Timing 3/26/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

The timing of the Coronavirus is terrible. A couple of weeks ago the infections were largely on the coastal cities, and here we were, sending our college students across the nation to a relatively few popular destinations to get infected and be gone just long enough to return to their home states before symptoms begin to show.

Timing, as they say, is everything. Everything might be a stretch, but it matters. Unfortunately for me, even in matters of love.

She was a chemistry major with me. She was timid, though. The University of Cincinnati was on a system they called “quarters”, but there were only three of them in the normal academic year. Some would argue that the summer counted as the fourth quarter, but the summer was broken up into three sessions itself.

I was an awkward kid. My style was, well, unique. I always wore cowboy boots and a black cowboy hat which certainly made me stand out, but also kept others away. She had a class in the room where I was taught calculus the hour before, and she would see me standing in the hallway waiting for her class to vacate the room, thinking how odd I was and how she would never want to meet me.

But she did.

The next “quarter” we were in chemistry lab together. When she walked in, she saw my hat on the rack and thought, oh God, he’s in my class. Standing at a lab station, quite alone as I had no friends in the class, she decided to stand at the station next to me thinking, I suppose, that I looked smart. She had big beautiful blue eyes and jet-black hair, and like an idiot, I fell for them. She was shocked when I picked up the hat and put it on, explaining to me at that point what I have told you above.

We became friends, but there was something more there. It started with sitting together in class and working together as lab partners. She didn’t live in the dorms; she was from Cincinnati originally and lived at home, so the time we did spend together had to be planned. We had meals, and she invited me to her house to meet her sisters and parents. Sadly, I am an idiot.

My eyes were too drawn to another black-haired blue-eyed beauty to be able to see the signs that were flowing like water through a dam. Like an idiot, I let her slip through my hands. While she was falling for me, I was crushing on a young woman who, frankly, would have been horrible for me. She was an East coast elite, a friend, but far out of my league. She was into rugby players, looks and stature, but let me have dinner with her for a while until she found a boyfriend and told me that we needed a “break”. I walked away as she sat in her car watching me go afraid to turn around and show her my tears.

But the true heartbreak isn’t her. While I was pining for her, the woman I should have been with found another boy to whom to give her affection. I was out. She stopped sitting with me and started sitting five rows back in the auditorium with him. As my feelings for her grew, knowing she was right there was like a blade in my heart, but there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it.

She switched her major to psychology to match his. Eventually they moved in together, and she dropped out of college so she could take a third job to pay for his education because, she told me, once he graduates then he’ll pay for hers. Her professors were upset that the star dropped out, but not her boyfriend. Finally, she followed him to Cleveland, hoping, no doubt, that a new school will mean a new start.

I thought I’d never see her again.

In the meantime, I finished my bachelor’s degree, found a job as an analytical chemist in Cincinnati, and procured an apartment. One day, I decided to treat myself to an ice cream. Still single I went alone to a local specialty ice cream shop, and while standing in line, she appeared through the doors standing behind me. He threw her out in the usual male fashion, pressuring her into something she didn’t want to do and then dumping her when she complied. She made her way back to Cincinnati, and in that ice cream shop we started up a conversation. She was working full time, living alone, but sad that she never finished her degree. I asked her why she didn’t return, and she said she couldn’t afford it. Not long after, I took a day off of work and walked her into the financial aid office. Before long, she was again enrolled in school.

She was single, and I was single, maybe the time was right. I helped her get re-enrolled, and it was my time to shine. Everything was going right for her.

Especially when she met another boy in college. Again, I was out. Again, she moved in with him, this time actually marrying him. I have no idea what happened after that. He didn’t like her being my friend. I never heard from her again.

But I hope she made a great life for herself and found happiness.

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