Dispatch 19 (Nov. 7, 1998)
When youre in college, when
you live alone, when your whole life revolves around being at specific
places at specific times, and shuttling back and forth day after day,
its not hard to intentionally lose sight of someone.
You stop returning phone calls because
you get home too late from the library. You say youll meet someone
for lunch, but a lecture runs long or theres traffic on Guadalupe
after class, and soon youve missed them.
You dont even have to respond
when somebody contacts you directly. Caller
ID keeps you from having to answer the phone when picking up the
receiver is the last thing you want to do. And you can just be very
quiet, reading in the bathroom with nearly all the lights off if someone
comes and knocks on your door.
Not that I'm avoiding Gina.
I'm a college student.
I woke up yesterday morning with the
most dislocated, disconnected feeling. If I wanted to, I thought to
myself, I could never talk to my parents again. Just lose myself in
the crowd of the world, nevermore a part of Mom and Dads lives.
Because I was afraid.
* * *
At the library,
I met with Harry and Andrea and Randall, who I like well enough because
they study when they say theyre going to study and dont
spend the whole night talking about the cultural significance of Sanford and Son or why Lik-M-Aid sticks were
the best candy ever.
We were near the main entrance, pretty
much in plain sight, when Gina came over.
I hadnt seen her since Halloween
and, yeah, I was ducking her messages, being the irresponsible one,
but feeling too spooked to do anything about it. My little nightmare
scenario Gina embarrassing me in a public place began
to play out in my mind as I saw her coming toward us, dressed in a
sweater and jeans.
She was looking straight at me, her
face devoid of any greeting. Her eyes werent stilettos; they
were instead blunt instruments, big gray anvils, beating me with accusation.
Conversation of condensation in the
context of our meteorology class stopped. They looked at her as she
approached. Harry whispered something to Randall I couldnt hear
and Randall nodded his head and said "I think so."
Gina ignored them. She was upon me.
"Hi, Heather. Whats up?"
"Hey, Gina. These are some friends
from my meteorology class. This is," I said, pointing, "Randall,
Harry and Andrea. Everybody, this is Gina."
I forgot Id told Harry about
"So Heathers writing about
you, huh?" he blurted out. Gina turned to him, as if his question
was a distraction, and turned back to me. She didnt answer him.
"Can I talk to you for a minute,
Heather?" she asked.
Well, she didnt ask. She was
I tried to find an out. "Were
studying for a test, and we really gotta get this done," I said.
"Maybe you can call me tonight." I wanted to look at the
others and see if my answer rang true or if they could tell I was
playing the avoidance game. I couldnt break the lock of Ginas
"I think its pretty important,
Heather. I really need to talk to you," Gina said. There was
anger, undisguised, in her voice.
"Its okay," Harry
said, and I wanted to hurt him badly for it. "Go ahead. Were
pretty far along."
He patted me on the shoulder, unknowingly
risking his hand, which I would have gladly broken at that moment.
I smiled at the group, wanly. "Ill
be back in a minute," I said.
We went outside, where the cooling
afternoon sun tried to shed itself of the remaining drizzle in the
clouds. Gina waited until we were out of the building, then turned
on me suddenly.
"What are you doing? Is this
over? Are you done writing?" Her voice was loud. I instinctually
looked around to see if anybody was watching or listening to us.
"I dont know," I said.
"I dont know whats happening."
"Youre not returning my
calls. And you try to blow me off in front of your friends. Do you
want to know how angry I am?"
"Im sorry," I said.
"My study group wasnt the place to talk about this."
"Talk about what? Whats
the problem?" Gina asked.
I was surprised into silence. Of course
she knew what had me freaked out. Why was she drawing this out?
"Halloween, Gina," I said.
comfortable right now with things."
"Please dont tell me you
havent been out drinking before," she said.
"Its not that," I
said. "You know why Im upset."
"No, I dont. I know you
havent called me back and you dont seem interested in
dong this anymore. But I dont know why."
I kept my voice low, hyperaware of
people walking in and out of the library and within earshot. "You
kissed me," I whispered.
"I was drunk, Heather,"
she said. "I would have kissed a marrano if I had enough to drink.
Is that why youve been acting so weird?"
"I dont think Im
overreacting," I said. "There wasnt any reason for
that to happen, and it did. And then you leave the next morning before
I can even talk to you about it!"
"What would we have said?"
Gina asked, with a smug smile on her face. " Oh, damn,
we kissed. Sorry about that. Whats the big deal?"
I felt suddenly as if I had no real
argument. She was refusing to treat this seriously and my confusion
about it wasnt giving me any great insight.
"Its a big deal because
thats not what this whole thing is about and you were manipulating
me. Youre trying to make me look stupid because you know I have
to put it all on paper later," I said, admittedly grasping at
"I dont care what you write,"
Gina said. "You can make it all up if you want. But I trusted
you to do it fairly and you havent trusted me to be honest and
show you who I really am. Sometimes I do stupid things and sometimes
I get drunk and do even stupider things. But thats not who I
am. Dont you know that yet?"
I couldnt respond. I didnt
know what to say.
"I stopped reading what youre
writing because Im trusting you, at least until this is over.
And I dont know what youre putting on the Web or telling
your little friends," she said, pointing to the library where
my study group still sat. "But you cant let yourself dictate
all this. Its my life youre writing about and youre
not letting me live it without bringing your own shit and your own
baggage into it."
"I cant help it,"
I said. "Im there."
"Then you can write, Gina
kissed me. End of story. And its never going to happen
again and it didnt mean anything so why is it so important?
Do you think Im a lesbian?"
"No," I said. "I dont
"Then forget about it. Write
it down and forget about it. Because I already have."
I nodded stupidly, unable to formulate
"Im going to work. If you
want to keep doing this call me, because Im not calling you
She said the last part as
she was already turning to leave. In just the few minutes wed
talked, the sky had already darkened to navy blue and the drizzle
returned. I was without my coat, cold and by myself again, unsure
of who I was avoiding more Gina or my own notions of who Gina