Sharon ran a finger across her chin. “I grew a beard for a while,” she said thoughtfully, “a nice little Van Dyke. But it seemed to make people nervous for some reason, so I got rid of it.” She shrugged.
This was fairly typical of our pillow talk. I’d quickly figured out that either Sharon had the driest and most absurd sense of humor I’d ever encountered, or she had no sense of humor at all.
I had also learned very early on that it hurt her feelings when I laughed at things she said. Not that she cried or anything, but she frowned a small, baffled frown. I quickly recognized that this frown came from frustration that, once again, her attempts to behave normally were not working out.
We were sleeping together two or three nights a week. Never on the weekends, though. She always went back to U-town after her last class on Friday and returned for her first class on Monday morning.
She would always ask the day before: “Would you like me to stay over tomorrow night?” If I said yes — and I’m pretty sure I never said no — she would come to school the next day with a very small suitcase in addition to her school knapsack.
Our pillow talk was never romantic. We talked about all sorts of things, but there was no mention of love or anything like that. This was just as well — I had no idea whether I was actually in love, or if this was just amazed gratitude that I had found somebody who was willing to be with me.
After a while, I began to think that this might be true of Sharon also. After all, she was beautiful (in my opinion) and smart, but she had no friends, at least at school, and I got the impression that she didn’t have a lot of friends in U-town either. When she talked about her life there, she talked about her two brothers and the old man they lived with, but there was never any mention of friends or a social life.
When she’d started to take off her clothes that first time, I had thought that she was just “easy,” one of those college girls you hear about who sleeps around a lot. But no, she didn’t sleep around — she was obviously with me. We went to movies together, we had lunch together on days when we had our breaks at the same time, and on Fridays she would wait for my last class to be over so I could walk her across the city to the bridge to U-town. Then we’d hug and she’d say, “I’ll see you on Monday.”
By the way, I could write a book about what it was like to go to the movies with her. She was often baffled by commonplace things and frequently misunderstood key plot elements. This was obviously inexperience, not stupidity, and she always listened attentively to my explanations. Part of it may have been that she’d never seen a movie before (she explained that there weren’t any movie theaters in U-town), but it was more than that.
There were rocky moments, of course, starting with our first morning together.
I woke up and felt like I’d managed to get wrapped up in the bedclothes. I was almost completely immobilized, but I quickly realized I was wrapped up in Sharon.
I didn’t remember how we’d fallen asleep, but now she seemed to be on all sides of me, as if she was trying to be a one-person cocoon. My arms and legs were pinned, but I knocked my forehead lightly against hers a couple of times and said her name.
She opened her eyes, very slowly, and focused them on my face. And then, almost inaudibly, she said my name.
Not the name I had told her, not the name that everybody at college knew, not “Mike.” She used my original name, the name I’d been born with, the name I’d left behind (far behind, or so I’d thought) when I’d arrived at college.
My stomach got tight and I felt like I was going to throw up. I forced myself not to cry (there had been quite a bit of crying the night before — all of it by me). She saw and felt my distress, and quickly unwrapped herself from around me, obviously wondering what she’d done wrong and how she could make it better. She didn’t say anything; she just looked stricken.
Seeing her distress, I decided I needed to think less about myself and more about her. None of this was her fault, after all.
I took her hand. “Mike,” I reminded her.
“Mike,” she said slowly. She repeated it a couple of times, as if trying to fix it in her mind. Then she met my eyes. “I’d like to do this again,” she said very quietly.
The mystery, though, was where she had ever learned that name in the first place. After she left, after I’d said that I also very much wanted to do this again, I lay in bed for a while and considered this.
There was no explanation that I could think of for how she’d learned that name.
I even toyed with the idea that she’d been sent by my parents to seduce me. But that was obviously not true — if my parents had decided to send somebody to seduce me back onto the right path, they would have sent a guy, definitely not a girl.
I reminded myself that, yes, there were mysteries and more mysteries, but I had just spent the night with a girl, a really nice girl who I’d had a crush on, and, while it had not exactly gone as I’d envisioned it, she apparently wanted more.
If I got my act together and stopped crying so much, I might even end up with a girlfriend…
Okay, it was much too soon to be thinking about that, but I lay back and stretched, reminding myself to enjoy this moment.
(More to come.)