I met her at school. We both had three semesters to go; I was majoring in chemistry, and she... well, I don't remember what she was majoring in, actually. Funny how these details can slip my mind now...
Funny thing was, I didn't fall for her right away, like I did with all the girls before her, even though I did think she was cute. We had a calc class together, and somehow I ended up tutoring her, but she was just another fellow student in a churning sea of humanity. At first. I was annoyed initially by her lack of interest and her failure to grasp, as I so often was with people who couldn't see the simple logic behind mathematics, but I tried not to show it. Eventually, she got it, and (perhaps because of that) we became friends.
We went to the malls, and the movies, and we took some meals together. Of course, we kept studying calculus as well, though I was pleased to note that she was no longer perplexed and dependent upon me for guidance. Mike warned me that it would end in disaster ("Remember 'When Harry Met Sally,'" he always admonished, "guys can't just be friends with women they find attractive"), but I'd had several friendships with women, and I just laughed at him.
We decided to go to a party together. Well, it was more like she twisted my arm because she didn't want to walk in there alone, nor with a gaggle of her girlfriends. I'd never gone to a frat party, couldn't stand the hosts, but I guess I let her talk me into it. In any case, we went, and we both drank too much. Way too much.
We managed to make it to my apartment. How, I'll never know. She was feeling queasy by then, so I urged her to come in and lie down. Mike was home for the weekend, so I wasn't worried about waking him up. I'm not really sure who kissed whom first, but, well, things rapidly spiralled out of control. No need for the sticky details...
To my surprise, she wasn't mortified when we woke up the next afternoon. Hung over, yes, but not disgusted, with herself or me. We did decide that it was just a one-time thing, though, and neither of us expected any more from the other. We even managed to continue our study sessions and lunches without any awkwardness.
The problem came a few short weeks later. "Pregnant?!?" I was dumbfounded. Not like I had any right to be, considering I hadn't given any thought to protection. Tina just nodded at me, her eyes big as some really big round things. "Please don't ask me to... you know, have a..." I stopped her. "The thought never crossed my mind. I want to have this child. But let's not talk about the future right now. Let's just celebrate the present. We're having a baby!"
Yeah, I know: corny. Truth is, my mind was reeling, and I couldn't handle talk of marriage and moving in together and dirty diapers and everything else at that moment. I took her out for dinner (some Italian restaurant, how cliché), and promised her that the next day we would discuss everything. Which we did. I told her I'd marry her if that was what she wanted; it must've sounded hollow to her, it sure did to me, but what's an honorable guy to do? Even if she didn't want that, I said, I'd still be there for her and the baby. At least one of our educations would be derailed, I reminded her, but that could be remedied. I brought up full- and part-time jobs, and my parents' wishing for grandkids to coo over, and income tax refunds, and a million other things that, surprise, I can't remember now. I do remember her looking a little dazed, almost scared, but that was to be expected.
It's been four years since Tina drove over a cliff in some quarry in northern Jersey. I thank her every night for having set the car afire first, ensuring an explosion, because if I'd had to identify the remains, the image that haunts me every second of every minute of every sleepless hour wouldn't be quite such a poignant and lovely one. The men in white coats (not what they call themselves, but hey, let's be honest) say I'm working through my grief and my rage. They might be right. I don't scream her name nearly as often as I used to.