This essay was selected as the winning submission from Street's Love Issue personal narrative contest. Read some of our other favorite pieces here and look out for new pieces as we publish them throughout the week!
When you arrive at Penn, lose yourself in the fresh atmosphere, amongst the countless introductions, at the crowded parties, in the bubbly, champagne–like feeling that accompanies the start of something new. You won’t sleep, but you won’t need to. Dance with someone new (or multiple someones) at every party. It’ll exhilarate you. Never keep track, never take names. Strut your way into Pike one Sunday night (because this school will have parties on Sunday nights) with a top that might have passed as a shirt back home in the tropics, but in Philly is basically lingerie. Two drinks in, he’ll approach you. The boy from your floor who casually (too casually) struck up conversation about Nietzsche with you at the freshman picnic, who met eyes with you too many times at the toga party for it to be coincidental. Dance with him, if only in recognition of his steadfast efforts. You’ll end up dancing on a table, returning to the bar for drinks, back on the table, and at some point, the voluminous mass of your hair will hook into the rim of his glasses and refuse to let go. It’s embarrassing, it’s cute, it’s nauseatingly cliché. His lips end up on your lips and it’s passionate and hot until warning bells go off in your head. He’s a Hall Guy. Worse, he’s a Cool Guy™. You don’t want another Cool Guy™ in your life.
Move on. Run out of Pike into the warm city air like Cinderella racing to keep her secrets from a dangerously curious Prince. Avoid him at hall functions and weekly parties. Play it cool when you pass each other, fresh from the showers, and you feel his eyes on you from two doors down. Problem: you’ll want to get into Fiji on a Saturday night, a party exclusive to those who can offer names to “Who do you know here?” Cool Guy™ seems to know everyone. Solution: give up and call him. Cool Guy™ finagles you into Fiji. The music will suck. Try to dance with him and fail because “Castle on the Hill” doesn’t make you feel sexy. He does, though, and you’ll end up back at the Quad. After you fuck, he lays next to you and asks if he’s going to wake up in the morning alone, with a hallmate who won’t look him in the eyes anymore. Cool Guy™ looks vulnerable. So, you’ll make room in the Twin XL and promise to stay. The next day when his roommate complains loudly about how he got sexiled last night, don’t make eye contact. You don’t want this, whatever it is, to be common knowledge. Solve this by fucking in the middle of the day while his roommate is in class. Develop a schedule. Wash, rinse, repeat. Eventually he’ll be out of your hair, and you’ll actually be able to talk about your sex life with friends in your hall again.
A week in, after a midday rendezvous, your stomach will rumble. You’ll look at each other, already in sync, and head off to Houston Market for teriyaki bowls. Good sex always makes you hungry. Out of the blue, Cool Guy™ stops chewing his chicken, smiles, and has a revelation—you two are basically on a reverse date! Panic (internally). Laugh (externally). Return to the Quad (à la your previous run from Pike) and chastise yourself for your choices. Resolve to cut Cool Guy™ out of your life. You will last two days. Your friends (and Pharrell) will tell you “don’t be afraid to catch feels, ride drop top and chase thrills.” But next Friday, promise yourself you’ll go home with literally anyone else or just alone. Walk out your door wearing another shirt/lingerie item and straight into Cool Guy™. Nice shirt, he says. Thanks. Where are you headed? Wawa. Slip out into the cool night air before he even responds.
At the party, blindly find someone else (you won’t). Dance like you have all the space you need (you don’t). Drink too much to prove you’re busy chasing thrills without Cool Guy™ (you aren’t). Late into the night, you’ll get a call from Drunk Cool Guy™. Only out of duty as a good hallmate, walk eight blocks to a random upperclassman’s apartment to save his liver from imminent demise. Step in and meet Crossfaded Cool Guy™ who immediately grabs you by the waist and kisses you up against the doorway. It’s sloppy, it’s urgent, it’s emotive. Suddenly, he’s spilling it all, the proverbial beans are overflowing in what is now his confessional, and the sins—lies of omission—are innumerable.
As he staggers down Walnut and Locust, his frenzied (Franzia–ed?) words crash on you like the ocean does when your back is turned. It’s a tidal wave and you’re drowning in the truth and he’s churning with emotion and you’re done kidding yourself and he’s exposed and he’s true and he’s honest. He’s also borderline MERTable. When he passes out on the lawn in front of Rodin, learn that he has an affinity for projectile vomiting. You will get an early start on laundry this weekend back at the Quad. In the morning, he wakes you up with a sheepish tap on the door. Try your hand at communication and emotional transparency. The first time will be full of stuttering and stumbling, but he is understanding, and it’ll be easy to practice since he’s your neighbor. Create your future with fresh eyes now, with this man who feels like family more than anyone else ever has. He is a beginning with no ending. He is the tension between the familiar and the unfamiliar, the embodiment of old and new. Every time you look at him, you’ll get that bubbly, champagne–like feeling. Five months later, it’ll still be there.
Sabrina Ochoa is a freshman from Delray Beach, Florida.