Dealing with Rejection – Part IV
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with public transportation. On the one hand, it makes it easier to get places without a car and in bad weather. On the other, it has such a sporadic schedule that there are times when I sit waiting for a long time, never quite knowing if the bus is still running. Riding public transport gives me time to think about things I might not otherwise take the time to consider. It also gives me time to sleepily fall into fantasy and pop inappropriate boners I then I have to hide, especially when sitting near the back where the engine is buzzing at that genitally inconsiderate frequency.
The longest and most painful ride on the T was my trip home from my first ever date.
I have this tendency to hate myself when I do something stupid or wrong. It could be something as simple as having a midnight snack when I’m not hungry, or something as damaging as making a joke when all it does it hurt someone. My internal monologue starts yelling, “You suck. You are a bad person.”
I had all the time in the world for my internal monologue to thrash me as I rode home. It was normally about an hour and half to get from Harvard Square home, but I happened to time things perfectly to maximize my waiting. The Red Line took 20 minutes to arrive. I hopped the wrong Green Line train and was forced to change at Kenmore. It took another 20 minutes before the right train came there. And throughout it all, I was silently berating myself.
I was an asshole for misrepresenting myself. I was a bastard for carrying on the façade. I was every bad word I knew at the time—which was a lot, since I had learned to swear in 13 languages by that point—simply for being. I wanted to cry. I wanted to pick a fight just to get my ass kicked. I deserved it.
But the tears never came. I never picked a fight. I just sat in silence, starting at my reflection in the darkened trolley window. It was nearing 9:30 when I arrived at the bus stop at Cleveland Circle. I watched as the bus pulled away, meaning a half hour wait before the next one. My dad was gracious enough to pick me up.
“So how was the movie?”
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” I moaned.
“Ah,” he said, “teenage angst. I knew this day would come.” I sneered at him, huffing slightly. “Ok, I’ll leave it be.” He flipped on NPR, but I didn’t pay attention. I was busy ripping myself a new one.
I was in a funk for a week. I didn’t foresee ever coming out of it. I wasn’t broken hearted, as it was hardly love or even a crush. I simply couldn’t stand having hurt someone like that.
Instead of socializing or playing hearts, I dove into a book during lunch periods. I went straight home from school. It was pretty apparent something was wrong. I even did all of my homework.
None of my friends or classmates could get me out of it. Vera tried asking risqué questions, but I brushed them off or told her I didn’t know. Ethan tried pointing out girls to ask out. “Can’t you see I’m busy?” I snapped.
“Jesus,” he replied, “what got up your nose?”
“Everything,” I said.
I was a lost cause. It wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last. I was wrapped up in my own little world of despair and melodrama and nothing but time could end it.
Or so I thought.
On Thursday, the week after my infamous trip to Harvard Square, the rest of BUA had congregated in the main part of the GSU. I was the sole person in our little room, typically wrapped up in a book, sipping slowly from a cup of root beer from D’Angelo’s and Chips.
“Excuse me,” I heard her say. I didn’t want to look up and see if I was merely imagining the voice that had been haunting me. “Ben?” I looked up anyway, unable to help myself.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” Nikki whispered.
She came in, ignoring the BUA-students-only sign, and sat down across from me. We sat there in silence, my eyes glued to her, waiting for her to speak. She didn’t make eye contact. She would stare off into space, at the table, anywhere but at me. And then she would sneak a glance my way. I could see the shame in her eyes. Finally, she broke the silence.
“Listen. I’m sorry I walked off last week. I was just, you know, freaked out. I mean, you’re 15!”
“I… I had a really good time. You’re smart and funny and sweet and cute.” I began to perk up. I felt a smile coming. Then she continued. “But you’re 15!”
“Yeah…” She finally met my gaze. My eyes immediately dropped to the table, embarrassed, ashamed. She began to laugh.
“I feel like I’m giving a speech on 90210. Which cliché do you want? ‘If you were older—if I were younger—things could be different.’ ‘You’re going to make some girl really happy some day.’ ‘Where were you when I was 15?’”
“Um… Elementary school?”
“It was rhetorical; a cliché. Whatever the case, I’m in college and you’re 15!”
“Yeah, yeah. I get it.”
“I’m sorry,” she sighed. “I’m not actually angry with you. I’m angry with myself. I’ve been thinking about our date,” my eyes lit up at her acknowledgement that it actually was a date, “and the more I thought about it, the more it became clear that you never actually lied to me.”
“I would never—”
“Shut up,” she interrupted, her eyes burning angrily into mine. “Omitting the truth is the same thing as lying. And you left out something big.”
“You should be.”
I saw Ethan out of the corner of my eye, hovering at the door watching. Before I could say anything, Nikki reached across the table and took my hand.
“You may see me around here. You can say hi, if you want to. But I want to make it clear there will be nothing more between us.” She squeezed my hand, trying wring agreement out of me.
“Ok,” I assented.
“Good.” She smiled mournfully. I returned the gesture. “Now go find yourself a girl your own age.”
Ethan’s jaw was wide open as Nikki brushed past him and disappeared into the general populace. “What the—who the—is she—” he stammered as I crookedly smiled at him.
“It was nothing,” I remarked. “And it will stay nothing, understand?”
“Good,” I said, dropping the topic. “Now who did you think I should ask out?”
Despite the titling my musical admission “Four Hundred and Twenty Two,” I had, by the end of my freshman year, lost count of how many girls I had asked out. It was somewhere between 100 and 300, most likely. I never, however, lost count of how many said yes (two) and how many actually went on a date with me (one).
And that one was worth every rejection.