for i have sinned OR life's lessons
Hugo’s how I know.
I learned three things that night:
At nearly 22, I was too old for frat parties.
People will give you money if you ask them for it.
I am capable of cheating.
It was a girls’ night with a full slate. There were probably eight or ten of us, and we went to a little house party then stopped in at the volleyball game. Outside the arena, there was car fancy enough to catch our attention. One of the girls called dibs on the owner.
“I want to meet him,” I said, then asked jokingly, “Why do you get him?”
Jules looked at me with a serious face, “Because you have a boyfriend.”
He was forgettable, which is not an excuse.
We watched a little of the game, then grabbed dinner before our next two stops.
It must have been November, because one of the fraternities was throwing a Cowboy Christmas party. I was excited. The truth is, I look great in a cowgirl hat, even if it is paired with the preppiest of pink polos. But when we got to the party, I realized it wasn’t the house full of fun I’d first experienced as a fresh- and slightly numb-faced freshman. The ground was disgusting, the bodies were sticky, there was a gross smell, and no one ever really wants to drink a lukewarm can of Mad Dog. I knew I could live the rest of my life without ever seeing another frat boy in a grubby Santa suit, and I realized that maybe, just maybe, I’d actually be ready to leave this place in June.
Our next stop was a charity dating/kiss auction. The “charity” was ambiguous, and the premise didn’t quite make sense. But the girls and I had the tipsy idea that geeky and awkward Annette should buy our lovable but even-more-awkward friend Harrington. We were sure it would be a match made in the heaven of an uptown dive, but we didn’t necessarily want to bankroll it.
I guess I was just drunk enough to do it. I asked a guy I knew for money, and before I could even explain, he handed me a twenty. In a matter of minutes, a couple of us raised about a hundred dollars, and pulled off our little scheme.
Hugo was there. He told me I looked good. He was drunk enough to slur his words a little. Maybe it was the hat, he said. I was still wearing my hat, because that’s a night-long commitment. Maybe it was.
“If you wanted to go home with someone tonight, I’m sure you could.”
I laughed. He was drunk. He wasn’t making sense.
We circled each other for a while before he came up to me again.
“Earlier.” he said, “When I said you could go home with someone. Someone. I meant me.”
I rolled my eyes. Pretended his drunk offer meant nothing. Knew I couldn’t.
He shrugged, “You could call.”
When I got home it was late. I might have been drunk, but I don’t remember. My girl friends had gone home; my room mates were asleep; there was no one around to judge me, which is not an excuse. It seemed possible that the worst thing to do might really be the best thing. That maybe somehow, nine months later, I could put everything back together.
I scrolled to the name, and looked at it. The dial button was far too easy to press. The message was too easy to leave. Forgive me, for this sin was too easy to commit.
I don’t know if it would make me a different person if he had answered. I don’t know if my course would have altered if he’d called back.. . if I hadn’t woken up the next day with the phone next to my head, full of anxiety and dodging calls from my boyfriend until five or six p.m.
I don’t know if things would be different if Hugo’s phone battery hadn’t died and he hadn’t lost his keys. And even though I know what I would have done, I guess I don’t know for sure what he would have done. Though, in the end, I suppose it was just logistics that saved me from my fate.
And that is not an excuse.