I first posted this on Thursday night. I apologize to everyone who read the first version, because with all the typos it looked like the ramblings of a drunk. The reality is someone edited the story without my consent. I’ve contacted the editors at TNB about the issue and I’m assured it will be handled properly.

In any case, this is the second part of a story I posted on June 15th. I intended to follow up much sooner, but unfortunately I had to take a little break from the Internet.

If you don’t feel like going back to it, I’ll give you the Hollywood pitch of the previous post: A college kid (me) meets the girl of his dreams,  but there’s a problem: She has a boyfriend already. So the natural question of part two is if the erstwhile lovers can overcome this obstacle, and if so, how3?

The last post ended when Sophia invited me to a fraternity party she was officially attending with her boyfriend, Jack. At the party, which was also a concert, Jack spent most of his time wandering around talking to his friends, while Sophia and me listened to the band together. At one point we wandered off the fraternity grounds and found an old playground across the street. We sat in a couple of old swings and looked at the sky. The stars were too bright, like someone had turned the power up too high, and neither of us said anything for a while. When I finally looked  Sophia again, she was staring into my eyes, leaning close to me, and I knew the moment called for me to kiss her.

But when I moved toward her, she pulled away. I remember this like it was yesterday.

“1 have to go,” she said.

“Why?”

“Jack’s waiting.”

“You mean wasted?”

Sophia stood up and glared at me.

“Don’t do that.”

I was angry with her but I tried to pretend like my comment was a joke.

“Don’t do what?”

After she walked away, I 4resolved not to see her again. I felt like an fool for being so drawn to a girl who couldn’t or wouldn’t return those feelings. I still spent time in the computer lab every day, but luckily the summer schedule changed and she didn’t come by anymore. But then one day, maybe two weeks later, she showed up in my ICQ chat list and wrote me soon after.

“I installed ICQ on the computer in my apartment!” she wrote. “We can talk on the Internet now. 1sn’t this cool?”

And pretty soon we were talking every day again, about everything and nothing. She told me about her family, about her classes, about a boyfriend in high school who once hit her after dropping a touchdown pass in the waning moments of a playoff game. I 5told her about my mother, how her bullying had affected my early relationships with girls, that I staggered through four years of high school without asking a single girl on a date. Or we just chatted about whatever was going on at that moment in the day. This was a dumb thing to do, obviously, because the only way she was ever going to see what we meant to each other was if I took it away from her. But I couldn’t bring myself to play games. I wanted to know what she was doing, what she was thinking, and I wanted her to know the same things about me.

I was also still learning to play the guitar.

You see, I’d never let go of this idea, the one I had back at the concert. If Sophia liked men who played guitar, why couldn’t I be one of them? And what could p9ossibly be more romantic than singing to the woman you loved, in front of the world, and declaring your love for her?

After working my way through a book about guitar chords, called CAGED, I started practicing a particular song—“Only You” by Yaz. I know it’s a sappy song. It’s embarrassing . But you have to consider my mental state at the time. I felt like I was living in a fairy tale. I felt like I had to prove my love to her, like a prince longing for a faraway princess. I just had no idea the fair maiden I was after was Rapunzel.

It wasn’t easy to work out how to play that song on the guitar, considering the synth-oriented sound of the original. I think I practiced in front of the mirror about 5000 times. I know for sure my fingers bled. But finally I decided I was good enough to make it through the whole thing without screwing it up too badly, and that’s when I wrote to Sophia on ICQ and invited her to join me for a drink at a bar called Ike’s.

I knew her boyfriend, Jackass, would be out of town that weekend, and I knew on a Saturday the bar would be packed. But that was the entire point, to make the scenes as dramatic as possible. My biggest fears was that Sophia would turn me down, but to my surprise she accepted readily. In fact I remember precisely what she wrote after we decided on a time for that Saturday night:

“This is gonna be a night to remember.”

After Sophia agreed to meet me (this was Thursday), I  drove to Ike’s and spoke to the bar manager. He was a surly bald fellow who listened to my story and looked at me Ike I didn’t have a Y chromosome in my body. But eventually I convinced him this would be a story he would tell for years afterwards, and he agreed to let me set up in a corner of the bar. He even arranged for a spotlight, and told me he’d turn down the other lights when I got ready to play.

On Friday I practiced until my fingers would no longer obey my commands. I played the song over and over and over until I was sure I could play it left-handed if it came to that. On Saturday Sophia wrote me on ICQ and confirmed the time we were to meet, which was 8 P.M.

I arrived about two hours early and spoke first with the bar manager. Then I had a few drinks. While I waited for Sophia to show up I struck up a conversation with some strangers and told them my story. They seemed to enjoy it and helped me watch the door. I kept watching along with them, first hoping she would arrive on time, then laughing to my new friends about how women never arrived on time for anything, and finally agonizing over if she would ever show up at all.

I’m sure you can guess what happened. That’s the whole point of telling this, right? By the time 9:00 rolled around, most everyone around me was watching the door for Sophia. The embarrassment was intense, severe, crippling. Here I was, terrified of getting up in front of a crowd of drunken strangers, ready to declare my love for a woman who was bound to another, and she never bothered to show up at all.

Turns out that Jack, ostensibly out of town, had actually staged an elaborate proposal for the girl of my dreams. While I waited in the bar for her, ready to play the guitar with bruised fingers, ready to sing to her, she was with Jack. Probably having sex with him. Isn’t that what people do after getting engaged?

So yeah. I’m not a fan of true love. I mean, it exists, I have firsthand knowledge that it does, but in the end I think it’s too rare to ever hope it might happen to you. When it does, chances are the timing is going to be off in some way or another. And they’re probably not even that happy. Did you ever notice how the person texting you, the one calling you, is never the one you wish were calling you?

It was a long time ago. I should probably get over it. I mean I am over it.

Yeah, I’m totally over it.

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THOMAS PHILLIPS is a screenwriter living deep in the heart of flyover country. During the day he's a bleeding edge thought leader who reaches hungrily for low-hanging fruit. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter. He also just published his first ever short story on Amazon.com.

9 responses to “The Way It Is(n’t): A Love Story – Part Two”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    Oh dear.
    Oh dear.
    This is awful.
    But well done for actually doing something about your love, even if it didn’t quite pan out the way you planned.
    If it’s any comfort – she’s probably kicking herself right now after having been married to that Jackass for years and years and wondering whatever happened to that lovely Thomas she knew way back when.
    The best revenge is living (and loving) well, so have at it, Thomas, have at it.

  2. Ouch!

    I love the idea of you orchestrating the whole mini concert for Sophia, even if she didn’t show up. I would love to know if she ever found out about your efforts. I agree with Zara. She’d be kicking herself if only she knew!

  3. Thomas Phillips says:

    Is it awful? Or just real life? Like I said, I just don’t know that many people who are truly happy. If they’re single they wish they were married. When they’re married, they wish they were free to roam around. You want kids until you have them and then you complain about how your life is never the same after you have kids.

    I don’t know if Sophia would be kicking herself. She has four children now. I bet she’s cheated on Jack by now, but who hasn’t cheated? Most people either marry because they think it’s time or because they’re afraid of being alone. Not exactly Romeo and Juliet, is it?

    Anyway, thanks for commenting. I don’t mean to be so grouse.

  4. Thomas Phillips says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    I guess comments aren’t nesting. Thank you for your kind words. I always wondered if anyone told her about what happened. We didn’t attend a very large university. But I never felt like asking. Seemed a little desperate to me. Not that the entire story isn’t. Heh.

  5. Gloria says:

    Oh, man. That’s horrifying. I mean, she was committed to someone else, so maybe a little foolhardy, but a brutal end. I’m sorry that happened.

    On another note, what do you mean someone got in and hacked your account? I did see you pop up for a second the other night, but then you disappeared immediately. Which didn’t concern me then because TNB was being upgraded so there’s been all kinds of glitches. Are you sure you were hacked? Should I be concerned? I was just in WordPress today and didn’t see any way to look at other people’s posts. Feel free to message me offline if you prefer. Just concerned is all.

    than

  6. I wouldn’t say my account was hacked. I think the post was deliberately edited by one of TNB’s editors. From what I was told, they have the ability to edit any post or comment on the site.

    Anyway, my post wasn’t quite finished, and suddenly I found it live on the site chock full of grammatical and spelling errors. When I went to edit the post, it said it had last been saved by Richard Cox. I’ve contacted him about this and so far I’ve heard nothing back.

    • Gloria says:

      I don’t know man…. I’ve been around this place for a long time and I’ve never seen anyone edit other people’s work. Do you have any idea how busy everyone is? TNB is an unpaid labor of love. Also, being that I know Richard, I can attest to his character – if he did anything to your account, I’m sure a brief conversation with him would clear it up. Good luck.

  7. Joe Daly says:

    I’ve heard of editors on here periodically fixing a typo but I’ve never heard of anyone materially altering someone else’s work. A strange proposition, to be sure. Despite our niceties and real-life friendships on here, nobody cares enough about someone else’s writing to revise someone’s work without being invited. That being said, stranger things have happened.

    Blows about getting stood up- especially after all that preparation. Learning guitar is no small feat and having the guts to learn and rehearse a song for someone else is an unshakeable testament to your feelings towards this girl.

    But then again- when you get into a relationship with someone who’s already in one, you’re doing yourself a tremendous disservice by having expectations that are anything but low.

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