It was never destined to work out between Don* and me.
When I met him at grad school in NYC, he was one of the first people to come up to me and introduce himself. As one of the only native New Yorkers in a group full of foreigners and transplants, I think he saw it as his duty to act as unofficial tour guide for us all.
Additionally, he was just one of those super kind people, taking us NY noobs under his wing.
So our class of 20 followed him around like ducklings. He chatted happily with everyone, arranged group outings, and seemed to genuinely want friendship with everyone. This sweet and slightly shy boy blossomed in his role of mother duck in the pond of New York City.
Everything was going so well.
Now I am a typically oblivious individual, but as time went by even I became aware of his “more than friendship” interest in me. For all of his kindness, I couldn’t return the sentiment. There was never any chemistry or adoration beyond platonic buddies from my side.
But since it never came up, and he struck me as the less-than-bold type, I didn’t worry about it.
Okay, I honestly hardly thought about it. He and I just were friends, my instinctual information wasn’t confirmed, after all. So, it was a non-issue, as far as I was concerned.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Our Masters program had started in June, so by fall we were all fast friends. I managed to finagle myself into a studio that involved an excursion to Sardinia, Italy. And since I would pretty much sell my soul to travel, no one who knew me was surprised by my studio choice or by my ardent campaigning to be one of the five students to take the trip.
With determination and a willful disregard for the crippling nature of student loans, I hopped on a plane with four classmates, Don included, for a week of traversing the island of Sardinia, presentations to the local university, exploration, research, and generally taking in the culture.
As the week went on, partially fueled on by our local guides determination to keep us hydrated with wine, our increasingly candid group delved into conversations much beyond studio. No topic was off the table, as wine seems to loosen tongues and inhibitions alike.
Add in the romantic foreign setting, and in retrospect, I should have seen it coming.
Actually, no. No one saw this coming.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
One evening, after cooking a meal together and sampling several local vintages, we dissolved into smaller groups.
The three of us girls remained at the dining room table, shamelessly gossiping about some of the attractive students acting as our local guides. The two boys made themselves scarce as soon as the topic turned to giggles.
Suddenly Don walked back into the dining area, abruptly halting our girl-talk.
Don – “Hey M.”
I looked up, confused. Something about his demeanor was different. Always polite, it was very atypical for him to have interrupted us.
Don – “What are you doing?”
M– “Uhhhh, just talking to N and S…” (Wasn’t this obvious?)
More confusion on my part. More strangeness on his. The two girls looked at me, their faces echoing my baffled emotions.
Don– “I just wanted to let you know that I will be in the kitchen if you want to make out.”
And then he walked around the corner, into said kitchen.
It takes a lot to completely confound me. But I was legitimately blindsided. It took the three of us a moment to process and confirm that we had heard him correctly.
We had. And that had just happened.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
But no, I didn’t go into that kitchen.
It would have been cruel to give Don any hope of anything romantic occurring between us. It just wasn’t there for me.
The three of us kept talking and eventually Don crept into his room and me to mine. Nothing was said the next day, or ever. He didn’t act any differently around me. It was like it had been a very odd dream.
(I did double check with N and S to verify I didn’t hallucinate the encounter. There wasn’t absinthe in the wine. But you better believe I confirmed my memory, just in case. The whole thing was surreal enough for me to question it’s reality.)
Maybe it was the wine, or the week together, or the salty-sweet Sardinian air. But something about that trip made a shy man step up and be bold, if only for one sentence.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
To this day, I think he deserves major props.
Two high fives. 50 points. 400 gold stars. Millions of goals and runs and baskets. A 10 out of 10, even from the French judge.
You get points for boldness.
I didn’t think you had it in you. I certainly didn’t see it coming. The whole thing was confusing and out of left field, but darn it, that took cojones. It was rather impressive.
I hope you find the perfect girl to make out in the kitchen with.
Because you genuinely deserve it.
*Name changed for anonymity and karma, etc.