I ran into a guy I dated once, years ago. It still amuses me that boys I've dated from 5+ years ago still remember me.
I thought about him in that absent way I do when faced with the past. I thought about him a little, but more than anything else, it made me remember Sumner.
Sumner was the first guy I ever said "I love you" to. He wasn't my first love.
That sounds complicated, but really, it just means that Sumner was the first guy I thought I loved.
At the time, I was working with developmentally disabled adults. I really loved that job. There's just something about seeing the way they see things, how the simplest pleasures can make their eyes light up. It really humbles you, to see life from that perspective. I think working with them made me a better person.
My second week there, I met Sumner. He was walking one of his clients to the gym, basketball in tow, bouncing it back and forth.
I've always heard about love at first sight. I thought it was just an excuse to have chick flick moments in real life, but seeing him for the first time felt like something physical. Like a touch. Like a kiss. Like sharing the briefest embrace, as our eyes caught.
As I walked past him on the sidewalk, I lowered my eyes, then looked back up at him, to see him looking at me. I could feel his eyes on me.
He smiled, and as much as I didn't want to, I smiled back. I couldn't stop grinning as I floated over to the time clock.
Still feeling the glow of his smile on me, I punched my timecard, and as I was turning around, a big hand grabbed my arm.
I looked up and saw that the hand was attached to this tall, lanky dark haired drink of water.
I looked up at him, a little out of sorts that he was trespassing on my daydream, and asked him "What?"
He smiled down at me, and said "Is your name Sal?" I told him it was.
He introduced himself, told me his name was Chad. I recognized him from all the girls who usually surrounded him. He was really good-looking, but in a conceited 'I-can-have-whoever-I-want' kind of way.
His hand was still on my arm, and I pulled away from him. I looked into his eyes and said "I've gotta go. I'm gonna be late."
With that, I jerked my arm out of his grasp, and walked toward the door. He said "Hey, wait, I'll walk you to your house."
I rolled my eyes, and looked at him. Clearly, this wasn't the response he was used to.
"Alright, you can walk with me. Just hurry the fuck up."
Without waiting for him, I started walking as fast as I could. With his height, he had no trouble keeping up with me.
As we walked to the house I worked in, he said "So, what're you doing this weekend? 'Cause there's this party, and I thought you might like to go with me." He looked at me with his earnest blue eyes, hanging on for the 'yes' answer he was used to.
Of all the days to have to deal with this shit.
I stopped, looked at him, and said "Chad, why don't you just get a member of your fan club to go with you? You've got plenty of blondes to choose from."
He smiled at me, and said "Is that a yes you'll go?"
I looked at him, his sweet smile, and said "No."
This time, when I walked away from him, he let me go.
When I took my clients to the dining room for dinner, it was like going to see Gallagher. Messy, loud, and food everywhere. That night, one of the girls in our house was upset, and she ended up throwing chairs, ripping a sweatshirt (that's right, a fucking sweatshirt) off of another client who decided to throw a few punches her way.
When I finally got everyone calmed down, and back to the house, I sat outside on the back porch and laughed until my stomach hurt.
I kept seeing Amy (she had the behavior at dinner) sweet, sweet Amy ripping that sweatshirt off the other girl, and I couldn't quit laughing.
As my laughter dried up, the lady I was working with, Barb, came to get me.
"Phonecall" she announced and handed me the cordless.
It was Chad.
For whatever reason, he rubbed me the wrong way. When I heard his voice, I just let out a disgusted sigh. "What?"
He immediately started in, told me that he was going to go grab a burger, and asked me if I wanted anything. I wanted to say no, I wanted to decline his offer, but my traitorous stomach started rumbling.
Since our little incident in the dining hall, I didn't have a chance to eat.
I warmed up to him a little, and said "You know what? I'm starving. That sounds fantastic. Would you bring me a bacon cheeseburger?"
He brightened up and said "Absolutely. I'll call you when the food gets here."
Feeling like a dick, I said "Hey, Chad? Thanks. Seriously, I appreciate it."
I heard him laugh, and he said "No problem."
When the food got there, he brought my burger over to me. And refused to take the money I handed him to pay for it. Which made me feel like an even bigger jerk.
We both sat in the office, eating our burgers, (and me stealing a few of his fries every now and then).
After we were finished, he said, "You know, you really should come to that party. A lot of people who work here will be there."
And that made me think of the basketball toting boy....
"Really?" I asked him, "Like who?"
He named off a few names, and from my careful detective work, I figured out that basketball boy would be there. With his fiance.
My heart just sank.
You know that feeling, where it feels like you've swallowed a hot stone of dread? That's what it felt like.
I didn't go to the party.
The rest of the week seemed like it took years to pass. I went to work, Chad walked me to my house, and each time, he threw out the offer of another date.
My roommate would laugh and say "Why don't you just go out with him, Sal? He's hot!"
I'd just shake my head, and think of the sun shining on Sumner's hair, his wide smile for me, and I'd say "I like someone else."
A few days later, I had to switch houses with one of the new trainees, so I ended up working in a house with Sumner.
I remember when I walked into the house, told him I'd be working with him, and he smiled at me, and said "Hey, Sal. I'm Sumner."
Hearing his name made it real. I replayed that in my mind, loving the way it sounded.
Working with him, I realized that we made a pretty awesome team. His house was a house full of guys, and they were all characters. My favorite guy was named Rhett. When everyone was taking their showers before bed, Rhett walked up to me, butt naked, wearing only cowboy boots, and asking me for shampoo with his towel casually draped over his arm.
I gave him his shampoo, and then as he clopped his way back to his bedroom, I just shook my head and tried to bite my lips to keep the laughter in.
About this time, Sumner peeked around the corner, and said "The other night, I caught him wearing those boots while he was in the shower."
After that night, Sumner and I got to be pretty good friends. Knowing him, and the relationship he had with his fiance only made me respect him more.
I knew I'd never tell him I liked him, but it got to be that I just liked to be around him. He'd tell me little things about his relationship, and ask me who I was dating.
I told him once, "I like this guy, but it's just not gonna happen."
He looked at me, and said "Well, he's an idiot, then. You're badass, Sals."
Well, I'll wait till you listen
I won't say a word
to follow your instincts
just never worked for me
your silent but strong, (yeah, I'm playing that card)
and you're noticing nothing again
A few days later, I was walking to the house I worked in, Chad escorting me yet again, and this time he said "Hey, Sal. I'd like to take you out tonight. I've got something special planned."
Part of me wanted to just say 'no' again.
I think I surprised us both when I said "okay."
So, I planned to meet Chad at a prearranged location. Me and my roommate had this understanding-- we didn't bring guys over unless we knew them.
The last time a guy came over that we barely knew, well, he stole her panties. All of them.
My roommate and Sumner both decided to drive me over there.
As I got out of the car, and walked toward Chad, part of my traitorous heart wished it was Sumner I was walking toward.
I resolutely squashed this thought, and walked toward Chad. He smiled at me, and held out a rose. I took it from him, feeling a smile on my face.
I turned around and waved goodbye to my friends, and walked toward Chad.
Instead of getting into his truck, he said "Here-- I talked one of my friends into driving us around."
I felt my eyebrows quirk up, and willed myself not to laugh.
Here's where I mention that I was 19 at the time. He was 20.
As he opened the door for me, and I got into the back of a powder blue Crown Vic, my sense of unreality only grew.
We were both sitting in the back, and the driver was a boy I'd went to high school with. CC. I leaned forward, and said "Hey, CC, are you the chauffeur?" He even had a little cabbie hat.
Then, I noticed bingo daubers in the back seat floorboard.
I just started laughing.
Chad got into the car, and handed me a styrofoam cup of ice. I asked him what it was for, and then got my answer.
He held up a box of wine. That's right, nothing but the best for Sals. He poured it into my styrofoam cup, and clinked our glasses together. Except they made that squeak that styrofoam makes when it gets rubbed against more...styrofoam.
As we drove off, I took a sip of my ice-filled wine, and sat back. Chad leaned in closer, and tried to kiss me. I turned my head away, looked out the window at my reflection and thought "Fuck."
It got awkward really fast, and a lot uncomfortable.
By Chad telling me "I have something special planned" he really meant "I'm going to try to fuck you in a moving car with an audience" or "How can I make you hate me the quickest?"
After refusing a few of his advances, I finally pushed him back to his side of the Crown Vic.
He grabbed my arm, the same way he did the first time I met him.
Now, I don't react well to being manhandled. I grabbed his wrist, and twisted it sharply until he jerked away from me. (Thanks to my brother, who was in the military and decided to show me a few self-defense moves)
I said to him, "Listen, bitch. I'm not Tina, and you're not Ike."
I looked in the rearview mirror at CC, and said "Hey, Ceece, would you mind pulling over? I'm getting out."
Chad looks at me with a smirk (and he was pretty drunk, I noticed) "What? You're gonna walk?"
I looked at him and said "Yep."
I started walking back toward my house, when a car slowed down and pulled over. "Great" I thought to myself, "maybe I'll get abducted to round off my Friday night."
I kept walking, until I heard my name.
I turned around, and saw Sumner. And my roommate.
I can't even describe how it felt to see him standing there, the passenger car door open.
My heart felt like it would fly out of my chest, and I ran over to the passenger door, and threw myself in his arms.
As soon as I released him from the hug, I crawled into the back seat.
I started laughing and said "How the hell did you guys find me?"
My roommate started laughing. She pointed to Sumner.
"Sumner said that we should follow you guys for a little while. He doesn't like your boy, Chad."
"I said I didn't trust him," Sumner added, giving her the shank eye.
Three weeks later
"You want me to do what? With a razor?" It was the second time I'd asked.
"Just do it, okay?" Sumner leaned back against the chair, and closed his eyes.
So, I did. I started off with the clippers, completely shaving off his hair, secretly loving the soft, silky feel of it.
After his hair was less than a quarter of an inch long, I asked him again.
He turned around, and said "Yeah, Sal. I'm sure. And next time you ask, I'm sure."
I laughed, and started shaving his hair off.
"This is kind of a girly way to deal with a breakup", I offered. He ignored me.
I kept shaving, until he was completely bald. After it was done, I rubbed some baby oil into his scalp, so it wouldn't itch like crazy.
After I cleaned up the hair, I offered him a beer.
We sat on my couch, drinking. I'd just bought the City of Angels soundtrack, and Paula Cole's Feelin Love was playing.
I remember looking at him, sitting on my couch, bringing the beer bottle to his lips. I watched his pink lips meet the neck of the bottle, and barely managed to swallow.
I slid off the couch, to sit on the floor. It seemed safer. That way, I wouldn't be starting at his mouth, or his hands and wondering...
He ended up sliding off the couch to sit beside me on the floor.
I clinked our beer bottles together, and asked him "So, it's been about two weeks. How you holding up? Miss her like crazy?"
He sat there for a minute, and said "I broke up with her, Sal."
I felt my eyes widen, and looked at him with my mouth open. He hadn't talked about this.
He grinned at me. "Yeah, Sal. I broke up with her."
I sat looking down at my hands, feeling my eyes well up. If I didn't get up quickly, I was going to start crying in front of him.
As I got up to go to the bathroom, he took one of my hands, and saw that I was upset.
He pulled me back down, and I saw his eyebrows knit together in concern for me.
It only made it worse, and I couldn't hold back the tears anymore.
I sat staring at my lap as I felt tears fall. He put his arm around me, pulled me close to him, and lifted my chin, so I was facing him.
Seeing his eyes, being that close to him, I couldn't breathe.
My mind was racing, and I pulled away from him, just needing to try to think.
I stood up, tears falling, and said "Sumner, I'm not feeling so good. Can we hang out some other time?"
He looked at me, nodded, and gave me a hug.
When the door closed behind him, I fell against it, crying so hard, I thought my heart would break.
I felt tears pouring out of me, and then I heard a knock.
I tried wiping my face, and said "Who is it?"
"Me," he said.
I opened the door, reluctantly, and he said "You picked me up, remember?"
I laughed then, and when he saw how hard I was crying, he just pulled me into his arms, held me, and said "Sal, what is it?"
I tried to talk, I tried to speak, but just ended up crying harder.
He held me close to him, whispering into my hair, and strangely, started to sing to me.
You don't know the one
Who dreams of you at night
And longs to kiss your lips
Longs to hold you tight
I'm just a friend
That's all I've ever been
Cause you don't know me
As he sang to me, I started to calm down, and finally, I looked at him, mascara smeared all over, face puffy from crying, and said to him, "I love you."