When I saw him my mind had read two words: douche, and bag. I was at a house party, near the old campus. I was by myself, waiting for my friend to arrive. She was running late, she said, but I wasn’t sure if she was even still coming. I was the only girl there in the basement. There were some other girls at the party, but not many. It was turning out, as some might say, a sausage festival. That’s what the guys would always say if a party was ever bad. They’d say it was a sausage festival. And this party was, as they’d say, a sausage festival. The only other girls there were all upstairs. Down in the basement, where I was, I found myself surrounded by all these drunk guys. They were all eyeing me. Super creepy. They didn’t even seem to care who I was, or even what I looked like. I was the only girl they saw — at their failure of a frat party, aka the sausage festival — and so, naturally, I was getting swarmed. Swarmed by like, thirty or so sausages. I really wasn’t too flattered.
His name, he said, was Rick. He approached me, walking up with his thumbs both looped through the belt loops of his jeans. He had this look on his face — this lame, half a smile of a smirk. He looked like he had straight out of his high school yearbook. I hate that look. It’s just goofy. So many guys do that look. That smirk. He said that he remembered seeing me at the last party. I was never even at the last party. But we talked. He suggested we go upstairs and have a smoke. I told him there was enough smoke in the basement already. He laughed at this like I were a standup comedian. Like I had just put on a show and that my comment was some sort of punchline. He howled. It was so exaggerated I thought he might of been making fun of me. It annoyed me, but for whatever reason, though, he was working with me. We went upstairs.
That was the night I met Rick. What strikes me so strangely of it all, was that the less Rick impressed me, which was the more that Rick tried, the more chances I’d give Rick in return. Some people can be like that, I’ve noticed, but I hadn’t ever considered myself as one of them, and I still don’t think I am. Rick seemed completely oblivious to my every showing of lack of approval, which as strange as it may sound was what I liked about him. Strange. I guess. I mean, Rick wasn’t stupid, Rick was just too confident to even care. And a lot of frat guys are like that. I guess that’s true. I was pretty used to seeing guys acting like that. But Rick, though, I felt, was someone more than just his bravado.
When things started out for us, Rick would come by the house and visit me on the porch. We would always chill on the front porch. He’d show up without warning, too. Every time. He never called me beforehand. Never. Never would he ever suggest that we hang out, or anything like that. Nothing of the sort. He would just show up and then we would hang out. The first time Rick came to visit me, I was surprised to see him standing there at the front door. I honestly had not expected to even see him again. I figured that this was just another guy. Another party. But he came to see me, though, the very next day. Soon after I’d then come to expect it from Rick. A day just wouldn’t seem normal unless Rick had come by to chill on the porch. I thought it was cute. Really. I did. To be honest, it was sort of like the tv shows I’d watched when I was a kid. Rick was like the boy next door, like Sam Anders was on Clarissa Explains It All. I loved that show. Rick was like Sam Anders, just minus the latter.
Karen, though, my roommate, thought Rick was a creep. At least, she did at first. Karen thought Rick was weird. Probably because Rick would show up unannounced and make himself at home. Understandable, I guess. I mean, Rick wasn’t coming to see Karen, so why would Karen approve of Rick making himself at home in our own home. When Rick would come over, eventually Karen started making rude remarks about it. This was about after one full week of Rick’s daily visits. It was sort of strange of him that he’d do it, I guess. I do have to admit that, it was at least a little bit strange. But I liked seeing Rick, though. Even then, I did. He wouldn’t stay over for too long. He wouldn’t outstay his welcomes. Not with me, he wouldn’t. Karen had thought it was just so odd, though. That’s why she made her comments. Rick, though, always served her back with remarks of his own. Every time, he would. Which I respected. Rick’s remarks were always playful. Karen’s remarks, on the other hand, were sometimes plainly mean. One time Karen had asked Rick if he was homeless and then followed up with saying she figured we were his only friends. I was sort of stunned when she said this to Rick. It wasn’t like Karen to act like that. Not around guys. Karen did say, though, in her mentioning, that Rick was her friend. I figured this much to be at least somewhat good. To my astonishment, Rick would laugh everything off. He said to Karen that she was his favorite friend in the whole wide world. He said, whole wide world. It was kind of funny. The way that Rick said this. Karen rolled her eyes at him, but she wanted to laugh, though. I think she wanted to laugh. It looked like wanted to laugh. She had this contorted fixed look on her face. Like she was trying her best to hold back a smile. That’s what she looked like when Rick said this. It was really pretty tough for anyone to ever get under Rick’s skin.
There were certain times at the house when we would have lots of guys over. It wasn’t like having a guy over at the house was something that we hadn’t any experience with. Not at all. I mean, all of us were, after all, in a sorority. But in the times when lots of guys would be over at the house, it was usually reserved for only during pledge week. And the guys who’d come over to the house then were always the most nervous freshman. Pledges. Those guys wouldn’t even look us in the eyes. Much less would one of them dare to make fun of Karen — as if any of them would ever find themselves in a situation to be talking with her like that. During all other times, though, the only guys who would then be over at the house were just boyfriends. Occasionally a guy friend might stop over. For studying and stuff like that. But none of us really had too many guy friends. Rick entered my life as a guy friend. And Rick was not a frat guy. Rick was out of place to be there. He never involved himself with anything that was Greek life. Except for parties. Sometimes Rick would go to the parties. But Rick really hadn’t anything much to do with anything. To any of us Rick was a complete outsider.
We were all hanging out on the porch one night when Rick said something that I would come to remember. At the time I had found it only innocuous, but as time went on, his words stuck with me. It had seemed so meaningless, but it really wasn’t. It was late fall, Halloween had just passed, and we were set into early November. It was just as the weather was climbing into a constant bitter cold. We had all realized we would not be able to hang out on the porch for much longer. We had probably already been outside on the porch for too long as it was. Most of the neighbors had already made the switch back to indoors. During the summers, everyone would be outside. And in the fall, too, I guess. People were outside then, too. As long as it was warm enough to be comfortable outdoors, really, the whole street would then be outside. Out on the porches. All the houses were built much the same. Just big, old, shitty houses. With huge porches. I think someone had once told me that the houses were from a Sears catalogs, from like, the turn of the century. Every house was built with a huge, solid front porch. It was really kind of scenic, in like, a very college-ish sort of way. It was a lot like what you’d maybe think of when you think of those stereotypical college movies. Like Animal House. That’s what would always come to mind for me, and what I’d always compare it to when describing the house to friends who were at other schools. All the houses were in pretty bad shape. Some of them, actually, were in downright horrible shape. A few of the houses even had bad infestation issues. Our house, thankfully, had never gotten to be so bad. Not even close. But the houses that were like that though were plenty. It was just so college there. People would put couches on their roofs. Stuff like that. I liked it a lot. Everyone would always beef up their colleges, when it came to stories, as I remember. Like, after first year, when everyone had went away. I remember the conversations I’d have with old friends. Everyone had their own little stories to tell. It did make me a bit sad to see it all end. The porch, I mean. To have to go back inside and to stare at those walls. If it wasn’t for knowing that Summer would eventually return I’d have been a lot sadder. Rick was the one who pointed it out. That the porch season was over. We had all knew that it was, but Rick was just the one who announced it. I remember Karen nodding when he said it. Alyse, my other roommate, had said thank God. We all went inside. That was the end of that.
Rick and I were already dating by then. I guess we had just sort of happened. Neither of us ever officially said then that we were dating, but it was already so obvious that I guess there was no need. We’d went to Halloween as a pair. If you ever do that with someone, it should say then what you are. I knew what we were.
By then even Karen grew to like Rick. She would never claim that Rick was creepy anymore. She even laughed at Rick’s jokes. They even had this thing, actually, where they would greet each other with absurd insults. It was strange. I guess. I feel like everything in that house was strange. The thing between Karen and Rick was no different. It was strange. But it was harmless, though. It was just this weird little thing they’d do. At least they got along. I figured this much at least was a good thing. It was better than if one of them had hated the other, I figured. But it was a peculiar thing to see, though, all the same. It was something that’s not so unlike what two close friends might do, is what they did. It was really funny at first. I have to say, I would laugh every time. Eventually it grew a bit stale, but they just kept on with it regardless, and eventually, it had actually gotten funny again. It was like, this is never going to end, is it, is what I remember always asking myself. It would sometimes get heated and be so dramatic, but it was always, though, just so entirely stupid and fake. It was just completely absurd and that I feel is why it was so funny. I guess. What it was is that, they had this weird inside joke, where Rick would claim that he was a legend and that Karen was a fable. That was it. That’s what they’d do. But it was, like, way beyond any sort of routine. I swear it was like their ritual. What Rick had meant by this, in saying that he was a legend, it was really making fun of all of us. Making fun of Greek life just in general, really. Reputations were always very important in the sororities. So, yeah, Rick had claimed himself to be a legend. It was the sort of subject that, although not any of us would ever explicitly come out and say was true, it was something all of us kind of knew and understood completely. What he meant by it, and what it implied. Whenever Rick would say it, Karen would then stamper and insist that she was the legend. She played along with it and in Rick’s own exact style. It really was such a Rick move by Karen to respond like that. That’s just how Rick always had sweated things off so seemingly easily. So, Karen did the same. That’s why none of us would ever get offended by the joke. Karen had always been sort of a diva. Just in the ways she would act about things. Things just in general. It was just sort of the way Karen really was. Even toward the end of college, as everything was winding down, and all the old things were seeming less and less important, she never really fully let go. But if Karen, though, was to make light of Rick’s joke, which she always would, then how could any of the rest of us ever not. It was pretty funny.
There was even a storyline to it. Everyone would always laugh. Karen and Rick would put on a show. I’d actually grown to be a bit jealous at one point. Rick never had inside jokes with me. Nothing so extravagant at least. So it did bother me a little bit. At one point it definitely did bother me, but I got over it pretty fast. I thought it would be Immature of me to fuss about something like that. Even if it really did bother me, I’d felt that it shouldn’t. I never spoke of it. It did seem, though, sometimes at least, that Karen had developed a thing for Rick. But to be honest, I never did mind so much. People would say things about it occasionally. Alyse certainly noticed it. She said things to me about it. But I considered the whole thing a compliment. In a way, that is. If that makes any sense. I felt that it spoke good onto me that Rick was desirable. That’s how I looked at the situation. I did pretend sometimes that it bothered me, though. In front of Alyse, I would. Not always, but sometimes I did. I’d tell her that it bothered me. But Rick would never go for Karen. And I knew that. I really wasn’t worried.
I missed the porch. I always liked to say that we were porch monkeys. I thought it was funny. I’d say it all the time. That we were porch monkeys. Rick told me once that porch monkey was a slur, and that it was racist. I never knew about that. I just liked to say it. Porch monkey. I don’t even know if Rick was actually right or not. Who says porch monkey anyway? I missed being a porch monkey. I did eventually stop ever saying porch monkey. Probably though because we were all inside then. It was deep into winter and it was too cold for us to be outside on the porch. We only ever went outside on the porch then to smoke. And I was then quitting smoking, too. I’d figured the winter was maybe a good time for me to try doing that. Rick was still smoking nearly a pack a day. It had made it harder for me to stop. But I did. I missed it, though. Rick told me that he wanted to smoke in bed with me. He said it was a feeling of bliss to smoke in bed with someone you love. I wasn’t sure even what to think. Sometimes Rick would say weird things in serious contexts.
I remember feeling sad that winter. I thought that maybe I had seasonal depression if not something like it. I just hated the winter there. I’d always been a warm weather person. I still find it strange that anyone could ever be anything else. It urked me how I needed to pad myself up with layers just to be outside. And not that it was ever really so warm inside the house, though. We were all just too cheap to pay for heat. We all just wore hoodies and dealt with it. I always liked telling people about how we did that, but I didn’t enjoy actually doing it so much. It still amazes me how Rick lived through that winter. He moved into the attic a few weeks after winter began. Though he’d spent most his time in my room. The only reason he even rented the attic was to curb the inevitable complaints that would come from the other girls if he was living there for free. He did sleep some nights in the attic. A few nights, he did. If we ever fought, he did. He’d go to the attic. Willingly, too.
I remember once hearing that, if you’re ever feeling depressed, then before you diagnose yourself, you should first make sure that you’re not just surrounding yourself with assholes. I long had considered this as like a selfish sort of maxim. Not that I felt it was inherently selfish, but that it was abused by selfish people. That’s what I felt. I’d felt It was just something that was said by people as an easy way for them to deny whatever certain things were in their life. Making excuses for oneself, is what I’d viewed it as. Too convenient, is what I’d thought of it. But, maybe it’s even easier, though, to just look down other people. Judgement is always so easy. I guess I judge a lot. Who doesn’t, though, I guess. I try not to, but it happens. And regardless, I liked all my friends. I liked living with the girls. And I was, also, starting to really love Rick. I just didn’t like the situation I was in, I think was all. Also, I think it had been Alyse, actually, who had told me the saying anyway. And if it was Alyse then it wouldn’t be too surprising. Alyse could sometimes be cold to people. She had a reputation for being a bitch. She really was, though, sometimes. She was kind of like our leader, I guess. If you know what I mean. I sometimes actually envied her in this sense, but at the same time, though, I guess also not really. Alyse was a strong person, though, and she always carried herself in that way, especially for the sorority girl that she was. But she was also abrasive. Even guys wouldn’t give Alyse any shit. And she was always so pretty, though, too. And little. Alyse was tiny. You wouldn’t ever see it coming. But she was just abrasive. People liked her. They did. She was the president of our sorority. But everyone talked bad about her. Behind her back, they would. Sometimes, they would talk bad of her. I always tried to stay out of the conversations when they’d come up, but they’d often come up. All in all, though, Alyse always did get her way it seemed. I felt like Alyse was happy. She’d get angry a lot, but I think she was happy.
Maybe it was just the weather. I think that’s what it was. I wasn’t from anywhere near there. I wasn’t used to the snow. I think it was the weather.