My Valentine

I went off to law school with two resolutions: one, I was going to succeed, contrary to the predications of family and friends that girls didn’t go to law school for any other reason than to find a lawyer husband, and two, I was not going to get involved with any men. Nope, I was going to be unattached for three years, no men to mess up my mind and play with my heart. A broken engagement, badly-ended love affair and bittersweet romance, all in the eight months preceding Labor Day and my departure for Albany Law School convinced me that men were simply not worth the effort.

I moved into my apartment on Friday. My roommate, Linda, was a nice young woman whose name I found on a bulletin board outside the law school housing office. She was a bit strait-laced but I thought we might blend nicely. Unpacking, I discovered that I had left my extra bed sheets at home in Malone. A call to Mom and she arranged for my friend Dick to bring the sheets to me on Saturday. Dick was the older brother of one of my best friends from home and would be attending Albany Law in my class, though he was two years older than me.

Saturday found the apartment in good shape: beds made, shower curtain hung, LP’s unpacked and arranged on the cinder block and 2 x 4 shelves, and Mom’s carrot cake and apple pie in the kitchen. Dick called to say that he and the two guys who were letting him share their three-bedroom apartment were going out to get cleaning supplies and would drop off my sheets and some brownies from Mom on their way to Westgate. Linda answered their knock and let them in. I was in the corner trying to get my stereo speakers hooked up. Dick’s smiling face came first, a brown paper grocery bag in his hands with the missing sheets and walnut brownies inside. Next, was a short, broad-built Asian guy with laughing brown eyes. Then, there he was. Taller than his two companions, black tightly curled hair, whiskey-colored eyes with the longest, curliest black eyelashes, perfect ears and a shy smile. Broad chest covered with a ratty grey t-shirt, narrow waist encircled by a worn brown belt holding up faded Carhart jeans. So much for resolution number two.

I didn’t finally decide until the end of the week. There were other possibilities to consider: celibacy, Chris the handsome senior and the blonde guy with the tennis racket. I sat with Mitch (gorgeous eyelashes) and his roommate Donnie (Asian guy) all week before we got seat assignments (Dick was in the other section of freshmen). Friday ended our first four days as law students and did not arrive a minute too soon. The law school threw us a beer party in the courtyard, an excellent use of our student activity fees. Donnie discovered the bar in the student lounge and began bringing me triple shots of scotch on the rocks. I can hold my liquor but nine shots of scotch later, I was sitting on a table in Lecture Hall A singing college drinking songs. Mitch stayed by my side but so did Chris, who invited us back to his apartment to continue the party. We all trooped over to the apartment he shared with David, cousin of my college roommate. My first mistake had been letting Donnie get me the scotch at the law school; my second mistake was letting him serve me a Tequila Sunrise at David’s. Mitch was still by my side but Chris was sitting very close to David now, too close to be just friends but then the tequila was doing a number on my head. Before too long, I knew a trip to the bathroom was in order.

I lurched ever so gracefully to my feet and staggered down the hall to the bathroom, slamming the door behind me. I should not have had the Tequila Sunrise. I knew better. My stomach could not tolerate fruity or carbonated mixed drinks due to a spastic something that had developed in college. A nasty round of rather violent vomiting was imminent so I leaned over the toilet. My long hair was swinging into my face and I frantically scrambled to catch it behind my ears as nausea over-took me. I didn’t hear the door open behind me so I jumped a bit in my misery when one firm hand pulled my hair into a pony tail while the other held my waist. Mortified but grateful, I realized Mitch had come to rescue me.

The embarrassing regurgitating session was finally over, but I was still hunched over the john. Mitch took care of flushing and then handed me a damp washcloth to wipe my sweaty face, neck and hands. I figured the best course of action was to brazen it out so I stood as jauntily as I could and tossed off a lame remark, “Damn cheap liquor does it every time!” He laughed as I hoped he would. I looked in the mirror over the sink to survey the damage. I was pale and my eyes were red-rimmed but at least I hadn’t gotten anything on me. Reaching for the tube of toothpaste, I spread some on my index finger and stuck it in my mouth, hoping to erase the taste of my folly. Mitch was watching my reflection in the mirror as I “brushed.” I scooped some cold water into my mouth with my hand, swished it around and spat into the sink. Straightening, I could see there was still toothpaste foam in the corners of my mouth. Before I could rinse again, Mitch spun me around and kissed me. I was shocked into motionlessness. His kiss was sweet and demanding at the same time. Adventurous, too, I thought, as his tongue slid between my teeth, kissing a girl with toothpaste still dribbling down her chin. The man knew how to kiss, his bushy moustache tickling and teasing my lips. My hands slid part way up his arms, I was grasping for support, when he pulled his mouth away from mine. The brown of his eyes is flecked with gold, I thought idly. He had a surprised look on his face, as though he could not believe that he had been kissing a woman who had lost the contents of her stomach in front of him just moments before.

He pushed me out of the room and across the hall into David’s bedroom. I was still shaky at best and sank gratefully onto the bed. He stretched out beside me and pulled my head onto his shoulder. We fit together perfectly. How long we were in there I do not know. We hugged, kissed, stroked and laughed. Eventually, he began to stir, as if to leave. Not one to let a good man slip through my fingers, I said, “I want you to come home with me.”

“Do you always get what you want?” he asked with a grin.

“Yes.” My answer was smug and certain.

“How do you do that?” He was almost laughing.

“I’m careful what I ask for.”

Bemused, he smiled and left the bedroom; I followed him back to the living room and collected my roommate. I don’t remember the drive home except Linda seemed quite taken by David, the first of her many terribly mis-guided choices in men over the next three years.

Once back in our apartment, Linda and I changed into jammies, filled big bowls of ice cream and sat down to watch Johnny Carson. The doorbell rang. Who the hell was that? our expressions said as I got up to open the door. There stood Mitch. What was he doing here?

He came inside and sat on the sofa. Linda looked at me as if I had betrayed her and went upstairs in a huff. I had no clue what he was doing in my apartment at midnight but he was so damn appealing that I wasn’t going to kick him out. I sat on the floor in front of the sofa and picked up my bowl of Rocky Road. Mitch slid down next to me and put his arm around me. When I turned to look at him, he pulled aside the front of his ratty Brooks Brothers corduroy jacket to reveal a toothbrush poking out of the inner pocket. He was planning on staying over? Where did that come from?

 He kissed me then and all I could think was I was happy I had pretty new sheets on my bed upstairs.

I gave him a key to the apartment for our first Valentine’s Day and asked him to marry me two weeks later on Sadie Hawkins Day. He said “Yeah, sure, maybe someday.” When I called all my friends to announce my “engagement,” Dick’s sister, my friend Vicky, confided in me that she had come to Albany with Dick that summer before law school to help him find an apartment. After first rejecting several potential roommates, when she met Mitch and Donnie, she pulled Dick aside and told him, “You have to room with Mitch. He’s perfect for Debbi!”

And he was.

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