Deception may give us what we want for the present, but it will always take it away in the end.
~ Rachel Hawthorne
Throughout my life, I would occasionally experience a strange sensation upon encountering certain people for the first time. It was an eerie tingling; a prickle across my skin like a wayward ant at a summer picnic. A muted voice would whisper, “You will know them.”
This phenomenon occurred the precise moment I first saw Adam Friedman take the stage with an a capella group during the fall of my freshman year at bucolic Bucknell University. There to support my talented vocalist hallmate, my entire hall tribe was abuzz with excitement to watch him perform with The Rich Paupers. I remembered remarking on the group’s effervescent energy, their harmonious vocals soaring through the cavernous commons.
The group rearranged for their next song, and a sharply dressed and unconventionally handsome black-haired young man took center stage for a solo. He sang “Stand” by R.E.M. with comedic brilliance, flawlessly matching the distinct nasal vocalizations of Michael Stipe. His charisma and confidence was enchanting, with a feline movement that defied the typical awkwardness of my bumbling freshman class. Staring at this young man, the prickle began: my body was signaling that he was somehow going to be a significant part of my life. Thinking of my long-term high school boyfriend, I worked to quickly dismiss this thought as preposterous.
Two months later in January, I found myself newly single and knocking on the door of a music room in Gettysburg Hall to audition for fresh openings in The Paupers. My recent breakup was emotionally draining, and I was ready for the chance to start fresh by reclaiming my voice with this talented group. I rechecked and smoothed my respectably conservative outfit of blue plaid button-down shirt over a white lace camisole, unflattering beige cargo pants, and tan Birkenstocks. Sadly, the late 90’s were not the high point of my fashion career, and every day I found creative new ways to obscure my then voluptuous curves.
Passing a mirror in the hallway, I quickly appraised my hair and makeup in the harsh fluorescent lights. I wasn’t what you would call a classic beauty; strong eastern european and slightly asymmetrical features and a healthy layer of baby fat coupled with terribly acne-prone skin. I sported an unfortunate mullet-like bob haircut(no thanks to a distracted salon stylist) that was finally growing out. But it was a marked improvement over my high school legacy of metal braces and Coke-bottle glasses. I arrived at the audition room, and softly rapped on the metal door.
I was summoned into the room, a small but cheerful den with musical instruments lining the walls and a smattering of talented singers draped onto chairs and tables. I instantly wanted to be a part of this troupe. The enthusiastic greetings I received upon walking in were just the thing I needed to relax and feel grounded in preparing for my audition. A petite blonde girl announced herself as Audrey, the group leader. She recited the instructions and introduced each member of the group.
“And over here, we have Adam.” she said, motioning to a figure towards the back of the room. I started. It was the dark young man I saw during the fall performance whom I’d nearly forgotten. Our eyes locked for the briefest moment, sending an unexpected electric charge through my body.
“And what have you prepared for us today?” she ebulliently asked. I steeled my nerve to match their enthusiasm and turned to address the entire room of grinning faces as I spoke.
“Hi everyone!! So today I’ll be singing-“ I paused for a split second as my gaze landed on Adam again, and nearly forgot the rest of my sentence.
“Ah, I’ll be singing ‘Possession’ by Sarah McLachlan,” I continued while nervously clearing my throat, which had a pesky habit of closing up shop when on the spot to perform.
“Listen as the wind blows, across the great divide…” I sang soulfully, channeling the dark, passionate obsession behind Sarah’s cryptic lyrics. Concluding my final verse, I inhaled deeply and awaited their reaction. First a brief pause, and then an explosion of applause with a sprinkle of “Wow!” and “Nice!!” After the emotional roller coaster I’d been on the past few weeks, this was just the boost I needed.
Audrey finished clapping and exclaimed, “That was awesome, Ella! Thanks so much for coming to audition, we’ll let you know in a few days!” I nearly broke into a run back to my dorm in excitement, thrilled with my audition.
Several days later on cue, I was flash mobbed by my new acapella group, my hall mates enthusiastically joining in a group singing and jumping hug. The dark-haired gentleman was noticeably absent.
Heading into Calculus class several days later, I was playfully accosted by behind. Turning around, I came face to face with the mysterious dark horse. My heart dropped.
“Fancy seeing you here, gorgeous,” the mystery man flirted with a smirk.
Caught off-guard by his compliment, (I had never been called gorgeous by anyone other than my great Aunt Mona before), I gathered my wits and replied, “Yes what are the chances, it’s almost as if we attend the same school.” He laughed heartily in response.
“Adam…remember?”and proceeded to strike up a conversation about how I liked the school, what classes did I take, etc. My heart pounded in my ribs; there was something about this human that affected me in a way I’d never experienced. Although he was by no means blindingly attractive in the traditional GQ model sense, he possessed an energy that I couldn’t resist feeling drawn to. It was both exhilarating and terrifying.
The next evening, a soft knock on my dorm room door jarred me out of an intense scouring of Napster, the lilting lyrics of Fiona Apple’s “Tidal” softly emanating from my computer speakers. Not expecting any visitors this late, I peered through my peephole and nearly choked. It was Adam. I briefly hesitated, and then slowly opened the door to an unstoppable force of nature.
“Hey, Ella. Remember me?” he smiled.
I attempted to conceal my shock with feigned confusion. “Hmm…are you here to… take care of my thermostat problem?” His face broke into a dazzling smile and he quickly stepped forward to sweep me into a hug. Taking my head in his hands, he playfully kissed both cheeks in classic European fashion. He smoothly moved past me as I attempted to steady myself from his whirlwind energy.
I watched in fascination as this foreign creature deliberately took stock of my room. He appraised every inch of my humble nest, from my creatively strung christmas lights, to my framed hall family photos, to my black-and-green sunburst tie dye tapestry. “I LOVE your room!” he exclaimed. “It’s so cozy in here. My girlfriend would love it.” A tiny piece of my heart fell at these words. Of course, he has a girlfriend. How could someone like him NOT be already taken? I took him in as he took in my room; jet-black spiked hair, angular, chiseled features, small yet captivating brown eyes. Not much taller than me, but athletically enticing in his fitted black French Connection sweater and distressed Riccardi jeans.
Adam continued, “How did you manage to get a single?” I recounted how my first roommate had changed schools after one semester, and the vacancy had apparently evaded the school’s attention. He remarked on my good luck and proceeded to engage me in deep conversation about my friends, my major (or lack thereof), and my past relationships. There was no room for small talk; he insisted we go deep and I was instantly enchanted by his intelligence, wit, and charisma.
Late into the evening, a pause manifested itself into our vivid conversation. He began a lingering stare into my eyes, and immediately I felt unseated by his gaze. “You know, you have beautiful eyes,” he said softly. The hairs on my neck stood at attention; his gaze was penetrating into places I didn’t fully understand and was creating a buildup of electric charge akin to the moments before lightning strikes. I felt…vulnerable. He looked away and our conversation resumed its animated pace. Upon his late exit, I stood in the middle of my room attempting to comprehend what had just unfolded.
Several days later, Adam arrived again. We shared an Asian chicken ramen bowl and discussed the existence of God (or lack thereof, in his eyes). Then Adam showed up again two days after. After a few weeks, Adam was making nightly appearances. And each night, we would find new depths of our psyches to explore. Our conversations traversed many paths: musings on music, our high school experiences, my recent breakup, and relationship nuances with Lissa, his gorgeous high school paramour. Some nights, he would rave about her dark beauty, poise, and sharp wit. Other nights he would hint that he felt bored with her immaturity and restrained in their intimacy.
Adam’s nightly visits evolved into an unexpected real-world education for me. Our alchemical fire was stoked by our shared passionate and possessive only-child and Scorpio heritage. But that’s where our similarities ended. He was a silver-spoonfed prep school darling from Boston with terribly wealthy friends. This sharply contrasted with my modest, sober, and sheltered life in the verdant hills of Monmouth County, NJ. While my Friday nights entailed Star Trek marathons with my parents, he was dropping wads of cash with the Bostonian Euroset at the most exclusive clubs on Landsdowne Street.
As such, Adam pulled me into a world of indulgence and extravagance; trips to shopping malls upgraded from the Sears clearance rack to Armani Exchange and Diesel. He orchestrated my virginal dances with Mr. Long Island Iced Tea (complete with virginal hangover) and, most reluctantly, Miss Mary Jane. I had spent my entire high school career floating in a cloud of “smug” over my straight-laced substance avoidance. I had categorically dismissed anyone partaking in marijuana as aimless potheads whose literary contemporaries included Beavis and Butthead. But smoking up with Adam wasn’t just a means to get stupid; for us, he introduced it to me as exercise in examining depths on all facets of our short lives while watching the rhythms of Massive Attack’s trip hop beats undulate within the herbaceous clouds.
It was also an effective way to numb my increasing guilt over the emotional connection unfolding between us despite his monogamous shackles. As our tether strengthened in intellectual stimulation and emotional vulnerability, I began to fantasize about moments of weakness with our defenses lowered. The fact that I knew he was a passionate man and hadn’t made a move on me only stoked my fire. As a lover, I was quite unskilled and inexperienced, yet highly imaginative with a voracious sexual appetite for only the one I was infatuated with.
But Adam was no rookie in the lovemaking arena. His intimidating sexual roster consisted of ten gorgeous trust fund babies and Italian models by age 18. I did my best to ignore the fact that I was playing in a sandbox filled with quicksand. Oddly enough, Lissa was the roadblock I needed to protect myself from letting myself fall for him and our platonic veneer was my safety net. But I would later come to terms that this was the exact mechanism by which he would penetrate my defenses, his seduction cleverly concealed within a Trojan horse of chasteness.
But it wasn’t long for the canaries in the coal mine to begin singing their foreboding melody.
One evening at dinner the campus cafeteria, Adam made meaningful eye contact with a shifty brunette. He smiled devilishly and shouted, “Hey, Gia…” Observing her reaction, she merely returned the greeting with a snide half-smile and eye roll.
“Who is she?” I asked, unsure I wanted to know the answer.
“Oh, she’s just a girl from my hall,” he replied while avoiding my gaze. “Word on the street is, she has a massive crush on me, but we’re just good friends.” I left knowing there was more to this story, but ignorance was still bliss.
Another evening, one of my hall mates took me aside as I was heading back from the co-ed shower. “Ella, can I talk to you for a sec?” she asked.
“Sure thing sweets, come with me to get changed.” As I put on my favorite fuzzy pirate-themed pajamas, my friend recounted a story from one of her class acquaintances. Adam was the star.
“…my friend was in the a capella group last semester, but she dropped out this year. Adam began talking to her and then visiting her every day. When the Paupers took a trip to Philly for a show in October, he seduced her into having sex. She gave in even though she resisted at first because he has a girlfriend. She feels awful about it to this day. I don’t trust this guy, Ella. Will you promise you’ll be careful?”
Her warning landed like a jab to my throat. My instincts were already on high alert that I was walking a fine line of developing a friendship that looked and felt more like a relationship, minus the physical intimacy. And, that his charisma was well-practiced with other women. I nervously pushed aside my discomfort and attempted to reassure her.
“Thanks for telling me, sweetie, I really appreciate that you want to protect me. But listen, you don’t have to worry. We’re just good friends. I’m not even that attracted to him, and I would NEVER do anything to violate his relationship. Promise!” I meant to mean these words, and yet I couldn’t ignore a certain hollowness about them.
My dubiously reassuring words faded into the background several weeks later when I found myself dozing off in Adam’s bed after hours of conversation, too many Mike’s Hard Lemonades and a round on his bowl. The soft glow of his christmas lights and muted, droning beats of SneakerPimps had rendered me nearly comatose. His encouragement of me to stay over appeared well-intentioned enough, and the trek back to my hall seemed daunting akin to that of Lawrence of Arabia’s desert expedition.
Hours later, I groggily awoke to the sensation of hands traveling across my body.
The next few hours were a sensory odyssey; I reveled in the feeling of Adam’s fingers gently gliding above my dance gear, the sound of his breath in my ear intensifying as he brushed past my intimate areas, and the smell of his spicy French cologne permeating my nostrils. I had never before felt such arousal in my life, especially considering that we remained fully clothed. We both dozed off as the sun rose, completely intertwined, faces lightly touching. Upon waking fully, I crept out of his dorm room into a misty rain without a word, mindlessly stumbling through my day on pure adrenaline and a dizzying self-mindfuck of lust and shame.
When I returned to my room after class, I found him waiting for me outside my door. Without a word, I let him inside and we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. He finally broke the silence.
“I want to be with you, Ella,” he stated simply. I felt a commingled wave of exhilaration and crushing guilt. These were the exact words I wanted to hear, and yet I didn’t want to start a relationship like this.
“Well, we can’t,” I curtly replied while crossing my arms. “You can’t. And, that cannot happen again.” I wanted to mean these words so desperately, but the siren call of his mocha eyes and feline movement toward me rendered them meaningless. He carried me to bed and kissed me for the first time, never moving beyond those lines that night. It was the epitome of Tantric connection. But we didn’t stay in that realm for long. Night after night for weeks, we would brave slightly newer intimate waters, until we reached full sensuality with only our hands.
What made Adam stand apart from my boyfriends was how beautiful he made me feel. Me, the requisite high school ugly duckling plagued with a mortifying first name (Ella was my nickname) and who had been the school punching bag since second grade. Who had been invisible to most of the boys she pined for while her stunning model best friend Ariana held their captive attention.
Somehow, Adam saw straight through my reinforced shell of insecurity and coaxed out my timid inner vixen. He once stood me in front of a mirror completely nude and demanded that I look at myself. Did I understand what a beautiful, sexy body I had? Such long, wavy hair? Such lovely blue-gray eyes? The truth was, I had hidden from my own body because of the fear of inviting in the wrong eyes and hands. He would even let my hideous name roll of his tongue in moments of passion, transforming what had been a curse into a seduction.
And he allowed many seductive treasures to roll off of that deviant tongue. How he had never met a woman who intellectually stimulated him as much as I did. How I was the kind of woman he wanted to marry. And, during a moment of deep conversation about our nightly breaches of his relationship boundaries, that he was falling madly in love with me. Despite telling him that he couldn’t let that happen because he was committed, there was nothing my hungry heart wanted to hear more. And he knew it.
Still, I refused to allow his manhood inside my sacred chamber. This last bastion of intimacy was the hard limit I placed on our indiscretions as if somehow forbidding penetration made me less guilty of helping him cheat. This was about to change with a major rupture I didn’t at all anticipate.
One evening, I met him at his dorm for a faux date to a live jazz club. I found him in a distressed state.
“I just broke up with Lissa,” he growled. I was shocked; I knew they had some rough patches, but he still sounded so in love with her despite our affair.
“What happened?” I asked in earnest.
“She gave me some bullshit about needing affection at home. I just know it’s because she’s fucking this dude who was hanging around us when I went to visit her in the fall. I told her we were done, she called me an asshole, I hung up, and that’s that, ” he said robotically. Adam grabbed a pack of stashed menthols from his underwear drawer and lit a fresh cigarette.
I was at a total loss for words, and could only offer a meek “I’m…sorry.” Despite feeling deep compassion for both of them in this final rupture, I was ashamed to acknowledge the fountain of excitement I felt at this news. At last, Adam and I had a chance to be together cleanly, without the self-loathing of infidelity. A tidal wave of relief washed over my guilty, voracious limbs.
When we returned to my dorm that night, and I began unlocking my door, I turned around to find Adam leaning against the opposite wall, staring at me hungrily. As my hand turned the key in the deadbolt, he lunged forward, grabbed my hair near the scalp, and pushed me inside. The exquisite ravishing I would experience in the next six hours surpassed anything I had experienced before.
His seduction was masterful; unzipping and removing clothing at an excruciatingly slow pace, laying me down ever so gently on my bed, whispering wanton desires in my ear, and kissing and caressing every inch of my trembling body. And this time, my body was more than ready to receive him fully.
By the time he prepared to penetrate me, the sacred space between my thighs was slick with anticipation. He inched his way inside, pausing for a moment and whispering how far he had gone in. His final push sent a shockwave of ecstasy shooting up into my torso, knocking me breathless. With each thrust, my insides released and enveloped him, completely surrendering to his will.
The level of fever in our lovemaking did not diminish over the next three months, and Adam became the yardstick for all of my future (mostly less-skilled) lovers. There was no location safe from our passion. In the driver’s seat of his sleek black Audi A4, in our communal dorm shower, with his roommate in the room, on the floor of the den of a friend’s home surrounded by eight sleeping bodies. Our dual-Scorpio energy fused us into an insatiable frenzy.
Adam broke many of the rules I’d encountered with my first boyfriend; for one, he wasn’t afraid of having sex during my period. My ex, in his own words, was wary of any creature that bled for seven days without dying. And unlike with my ex, the passion didn’t end with Adam’s final climax. It would extend long into our post-coital haze with whispered sweet nothings and serenades in Spanish. But most of all, he was a giver. He didn’t ask for oral sex once and was only too happy to focus upon worshipping my body. Considering my aversion to giving fellatio, this was a dramatic difference that ironically inspired me to “give back”.
Suffice it to say, as only my second lover, Adam set my sexual bar high. However, our torrid sex life didn’t come prescribed without unpleasant side effects. As soon as we physically consummated, Adam persuaded me to go on the birth control pill since he didn’t like condoms. Although it seemed an innocuous request at the time, I didn’t fully comprehend the legacy of hormonal havoc this decision would wreak upon my developing body in the years to come. And yet, men often insist on their women ingesting a tiny pill that tricks their bodies into thinking they’re constantly pregnant, merely for their pleasure’s convenience.
Due to his legitimate fear of impregnating me, I never experienced the thrill of receiving his climax inside of me, and as such, I always felt a bit disconnected afterward. During one encounter, his penetration went so energetically deep that it triggered a wounding from a long ago, and I found myself crying in his arms after. But he only scoffed at me, asking why in the world I was crying after sex. I was too ashamed to explain and I vowed never to be that vulnerable again during lovemaking.
There was one other surprising nuance that only years later would I realize in retrospect. Adam never gave me a single orgasm. Not a one. Mind you, I often entered what I now believe to be an extended orgasmic state under his mastery, but I never experienced the complete “little death” as the French call it. Even worse…I faked them. Over and over again. Sometimes eight in one night. Now, I honestly believed I was climaxing, but all the while in the back of my mind I questioned the authenticity of my sensations. And according to my few friends lucky enough to have experienced orgasms by this nubile age, there’s no mistaking it.
Interestingly, my torrid infatuation with Adam did not confine my eye to his obsidian gaze. At least two other boys from class had caught my attention, and there were moments where I wistfully bemoaned being restricted from exploring outside. I found this curious as I was so sexually fulfilled with Adam, and wondered if there might be something wrong with me.
As the weeks wore on, my feelings for Adam deepened dangerously with no safety net. Despite even more warning signs that I wasn’t emotionally safe with him, I allowed my infatuation to transmute into hopeless enamorment. He possessed my waking and dreaming thoughts, and I began to envision a future of backyard barbecues and little ones running through sprinklers at luxurious summer homes in Cape Cod.
After about six weeks, I was still so entangled in his web that I made a bold move. I bought a thoughtful card and wrote a heartfelt note about all of the wonderful ways he’d turned my life upside down. I closed the note with a leap of vulnerability: the three magic words. I watched him read the card with anticipation. He politely thanked me, and casually replied, “And, of course I feel the same way.” Then he put the card down and changed the subject.
And, I continued to ignore the harbingers of doom. As I began to reveal more about my past and my thoughts, his judgments of me flowed faster. Judgments like “you have so much potential, if you would just change [your clothes, your hair, the weird things you say, etc.]” More and more focus was placed on what was wrong with me rather than what was right. And as the clumsiest dancer I know, my slapstick-worthy trips and falls were met not with gleeful endearment, but rather, his embarrassment. It was as if the gallant man in the mirror began changing his angle, creating distorted, circus mirror-like reflections of my deepest insecurities.
Both my intensifying attachment and increasing self-doubt came to a head on a rainy night during the final week of exams. A soft knock rapped at the door of my dorm room as I was straightening my hair. I beckoned the visitor to come in; it was Adam. Even though my body predictably lurched in excitement at his presence, the joyless look on his face was inescapable.
Something was very wrong.
I leapt to embrace Adam, but his body was rigid. Pulling back in concern, I asked, “Baby…what is it?”
“Lie down with me for a minute,” he said somberly. Alarm bells rang in every cell of my body; I knew that tone of finality all too well when it came to boys. I inhaled sharply in anticipation.
“I hate to do this, but…” he began forebodingly, “…I need to end things with you.”
The silent air hung between us for what felt like hours. I was speechless; I had no idea what I had done wrong, and I had just planned my entire summer around a relationship that no longer existed. He continued talking but the ringing in my ears kept drowning out his rationalizations for dumping me.
I faintly heard, “…want to be single this summer. I’m getting my own apartment, and my cousins from Italy are going to be in Boston. I just don’t want to be tied down right now.” I felt a wellspring of anger arise in my torso, and began a futile, pathetic protest.
“But, I, I already made plans to be with you! I’m spending my entire summer up there, what am I supposed to do now?!” I cried despondently.
“I’m not stopping you from coming up. you’ll love it there-“
“Do you just not feel the same way anymore?” I interrupted. “I don’t understand, we just made love yesterday! How could you do this to me now!!” I spewed.
“Hey, don’t act like you’re a victim here, ok?” he replied darkly. “I wasn’t under any obligation to keep our relationship.”
I stared at him, aghast at his frigidness. “Oh my god, I shouldn’t have told you I loved you. That was a mistake.”
“You’re right,” he replied coldly. “You shouldn’t have told me.” My jaw dropped. With these words so callously delivered, an invisible dagger pierced to the deepest, softest recess of my heart. Feeling my vulnerability being so viciously discarded was too much to bear. I exploded into tears, not understanding how I had shared such intimate space every day for three months with someone made of hardened ice. But deep down, you knew who he was, my inner critic reprimanded. You just chose to ignore the signals when everyone tried to warn you. Somehow, you thought you’d be different?
Adam took a deep breath and attempted to steady me.
“Listen Ella,” he said with the faintest note of compassion. “You’re an amazing girl. Honestly. I really enjoyed our time together. And you’re going to make some dude very happy, OK?” He put his arm around me as I quietly sobbed. No, not ok, I thought ruefully. I didn’t want some dude. I wanted him. I felt like we were just getting started climbing our mountain, and he cut my rope and dropped me into the precipice.
The next few days of final exams were a personal purgatory. I spiraled into a vortex of self-loathing and self-pity with no attempt to see the light at the end of a dark tunnel I created for myself. I attended my exams with bloodshot eyes and a violent cough that arose hours after our rupture, leaving the exam room acutely aware of my atrocious performance. I tore through a 30-pack case of mushroom ramen, wore the same pajamas for a week, and didn’t shower once. I was a pitiful mess and I didn’t care.
In between exams, some friends and I ventured to The Underground tavern for a drunken X-Files marathon. The green neon lights eerily swam in the painted black cinderblock walls through my swollen eyes. Someone I didn’t recognize struck up a conversation with a mutual friend. He spied me for a time, and then asked me a question that jolted me out of my depressed delerium.
“Hey, are you Adam Friedman’s girlfriend?” he asked. I snapped to attention.
“Um…I was. We…” I valiantly attempted to stay composed. “We just broke up.”
“Oh,” he said awkwardly, not realizing he had stumbled into delicate territory. Not deterred, he continued his inquisition. “I thought I saw you around the hall with him earlier this semester. I transferred out of his hall in March. I’m Steve,” he finished, extending his hand. Hey Steve, my inner grouch replied as I reluctantly shook his sweaty palm. I can’t tell how not interested I am in making your acquaintance.
Apparently he didn’t hear my grouch and continued. “Yeah well, that’s a bummer. I mean, it’s not surprising. That guy is a playaaaah!” I had a sudden urge to inflate Steve’s prematurely balding head with a tire pump until it made a satifying “pop!”.
“That might explain why I saw him with Gia yesterday.” I nearly choked on my Zima.
“What do you mean why you…saw him with her.” It aspired to be more of a pained rhetorical question, but of course he was too eager to answer.
“Well, I mean…” I detected his growing acknowledgement that he tripped a wire. “It’s ok,” I said in resignation. “You can tell me.” I regretted that sentence the instant it crept out of my mouth.
“Well…Adam and Gia hooked up, like, the first week of school. During orientation, I think. He was all talk about how in love he was with his girlfriend, and then he totally nailed Gia. He broke it off with her right before his girlfriend came to visit from Boston. Man, that guy is cold!”
My body flushed hot in realization at his words. Adam had cheated on Lissa with Gia, which is why she had stared us down in the cafeteria. Adam had boldly taunted Gia, gleefully almost, and lied to my face so elegantly. I began to wonder what other secrets he had withheld. My head swam with this highly unwanted information.
I stood up abruptly and excused myself, fighting a sudden wave of nausea. “Nice meeting you,” I murmured weakly.
“Yup, have a great summer!” he called after me. A few of my friends looked on in concern, and I waved them back to stay.
I stumbled home alone and vomited a disgusting brew of shitty malt liquor and cheesy bread into my trash can, heaving sobs of anger and betrayal into the mix.
The second to last day of school, I decided to resurrect my corpse and reunite with my hallmates for one last “fuck-this-shit” hurrah at our favorite frat house. This involved partaking in a haze of blacklights, Everclear punch served out of a garbage can, and reenacting Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” dance routine.
Sometime before sunrise, my crew and I sloppily stumbled past Adam’s dorm building. Suddenly, one of my closest friends stopped to shout, “Fuck you, Adam!” My jaw dropped in humiliation. Then the rest of my friends joined in a chorus of, “Up yours, Adam!” and “Suck it!” I couldn’t help feeling vindicated by this act of fealty, and I hooted in laughter at their silly solidarity.
I realized in that moment that I had completely neglected my hall family, continually forsaking my beloved nights of chasing each other with our faces creepily plastered with peel-off cucumber masks and playing Goldeneye on Nintendo64 with Jay-Z’s “Can I Get a Wha Wha” as our sniping soundtrack. I had left all of that behind for three months in order to indulge in more and more Adam. All to have it unravel just when I had thought our bond was stronger than ever. And yet, they still loved me unconditionally. Regret and adoration for them flowed through me.
I dared to look up at Adam’s window and noticed a shadowy movement in the window. I clearly saw his outline, and then that of a woman. The figure evoked was of Gia, his earlier conquest. Of course…the crushing realization he probably cheated on me with her toward the end. Or perhaps, he didn’t wish to cheat on me and preemptively broke up in order to satisfy his urges. Either way, it didn’t matter. We were done.
The final day of school arrived, and as quickly as my hall family’s whole lives had arrived in neon colored plastic crates, they vanished. Our hall was a ghost town, haunted with with remnants of laughter, hijinks, and tears that I had enjoyed and missed out on. Adam and I had arranged a brief goodbye for old time’s sake, and took a photo together with empty smiles and a tepid embrace. I would stare at that photo for months after, trying to energetically sew back together the invisible fabric between us that he ripped apart so suddenly.
As my father drove me away in our stuffed Ford Taurus, I looked one more time through the rear window and silent tears at the exquisitely landscaped Gothic campus. I didn’t realize it then, but that look was my last. My final exam performance was unsurprisingly abysmal, and my parents could no longer justify an Ivy League education bill with lackluster grades. Off to a brand new city still madly infatuated, and now alone. My parents sensed my wistfulness and took it upon themselves to unsolicitously discuss my love life.
“Did he try to…make you go to second base?” my father uncomfortably inquired. I squeezed my eyes shut in mortification, stifling an ironic laugh. Oh, Daddy, I thought sardonically. Your little girl’s getting coal in her stocking this Christmas.
I allowed Adam’s influence upon me to be a vice grip that held tight for the next decade. I spent years trying in some way to stay within his energy field. Befriending his roommate, smelling his cologne in department stores, and watching his AOL Instant Messenger handle go from active bold to inactive italic in my chat window every night. Some night were harder than others in ignoring my personalized pathos.
I hardly dated for the next two years. No man I met matched his intellect, his charisma, and his electrifying male vibration that could instantly render me his for the taking. As such, I imprisoned my sweet, guileless inner love child that had allowed his deception to grow such deep, gnarled and tangled roots. My love child could no longer be in my driver’s seat.
I scoured fashion magazines to transform myself into a designer-labeled version of myself that he would love. I dyed my hair a dark brunette color to match his preference of Italian models. I spent the next three summers in Boston, numbing myself with alcohol, marijuana, and mushrooms. Each day there I would pray I’d encounter him so I could show him that I’ve become exactly what he wants. In the process, I completely lost myself to the idea of someone I never truly knew.
And so were the harsh lessons of Adam: envy, indulgence, betrayal, and self-loathing. They had sat buried under years of relationships and heartache. Buried, yet very much alive. And there they remained, forgotten and dormant…until now.