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Two all beef patties and a restraining order

The downside of being a mysterious paramour

So I’m 16, a senior in high school, my dad and I are driving along and he turns to me and says, “Are you gay?” What? But I understood his confusion. I never had a girlfriend, not even a single date in high school. I thought the reason was obvious; I was chubby, hairless and timid, so I spent my Saturday nights at home, in my room, listening to love songs and dreaming of romances to come.

By sophomore year in college I was dating; still an awkward but enthusiastic beginner. I’d ventured away from the comfort of the engineering campus to find women in greater numbers.

I was in the McDonalds by Humanities when I first saw Rachel; dark hair, dark eyes; lovely!

I still remember the first words she said to me. “Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?”

I was ready. I said, “Yes, my doctor said I’m not getting enough cholesterol. What would you suggest?” Her laugh was like a lilting birdsong in the forest!

So I start hiking over to McDonalds every day for lunch, waiting in Rachel’s line even if another register was open trying to get up the nerve to ask her out when I happened to mention Rachel to my roommate’s girlfriend Joyce. She says, “Rachel? Dark hair, dark eyes, laugh like a lilting birdsong in the forest? (She didn’t say that) I know Rachel! We were roommates.” As Joyce talked about that semester, I made mental notes of some of the details.

Next day I order my burger and casually mention, “I’ve heard all the most beautiful women in Wisconsin are from Green Bay. Where are you from?” Rachel says, “Green Bay” I said, “Huh, then it’s true!” Oh, that laugh. And a little curious side-eye.

For the next week I came in every day and used another little bit of trivia Joyce had shared. Nothing more than you’d know from looking at a Facebook profile nowadays but, back then, kinda mysterious, right? I figured she was starting to realize we had friends in common. Maybe even Joyce. But I kinda hoped she hadn’t since I was enjoying this little intrigue.

Finally I decided, tomorrow is the big day. I’m going to ask Rachel out. I happened to see Joyce and she asks me, “Are you going to see Rachel again soon?” (I didn’t tell her I was seeing Rachel every day.) “Do me a favor? Say hi for me and return her book.” She hands me the book, I flip through the pages and see that for a bookmark Joyce had been using a picture of her and her roommates, including Rachel! She reaches for it and I said, “Wait, can I hang onto the picture until I see her tomorrow?” (Shrug)

So, the next day I’m ready to pop the question, I set the book down on the counter with the picture poking out enough for Rachel to see and looked up at the menu. I saw her look down at the book. “You know what I really want today? You know what would make me very happy?” I looked down at her, she looked up at me, our eyes met and she said … “Why are you doing this to me?” The heat from my ears and cheeks could have melted cheese. “Just leave me alone!” And boy did I! I ran out of there!

Maybe you saw that coming. I didn’t. Until after when I realized she didn’t see me as a mysterious paramour, she saw a stalker. I didn’t intrigue her! She wasn’t looking for me in the yearbook; she was looking over her shoulder to make sure I wasn’t following her.

There’s no happy ending here. Other than maybe Rachel never took out a restraining order. Joyce called and told her I was just a big, stupid, clueless, harmless engineer.

Still, for the rest of the semester, as much as I love McDonalds, I bought my burgers on the Engineering campus.

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