Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Choose Your Own Adventure

For no particular reason, I've been thinking about friends from college recently. I haven't seen most of those people since we graduated. Commuters never make the same kind of lasting friendships as the resident students.

(That, and I'm shy as hell and don't make new friends easily. But that's not the point.)

One of those long-lost friends is Dave. Dave and I went to community college together. I was there because I couldn't afford all four years at a private college. He was there because he had messed around aimlessly before focusing on his goal of a degree in engineering. We bonded in the computer lab between classes.

Dave was one of those people that I could talk to for hours and never worry about running out of conversation. We had a strange spark in our ability to disagree twice as often as we agreed. (Maybe more than that.) I love a good fight, and he seemed to enjoy the banter as much as I did. He'd get a sparkle in his eye when he knew I'd challenge him on a topic.

We both transferred to the same college for our junior year. We ended up in a few classes together, including my last class of the day. Every afternoon, he'd walk me to my car and linger to chat a little, even though it was in the opposite direction of his next class. We'd talk about all kinds of things; what we wanted from life, our dreams for the future, why we both thought we were broken souls.

As the months went on, there were times he seemed to want to say something more. But he never did. He'd just stare at me a little too long and give me a weird grin. I always left confused, wondering - how did he really feel? It drove me crazy. I knew how I felt. I liked him. We were friends. Maybe, I thought, we could be more.

In the fall of our senior year, a million crazy things happened in my life. By the following spring, I was dating Jete seriously. (That's its own long story that I'll save to tell another day.)

I had pretty much given up on Dave by this time. He seemed resigned that he wasn't ready for any next steps with me, or I wasn't good enough for him, or no one in the world was. In any case, I lost interest, even though he didn't stop his usual behavior. He continued to walk me to my car. He'd stop me in the hallways to chat. He acted jealous when my attention was turned to conversation with anyone but him.

I invited him to my graduation party, and much to my surprise, he came. He didn't stay long. He had a few beers and hung out for a little while. He stayed just long enough to request a song for me, one with my name in it. He grinned his doofy smile at me when the DJ played it. He left shortly after that and I haven't spoken to him since.

This afternoon, I heard that song on the radio. I haven't heard it for at least a year, and I thought it was appropriate to hear it when thinking about Dave. I hear through the grapevine he's still single, still living at home, still keeping his standards so high that no one can meet them.

Really, I wasn't thinking about Dave. I was thinking about me. My life and the roads I've taken. It's amazing how different things can turn out with even the slightest change. If he had been braver, if I had more self esteem, things might have been different. Looking back, I know it wouldn't have lasted, but it would have put me on an entirely different course. I never would have started dating Jete that next spring. Circumstances as they were, our paths wouldn't have crossed again. Our moment would have passed.

I used to believe that everything happens for a reason. I don't anymore, but I do believe in hanging on and letting life take you for a ride sometimes. I believe in making the most of the choices you've made. Usually, your inner voice will lead you in the right direction. Now that I have the perspective of 10 years and two children, I'm glad things worked out the way they did.

But don't think I wouldn't love to hear Dave admit how he really felt all those years ago.


erica said...

Oh man, if I didn't know Dave, I'd swear he was BWBMH. Heh.

Dave is...well, he's Dave. He's a victim of both ridiculously low self-esteem, and at the same time an inflated sense of self. He's too afraid to go after what he wants, so he sits at home and mopes or goes to the stupid Lion's (Tiger?) club and does body shots off of some girl.

And don't forget: I've been Dave's date. He's a terrible date, really. :)

Mete said...

Dave and BWBYH are symbolic of every stupid boy out there. They're very different on the outside, but essentially got the same screwed up ideals.

Lock them in an apartment together - they'd make for an interesting Odd Couple reality show. I'd start watching TV for that.

erica said...

Haha, that'd last about 2 minutes! Dave would pull out his camouflauge fishing hat, and BWBMH would be outta there.