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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Panserhistory, Part 1: Charlotte

Since I started this journal several of you folks have asked me about my past. Who've I been with? you want to know. What was it like, being with them? Did they let you....y' THAT to them? Did they hurt you? Did you hurt them? Did you learn anything from them? Would you do it again, if you had a chance?

So I'm going to write some entries about my history, limited as it is, and let you see for yourself. As always, all names I use here have been changed. 

Part 1: Charlotte

We'll get the difficult stuff out of the way first. I didn't date at all through middle school and high school, didn't go to my junior or senior prom, never even kissed a girl. It wasn't for lack of interest, but being painfully shy, depressive, and geeky with a low self-image was enough to keep me from even asking anyone out. When I got to college, I at least attempted to grow and venture out a bit, but the first ten girls I asked out in my freshman year all said no or were dating someone already. Repeated rejections on top of an already low self-image was more than I was ready to handle at the time and I was pretty deeply depressed for much of my first year.

So when I finally got my initiation the way I did, it was one hell of a shock.

It was about four months till the end of the school year. In my slack time I was working for the university, a thankless administrative position that mostly had me sitting at a desk and looking up information for people who asked. One day, on my day off, one of my coworkers rang me up and told me to come by when I had some time, somebody -- a GIRL! -- had left a note for me at the desk. Curious, I walked halfway across campus to my work building and stopped by the front desk. My coworker handed me a sealed envelope with my name on it and said "Open it! Maybe it's a proposition for luuuuuuuuuuuuv." I punched him on the shoulder and said "Yeah, as if," but at his urging I did go ahead and open it up anyway.

And read: 

[my name] --

"If there were dreams to sell
Merry and sad to tell
And the crier rang his bell
What would you buy?"
-- S.S. Beddoes

I have wanted to ask you this for some time now. You intrigue me -- something not a lot of people do.

As always, 
Charlotte Richmond

I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. The world swam, literally, in front of my eyes -- everything went all wavery and swimmy. I staggered and almost fell, and had to clap a hand on the counter to steady myself. My coworker wanted to know what the hell was wrong but I could not find a single word to reassure him. I walked out without even thanking him for calling me. My mind was whirling and twirling willy-nilly and I was in a daze all the way back to my dorm.

I ran a quick directory search on her name and discovered that she lived in my own dorm, two floors above me. Emboldened by the note and by the phone number, I was nevertheless terrified, and for hours I tried to pick up the phone and call. Eventually, though, I did, and a warm friendly voice answered. I asked for Charlotte and she said "Speaking". I told her who I was and there was a long silence, which I finally broke. "Hello?"

"Well?" she wanted to know. "Tell me, then -- what would you buy?"

I took a deep breath. "Well, how about I stop by and we talk about it?"

She was smiling, I could tell she was smiling! I'd said the right thing! "That sounds good to me," she said. "I'm in room 617. Stop by anytime."


She was an enchanting vision to me, a small, very beautiful curvy girl with a shy smile, melting brown eyes, and a cloud of straight, light brown hair framing her face. I still remember how stunned I was when she first opened her door and I saw her for the first time. Hell, I remember how stunned my friends were when they saw her holding my arm. Surely, I thought, a girl like her would never really approach ME? But she had. She had a ready wit, a quiet humor that bubbled over only occasionally, but when it did it was like the sun breaking through clouds. We never officially became boyfriend and girlfriend, but from that day we were together at every spare moment we could manage. I was woefully inexperienced, but I did my best to fumble my way through the intricacies of a relationship. I treated her like a princess, which she really was, to me. We wrote poetry to each other. We would lay outside on the grass and watch the clouds. We would go to movies, or restaurants, or concerts -- all the usual stuff for college students. We would go walking across the campus, holding hands, silently communing. We would study together in her room and I would just watch her for long minutes, dust motes drifting in the sunlight between us during those endless spring days. We would talk on the phone when we weren't together -- well, I would talk and she would listen, usually.

Unfortunately, Charlotte was not the best partner for somebody who was as uncertain and inexperienced as me. She was equally reticent, equally inexperienced (from what little I gathered of her over the months we were together) and equally shy -- it was a miracle she'd even reached out to me in the first place. We had some short kissing sessions -- she was the first girl I kissed, and the first girl I ever kissed with tongue -- but never anything more than that, even after a few months of dating. Her roommate was almost always in the room and I was too afraid to invite her back to my room for any privacy. In addition, she had a number of personality quirks I tried to accomodate at first, but became serious issues over time. She was a strict vegetarian while I'm an unabashed meatasaurus; every time we ate somewhere she would express disapproval over my choices. She was very very quiet, and I spent almost all my time with her trying to get her to talk to me and tell me what she was thinking or feeling. In fact, I poured my soul out to her more than once, only to have her simply smile and say that I hadn't told her anything she didn't already know -- but she never, never reciprocated. She rarely told me why she was with me, or complimented me, or gave me any indication at all why she was with me, period. It's hard when things are that one-sided. She liked to keep me off balance by saying things I'd never expect -- once, while we were at my parents' place, visiting, she grabbed my butt and said "You have a nice rear," then smiled at me and went outside before I could say or do anything. She was a true child of chaos -- taking every day as it came and rarely having a plan, which was at odds with my more methodical nature.

But the biggest stumbling block was that she liked to argue with me just for the sake of the argument, just to see how I would express myself and what points I would raise. She admitted freely that she would just start arguments by saying things that she knew I'd disagree with or that she didn't really mean, and then see how I reacted. This grew old very quickly. In fact, it was the cause of our final split.

We had been dating for about seven months (three of those included summer break, during which she went back home and I only talked to her via phone and letters). We had returned to college and were seeing each other again, and the old problems kept coming up. Still, I tried and tried to make it work, but one night things came to a head. One of the many arguments she'd started with me that night grew, and grew, and grew. She kept provoking me, deliberately saying wilder and wilder things that I knew for a fact were completely against her normal beliefs, until I was in a towering rage. I finally told her I had had enough for the night and slammed out the door.

It was three days before I called her again, and when I did I was informed by her roommate that she didn't want to talk to me any more. I was probably expected to fight for the relationship, but the fact is that I had so little spine at the time that I simply took it without a whimper. I did see her two weeks later after a few attempts to contact her, and we had an enormously awkward dinner at a local restaurant during which little was said and absolutely nothing was resolved. She told me that she would call me in two weeks to let me know what she thought and what she felt. And then I never saw her again.

I did hear from her one more time -- that Christmas, she sent me a card, in which she apologized for her behavior and said that no matter what she had said previously, I was a wonderful person -- a little shy and depressive maybe but a true romantic. She told me that she'd be around her apartment during the holidays if I needed a friend, but I never did call her, figuring it was better to leave things be......and that was the end. 

I'll always be grateful to her, though. She may have been withdrawn, enigmatic, quiet, and chaotic, with personality quirks aplenty. She may have driven me absolutely crazy and kept me off balance from start to finish. And things with her ended very poorly. But she was also stunningly beautiful and intelligent, intoxicating, and enormously good for my ego -- not only was she the first girl I'd ever been with, but she approached me, showing me that yes, I could be desirable and interesting to women. She showed me things I'd never had before, and I'll always remember how her body felt against mine. When she was in my arms, it was like a piece of heaven. No one since then has ever felt quite the same.

Thank you, Charlotte, wherever you are today. Almost two decades later, I still have that note you first sent me.

-- PB

(Note: Those of you who're here just for the hot stuff, there will be more sex in other History entries....but Charlotte deserved special mention even if we never did have sex.)


frances said...

How sweetly you talk of her. Sex or not this was lovely to read.

Anonymous said...

What a tender retelling of your past PB. Really...perhaps it was a perfect "first" real relationship and it sounds as if you learned a lot about yourself in the process as well.


The Panserbjørne said...

Frances: Thank you! I'm glad you liked this glimpse into my past. I do still think of her fondly even though it didn't end at all well.

Southerngirl: I did indeed learn a lot, mostly about what does NOT work in a relationship, and about what things I consider to be real deal-breakers. And I learned a lot about self-confidence, which helped me in later years. Thanks for chiming in!

-- PB

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, it's not always about the hot & sexy stuff. It's about discovery, about the journey we take.

I like learning a bit of your past. That was absolutely beautiful to read... and I just realized it's part 1, so we get even more history. How great is that? :)

Gray said...

That is so sweet. What an interesting way to be inducted into the wonderful world of dating.

The Panserbjørne said...

Spring Flower: Oh yes, there will be other entries in this series! I'm glad you liked this one.

Gray: It sure as hell rocked my world, that's for sure! I'll wager not many other first dates came about like that. :) Happy you enjoyed this!

-- PB

Cheeky Minx said...

The "firsts" are always so touchingly vivid - so electric, so ripe with possibility, and sometimes beautifully fraught with lessons we sorely need to learn. (And the best lesson of all was the one centred around your self-confidence.)

Just lovely PB...

Elizabeth said...

Beautifully always.

I'm not here for the sex...really, I'm not...I'm here for your breathtaking words.

The Panserbjørne said...

Minx: I did get all misty-eyed thinking about her today. It had been a while but it's still as bittersweet as ever. I'm glad you liked it.

Elizabeth: That's a nice thing to hear! Thanks very much for saying so.

-- PB

Violet Vamp said...

What a touching story of personal discovery. Your words are so delicately strung together, such descriptions. Thank you. Thank you for sharing such tenderness.

Luna Mauvaise said...

Lovin' the love and the tribute, PB. Just lovely.

The Panserbjørne said...

Violet Vamp: I confess the reaction to this entry has been considerably warmer than I expected. Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate them more than you know.

Luna: Thanks so much! It's nice of you to say so.

-- PB

Library Vixen said...

oh oh i love the non-fiction side of you. It's about time. More more I want more. Reality is so intoxicatingly tragic.

Thanks for sharing.

The Panserbjørne said...

Vixxy: No worries, there will definitely be more. I'm glad you liked this one.

-- PB