I met her the first day of the first week of my new life away from home. It is called college and I recall it vividly and will always remember it photographically.
I set out from Cleveland to go to school in the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio for a number of reasons. It is hard to quantify each, but they all were important to me. I had gone to the same grade school and high school that my four older brothers had attended. Each of them had, in turn, all gone off to the same college. But each of them were close enough in age to attend High School and college together. When I was in Eighth grade my next oldest brother was a senior in high school, so by the time I got there he was already gone to college with his next older brother. I felt I needed to break the trend, I was the last in the chain of children and needed to do something unique. Of course at this point if I had chosen to follow the fraternal footsteps in the collegiate ranks my brother would still have been in and around the University as he was following an instructional path that would keep him instituted for some time longer than four years.
But I had to get away, had to go somewhere different, do something different. I didn’t have the grades for anything exotic and my family didn’t have the money for anything exotic. I looked at the big University in the center of the state and was appalled at what they called housing. I grew up in a house built for seven people to live in and by the time I was in high school I had virtually an entire floor to myself in which to reside. I couldn’t fathom living in a single room with three other people and sharing a bathroom with three other units. It was just a swath of male testosterone piled on top of inadequate living conditions. I was turned off immediately.
So somewhere different turned out to be another hour to the southwest, closer to Cincinnati and Indiana, both which would become important destinations for me. Fairborn was far enough away and yet close enough to home. And they had a good enough program in what I wanted to major in and most importantly nice, new dorms where girls and boys all lived on the same floors.
I convinced my parents to let me go off on my own, so I packed up my little red Ford Escort full of essentials and made the trip for the first time alone, plowing into Dayton a single man far from home, but not so far.
It was perfection. I ended up in a double room in Hawthorn Hall, one of the larger dorms in The Woods but perfect for my needs and what I was looking for as far as living in college. I would have a single roommate and we would share a single bathroom with two other male roommates on the other side of the wall.
Dan and I had a microwave and a beer fridge, a window overlooking the parking lot and volleyball court. I had a lofted bed with a desk underneath, Dan had a more standard affair with his desk under the window. Our suite-mate’s where Chris and Chris. Chris, whom I had met previously during a one night orientation, was friendly with our neighbor on the other side of the wall, Tracy. Tracy was having some trouble with her cable and I happened to know a thing or two about cables, and Cable, and cabling so somehow or other I was asked to go help her out.
Which I did. And I recall nothing of the cable issue except that I resolved it. Pretty sure she just didn’t have it plugged in. I do recall entering the room, and seeing Rhea sitting on her bed, quite possibly cowering from me and I distinctly remember thinking: “Huh”. Because that is what Real Men think when they see women of interest. “Huh”. And this was really my first “Huh” moment of my life.
There are many possible reactions for men upon seeing women for the first time. There is first and foremost a physical attraction, which is very quickly followed by a deeper analysis which can resolve itself to many possible outcomes. From the words that are not and can not be spoken when confronted by extreme beauty which inevitably leads to a failed relationship. Men, when stalking in groups know this as just a raised eyebrow glance. To the second tier of “There’s something interesting and persuable” which men will voice with a single monosyllabic “Huh”. To the other end of the spectrum which can occasionally raise a man to verbage a “Come On” or “Honestly?” but more often will send a man’s eyes searching the room for another man just so he can shake his head in male bewilderment. The levels on intricacy between these levels are myriad and indescribable, incoded into the base of male DNA. Looks, grunts, simple hand movements, a micro-millimeter raised eyebrow with an almost imperceptible nod indicating there is something worth looking at across the waiting area of an airport.
There is course work here for the ages, suffice it to say we have a system of grading and it is immediate and monosyllabic at best.
I fixed Tracy’s cable, met Rhea and her suite mates and collected myself back to my room.
There are times in life that seem like an eternity while there are other times that move so quickly that years seem to pass as often as waves crashing to the shore. Freshman year of college seemed to last forever, just like my year in graduate school and my first couple years working a real job. I’m not sure if it has to do with how we percieve time or how we live in the moment but for me, a year in the my early twenties seems to have lasted longer than my whole decade of my thirties.
Rhea and I danced around a relationship our whole first year of school. I was fighting off feelings for an old flame from high school and trying to play the field in college. I went to IU to visit my best friend on more than one occasion that year.
At the end of our first full year of living next door to each other we finally both gave in and ended up in my loft. It was her first time ever and my sheets and my back reflected this event. I went home for the summer to work, we weren’t officially dating at the time even though we had hooked up. It was college.
Over the next two years we would be through a lot. In the next decades we would be through a lot more.