Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I had a huge crush on a girl during my senior year of college.  We had a class together and even though it wasn’t a huge lecture hall, she always seemed out of reach, either a couple of seats too far, or a couple of rows in front or behind me.  She ended up joining myself and some of my friends for a group project, but even then, she was kind of in and out, barely there at all.  None of us in the group were upset at her.  She was responsive, she got her work done, and she probably felt like an outsider since the rest of us were already friends, she just did her work independently of the group.  Naturally, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to capitalize on  this group project to get to know her better, but one of the girls from the group did get her number when we started the project, so it wasn’t a total loss.  Now, I wasn’t going to take the number and ask her out, since that would be an invasion of privacy, but I was able to plead with my friend to contact her about my upcoming birthday that the rest of the group was invited to.

It was expected that she would politely decline, but instead of that being the end of the conversation, she asked my friend for my number.  She felt so honored that she was invited, that she wanted to get dinner with me at some later date to  make it up to me.  This was probably the best outcome that I could have hoped for, and it wasn’t even a scenario that I had accounted for.  Instead of trying to get to know her in front of all my friends at my birthday party, I would have the chance to get to know her in a more intimate setting.

She made good on her word and she called me a few days shortly after my birthday.  She apologized profusely for not making it to the party.  At this point I didn’t even care, but she wanted to explain, and unfortunately, that explanation took all the wind out of my sails.  It turns out that her boyfriend, who was out at sea, was in town for that weekend so he understandably was the higher priority.  I didn’t know she had a boyfriend, but I tried my best to not express any visible disappointment.  She still wanted to get dinner with me so I obliged and we set a date.  I figured that I might as well turn this girl who was a mystery to me for so long into an actual person, whether she was attainable or not.

I assume that we chose TGI Fridays as our dinner destination because we had just gotten out of college and not because it was either of our favorite restaurant.  She gave me a hug when she walked in, and we waited for our table.  I tried my best to keep my composure and make the conversation as smooth as possible, but I was extremely nervous.  When it came time to place our orders, I decided to order a steak, even though I’d never ordered a steak at TGI Fridays before.  It wasn’t incredibly expensive, but in retrospect, it’s weird that I ordered that, especially knowing how nerve wracked I was.

We talked about college and where we were headed now that we had graduated.  Her plan was to become a lawyer, and my plan was to become the next great filmmaker.  She was going to move back in to her mother’s house while she studied for the LSAT, and I was going to stick around Irvine, writing scripts, and hopefully making short films.  She mentioned how her boyfriend was in the military and that he wanted to be a doctor when he was  done with his service.  They had already planned it all out.  She would become a lawyer and she would support him while he went to school, until he could support her.  It was a very noble plan, and I had no intention of trying to get in their way.

Finally, the food arrived and I started to eat my steak.  After a few bites, I shoved a rather large chunk of steak into my mouth, chewed it a few times, and tried to swallow it.  It wasn’t working.  I tried to wash it down with some coke, but to no avail, I was choking.  I didn’t want to try to give myself the Heimlich Maneuver, or at least, not in front of her.  I wanted to excuse myself from the table but I couldn’t speak, and I didn’t want to interrupt her in the middle of whatever she was saying.  I was stuck, and I was terrified.  While I knew that we weren’t going to ride happily ever after into the sunset, I still didn’t want to look like a complete idiot in front of her, and here I was, not able to eat a steak without almost killing myself.

I ended up forcing it out on to the floor without giving myself the Heimlich, but at this point she was aware that I was choking.  She was obviously startled, but she tried to casually brush it off to save me from any more embarrassment than I was already feeling.  We were able to continue our conversation and enjoy the rest of the night.  We started to hang out regularly after that incident but things never aligned for us to start dating, even though she had friends who definitely preferred me to some of the other guys that she would date later.  I should’ve learned from this instance that I shouldn’t put so much stock in to that first encounter with a girl, but it’s I can’t help it because I’m such a dreamer.  I’d like for whatever girl I’m seeing to think I’d kill myself to be there with them that night, because it almost happened once, but I also hope that it never happens again.

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