Our Oratorio

I met Wendi during my freshman year in college. She transferred to University of Michigan in the winter term and, seeking out like-minded people, joined the Champions game I was in.

For those unfamiliar, Champions is a Hero System RPG for playing comic book super heroes. If that doesn’t make sense to you, just understand that we were a merry band of geeks armed with bags of dice and 2-liters of caffeinated beverages.

I instantly took a shine to her, and not just because she happened to have estrogen. She was attractive, funny, and confident. Also, she was a junior. I figured she was out of my league. She didn’t agree, but I had no idea of that. I was busily having an odd sort of breakdown in which I started creating my own reality.

Fortunately a summer spent back home rooted me firmly in consensus reality again, and I’ve never lost my mind quite that severely since. Nope.

Um. This was meant to be a fun post. Forget all that stuff about my stupid brain, okay?

Fast forward to my sophomore year. As the fall term progressed Wendi and I started hanging out more, in part because I had switched to the dorm next to hers to be with the majority of our friends. I’d skip Russian class so we could share long lunches at my dorm’s cafeteria. I was failing anyway, so I figured that I might as well enjoy myself.

By the time November came around, I’d started working up the nerve to ask her out. On a date, not just another of our semi-regular trips to the hobby store.

Then Wendi got tired of waiting for me and started going out with Bruce. I call him that because he was fixated on an ex that who reportedly looked like Demi Moore, specifically as she appeared in “Ghost”. I wouldn’t know; I never met either of them — Bruce and Demi, I mean, although I’ve also never met Bruce or Demi.

Wendi and I were still having lunch together, as I nobly stayed beside her just in case Bruce died. The wisdom of this plan was confirmed for me when she bluntly said she’d have gone out with me if I had asked. It hurt to know for certain that I’d blown it, but now I could hope for another chance. All I had to do was never to give up on her. I’d stay at her side, believing that I’d just be happy enough if she were happy.

As it turned out my resolve was never tested, which is probably for the best. My intentions are good, but my attention span isn’t brief so much as it is deeply lazy. It can’t put forth the effort needed to focus on such a long-term commitment.

Less than a week after dropping truth on my lunch, Wendi called me. She had gotten tickets for a performance of Messiah but couldn’t reach Bruce. Would I like to go?

My instinctive reaction was to decline, as I knew that I was not fit for an evening of culture. Fortunately I quickly recast the event as an opportunity to spend time with her — under date-like conditions, no less! Sometimes my brain works perfectly well, thank you.

The night of the performance found us sitting somberly in the theater, trying to absorb culture while deciding whether or not this constituted a first date. By intermission we were worn out. We talked nervously, and out of desperation we scrutinized the program.

That’s when we finally realized that the lyrics were in English.

For the rest of the evening we giggled uncontrollably, under the resentful glower of those around us. I remain unashamed; you can’t expect the repetition of a sentence for five or six minutes to be met with gravitas — not from Gilbert and Sullivan fans. The line we were hearing rattled through my brain, transformed into the meter of “Modern Major General”.

     “He was rejected and despised
     And despised and rejected
     And despised and despised
     And rejected and rejected…”

After that we felt very much relaxed and ourselves. Over dessert at Stucchi’s we talked comfortably and decided that we were indeed dating. We’ve been best friends ever since. I have no idea what happened to Bruce, but his loss was my gain.

We’ve had ups and downs, like any couple, but every time we hear the “Hallelujah” chorus we look at each other and smile. We may not be cultured, but we’ll always have Handel’s Messiah.


First Impressions Can Leave a Mark

Having an innate fear of fathers, I was particularly nervous about meeting Wendi’s dad. Fathers know what boys want to do with their daughters, and I didn’t imagine he’d enjoy meeting the boy currently wanting to do those things with her.
It didn’t help when Wendi told me that her dad referred to her first two boyfriends as Ick I and Ick II. I assume that the first one was merely Ick until the second came on the scene, but it’s entirely possible that the man suspected there’d be more Icks when he met the first one.
I already believed I was worthless (thanks, dad), so I figured on being quickly labelled Ick III. Maybe I’d even rate a new, worse title. Perhaps Smegma, the first of his name. Or the less poetic That Asshole.
I’d already met Wendi’s mom, who’d confused me deeply by being really nice and not grilling me at all. She flustered me so badly that I blurted things like “I’m perfectly willing to go on welfare to keep writing” and other winning phrases that parents like to hear out of their daughter’s suitor.
She never batted an eye, which only convinced me that she knew I wouldn’t last long.
Now I was going to meet Wendi’s dad. I sat in her dorm room, willing myself to keep my stupid mouth shut. When her folks arrived they were supposed to take us to the mall, where we’d have lunch. Wendi needed to pick up a new bra, so the mall seemed to be a good all-in-one destination. Besides, it was the early 90s; mall culture hadn’t been Amazoned away yet.
There was a knock at the door. I stood up, and my pulse tried to establish new blood speed records. I don’t remember Wendi’s dad coming in. All I know is that one moment there were pleasantries being exchanged out of my sight and then an angry Burl Ives charged me.
Burl Ives was a big part of Christmas for me. He’d done voices for a few animated holiday specials, he vaguely resembled Santa Claus, and he had commercials for his Christmas recordings that strongly implied he’d invented all holiday music.
And now he was backing me into a wall. Wendi’s dad was Santa, and Santa had scratched me out of the Good column.
Angry Santa

He seemed to suspect that I’d been naughty…

When angry Burl Ives had pushed me backward as far as I could go, he glared into my face.

“What are you doing to my daughter that she needs new bras?” he barked.
If you’ve ever wondered what goes through the mind of an animal staring into oncoming headlights, I can tell you with some degree of confidence. It’s an inarticulate mixture of bewilderment, fear, and helplessness.
Then he grinned and stuck out his hand. I took it carefully, as Wendi and her mom doubled over with laughter.
There have been times since then when my presence on the Good List has been debatable, but I’ve never dared slide onto the Naughty List. I don’t want to see Santa when he’s really angry.