We are told that we don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
It was first semester of my sophomore year. My feet had grown accustomed to beer-soaked frat party floors, my heart had made it through getting (royally) screwed over by a guy, and I was growing to understand what I really wanted for myself in college. I was ready to start a new chapter that was Sophomore Year.
Henry* was undoubtedly charming. He was a few inches taller than I was, with long eyelashes and a face full of scruff. He was as humble and kind as they come, quirky and awkward at times, but in all the right ways. Henry was the kind of guy who’s presence made you happy for unexplainable reasons. He was friends with the guys that lived across the hall from me, so he was a common visitor in my dorm. He’d make it a point to stop in my room, plop on my bed and ask about my day, something that I thoroughly enjoyed. We had a fun, flirty, and carefree friendship.
He eventually developed a crush on me, and alcohol made sure that wasn’t a secret. He’d talk to my friends about me when I was only a couple of feet away, and I pretended like I didn’t hear. Every time he walked out of his friend’s room he’d glance into my room to see if I noticed him. He called me beautiful and amazing, and I certainly didn’t hate it.
For a while, I played dumb to the idea that he saw me more than just a friend. I willfully went along for the ride because it was fun. I felt wanted and desired. A guy had a crush on me, and it was awfully flattering. But it wasn’t a “I want to fuck you” kind of crush. It was a “I get excited every time you walk into the room” kind of crush. It was innocent and it was genuine. He liked me for me. I was fairly positive I viewed our relationship as strictly friendly, but for some reason I enjoyed the idea taking the time to decide if I was sure.
It was a Friday night and we were all pouring cheap vodka into douchey-looking SHOT GLASSES. Henry didn’t go out all that much, but he certainly pre-gamed like he was going to. He stumbled into my room and through his slurred words and drunken footsteps he managed to ask me on a date. I blushed and was pleasantly surprised, but didn’t expect much since it was simply an intoxicated encounter. I told him to ask me sober, and I was certainly wished he was going to.
I received a text the very next day, “Still up for Pasta e Basta next week?” I stared at my phone intently and couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. I blurted it out to my friends, failing to mask the excitement from my voice.
“Henry asked me out on a date!!!!”
“Are you really that shocked, Beth? He’s in love with you,” they replied.
I blushed, again.
It was a Wednesday night and I sat in front of the mirror carefully running the iron through my hair, perfecting every curl. I slowly applied the mascara wand to my lashes and attempted a smoky eye a few times, failing miserably. I ran to the bathroom and scrubbed the make up off of my face while my packet of NEUTROGENA make up remover pads were dwindling. I’m not sure how much of my NAKED pallet I wasted that night, but it was an embarrassing amount. I sat in the bathroom staring at my naked face and wondered why I was trying so hard. Henry had seen me post-sweaty gym sesh as well as a Sunday morning completely hungover with make up from the night before streaked down my face. He had even seen me in tears abandoned in a duct tape Bud Light dress on Halloween. He had seen it all, but it didn’t matter to him. Why was I letting it matter to me so much?
I just liked him as a friend…right? Suddenly I wasn’t so sure.
With half of my hair tied back, I let the rest of the loose curls rest below my shoulders. I took the wand to my lashes again, this time only doing single STROKE for each eye and applied just enough sparkly bronzer for it to be noticeable in the right lighting. I decided on a black and white polka-dot blouse paired with dark jeans and tall tan leather boots. This was my “I didn’t try too hard,” look–even though that was the biggest lie.
Henry didn’t have a car on campus, and this particular Wednesday just happened to be the day that mine decided to get a flat tire. It also was the day that the weather just happened to brew up a snowstorm (good thing I spent an hour on my hair.) Taking the bus into town didn’t seem right on a first date, so my friend let me take her car. The tires spun against the slippery pavement a few times before actually moving forward as the thick snow CONTINUED to fall.
We eventually made it to the restaurant in one piece, but my hair certainly didn’t (damn you naturally frizzy hair.) The place was relatively small with twinkling white lights illuminating the WINDOWS making it feel warm and homey. We talked about life and future plans over a few laughs and plate of pasta and I was enjoying every second.
We ended the night with a friendly hug, although I was fairly certain he was hoping for a kiss. The date was a success, but it further confirmed my strictly platonic INTEREST in Henry. However, it also confirmed how amazing of a guy he was.
Was I leading Henry on? No. I had never been asked out on a traditional date before, and I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity that doesn’t come often in college. Henry admired me, but it wasn’t the same type of admiration that I was used to. It was innocent and it was raw. I can’t accurately describe the way that Henry looked at me, but it was far more intriguing and attractive than the way most college-aged guys do. Henry took a leap of faith and had no hidden intentions. He wasn’t expecting to get laid, he wasn’t expecting much of anything. It was simple: he enjoyed my company, and I certainly enjoyed his.
Henry and I have lost contact over the years, but when I look back on my years here at UMass, that night always seems to be so vivid in my memory. It’s INTERESTING how such a seemingly insignificant event can impact you in ways that are more complex than you ever expected.
We are told that we don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. We are also told that we don’t know the significance of a person until they become a piece of your past.
This story is much more than failed smoky eyes and plates of pasta. It’s about taking a leap of faith. Maybe my feelings didn’t change much towards Henry, but it made me appreciate him so much more. It made me realize that there are guys out there that will enjoy my company without wanting something more. It made me realize that you should give every person a fair shot because hopefully you’ll look back some day and be happy you did. More importantly, it made me realize that college is so much more than beer-soaked frat party floors and shitty ex-boyfriends. It’s about the little things, such as sad attempts at a smoky eye and a simple plate of pasta.
I hope you read this, Henry. It may come as a shock to you that I dedicated an entire blog post to that night, but I hope it brings a smile to your face because it certainly brings one to mine. I hope you find a girl that appreciates your kindness and sees you for the genuine person that you are. Thank you for taking me out that night and setting the bar high for every guy to follow. Thank you for the countless laughs and a friendship that I will always cherish, but most of all thank you for being you.