Teaching allowed me to finally embrace life after college. Even with the education classes I took at night, I still had time to write. Between teaching and freelancing, I had found a balance between being fulfilled and financially independent. Before I knew it, I was able to afford my own apartment, a studio on East 5th Street and Avenue A. I finished the education classes and started working towards a Masters’ Degree in history at Hunter College. This put me back in the Upper East Side a couple nights a week, but I felt like a different person now. I finally had shit figured out.
I still partied, but started working out a little. I lost some weight and gained even more confidence with women. I really had it together. Money and DJ even noticed the difference.
“Thank God, Luca. You were getting really mopey there for a while.”
We were walking up Second Avenue after a Saturday night showing of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. We’d split a twelve pack in the theater and were looking for some trouble to get into.
“Shit, Money. Tell me how you really feel.”
“You know what he’s saying,” DJ added. “We were still doing all the same stuff we did
in college, but it seemed like sometimes you forgot how to enjoy it.”
“You mean like I was just going through the motions?”
“Bet,” Money said. “I hooked you up with the teaching gig and look how happy you are.
What did I tell you about girls? If you give off a positive vibe, they can sense that.”
We decided to hit a bar. Luckily, I remembered McSwiggan’s was nearby. I hadn’t been there since Money conducted his one-man intervention on my decline into post-college self indulgence.
The place was packed and it didn’t take long to realize that someone was having a party. It was December 11th, still a little early for a holiday celebration. Yet there was a line of girls at the bar doing shots. A few of them seemed to have boyfriends standing behind them, but everyone was all focused on the brunette at the center of the bar. She was wearing a black tank top with orange flames in the center and black leather pants. She may have been dressed like all my rock-star fantasies come to life, but something about her looked familiar. As the bar screamed “HAPPY 25TH,” I realized she’d been in one of my classes at Hunter. I told Money and DJ.
“You should buy her a drink,” said DJ.
“I agree. It’s clearly her birthday. It would be almost be rude not to,” Money joked.
I’d never approached a girl like this before and had no idea it would be my one and only time. The Stones’ “Midnight Rambler” was blaring so loudly from the jukebox, I almost had to shout to get her attention. When I tapped her on the shoulder, she turned her head around. Her sweet smile gave me the last-second boost confidence to introduce myself.
“I think…. uh, I took a class at Hunter with you.”
Sammy would later tell me that while she didn’t remember me from class, she was impressed with my assertiveness. She also didn’t want to admit that she’d dropped the class, although I didn’t blame her.
“It was that Western Civilization course where the professor just read his handwritten notes for two hours straight without taking a breath.”
“I hated that class,” she said.
“I don’t blame you. That guy was a dick.”
She laughed. “I love your shirt.”
I was wearing an old shirt with the cover photo to Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge Of Town on it.
“Thanks,” I said. “Most people don’t notice it.”
“How is that even possible? I mean it’s BRUCE.”
“You’ve seen him in concert?”
“Are you kidding? My brother took me to my first show at the Garden in 1988. It was the Tunnel of Love tour and was totally amazing. It’s one of those things you can’t describe unless you experience it. It’s actually hard to explain.”
“Actually, you did a pretty good job.” The way her face lit up while discussing the Boss drew me in, but I was also a little scared at how attractive I found it. “I’m Rob, by the way.”
She grabbed my hand. “Nice to meet you Rob. I’m Samantha—Sam.”
“So what have you been up to since Hunter College, Sam?”
“I’ve been temping while I try to figure out what I want to do. It’s kind of scary being out of college. I’m thinking about becoming a school social worker.”
I looked behind me to see Money and DJ nod in approval.
“It’s your birthday. Let me buy you a shot. What’ll you have?”
“Chilled Southern Comfort. What do you do, Rob?”
“I’ve been teaching middle school social studies.”
“Thanks for the shot, but now you’ve gotta get me a fucking job!”
I had to find out a little more about this girl.
Her friends started coming over to check on her, so I figured I should go sit with Money and DJ for a bit. But before I knew it, she was introducing me to everyone.
“This is Rob. We took a class together. Now he’s getting me a job.”
As unexpected as this all was, it somehow felt natural. Each person I spoke to treated me like I’d known her for a long time. It really felt a little like that. When Money and DJ got up to leave, they assured me that I should definitely stick around.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I happily said.
It was almost 3 AM when she grabbed my hand. Appropriately, the Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” came on the jukebox. “THIS is the kind of Grateful Dead I like,” Sam said. “I don’t need a song that goes on forever. No one needs a drum solo, either.”
I was about to say something, but stopped myself. I figured I’d reveal my musical allegiances another time. I wasn’t being cocky, but somehow seemed sure we’d see each other again. When the bartender announced last call, I still didn’t want the night to end.
I started walking her back to her apartment a few blocks away when we started kissing. I wasn’t worried about whether we’d end up in bed together, however. Actually, I wasn’t worried about anything. When we got to her stoop, it felt like we were two longtime friends who were hesitant to take things to the next level for all the right reasons. We sat down on the concrete ledge.
“We should definitely get together again,” I said.
“You mean you’ll call?”
“How could I not?”
We started kissing again and I told her I was going to catch a cab. I could tell she was relieved, and I wasn’t insulted one bit.
“I’m actually supposed to get up in a few hours,” she said.
“Yeah, all my friends are going to the Jets game. You like football, Rob?”
It occurred to me at that moment that the Chargers were playing the Seahawks. I hadn’t thought about it once that night.
This was serious.