It was mid-January when I met her. I was at the cast party for Big River, an ensemble musical we had both had small parts in. My friend Sue tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, "I think that girl is trying to talk to you." Like I would have noticed. I was unusually oblivious, even for myself that night because I was in love with a girl who was visiting from Princeton. I made small talk but my attention was elsewhere. Joe's wasn't, I don't think, though maybe he wished it was because he had just broken up with Sue (the first time?). I handed this Becca chick off, maybe because I didn't believe her. She was cute; what the hell was she doing talking to me? It's cliche, I know, but I was a cliche kid. The only girls on the cast who were friendly were those girls, who were friendly to everyone. Whatever. I was strung out on love that had wandered off. I left the party to follow this girl from Princeton to the other cast party. It was a big ensemble.
We jump forward a few months here. Joe and I, both still single, wander the halls of our dorm as we're wont to, scoping and chatting and just being chill. What college is all about. We stop at my urging in front of this door. Joe is always remarking what funny cartoons this girl Becca has on her whiteboard every day, so I tell him to stop and leave a message. It's a different Becca, for certain. The one that never called Joe back lived on the other side of campus. Sure enough, just as he's quietly scratching away with a marker remarking on her humorous mouse cartoons, a cute, mousy girl opens the door. Caught? You betcha. A bad thing? We didn't think so when after some light conversation she invited us in. We ended up spending quite a while in her room, talking about everything. There was some competition in the air, but I could tell that Joe was kinda headfirst over this girl. She was a girl worth being headfirst over. Attractive, intelligent, nice glasses; what more could a geek guy ask for?
Time skips a bit; we get to know some of her friends, start to hang. Our crowd meets their crowd, that sort of thing. She and Joe have a thing, I start to get a thing for her friend Michelle. This is long before I have my no-Michelles rule. I mean, I'm not saying it will ever get this far when I meet a girl, but you never know. I'm not going to be married to a girl whose name rhymes with my last name. No Danielles either. I suddenly can't remember if she spelled it with one l or two. Regardless, we're commingling with them on a regular basis, and joining one another's dining room tables is now an unspoken sort of given. Cut, pan. We're in the dining hall, we catch sight of her, we circle the maze of tightly packed tables and she recognizes us and beckons. Still panning, coming around; she's got people with her and I see this face I recognize, and Joe sees it too. Sure enough, Becca knows Becca. Well, we already had a Becca, and the other Becca had long ago passed on the chance to be among our crew. My snappy brain hatches, in the following instants, her nickname for a while to come: Re-Becca. Why, because we were being introduced to her again. Maybe you never get a second chance at a first impression, but second impressions can be themselves undersold. The eyes of a man enamored and one playing the field see things quite differenty. But it was my experience that women of her calibre were seldom to be found unattached. So thrown off my balance, I may have hesitated for too long. I was yet unaware that gentlemanly caution is easily mistaken for apathy by women.
I had a bunch of things on my plate at that time; failing out of both halves of a double major is a full-time job. I think we had some lunches, maybe an event here and there. I thought I had something for awhile, but then I wasn't sure. I remember clearly running into her while I was working security at the TMBG concert. I remember that she said hi to me at least twice, which I took as a good sign, but I was already trying not to get hung up. And the year was drawing to a close. I wanted to be elsewhere. Fuck failing out of school. I'd almost failed out of high school my freshman year, too (which clever make-up grades my school was trying out later) only to come back with one of the highest GPAs of anyone, and I was what could be considered a slacker. I was, in fact, their king in high school. After all, I had my own lounge back then. I kept repeating to myself: "Too many hands on my time, too many feelings. Too many things on my mind". The rest of the song goes: "And when I leave, I don't know what I'm hoping to find. And when I leave, I don't know what I'm leaving behind." I was convinced I was Rush's Analog Kid, unable or unsure about making the transition to being the Digital Man.
But this is not a story about me, even though it is. This is the story, and it's about her. That said, I went into a period of little contact with her. She would therefore later come to re-earn the name Re-Becca (twice over in one swoop, at that!) when we drifted back together for a bit. But first I had to pull through the beginning of my sophomore year. It was not easy; I'd been burned by everything—love, school, family, work; boo-hoo, poor me, I know. I astonished everyone that year not only by passing several classes but by getting a girlfriend for the first time since I was six. And then I got another one without telling the first she'd been dumped (not that she'd noticed). Hell, even I wondered what the hell I'd been doing spending so much time in Amanda's room. I really thought she was neat. Man, the torture it was for her to drag it out of me at last. It was a nervous whirlwind of three weeks of actual dating during which we never actually managed to have an actual date, and if nothing else, it told me that all my teenage angst wasn't nuthin. I mean, everybody gets lucky every once in awhile, and when the losers quit their griping a bit, they realize how many little victories they'd been talking over. I was okay, for awhile. I stabilized. I drifted away from everything and swore off girls for a bit. I was ok just being me. For a while.
It may have been a whole six months until that vague lonely feeling came back. I got the hunger then real bad. And it showed, mostly in my classes. Junior year was nice and rocky. It was that August that I started to think about (Re)Becca again. I think I may have had a really great lunch with her right before the end of the year and I was suddenly missing her life, her freshness. Her sheer self-deprecating vivacity. She had this amazing unsure power to her, and most urgently, her real-ness. She struck me as almost too geniune. Not as in too geniune to believe, but as in so genuine that it hurt. It hurt because she really put herself out there and you could see her getting hurt easily. I wrote poetry (mostly haiku) about her that summer. I mentioned eighteen months and then one more to go in one poem; that's what I'm judging by. I had thoughts about having let this girl slip by. But I still had the damnedest time getting a radar fix on her. Friend or foe? She later asked why I hadn't kissed her earlier, one of the times I walked her home. The one thing I was sure of, though, was that I did not want to sleep with her. I mean, not solely and expressly. And that's what I thought she would think if I'd made so crass (smooth?) a move. I wanted something else from her, maybe to understand her. More likely just to see her shine without disturbing her source of light. I remember, at one point, that I was down and so after dinner or lunch or whatever she treated me to pool and I think that was the sweetest thing that anyone had ever done for me at that point. I had gone past counseling my friends in their relationships and I was now in full-fledged real counselor training. I spent almost all my free time listening to other people's problems and the weight was starting to bear. And here, this girl who I thought of as nothing short of beautiful stopped at all to think of me. And suddenly the camera was reversed and I saw into myself. I saw that these fingers and those legs and this nose were not attached to a black box but to me. And I was a person. A person who could be treated and smiled at and thought of. And on top of that, she wasn't a bad pool player. I distinctly remember proposing marriage to her at that point (right after a killer sidepocket bank) and I guess my tone must've betrayed a note of sincerity because she gave me a rather serious no to what I had played like a joke. And suddenly, I was unsure. It was new and weird, so of course, I stepped back a bit.
Again, time's hazy. I remember hearing that she was dating someone who worked with David at the radio station, and I was bummed. I recall asking David how much taller, smarter, and handsomer he was and he laughed a Dave laugh and later when I met this guy in my own work at the station, I learned why. I probably should've kissed her. In here somewhere falls Carrie, who was really a pretty neat chick. She was a transfer and didn't know anybody and was one of those guy's chicks complete with a sense of humor that matched or at least complemented mine. Again, I stutter-stepped and missed my in. I finally asked her to a play (I believe she actually did say "Finally?!" when I asked her), though she had given up on me and decided on bachelor #2. I think I asked Becca, too, knowing she was a nut for the plays of Billy Bard (it was Twelfth Night we saw, I think). She was there. Maybe we ran into her. I can't remember. All I know is that she didn't know I wasn't with Carrie or it didn't register or whatever because I got to see her jealous. Huh. The sound in my mind I can recall clearly; it was "ch-ching!" Hard evidence. Fuck everything else; like a detective who'd finally cracked that murder case from last year, I was going home on time for the first time in awhile. Nothing else mattered to me, though I did enjoy being 'fought' over, or at least being an object of contention. And she didn't fare that well. Good thing I wasn't actually on the line or anything. If anything, I wanted to give her a hug, but that was a strict no-no. Now the ball was in my court.
The next year brought a difference. When we met up at some point later that fall, it was a different thing altogether. The music had changed; the lighting was darker, grittier, more 'real'. At that point, she told me to stay away. For my own sake. But I was tired of listening to other people, or to half-suspicions. The end of the last year had not been forgotten, and I was determined not to be, either. I don't think she had any idea what my idea of persistence was. When I move deliberately, other people live and die between my breaths. I would have my answer yes or no, from her lips. And I would make no move of my own but to be there for her until I was everything for her. That sounds creepy, but at the point we both were at that year, we really didn't have anybody else. Not like that. And I needed to hear it from her because she'd already told me about being hurt and I couldn't be that guy. I wouldn't do anything to actively hurt her and I don't think I considered passive harm. Unfortunately, she was waiting for me to make a move for fear of dumping her baggage on me. It was quite a stalemate for awhile. But for every time someone saw us together (Ben: Oh, I didn't realize you were here with your girlfriend) I caught her eyes and let it register that I was there for her however she wanted me. Those were the terms of my nonverbal surrender. So, finally, we had the talk, and though I didn't handle it well at all, we came out a couple.
You might think this is the end, or takes us up to the current time, but no. You see, I was currently embroiled in my second attempt at a psychiatric leave from Cornell. Not exactly the best place to begin a relationship with a girl at Cornell. Things were beautiful but rough with Becca (who was now no longer Re-Becca because the other had long ago passed from the picture due to circumstances beyond her control), but elsewhere very ugly. After a twenty-year rocket shot to the top, pure intellect had run out and I had no work ethic to use as a parachute. There, below me, was the real world up and coming fast. As The Maxx said more than once: "Crap."
So I left school. Not too long after, she called me up to break it off and I was glad because the very same day I was going to make that call myself. I had to deal with life in the city staying with my grandma, and she had to deal with finishing school. And I was currently engaged in running from reality some more by pursuing a wonderful girl I'd met on the internet. Becca and I still talked, but only as friends in that limited capacity. Everything else was Michelle (again, before the no-Michelles rule). And eventually I went out to California to meet this girl and to hang out with Alison, who had in the past year become one of the best friends I'd ever known. And even before I'd got there, I knew things were odd, but I'd already bought the tickets and I needed to get away from things for awhile. So I went and things were up and then down and here and there and Christ this is hard to write but they were usually good. I was happier to see Alison, though, and I kinda knew. I had a crisis moment and thought, "Is this it?" because, of course, I'd thought that this was the girl for me (hehehe n00b). And so I headed home. Of course, I later found out that this girl who was so totally devoted to me for the past sixth months was moving in with another guy and so I hung in limbo. I kind of took a slow step back, steepled my fingers, and went, "Hmm." Which consisted in reality of me moving back in with my mom and puking a lot and shedding eleven pounds to put me at an all-time record low of 171 lbs., basically.
We slide forward a bit and I've started talking to Becca a bit more again. I go to visit her and though I'm sleeping in a seperate bed, she comes in in the morning for a cuddle. Later, during Saturday morning cartoons (which I insisted on as one of the conditions of my visit), we kiss and then the conversation goes from there. I'm leery of stringing her along, but we do meet up a few more times as more-than-friends. I'm still dedicated to moving on, though I'm worried about her. I don't want to get back together because it'll be just like before, right? but I don't want to let her go. More time passes; over a year since I left school (I'm going back, honest) and we have another talk. The topic definitely comes up (hence the emphasis). I'm worried about hurting her what with my family history of infidelity and all, but she's not having that. But we're both different people from the two kids in college who were having a rocky time for whatever reason. So we give it a go. And I hear that Shania Twain song on the Muzak at work and it reminds me of Village Karaoke on New Year's and how no one knew who'd selected it until Joe let out in a bare whisper, "Let's go, girls!" and I laugh and suddenly girl country is not so bad if you can laugh and smile and I've fallen in love with Re-Becca again.
And that, my friends, brings us just about to the present. My apologies to the people in this account for any inaccuracies or things glossed over, as well as for having been there with my intolerable self. Gaps can be filled in, probably, but for the sake of narrative, I think I've done okay.