My first week in Hawaii before I started Graduate School was full of conflicting emotions. I had never been to the island before, and was experiencing the beauty, color, smell and sunshine for the first time. I had just left my home of three years, Okayama, Japan so my heart was filled with the sadness of departure and letting go. I held the fears of a new adventure, as well as the stresses of starting over somewhere completely new. I needed to find an apartment and some kind of job to help support me through a three-year graduate program. There was also an error in my acceptance packet, so I had to convince someone to let me into the three-year MFA instead of the two-year MA–needless to say my emotions were all over the place.
At the first meeting of the new graduate students, I found myself thinking, “I don’t belong here. I can’t do this.” Why? Because this handsome Asian man walked into the meeting sporting a portfolio filled with images and I had nothing. I looked around me as the people in the room shared their various experiences and felt like I had even less than nothing.
But this isn’t about that.
The handsome Asian man walking into the room would represent a significant change in my life. I remember thinking, “He’s cute” and then immediately dismissing him from the realm of possibility. In my mind, if I thought he was cute, I had no chance with him.
Despite my 24 years I had very little experience with men. There was the Japanese man who stole my heart, but it would never lead anywhere, as I have written about elsewhere. There was also that short fling with an American man (Oh, Michael. Six-foot-something. Dark hair, blue eyes. Sigh!). But that was it. That was the extent of my dating history. I had a couple of pathetic dates in high school, and one or two in college, but I don’t know that those counted.
The story of me and men was a short one. And, I was there for grad school, not romance. (If I said that to myself often enough I wouldn’t get lonely or feel bad about my inability to connect with men).
I next met Mr. handsome Asian after I got hired by the Theater Manager to work in House Management (which would eventually include a tuition waiver–woo hoo!). I was talking to the PR Director, another grad student named R Kevin who also happened to go to undergrad with my brother, in a tiny office that used to be a storage closet. In walked Nathan, R’s best friend. We chatted for a little while, and then the guys asked me if I wanted to go play video games with them.
“Um, no thanks,” video games were definitely not on my radar, “I am still moving into my apartment.”
And that was the beginning. Throughout the semester I alternated between having a crush on R Kevin and having a crush on Nathan–but it didn’t really matter as I also began to accept my destiny as a singleton.
Of course, I then learned that both guys had just been broken up with before I got there–by women who they both loved and who would also become friends of mine. So, not thinking romantically was easy–I didn’t want to be the rebound relationship.
I focused on studying, working, trying to get the occasional Hawaii experience, and trying not to succumb to the craziness of my roommates, and eventually finding a new living situation (another crazy story). I really did not think much about dating (although my crush on Nathan was getting stronger). Eventually, however, it felt like Nathan was paying extra attention to me. I won’t call it flirting, but it seemed like he talked to me an awful lot.
But nothing happened, and I was too shy to do anything about it myself, so friends we remained. Nathan says that he actually asked me out several times (but usually to be part of a group) and I kept saying no because I was busy. Naive. Busy. Who knows.
Eventually, at the end of the semester, we were all at a party at R Kevin’s house. Nathan kept coming over to talk with me and I was very aware of that. We talked about how few people were going to be around during the break. I had a Christmas break temp job at a television station starting the next morning, so I didn’t stay long. Before I left, Nathan said, “Maybe we can go to the movies sometime over break.” I said sure because it was nice to have a friend to hang out with.
He didn’t call.
Then, about a week later he called said he was sorry, he had been sick all of break. I said, “No problem” as I still thought it was just friends. We made a plan to go to the movies, and the movie choice added to my assumption that this was just two friends going out.
The movie, Dumb and Dumber.
Granted, I was a little thrown when Nathan picked me up and handed over this jean jacket of his that I really liked. “I don’t wear this anymore,” he said, “so I thought you might want it.”
“Okay,” I said, my heart fluttered a little but I still thought that all fell within the realms of friendship.
During the movie I felt like I was in Jr. High. Is this a date or isn’t it? Does he like me? What’s going on? I still had no indication until near the end of the movie, when he took my hand.
The rest, shall we say, is history.