Karen was one of those pretty little blond teenage girls. The kind that nobody ever took seriously. She was all of five feet tall, and she couldn't have weighed more than 100 lbs. She spent a lot of her time just trying to be noticed. She desperately wanted to be popular, intelligent, and most of all, to be taken seriously. Although she was old enough to drive, Karen was constantly being mistaken for a little girl. Waiters in restaurants would hand her the childrens menu, old people would ask her what grade she was in, that sort of thing. At first glance Karen appeared to be maybe 11 years old. You would have to look closer to see that she was in fact about 5 years older. Karen made this worse by the clothes she wore. She wore a lot of what I would have to call "Little Girl Clothes", you know cheap colored shirts and shorts from Wal Mart, that sort of thing

Karen's father had moved nearby for some job vaguely related to the church I attended. I developed an interest in her fairly quickly. I asked her to go out with Ryan, his girlfriend and I. She said yes. I picked her up in my lowrider truck. (The whole truck thing was a cry for attention for me). The date was rather uneventful except for when we first got to the restaurant. The waiter handed Karen a children's menu. Karen did not take this well. She went off. I fell head over heels for her while she was yelling at the waiter. You know how some girls are pretty when they are mad, well Karen was beautiful when she was mad. She screamed at the waiter about how could he be so stupid as to give her a Kid's Menu when she was obviously on a date with her boyfriend. Unfortunately that was the only time in my years with Karen she ever referred to me as her boyfriend. At the end of the night I took her home. No kiss but she said she had a great time.

Soon Karen was my regular friday night date. Never just the two of us though. Ryan and Melissa would always be there too. Over time I made my feelings very clear to Karen. She knew how much I liked her. But she would never consent to actually being my girlfriend. Sometimes she was unsure of her feelings, other times she said she was uncomfortable with the fact that I was two years older than her. She never actually said that she didn't like me that way. She at times would even encourage me. "In March I will be 17 and then we will only be one year apart!" was one thing she said that stuck out in my mind. Along with other little things about how "great I was", and how "good I was to her". But she would never just make up her mind one way or the other about me.

One thing that always really confused me was how jealous Karen would get when I would date other girls. Karen wasn't my girlfriend, (and had the best excuses everytime I asked her to be), she even encouraged me to date other girls. (Karen herself never dated anyone but me). Then she would meet them, Oh God was she jealous. "She's not very pretty", "You can do better than that" and, "My sister told me that she's a slut." are all things that Karen had told me about other girls I would date. This would usually get me to stop dating the other girls and just date Karen again. (Maybe this was exactly what she wanted).

Karen often claimed, (to other people especially), that we weren't dating. But we were. When you pick up a girl in your car, take her out someplace, pay for her, hold doors open, compliment them, and all of that stuff, it is a date. The only thing we didn't do was kiss. I wanted to, I tried fairly often, but it never happened. Karen and I would just talk whenever Ryan and his girlfriend would inevitably start making out. The talks where what I liked best. We would talk about our feelings, our plans for the future. Karen would alternate between encouraging me to pursue her further, and persuading me not to. At the end of the night we would always park in her driveway, talk a little more, and then hug. Sometimes I would try to kiss her after the hug but she would always stop me. "I'm not ready yet", "I'm not sure", and "When we do finally kiss I want it to be perfect" were all things she said. The last one always gave me a lot of hope, (because it fairly clearly stated that we would kiss). Thats how she was though. One day she would be sitting on my lap telling me nice things about myself, the next day she would be pointing out other girls for me. Karen was always very confusing like that.

Dating Karen was in many ways one disaster after another. If something bad was going to happen to her, it would happen when we were together. People would think she was a little girl, and she would get upset. She would manage to spill things, or fall down and get hurt. Karen was the only girl who ever managed to break her arm while she was on a date with me. We were at the park, and she managed to fall off the merry go round, (fracturing her arm). Another time we went to a carnival, she was so pretty that day. She was exceptionally happy about her new outfit. (It was all white, and very cute). First she managed to sit in motor oil, completely ruining her shorts. Then it started raining, making her white shirt basically transparent. She freaked out once she realized that everyone could see right through her shirt. It wasn't just her shirt, you could see right through her white shorts as well. (I couldn't bear to tell her though, she was already upset enough). Then the very next time we went out she managed to reveal herself to everyone once again. We were swimming, Karen lost her swimsuit bottom when she jumped off the diving board. Somehow she didn't notice at first. Later she yelled at me for looking. Then there was the case of the time we almost kissed. This was in the parking lot of Applebee's. We were talking. I hugged her and kissed her forehead. She told me softly that she was ready. I leaned in to kiss her. Before I did she yelled, "Oh my god theres two guys kissing in the car next to us!". I looked over and saw that there were. She then asked to go home. So I took her home, (once again), without so much as one kiss from the girl I truly adored.

At some point in all this I began seeing Brianna, but things were right back to normal with Karen after Brianna and I broke up. Karen couldn't stand Brianna. She never said anything nice to her, and acted quite snobby to her face when they would end up around each other.

Things ended with Karen and I when I joined the Army. She would write me letters from time to time. But she was rarely home when I would try and call her. By the time I got out of the Army, (1 year and 2 broken ankles later), Karen had a steady boyfriend, a "real boyfriend". I tried to find out from her a few years later how she had really felt. But she acted confused and tried to minimize the whole thing. For a long time I was never sure how she truly felt about me.

Years later my friends drug me to a rather boring Halloween party. When we arrived I immediately found the hostess of the party to be strangely familiar. After a few minutes I placed her, she was Karen's older sister, I hadn't seen her in probably 8 years.

Sure enough, Karen herself showed up soon after I did. She was with her new fiance. I said hello, she said hello, and as I walked away I heard him ask her "Paige? Is that Paige, like your first boyfriend Paige?". I just barely heard her say "Yeah, shut up". I am glad my back was turned, I didn't want her to see the smile on my face. Those two little lines finally brought another subplot from my life to a nice happy ending, and cleared up every bit of confusion I ever had about her.

Karen married that guy a few years later, her parents invited me to the wedding, but I did not attend. Every once in a while I'll see her in a restaurant, she will pretend she doesn't notice me, and I'll pretend not to notice her, as there isn't anything left for us to do.

Ah, to have the day off and to go see a movie. There’s nothing quite like it, especially if you take a lady friend along to keep you company.

The movies are less enjoyable these days… sigh. It’s those stupid commercials that they put in before the show… And now they play them before the lights go down too. This is the death of the romantic date. I find it hard to carry on a conversation with that idiot noise coming from in front of us. Is this how people with televisions live?

“Honey, could you…”

“Could I… What?”

“Uh… wait a minute…”

Fuck that noise. I could be staring into the crystal blue eyes of a beautiful woman or I can watch Antigone … What-ever-the-band-is-called whore themselves out to make a buck.

So, the lights go down and there is this… Coca-cola commercial. A girl about my age is sitting on a bench and she opens a bottle (or can) of Coke. Little bubbles fill the screen and some sort of bastard hip-hop swells in the theater and she starts dancing. She dances through a myriad of scenes where everyone is happy and dancing along to the music.

The girl I’m with taps me on the shoulder.

“That’s not a commercial for Coke, they’re advertising mushrooms!”

Uncontrollable laughter from my end. Good Lord, she’s right.

    1. Bubbles. Obviously a hallucinatory effect.

2. Everybody’s happy. Last time I did mushrooms, I smiled and giggled a lot.

So I am to infer that Coca-cola would like me to believe that their product produces the same effects as mushrooms. Ha! If only. Mushrooms are hard to get.

Alas. it is a dirty lie these Coke-fiends propagate.

"It's... uh... about four miles to Chicago, I've got a full cup of coffee, half an essay, it's September, and I'm already wearing a parka. Hit it."

Or: How I learned to stop partying and love the nerd.

Or: Adventures of a Wayward College Kid.

Yep, it's true. I am a brand new freshman at the good old University of Chicago. That's the UofC, to us reg'lars. And it's not really that old. In fact, just last week the dean was discovered at midnight, elmer's in hand, gluing ivy to the walls of some of the buildings on the north side of campus. This is the college that was intentionally made out of really bad bricks, just so that it would get old faster. Think something along the lines of those pre-abused jeans that they sell at the mall. Don't want to rip jeans yourself? Let third-world orphan sweatshop children rip them for you!

I was kidding about the essay (finished it about five minutes ago), but I actually do have Calc. in half an hour. And then I might just drop by the local cafe for a piping hot cup of elitism, with a side of synthesized superiority (the animal-friendly alternative!). The name of said cafe? "Intelligenzia."

(Not to belabor the point, but rumor has it that they don't speak in full sentences there. Instead, they function on such a high level they they only use a top-secret genius code.

P1: Emerson...

P2: Leaves of Grass?

P1 {shakes head}: Oedipus Rex, Freud... Nietzsche!

Amazing.)

So, ok, a little bit about social skills at UChicago. I met this kid at a frat party (how many great stories start off that way? Oh, right. None. Sorry.), name of Detrick. We're introduced, but it's one of those lame, 'don't really have anything to say to each other' introductions that consists of:

"Hey."

"Um, hey."

"So, you a freshman?"

"Yeah, heh. Wild time, huh?"

"What?"

"Uh.. I said it's a wild time."

"Ok."

"Yeah." (You utter bastard! Did you note the worldly smile? That half-bored look? I practiced that for an hour, and you're staring at the weird blue punch they're trying to pass off as a tasty beverage.)

"Well, I'll see you around some time."

"Mmm."

Ahhh, that's right, in our daylogs we don't sugarcoat it. We give it to you straight. Every awkward, painful, 'why the hell didn't this bullshit stay in high school where it belongs' moment of it.

Anyway, a few nights later I come back to my room and find a note on my door. "Ashley, follow the arrows." I look for arrows. And lo and behold, there they are! Drawn on about five thousand pieces of tape, leading away from my room and down the hallway. I follow, picking up three curious onlookers on my way. Where do the mysterious arrows lead? To a ventilation shaft, where a piece of paper has been carefully placed.

Inside, the words "Hey Ashley! You hungry? Have a snack!", alongside two pretzels. Pretzels soaked in pure date-rape, according to my rapt audience. By this time it consists of five girls and Jake, all following me down the hall.

The end? Not yet. After the pretzel incident, the arrows led us to the stairs. Up two floors, and then they spiraled around the doorknob to the sixth floor. There was really only one thing to do. I opened the door, waited patiently while half of the people from my floor filed in after me, and then looked around for more arrows. The hallway decorations (which I think are required to be in equal parts lame and acid-trippy) were lego-themed, and tucked behind one yellow paper lego hand was an envelope with the name Detrick on it.

All eleven of us were suitably intrigued when the envelope turned out to be empty. But there was a room number written underneath the name, and so we all turned and looked down the hall just in time to see someone sprint away, top speed, and disappear around the corner. I suppose it's understandable, though. By that point the fifteen of us were kind of a force to be reckoned with.

We tracked him down a few minutes later, and he and I went through a rough reenactment of our earlier conversation. Only with a surprise ending; he revealed what was going to go in the letter, had we been just a little slower following the arrows. Now, why he felt compelled to set this up at eight at night, I just couldn't tell you.

His plan, as far as I could make out, was to call some girl that I knew in high school, ask her my favorite song (which, given that it would be by either Green Day or Andrew Lloyd Webber, would have been entertaining), and then write out the lyrics and leave it for me to find.

BUT HE DIDN'T FINISH. How humiliating! An 8 PM stalker who runs out of time, and comes face to face with not only the stalk-ee, but with half of Bishop House as well.

It was the second day, and, really... what the hell? There is just no way of expressing the confusion I felt.

Alright, well, it's time for calculus class, and then I'm off to mainline some school spirit with my fellow UofCers. Apparently a certain special E2er wants to do a little vicarious living (something, I suspect, along the lines of "Whoa. Your entire room is smaller than the trashcan I keep my cleaning supplies in"), so I'll probably post a few more random stories. Just as soon as I finish that essay.

The funniest thing of all? Despite the nearly school-wide superiority complex, the really remarkably cold weather (and my roommate's air conditioning is ALWAYS ON), and the way the ivy keeps coming unglued and falling on people, I am completely and utterly in love with this place.

Besides, Chicago has some kick-ass pizza.

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