May 16


One of the reasons I chose a business major in college was because I hated math, so I wasn’t particularly excited to take Business Statistics 101. It was, however, required for my major, and I suppose you can say I found solace in the fact that it was at least better than calculus.

It was, by far, the most boring one-hour period of every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, only made worse by the fact the subject matter was difficult for me and that I didn’t know anyone else in the class. A study group or someone to at least mull over homework with would’ve made my life so much better, but most of my friends were art majors or science majors that either had fewer or much more difficult math requirements.

The lecture hall for Business Stats was on the smaller side – especially compared to some of the gynasium-sized halls on campus – but there were still 150 seats. Not around, not about – exactly 150. I know because I counted.

At first, I sat in the front because I was hoping that would encourage me to focus on the lesson, but after a couple weeks of that and still getting a C on my first exam, I felt fairly discouraged and ended up sitting wherever I was drawn to for that particular class. I was never a “back of the class” type of person, but since this class took attendance and I was basically having to teach myself the material as best I could every time we were given homework, I stopped caring where I sat. I just needed the attendance mark next to my name and be a warm body in a seat until it was time to go to my much more interesting marketing class.

It was on a Wednesday that I first sat next to Kelly, or I guess, more accurately, I should say that she sat next to me. I had started habitually taking the end seat on the back row closest to the door so I could get out of the horrid class as soon as possible. Kelly happened to show up late one day and took the closest seat she could to the door to avoid be disruptive to the rest of the class, and that’s how we met.

“Sorry,” she said as she shuffled by and sat down next to me.

“No worries,” I said. It wasn’t like I was paying super close attention anyway. I had actually taken to using my time in Business Stats to do homework for other classes, that way I could use that time later to learn Business Stats. I know it sounds stupid, but the traditional approach had earned me a low C, and this approach had earned me a C that was one point away from a B on the subsequent exam.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kelly take her laptop out and start googling something that looked related to the class material. I don’t know why I found it so intriguing, but every once in a while I would sneak a peek of her screen, and it was always a some sort of resource that related to whatever the professor was currently discussing. She wasn’t taking notes, she wasn’t following along with his slideshow, she was just independently reading on the subject of the day.

I couldn’t make fun of the method though, could I? If that’s what worked for her, then more power to her. It was hard to blame anyone in that awful class for learning the material their own way.

Maybe I could try that method, but today wasn’t the day for that. I forced myself to look back at my own screen, which displayed an online assignment for my economics class that still somehow managed to be more interesting and easy to understand than statistics.

“Hey, is that the Econ 102 homework for Matheson’s class?”

“Yeah,” I nodded, unsure why she was talking to me.

“Are you in the 9:30 class?” she whispered.

“No, 10:30,” I said. I purposely didn’t schedule classes before 10 AM because I had trouble staying awake, which was a solution that I implemented in my second semester of college after I realized I was dealing with a problem that I had largely created for myself.

“Ugh, I wish I could switch to that one,” she said. “I practically have to prop my eyelids open to stay awake.”

I arched an eyebrow, because for a moment, it was like she’d read my mind.

“Yeah, that’s why I took the 10:30 class,” I said.

“Good foresight,” she said.

After that exchange, class proceeded as normal. When it finally ended, I left with a slight wave at her, and rushed off to Marketing 102.

My interaction with Kelly in that class is burned into my mind because I never talked to people I didn’t know in class except when we had to group up for one reason or another. Of course, at that time, I still didn’t know her name, but I did find myself wondering if she was in the same situation that I was in, and if she wanted a study buddy too.

Friday’s Business Stats class came, and Kelly showed up on time, but rather than picking one of the many other open seats, she once again sat down next to me.

“Hey,” she said. “I didn’t catch your name on Wednesday.”

“Eric,” I said.

“Well howdy Eric, I’m Kelly.”

“Howdy?” I flashed a smirk. “Are you from Texas?”

She laughed. “No, it’s just an affectation I picked up from an old friend. I’m actually from Virginia.”

“Oh, hey, I’m from Richmond!”

Her eyes lit up like mine must’ve just then. We were only a few states away, and like most universities, ours attracted plenty of students from out of state, but it still felt special to meet someone from the exact city you grew up in completely by chance.

We chatted for the seven remaining minutes before class started like we were old friends. It was strange how easy it was to talk to her, but when the professor stood in front of the class and started going through the motions that meant class was about to begin, I felt disappointed that we had to cut our conversation short.

Three more class periods went by that were bookended by conversation with Kelly. Over the period of just a week, I found myself looking forward to my least favorite class just because I wanted to talk to her more.

The entire weekend, I kept thinking about her, to the point where I began questioning if I was excited about her friendship, or if I was excited about the possibility of something beyond that. I didn’t know her super well yet even though our conversations proved that we had some sort of deeper-than-normal connection. And while I was single, I wasn’t sure if she was.

When I was in high school, I dated my best friend Kris for about two weeks before we shared a come-to-Jesus moment about dating having been a mistake. We just couldn’t understand why there were no sparks when we kissed, yet felt like we really liked each other. Turns out that 15 year old me and 15 year old Kris just didn’t understand that guys and girls can be friends.

That flash-in-the-pan of a relationship had laid the foundation for me that I still followed four years later in recognizing my own feelings. Sure, things hadn’t worked out in the two relationships I’d had since then, but for much different reasons. I’d dated four different people in my life, and the only time I never took a valuable lesson from a relationship was the very first one, which I probably shouldn’t even count, because we were in 6th grade. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain why I didn’t glean anything useful from a relationship that consisted of going to school dances and sitting next to each other at lunch, even if we called each other girlfriend and boyfriend.

I sensed that I was falling for Kelly, but to admit that felt like I was skipping all of the important steps that I always took to make sure I actually liked someone. The truth was that we’d had interacted for about an hour total, and to pretend that I knew her or think I could have feelings for her seemed silly. We clicked, and she was totally my type when it came to looks, but that didn’t feel substantive.

The Monday after that weekend, I woke up and told myself to stop being delusional about Kelly. She was just a classmate and nothing more. I drilled it into my own head over and over until I started to believe it.

Then Business Stats came, Kelly sat beside me, and my heart began to race.

Why? Why was this happening? I knew better in every sense of awareness to act on these strange feelings, but it was like the universe was out to tell me that I was wrong.

“Hey Eric, do you mind if we exchange numbers?” she said, not more than a minute after sitting down and getting situated. “It might be useful to be able to text about homework or whatever.”

My already thumping heart began pounding out of my chest, but I still managed to respond in what felt like a normal way.

“Yeah, sure.”

And just like that, I got her number.

It felt strange to have it come so easily, like this was some sort of cosmic joke. But getting her number was a privilege not to be abused. She’d said it was texting about homework, and there was no way I was going to take advantage of that by bothering her with idle chit chat.

Or, at least, that’s what I thought, until she did exactly that during class. Her phone number was connected to iMessage on her laptop, and since I used an iPad with a keyboard to do homework for my other classes, I was getting the text popups on my screen just like she was.

hey, it’s me, the girl sitting next to you
thanks for giving me your number

I glanced over and saw her flash a grin in my direction.

yeah, no problem, though i might not be much help in the homework department. i usually have to teach myself this stuff every night after class.

maybe we should study together then?

My heart went back into overdrive. I had never met a girl this forward. Hanging out with a new female friend had always been about reading the situation, finding the right way to ask that wasn’t pushy, and then, if I was possibly interested in pursuing something more than friendship, asking in a way that didn’t put all of my cards on the table and that also didn’t make her feel uncomfortable.

Navigating the politics on a new friendship even with guys had always been difficult for me, but Kelly had completely taken the reins on this one. Of course I wanted to hang out with her, even if all we did was discuss graphing bell curves or whatever the hell the professor was going on about.

sure, that sounds like a great idea

Cool, my place then around 7?
i live right off campus

What in the world was going on? I was practically a stranger to her, right? How was she not uncomfortable with inviting some random guy from her class to the place where she lived? I liked to think of myself as a pretty decent person, but there’s no way that she could’ve known that, right? Hoping that I wouldn’t turn into some creepy stalker felt like a risky thing to bet on for an attractive girl. Heck, should I be worried about her being some kind of stalker?

yeah, just send me the address and i’ll be there

looking forward to it! can’t wait for you to meet my roommate, too
i think you’ll like her

Her roommate? This was getting more and more mysterious, but as much as the more paranoid side of me tried to raise flags, it just didn’t feel wrong. Quite the opposite, in fact.

When she sent the address over, I looked it up, and it turned out she lived in a popular apartment complex that a few of my friends also lived in. It was one of those places that wasn’t right off of campus, but rather, was just far enough away to need to either drive or take the bus. The closer complexes were almost all where the kids with rich parents lived.

My apartment was a couple blocks out from Kelly’s, so rather than drive, I decided to walk there. It gave me a little time to think about how to handle my interactions with her outside of the classroom, but I’d been adjusting to that all day since we hadn’t really stopped texting since we exchanged numbers. I wished I better understood this weird relationship we’d formed, but it felt weird to ask the questions I was thinking, so I kept my mouth shut.

My knuckles rapping on her door masked the sound of the thumping in my ears. I was early by five minutes, probably because I ended up walking faster than I’d meant to due to being incredibly anxious about this whole situation. I felt so dumb for feeling like this for a simple study session, but if I could help it, I certainly wouldn’t be standing outside Kelly’s door freaking out like this.

As the door opened, had a momentary crisis where I wasn’t sure how to greet her. Did I hug her? Shake her hand?

“Hey,” I said, arcing my hand in a slight wave. It was my first, stupid, awkward instinct, but there was no fallout.

“Hey!” she gestured toward herself. “Come on in.”

The living area that I walked into was tidy – much cleaner and more orderly than my own. More noticeably, there were decorations on the tables, shelves, and walls, which was something that my apartment was sorely lacking. I’d tried several times to care about buying some paintings or posters or something to add some personalization to my apartment, but I just didn’t have the eye for that kind of thing.

I did, however, immediately notice the painting behind the sofa in Kelly’s living room. It was a large, overly serious, stylistic oil on canvas of this cartoon character from an old show on Nickelodeon. It was unmistakeable what it was, because there was only one in existence, and Kris had painted it. I’d seen the thing hanging in her bedroom since 11th grade, which begged the question – why was it now hanging in Kelly’s apartment?

“Hey Eric, what’s shaking?”

I turned around to find Kris standing there, a huge grin on her face, and looking overall particularly proud of herself.

“Kris? What the heck is going on?”

Kelly laughed. “I told you that you’d like my roommate.”

“When did you move here?” I said, baffled by the idea of what was happening.

“At the beginning of the semester, dummy,” she said. “Remember, I asked you for help moving, but you were back in Virginia that weekend.”

“But I saw you a week and a half ago…”

Kris’ grin didn’t waver a bit. “You think I was going to tell you and ruin this surprise?”

“I’m still incredibly confused. How do you know Kelly? And how did Kelly know that I know you?”

“Do you not remember me mentioning my cousin Kelly that lived across town dozens of times back in high school?”

I must’ve had an incredibly stupid look on my face. She was right, I did remember the name, but I’d never met her. “Ohhhh.”

“The timing finally worked out for us to room together, so here we are,” she said. “But finding out you were both in a class together, that was easy. You complained about Business Stats on Twitter like six times in a single day, and I already knew Kelly’s schedule. I put two and two together, showed her a picture of you, and told her she should find you and introduce herself.”

Kelly nodded. “As it turned out, though, that had been the day I was running late and sat next to you by chance, so we’d already met. When I told Kris, she cooked up this crazy scheme to get you to come over, and, well, here we are.”

I glanced at Kris, and if the smirk on her face didn’t give it away, the twinkle in her eye did. I suddenly understood everything. Kris knew me better than anyone, and my guess was she knew her cousin pretty well too. She was, almost undoubtedly, trying to set us up. This was classic Kris; she’d done it before several times to our other friends, but this was the first time she’d tried it on me. Not that I was complaining.

And to make matters more interesting, the instant I looked at her and realized what was going on, I could tell that she knew that I knew. Kris was almost famous among our old group of friends for this type of stuff. She’d milk the awkwardness out of every situation, and it was even worse when you knew what she was doing.

“From what I’ve heard, you two get along well,” Kris said. “Almost too well.”

“I’m sure you already knew that we would,” I said. This was a strategic move on my part. If I didn’t control the dialogue that resulted from Kris’ questions, Kelly would end up saying something like, “What do you mean?” which would then open Kris up to say, “You two make a great couple.”

Why was I resisting that, though? It was the perfect opportunity to see if Kelly was as curious as I was about getting to know each other better and the potential of that resulting relationship. Wasn’t Kris doing me a favor, even if she was deriving a little too much pleasure out of making things awkward?

“Oh, I did,” Kris said, the look on her face absolutely devious.

She was going to strike. I knew she was about to, and the only way out of it was for me to strike first. Yet, I didn’t want to destroy what Kris was setting up; I just wanted it to be less awkward than I knew she was going to make it. The question was how I would do that.

“Kelly, has Kris ever told you how long we’ve been friends?”

“Didn’t you guys date for a couple weeks in high school?”

“Yeah, but we’ve been friends even longer,” I said. “Do you have our 8th grade yearbook, Kris?”

“Somewhere in my closet,” she said, pausing. “You want to show her the picnic table picture, don’t you?”

I was incredibly proud of how quickly I’d come up with that diversion. Our middle school yearbook had pages and pages full of candid pictures of students hanging out during recess, and one of them had captured the very moment that Kris and I became friends. We’d made a few new mutual friends at our college, and we’d shown that picture to most of them.

“If you don’t mind,” I said.

“Sure,” she said, with a slight knowing nod. I knew I hadn’t thrown her off of her awkward matchmaking game, but I wasn’t trying to. I just needed a minute alone with Kelly, and my tactic had worked.

As soon as Kris left the room, I turned to Kelly.

“You know-“

“Hey, so-“

We both stopped, realizing we were talking over each other pretty quickly.

“Sorry,” I said. “You go first.”

“It’s okay, go ahead.”

I could keep playing the game of being polite, but this was valuable time we were wasting, so I had to temporarily ignore the voice of social etiquette in the back of my head.

“I don’t know if you know this about Kris, but does this thing where she tries to set people up.” I couldn’t believe I was saying it out loud, but I knew what I had to do. “That’s what she’s doing right now, and she’s going to try to make it as awkward as possible. I just wanted to let you know.”

“Wait, you knew?”

I arched an eyebrow. “It’s not Kris’ first matchmaker rodeo. She used to do this all the time in high school.”

“Yeah, trust me, I know,” Kelly said, sighing. “She’s done it before to our cousin Steph. I told her not to pull this on me a loooooong time ago, and as much as I’d like to think she forgot, I’m sure it’s really that she just chose to ignore me.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” I said. “Didn’t go well for your cousin?”

“Actually, Steph is still dating the guy that Kris set her up with.”

I’d never really stopped to think about it, but Kris had played matchmaker with four couples that I knew of. Three of them were still together, and the one that wasn’t broke up amicably because they decided to go to college literally across the country from one another. As much as I hated to admit it-

“Kris is actually pretty good at playing matchmaker.”

It was like Kelly read my mind. But more importantly, I couldn’t believe the implication of what she’d said.

“Wait, are you saying…?” I said, not really sure how to finish the thought.

“I think you’re pretty cool,” she said. “If you want to, it couldn’t hurt to try going out some time, could it?” Her face started to flush a bit, despite how collected she seemed.

“I mean, yeah, for sure. That sounds great, actually.”

“I have to warn you, though,” she said. “I’m kind of a dork.”

“Well, yeah, you’re related to Kris. That should go without saying.”

Kelly laughed. “You know, I was kind of confused and maybe slightly jealous back when Kris first told me about you years ago.”

“Why’s that?”

“I didn’t understand why you two were just friends, but at the same time, the way that she talked about you was so positive, and I guess I wanted to a friendship like that. My friends in middle school were the worst…it’s a long story, but I went almost friendless in 9th grade for a few months after a big falling out with them.”

“Oh wow, that sounds rough.”

“It was, but I eventually made new friends, and then the next year, I heard that you two started dating, and it made me really happy for her. It only confused me more when she told me like three weeks later that you’d broken up but were still friends.”

“Trust me, that confused a lot of people, and it’s kind of hard to explain, but-“

“No, you don’t have to explain,” she said. “The way she talked about you leading up to you coming over, and the way you guys interacted just now – I know it’s complicated, and maybe I’m simplifying it a bit too much, but there is a deep amount of respect and love between you two.”

She didn’t say it, but I knew what she meant, and she was right. Kris and I had spent two formative years together before we tried dating, and it didn’t work because of the exact type of platonic love we had for each other that I knew Kelly was talking about.

“That’s incredibly insightful,” I said. “Spot on, too.”

Kelly smiled. “She’ll probably be back soon. How do you want to handle this?”

I grinned. “Let’s turn the tables on her and act totally oblivious.”

“Oh, absolutely, yes. Let’s.”

Kelly grinned ear to ear, and in that moment, I could not have been happier about what Kris had done for us. My head had intially tried to convince my heart to slow down, but I guess sometimes following my heart couldn’t hurt, especially with Kris’ involvement.

There was no more doubting this; everything about interacting with Kelly had fallen completely into place, and I knew it couldn’t feel more right. Also, I couldn’t ignore that with Kris’ matchmaking success rate, there was a pretty good chance of things working out – you know, statistically speaking.

Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.

Posted May 16, 2019 by Philip in category "Romance", "Short Story", "Slice of Life

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