From the vantage point of 50 years, I can say that Bob and I were a good couple. We had great chemistry; I have learned that having such “chemistry” and remaining intellectually interesting to one another are motivating factors for me. We had fun together, learned songs and sang together. But I was congenitally insecure. I was SO happy when things went well; SO unhappy when things didn’t. I wrote about him for a different prompt in 2021, but have an important addendum since writing originally. The following is our story:
I came back to school early sophomore year. Along with suite-mates Nettsie and Rozie, I was in the Orientation Show. We had to prepare for the opening, early in the school year.
We were busy rehearsing in the theatre, which was at the opposite end of campus from East Quad, where we lived. We had to hike up a rather steep hill, which crested by the library, before descending to our quad. We did that several times a day, going back and forth to rehearsals, which were great fun. The student written and directed show was super – sardonic and funny.
The two others were slightly ahead of me one day walking up that hill, and gave a huge greeting to a tall guy with dark hair, mutton chop sideburns, wearing tube socks and shorts. I didn’t look terribly closely and thought it was our classmate and center of our basketball team, Al Klein, so I scurried up to say hi too. It wasn’t, but they greeted this guy so warmly that I did too. That’s how I met Bob. There was an immediate spark.
I was typecast as the “sexy one” in the show. The second act opened with a Day-Glo Frisbee number. We all wore tee shirts with slogans on the back that became visible under the black light as we each turned to expose the slogans. The person next to me’s tee read, “If you got it…” Mine read:
We had a so much fun! What I didn’t know was that Bob and another guy (with whom I would also become friends) were seated in the front row, taking bets on who would go out with me first. Needless to say, Bob won. Within six days we were a couple, on and off for a year and a half. We had white-hot chemistry.
He was the first guy I was totally over the moon about. He was smart, curious, into everything. We both enjoyed all sorts of music. I introduced him to the “New World Symphony”. He took me to our little on-campus coffee shop, where we listened to Joe Val & the New England Bluegrass Boys. Who could have predicted that I would really enjoy Blue Grass music? We took an art history class together. We went to all the dances, and all the movies (Wednesday nights were for old classics, Fridays were first runs). I became friendly with all the guys he lived with. In fact, I’m still friendly with many of them. In 2016, I was invited to make a “guest appearance” at one of their annual dinners. We had a blast. The left-most one was the fellow with whom Bob had the bet at the Orientation Show in 1971.
I was always in Bob’s suite, so they all knew me well. After homework was finished, we’d get stoned and play hearts with two decks. The look on someone’s face if they got two Queens of Spades dropped on them in one hand was priceless! I tried to learn to play chess, since he loved it, but that was beyond me. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I enjoyed going to our basketball games, with or without him.
Bob slept in my room. My roommate loved him and was a very sound sleeper. We took turns waking her in the morning. She dropped out of Brandeis at the semester break. Then I had a double-single, which I fiercely protected. I confess, I was obnoxious to the various candidates who were sent as potential roommates. Bob and I scared them away and I kept the room to myself for the remainder of the year; such a precious commodity. Bob and I took full advantage of it. He was IT for me. But he wasn’t Jewish, so my parents seriously DID NOT approve and I understood there could be no long-term future with him.
One might think that life was ideal. I was so happy with him, but Bob had a wandering eye, and more. He just couldn’t settle down. He would wander off with some other woman for a short period, just to check her out. Was she of Greek heritage? Great! Did she play chess? So much better. In talking to some of my classmates recently, I learned that the one of Greek heritage had a serious heroin problem. Her suite-mates would check her pulse each morning. Depending on her level of toxicity, they’d either call 911, or leave her alone. I had no idea. I doubt Bob did either. Another lovely earned extra spending money as a Playboy Bunny in the club in Boston. She waited on Dan and me at our first anniversary dinner, as described in the “anniversary” prompt. Bob craved those extracurricular bouts.
I’d be crushed (I truly loved this guy), would lose an incredible amount of weight in a short period of time, mope around, but didn’t sit still. Other guys were interested in me and I would accept their offers (never sleeping with anyone else, just going out on dates). Eventually, Bob would come back and all would be right in the universe again.
My savvier girlfriends asked why I put up with this nonsense. It is a fair question. I asked myself that question too. I guess the heart wants what the heart wants. I had never before had feelings for anyone like I had for this guy. So I put up with his peregrinations (which were short) and he did always come back. I found him fascinating.
As I have discussed in other stories, I also have deep-seated feelings of poor self-worth; my mother really did a number on me. Yes, it is easy to blame one’s parents, but my mother wasn’t capable of instilling self-confidence in her off-spring. Quite the opposite, nothing I did was good enough. That takes a toll. My father was a love, but wasn’t home much when I was a kid. As someone in retail, he worked six days and two nights a week. We became close once I left for college and he switched careers. Then, he became my rock. It is with age and a sense of perspective that I can now see that it would be nice if one’s partner offered respect and admiration, but one must also find that from within. That has not come easily for me, but I continue to learn and grow. I am a work-in-progress.
I managed to see Bob a few times over the summer of ’72 and we remained together throughout the first semester of his senior, my junior year, when he now had a single in a dorm dominated by freshmen. I became their “den mother”. He no longer wandered, knowing that he would soon graduate.
He graduated at the end of December, 1972, half-way through his senior year. He and a close friend went off to tour Europe. But we always stayed in touch. We exchange greetings at Christmas. Since he’s a classmate of Dan’s, I see him at their reunion every five years. He is always pleasant. Even during Dan’s health crisis in July, 2021, he sent me an email, wishing Dan a speedy recovery. During reunions, I enjoy hanging out with that group of guys. I truly became good friends with all of them; a nice group of guys.
Bob and I exchanged letters during our school vacations. I looked for them when I wrote the above story, but didn’t find them until last year. I scanned a few and emailed them to him, eventually sending him the above story as well (before I added the first paragraph, which is a new addition). I got a very nice response. We had an interesting exchange. It was like a time machine to look back at his handwritten letters from 1971 and ’72 and see what was on his mind in the moment. I had particularly wanted to find his response when one of the seniors from his suite had died shortly after graduating. Tommy had previously beaten cancer, was out for a jog, felt a pain in his leg, and keeled over. He had a blood clot break loose in his leg, travel to his heart and he died as he hit the ground. It stunned all their friends and Bob wrote about it eloquently; the pain of facing mortality so young, wishing for all the guys to go out on a long sail and just go down in a blaze of glory. Ah, youth!
The letters were tender, always signed “Love, Bob”. That startled me, I hadn’t remembered such a response from him.
His response to my story was surprise that he had hurt me and he apologized. I apologized for being so insecure (it was warranted, but perhaps I shouldn’t have freaked about it the way I did). He confirmed that he thought I was smart and sexy, a good companion, fun to be with; thought that we always had a good time together and thanked me for teaching him about “The New World Symphony”, which he still enjoys. Certainly we could have communicated better, but that comes with age and emotional maturity. This exchange over two days in January, 2022, somehow brought resolution to those long-ago feelings. It’s nice that we can still be long-distance friends.
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.