Thomas (the Other One Who Was Smarter Than Me)

Thomas has an incredibly amusing story smashed right into the middle of awkward. This was my third and final year of grad school. My thesis project had opened, it was the weekend, the second night of the show. Second night parties are always nice because the edge and stress has waned a bit and everyone can relax. A bunch of us went to the pub right across from campus after the show was done.

ThomasI had been harboring a bit of a crush on Thomas for a couple of months as it was only a few months prior to this particular evening that he had recently become single again after a long-term relationship ended. Truth be told, I had felt slightly awed by him for the entire duration of the past two and a half years that I had known him. He was the most eloquent person in our class and I loved his design aesthetic. I am a smart person, but I wanted to be as smart as him. Or maybe smart enough to earn respect. In general, I had a hard time feeling like I had anyone’s respect in our little theatre school. I didn’t know Thomas extremely well, probably out of intimidation, feeling like he was better than me. But I always liked him, always enjoyed his company. He was maybe a few inches taller than me, dark curly-ish hair, a perpetual 5 o’clock shadow, glasses, and you could see his intelligence in his eyes. He only ever grew a beard when he was too busy with a project to pay much attention to his appearance. He almost always looked good whether he had on a button-down or a sweatshirt. As a British-American (or maybe just growing up in New England), he tended to speak with a slight Trans-Atlantic lilt rather than a standard American accent.

This is the idealized version of our setting. The actual pub is shittier and dive-ier.

This is the idealized version of our setting. The actual pub is shittier and dive-ier.

Anyway, that night at the pub a large group of us were sitting at the outdoor picnic tables having some drinks, but because I was fashionable late there weren’t many seats left and I ended up at the very end of a table. I was sitting to the right of Thomas, but he was talking to someone on his left and I couldn’t hear the conversation. I didn’t know the person sitting directly across from me nor the person catty-corner to me. After talking to those two people for about ten minutes, the sort of small talk nonsense that I wasn’t interested in, I got up and went to another table that was filled with people I knew from the production management program. It was about ten yards away from the picnic tables, but within visual range.

This table was significantly more entertaining because of the people I landed myself with. There were also chairs with backs to them, an essential in my mind for good drinking. This lovely group of friends were going around the table telling stories about the worst things they had ever done to another person or that had been done to them while dating.

One guy had a break-up story where the girl fell in love with him, but he considered it a friends-with-benefits situation. He did some pretty shitty things to “get rid of her,” in his words.

One girl’s story involved her sleeping with her friend’s boyfriend while working summer stock for some theatre company. She caused a break-up and lost a friendship. I can’t remember, but I think she eventually married that guy.

We spent at least two hours doing this, behaving like bitches, and having some amazing laughs at the expense of the poor non-present people involved in the stories.

Then it was my turn. But I didn’t have any good stories because I had only ever dated David and that experience was neither dramatic nor as entertaining as what they were offering up. I was two, maybe three drinks in at this point, which my lower inhibitions allowed me to volunteer the knowledge of my crush on Thomas in place of a past relationship story.tequila-shots Right around the same time these words were coming out of my mouth, a round of tequila shots came to the table. Scott had ordered them at the 2am last call. There were one too many because he forgot (or perhaps ‘forgot’) that Matthew was the group’s designated driver. I was planning to walk home, so it didn’t really matter for me. We took our shots and then the fight over who was going to do a second shot began. They decided to give it to Sarah, who was a visiting prospective student. The person who had actually listened to the words escape my mouth of “I have a crush on Thomas” suggested I take the shot and then go kiss Thomas.

Nah-uh. No way. I wasn’t about to do that. There was more convincing talk, but I wasn’t budging. To get out of it, I thought maybe I could just give it away to someone at the other table and be done with it. Maybe an actor, actors like free shots. When I stood up with the shot in hand, they started chanting my name. The entire rest of the patio was now watching. Being on display meant I had no choice. I had to do it.

Down the tequila went, washing over my insides, that familiar burn in the throat of alcohol seeping into her system. I bit into the lime and I marched right over to Thomas. He had been sitting there watching the whole thing. I said, “this is a dare,” and kissed him real good.

There was some hooting and cheering. It was kind of like a scene out of a movie.

“If you ever want to do that again, just let me know,” I sassed him. He pulled me in for another one.

With such a glamorous sort of ending to the night, I can’t deny I was hoping that things would continue, but this story wouldn’t be here unless there was a big fat FAIL tucked away in it.

It was time to go home. Two tequila shots in a row went straight to my head. My friend Mingyu was kind enough to give me a ride home even though I lived just a few blocks away. I had hoped Thomas would offer that ride, but he didn’t. The event of the evening made me hope he might have liked me more than I expected him to.

The next day, Thomas said he wanted to ‘talk’ about it. Word had gotten around of what happened, but both of us were being sly and close-lipped about it with our classmates. I suppose it was more fun that way, acting coy, as if nothing had happened. At least in my mind it was.

We kept missing each other because of opposite schedules and by the time we got around to ‘talking’ it was two days after the incident. I was hoping him wanting to talk meant something, but instead he wanted to make sure I knew he didn’t have any feelings for me. My response: “I generally assume people don’t like me that way,” and that am generally surprised when they do. He was dismissive at my admission of that. But it’s true, I am almost always surprised when it happens.

And in all honesty, that conversation was much more awkward than I just relayed to you, dear reader. Just as I am often surprised by people fancying me, I tend to block out the awkward moments of my life. Oh, it’s definitely a coping mechanism. It is so much easier to be graceful about awkwardness in general when you don’t immediately recall them every waking hour of your life. It’s only more significant ones that tend to nag at me and just don’t want to go away. The embarrassment that I felt about the whole situation meant that I no longer sought him out on friendly terms the way I used to, which is kind of a shame.

Thomas and I never would have worked anyway, because he smokes and after making out with Andrew a year and a half prior, I made it a rule never to get involved with people who smoke. That and having grandparents pass away before I had turned five because of smoking related issues. It’s a bit of a deal-breaker for me. Thomas also moved to New York after graduation. I haven’t really seen him or talked to him since. He’s not very active on Facebook, so I honestly have no idea what he’s up to these days, but I do hope he is well.

So the lesson here, kids: tequila can be dangerous, but also really fun. Use with precaution.