Her name was Consuela. She was blonde, Hispanic and hot. It was my first week of my freshman year of college, and I was fully committed to the process of reinventing myself. I would be a dork no longer. Instead, I'd be cool. Confident. Sexy. And this new Rick, better Rick, was the image that Consuela was bound to fall for.
No, I had not always been a woman-slayer. In fact, quite the opposite. I grew up in a 30-by-30-foot brick house in a smallish town in western Virginia. My parents didn't have a lot of money, and much of whatever extra money they had got gobbled up by my ridiculously bad eyesight. By age 2, I was already being fitted for glasses, which I promptly ruined. Other disasters followed until my parents settled on military-like plastic frames with a giant rubber nose protector and lenses thick enough to suggest deep-space exploration.
Needless to say, such eyewear did not promote popularity. In grade school, everyone laughed with me. In high school, everyone laughed at me.
But high school was now several months behind me. Not a single person knew me at my new school in Florida. I had no baggage. I could be anyone I wanted to be. And I was determined to play the part.
I had first seen Consuela when I was moving into my dorm room. I held a door open for her as she brought in boxes to her room. She said thank you. But I could tell she meant much more than just thank you. I said, "You are welcome." But she knew I really meant, "You are so welcome."
That Monday I saw her leaving the dorm and walking to class. I rushed over to her, said hello, and we both crossed the street toward the long sidewalk into the campus. She walked swiftly on the crowded walkway, and I shuffled up next to her, walking just a few paces off the sidewalk. She looked at me, and looked away. I stared at her. She looked back at me. But this time, I would not take my eyes off of her. Cool new Rick, staring down his prey. Five seconds. Her eyes opened wider. Eight seconds. She smirked, I mean smiled, just a bit, as if she knew that I knew what she knew.
Unfortunately, I didn't know what she knew.
My face hit the pole at about four miles per hour. I don't really remember falling. Just the loud ringing sound, and lovely Consuela kneeling over me as I regained my eyesight. For a brief moment, she looked concerned. But as I patted down the bleeding on my forehead, concern quickly turned to laughter. "Wow, I can't believe you didn't see that! Well, I don't want to be late to class. I hope you feel better." More laughter as she walked away -- New Rick lying in the grass, hurt and humiliated as scores of students walked past. It was like a Manatee exhibit at the zoo.
Staring deep into someone's eyes while in motion only works in the movies. That is because they are actually not moving, but sitting on some machine-like apparatus with a film playing in the background. Your eyes were placed strategically in front of your head for a reason -- when in motion, things come at you from the front. Look there!
Stay on the sidewalk. There is a conspicuous absence of obstacles directly on the sidewalk. But if you veer just off the sidewalk, however, it is Vietnam! There are life-threatening impediments at every turn -- just taunting you while you stare deep into your future lover's eyes and she watches you impale yourself into a 30-foot steel pole. Life is not the X-games. Stay on the trail.
Be yourself. In the end, Consuela never went out with me. She kind of laughed a bit every time she saw me from that point on. I guess I deserved that. New Rick never really materialized, either. I never became cool, no matter how much I tried to act like it. My confident and reserved act would somehow always be ruined by some dorky quip that would just come out of me. I couldn't help myself.
So eventually, I gave up on "New Rick". It was just Rick, like him or not. And guess what. Some people did. Not everyone. But when I finally began living an authentic life, I started to meet authentic friends. I dated authentic girls, who thought the dorkiness was endearing. I was hired into the workforce for my real talents and passions. And I followed my authentic self wherever it took me. And quite far, thank you very much.
Adios, Consuela, wherever you may be. My lovely wife Lori thinks the pole story is kinda cute.
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