I passed sweaty tank top guy from that first morning on my way to the stairwell. I guessed he lived on my floor because I passed him somewhat regularly. He almost always had clean clothes on, but I still referred to him in my head as sweaty tank top guy. He sighed dramatically when he saw me as though he still couldn’t believe that I “broke his heart” that first day. That was his typical behavior.
My typical response was to ignore him completely. But on that particular afternoon, I was in a weirdly happy mood. Sort of hopeful for some reason. So I acknowledged sweaty tank top guy with a small nod and I said hi.
That was it. Just hi. I’ve been accused of being antisocial for not saying hi so I kind of thought it was expected. I didn’t know it could be construed quite so encouragingly.
When I entered the 4th floor lounge, it was completely empty except for me and sweaty tank top guy who had apparently followed me there because I said hi. I put my book bag onto one of those three round tables as I prepared to sit down. I thought I might as well try to do some work. Sweaty tank top guy sat at the next table, facing me. He hadn’t brought anything with him. He tipped his chair back on two legs and laced his fingers behind his head.
“So…” he said. “You’re talking to me now?”
I had said hi. All I said was hi. I opened my bag and pulled out a binder while he waited for me to respond. I looked at him somewhere near his shoulder and shrugged. “I haven’t been not talking to you. I just don’t know you.”
“Oh!” He let the front legs of his chair fall to the floor and leaned forward. “I’m Brady.”
I nodded and began flipping pages in my binder.
Brady said, “This is the part where you tell me your name.”
“Hey, like the spider?”
No, not like the spider. Why couldn’t people assume I had been named for a city or a queen or at least a human character from a book, which was the truth? It seemed the only people who didn’t associate my name with an arachnid were the ones who were a little confused and thought the pig was the title character. Because pigs have webs. Although another truth was that I’d rather have been named for a pig than a spider.
I found the page I was looking for. I had an essay to write and thought I might write down a few thoughts. But sweaty tank top guy, I mean Brady, didn’t seem to be taking the hint.
“What’s your major?” he asked.
“You a freshman?”
“Cool,” he said. “I’m a sophomore, too, but still undecided.” He paused for a moment. I turned back to my assignment thinking maybe we were done with the small talk. I was sort of right. The next thing he said was, “So you gonna go out with me now?”
“Why would I do that?” I asked. I was serious.
“Ouch!” Brady put his hand over his heart as though I had wounded him. Then he cocked his head and said, “Why wouldn’t you?”
“Well… I still don’t know you.”
He actually laughed at that. “That’s exactly why you would go out with me. So that you can get to know me.”
I had to admit he had a point. But not out loud. I didn’t say anything out loud. I was trying to decide if he was serious.
“Come on. You’ve got to say yes. I’ve only just recovered from the last time you rejected me.”
Now I knew he wasn’t serious. His eyes were wide and he plastered on a winning smile. Brady was a very good-looking guy who obviously knew he was a very good-looking guy. I could tell he was more interested in proving that I would go out with him than he was in actually having me go out with him. It was a good thing I was immune to his charms. That was my brother’s fault. He had too many friends.
I just said, “I don’t think so.”
“Really!?” Brady hung his head. He stood up slowly as though I had knocked out his will to go on. He turned to me before he got to the door and put on that winning smile one more time. “I’ll tell you what,” he said, “I plan on having dinner tonight right around 5:30. You can just meet me in the dining hall if you change your mind. I’ll be watching for you. I think I’ve been watching for you my whole life.”
I tried to keep the eye roll to myself as I told him I didn’t plan on changing my mind.
“At least think about it?” He put his hands together as though he were begging. At the same time, there was a trace of sincerity in his eyes that made me want to believe that was his first real offer. But I didn’t. I simply didn’t. I skipped dinner altogether that night just to be sure.
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