Sometimes you’re just too late. It could be as simple as being late for a test, or as complex as losing the one you thought would always be there. You win some and you lose some… and I guess tonight I lose some.
I always thought love would just fall into place and it did in late February of 2008. I just never realized it until now. About a month before I started at the Iowa State Daily and switched my major to journalism from elementary education, I met – let’s call him Cam to spare him the embarrassment – and we hit it off. We’d meet most mornings on our cardinal Cyride bus route from the 30s in Frederiksen Court and ride into campus. He’d get on from various stops and I’d watch him walk past me and sit in a random seat. He sat in one spot; I sat in another. We were complete strangers except for our bus dates we happened to venture on together. I always noticed him. It wasn’t necessarily his looks or his coat or his demeanor. I just noticed him as a person.
Mid-February, Cam boarded the bus in front of Bessey Hall on the Iowa State University campus. I was sitting in the front row double-seat on the driver’s side of the bus. Cam sat down right next to me this time. Until the stoplight about 30 seconds ahead, we sat in silence. My thoughts were running wild though. He finally sat by me. Why’d he choose this seat over all the other empty ones? Should I talk to him? We stop at the stoplight and Cam turns my way. He mentioned something about the weather but I can’t remember if it was sunny or another cold winter day out. As we entered Frederiksen Court, he introduced himself.
“I’m Cam,” he said with a confident smile.
“I’m Jennifer,” I said, giving him my long name instead of the newly adopted Jenn.
We struck up a conversation about how we always seem to be riding the same bus and how we liked living in Freddy Court. I even found out he lived in the building next to mine and we exited the same bus stop to trudge over the white iced-over snow towards the 30’s cluster. We got to the end of the “green,” which was now white, continued across the one-way street and up onto the sidewalk where our paths needed to fork. He needed to go left, I, right.
“Here let’s exchange numbers,” I volunteered, taking the reigns, but hoping he’d oblige. He did, of course, and we repeated our numbers twice, making sure we had them exactly right. After all, we both silently knew this was no ordinary friendship shaping.
We parted, deciding to meet up in a couple hours to talk more at my place. Once I was inside my third-floor apartment, I realized Cam had been the one to initiate conversation. Every guy before this, I was the one who initiated the first “hello,” the first “let’s hang out,” and the first date. But Cam had done it this time. Maybe this was a sign.
I did what everyone does once you meet a new friend… add them on Facebook then spend the next 20 to 30 minutes electronically “stalking” them until you have overanalyzed their favorite movies, their music preferences, and of course, their relationship status. Cam was in a relationship. Damn.
He came over around four and we sat in my living room – him in the green oversized chair and me on the couch – talking for hours. We got on the topic of his girlfriend and found out he was looking for a way out of it. She was still in high school and he was almost through his sophomore year at Iowa State. She had trust issues; she didn’t allow him to talk to other girls – this get-together was a secret – and he was getting a little tired of her. Rightfully so. I shared my experience about an ex-boyfriend that was the same way and how I ended it to be a more free college student. He said I helped him, and we began talking about our majors, families, and interests. He told me of his trip to New York City where he took pictures with his amazing new camera. I was gleaming, telling him about my dream to get there some day. I also complemented him about his photography, something he said he’d like to improve and make a bigger hobby. He also told me he had been seeing me on the bus and nicknamed me “The Girl with the Salmon-colored Backpack” because he didn’t know my name.
Cam switched majors from aerospace engineering to industrial technology and I had just changed from elementary education to journalism. I told him my excitement of applying at the Iowa State Daily and he told me of his job working at Hawthrone Market and Café in Freddy Court. He enjoyed watching every movie known to man, and had a massive collection in 100-count CD cases to prove it. I told him about my small chick flick movie collection. He laughed; I laughed. We just kind of fit.
Let’s get something straight first, I never made a move on him; he never made a move on me. I was fully aware that he had a girlfriend of a couple years and he was fully aware that I had just come out of a two-and-a-half year relationship. We connected immediately. We mutually agreed that our exes sounded made for each other more than made for us. We even joked about setting them up. We took many walks around campus, had many movie “non-dates,” and could talk for hours about nothing and everything. The movie nights, although declared as friends, felt more than friends. I could tell he felt it too by his body language. At the beginning of the movie, we sat on opposite sides of the couch, each hugging an arm. By the end of the movie I was resisting reaching for his hand – our shoulders were touching. Our eyes met for just a second but we quickly looked away, fighting off the temptation. I wasn’t about to be “that girl”.
He finally broke up with his crazy high school girlfriend and we’d stepped up our dates, making the hypnotist at the Memorial Union our first official one. He invited me and we ducked into his friends two-door and doubled. We laughed… a lot. He brought along his Macbook to show me pictures of his family and his trip to New York City – a dream city of mine. He lushed over his new camera and the sites he saw in New York… I soaked up every word and was green with envy, maybe a little pink with infatuation. Our hearts connected and, this time, it didn’t feel wrong. He was single. I was single. We were on a good path.
Then, I started at the Daily and a whole new story started up. Another man entered my life late March, striking up a too-involved secret relationship, which lasted until he moved away for the summer. Now, that is pathetic, right? Looking back at what Cam and I had, yeah; it was pathetic. This was the first time I turned my back on something I should have gladly accepted.
Elementary education and journalism are two totally different career paths. One you get to teach little kids sentence structure and the other you write structured sentences that turn into intriguing stories that are published with your byline in publications for all to read. One obviously has a more intense schedule than the other. I craved that busy lifestyle and I was proving myself worthy covering the VEISHEA beat for the news section. The other man – let’s call him Turk because that’s a funny name – advised me to apply for editor and told me it’d look good on my resume. College, I was quickly learning, was all about building your resume. So, after being so warped into Turk, I smiled, blushed and did what he said. I applied and was promoted to managing news editor for the summer term of 2008. I had less than two months of reporting experience and I was now the upcoming news editor, managing eight reporters and an assistant news editor. Incoming: overload of work.
My eyes bulged and heart burned with the newest line on my resume and the most exciting job I had had was awaiting my arrival. I worked and worked and worked and worked and worked and worked… you get the picture. Then mid-summer, I hit an all-time low. I was burnt out. Completely. I lulled from my apartment to work, from work to meetings, from meetings to editing, from editing to production, and finally, production to my apartment. Turk and I hadn’t spoken since our early June fight on AIM chat and I declared that fling over.
Enter Cam. I texted Cam, who was interning in Chicago that particular summer. After reconnecting, it became more of a daily routine. The comfortable, reliable, and soothing voice of Cam every night lightened my stress load and jumpstarted my motivation. We openly declared our feelings and practically started dating long distance. He called me on his way out of the city to the suburb he lived in and we’d talk. We would talk about his day and then he did something nobody else seemed to do… he asked about my day and let me piss and moan and groan and rant and rave about how good or how bad it was. He’d answer with “I understand…” or “You’re good at what you do, Doll. It’ll get better.”
Doll. I liked it. I still like it. Whenever he’d end late night texts with “Goodnight, doll,” my eyes would close, knowing he was thinking about me just like I was thinking about him. We arranged how our relationship would be official once the fall semester started and he moved back to campus. We made plans for him to stop by my apartment first instead of unpacking his car at his apartment. I had moved off campus into the bar-infested Campustown area and he had relocated to a different building in Freddy Court.
It was planned… until Turk moved back for his senior year. My eyes and heart diverted to another hopeless year, falling deeper and deeper in love with Turk and leaving Cam farther and farther in the past.
To be continued…