I’ve eluded to this before but one of the losses that weighs heavily on me nightly is the loss of companionship. It’s funny I feel that way because I never thought I’d be one that missed that interpersonal connection.
When I went to college I missed being around my family and never realized how close we actually were until I wasn’t around them every day. There was no internet at this time and the idea that you could call them from anywhere but your house was just absurd – the stuff of Captain Kirk not cellular calling. My solution was to go to the “Bell” store at the mall and buy a refurbished telephone. It was a little black number that I thought was glossy and cool and fit my pseudo-musician persona.
By the time I’d met Andrea, I was feeling independent even if I wasn’t. Leaving high school from a small town where everyone knew everything about you; knew your business; had ideas who you should like, love, date, have infatuation for, etc.; and had expectations for what you should be was something that weighed heavily on someone like me. I was someone who refused to conform even if that meant isolating myself. When I left for college, the idea that I could walk down campus, grow a beard or even learn to play the guitar were amazing. I felt very confident that being scruffy, lanky, screwball single boy from a small town was working for me.
I had no idea what I was missing.
At that time, Andrea was a social animal. She had a fake ID. She drank with her sorority sisters and frat brothers. She wore brand new clothes from Express and made herself up just to go out and drink at the bar. Her hair alone took her over an hour to get ready. A far cry from me, who didn’t shave, had long hair, and scared away a group of Jehova’s Witnesses when I answered the door in my Hendrix t-shirt with my Strat hanging off my shoulder.
The night I realized what I was missing is actually burned into my consciousness, and I almost blew her off. March 29th, 1991. I remember, because I had volunteered to work late with a colleague because both of us wanted to sit in the Newsroom and watch the George Foreman/Evander Holyfield fight without paying for the pay-per-view. By the time the fight had hit hard and heavy it was becoming clear it wasn’t the fight of the century that the hype had led us to believe. About midway through the newsroom phone rang. That was unusual, understand, because we were a 6pm only newscast and the newsroom was usually vacant so calling that late would only happen if someone from the town was clueless or someone knew we were there.
Andrea had gone out drinking with her friends and had actually asked my colleague to come along. Not me, a colleague. I didn’t mind, though I was a hair jealous but loathe to admit it. When I answered it was her, already having had a few, asking if the fight was over.
“…all but over, I suppose. Not as amazing as we thought,” was my reply.
“Why don’t you come with us?” was her answer. I knew I wasn’t the first choice, so I said so: “you mean _____. I can see if he wants to come have a drink.”
“No . . . why don’t you both come? I’m talking to you, not him.”
My colleague (who I’m not naming because I don’t want to put names that are not family in this blog) was watching me as I had the conversation. I asked him if he wanted to go.
“Why not? We didn’t pay for the fight, and it’s kinda lame anyway.”
My biggest worry was getting into the bar. Like I said, it was March of 1991. “But I’m not 21 yet. I can’t get in.”
“Neither am I,” she said. “I have an ID. You don’t? Forget about it, they’re not carding at the door anyway.”
They weren’t. So I went, to a college hangout near her campus, and hung out with a bunch of people I didn’t know and who probably didn’t care to know me. I was petrified, wondering what possessed me to accept this invitation. Then Andrea saw me as I walked into the bar. She had on a sort of tweed jacket, with flecks of red so it was a brighter, obviously female-inspired look with dark brown corduroy patches on the sleeves. She had on these brown silk pants that flowed behind her when she walked, her hair newly cut in a bob that fell just below her neck and framed her face. She had a beer in one of those milky-clear Solo plastic cups and rushed up cheering at the top of her lungs, arms wide in an apparent effort to give a hug. I moved instinctively, though begrudgingly, so that she’d have easier access to our mutual friend only to find her veering away from him and making a bee-line for me.
“I’m so glad you came! See! I told you they’d let you in. Nothing to worry about.”
She hugged me, sort of falling into my arms as I put mine around her back, laying her head on my shoulder a little, lingering longer than normal, but not long enough for me. It was so sweet and disarming. She put her arm around me, leading me to the table where they had innumerable empty pitchers and several full glasses of beer. I took one and looked up to see her looking at me. There was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, her teeth full and visible through the red lipstick she wore then.
I remember staying until close, 1am, and saying how I had to go. I’d asked if she needed a ride home, but she was close and wasn’t worried.
“I’m so glad you came, it really made me happy,” she said.
“I’m really glad I came too. But you didn’t want me here. You wanted _____.”
“I asked him, yes, but when you guys got here, I hugged you.”
She gave me a small kiss on the cheek, that infectious giggle of hers playing out as she looked me in the eye, and turned around to walk out the door in front of me, dancing a little as she walked out. I was in a daze. I don’t even remember how I got home, I really don’t. I must have re-lived every conversation, every thought, every interaction from the night a hundred times. I was just bewildered.
It wasn’t the only time she’d thrust me into her world, a time that should have been so very uncomfortable. We had started dating already when she wanted me to attend her sorority formal. It was a crazy event, something that supposedly had a secret location in order to prevent drinking by the Greek attendees. So of course most people knew where it was at. We, on the other had, had decided to rent a motel room with her three roommates so that we could go to the lobby, get on the shuttle bus and come back to the room when it was all over, drinking whatever we wanted on the way there and back. Andrea came out with her dress unzipped asking for help. Underneath, she wore this white, lacy piece of lingerie that had me simply trembling. As I grabbed for the zipper she looked over her shoulder saying “don’t get any ideas, Dave, I wore this so I wouldn’t be tempted. It’s harder than hell to get out of, so you’re cuddling tonight and that’s all!” I’d say I was angry, but it was almost sexier and I knew it. It drove me crazy.
They sang some sort of song EVERY person on the bus knew. Their brother frat was a known party organization and they were as fully obnoxious as ever. I was amazed this world existed. I had gone all through school staring at people like this and was totally absorbed by how crazy it all was. I didn’t drink much, it wasn’t my thing and I hated losing control to that degree. Andrea knew I was nervous and stayed by me all night. She’d helped me get ready, bought me a tie, and just disarmed me to the point I could be comfortable. I was listening to some music and she overheard it through the headphones.
“It’s Brubeck. “Theme from Mr. Broadway” it’s my favorite tune of his.”
“He’s from Northern California, you know, where I grew up. I love his stuff.”
I was floored. It seemed so opposite of who she was. This girl liked Morrissey and Toad the Wet Sprocket. She went to James Taylor concerts. Brubeck?
When we arrived I knew why I’d avoided Greek life. The dinner hadn’t started, we’d only gotten to the salad when the obnoxious frat guy who was next to me cajoled his date to drink more beer. She was young . . . insanely young . . . and it was clear she was looking a little green already.
“It’ll be alright. We’ll loosen you up for tonight right?” I didn’t have to read between the lines to know what he was loosening her up for. He was as subtle as a land mine. His plan backfired, though. Within ten minutes, just after putting dressing on the salad, the poor girl, a freshman and first-timer who was amazed to have a date to the formal, passed out face-first in her salad. Full-on, Italian oils and spices in her hair and all. The guy shouted in anger that he wasn’t getting laid tonight, leaving me to lift the poor girl out of the leafy greens. When Andrea asked what I was doing, I told her what happened. As she was angrily looking for the kid’s house mates to make a complaint, one of Andrea’s roommates came running up saying “Oh my God, _________ is dancing so hard on the dance floor her dress is falling off and her boobs are hanging out!!!!”
A year prior I’d have run screaming from the place, looking for a way out. Instead, I checked to make sure the girl next to me wasn’t sick and Andrea took my hand for the dance floor. I’ve said before that I make music to avoid dancing. For Andrea, it wasn’t an option. At some point in that night, they played “Wonderful Tonight”, and we held each other close while feeling the music. My inability to socialize, to actually work my way through a situation like this, was gone. She made it all go away and told people only that I was wonderful and she loved spending time with me. My goal wasn’t to get out of the party as fast as I could but to make it last as long as possible, to get out of my suit and into my pajamas and lay next to her in the bed.
That night I was so enamored with her I kissed her, for the cameras, in the motel room, friends and PDA be damned. I was almost giddy with laughter when her sexy lingerie plan backfired.
“You know how hard it is to pee in this thing!” I had no idea at the time, but it was a “body suit”, something that covered her top to bottom, sort of like a teddy or the like. Problem was she had to unclasp it every time she needed to use the bathroom, and drinking inordinate amounts of beer in the evening made for lots of frustrations trying to reach down and undo the lace in the dark.
From that moment . . . the point where she’d laid in my arms and talked, all night, annoying her roommates with her giggling and talking, I was hooked. She always wondered, and I’m not sure I ever told her, but that night, the night we slept together but didn’t “sleep together” was one of the most amazing nights I’ve ever had. She was angry and frustrated that she had to deal with this crazy piece of lingerie. She was frustrated that we’d both had enough to drink we were beyond sleepy and feeling so many emotions it drove us nuts.
It was that moment that I realized I wanted to wake up with her next to me like that every night. You can say all you want, question my motives, tell me I’m wrong, but it wasn’t the day I bought the ring or asked her to marry me. It was that night, in a motel room with six other people, holding her in my arms, that I decided I needed her to stay with me forever.
I miss that. I’m remembering nights as far back as college and the feel, the comfort, the muscle memory of her laying there next to me is still there. It’s the cause of my stress, the pull on my heart and the ache in my soul that I feel every night as I finally just feel my eyes droop and the jump in my blood pressure when I wake and think it was just a crazy dream only to see it’s the reality, I had lived the dream for 20 years up to this point.
I miss her, the social animal and public consciousness that pulled me out of my shell. I know I’ve said this, but she made me a better man. I’m slogging through life right now, not just because I miss her, but because, damn her, I miss the companionship. She pulled me out of my isolated bliss and has ruined me for the rest of my life. Now I see a beautiful woman on the street and still feel guilty for looking and can’t figure out why I have the guilt.
It’s that tug, the pull on my body that she still has. The muscle memory won’t give way, like so many clasps on white lacy lingerie.