Romeo had been getting in touch with me, randomly, via skype since we met in one of Professor Dingleberry’s online courses a year earlier. I had never met him in person, but tried to be friendly about his chatting. I had taken the Winter semester off, and went to The Picnic From Hell, (wherein I was treated to some kind of tranquilizer and passed out for five hours) excited to be going back to class that Fall. I remember Romeo, Dingleberry, and Larch standing in a semi-circle, waiting to see my reaction at meeting Romeo, a PhD student from Cote D’Ivoire, or Burkina Faso – someplace where they spoke French. Very black, very quiet, but seemed nice…in general.
I was happy to finally match a face to a name. I’m a friendly person.
“Dude!” I pronounced, and gave him a Pillsbury Dough Boy finger poke to the belly. It may have been misconstrued as flirting, I suppose. Had I realized that everything I said and did was under such unforgiving scrutiny, I would have thought twice about my behavior.
Even after what happened at The Picnic From Hell, I still planned on finishing my Master’s. Not to mention, Dingleberry announced to everyone in the kitchen that I would continue onto the PhD, (even though in my mind, I knew I wouldn’t), so I didn’t feel I had anything to be ashamed of.
Until one of the female classmates took me aside one night, and asked me about my relationship with Dingleberry.
“Ahm, well, he’s smart, and cute, and married – isn’t he?”
“Well, yes, but that doesn’t seem to stop some men.”
“Stop them from what? (major pause) Wait… You know, other than having a schoolgirl crush, and flirting a bit while we were all out, you know WITH ALL OF HIS OTHER FANS, that’s where my relationship with him stopped.”
I told her about the night we had all went out to the Irish Pub, danced and sang karaoke. Dingleberry had come to sit down beside me, and it got a little touch-feely. By that I mean, I elbowed him in the rib cage and then reached up and pinched him – and then was immediately horrified to find out I ended up tweaking his nipple. He must’ve saw the terror on my face.
“I like that.” He claimed.
“Ah,” I nodded, blushing.
That night ended with me drinking too much, and having him tell me to wait while he chatted upstairs with two girls that had showed up late in the evening. I’m not sure who they were, but they definitely took priority. One gal looked very military, and the other, a bleach blonde with massive tata’s - who might’ve looked just like me, had I not tried to smooth out my style while I was my heaviest.
I decided to leave anyway, falling asleep in my car for a while, before heading home to an angry spouse.
The look on my classmates face told me that she didn’t believe me. In fact, I don’t think anyone believed me, it had become a rumour that started circulating that night, almost two years prior, one that I never seemed to realize was becoming a problem. Not to mention, questioning my peers about the relationship between Second Life and my Professor, had also been terribly misconstrued.
I had been going around asking questions about Dingleberry and “what does it all mean?” In the meantime, I had gone on with my crush, ignoring it, like I did when I’d had a crush on a different Professor as an undergrad. And all the while talking about my fantasies with my supposed “best friend” Jane, from class. And then, Pete and I separated.
Now, you can imagine some of the jaw-dropping I witnessed when I actually showed up to class that Fall. It was terrifying, but I did it anyway.
It’s true that hindsight is always 20/20, and I can certainly now see how people would be suspicious. But the rumour fire was clearly being fanned from somewhere. And I took it upon myself to try and find out.
So I started studying and lunching, and chatting with Romeo.
In fact, after I had lost a whole bunch of teaching credits and had to move out of my apartment, he was the only classmate that showed up to help.
He always seemed to be there, at just the right moments.
You know, to help.
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