Melissa woke up on a sunny, summer Saturday morning. It was early. She was going to do some service work with her local church group. She was always excited to do service because it helped her realize that there are others out there besides her. This Saturday was a different Saturday. One of her dear, long-time friends, Mitch, was coming home from more than a year and a half of service with the Peace Corps. Melissa was captivated by his energy. There was a glow about him. She thought he was never thinking of himself. This was actually artificial and she refused to see its artificiality. While he was in the Peace Corps they corresponded through the mail. She thought this was very different because there is time, energy, and money involved in putting a letter in the mail. It seemed more personal but little did she know 18 months of ink and rising stamp prices would mean nothing to Mitch.
In anticipation of seeing Mitch again, Melissa went to the local record store and purchased an album for him to enjoy. She figured he’d been out of civilization for a while and he needed to be caught up on some of the current sounds. There was a particular band that dropped an album just in time for summer. Some of the current singles have completely blown Melissa’s mind. Besides, the album cover was a piece of art by the Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix. She figured she couldn’t go wrong.
Mitch was giving a lecture on his experience the next day. Melissa went with gift in hand. He did very well. His time in the Peace Corps, she thought, really mellowed him out. She went forward to give him his gift. She shook his hand and he invited her to a champagne brunch with him and his family. Unfortunately, Melissa already had plans for the day but told him she could pop by later that evening.
She knocked at his door at around 7:00 PM. He was dressed in extremely casual clothing, even pajamas. Melissa wished she would’ve changed from her business casual but she had no choice. She sat on the couch with him and asked for stories. He talked about all the people he worked with and he mentioned all his partners he had while in the Peace Corps. As Mitch flipped through pictures on his digital camera he pointed out to Melissa who everyone was and the story behind each particular picture. She was very impressed with all the experiences he had. The next thing she knew it was 9:30. As Mitch was walking her to the front door he asked her if she would like to go see a popular acoustic guitar player later that summer. She agreed. How could she not? She was feeling a connection with Mitch and this connection was made even further when he hugged her and didn’t let her go.
The following weeks were filled with long phone conversations and multiple text messages. Within this correspondence Melissa and Mitch discussed goals, religious beliefs, schooling, discipline styles, politics, and much, much more. These conversations culminated with an invitation put to Melissa to meet Mitch’s family. Not just a Saturday night with cocktails and sarcastic conversation. This involved a weekend with the extended family. In hindsight, Melissa read too much into it. She also knew she was overanalyzing it. She’s a woman, after all.
After the marathon that was Mitch’s family, Melissa decided to invite him to meet her family. She sensed a bit of reluctance yet he obliged. She felt he was just trying to return the favor, pay it forward. Following a rare rib steak, steamed asparagus, and three glasses of Chardonnay they bid farewell to Melissa’s family and he took her home. She knew what was coming: the never ending hug. Melissa liked being close to Mitch. She felt safe with him. Everyone in their family was turning a blind eye to who they felt Mitch really was. Melissa felt she could look past the imperfections that her brother and sister saw in him; namely the attitude of superiority Melissa’s sister felt he had. After his 18 month absence, Melissa recognized that her sister was right. Her first impression after his speech was dead wrong. The Peace Corps didn’t mellow him out at all.
Somewhere along the line there was a voicemail left on Melissa’s cell phone letting her know that a band in her top five was touring with the popular acoustic guitar player. This made her even happier. Being able to see one of her favorite bands was a small price to pay.
Throughout the weeks between the marathon weekend with Mitch’s family and the acoustic guitar show, Melissa’s communication with Mitch became fewer and farther between. In fact, there was no communication between them until the night before the acoustic guitar show. She wasn’t sure how to look at this. She felt his artificial glow of putting others first became secondary.
One day Melissa received a text message. The gist was: Busy…Family…School…let’s get together sometime. The lyrics from Standard Lines by Dashboard Confessional came into Melissa’s head: I’ve been meaning to call you I’ve just been so busy, we’ll catch up soon, let’s make it a point to. This pretty much solidified how Melissa felt toward Mitch. She was set aside and she had no idea why. All she needed was an explanation.
Enter the reason Melissa went on the back burner. Rachel was apparently shiner than Melissa and far easier to distract. Rachel and Mitch’s off the wall personalities seemed to compliment one another. Add the fact that both enjoy filming themselves being loud at restaurants during Sunday brunch while forgetting about everyone else around them that just wanted to go out for a quiet meal, dripping distain for casual swears and anyone that isn’t Republican, and blaming their personality quarks on the color of their hair (i.e. “I’m allowed to be loud and annoying in public places because I have red hair, deal with it.”).
So why didn’t Melissa just tell Mitch to take Rachel? Melissa did some math. The ticket was $29.50 with an $8.25 convenience fee. She could tell Mitch to take Rachel or she could go see her third most favorite band in the whole world who was touring along with the acoustic guitar guy for free. In short, she used him and in no way did she feel raw about it.
After the show Mitch took Melissa back to her apartment, which was in the second most liberal area of the city. They started their customary long hug. Much to Mitch’s surprise Melissa pulled away after about seven and a half seconds. She could tell he wasn’t ready to let go. It was their routine to have a long embrace but because Melissa felt after the show she was only wasting her and Mitch’s time by prolonging the inevitable. She would allow him to get back to Rachel, who in no doubt was watching television at Mitch’s apartment waiting for him to come home so she could nag him about taking someone other than her to the acoustic guitar guy’s concert. Melissa pointed Mitch to the door using the excuse of I have work and hair washing in the morning.
This was the last time she saw or communicated with Mitch and for what purpose, to finish off the summer seeing one of her favorite bands for free? No. She learned what she needed to learn from Mitch, namely not giving up her love of left politics and casual swears. She also learned that in order to feel complete all she needed was an explanation, which she never got. Then with an Emeril-like BAM “Mitch is in a relationship with Rachel.” Forever in Melissa’s book Mitch will be labeled as one of those guys
that she finds repellant.