As Winter Break approaches, I thought back to a story of December past.
Back in 1997, I was a sophomore at the College of Charleston. My sophomore year was marred by the most painful break up of my life. While my divorce was far more consequential, for the pure, gut wrenching sadness that only a heart break can provide, the end of my first relationship took the cake. In order to cope I spent most of that first semester second year stoned on the floor of my bedroom listening to Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and OK Computer in a nonstop loop.
Sometime during that Fall of 1997, I started to hang out with the woman who would become my ex-wife. I had seen her act in a play where she played a feminist out to prove that men an evolutionary accident.
I was hooked.
We became fast friends and around Halloween I decided that I might have a crush on her. My roommates were thrilled to hear it. Anything to get me to turn down Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
In the 1990s, the rest of the world had yet to discover Charleston. So college students were living in these lavish historical homes for like 1000 bucks a month. Total. Some of my friends lived in this place called the Pirate House, next door to the Dock Street Theatre, and right before we all left for break they had a super fancy Christmas party. If you are my mom reading this, none of us drank a drop.
Oh who am I kidding. We got plastered. It was incredible. The most fun I had had all year. And all night I was hanging out with my future ex-wife. We were laughing and carrying on. For a few hours I forgot how broken my heart was.
My roommate, ever astute, saw how well my future ex-wife and I were getting along. He also knew that I was a depressed, emo mess and that I would be unable to try and get her in bed on my own. He decided to take matters into his own hands. He used the mating call of the nearly all College of Charleston theatre students in the mid to late 90s. He said:
“Let’s go back to our place and get high!”
About five of us stumbled back to our apartment. We put on a Rusted Root CD, got out our three foot bong, and proceeded to get high. It was a blast. We were laughing and drinking. At one point my roommate decided that we should color. That’s right. Color. So he grabbed some coloring books and crayons and that’s what we started to do.
(As I write this 22 years later, I wonder why on earth my roommate had coloring books and crayons, but at the time it seemed pretty normal.)
The whole time I was sitting next to my future ex-wife, getting cozy, having the best time, and the next thing I know…
It was the morning.
What. Had. Happened.
I slowly made my way up the spiral staircase. My roommate was making breakfast.
“Good morning,” I said gingerly.
“Good morning,” he replied, carefully scrambling his eggs.
“Were we coloring?”
“Oh we colored. Until you went downstairs and passed out!”
“With people still here?”
“With everyone still here. We tried to wake you up but we couldn’t.”
I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat on our Goodwill Lazy Boy recliner. I was embarrassed. Humiliated. I had left the party to go to bed. What a perfect metaphor of my life, I thought in a haze of self pity.
And that was the start of my Winter Break Sophomore year. I went home for a few days. We did Midsummer Night’s Dream on King Street in front of the Charleston Christmas Tree. My friends and I went to the mountains and partied some more.
My future ex-wife and I didn’t talk again until January. Over the break she had gotten herself a boyfriend. They had worked together at Rio Bravo. So I spent the spring simultaneously heartbroken over my breakup and love struck by future ex-wife.
Lots of Beatles and Radiohead ensued.
Yet it was still magical. I barely remember the pain. Just the fun. Just the characters. Just those magical four weeks at the end and beginning of the year full of the hazy memories that make our lives.