I sat on her bed in her dorm room. I stared at my feet as I got the nerve to say what had been on my mind all night… week… month…most of sophomore year if we are going to be honest. Emily was watching On the Waterfront. I was too busy arguing with myself to pay much attention. The argument was between my senses of self-doubt and confidence. It was not then nor is it now anything unusual for me.
Confidence: “Dude, she’s into you. You’re sitting on her bed, she’s leaning against you. She practically has her head on your shoulder. Just say it. Just tell her that you want to be mutually exclusive.”
Self-doubt: “Are you nuts? What if she says no? She’ll probably laugh you right out of the room.”
C: “Oh come on. Grow a pair and do it.”
SD: “She’s going to laugh and tell her friends. Then they are going to laugh. Then everyone on campus, faculty included will get together and talk about what an asshole you are. You are never going to be able to show your face outside of your dorm. You’ll have to withdraw within the month. Or throw yourself off the roof of Mobile Hall.”
C: “Fuck you! If it were not for you, self-doubt, there is no telling where we would be. We would rule the world. This girl is everything you need. Don’t you dare fuck this up for us. I’m right about this and you fucking know it!”
SD: “No, fuck you, confidence! You are reckless and make us look like a complete ass all the damn time. You get even worse when alcohol is involved.”
C: “Oh sure, bring up something that has nothing to do with the subject at hand when you know you’re losing. Why do I have to keep apologizing for asking that waitress out and then inferring that I could beat up her boyfriend? I could have by the way. 6 foot 5, 250 isn’t that big. ”
SD: Shut up shut up shut up! She is staring at you. Fuck. Be cool.
All of a sudden I became very aware of my breathing. During the heated argument I was having with myself I had started breathing very rapidly without noticing it.
C: “You’re breathing too hard you idiot! Try and be cool for once in your life.”
I try to slow my heart rate and control my breathing. But soon enough I realized I was just holding my breath. I smiled at her.
C: “Breathe before you pass out, you spaz! Damn it, Mackin.”
I let out all the air all of a sudden through my nose in somewhat noisy fashion. Emily’s brow was knitted and her green eyes lit with concern.
“Are you ok?” She asked.
“…yeah…Marlon Brando…he’s something else,” I croaked, “…great voice. ‘Charlie I coulda been a contenda.’” I said in the worst Marlon Brando impression that has ever been uttered.
She smiled and laughed nervously. “We can watch something else if you want to. I’ve got plenty of DVDs.”
“Oh no this is fine….I could be content watching grass grow with you.”
SD: “Nice one, Humphrey Bogart. I bet if you dart out of the room right now you can be far enough away from the building not to hear it before she busts out laughing at you.”
Emily looked at me and the room brightened as she smiled from ear to ear.
SD: Holy shit, it might be working.
C: Keep going, idiot. Go for the kill before you screw it up again.
“Emily, I’ve really enjoyed hanging out with you these past few weeks.”
“Me too.” Emily responded.
I felt like my face was burning up. If had shifted my collar I bet steam would have escaped from my shirt like in the cartoons. To this day I can only imagine the bright bright shade of red my face must have been.
SD: Nope. Nope Nope. Bail out! Mayday mayday mayday. Change the subject. Talk about the movie more. Better yet just run. Go north. Don’t stop running until you get to Georgia. That’s the only solution.
C: If you don’t shut up, self-doubt, I swear on all that is holy that I will beat your ass. Do it, Mackin, take the shot.
“Umm…I was wondering if…um I mean I uh really like you…really like like you.”
C: What are we, in middle school? Want to just drop her a note during homeroom?
“I really like you too.” Emily responded with a giggle.
C: Yessss!!! Doo it!!! Finish her!!!
“So you want to, ah I dunno, make it official, like mutually exclusive maybe?”
C: Shakespeare you are not.
Emily again came close to blinding me with her smile and nodded her head vigorously.
C: Hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Actually I love to say it. I told you so.
SD: Fuck you
The movie ended. Both of us had class the next day. I decided I should probably be going. She got up and walked me to the door. It wasn’t a big room but it seemed to take forever to get across as I plotted my next move. I began to seriously wonder if I should kiss her or not. Of course I wanted to. At that moment no person had ever wanted anyone more than I wanted to kiss Emily. Not just any kiss, the melt in your arms old movie kind of kiss. The one everyone dreams of being a part of.
…Wait…what if she doesn’t want to kiss me?
C: Are you fucking kidding me? Really? After all that? Damn it, Mackin.
SD: No. You’ve already won way more than I would have guessed. Get out and go home before you lose it all. Who the hell would want to kiss you anyway? Obviously the girl is deranged enough to publicly admit to knowing and liking you. If she is not deranged she is probably just setting you up to humiliate you. Publicly too. Like in Carrie. Good job asshole, you are going to get us covered in pig’s blood while wearing a prom dress. I knew it.
C: That’s it. I’m kicking your ass!
My confidence then proceeded to kick the shit out of my self-doubt because I did something that normally I didn’t do. If had done it before, I definitely wasn’t sober. I kissed a girl I had never kissed before without warning. Prior to this all of my first kisses came after long discussions about everything under the sun until the girl got so bored she left or just went in and kissed me instead. It’s a terrible system.
Now don’t get any notions in your head. I was no Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart. I was much too short and chubby. She was not Vivian Leigh or Ingrid Bergman. She was much too pretty and classy.
I grabbed her by the hand and leaned in. She must have been caught off guard because just as my lips reached hers she began to pull back.
C: Shit. I was wrong.
SD: Shit. I knew it.
But all of a sudden Emily processed what was happening and leaned forward into it.
That kiss is one of those clichéd happy places I go to mentally when I’m in a bad place physically or emotionally. It probably wouldn’t have looked like much to someone watching but to me it was the beginning of a whole new world. That kiss confirmed to me that there was something special about this girl. I didn’t know exactly what it was at that point but I sure as hell wanted to find out.
After a second or two we broke the awkward, yet sweet, yet powerful embrace. She smiled again. I liked it when she did that.
“So I’ll call you later?” I asked.
“Yes please. Goodnight.”
I walked back to my dorm. In a daze. Ran into a few trees. Tripped over a sprinkler head. Some people I knew might have greeted me on the walk back. If you were one of them and are reading this and I didn’t respond, sorry about that.
I stopped by my friend Matt Sullivan’s room. I had to tell someone. But it had to be someone who would be cool and logical about it but at the same time would give a glimmer of giving a damn. Matt Sullivan is that guy. Even keeled about most everything regardless of whether he should be or not. Except if you insult Kurt Cobain. If you do that, especially after a few beers, be ready for a debate.
He was watching TV with a somewhat glazed look in his eye. I sat down on one of the campstools he had in front of the set. We watched some movie for a few minutes. Can’t remember what it was but it probably had Bill Murray or Michael Keaton in it.
After a few minutes I said plainly without looking away from the TV. “I asked Emily out tonight. She said yes.”
“Nice, man. She’s a cool lady.” Matt replied in the same fashion.
Without looking up from the set, I gave a little smile as I thought about what had transpired.
I finally said simply, “Yes she is.”