When Lily K ing fell for her boyfriend’s best friend, she caused a bitter rift. Decades later,
an unanticipated reconciliation shifted her understanding of the whole affair.
n the fall of my senior year in college, a guy from my
17th century–literature class asked me out. We saw a
movie about the Vietnam War and went back to his
rented house for a beer. He was quirky and cute, but we
were stiff and unnatural together, and I remember
thinking, as I sat on his couch, that we probably shouldn’t
go out again.
Then his roommate, Henry*, came home from his date. It was
the ’80s in North Carolina, and everyone had a date on Saturday
night. Henry behaved like he’d just gotten out of jail. He came into
the living room and acted out the goodbye at his date’s sorority
house, how he’d put the screen door between them before he’d
have to kiss her. He stood there in front of us, wielding an
imaginary door like an oversize shield. I’d never been on the male
side of a date postmortem. Henry went to bed, and, punchy
from his performance, the cute, quirky guy and I started kissing.
I dated him, Craig, for the rest of the school year. Our whole
relationship played out in that rental house with Henry and their
good friend Mason, who lived a few blocks away. Our university
was big, but these three guys had created a tiny, cozy world within it.
The rest of the fall and winter we played Hearts and argued about
Reagan’s reelection; we talked in Irish accents and quoted James
Joyce. Mason was writing an honors thesis on Joyce, and his huge
poster board of index cards on Finnegans Wake was often in the
room with us. This was the first I had heard of an undergraduate
honors thesis, or possibly of Finnegans Wake. With the three of
them I was always giddy from the banter, but when Craig and I were
left alone we reverted to the way we had been on the couch before
Henry came in. We were attracted to each other
in that way that two people can be when words
aren’t working, and the attraction helped us
believe for a while that we were communicating.
When I had a break between classes during
the day, I went to the house.
LANGBERG ON MY
*Names have been changed. CARPET, 2018. UP FRONT>162