Wednesday, August 24, 2016

in love

1996. so this part is difficult to write. i fell in love with a guy. i called him A in an earlier installment of this story. he was an international student from India, a sophomore, who helped to organize all the welcoming activities for the 1996 incoming freshmen.
A. had that rare spark of organizational brilliance that made everyone want to follow his lead. he, for example, was the guy, who, as we were all standing out on the athletic fields during the bucket brigade challenge, said, why don't we dance The Macarena? and we did. a computer science student, he could dance and sing and loved theatricals of any kind. when he saw that I had a guitar in my dorm room, he instantly wanted me to play it.
"I'm not very good," I said, by which I meant that I played the guitar as a hobby and was not to be judged on the professional scale. I could play well enough a few Russian songs, and I wanted to play for him the Russian songs that meant the world to me, but first I wanted to establish the premises under which I would play the guitar for him: he had to get ready to be charmed.
"There's a good English expression, practice makes perfect," he said, handing me the guitar. From anyone else, I would have found that kind of response insufferable. Not only was he feeding me a platitude, but he was also refusing to understand me on my terms. He was refusing to say, "I'm sure I will enjoy whatever you play because it's you who's playing it."
I probably banged out a three-chord Vyssotsky song and passed the guitar to him. It turned out that not only did he play beautifully, he could also tune the guitar (which I struggled with). He was a little rusty, and nevertheless picked his way into a moving rendition of Stairway to Heaven. That sealed the deal. I wanted him. "Why don't you borrow the guitar?" I offered.
"Don't you want it? If you want to get better at it, you should really play every day."
"Take it," I said. "You're so good, and I love to hear you play it."
it turned out that he could really use it. there was some kind of party he was invited to or that he was organizing, and he couldn't invite me, because it was mostly for Indian kids, and anyway he invited me to a cricket match later, but warned me that I wouldn't understand anything, and i didn't. what i did understand was that he was brilliant at sports, too.
as a seventeen-year old I fell in love easily and constantly, but i fell in love particularly strongly with people who sent me mixed signals. A. seemed to enjoy my admiration, and he would on occasion invite me to parties and cricket matches and rub my shoulders and pat me on the knee. and then he would try to have a conversation with me about how he wasn't ready for a serious relationship and how in America there was such thing as casual dating and have I heard about it?
i knew the word from the English class and translated it to myself as roughly "seeing somebody you're in love with for a good long while with the purpose of finding out whether you two truly love each other and should get married." my heart overflowed with love and I said, yes, I've heard of dating.

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