking I had been doing about my game or lack thereof, and I thought, damn it, I’m going to play this cool for once. I interrupted her to ask her for her phone number. She gave it to me, and instead of continuing to speak with her and inevitably embarrassing myself, something I seem to do when I get blunted, I made some excuse or other, and joined my friends.