By the time Friday rolled around, the soreness I felt from my first MMA class was finally starting to fade. After doing my morning stretches in order to help wake myself up and keep me limber, I checked my phone.
My notifications were lit up by angry messages from my dad reprimanding me for random nonsense and a single reply Cole sent the night before. As much as I’m looking forward to the first club social tonight where we can all get to know each other before the year officially begins, the hollow disappointment I felt from that message still hung over me.
As time passed and I needed to get ready to socialize, the constant doubts and fears of what I could’ve done better when speaking to Cole about such a sensitive topic weighed heavily on my mind.
I took a deep breath and styled my hair, allowing my insecurities and anxieties to flow out of my head following the teeth of the comb.
I won’t let one little set back stop me from making friends!
With one last affirmation in the mirror, I stepped out into the world to attend my first college social.
Or at least that was my plan initially, until I got extremely lost once again.
Although the was a pub right outside of campus, I could barely find my way off of the schoolgrounds in the first place. Luckily, I left early to make a good impression but if I didn’t start heading in the right direction now, I’d end up late.
As I looked around in sheer desperation, I saw someone walking towards me in the distance. The setting sun behind them shone like a beacon of hope, guiding my way.
I jogged over to them in a last-ditch effort to figure out where I was going only to see them abruptly turn around and start walking in the opposite direction.
“Excuse me!” I yelled after them, desperate for help, “I’m really lost at the moment and could use some directions, please!”
Just as I was running out of breath, they suddenly stopped and turned around.
“Do you use that line on every girl you try to pick up?” She said, obviously annoyed.
“Hazel? Oh hi, I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was you.” I stammered over my words as she stared at me dismissively, arms crossed. “I’m really sorry about before but it was just a misunderstanding! I just get lost easily and I still don’t know my way around…”
“Uh huh,” she replied tritely, obviously not interested in a word I had to say. “So where do you need to go this time?”
“The Happy Hour Pub on 2nd Street…” I spoke into my shoes, too dejected to make eye contact.
She sighed heavily before gesturing over her shoulder with her thumb. “It’s right around that corner. Your sense of direction is almost as bad as your game, huh?”
“I said it was a misunderstanding, I swear! I really enjoyed the time we spent together, and I can’t thank you enough for helping me twice, especially after before.” I looked into her eyes pleadingly, hoping to bury the hatchet.
“Alright, alright. Just stop looking at me like that, I get it.” She said exhaustedly. “From now on, let’s just pretend that nothing ever happened and agree to be strangers, okay?”
She held out her hand for a handshake, cementing the deal.
It’s better than nothing.
“Oh, and by the way,” she interjected as we shook hands, “The Happy Hour pub isn’t around the next corner, it’s on the corner after that one. Sorry, I was feeling a bit spiteful.”
She gave me a small smirk before walking away, waving her hand over her shoulder and not looking back. I let out a breath of relief, finally having settled one of my mistakes since coming here.
With a newfound second wind, I continued forward and turned at the first intersection ahead of me, ready to fully socialize with my new club members.
Ten minutes and a few more corners later and I finally found the Happy Hour Pub. I peeked in as I arrived, trying to spot my group until I saw Andrew sitting in the back corner at a large table by himself.
“Yo Kyle, you’re late!” His voice boomed while he waved at me. Hearing him from across the busy room reminded me that he, in fact, was training to be a shout caster in the future.
“Where’s everyone else?” I asked, brushing past the use of my new name.
“Well Alix just went to the bathroom and as for everyone else… they aren’t here yet.”
“What do you mean no one is here yet?” I checked my phone in exasperation, “I’m nearly fifteen minutes late and you two are the only ones who have arrived?”
“Dude, we’re in college, no one shows up on time to things.” Andrew responded with a complete laissez faire attitude.
I sat down awkwardly at the large and empty table, waiting for more people to show up. About an hour later, all of the members of the club had finally gathered and it felt like an actual party.
At first, I felt a bit awkward being the only new member who showed up, but over time, the club allowed me to easily engage in conversations and even filled me in on a few inside jokes.
This is the college life that I was hoping for. Finally!
Just as I felt that the night was peaking, I felt mild vibrations in my pocket. I crept away from the group and stepped outside to check my phone, my heart sinking upon reading the caller ID.
“Hello?” I asked nervously, grimacing as I heard the phone connect.
“Lucas? Where are you right now?” A stern and gravelly voice rumbled over my phone speaker.
“Hey dad, I’m doing swell, thanks for asking.” I mumbled to myself, already bracing for another lecture.
“Lucas! I allowed you to attend a university out of state so you could be a doctor, not so you could gallivant about the night with drugs and alcohol.”
“First off,” I replied, a lump growing in my chest, “how do you know I’m not just studying in my room right now?”
“Your phone has a GPS on it Lucas, it’s the 21st century.”
“You can’t just track my phone!”
“Don’t take that tone with me, sir! I own that phone; I can do whatever I want with it.”
I breathed out unsteadily, the lump in my chest now suffocating me.
“I admit that I’m out late but I’m not drinking or doing any drugs, I’m just out with some friends in my new club.”
“What club? It better not be another waste of your time.”
“It’s the… science club?” I lied, hoping the phone speaker would hide the shakiness of my voice.
“Hmph, no self-respecting science club would stay out that late. Quit immediately and head back to your room this instant.”
“Fine, anything to succeed your legacy, dear father of mine.”
I hung up the phone before he could scold me any further. As much as I wanted to stay longer, I knew that he probably had someone watching my GPS at this very moment.
I briefly went back inside to tell the club that something came up and that I had to go. Although they seemed concerned, I silently thanked them for not prying any further as I left the pub and went back to my room.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.