Architecture is the smuttiest field of study. I know this because I once looked up the term “flying buttress” to impress an architecture student, and found the following: A flying buttress typically consists of an inclined member carried on an arch or a series of arches and a solid buttress to which it transmits lateral thrust. An inclined member? Lateral thrust? Who could read this stuff without getting aroused?
Aroused was exactly what I didn’t need. I was 24 and had just moved into the house I’d bought with my boyfriend, and I was full-out in lust with someone else—worse, a kid who hadn’t even graduated from college yet.
I loved my boyfriend, but I was a crush junkie. I’d had so many crushes I couldn’t even remember them all. So far, my most memorable crush had been a guy my college friends had nicknamed “Animal” because of his unkempt appearance and unpredictable behavior. He had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen and an adorable New York accent, but the reason I fell for him was a paper he’d left open on one of the computers in the lab where I worked. His vocabulary made me swoon. In one paper, he’d used “arcane,” “abiotic,” and “poesy.” I was smitten. He was a vegan, however, and I worried that my love for cheese would create distance between us. I was still thinking about him four years later, when I spent several days fantasizing about how we’d meet again. He’d come back to our alma mater to give a lecture on arcane abiotic poesy; I’d attend the lecture and mill around the lecture hall afterward, waiting for him to pack up his briefcase. Then I’d introduce myself. We’d go out for a drink, and I’d find out that he’d taken up dairy products. The fantasy always ended with us in a hotel room together, thinking of hard white cheddar and warm brie on crackers as we locked in a passionate embrace.
Now here I was, committed to someone, yet again being led astray by my capricious heart. I knew I was head-over-heels with my crush (aka Mr. X) when I spent an inordinate amount of time in Microsoft Word making a text box and filling it with the proper colors and pattern to represent his underwear, which I had glimpsed peeking from atop the waistband of his low-hanging shorts. Also, I had noticed that he smelled amazing. Just smelling him gave me butterflies. But the thing I loved most about Mr. X was the way he interacted with the kids at the summer camp where we worked. Whenever I watched him with the kids, I got a kind of warm feeling like having just eaten oatmeal on a winter morning.
He was butterflies and oatmeal.
I was tortured by my feelings, and frankly embarrassed by them, but I couldn’t ignore them. They were compelling me to act. I agonized through the duration of summer camp and realized, the last week, that I was running out of time. I had already initiated what I had hoped would be a steamy discussion of flying buttresses, but given my limited knowledge of architecture, the ploy had fallen flat after a few minutes. I frantically tried to think of other tacks. Nothing I felt about Mr. X seemed to constitute an appropriate conversation starter.
Me: Hello. I have chosen you for procreation.
Him: [stares blankly]
Me: Come on. [snaps fingers impatiently] Hand over the sperm.
Me: [sniffs] You smell good.
Him: [stares blankly]
Me: Like a delectable buffet of human flesh.
Mr. X’s mom worked at the camp too, teaching art. She was tall and blond, like him, sweet and always smiling, and had a very long braid, and I loved her and wanted her to be my mother-in-law. For the last camp session, we taught together, and that was how I learned that Mr. X was about to leave for a semester in Iceland.
Iceland. Seriously! Not that I thought anything would actually come of my crush, but I could hardly stand letting him take off for Europe while here in the States, I writhed in the acute distress of silent love.
Me: So, I hear you’re going to Iceland.
Me: Wow. I bet it will be cold there.
Me: Cold like a witch’s tit. Like the black, black heart of Satan.
Him: [stares blankly]
Me: You should take a jacket.
Clearly, I had no plan that I envisioned being successful, so I went into the last day of camp supposing I’d improvise. As I was bidding goodbye to Mommy X, she shocked me by saying, “It was great working with you. My son talks about you all the time. He really admires you.”
I was not prepared for that. I stammered something ridiculous, asking for her complicity in keeping her son single for the next calendar year. (What the hell was I thinking? That wasn’t much better than “Hand over the sperm.”)
That day as he was leaving, he said, “Abby, it was an honor and a pleasure.”
I should have taken that opportunity to establish prolonged eye contact, but I was too busy exerting control over my bladder. I also should have gotten his email address. Instead, I drove home starry-eyed, immediately consulted Merriam-Webster, and spent the next two weeks performing a thorough analysis of the words admire, honor, and pleasure and their various shades of meaning, including etymologies.
When I got bored with that, I drafted a memo to all Icelandic women under the age of 30 informing them that Mr. X was not available for “unwholesome activities,” wherein I referred to the entire female population of Iceland as “sniveling Icelandic whore-types.”
To be continued next Memoir Monday!
Photo credits: nvcc.edu, morguefile.com, morrisonhotelgallery.com