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The Education of Elisabeth Eckleman

Flirting With Disaster

Elisabeth Eckleman just left home, and has a lot of difficult decisions ahead of her. In this installment, Elisabeth decides that when her date becomes a ho, she will too. You decide what happens next.

In our last installment, Elisabeth attended a Pimps & Ho’s sorority party with her romantic interest, Wesley. But when Wesley decided to take the party’s theme literally, Elisabeth had to decide whether to flee the scene or flirt her way to revenge. You voted for her to flirt her way to revenge. Let’s see what happens...

 

Kyle is a beefy guy with a syrupy Texas drawl. He sits beside me, sipping on a can of Coors Light as we both stare at our dates frolicking. His girlfriend is a perky brunette who looks straight from the WB. Hmm. She just grabbed Wesley’s crotch.

“You missed a good game tonight,” Kyle says, taking a slow pull off his drink.

“Really? Who was playing?”

“Ha!” He shakes his head and looks away, as if he’s embarrassed for me. Sometimes I want to punch people in the neck.

“Where’d you find Justin Timberlake?” he asks, thumbing his finger toward the dance floor. Wesley, still shirtless, is now break dancing. I could be mistaken, but he seems to be doing the routine from ‘Nsync’s “Bye Bye Bye.”

My laugh escapes in a startling burst, and (not unrelated) I realize that my drink is empty. I wonder what they put in those Long Island Iced Teas. They’re delicious.

“Listen, I don’t know you,” says Kyle, leaning closer, “but you and me, we have a situation on our hands.”

(“Sit-tee-ay-shun,” I note with private amusement, clinking the ice in my empty glass like a suggestion.)

“As far as I can see, your horse is ridin’ off with my cowgirl. And we need to put a stop to that rodeo.”

See? Why don’t I think like this? “I totally agree with you,” I say, noticing the words come out a little mushy, “but I have no idea what to do. I thought he was a nice guy, but obviously he’s not. He put his hand on that girl Shelley’s bare breast right in front of me and I’m, and I’m, and I’m ...” Shit. I’m gonna cry.

“Now, see, this ain’t right,” says Kyle, handing me a purple handkerchief from the pocket of his suit. “We’re gonna show ’em.”

“OK,” I say, sniffling. “What are we gonna show ’em?”

“We’re gonna show ’em who’s runnin’ this rodeo.”

“OK,” I say, sniffling. “Who’s runnin’ this rodeo?”

He laughs hard and grabs me firmly by the hand. “I like you. You’re funny. But you’re missin’ one thing.”

“What’s that?”

He motions across the room. “Waitress! ’Nother round!”

 

On the dance floor Kyle is what you might call a dynamo. Lots of high-kicks and air guitar—and he’s dancing to rap.

“This party just got super-sized!” he says, leaping in the air and coming down on one knee. He rips open his shirt to reveal two drooping man-boobs. Unsure how to reciprocate, I shimmy down my neckline to show the lacy tips of my bra.

“Woo-hoo!” he says, slapping his hands together. “That’s my ho!”

Dancing with Kyle isn’t easy. He keeps grabbing my ass and whooping, but I also can’t stop laughing. People are staring at us, but I’ve forgotten to care, forgotten to feel tiny and out of place. Maybe Kat’s right—maybe drinking really does make things better. The three Long Island Iced Teas certainly didn’t hurt anything—except perhaps my balance. When Kyle growls at me, I growl back. When Kyle spanks me, I yelp like a little girl. When Kyle tells me to do the forbidden dance, I toss my hair back and hop like a sexy squirrel.

Just then someone grabs me from behind. “Where have you been?” It’s Wesley, reeking of perfume and tequila. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“Really?” I say, fishing for something terrifically clever. “That’s doubtful.”

He lights a cigarette. “That girl Shelley thinks she’s Britney Spears or something. Smokes like a fucking chimney. Want one?”

I shake my head. “You guys seemed to be getting along earlier.”

“Oh, come on, Elisabeth. Don’t tell me you’re mad.”

I shrug and try hard to disguise the fact that I’m trembling.

“Holy shit, you are mad at me. Tell me what I did. Seriously.”

“You know what you did,” I say.

“Honestly, I have no idea. Tell me what I did,” he says, tugging at my sleeve and turning his mouth into a little-boy pout. “Come on, tell me.”

He’s so convincing that, for a moment, I’m not exactly sure. But then I see, behind him, Kyle doing the cabbage patch, and all the humiliation of the evening comes rushing back.

“You know who his date is?” I ask, pointing to Kyle. “She’s the one who grabbed your crotch on the dance floor.”

“Wait,” he says. “Which one?”

And that does it. A sentence percolates inside me. It starts at my toes and races through my bloodstream and hurtles out my mouth like a big fat loogie. “You are an asswipe!”

The whole room turns and stares.

Kyle claps his hands together and whoops. “That’s my ho!”

 

Kyle’s frat house is right across the street, and we sit on the porch swing while I wait to be picked up.

“I can’t believe you called that guy an asswipe,” he says for the third time, chuckling.

“I’ve never called anyone that in my life,” I say, kicking my bare feet as we rock back and forth. It’s nice to finally feel comfortable tonight. Whenever I’m with Wesley, I feel like I’m holding on to a fart.

“You are too much, darlin,’” he says, clapping me on the back. “I wish I’d had the balls to say something like that to Jessica.”

“It’s not too late,” I say.

He sighs and shakes his head. “Nah, our pops run a law firm. My old man would have my ass in a sling. Besides,” he says, “she’s really hot.”

“She’s beautiful,” I say. It’s not the most important thing, but sometimes I wish people said that about me.

“So you gonna be at the Sip Ep house next Friday for ‘Jungle Fever’?” he asks, nudging me playfully.

“I am happy to announce that my flirtation with the greek world has come to an end.”

“Too bad,” he says. And though I could be wrong, I detect a faint note of jealousy.

“I guess my ride’s here,” I say, as the old familiar Volvo pulls up alongside the curb. “Thanks for being a gentleman tonight.”

“The pleasure was mine, darlin,’” he says, taking my hand and giving it a soft, gentle kiss.

Inside the Volvo, Brad holds out a Diet Coke. “You sounded like you needed this.”

 

“How come you never dressed like a hooker when we were dating?” Brad asks as he drives me home.

“Go ahead. Make your jokes.”

“I just think it’s remarkable how your new sorority friends are improving your wardrobe,” he says, smirking. “What’s next? A black eye?”

“Look, it’s been a really shitty night,” I say, but before I can get the words out, my face crumples into tears.

“Elisabeth, I’m just kidding,” says Brad, pulling into the dorm parking lot.

I swipe my wet cheeks with the back of my wrist, but the tears won’t stop. They keep coming and coming, like I’ve sprung a leak. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” I say. “I’m all messed up. I cry all the time. Things are just...harder than I expected.”

“You’ll get the hang of this.” He runs a knuckle across my cheek, catching a tear as it drips.

“I know this sounds ridiculous, but sometimes I wish we were back home.”

“It doesn’t sound ridiculous,” Brad says, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear.

“Thanks for picking me up,” I say as I reach for the car door. “I know it’s late.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” he says, drawing me to him and planting a kiss on my forehead. I let my head droop onto his shoulder and marvel, for the hundredth time, how it fits perfectly underneath his chin.

 

It’s been a week since the dance, and I haven’t said a word to Wesley.

“It’s been almost eight days since I talked to Wesley,” I proudly tell Kat as we eat dinner in the cafeteria.

“That’s fascinating,” she says, stuffing a french fry in her mouth. At first, she tried to be supportive, but these days, she’s taken to grunts and sarcasm. I don’t hold it against her. I just can’t keep myself from talking about it, because I’ve hardly thought about him all week. I avoided his gaze during our Reality Television class, and then on Thursday, he skipped the class altogether. It’s like he’s vanished—from my life and my imagination—and now I can’t stop scouting for who could take his place.

“What do you think of that guy?” I ask, gesturing toward a table across from us.

“I think he’s a girl,” says Kat.

“Oh, right. Well, anyway, I feel like doing something totally different,” I say. “I feel like doing something crazy.”

“That’s terrific,” says Kat. “Do you feel like getting me a slice of key lime pie?”

As I walk across the cafeteria, I hum a little song to myself. Not a song really, more like a happy little patter: doot-doot-doo, doot-doot-doo. The sound of simple satisfaction.

“Aren’t you in my ‘Feminism and Sociology’ class?” asks a girl behind me in the dessert line. I recognize her immediately; on the first day of class, I couldn’t stop staring at her. She uses a lot of words I’ve never heard people pronounce—words like “modicum” and “commodification” and “chasm,” words I’ve only seen in books.

“Yeah, I think I sit behind you,” I say, noticing she isn’t wearing any makeup. She has a radiant natural beauty, whereas I put on two coats of concealer to walk to the bathroom.

“Isn’t that an amazing class? It’s so...provocative,” she says, and the way she savors the word makes it sound as if it were the precisely right one.

“Exactly, provocative,” I nod repeatedly, not sure what to add. “So what’s your name?”

“I’m Ariel,” she says, but before I can take her outstretched hand, Brad appears at her side, looking confused. “Oh, let me introduce you to my boyfriend,” she says, slipping her arm around his waist. She turns to me. “What did you say your name was?”

 

Stupid college. Stupid Brad. Stupid girls named after Shakespeare characters. Stupid me, stupid me, stupid me.

“What happened?” asks Kat as I drop the key lime pie so hard it wobbles.

“Just do me a favor,” I say through clenched teeth. “Don’t ask, OK?”

I race to our room and dig out a box of photos from underneath my bed. I find a photo of Brad and me at prom and rip it up. I find a photo of Brad and me on the beach and rip it up. I find a photo of Brad and me at graduation and rip it up. I don’t cry, don’t even feel anything but adrenaline and spite. I rip enough to throw a small stack inside a bowl and drop a match on top.

Nothing happens, so I drop another.

As it turns out, photos are kind of difficult to burn, which is not what they’d have you believe in the movies, where pictures shrivel up instantly in a hungry, red flame. Instead my torn photos catch at the edges and quickly burn out. I’ve dropped five lit matches at once and am blowing lightly, the way they taught me at Girl Scout camp, when I hear a strange bleating noise.

 

“Is everything OK in here?” asks a guy at my door with a notepad clutched to his chest. He has horn-rimmed glasses and short brown hair.

“I’m sorry,” I say, flattened by humiliation. “I wish I could tell you a good lie, but the truth is I found out my ex-boyfriend is dating someone else and I tried to burn all his pictures.”

He smothers a smile and scribbles something on the clipboard.

“It wasn’t a big fire,” I continue. “It was just inside my cereal bowl, and I know it could have harmed someone, which I would never want to do, but I hope you won’t arrest me or fine me because I promise I won’t do it again.”

“I’m not here to bust you,” he says. “I’m here to make sure you’re all right.” He levels his gaze. “Are you all right?”

As soon as he says it, I burst into tears. Hot, hysterical tears.

“Don’t cry,” he says, patting my arm awkwardly. “You haven’t even met me yet.”

“I’m Elisabeth,” I mutter, extending my hand.

“Pleasure to meet you, Elisabeth. I’m Geoff.”

Geoff is my RA. Apparently it’s his job to monitor our floor and make sure the residents follow the rules and do well socially. So far I’m zero for two.

“I’m no expert,” says Geoff, “but you look like you could use some ice cream.”

“Elisabeth!” I hear the voice before I see Brad jogging down the hall. “We need to talk.”

It’s not that I thought Brad wouldn’t date. I knew he would, and I knew it would hurt, and I knew all that was supposed to happen. But the night in the park, right after we’d broken up but right before we had sex, we made a promise—that we would tell each other everything.

“OK, maybe another time,” says Geoff, clutching the clipboard to his chest and backing up.

“What’s going on?” asks Brad, panting. He wrinkles his nose and sniffs. “Oh my God—is something burning?”

Should Elisabeth talk to Brad? After all, they dated for two years, and he does owe her an explanation. Or should she leave for ice cream with Geoff? Brad screwed up. His apologies can wait.