♥This story is brought to you for Valentine’s Day by writer Russell Elkins, author of Open Adoption, Open Heart. He has part 2 of Open Adoption, Open Heart coming out soon, as well as a fiction novel of the “romantic comedy” genre. You can read more of his stories on his blog.
We’d been college roommates for about three months now and were partners in crime to tackle the dating world. We gave each other advice whether it was needed or even wanted.
“What are ya waiting for?”
“Well, you must be waiting for something. What is it?”
I really wasn’t waiting for anything, but I hadn’t really wanted to tell him the truth—the truth about what happened when I did try to kiss her.
“Okay, fine. I tried to kiss her.”
“You tried? What does that mean you tried? Did you miss?”
“Shut up. I mean that she turned her head.”
“You know what you need? You need to go out with someone else. If it works out with Angie later on, great. If not, at least you’re not just hanging out doing nothing. What are you doing Friday?”
“I was planning to just go over to Angie’s.”
“Not anymore you’re not. Who else do you want ask out?”
“I don’t have anybody in mind.”
“Okay then. Go into your first class tomorrow morning and sit next to the prettiest girl in the room. Ask her out.”
I’d never done anything that brave. Sure, I’d asked out pretty girls before, but never someone I didn’t know. “Are you serious?”
“Okay, okay. I’ll do it if you do it too.”
It was a deal. I was going to ask out a total stranger and he was going to do the same. We’d go to dinner and a movie—nothing special. It was only meant to be a good chance to flirt with someone new.
I showed up early to my music theory class, but waited in the hall, watching scanning every girl as she entered the room. That’s when I noticed her for the first time and that’s when I finally went in, strategically placing my nervous self in the open seat to her right.
“So, uh… what instrument do you play?” I asked. It was a normal enough question—one that started a lot of conversations in Music Theory 101.
“Flute. How about you?”
“Really? Guitar? Anything else?”
“I play around with other stuff, I guess. But yeah. Mostly just guitar. Is that okay?”
“Course it is. It’s just that I don’t meet many music majors whose instrument is the guitar.”
“Oh, I’m not a music major. I’m just taking this class for fun.”
The guy sitting in front of me spun around. “Are you serious?”
“You’re taking music theory for fun? You think this class is fun?”
I froze. I was uncomfortable enough without jerks butting in.
“Well, I think it’s cool,” she said. “I wish I loved theory. I think it’s hard.”
“I could help you study sometime if you’d like—if you’re ever having trouble with something in particular.”
“I think I’d like that. I’m Mandy, by the way.”
I was halfway there. She’d agreed to see me outside of class, even if it was just to study. The next words out of my mouth couldn’t be, “It’s a date. Can I pick you up Friday? Say, around seven?” No. That wouldn’t work. Mark and I already agreed upon dinner and a movie, not chord progressions and key signatures.
Class started before I could muster up the courage to take our conversation up a notch, which left me stewing in my seat for nearly an hour. What was I going to say? What would she answer in return? If this blew up in my face I would have to sit on the other side of the room for the rest of the semester, which couldn’t be all bad because I wouldn’t have to sit next to Mr. Conversation-invader.
Finally, the bell rang. I watched her stuff her books into her bag. Still, no words came out of my mouth. She stood up and slipped her arms into her jacket.
“Well,” she said. “It was nice to meet you Ru—“
“Wanna go to a movie on Friday?” There! I said it. Even if she said no, I did my part. I asked someone besides Angie out. It was done. Relief flooded into me after I finally got the words to come out, but then I realized her answer was the second half of the story problem. Anxiety filled me again.
“Uh… a movie? Want to go with me to a movie on Friday?”
“Umm.” She paused, thinking, obviously caught off guard. “Sure. I’ll go with you. What time?”
I got her phone number, address, and we set up a time. I did it! The hardest part was done! Now all I had to do was wait two days for Friday to come, then I’d go pick her up. Who knows—this may even turn into something.
Then there was Mark. Good ol’ reliable Mark. Always there when I needed some advice about dating.
“What do you mean you never asked anybody out?” I asked. “You said you were going to—“
“I know. I forgot.”
“So bring Yvonne.”
“Not a good idea.”
“Just go without us.”
I tried and tried to convince him to find a quick date, but each girl I named was either unable or it was a bad idea.
When time came for me to pick Mandy up, Mark was still dateless.
“Does Mandy live here? Is she here?” I felt more than awkward.
“You must be Russ. She’s back in her room on the phone.”
“Should I just hang out for a minute? Or—“
“Um. I think she’s probably going to be a while. She said she’d call you when she was finished.”
It was the mid 1990’s back then, which meant I didn’t have a cell phone. Waiting for her call meant waiting back at my own apartment.
She could have just said no if she didn’t want to go.
It had been an hour and a half since I sheepishly walked away from her front door. How long was I supposed to wait? Was she ever going to call? Do I even want her to call anymore?
Eventually the phone rang and Mandy was on the other end. “I’m so sorry about that. Do you still want to go?”
“Yeah. It would be good to take my mind off of things.”
I guess that was good enough for me. If I couldn’t be a Romeo, I could at least be a distraction—even if I didn’t know what I was distracting her from.”
I picked her up and we were on our way to the theater. And by “picked her up,” I mean that I walked to her place and we walked to the theater together in the twenty degree weather. I didn’t have a car my freshman year.
We were far too late for the time we had originally planned to see the movie, so we bought tickets for the next showing an hour later. Since our evening didn’t kick off until much later than we had anticipated, we had both eaten dinner before I came by the second time. Our dinner plans were gone.
We had a full hour to talk about the phone call she had just finished with her boyfriend back home in Arizona—or maybe I should say ex-boyfriend. Getting asked out by a random guitar playing musician was just the push she needed to break off her long distance relationship, and we had a full hour to talk about it. True story.