On Thursday morning, I ran into a guy I'll call Nick. I first knew Nick twelve years ago when we were work study employees at a museum. He was sarcastic and kind of funny, so we hit off pretty well. He paid a lot of attention to me, which I found too flattering - I admit I was very lonely at the time, a little desperate, and overly willing to ignore the frequent nervous twitching in his face. Anyway, I could tell he was interested in me, which probably made me like him more than I would have otherwise. I was a surprised and disappointed when he mentioned that he had a girlfriend he'd been seeing for a couple years. Then he started hinting that he and she were on the rocks. Eventually, I got the feeling that Nick wanted me to get him to break up with his girlfriend to be with me, but I just couldn't do that. I may have been lonely, but I still had my moral limits.
Around the time Nick would have figured out that I wasn't going to be his home wrecker, he started paying attention to another girl at work, who I'll call Tanya. One night he and Tanya dropped in at Amer's (my other job) and he bought her an ice cream cone that I had to scoop. That was weird and subtly upsetting. When he and I were working together at the museum, he would drop hints about spending time alone with her. Again, I felt as if he were baiting me, hoping to have three women fight for his affections. I definitely didn't want any part of that.
A few weeks after the ice cream incident, Nick called me to tell me that he had dumped the "bad" girlfriend and that he and Tanya were dating. I didn't say a single negative word. I even congratulated him. But honestly, I was stung. It wasn't that I was missing out on some great guy as I could clearly see that Nick was being a total dick, but his manipulation hurt my feelings. I didn't like being made to feel jealous and I especially hated that there was this new and unprecedented weirdness between Tanya and me. Why would someone want to fuck with me like that?
Eventually, I figured out that Nick was just bonkers, maybe even a psychopath. A year after he and Tanya got together, I ran into him in my new neighborhood. He had just moved in around the corner from the student co-op where I was living. He invited me over to see his place. I was curious, because I could tell he was up to something, so I accepted his invitation. Within thirty minutes of walking through his front door, he was hinting that he and Tanya weren't getting along. It was all so predictable. He was trying to set me up again, which is why I found enormous satisfaction in telling him that I was dating one of my fellow co-opers. That revelation made Nick's face twitch a lot. He didn't call me again after that.
I remember the exact day when I last ran into Nick. It was on St. Patrick's Day 2005, and I was leaving the Michigan Theater after a long Film Festival work day. My friend M was coming to pick me up so we could go bar-hopping. I was standing under the marquee near a line of festival-goers when he stepped up to me. I hadn't seen him in a few years. I don't remember what we talked about, but he was making those same twitchy, unblinking faces that he once made when he was confiding his girlfriend troubles to me. I did my bit of polite small talk until M saved me with a tap of her car horn and then I said goodbye to Nick.
After I climbed into her car, M immediately turned to me and said, "My god, who were you talking to?"
"Oh, he's just this creepy guy I used to know."
"Tara! He looked like he wanted to kill you."
Those words rang through my head on Thursday morning, as I was getting my coffee at work. I saw Nick standing at the register, making a twitch face. I don't think he saw me. As quickly as I could fill my cup, I was sailing out the back door to the Employees Only area. I decided that was a cigarette moment, so I bummed one from my co-worker B.
As I was handing B's lighter back to him, I said, "I just saw a guy that I knew twelve years ago who's crazy. And you know what? He didn't look a day older than he did twelve years ago. Crazy people don't age, do they?"
B's a smart guy, older. He grinned. "No, they don't."
"Because they're suspended in their nuttiness, right?"
That very night, when I was riding the #4 bus to Ypsilanti, I glanced down the aisle and noticed a guy I'll call George. George was one of my housemates from that student co-op. Seeing him sitting there, I felt like I had traveled ten years back in time. He had the same knee-length jean shorts, navy polo shirt, Ralph Wiggam hair and creaseless baby face. Crazy ass George, who used to tell bald faced lies about the strangest things, looking the same as ever. I stared at the window the rest of the ride, until I made my swift exit out the backdoor. That was my April Fool's Day.