Have I ever told you anything about my college boyfriend?
My college boyfriend and I started dating about halfway through our freshman year, and broke up about halfway through senior year. Despite our wholesome, youthful love for one another, the actual feeling of which escapes me now, I decided that I would spend my junior year abroad. I would spend the fall without him in Rome, and then we would reunite in Paris in the spring.
My boyfriend, Eric One (Eric Two being my law school boyfriend), came to visit me halfway through the semester. As my program was located in a convent, we had to pretend he was staying with one of his fraternity brothers also on the program, and that he was not shacked up with me in my damp little garret with a crucifix on the wall and geckos darting across the bathroom floor. After a few days of dancing around the issue, Eric One told me that while I had been away he had slept with a girl he had dated briefly before me. I had the requisite feelings of anger and hurt, but then there was an earthquake in San Francisco (where our families lived) and I was able to distract myself with that until he went home.
After he left, I had a lot less compunction about acting on a vague crush I had been nursing on one of my fellow students. Handily enough, it happened to be Eric One’s same fraternity brother. Not for me, the handsome, devil-may-care Italian boys zipping around Rome on their scooters, honking their horns and whistling appreciatively as they whizzed by! No, I had chosen instead a typical repressed Connecticut WASP as the object of my desire. Still harboring some guilt but mostly just feeling fucked over by my boyfriend, I spent a couple of lackluster afternoons alone with my irrepressibly boring classmate. Frankly, he was so dull and I had enough guilt that I didn’t bother to sleep with him, but that didn’t stop him from telling anybody who would listen that he had, in fact, nailed me. One person who listened attentively was Eric One.
The next semester, we were in Paris and ostensibly trying to put it all behind us. We had coffee to drink and boulevards to stroll, and we had as romantic a time as two clean cut Americans who had cheated on each other could have. Since I can’t remember the time I spent with him there at all, it must have really been something special.
I do remember clearly, though, that for our spring break we rented a car and drove with some friends down to Cannes. We had an apartment overlooking the ocean, and we spent our days exploring and our evenings sitting around drinking and telling stories. One night we all sat around the dining room table and played some game; one of the guys was very funny and told a story that made me laugh so hard I peed right there in my chair. Still laughing, but also sort of crying, I made everybody turn away as I backed out of the room carrying the chair with me. But I digress.
One day as Eric One and I were lying around chatting, he felt he needed to get something off of his chest. Back at school in Connecticut, he had refused to believe that I hadn’t slept with his fraternity brother – why on earth would HE lie? – and what with the pain of that and all, one night he got drunk and screwed some girl I didn’t know. He was drunk though, so that kind of excused it, right?
The next fall, I was at a formal at St. Anthony Hall, his fraternity. The girl Eric One had slept with was there. I was a senior now, though, and I had magically gained from my year abroad some sort of self assurance I had been lacking in my earlier college years (although probably not as much as I think if I was still with my louse of a boyfriend). As I was dancing with some friends, my ever-present cigarette dangling from my fingers, she sidled up to me and asked me for a light. She looked at me challengingly, and I raised an eyebrow as I pulled out my lighter. She leaned in toward me, and a swath of her shoulder-length hair that she had pulled behind her swung forward. As I looked back into her eyes, I lit the flame. Just as I could smell the tips of her hair hissing and crackling like the fuse of a firecracker before it hits the payload, I snuffed the flame.
“You bitch!” she cried.
“I am,” I said, and turned back to my friends.
After we broke up, I remember seeing Eric One around campus with a black eye. Apparently he had started dating some girl whose ex-boyfriend had walked in on them fooling around and had punched him in the face. Ouch!