Now Ophelia, she’s ‘neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid”
—“Desolation Row” Bob Dylan
For two hours, twice a week, I sat to the back and right of the most amazing set of legs I had ever seen. It was a summer Intro to Political Science course, and the thirty-two inch long legs belonged to a studious brunette, who, before asking her out, I luckily learned was only seventeen. Apparently, she was taking a few college courses during the summer of her junior to senior years of high school. At the time, I had just turned twenty and had sworn off girls younger than myself. I was well beyond the drama of high school and was looking for mature women, not girls.
She showed up to class every Tuesday and Thursday in skimpy, light-weight running shorts and running shoes. You could see the wisps of hair at the nape of her neck curl from the sweat garnered during her pre-class run. She was clearly smart, always answering the professor intelligently, especially for a teenager, and even once earning a comment from him on one of her papers. She was one of those uptight kinds that makes something feral inside you want to break into a pliable, pleading hot mess. But, like I said, she was only seventeen.
That was three years ago, and as I sat across from the rowdy group of girls, trying desperately to place that delicately cut, exotic face of the smart brunette that had all the answers, it was those legs that flashed into my mind, and then I knew exactly who the woman was.
The Colony is a stand-alone brick building complete with low, wood ceilings and floors, a large brick fire place, an excellently carved bar, low lighting, and oh, yeah, trivia on Tuesday nights. Occasionally the prize is money, but more often than not, the draw is just an hour and half of fun entertainment, good beer, and the likely chance of hooking up with pretty tail. Usually, four or five of my closest classmates join in on Tuesday night trivia, often times winning. At first glance, it appeared that night would be no different as the rainy January weather had caused a low turnout.
But in the booth across from our table were five young women, obviously looking for a little fun during their last week of winter break. Drinks were thrown back at an alarming rate, and several of the girls got louder and louder as the evening wore on. Being guys, we checked them out quickly, scanning for any pretty faces to watch or bodies to lust over. There were several, especially the ring leader. She had straight, platinum blonde hair and giant tits. Even in her thick sweater, you could see how great they were. And she gave you plenty of opportunities to witness their greatness when their team, the, ahem, Pussy Galores got correct answers. She would stand up and throw some loud obnoxious taunt while shaking her torso, sending those mammoth tits to swaying tantalizingly.
After the third round, I noticed the seemingly stupid chicks were not only ahead of us, but the margin of difference between our scores was growing steadily. Now, without bragging, I can honestly say that I am usually ranked at the top of any peer group, and thankfully, without much effort. Granted, I studied hard for the LSAT, but that was more the exception than the rule. I am also by nature extremely competitive and have been called an elitist several times. All these attributes culminate to make me quite an arrogant asshole.
Or so I’ve been told.
There was something about that group of girls, led by that big-titted, dumb blonde that made my fingers itch. At each question, I would watch them, trying to discover how they came up with their answers, and that’s when I noticed her. She was sitting in the corner of their booth with the least amount of light in an already dimly lit place. Her dark hair was down, veiling a great amount of her from recognition.
The question would come over the crappy loud speaker, and the entire group would immediately turn to her. Sometimes she had to think about it, tap the pen wildly on the table, but usually she was able to spout off an answer instantly. The rounds went on, as did my study of this girl. It quickly became clear that if I wanted to beat this group, she was my opponent.
Her face was hidden in shadow, making her true features hard to see. But something intrigued me about her. Perhaps it was the shadow-king effect. You know, she had all the power but didn’t flaunt it, or maybe it was spurred on by my competitive nature that stung wildly at being beaten by a girl. Whatever it was, I needed to know more about her.
I watched how she handled the pen in her hands, twirling it three-hundred-sixty degrees on her thumb, drummed her long, thin fingers on the table, and sat to herself, not engaging in the idle chit-chat around her. I noticed she didn’t have any drink, nor did she snack on the table’s nachos. I did see her face glow blue occasionally whenever she looked down at her lap, and I realized she must have been on her phone. I was instantly struck with curiosity of who she was texting at that late hour.
After the seventh round, she excused herself from the booth, sliding out from her dark corner. Was she getting a drink? I thought it might be a good opportunity to at least see her more clearly. Maybe even introduce myself. Maybe mention the tight competition. Maybe ask for her number.
I jumped up, and responded non-affirmatively to my friends who asked for a beer if I was going to the bar. I stalked behind her, waiting to see where she would land, and that is when she cut off to the bathroom. Damn. But I thought quickly and ripped out my cell phone and made like I was talking on it in the quieter nook near the restrooms. I would just wait.
Nothing could quite prepare me for when she walked out and nearly bumped into me. When she looked up, I swear I stopped breathing. Her face, no longer hidden in shadow, was truly amazing. Her magnificently arched eyebrows lifted in surprise before she managed a soft ‘excuse me,’ and cut around me back to her table. I walked back to my own, completely absorbed in her rich blue eyes. Not only was her face gorgeous, I had the haunting feeling that I had seen it before. For a moment, I actually tried to convince myself that I had seen her in a dream; that she was meant to be mine. But, as a member of the modern world, I typically try to suppress my romanticism and fantastical nature, and so only laughed at the absurd idea.
Now I truly couldn’t keep my eyes off her. My brain wracked itself trying to locate her in my memories. I felt a little like an idiot for ever forgetting her to begin with. And that’s when the image of the perfect legs struck me. It was the same girl from my poli class. Only now, she wasn’t in high school. She was a young woman, and she was a knockout. I cannot relate how quickly I became obsessed with meeting her. I tried several times to get her attention, to make eye contact, but nothing seemed to work. She was more interested in that damn phone than looking around.
And that’s when the idea struck me. I went to the bar, bought two more rounds for every guy at my table and even sent two rounds of shots to the girls. I got the guys to drink up and when the order arrived at the girls’ table, I had my guys make salutes, saying something about friendly competition. As expected, everyone around me was increasing their blood-alcohol levels at an alarming rate. Not surprisingly, the up-tight brunette didn’t partake of the free libations, which only made me want to corner her more.
I began prompting my fellas to start a little friendly banter with the girls, which of course they were more than eager to do. The shots on top of the alcohol the girls had already consumed worked like magic to make them loud, flirtatious sluts. Especially the big-titted blonde. She loved the attention and yelling back obscene, double-entendres.
The growing frenzy of the exchanges at last crescendoed when, much to my chagrin, the Pussy Galores solidly defeated us in the eighth round, earning themselves another bucket of beers. As I peered past all those drunk girls whooping at us to the little ringer hidden in the dark corner, my skin itched at her seeming indifference to the whole game, her face cast down to her lap and illuminated in the soft blue light of her phone, so oblivious to the frustrations that she caused me. And then I wondered if she wasn’t just a little cheat.
Every society has its own cultures, oftentimes, with unspoken rules for etiquette, and the trivia scene is no different. And one of the most hallowed is no phones allowed, simply because cheating was too easily had on those innocuous mobile devices. My competitive nature simply assumed she must be on her phone to cheat.
I continued eyeing her as transitions and segues were being made all around. My plan was working like a charm; my guys, and interestingly enough, a few of those girls, were initiating more than just casual taunts. There was talk about going up to the bar for drinks and the chit-chat that is like dipping your toe into the water to check the temperature. I saw her talk to one of the girls she had been sitting by. The other made a big gesture, and she responded with a head shake and started sliding from the booth to get out. I knew that body language. It was uninterested and final.
She was leaving.
My movements became instinctual and unplanned, moving quickly and smoothly so as to be unnoticed by the two groups dispersing and reorganizing into more intimate pairs. There were people coming in and going out the front door, and as I finally stepped clear of the crowd and into the chilly nighttime, for a moment I was afraid I had lost her. The rain had stopped at some point, leaving behind freshly clean, wet asphalt of a moderately crowded parking lot. Scanning quickly, I saw the back of her slip past the corner of the pub, rounding into the darkness toward the alley.
I dashed forward, and as I cleared the corner, I again saw her disappearing behind the next one, flitting out of my vision like an apparition. But I raced forward and at last caught up with her, and in the eerie, flickering yellow haze of the lone, dim street light in the alley, I took a few mindless steps behind her. I was speaking before I could give any clear thought to what it was I was actually fucking doing.
“Not gonna stay for a celebration drink? Least you could do after beating me is allow me to buy you a drink.”
I almost cursed myself when she flinched from my voice and cowered off to the right, her feet only pausing for a mere nanosecond before they picked up noticeable speed, moving quickly on her way.
“Excuse me?” she asked over her shoulder, her momentary fear evident in her voice, as well as the distinct feeling she didn’t care to speak with a stranger in a dark alley. Just under the conscious, alcohol-fueled, competitive irritation I held with her, was the squirming understand I was acting like a fucking predator even though I was interested in this girl and I didn’t want to harass her. And yet…
“You know, a drink to celebrate your little win back there,” I said, keeping in step with her. “But maybe that’s not your style. Maybe you like to party in private. Or maybe you just don’t feel like celebrating a dishonest win. Is that it? Guilt killing your party spirit? Won’t let you have fun when you’ve cheated?” That stopped her.
“I beg your pardon,” she responded with incredulity in her voice as she whirled around on me, facing me at last. “Exactly what are you implying?” Our eyes connected just a moment, and then, what was left of the dim streetlight finally flickered off and did not come back on, leaving us standing in emptiness with only faded sounds of passing cars and non-illuminating twinkles of light calling from beyond our small stretch of existence. I heard her gasp, and could just make out her figure as my eyes adjusted to the dark.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” I returned her challenge, confidently stalking a step closer in the new cover of darkness. I couldn’t see her expression, but I could hear her breathing increase. “All the evidence in the world right there on that little phone,” I accused smoothly. And then she was cornered against the brick wall of the adjacent brick building behind The Colony. I trapped her on one side with my hand pressed against the wall near her head. My eyes were focusing on her now, and though it was muted, I could see just her eyes staring up into mine.
But she managed to recover impressively from my closeness, simply rolling her eyes in an effort to dismiss me. “You’re delusional. And drunk,” she said with annoyance as she took a step past me.
“Am I?” I quickly took a side step to cut her off. “Or am I observant enough to catch onto your little game?” I could feel her confusion…and worry?
“Yeah. I could see it, though you tried to hide it, just like you hid yourself in that dark little corner,” I said, my voice dropping as I took another step, this time our bodies brushing.
“Hiding?” she questioned in a voice coated in a new huskiness that hadn’t been there before. It itched the inside of my gut, and just like that, I felt myself pulled in. But before I was completely lost, she stiffened. “I’m not hiding anything,” she declared with aggressive confidence.
“Really?” I said slowly and didn’t attempt to stop the dangerous edge to my own voice. Before she understood my intentions, my hand snatched her phone from her.
“Hey! What are you doing? Give me that!” she demanded, her hand clutching for her phone.
“When I’m finished.” I grappled to grab onto her upper arm in the dark and hold her at arm’s length. “Trying to deny you cheated? Well let’s just see what your handy little phone here has to say about that, shall we?” In the dark I fingered for the button at the bottom to turn the phone on. “Don’t you know it’s against the rules to look up answers on your phone? Even if you’ve never played before, it should be obvious that looking up answers is cheating,” I mocked condescendingly. But when I looked down at the screen to vindicate my suspicions, I realized the content of her web browser had nothing to do with trivia answers.
I quickly surmised the web page was a member’s page of an obvious porn site. There were ads at the top and bottom of various couples en flagrante delicto, and I quickly read the words author and story submissions. I took note of the site’s name as well as her user name.
“Hey!” she screamed witnessing me uncover her very dirty little secret, and in my moment of distraction she was able to reach for her phone and seize it back. She clutched it to her chest with both hands as if she had just stolen back her panties from me, though, given what I had discovered, it probably wasn’t far from it. “You asshole!” she seethed at me as she ripped her arm from my grasp and stormed down the alley. It took me a moment to catch up with all I had just discovered: not only was she not a cheat, and not only did she visit porn sites, but she actually wrote erotic stories. When I finally did snap out of it, she had reached the street and had her keys in hand to open the door of an old, dingy yellow car. As she struggled in the dark, I had a chance to race after her.
“Hey! Wait up!” I yelled at her, hoping to explain myself, apologize, do The Dance of the Seven Veils, anything to keep talking to her just a little longer.
“Forget it, you creep,” she threw at me, opening her door and sliding in.
Before she could slam it, I had reached her and caught the edge of the door. “Please, I’m sorry. I didn’t see anything, I swear!” I argued.
“Yeah right. If you didn’t see anything then why the need to tell me you didn’t see anything? You’re such a liar! Men are such liars! Now let go!” she roared, yanking the door so hard it ripped from my hand and slammed with an almost deafening sound. And then her rough motor started up, and she peeled out from the tight space, speeding off down the street, turning right at the corner, and zooming out of my life.
I’m not sure how long I stood there, my mind numb from the alcohol and the disappointing, heated exchange. I walked back into the pub, small hopes that I would see her again rising and dying. I thought to ask the girl she had talked to before she left for her name and number, but the girl, Kris, said my mystery girl wasn’t the type to want her to give her name and number away. I was able to talk her into allowing me to give her my name and number and begged her to persuade her friend to call me. She shrugged her shoulder and said she’d try, but not to count on it.
When I got home that night, even though it was late and I had work in the morning, I got out my laptop and found the site her membership had been on. It was primarily devoted to erotic stories, though there was opportunity for chat and some photos. I found the member search page, and after some digging around-her name was similar to plenty of others-I found her.
Unsurprisingly, and very disappointingly, her bio-page was all left blank with the exception of her gender and age category; nothing new learned there. She had six stories submitted, the dates ranging from a little more than a year prior to a new one posted just that day. It was receiving tons of responses from an obviously devoted fan base. Most of her stories were under the nonconsensual category, though there were two that were just romance and even one that was incest, its description being, ”A brother forces his sister to realize what she’s wanted all along…”
I clicked on a random story. It was surprisingly good, the sex in it a subtle backdrop to the relationship between the two characters, but it still got me hard in no time. All her stories had lots of adoring comments. I could tell a few had been written by men whose reaction to her stories had been similar to mine. I didn’t care for the things they’d posted to her, and wouldn’t have minded the opportunity to tell them so with a fist or two. I sighed when I realized just how stupid it was to be jealous over a woman who undoubtedly hated me even though we didn’t even know each other. Who I had harassed. Who I had mortified by discovering her secret.
Though I didn’t approve of it, I couldn’t curb my compulsion to check her author’s page every day for the next few weeks, waiting for her next story. But it never came. Neither did her phone call. And then, much to my consternation, one evening when I went to check on her stories, they weren’t there. She had removed them from the site without any information about why, or if she’d moved them somewhere else or if she was going to post more. Nothing. My only lasting connection to her finally severed.
And that’s when I knew I had to face it. She had been a mistake and nothing would ever become of it, no matter the depth of discomfort that fact produced. With aching lamentation Yeats could have written an epic poem about, I closed my laptop and locked away my obsession. In time, the rigor of law school drew the greater weight of my focus, absorbing most of my wandering, wishful thoughts.
But not all. She was tucked away deep in my mind, and my regret ate away at me a little more each day.