The fall semester after I broke up with Luke, I met Bartholomew. Not Bart. Never Bart. Bartholomew.
We both had a campus job that required us to show up before classes began for training. And it was one of those “trainings” that require lots of group work and getting-to-know you icebreakers and stuff.
I hate icebreakers. I hate group work. I hate anything that makes me reveal stuff about myself before I am absolutely ready to do so of my own accord. Icebreakers make my palms sweat and my stomach twist. And so when it was time to partner, I looked around the room for the most miserable person, because at least then I would be sharing in my misery with someone else. I found Bartholomew.
We were pretty awesome at sharing our misery. The rest of the morning, we two sought each other out for every group activity. We sat by each other at lunch. And then I cordially bid him adieu, explaining that I needed to go brush my teeth before afternoon training.
This amiable misery-sharing continued. We chatted during breaks. We subtly sent eye-rolls across the room about stupid shit. By about the third day of training, we said goodbye after lunch and it went:
“Well, see ya later Bartholomew.”
“Later, Ramona. Got to go brush your teeth, right?”
“Am I that predictable?”
“Want to come watch a movie with me on afternoon break? I have a really big DVD collection.”
And I had the first inkling that my read on the whole situation was wrong. Amiable misery-sharing just-friends did not watch movies together on afternoon break, did they?
Then again, maybe they did. How was I supposed to know? I’d been dating Luke for three years. I wasn’t sure how to be friends with a boy without pausing to make out at least a few times. So, I told myself to calm down and just go with the flow. Just watch a movie with the guy. He’s just being nice.
On afternoon break, I went up to his dorm room, which was pretty sparse except for a really big couch and the biggest TV I’d ever seen in my life, let alone in a tiny top-floor dorm room with barely enough headroom to walk. And he was not lying about his DVD collection. It was big. He was a movie buff, he explained. He wanted to get into filmmaking.
He let me choose because he said he’d seen them all anyway, but he made me promise to pick one I hadn’t seen before.
Shane told me once that he wished he could have been with me when I saw Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark the first time, because it was his favorite movie ever in the world and he just loved to relive the first time he ever saw it by watching other people see it for the first time. So I guess maybe that’s what Bartholomew was thinking.
Or, possibly, he just wanted an excuse to cop a feel, because his collection consisted mostly of horror movies, and I am a well-known big crybaby about scary movies.
I picked Scream.
I tried to enjoy the movie, except that Bartholomew kept saying weird stuff like, “Why don’t you take your shoes off?” and, “Are you scared?” and, “Why are you all the way over there? I won’t bite.”
And honestly I was coiled so tight with so many scareds that I just mumbled responses and sat up stock-straight with my shoes on, thank you, on the opposite end of the couch from him.
I was scared of the movie. I was scared that my feet might smell bad if I took my shoes off. I was scared that if I got closer to Bartholomew, he would do something distinctly un-buddy-like, like put his arm around me. I was scared to be in this stupid situation at all because I didn’t know what to do with this boy, who I thought was a lot like me and therefore scared of any social interaction that is not completely clearly laid out, and he was hitting on me and holy shit I was not ready for this yet, and I just wanted to be frie-e-e-e-ends, Christ, why does life suck so much?
And I made it through the movie and I escaped with my shoes and the remains of my social dignity as quickly as I could.
After that, Bartholomew was not interested in amiable misery-sharing. He was content to be miserable by himself whilst sending me the occasional dark glare. I must have hurt his feelings when I ran out on him without any indication that I wanted him to make a move. But I didn’t. I wanted… well, I wanted amiable misery-sharing.
One weekend in the not-distant future, I went home and told my mom about how I’d made friends with this nice boy, but then he wanted to make a move and I wasn’t interested, and then he didn’t want to be my friend anymore, and in her motherly wisdom, she said, “Boys are stupid.”
Anyway, Bartholomew and I weren’t friends after that. We were still in the same circles with our jobs and stuff, and we were never openly hostile to one another, but he wasn’t interested in what I had to give, which was friendship, the end. I was mad at him for a while about that, but you know, at least he was honest. Stupid, maybe, because I am pretty awesome to have as a friend, but honest.
And, by the way, he’s a producer on a super popular show now. And I chat with him occasionally on Facebook– sometimes about our shared misery. We’re still really good at that.