RITE OF PASSAGE
Richard awakened, wanting to sit up but unable because his left arm was pinned down. He turned to see by what, and the vision his eyes presented his brain with brought the memory of last night with it. Lying beside him was the girl he picked up at the party.
It had finally happened. Richard graduated high school still very much a boy. Now, with four weeks left of his first semester in college, his initiation into the rites of manhood was complete.
Richard managed to slide his arm out without awakening his conquest and replayed the events of the previous night in his mind. He had been remarkably smooth. The eight glasses of his fraternity's patented "leg spreader punch" saw to it that he was as relaxed as could be. The large quantity consumed by the lady love beside him made her very much receptive to his advances. It had been almost too easy. Richard couldn't recall asking for her name, nor offering his own. Exchanging resumes was not a necessary precursor for the night's subsequent proceedings.
Matters weren't helped much by the emphasis his college mates placed on romance. Romance fraternity style that is, which boiled down to getting laid - a lot. Far more crucial than the number of beers he could chug, the most important statistic in his new world was how many girls he bedded.
There were a couple of guys in his fraternity who averaged a girl a week. Or at least a girl a party, which was approximately the same thing. The brothers in the lower end of the scale by which they were measured managed to score once every few weeks. Every member of his pledge class, even buck toothed Morty, had slept with at least one girl this semester. Richard was dwelling in the wonderful world of the one night stand, but instead of being an active participant, he was a mere bystander.
Which is why he had been so determined last night to prove to his brethren that he was worthy to be included in their ranks. Why he had drunk like it was going out of style, marched up to the cutest, drunkest available girl that he saw, and let nothing impede the completion of his mission.
Next, he checked out her body. Skin tight, midnight black clothing had made her appear quite voluptuous. Naked, without everything squeezed in or pushed up and out, she was a bit on the chubby side. Not exactly fat, just not the aerobicized Barbie doll he thought he had landed.
A degree of disappointment began to settle in. Then Richard remembered the words of his fraternity's president and resident stud, Craig Hunter. Craig was being teased about picking up a girl who was well below his par. "Women all have the same thing between their legs,” he had said. “So when it comes to getting laid, it's quantity, not quality that counts." Amen.
Richard reminded himself that the important thing here was he had broken his slump and started his streak. In no time he would be considered a real ladies man, perhaps even receive a cool nickname lauding his accomplishments. Next semester he would move out of his dorm and into the fraternity house. There would be no stopping him then.
He rose from the bed, making as little noise as possible so he would not awaken what's her face. He scanned the floor, quickly finding and putting on his clothes, preparing to make a speedy exit. They had never been properly introduced, so he saw no reason for a formal goodbye. Let her get some beauty sleep. Besides, what was there to talk about? No topic of conversation seemed appropriate. He certainly was not prepared to converse about what they had done together. His memory of last evening's activities was rather vague.
Today though, Richard wouldn't mind in the least. In fact, he was looking forward to it. The morning after a party was when the guys swapped stories of the previous night's exploits. On all of the prior occasions, Richard had sat back quietly and listened, having nothing to add to the dialogue. Now it would finally be his turn to bask in the spotlight.
"I don't think they're your size."
Richard spun around. The thief of his virginity was awake. It looked like he would have to figure out something to say to her, but "thank you" were the only words coming to mind.
"So you're a Knicks fan?"
A baffling question without a doubt. Had they engaged in a long discussion about basketball last night. Was he yelling for Alan Houston to drive to the basket in his sleep? He had been expecting "Was it good for you?", or "I don't usually do this sort of thing", or "Are you a transvestite or a kleptomaniac?". When she pointed at his head, Richard remembered that he was wearing a Knicks cap.
"Oh yeah, right. You too?"
"They should have taken San Antonio in the Finals. I think they'll go all the way this year, though."
She was a basketball fan. This was the second girl he had met this year who could make such a claim, the first being Nicole Maxwell.
Nicole was what was commonly referred to in the Greek system as a “frat rat”. This term was used to describe any girl who didn't belong to a sorority, and was not the regular girlfriend of any guy in a fraternity, but still seemed to always be around. There were two categories of these girls. The ones who didn't put out (about ten percent) and the ones who did. Nicole was a member of the majority. She had been with five guys in Richard's fraternity, Craig Hunter being the first, of course. She was considered to be a sure thing. Being a brother, or even a lowly pledge, seemed to work as an aphrodisiac on her.
Apparently he had told this girl his name. He was grateful that his first lover was adept enough at small talk to make his first morning after relatively painless. Without the make-up and party dress, there was a tomboyish quality to her which put Richard at ease.
"This is my first year. I'm pre-med."
"Me too. How do you like the city so far?"
He had told her that he wasn't from New York. Did she know his astrological sign and social security number as well? When had he babbled all this information? What the hell was her name?
"It's pretty cool," answered Richard. Then he noticed Al Pacino's image on the wall. "Where'd you get the poster?"
"From this place a few blocks from here called French Kisses."
Richard could not help but be impressed. Amy had never been able to appreciate the sheer brilliance of Scarface, no matter how hard he preached the merits of the film. She just thought it was mindless, gory, guy stuff. He had to give this nameless promiscuous girl some credit. She had slept with him, rooted for the Knicks, and was a fan of Scarface. Obviously a woman of refined tastes.
To his right was a collection of C.D.'s. Limp Biskit, Eminem, Jay Z, Dave Matthews. She was into the same kinds of music as him. Richard licked the fudge bar he had snatched. Yet another thing they had in common. Of the scores of girls Richard had met since school started, he had only bonded so easily with one other. That bonding is what kept her from becoming his first lover.
He would always remember that day. Elated from passing a mid-term he had been certain he would fail; grateful for the help she gave to make his C possible; convinced she was an easy lay; and being horny as hell; Richard sprung a passionate kiss on Nicole Maxwell.
It lasted ten seconds. The next time Nicole opened her mouth was to deliver a speech. She told him how Craig and the others had been casual flings based solely on physical attraction. A good time was had by all, but nothing more. Richard on the other hand, was someone she really cared for. As a friend. She valued their friendship too much to throw it away, and sleeping together would be doing just that. This made as little sense to Richard as anything he had ever heard, but he went along with it anyway. There didn't appear to be much choice in the matter. So he and Nicole remained platonic, and he unsullied.
Fortunately, not every girl was as finicky. Last night's festivities had required nothing more than lust and booze aplenty. Craig Hunter himself could have fared no better.
The girl pushed the play button on her answering machine. "Marilyn, this is Barbara. Give me a ring. Bye."
Marilyn! That's what her name was. Thank goodness he wouldn't have to go through a whole ordeal to find out without giving away that he had forgotten. But why did he even care? She was just a one night stand, one of the rewards of his new fast pace lifestyle. Not knowing anything about her was part of the situation's charm.
Marilyn laughed at the next message left on her machine. Her face changed when she smiled. She went from plain to kind of pretty. Not that she was in Amy's league, for few girls were. Amy's magazine cover beauty had caused Richard to stay with her for a considerable time after concluding that they weren't right for each other. How could he give up someone he was so lucky to be with? Once she gave in and they started having sex, their differences would disappear. Or he wouldn't care about them nearly as much. But Amy managed to keep her virtue intact, and Richard grew disenchanted enough in the final months of the relationship to risk leaving his hometown behind to check out a bigger piece of the world.
His master plan was to rival Don Juan, Cassanova and Charlie Sheen. Ten women for each day of frustration and futility endured. Not that his relationship with Amy hadn’t produced numerous wonderful memories as well. Especially at the beginning when he wasn't concentrating as strenuously on trying to get into her pants, they had had some great times. The best times of his life. Getting drunk with the guys and chasing after girls certainly had its merits. But holding Amy's hand while their bare feet played in a stream, talking about the future, sharing their dyadreams. That had been real.
Richard picked up the male action figure standing on top of the stereo. It was Captain Kirk. No further evidence was required to make up his mind. Like Nicole Maxwell had said to him on that most frustrating of days, when you have something that's good, you do whatever you can to keep it. There was potential with Marilyn, and the possibility of love blew away a playboy reputation any day.
"Marilyn, if you don't have anything planned maybe I could take you to lunch."
"That's sweet, Richard. It really is. But I don't think so."
"I don't understand."
"Last night was great."
Thank God. He had been too shy to ask, but dared to hope. If he was starting out at great, imagine how amazing he would eventually become. If only he could remember any of it. But at least she did. She remembered it was great. Why then was she shooting him down?
"But I usually don't do this sort of thing," she continued. "And I'm not exactly proud of my behavior. Truth is, my boyfriend broke up with me yesterday and I was feeling sorry for myself. I thought if I got drunk and picked up some guy, it would be a kind of revenge."
Picked up some guy? He had picked her up. But now was not a time to quarrel over details. There were bigger issues at hand.
"So you're saying you want to get back with your ex?"
"No. That's over with."
"Then I don't understand," Richard repeated.
"I don't want to create a false impression. I would go to lunch with you if I was interested in starting a relationship. But if that were the case, I wouldn't have slept with you last night. I would have wanted you to respect me first, and I don't think you can now. And even if you could, it still doesn't matter. I can only see you in one way. You were a one night stand, Richard, and the night's over with."
"You're not attracted to me, is that it?" Richard was highly agitated over this turn of events and not bothering to hide it.
"No. I'm saying that since we began this way, it's best we end it like this. Besides, I didn't get the impression that you were looking for a girlfriend. It seemed you were just looking to get rid of something that you were tired of holding on to."
He was never getting drunk again. Richard couldn't believe he had confessed his virgin status. And she was still brushing him off. Virginity was preferable to this humiliation any day.
"That was just a line," he said meekly.
"Okay, if you say so," Marilyn said, but Richard could see she didn't believe him. Leg spreader punch was the best truth serum there was, and she knew this as well as he did.
"I thought after last night, the gentlemanly thing to do would be to take you to lunch. But if that's too much of a good thing for you, so be it. Nice meeting you, Marilyn."
Not bad. Richard began to walk out of the room, pleased that his closing remarks had salvaged the situation enough to leave him with the upper hand, or at least a draw.
"By the way, Marilyn is my roommate. I never told you my name."
Richard momentarily stopped in his tracks. This was definitely not how he had envisioned his first time to be. He had expected ... Actually, he had expected to slip out the door, then go rushing back to the fraternity house to brag about his exploits. The only thing different was that instead of sneaking out with his pride intact, he was crawling out with his tail between his legs. His friends would get the same story, regardless. No way they would be hearing the truth. He had told enough of that to last him a lifetime.
"Like I said, we're just each other's one night stands. Bye, Richard."
And with that he was out, left to ponder the mysteries of womankind. He was finding them far more complex than any of his classes. They each had their own strict set of rules, each one equally enigmatic. The end result of his attempts to solve their riddles so far was this. He had had romantic love without sex, platonic love without sex, and sex with no kind of love at all. It had been frustrating to say the least. But as Richard headed back to his brethren, he knew he would eventually get the right combination, and that he would have a whole lot of fun in the process.