When I was little, my stepfather and I would be outside, coloring the driveway with chalk or throwing a frisbee and he’d stop and say, “I’m gonna go stir your mama up.”
He’d go in the house, coming out minutes later with my mom hot on his heels, waving her arms and haranguing his retreating back. She couldn’t see the big grin on his face as he approached me, “It’s good for her heart,” he’d say, chuckling and resuming whatever we were doing, “We’ve got to keep her on her toes.” He’s a master of dolorous mischief.
Flash forward to a cold, dark, Yale, winter evening in 2023. Peter and I are in the suite’s common room. Four dorm rooms share this ‘living room’ area but we’re alone, which was rare.
I’d been reading for about an hour and I was only half done. A chemistry PSet was next. I closed my Chinese language studies book and looked up. Peter was there, sitting on the floor, leaning back on the far end of the red corduroy couch where I was sitting. His long lanky frame was curled around the book he was reading, like an awkward python.
As I watched, he plucked a mint-chocolate milkshake off the white coffee table, bringing the straw to his lips without ever taking his eyes off his book. Homework, homework, homework.
I was bored and wanted a little attention, a little fun.
“Was I your first choice?” I asked him, as he noisily slurped at the last of his milkshake.
“First choice for what?” He asked.
“To be your girlfriend,” I clarified, emphasizing the last word.
He thought for a moment, “No, I had salty love-jones for Ivy Waters in second grade. Why?”
“I don’t know, It just occurred to me to ask,” I confided. “so, why did you choose me then?”
“Well,” he said, raising his eyebrows in all, fake sincerity, “you know all the best jokes,” and with that, he went back to his milkshake (argh!).
“I know, you’re finishing your doctorate,” I said, “but you could be a flight attendant!”
Peter stopped trying to stir the last of his milkshake into a slurpable lump and froze in thought. “It’s TRUE,” I continued, “Really - you need to be flexible in your planning. I read that most physicists slave away in povertude.”
“Povertude, huh?’ He said, and resumed his mint-chocolate work - his straw making a loud “ssssuuuuusssssskkkkkkkkkk,” empty-cup air-******* sound.
“AI isn’t going to replace **** flight attendants,” I offered, as my last argument in the matter.
After a moment he asked, “You really think I could carry it off?” Putting his palm on his hip and wiggling his shoulders in a provocative shimmy.
“I KNEW you’d leave me at the FIRST opportunity,” I said, turning sharply away, pretending to ignore him - the universal cap of girlfriends everywhere - with a condensed absence of attention that, I hoped, spoke unspoken things.
Setting his milkshake down, he gave me a lecherous smile, which made me giggle, and began crawling in my direction.
“Eeek!” I shrieked, laughing, as he climbed up on the couch, “I still have homework!”
BLT Marriam Webster word of the day challenge: Dolorous: "causing grief."
PSet = problem set (homework).
salty = mad
love jones = crush
provertude = the state of lifelong poverty
cap = playful insult