A Rainy Day For A Walk: Part One – For The Love Of The South
Let me tell you a story about a nineteen year old girl, who was forced to walk home in the rain.
I had moved to the South for college in the early 2000’s. I was so in love with the idea of the South; the beautiful plantation style homes, the weather, rocking chairs, and sweet tea sippin’ daze. Being raised in a home where a loud roar was the standard volume of conversing, I yearned for the calmness and quiet of the South I’d read about. I fantasized about sitting on a porch and just listening to the insects singing at night, while discussing novels and music with friends and of course, a man. I was bound and determined to find myself a beautiful Southern gentleman. I blame that damn Nicholas Sparks, and my step father for buying me his novels when I was in High School. I thought that my life in the South was going to be one big romantic escapade. One where a sweet Southern gentleman would sweep me off my feet and we would stroll the quiet streets, hand in hand sipping Mint Julep’s all while a stringed quartet played our future wedding song in the background…
I was quickly smacked in the face by reality shortly after my arrival to the Queens City. The humidity was so thick, it felt like my hair in all of its glorious frizziness was trying to leave my body. My first full time job once I got situated was sweating. When your shins are sweating while you’re standing still, its time to reevaluate your life choices. After an eight hour shift of perspiring, my part time job was explaining to people where I was from. Some, being very confused at the idea that, “I’m not from here,” did not mean I was a foreign exchange student. Besides trying to stay hydrated, my main objective was to make friends. Preferably ones that didn’t call me a “Yankee,” after learning that I was from Jersey. I’m not kidding, I was called a Yankee more times than I could count. After several of my bubbles were popped by real life, I couldn’t help but think what a trickster that Nicholas Sparks was. Those “singing insects” from my day dreams were the size of my fists and rumor had it that many were poisonous. Then when I realized sweet tea tasted like diabetes, I wanted to write Nicholas Sparks a personal letter forcing him to print a disclaimer at the end of his novels.
“Jersey girls, take heed. Your hair spray is no match for our humidity, and the bugs are bigger than …”
I wouldn’t have even continued reading the disclaimer at that point, just kept my romanticizing to myself. I would then assume, that in my readings the South and all of its glory portrayed in Mr. Spark’s novels was too much for me to handle, even in the search of a perfect gentleman. However, there was no disclaimer, no warning, just beautiful descriptions of what I wanted my life to be. So, I packed up everything a Freshman could ever need and my parents drove me down three days before classes started. I never even saw the campus before the day they threw me out of their rental van. They barely even stopped, I just tucked and rolled right into life and my new found independence in the South.
After the initial reality check, and realization that my life was not going to be a romantic comedy I settled into life as a freshman. I was making new friends, staying up late, laughing and giggling about anything and everything. Exploring campus, and really just falling in love with the South, just as promised by Mr. Sparks. I was really enjoying my freedom, and seeing how people from different parts of the world with different upbringings were handling this college situation we were all in. Young people trying to find their way through campus, navigating new relationships with people you didn’t grow up with and trust, and just trying to find out who you are in the process. All while going to classes, studying and pretending to be adults. Its terrifying and exhilarating all the same. I made so many friends, and so many mistakes in just one year. Miraculously, I got through the first year with an average GPA, and a handful of some lifelong friends. It was one of the best years of my life and I was in LOVE with my surroundings. I knew that I wanted to stay in the South for the rest of my days. All I needed was a novel or movie worthy romance and I’d be set, right? Or so my basic nineteen year old girl brain thought.
If you ask any of my friends from that infamous Freshman year, I was absolutely boy crazed (at times, even girl crazed -don’t judge). I didn’t really have a type, I just wanted to love and be loved. From the very tall, dark and handsome forward on the basketball team to the ironically funny atheist who wore shirts of bands I’d never heard of. From the country boys, to the sporty guys at the gym, tall, thick, thin… As long as they were clean, made me laugh and showed zero interest in me romantically, I wanted them. Ridiculous how that works isn’t it? Not that I didn’t have my fair share of interested boys that year, but it just seemed that the few that I was intrigued by the most just thought of me as “one of the guys.” Some, like #1 on the basketball team didn’t even know I existed, which was totally okay. He would’ve broken my heart for sure. Trust me, even as I’m typing I’m shaking my head at how ridiculous I was. I was young, excitable, eager, wide-eyed and bushy tailed. It was a wonderful time in my life where I grew, I explored, and I found little pieces along the way of the woman I wanted to become in the very far future. Hell, I’m still trying to put all the pieces of that crazy bitch together, and I’m in my thirties.
Freshman year was such a refreshing experience, almost like a cleanse, because I got to find out who I was outside of my family. Outside of the town I grew up in, and the friends I had since grade school. I was lucky enough to get this amazing opportunity to be so far away from my hometown that no one knew who I was. There wasn’t one person for miles and miles around that knew the story about when I fell on stage during orchestra practice. No one knew about how I got my period at my best friends pool party when I was twelve or had photos of my bad haircuts and questionable fashion decisions. I was no longer just so and so’s little sister or little Melvina. I was just me, without the embarrassing stories and the weight of my family. I was new, I was still a mystery to myself let alone everyone I was meeting. I had a clean slate and it was awesome.
My sophomore year came around and I returned to the South after a summer in Jersey. I was refreshed, already missing my Jersey girls, but ready to take on the new year and ready for some new adventures. Within a couple of weeks back at school a close friend of mine wanted me to meet some of her new friends. She was living in some off campus apartments and had made friends with the guys in the apartment above hers. I can still remember waiting outside my dorm with her as these guys came walking down the hill. After a quick scan from a distance I zeroed in on one guy. I was immediately drawn to him. He was taller than me, had dark eyes and hair, a bigger guy. Not overweight, just thick. As soon as he opened his mouth, I heard this southern drawl and my hopeless romantic heart and my pea sized brain was hooked. Now, fourteen years later I honestly can’t remember the exact details of how our relationship started, all I know is that it did. We were passionately, and tragically off to the races.
When you are in a new relationship you get blind folded and thrown into a love bubble. It’s actually more like a thick fog that covers up the truth and bullshit. Mainly, it covers up all the tiny and boulder sized hints as to why you shouldn’t be together. Unfortunately or fortunately the love fog always fades, and you are left with reality. With some people the reality is even better than the fog, but for some or most you see the pieces of another human being that are just deal breakers. It doesn’t mean you were dating an awful person (sometimes you are), it just means that your person is still out there. Ugh, our fog was SO thick, thick like him I suppose… Everything was wonderful, sweet, and vomit worthy. We were young and ridiculous, having a blast, creating private jokes and some typical college memories. All while ignoring the raging, screaming red flags being thrown at us at every turn. The relationship only lasted half a year, and if it weren’t for the way it ended it would have been your typical quickie romance. It would not have had such a strong effect on my life if we would’ve just had a huge argument and broken up like a normal failed couple. I guess everyone needs to go through a few soul searching, heart wrenching moments in their lives and this was one of them for me…
As I started my long walk back to my dorm, I could feel the weight of every rain drop beating down on my body. As if mother nature knew I needed to be cleansed of what just happened.
To be continued next week…