The Legend of Elizabeth Reid, Part I


I can’t tell you this story all at once.  It’s not just that it’s so long, but it’s also painfully pathetic.  Hopefully if I wedge it in between some other good stories, maybe an occasional sexual conquest, I won’t seem like such a sad pathetic loser.  But it’s a truly epic story, covering over a decade of my evolution from shy loser teenager to the drunken reprobate you all know and love.

CHAPTER 1 — THE COLLEGE YEARS

Late Summer/Early Fall, 1994

The University of Chief Illiniwek

I was 18 years old, an incoming freshman with a bad haircut and the beginnings of a pudgy gut brought on by the end of a not-so-illustrious high school football career.  It was the first day of class, my very first collegiate class in fact.  It was a math class, and so insanely easy that to this day I still wonder how I managed not to get an A.  Shy slacker that I was, I sat in the back of the classroom.  Before long, a very attractive young girl came and sat next to me.  She was extremely friendly and introduced herself as Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was gorgeous.  About 5’8”, she was tall and thin with an athlete’s body, and long straight brown hair that flowed down her back or fit perfectly into a ponytail in the back of her Chief Illiniwek ball cap.  A cute face with a freckled nose and vibrant eyes that smiled every bit as much as her mouth, so that her face seemed to be perpetually lit up with joy.

I was instantly smitten.  So much so that I barely even noticed that she talked nearly non-stop, and so fast that it seemed she couldn’t have time to even catch her breath, let alone allow someone else to get a word in.

We hit it off immediately.  We talked all through class everyday, had lunch together after class on a regular basis.  We shared a passion for sports, both our own school and the Chicago Bears (and, I would later find out, our beloved Chief Illiniwek).  It was Elizabeth who first introduced me to the wonders of skipping class for absolutely no reason at all, a skill that would come in very handy (although somewhat costly to my GPA) over the next four years.

It was like destiny.  High school had been rough for me.  I won’t bore you with my long sad story, but I didn’t have a lot of friends, never had a girlfriend and generally didn’t have much of a life.  But I had dreamed that college would be better.  A fresh start, a chance to reinvent myself.  And who could have scripted it better than to meet a smokin’ hot chick on the very first day, in my very first class, who was clearly into me?

It didn’t take long for my naïve mind to start plotting and scheming.  I managed to swing it so that we had to work on an out-of-class project together.  We went to the library to do research (who ever heard of researching math???), where we spent more time talking and laughing than studying.  One day, after mustering up all my young, pathetic courage, I decided it was time to ask Elizabeth out.  After a research session at the library, walking her back to her dorm, I prepared to make my move.  As she talked on and on about some such thing, my heart pounded in my chest as only a sad, lonely young boy’s can.

I paused to catch my breath.  My heart was racing so hard I could feel it throbbing in my temples.  I felt like I was having a heart attack.  Sweat was breaking out on my brown.  Could she hear my heart pounding?

She’s still talking.

I took another deep breath, attempting to collect myself.  Alright, kid, time to step up to the plate and take a swing like a man.

She’s still talking.

This won’t be that hard.  You know she’s into you.  Just dive on in.

She’s still talking.

Like shootin’ fish in a barrel, bud.  Fish in a barrel.

She’s STILL talking.

Time to make your move.  Let’s go!!

Somewhere in the back of my mind, the tiny one percent of my brain that had actually been listening to her incessant talking, alarms started going off.  “…yeah, my boyfriend is coming down to visit this weekend.  I’m, like, SO excited….”

My heart dropped, nearly tripping me as it splattered on the pavement in a big red messy splatter.  I couldn’t breathe.  It felt like the time that 240-pound fullback had run me over in high school football.  I stopped in my tracks, trying to regain some semblance of composure.  I fought the urge to dive into oncoming traffic.  Elizabeth started to turn back to see why I was slowing.

With a poise I never knew I possessed, I picked up the tattered remnants of my heart.  Stuffed it back in my chest, took a deep breath, flashed her a disarming smile, and finished escorting her back to her dorm.  Then went off by myself to sulk in self-pity.

Spring, 1998

Three and a half years passed.  I was a senior now, sporting a buzz cut that would soon begin showing the unmistakable signs of male pattern baldness.  Basketball had just won their first Big Ten championship in 14 years, and our football team seemed sure to break their nation-leading 17-game losing streak next season.  And personally I was finally coming into my own.

I still don’t remember where it happened.  It might have been a bar, possibly Kam’s, and that’s a pretty good bet since I spent most every weekend there (even though I still wasn’t much of a drinker).  Others have said it was on the Quad, between classes, and that’s a possibility, though it doesn’t make for as good of a story.  But whatever, one day in the spring of ’98, I ran into Elizabeth.  I, of course, recognized her immediately.  If anything, the years had made her even more beautiful.  But amazingly, Elizabeth remembered me too.  Even my name, which she cried out with true joy as she embraced me and then broke into a long dissertation on the good old days of freshman math, and what she had been doing since then, and how life in the sorority was, and how tough this last semester was for her, and on and on and on.  The girl still knew how to talk.

After catching up on old times for awhile we both agreed that we should get together again, and soon.  We exchanged numbers  –some have insinuated that this was the first time I ever actually got a girl’s number, but those reports are exaggerated— and vowed to call each other.  But over the next week we played phone tag (this was before cell phones), then Elizabeth had a busy schedule that prevented us from getting together.  Days turned into two weeks before we finally managed to set a lunch date.

It was Friday.  I arrived at the little deli a good five minutes early, as only a lonely, lovesick young man can, waiting around impatiently for her arrival.  She showed up a good five minutes late, as only a hungover sorority girl can.  Her hair was a mess, her clothes were a mess, she was pale and sweating from a night of binge drinking.  But she still looked good to me.  She refused to eat, saying she would throw up if she did.  This put me in the unenviable position of eating in front of her while she watched.

But it actually worked out for the best, because it allowed me a mild diversion while she rattled on and on and on about God knows what.  When I finished eating, I calmly leaned back in my chair on the patio of the deli and eyed my prey.

You see, in the three-plus years since I’d first met Elizabeth I had grown not only balder, but older and wiser too.  Mind you, I still hadn’t actually had a girlfriend, hadn’t really gone on anything resembling a date.  But I had spent enough time around girls that I was no longer a shy and terrified little boy.  My heart no longer pounded, my brow no longer broke out in sweat.  I was cool and collected.

She’s still talking.

And as far as I was concerned, this one would be a cakewalk.  She had been into me three years ago, and if not for the high school sweetheart I was certain she would have been mine.  And the fact that she remembered me –even my name—all this time later was only further proof.

She’s STILL talking.

There was no need for that initial panic this time, because first contact had already been made.  It wasn’t like three years ago, when I was going to have to make the first move.  This lunch right here essentially was a first date, right?  So it was just a matter of laying back and playing my cards right.

Holy Jesus, she’s still fucking talking!

If you’ve read this far, then you surely know what’s coming next.  So I don’t need to go over the part about the small sliver of my brain that was actually listening to her endless blabbering about some such trivial bullshit.  I don’t need to go over the part about the sirens going off at the key phrase, almost a direct quote from three and half years ago: “My boyfriend’s coming to visit tomorrow.  I can’t wait….”

My heart held up this time.  Although disappointed, I took it well.  Besides, it wasn’t over yet.  A little prying told me that it wasn’t the same boyfriend as before, so that was a good sign.  I’d just have to wait out the storm, be ready to spring my trap when the moment came.  Use my charm to drive a wedge between her and the absentee boyfriend.

We figured out that we would both be at Kam’s the next night, so we went on our separate ways.  Saturday night came, and after six-plus hours of partying (again, I wasn’t the alcoholic you all know and love yet, so “partying” is a relative term) I found myself in the basement of Kam’s, not even thinking of Elizabeth when she appeared before me with an entire crew of friends.  She introduced me to everyone, including the boyfriend, who was so unspectacular and insignificant that to this day I can’t remember a single detail about him.

My confidence raised, I played it cool and spent most of the night partying with my own friends.  But at the end of the night we met up on the street outside Kam’s and we both assured each other that we would call and get together again.  She gave me a big hug in front of the irrelevant boyfriend and we parted ways.

For reasons that are still not altogether clear, we never did get together again.  I honestly don’t remember, but I never saw her again the rest of college.  One night during the winter of  ’98-99, in the midst of our basketball team’s spectacular 11th place finish in the Big Ten, I thought I saw her at a game.  I pushed my way through the hoards of students only to discover it wasn’t her.  The dream was dead.

CHAPTER 2 — SAN DIEGO

Summer, 2001

Over The Line weekend in San Diego.

For those of you who don’t know, Over The Line is a bizarre form of 3-on-3 beach softball.  It’s played on the sand in a long, narrow strip (not a diamond), with ghost runners and all kinds of other crazy rules.  The Over The Line Tournament on Fiesta Island draws over 1500 teams annually, men and women, from all over the world for its two weekend tourney.  But the real reason to go isn’t the game, it’s the drunken beach party that goes along with it.  Over The Line might be the last place on earth where sexual harassment is not only tolerated but actively encouraged.  Men walk around with stickers to stick on the hot, scantly clad women; the really clever ones get stickers from a grocery store that say “USDA Prime Cut” of “Ripe- Ready to Eat.”  Mardi Gras-style beads are also in abundance, which the girls will flash for (or sometimes they’ll flash you just for asking nicely).  Cameras are an absolute must.

In just two years in San Diego I had become a grizzled veteran of OTL.  I knew all the tricks: where to park for the shuttle bus (just school busses rented for the weekend), how big a cooler to bring and what to stock it with, etc.  I had even learned just how much sunscreen I needed to protect my now completely bald head.  So Sunday morning I loaded up the cooler, picked up my boy Tripod and headed for the shuttle pick-up.  Tripod, all 4’4″ and 220 pounds of him, was my best friend and the ultimate wingman.  Girls are just drawn to him, and he has the engaging personality to make them cut loose and get wild in a hurry.  As we loaded onto the school bus for the ride over I saw someone in the seat directly behind me.

I knew instantly.

But I was too shocked to say anything.  With my bald head and a goatee I felt confident she wouldn’t recognize me, so I was glad my sunglasses hid the fact that I was openly staring at her in disbelief.

Now, the shuttle bus to OTL is an extremely friendly, outgoing place.  People are in such a great mood, looking forward to a day of drunken debauchery out in the San Diego sun.  Everyone likes everyone, kind of like the way all the kids at Disney World share the same eager anticipation.  So eventually people started passing around beers to their newfound friends.  I accepted a Dos Equis from someone and made my move.

“You’re Elizabeth, right?”

Across the aisle of the school bus, Tripod was looking at me with skepticism.  Tripod is the popular one in San Diego.  He’s one of those people that knows someone everywhere he goes, especially ladies.  And, of course, how can anyone ever forget a man like Tripod?  I’m just a run-of-the-mill Midwestern white boy livin’ in Tripod’s world.  I never know anyone, especially not a chick this hot.

“Yeah!  I thought you looked really familiar.  You’re… wait a minute… I want to say… xxxxx?”

***You didn’t really think I was going to give away my secret identity did you??***

Turns out Elizabeth had just moved to San Diego, where she was starting grad school at the same school I happened to be working at in the athletic department.  She was positively thrilled to find a familiar face this far from home, and working for the athletic department where she hoped to find an internship no less.

The two of us and all of our assorted friends spent the day at OTL drinking and having a rousing good time.  (It’s important to note here that Elizabeth is now drop-dead gorgeous.  And in a bikini, well, words can’t describe it.  Just amazing.  She had dyed her long hair blond and was now almost beyond comprehension.  In-fucking-credible.)  Beers flowed, shots flowed, sunscreen flowed.  Stories of the old days made Tripod laugh at what a goober I used to be.  (That little fucker still takes credit for turning me into the Single White Alcoholic you know and love today.)  I tried to make up for these unflattering stories by showing off my beer bong skills, which are quite good, and my shotgunning skills, which are quite bad.

Elizabeth got my number and promised to call later in the week so I could take her around campus and see if I could help her out with an internship.  As we parted ways she gave me several drunken hugs and kisses on the cheek, still rambling on and on about how amazing it was that we ran into each other 2000 miles from home.

It seemed Destiny had given me another chance.

To Be Continued…

 —

Coming in Part II: The First Time We Slept Together

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3 Comments

  1. You were going along so well with this single white alcholic and then you bring Reid into the story telling. You poor soul.

  2. […] The Legend of Elizabeth Reid, Part I […]


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