I was about 27 and living in a small town with my brother and his son. I had the day off from work and was spending it at the laundromat to avoid doing so when it was busier. As I lifted some heavy, wet clothes out of the washer and dropped them into a basket on wheels, I felt someone trying to get my attention. I looked up from my clothes and noticed a man standing near me, looking at me. He was tall and skinny; about my age; with long, thinning hair tied back in a ponytail. And he was asking me if my name was Chris—a shortened name I went by until I was 24.
“It’s me… Guy.”
I looked at him trying to connect the dots.
“We went to freshman orientation together at Columbia?” he added. “…Because of Angel?”
“Holy shit!” I exclaimed, dots connecting.
We talked briefly amidst the rumbling laundromat before exchanging numbers and agreeing to meet for lunch later in the week to reconnect.
It had been nearly a decade since we last saw one another; I was a little nervous and excited about our lunch date. The morning of the day we were meeting, I dressed in clothing that made me look and feel better about my non-socializing, haven’t-been-with-a-guy-in-several-years self.
We met at an empty joint in a strip mall near our jobs. We talked over our lunch, smiling a lot. I was still nervous, but not too excited anymore.
After catching up about our college days and what we’d been up to since then, we started talking about our past together.
What past together? I wondered. The one awkward day we spent together at freshman orientation...or the handful of times we got stoned with Angel?
Angel was a year younger than me and smitten over Guy. He’s all she ever talked about while we worked together the summer before I started college. I think the thrill of giving herself to an “older man” enraptured her.
I remember her gushing about a painting Guy created—of an exotic woman with long, dark curly hair and green eyes (I had long, dark curly hair and green eyes)—and how it hung on the back of his bedroom door. She was his dream come true, she said.
I remember Angel took a photo of me, brought it to a salon, and came to work the week after with curly hair like mine. A couple days later she walked in wearing a pair of green contact lenses. People started asking us if we were sisters.
As summer closed and Angel discovered Guy and I would be going to the same school together, she insisted we go to freshman orientation together.
“Do you remember the time we went bowling?” Guy smiled like he just won a prize.
“Of course.” My stomach went sour as I thought back on that winter night we all got stoned in his car and ended up at the bowling alley where I spent the rest of the time in the bathroom trying to survive the cramps my period and the pot made me feel. I was sure I was dying that night.
“You really didn’t react to the drugs like I thought you would.”
My throat started burning as I swallowed back my lunch. I forced a smile while I took a drink of water and played with the food on my plate.
Then Guy quietly revealed to me that he’d wanted to be with me the whole time and not Angel.
My heart started racing and I couldn’t even pretend to eat anymore: What the motherfucking-shit was this guy talking about?
“I painted a picture of you long before I ever met you,” he whispered.
All the motherfucking dots connected into a big, fat exclamation mark that wrapped itself around my neck and tried dragging me out of the restaurant booth.
I forced another smile, praying for the nightmare to end and wondering if maybe I was just being paranoid.
Finally the check was left and we walked out together, but went our separate ways to our separate cars.
I zipped back to work and told a coworker about my lunch date and she agreed: Creepy motherfucker!
A year or so later, the sky was white and gray. Most of the leaves had fallen off the trees and there was a distinct chill in the air; winter was knocking hard. I was living alone in another smaller town a bit north of the one I lived in with my brother and nephew. My boyfriend and I were hauling garbage out to the curb. As we neared the street, I noticed a man on a bike pedaling toward us.
The closer we got to the curb, the closer the bicyclist came toward us…the faster my heart started beating.
It was Guy.
I dropped my eyes and garbage and went into the house and locked myself in the bathroom. When I came out I told my waiting boyfriend all about Guy…And that’s when another dot was connected as I remembered a day just a week before when I got into my stupidly unlocked car and noticed the ashtray was sitting next to me in the passenger seat. Nothing else was amiss in the car—even the change in the cup holder remained intact.
It all spooked me, heightening my awareness about locking doors and windows, as well as making me constantly aware of any and everyone around me.
It’s been another decade now.
I’ve moved another handful of times and life is very different.