This is Part 2 of the story of How I Met Superman. To get caught up, you can read the preceding chapter here.
My boyfriend at the time was named Patrick*. He was a basketball player – a strapping Irish lad, with thick black hair and a great sense of humor. But we were really a terrible couple.
We had met the previous summer, in the way boys and girls do: He began coming around my house on warm summer evenings with a group of boys from school who would act like they were just in the neighborhood. We would sit on the grass in our shorts and bare feet, plucking at the lawn and telling jokes as the sun went down, pushing our hair back off our faces and watching the cloudless sky as we revealed more and more about ourselves. Then Patrick would arrange it so the other boys would miraculously disappear, and we would be alone, talking late into the night on my driveway.
By the end of the summer, Patrick was coming over every night. And by the time we unfolded our class lists that arrived in the mail for the next school year – unraveling them so many times they felt like linen against our fingertips – he acted as if he were going to tell me something, but never did.
That “something” finally became clear when we arrived on campus for the new school year and I found myself met with a pack of angry girls. Apparently, Patrick had had another girlfriend. Needless to say, she wasn’t very happy with me when school started, but I didn’t know how to plead my innocence. I wasn’t the kind of girl who stole boyfriends. I wore ribbons in my hair and got straight A’s and hardly ever spoke in class. I didn’t even know how to chase after a boy, let alone steal one from another girl. I was boy crazy, but not in an overt way at all. I was boy crazy in that quiet way girls can be – with 8-by-10 glossies from Tiger Beat carefully Scotch-taped across the closet door: Shawn Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Parker Stevenson. I was boy crazy in the way you save notes from a boy who probably very innocently sent you a Candy Gram on Thanksgiving, and you wondered if that was a heart he drew there, or a … circle, maybe? ( … no … definitely a heart, you and your best friend would decide. …)
But, met with the pack of angry girls, I stayed quiet. I wasn’t “stealing” Patrick. I was simply reacting to a boy who seemed to like me (much to my surprise, given the straight A’s and the ribbons in my hair). And I was weak: weak from a view of the world that was wholeheartedly romantic, and weak from the thrill that a strapping Irish lad with lovely dark eyes actually liked me.
Patrick broke up with the other girlfriend and asked me to “go with him” (which was our decade’s term for being boyfriend and girlfriend), and – even though I was nervous about the whole situation, and nervous about the pack of angry girls, and nervous about the drama that all this hinted at – I agreed. He had long eyelashes. And he was a good kisser. Those were my rigid criteria.
Patrick and I launched into a series of languid months where we enjoyed each other’s company, at least for a little while. He started out lavishing me with attention, and he was exceedingly charming. He was the kind of charming that moms like, and teachers. He had a gracious smile and the right words. But his words, eventually, started to take a dark turn. He began criticizing me in a relentless, regular fashion. It began with little criticisms that almost seemed like flirtations – how silly I was, how air-headed I was, how lucky I was to have him to guide me – always said between kisses or with a light chuck on the chin. But then the names got meaner. And more constant. And weren’t always said with the kisses. And slowly, eventually, insidiously, I was quite convinced that I was much too stupid to navigate the world without him. That I was entirely lucky to have him. And that I had better stay with him because certainly no one else would ever put up with me.
It was right around this time that I was unwrapping my sandwich along the brick planter, trying to ignore Superman, who had come into my awareness. Maybe it was the smile that looked so warm and friendly, or maybe it was the arms that looked strong enough to save me, but something definitely made me look a little too long.
And Patrick, unfortunately, noticed. …
Click here for Part 3: Separate Orbits…
*Names changed to protect the Don’t-Want-To-Be-Googled.