Beau came to get his sunglasses the next morning from my room. I wasn’t there, but he knew the door would be unlocked. A neighbor grabbed my arm when she saw me later in the dining hall. “Oh my god, THAT GUY.” I waggled my eyebrows Groucho Marx style and sashayed away to the soft-serve machine.
After seeing some movie starring Juliette Binoche where she’d brooded over an affogato, I now drizzled white froyo into a mug and splashed it with coffee, about as cosmopolitan as I could manage in a college cafeteria. I sat at a small table by myself, slurping my chemically sweetened mess. I was reading a big fat novel (the best kind) and thinking about the look on my neighbor’s awestruck face. In her eyes I was transformed into Becca Stokes: Sex Goddess. It was a funny skin to slip into. It made for a nice change of pace. The entire year I played another role far too thoroughly -- Becca Stokes: Unknowable.
The soft serve was entirely melted into the coffee and I was swirling it around in the cup and then in my mouth while I thought about how Beau looked. He was stupid-beautiful, in that way blond guys can be when they’re young. He was built, not tall but proportional and compact. He wore his hair a little long and a little shaggy and brother did he have an old school southern drawl. A proverbial panty-dropper. He was sex on legs. He was always tanned. He wore white T-shirts and jeans and if you wanted to know what he was thinking, you asked him and he told you. His eyes were gray or blue. I don’t really remember. I remember that he smoked and that if it were in any way possible to worship a butt, I would have seen fit to have his enshrined. In short, I objectified the balls out of this guy.
I was 21, and the seeds of something I confused with confidence were rooting themselves in me. I felt lonely and scared, but I felt different too, and I thought that was confidence. For me it has never manifested itself obviously. I felt as though I were on the outside. I felt like I just didn’t care quite so much. Ha, and in hindsight that just sounds like depression. But being able to find and maintain distance and objectivity from my feelings, which was happening, was something new. This is when I met Beau.
This was an era when I had no panic attacks. The bone-deep sadness didn’t allow space for the frantic pace of worry. I lay awake at night and thought about the man who Beau reminded me of. This was a time when I was alone more often. I craved time by myself to watch and observe and revel in how apart I felt. It wasn’t that I trusted myself or believed I deserved anything good, it was that, inside, there were finally things I was certain about. Like this one: I was certain that I didn’t want to sleep with Beau.
Where did all of this come from, this cool distance? This sadness? Probably fear. It was my last year in college after all, and I had no idea what was going to come next. My grades were shitty and my plans to go to acting school had gone up in flames. Each day marked one less hour before I would be back home in my parents' house, at a total loss. So I did then what I still do: I threw myself into work and I probably drank too much. (The more things change, etc.).
I’m awful and bullheaded about certain things, and work is one of them. At college, if it wasn’t a play, or a piece of writing, I didn’t understand why I had to waste my time on it. My final year at school, I divided my time between rehearsals and late nights passed in the basement of the library writing writing writing.
If I stopped writing I would have to think, and if I had to think I would have to feel, and if I felt I would vibrate so hard I’d break into a million razor sharp pieces. You see, a lot of the people I spent every waking minute with were gone when I was a senior. Including the one who Beau kept reminding me of. They graduated the year before. My heart went with one of them. But, like I’ve said before, this isn’t a column about capital letters True Love, it’s a column about crushes. It’s about giddiness and shame and butterflies and the fantasies we all create as we stumble around in the morass of sex, growth, and change. Maybe I’ll write the real relationships column next, but probably not. It would just read like every other girl’s journal: I really like A, A likes me, A and I are happy, A and I are unhappy, A and I are over. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
We, the whitest theatre program imaginable, were doing a play about the Cherokee nation. Beau was in the play. We all played many parts, and one of Beau’s involved him being suited up in a loincloth and being wheeled out onto the stage as he flexed, pulling back a bow and arrow, a mighty hunter. “God bless abstract and lyrical theatre,” I quietly murmured. The actors around me tittered. I don’t know what made me so bold or flamboyant. Yes, I do. I was sad and lost and numb and nothing I said or did felt real. The sound of laughter meant I’d had an impact. It meant I was still real. It meant I existed. I might never date a stand-up comedian, but I sure as fuck get it -- that’s why I won’t.
Beau had dated my friend Eleanor, and they were cute together, but she called it quits. He didn’t take it well. There was a drunken night of him punching a window or a wall and his hand getting mangled and covered with blood. This was during a time when I’d open up my cozy home and flood it with people for wild starry nights, each one a misguided stab at grasping forever. Beau made his way into that circle of people. We liked the same music, we loved our families, we had dark streaks inside and things we did not show.
He laid on my bedroom floor and in the dark we talked about the sort of things you talk about when you’re in college: The Rolling Stones, God, love, drugs, and dreams of every kind. I remember the way he smelled and sharing cigarettes. I remember staring at him, the perfect specimen, and not wondering for an instant why he was with me. I cannot tell you what I would give to be able to do this at will now.
If I were another type of person I would have pinned him time and time over. I would have fused sadness to sadness and loss to loss and tried to find solace in it and in him. I looked at him in his colorless eyes in that dark room and I knew I absolutely could and I didn’t. But I remember how he smells and the way he made me laugh hard enough that it seemed to trip something dangerous and real in my guts. I remember both of us bent at the waist and laughing until there should have been tears.