One fall afternoon, in between Mr. X Debacle #1 and Mr. X Debacle #2, I was standing in line at Panera Bread when who should appear before me but Metal Nose Boy.
Metal Nose Boy and I had gone to college together. And he was gorgeous. I had spent long portions of English 2282, The Modern British Novel, staring at the bottom hem of his t-shirt, just in case he would shift slightly to reveal a tantalizing sliver of the most beautiful torso I had ever seen. The first time I saw him stretch, I melted, and I’m quite sure I missed several important points about Virginia Woolf while I was conjuring up a scenario in which something important got stuck to the ceiling and he had to reach for it.
Although we had several English classes together, I knew little about him. Ever since he’d made a comment in class about men’s directional sense being due to metal in their noses, Ray and I had referred to him solely as “Metal Nose Boy.” He seemed scattered; he would arrive to class at the last minute, carrying a 2-liter bottle of soda and wearing jeans that suggested he’d been rolling around in a cow pasture all night. By the time we got to our senior seminar in English, sitting a mere two seats apart from each other, he had become a delicious mystery I longed to delve into. I ignored him, however, telling myself that no guy that hot could have a shred of sense. The truth was, I thought I wasn’t pretty enough for him.
MNB broke the silence one night in the computer lab while all of us in senior seminar were squeezing out the last few pages of our thesis papers. He approached me—me, the nerd—and asked if he could borrow my highlighter. He had just fallen asleep, he informed me, and drooled all over The Collected Stories of John Cheever. I handed him my highlighter in awe. On several occasions after that night, he promised to return it, but he never did.
We had encountered each other again a few years after graduation when we were hired to teach English at the same school, but I squandered that opportunity, for I spent most of the year gawking at him from afar. We both left at the end of that year—I left to teach at another school, and he left to go work as a driver for UPS—and that was the last I’d seen him until this surprise appearance.
After I introduced MNB to the friend I was standing in line with, MNB said, apparently by way of explanation: “We always had this thing.” Here he made a strange gesture. “I think she hated me. She was so intimidating.”
I was baffled. Intimidating?? Intimidating people are confident. I’m about as confident as I am calm—which is not at all. As I’ve mentioned, I’m unduly anxious about dying from any number of ridiculous ailments, not to mention terrified of interacting with other human beings. Someone else had once posed this ridiculous idea of my being intimidating, which had led me to press my friend Joy with, “Am I intimidating? Am I intimidating? Am I really intimidating?”
“No.” She scowled. “But you’re extremely repetitive. Please stop.”
I had to cogitate upon this. Maybe I did appear inaccessible to guys. Later that day I reflected on our encounter, and I had to admit that Metal Nose Boy had treated me in a way that suggested he didn’t think I was completely repulsive. Maybe I should try to seek him out. But what was I supposed to do? Hang out at Panera Bread and hope to randomly encounter him again? No, there had to be a better strategy.
I couldn’t figure out another strategy. But as it turned out, I didn’t need one, because my banal and pathetic plan of frequenting the bakery worked. A few weeks later I saw him again, and amazingly—as Ray likes to say—we “swapped digits.”
* * *
MNB and I spent one Saturday together at a street festival, where he flirted with me and snuggled me and told me how much he’d always admired me as an English major. I couldn’t wait to tell Ray. The whole day had a surreal quality—partly because of heavy alcohol consumption, but also because I was undergoing a paradigm shift. Previously, I thought I was way too dorky and not nearly pretty enough to be liked by MNB, and now, I saw myself as actually desirable. It was a whole new picture of the universe, sort of how I imagined Copernicus must have felt when he first conceived his heliocentric theory and thought, “Well, shit. I don’t know my head from my ass anymore.” Only he would have said that in Italian. Or Polish. The point is, it was disorienting. And fantastic. And I later realized—as I was waiting for his promised call—terrifying.
To be continued next Memoir Monday.
What did I miss?
Photo credits: Flickr/roboppy, Wikipedia