PART ONE — September 22

October was almost here. Outside, a cold, gusty wind was blowing the freshly fallen leaves across the campus commons. But I was warm in my room, snuggled under the covers, devouring chapter seven of Advanced Organic Chemistry. I had a test scheduled for the next morning, but studying wasn’t a chore for a nerd like me. It was a joy. I was basking in the awesome power of carbon, and the stunning ways it had chemically combined with other compounds over the unimaginable eons of time to form the very basis of life itself.

I loved learning. I loved science. I loved textbooks. They allowed me to escape my self. In textbooks I wasn’t a loveless, lonely virgin. I wasn’t an awkward, babbling dork. I didn’t have a disappointing body with deep pockmarks from a high-school bout with acne, and crooked teeth from parents too poor to pay for braces. And I didn’t become embarrassingly tongue-tied in the presence of hotties, because there were no hotties in textbooks. There wasn’t even a me. Lost in the mysteries and majesty of science, I became the universe itself. Immortal. Beautiful. Content.

It was a blessed relief from all the stress I’d been under of late. You see, I could understand carbon. I could understand DNA. I could understand calculus, non-Euclidean geometry and superstring theory. But girls? They were a total mystery to me.

My roommate Troy had been trying to share his ‘wisdom’ about the fairer sex with me, but it wasn’t easy for me to take his advice. After all, he was a Neanderthal. Normally, I avoided guys like him. You know, big dumb lunks, with handsome faces, muscular bodies, and cocky attitudes. Troy was willfully ignorant about the natural world. He didn’t believe in evolution, because it just didn’t make sense to him, but he did believe in Bigfoot because he saw a movie about it once. I mean, he was just an idiot. I never would have chosen a guy like him to be my roommate, but my roomie for the last two years suddenly transferred to Columbia just before school started in September, so Troy, was assigned to me at random.

I’ll never forget the day I met the big dope. He swaggered into my room as if he owned the place. He was tall and broad, with a thick, strong neck, short tan hair, and an infuriating air of confidence. I hated him instantly. But I resolved to try to get along with him, so I said, “Hi. I’m Hans. Hans Willis.”

He replied, “Look dude, here’s the deal I’m gonna fuck a lot of girls in this room, so we need to work out some kinda arrangement. If you see a sock hanging on the doorknob, don’t come in. Got it? Just assume I’m boning some chick. I don’t care if you have to sleep in the lobby, don’t come between me and my pussy. But don’t worry, same rules apply for both of us. If I see the sock, I’ll stay out too. Those are now the house rules. Name’s Troy, by the way.” He held his fist out for me to bump, so I bumped it.

But I was flabbergasted. I’d been living in this room for two years, and now this idiotic interloper intended to actually have intercourse in here… with actual FEMALES! It was a filthy, wonderful, yet utterly inconceivable idea. I guess I’d gotten used to living with an even nerdier nerd than me, because I just couldn’t imagine any girl who’d be willing to 1- have sex in this pathetic, low-rent, prison cell of a dorm room, or 2 have sex with a big dumb, cocky, idiot like Troy.

But I was wrong. Two days later I came home from the library to find a sock on the doorknob, and a girl’s moans coming from the room. I instantly retreated, utterly scandalized. But also freakishly excited. An actual naked female was having sex in MY room! How crazy was that? I occasionally returned to check the sock status, but even after their moans died away, the sock stayed on. I figured that someone would come kick her out, because girls weren’t allowed in the boy’s dorm after eleven! But I guess he snuck her past the front desk, so nobody knew she was in there. I ended up sleeping on the couch in the common room, my titillation giving way to blind fury. How dare he do this to me? That’s my room!

I thought about snitching on him for breaking the dorm’s ‘no sex’ policy. But I didn’t want to make an enemy out of him, so I didn’t say anything about it, hoping that was a one-time deal. But after the second time he locked me out over night, I was too pissed off to keep my mouth shut. “You know, Troy, It wasn’t cool for you to leave me out in the cold all night. This is my room too, just as much as yours.”

He laughed. “I was wondering if you were gonna stand up for yourself! I guess you’re not a spineless nerd after all.”

“Look, you just can’t make me stay out of my room all night.”

He nodded. “Okay. What about… let’s say I make ’em leave by 11 pm.”

That really made me mad. “No. This is my room too. Find somewhere else to fuck!”

He laughed again, amused by my nerdy fury. “Well, that ain’t being fair to me, little man. Besides, you don’t want me barging in on your action, do you?”

I didn’t say a word, but something in my face must have flipped a switch in his big dumb head. He looked at me aghast. “Dude! Are you a virgin? Oh, shit, you are! You’re a V!”

I screamed at him, “So what if I am? It isn’t so easy for some of us! Just look at me, for fuck’s sake!” I pointed at the pockmarked moon that was my face.

He stopped grinning like an ape, and a look of genuine compassion came over his face. “Dude, dude, sorry. Just chill out. I was just saying… you might get lucky. I mean, it could happen, couldn’t it? You’d want to be alone with her, right? Uh… you do like chicks, don’t you?”

“Well, I’m not gay if that’s what you mean.”

He grinned, “Hey, I don’t mean to be insulting, Hans, but take a look around! You’re in college! You’ll never have this much easy access to free pussy again! I mean… you are interested in pussy, aren’t you?”

What a crude way to put it, but yes. I suppose, technically, I was interested in pussy. Very interested. So I nodded weakly.

He shouted, “Then what the fuck are you waiting for? Get with the program, poindexter!”

I was furious. But not at him. At myself. He was essentially right. What was I waiting for? My acne had cleared up over a year ago, but I’d never so much as asked a girl out. I’d let fear and a feeling of inadequacy cut me off from the one thing I wanted most in the world: love.

Troy punched me hard on the shoulder, saying, “Tell you what. You let me fuck a girl in here from time to time, and I’ll be your pussy guru.”

I had no earthy idea how a big jerk like him could help me, but I was willing to give it a shot. So I said, “Fine! But no more sleeping in the lobby.”

After that he tried to be a bit more sensitive to my feelings, though the way he went about it only made him more of an asshole in my book. He started making his girls clear out as soon as he finished with them. No more sleepovers. But that just struck me as rude. What about their feelings? Didn’t he care about them at all? No. Not really. They were just pussy to him. One day he said, “Hey, I’m glad you told me to start kicking them out, because it’s a lot better that way. The last thing I need is some love-struck chick getting all attached.” What a jerk. But strangely, the two or three times I saw girls staggering out of the room after he’d finished with them, they looked amazingly content. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get it at all.

What did these silly girls get out of these random, loveless encounters with a heartless dope like him? Why did Troy expend so much of his time and energy trolling bars and parties for shallow trollops like them? And why did he spend so many hours in the school gym getting in shape so he could be ‘great in the sack’, when he should have been doing his homework! I mean, what was the big friggin’ deal about sex anyway?

I guess I should point out that all of this happened in the early nineties, before the World Wide Web brought porn to every boy’s bedroom. I’d never seen an x-rated video in my life. Sure, I knew the biology of sex, and I’d seen some nude pictures. But I had no practical conception of what sex was like. I’d always imagined it was a sweet, intimate act of love. But Troy was making it clearer and clearer to me that sex was more like an act of assisted masturbation. You do me, and I’ll do you. Thanks. See you around!

He made sex sound so filthy and unloving with his crude after-action commentaries. I had no idea what to make of it when he said things like, “Man, I really ate the bottom out of that pussy.” Or, “Fuck. I totally ruined that girl! She won’t be walking straight for a week.” Or, “Wow, that one was a real cock gobbler. If I weren’t already circumcised, she’d have done the job with those teeth of hers! Know what I mean?”

I didn’t know what he meant, but I just nodded and mumbled, “Yeah. Cool.”

As for being my ‘pussy guru’… well, Troy was a lazy shit, and not a very good teacher. All he really did was nag me. “Get your face out of those books, poindexter, and score some pussy already!” He dragged me with him to a few college mixers, but watching him work his magic on girls was utterly confusing. He just ignored them half the time, or leered at them like a total jerk. But going out was good for me. I got to where I enjoyed talking to girls. I could tell that they liked me just fine, but by the end of the night Troy would be the one making out next to the restrooms, and I’d be the one sitting alone, watching the girls I’d chatted with earlier in the evening leaving with other guys. Whatever it was that Troy had… well… I didn’t have it, and he didn’t know how to teach it to me either. It was frustrating for both of us.

Oh, he offered me pearls of numbskull wisdom from time to time, such as this little tidbit: “Look, Hans. Here’s the deal. All chicks are really looking for is a dude who knows what he wants, and knows what she wants, and has the fucking balls to make that happen. The secret is to keep your stupid yap shut, unless you’re telling her how fucking hot she is, or you’re telling her what to do. Hey, chick, you’re so fucking hot. Go out with me. Dance with me. Kiss me. Suck my fucking cock. Take those fucking panties off and let me fuck that fuzzy little pussy, pronto! It’s no more complicated than that. Just figure out how to say those things at the right time, in the right way, and you’ll be golden. And don’t be dissuaded if they act all pure and shit. The fact is, they all want to fuck, but society tells them they’re sluts if they ask for cock. They’re just waiting for a man with the sack to make that decision for them, so they don’t have to feel like whores.”

How could I take ridiculous advice like that seriously? His ‘tell her what to do’ philosophy might work on the drunken coeds and naive sorority pledges he preyed on. But it would never work on the girl I was interested in.

Briona Skorsczi. Sigh.

Briona was a general science major, same as me, so we’d had a lot of classes together over our freshman and sophomore years. I’d never been able to work up the courage to ask her out, so I did the next best thing: I ogled her from afar. She wore her soft brown hair in a feathery bowl-shaped cut, with straight bangs that reached down to the middle of her great big glasses. I loved the way she shyly peeked out from under them. By Troy’s standards, Briona would have been considered ugly, but I loved her huge nose and bunny teeth, which were so big that she could never completely close her oversized lips. I didn’t let those bold features distract me from her amazingly brown, faerie-like eyes, with those wonderfully long eyelashes. To me, her face was a beautiful symphony. It was unique. One of a kind.

I also liked the fact that she was awkward, and seemed to be a bit uncomfortable in her skin, just like me. She always wore layers of baggy clothing that made her look like a homeless nerd, but I suspected that she was hiding a shapely body under all those layers. I figured that she was probably embarrassed by her own body, and was trying to cover it up. She certainly seemed to have bigger breasts than most of the other girls at Prairie Tech.

But Briona’s best feature, by far, was her brain. She was a fucking genius. Literally. A genius. I had such a crush on her. And I was certain that I was the only guy at school with the sensitivity and refined taste to see her nerdy attributes and dorky facial features as utterly desirable. Under Troy’s influence, I started to work up the courage to ask her out. I reasoned that it was unfair of me to deny her the happiness that I could give her. I was cheating her, and myself, by not asking her out. After all, we were both lonely, misunderstood virgins, in serious need of love and affection, and we were absolutely perfect for each other. I could see us in the future, a happy, nerdy couple, walking around campus, hand in hand, floating on the wings of love.

So I finally worked up the courage to ask her out after Chemistry Lab. She was packing up her books, and I awkwardly stepped up to her, my heart thundering with terror. “Uh… Briona… I was… uh… wondering if you’d like to go out… uh… with me… sometime?”

She peered up at me from under her low bangs, smiled and said, “Sure, Hans.”

Before I knew it, there I was, on the first date of my life, crunching through autumn leaves next to the girl of my dreams. I was living on nothing but a limited scholarship, so I couldn’t afford to take her out to a movie, so I took her over to a student exhibition of art they were having at the Student Union. We wandered through it silently, unsure of what to make of that artsy-fartsy stuff. Then we walked off-campus for dinner at Denny’s, and then it got good… we started talking. Boy, oh boy, we really hit it off! We had a lot of stuff in common, just as I’d hoped. We gossiped about our teachers and classmates for a while, then we started talking about science, and soon we were gushing about the wonders of DNA and the awe inspiring size of the universe. We laughed about some of the shallow new-agey art we’d seen at the show and shared our feelings about how stupid religion and creationism was. We both gleefully agreed that there was no god, no heaven, no hell, but that the universe was awesome beyond measure, and we both felt lucky to be living in a time and place where we could life free from superstition and ignorance. It was wonderful.

Conversations with Troy were nothing like this. He believed the Loch Ness monster was not only real, but that it also had the power to make itself invisible. I mean, he was an absolute idiot. But Briona was a genius, and some of the insights she shared with me about her understanding of the cosmos were truly mind-expanding. Oh, shit. What a night. We yakked for hours, breathless with excitement.

Then Briona yawned, so I walked her back to her off-campus apartment. But for the first time that night, things felt a little weird. Although I couldn’t put my finger on why. It was nippy out and I wanted to put my arm over her shoulder, but I hadn’t gotten any hint from her all night that she’d be cool with something like that. She seemed so timid and innocent to me, at least as far as things like human intimacy were concerned. You know… shy. I wondered if this was her first date too? Well, I didn’t want to scare her off, or weird her out, so I resisted the urge to make any moves. Not that I had any idea what kind of moves to make in the first place.

When we reached her door, I wondered if I should kiss her good night. But I couldn’t imagine she was ready to be kissed. And… well, honestly, neither was I. But I loved the feel of her soft hand in mine. It gave me the courage to ask her out again.

“I… uh… hope you might want to… uh… go out on another date… or something… sometime… if you have time.”

She peered at me shyly from under her bangs, with those velvety brown eyes that made my knees weak. “Yeah… maybe. My class load is really killing me, though. Not sure when I’ll have time… but let’s just see how the semester pans out, okay? Then maybe… I’ll let you know. But I had a wonderful night, Hans.” She paused, staring at me awkwardly from her open doorway.

I stared back, and wondered what I was supposed to do now. Did she want me to kiss her? Or was it something else she was waiting for? I ached to kiss her. Oh shit, I wanted to kiss her so bad. And maybe she wanted it too. But I was immobilized with uncertainty and fear. After staring at me for almost a full minute, she said, “Well… uh… g’night,” and closed her door.

I’d never felt as empty and uncertain in my entire life. As I walked back home through the dark wind-swept streets, I thought about turning around and knocking on her door. When she opened it I’d sweep her up into my arms and kiss her. It would be magical. Like a scene from a movie. The very idea of it made my cock swell with lust. But I felt ashamed of my animalistic instincts. She deserved better than some perverted nerd lusting after her body. So I went back to my room, and crawled into bed feeling like a clueless, frustrated fool.

Over the next few days I was racked with uncertainty over what to do next. Our date had gone so well, at least while we were talking. But when I saw Briona in class I didn’t get any hint that she was interested in seeing me again. She smiled at me more than before, but she didn’t go out of her way to talk to me. I wondered if she was waiting for me to ask her out again. But I remembered her saying, “I’ll let you know”. Did that mean she wanted me to wait for her to make the next move? But what if Troy’s philosophy about girls was right, and she needed me to tell her what to do? But what was that? If I told her what I really wanted, I’d say, “Be the love of my life! Marry me! Walk the earth with me for the rest of our lives!” But how could I tell her something like that? And why was I getting ahead of myself? She was a beautiful girl, wasn’t she? I wanted to make out with her, didn’t I? Maybe she had the same carnal urges as me. Maybe I should just kiss her already. Or… maybe I should wait.

I could barely sleep that week, confused to distraction. I didn’t confide any of this to Troy. I hadn’t even told him about my date. He’d have teased me mercilessly. So I was alone with my worries. Thankfully, studying for my Organic Chemistry test gave me the first sense of peace I’d had all week.

So there I was, lost in my textbook on a cold September evening, when voices in the hallway brought me out of my reverie. They stopped in front of my door and began to talk back and forth in hushed tones. I recognized Troy’s voice. He started talking loudly. “No, really, don’t worry about my roommate. He’s asleep. Sleeps like a fucking log.”

A girl’s voice whispered, “Really? I don’t know about this. Are you sure?”

He answered loudly, “Yeah, I toldja, he’s on some kinda meds to keep his acne from coming back. Those things knock him out like a light. It’s actually kinda bizarre. Hey, why don’t you see for yourself?”