Why did I go over to Al’s apartment that night? It was the spring of 1992 and I was still single. His roommate had already gone to bed, and Al started speaking in a creepy soft tone as he got up from the couch and started turning off lights in their living room. With the flip of each switch, I got more and more tense. He was going to kiss me and I knew it.
The night before I had been 100 miles away in Cleveland. My old college roommate and her fiancée invited me to their “couples wedding shower.” Such events had just come into fashion in the early 90s, so I had no idea what to expect, other than everyone having a date except me.
I followed the directions to the hosts’ house in Shaker Heights, and with a deep breath, I rang the doorbell. Sure enough, I entered a room filled with hip young couples, comfortable and secure in their relationships.
The rest of the evening was like a Turning Leaf commercial full of good-looking people under soft lighting, infused with the sounds of trendy music, laughter and clanking glasses. I tried all night to fit in but I knew I looked like the bride’s loser roommate who she had to invite. At the end of the night, everyone retired to his or her rooms with their respective mates, and I slept on the couch. I stared at the ceiling for hours and couldn’t wait for morning to come.
The next day I plastered the same goofy smile on my face and said my good-byes to my old roommate, her fiancée, and their hip good-looking friends. I rolled the window down, waved, and drove off.
I wasn’t on the interstate for more than a minute when the tears came. Like a baby, I wailed for 50 miles or more. Cars passed, their passengers curious about the apparent mad woman in the Mazda sobbing uncontrollably.
I had always had trouble getting anyone to ask me out on a date, much less commit to an actual relationship. I just didn’t get it. I had fair looks, a decent build, a keen sense of humor, nice hair, a great job and good hygiene. Why wasn’t that enough?
Over the years, I believed that my time would eventually come, but it was getting a bit ridiculous at age 26. I had to face the distinct possibility: I might be a loser.
Back at my Mount Washington apartment, I decided that self-punishment was in order. I layered myself in sweats and went on a long run. Making my way down the windy back alleys and staircases of my old Pittsburgh neighborhood, I pushed myself to feel pain. At the base of Mount Washington, I stared up the mile-long parkway that would take me back to my street. Halfway up, I started getting dizzy, but I didn’t deserve to stop so I pushed on.
Finally at the top, some passers-by noticed my woozy appearance and beet-red face. “Hey, are you OK?” But I ignored their concern and staggered back to my apartment.
I turned on the 14 inch TV that was perched atop an old wooden wire spool and plopped onto my second-hand couch. “The Ten Commandments” was on, but I stared off blindly.
The phone’s ring startled me from my trance, and I hopped up to answer it.
“Hey Lisa, we are having some neighbors over for a cook out tonight — wanna come?”
It was Al. He was a consultant who worked on some cases at our law firm, and he was a big giant geek. I could never date that guy. I politely declined the invitation and moped my way into the shower.
As the hot water pelted my sore body, I started to think. I must ooze desperation. When boys see me, they don’t see a potential date, they see a blinking neon sign that says, “I WANT A BOYFRIEND!” No wonder they run for their lives. I need to stop trying so hard and let things happen naturally for once. I shouldn’t have turned Al down; a barbecue might be fun and I could use a good time.
I finished my shower and called Al back to get directions. I arrived an hour later, hopeful for a fun evening. But when Al opened the door, all I saw was his roommate watching TV. I knew something wasn’t right.
In an attempt to be hospitable, they offered me a seat on the couch between them, and we watched an episode of “Married with Children” while eating unwrapped processed cheese slices and saltines.
I kept waiting for the other guests, but none arrived. Unusually early, Al’s roommate said his goodnight and went to bed. I started getting suspicious. Was this all a rouse by Al to get me over here alone? Does he like me? I figured I would chat for another 15 minutes or so to be polite and then get the heck outta there.
After he turned out all but one light, Al returned to his seat beside me on the couch and resumed his creepy soft tone of speech. Oh no. What am I going to do when he tries to kiss me. I’ll probably let him do it because I am such a wimp, but what if he wants more? Oh crap, I need to get out of here.
Just then, Al says, “Hey Lisa, listen, I’ve got to get up really early tomorrow, so you are welcome to crash on the couch, but I’ve got to get to bed.”
I thought I had hit rock bottom somewhere at the base of Mt. Washington earlier that day, but I was wrong. This was it. I realized that, while I was in the shower, they must’ve cancelled the barbecue and didn’t have the heart to tell me when I called them back. And here, I thought that Al had implemented an elaborate scheme to get me alone, when all along, he was just being polite.
Based on my crying fit that morning, I thought I might go off the deep end with this new turn of events, but strangely, I couldn’t deny the obvious humor in the situation and laughed out loud on my way back to my car.
I learned that my life certainly had its ups and downs, and rather than pushing myself so hard to find love and companionship, I needed to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Two months later, I met my husband. He hates it when I tell this story because it implies that he married a desperate loser who couldn’t find a date to save her life, when he insists, he married the love of his.