So, here I am, on the final Thursday of the month, ready to present to you the fifth of the five über entries to be presented as part of this month’s Thirty-One series. We began, as you may recall, with an entry on Girls, Musicals, Proms, and Graduation. That fine exhibition of writing prowess was followed up by Soma: Behind the Music, Looking for Love in All The Wrong Places, and A Lick and a Promise - The E! True Hollywood Story. And now, here we are, ready to finish up and move on.
With these über entries, my goal had been to shed light on one of the most turbulent and exciting periods of my life, the years stretching from 1995-1998. And it is only fitting that I end this series within a series with a retelling of the most significant moment in my life up to that point. It is only fitting that I end this series of entries on the stormy social seas I weathered as a young man by describing to you how I finally came to the opposite shore, and how I became a better person for it.
Stephanie and I spent most of the day on Thursday working closely together in our house, cleaning and making room for baby, so it’s also fitting that this last of the Thursday über entries is about her. And now, without further ado:
Another Secret Admirer - Stephanie & Me
It all began, I think it is safe to say, during a New Year’s Eve spent in New York; at the very least, that’s when the wheels were set in motion. While we shivered amidst the crowds in Times Square, vagrants pissing on our shoes, strange men eyeing the girls behinds, my best friend began, in her brain, to imagine a romantic scenario involving the reconcilliation of two former lovers — if lovers is even the right word for two people who had never slept together and who had barely seen each other in their final months “together” — one of those lovers happening to be me.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, as most of the suggestions seemed to be happening behind the scenes but, in any event, nothing came of them during our time in New York, nor did anything come of them on the ride home, where I and the other party, an ex-girlfriend of mine, where in the car together for hours on end, nor did anything come of them in the month and a half that followed. It wasn’t until we neared Valentine’s Day that any significant, noticeable action was taken at all.
It was on the Thursday before Valentine’s day when a most unusual and anonymous declaration of interest was made. Whilst transporting programs for the upcoming premiere of the Student Theatre Festival, which was to feature my play, A Lick and a Promise, I was accosted by a member of the senior class, one of several who had been selling different color roses outside of the dining hall in the preceding week. A pink rose had been purchased for me, as it turned out, and it was his task to deliver it. Busy as I was, I accepted the token, tossed it into my box of programs, and continued on my way.
I didn’t think much about it until I came home after DaPonte’s staged reading of Oleanna that evening. When I came home I went straight into Stacey and Angela’s room, where it seemed most of the house was gathered, listening to Stephanie rant about how she was going to become a lesbian because of her frustration with men.
I sat down and showed them my pink rose. Jimmy made a big deal about how this meant I had a secret admirer, that pink roses were designated for just such a thing. The girls listened in and probably laughed as I flushed and wondered aloud who it could be.
One of them, though I wouldn’t know it until days later, was thinking to herself, “Oh no. Someone’s going to get to him before I’ve had my chance.”
[Excerpted from A Secret Admirer]
The rest of the evening came and went. I’m not sure if Jimmy knew who it was all along or only found out later on, but I spent at least part of my time over the next twenty-four hours trying to make a guess.
Just before dinner on that Friday evening, Friday the thirteenth, I drove down the street from the college to pick up Rachael, who was coming into town from Pennsylvania for the weekend, both to see my show and just to hang out. I got her up to speed in the car before we sat down to eat, and before I had to be over in the theater to start the show.
We went to dinner and a heap of friends greeted us, all of them supremely excited to see Rachael. The person I suspected was there, as was the person it actually was. I think some of my housemates might have been there as well. I don’t remember much about it though, except for a heap of conversation and laughter and then my abrupt departure to get ready for the show. I’m pretty sure Rachael came with me and just hung out while Evil Deb and I prepared the theater for the first night of the annual Student Theater Festival…
...Back at the Cluster House after the show, Rachael confessed she’d discovered who the Secret Admirer was. We sat in the dining room and I guessed name after name until I got it right, neither one of us knowing that there was a pair of ears pressed to a door one level up, trying to hear what we were saying. I don’t know if that pair of ears could hear how disappointed I was with discovering the identity of my admirer (It was someone I was happy being just friend with, and nothing more), but that pair of ears decided the next day to do something about their own hidden feelings.
[Excerpted from A Lick and a Promise]
I spent the next day with Rachael. Here’s how it went down.
I spent Valentine’s Day 1998 with my dear friend Rachael. We drove into Boston, hung out, and did some shopping. At the end of the day, before it was time for me to head over to the theater to prep for the second night of A Lick And A Promise, Rachael and I ate at Papa Gino’s in Plaistow, NH. We had just enough time to stop by the Cluster House quickly before the show and so we did. It was then that the true craziness began.
When Rachael and I returned to the Cluster, I was hoping to get in and out fast and then get over to the show. I didn’t have much time. Stacey, however, didn’t know this, and made a point of stopping me in the hallway as I was rushing around with my head cut off. She handed me an envelope that had been left for me. I probably mentioned something about not having time to open it, but she implored me to do so, and so I did.
Inside the envelope was a card with cute Kim Anderson photograph on the front, one of a little girl with a flower, and inside the card was written, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I wanted you to know that I’ve been watching you - Another Secret Admirer.”
I was positively irate.
This had to be some sort of joke. I hadn’t told that many people about the first secret admirer. Who among them could possibly be serious about being another secret admirer? No one! I was pissed off, and so I left for my show, not knowing what the fuck was going on.
[Excerpted from Another Secret Admirer]
Luckily, the jockeying for positioning in my romantic life that was going on behind the scenes didn’t mar my enjoyment of the second night of my play. The evening of the show came and went and then Jimmy and I headed over to Academy Hall for the cast party, where everyone but me was falling over drunk, many of them spilling things on me and suspecting that the evening’s events would someday make it into some future play. Always beward the quiet one, especially when you spill Goldschlager on them.
Anyway, the next day would be maddening, a sort of aftermath to everything else that had gone on that weekend, and I’m pretty happy with how the original entry came out, so I’ll just let it speak for itself.
Rachael and I woke up early on Sunday morning so I could drive her to South Station in Boston for the train ride home. I can’t remember if she slept in my bed or Russel’s (nothing like that happened regardless of which side it was) but I do recall that from the moment we got up to the moment we finally pulled out of the parking lot, things were so tense and so awful that I still feel uncomfortable thinking about it today.
Russel was pissed at Rachael for spending the majority of her weekend at Bradford hanging out with me. Yes, they’d been broken up for almost a year at this point, but that didn’t matter. He’d expected her to hang with him that weekend. She’d spent so much time with me and with other friends on previous visits that I can understand why. I can’t understand, however, why he reacted the way he did.
There was yelling and screaming that woke up the entire house. Rachael and I walked out to the car and then he was calling to her from the window of the Cluster House. I think she went back inside for a second and they argued some more. She came back out and we were about to leave when he came outside and they talked some more in the parking lot. He gave her the world’s largest guilt trip by the looks of it and after a little more yelling, she got in the car and we drove.
She cried a little and couldn’t understand why he was treating her that way, but by the time we’d made it a few miles down the highway things were better. We had a good conversation and I hugged her goodbye at the train station. She wished me luck with my quest to discover what was going on with these multiple secret admirers and then we went our separate ways.
When I got back to campus I did go back into the Cluster House, but I avoided my room like the plague. I wanted nothing to do with my roommate. He’d pissed me off with the way he treated Rachael one too many times. It was in that moment that Russel and I could no longer be friends in the way that we were. I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.
Upstairs in Jimmy’s room, Stacey, Stephanie, and Jimmy were sitting on Jimmy’s bed. I spoke with them about the Rachael and Russel situation and then a little about the secret admirer thing.
Jimmy said something about how frustrated he was that he was single. I told him he could have one of my secret admirers because I had one to spare. On this comment, Stacey flushed and leaned against Jimmy’s shoulder. All of a sudden Stephanie disappeared from view behind the two of them. Something struck me about that moment. Something had just happened, but I wasn’t sure what.
I took my leave from the house for the rest of the day, not wanting to run into Russel at all. I think I spent some time at the library. Eventually, as night descended, I made my way to one of the Tupelos (four-story dorms that sat in between Tupelo Pond and the Cluster Houses) to visit Nikki and Heather T.. A drunken evening ensued. I didn’t drink, but I did watch Nikki and her boyfriend Brad and Helen and a couple of others get drunk and watch a very creepy version of Sweeney Todd. Heather didn’t drink much either. She spent most of her time out in the hallway on the phone with her boyfriend Barry.
When it was suitably late and I was sure I wouldn’t run into anyone, I went back to my Cluster and went to sleep.
It was a Monday, the sixteenth of February, 1998, that the resolution to that weekend’s drama finally played itself out. Again, I’ll let the entry speak for itself.
I don’t remember why I spent all of Monday February 16, 1998 away from the Cluster House. Nobody else who was around then does either. There was still a lingering anger towards my roommate, but it was a day off from classes and I certainly had to work to find enough things to keep me away from the house all day. Nobody can remember why I spent the whole day away from the house, but everyone can remember where they were when I came home, when life as I knew it was forever altered by an admirer who finally saw fit to reveal herself.
The house was strangely quiet when I came home that evening. I came in the front door, turned left and trekked down the hallway into my room, content to spend the evening doing homework. I’d finally decided I was through being pissed off at Russel for his argument with Rachael on Sunday morning. It was going to be a normal evening home and then off to bed.
A commotion started out in the hallway a few minutes later and I went out to investigate. Stephanie, my housemate from upstairs, who’d just been through the ordeal of getting rid of her shitty roommate, was standing out in the hallway with her hair in two braids. She looked cute and younger than her 21 years. She held in her hand a small white envelope. When I looked closely, I saw that my name was on it.
She handed me the note. “This is for you,” she said, and then she boosted herself up to sit on the bannister while I sat down on the steps leading up to the middle level of the Cluster to read it.
The first line brought two days of wondering to a close. Very simply, very clearly, it spelled out, “I am the other secret admirer.” Before I read any further, I looked up at her and my heart began to pound. It wasn’t a joke after all.
I read on and she talked about how impressed she’d been with the way I handled the whole Housemate Controversy, how I’d listened to both sides and been very mature about it. She said that was the icing on the cake. She’d been noticing me for a while, wanting to get to know me better. And when the other note came she realized she had to do something fast, or else risk losing her chance altogether.
When I was done there were smiles and a hug and even though neither one of us really asked each other out, there was the understanding that our “getting to know each other better” consituted the start of a relationship. Slowly, housemates who had been in the know began to come out of the woodwork. Donna and Stacey suggested that we take a drive, that the new boyfriend and girlfriend should have some time to hang out together before bed.
I went back into my room to grab my coat. Russel was reading but he could tell when I came in that something had happened. Even though there was still a trace of anger within me towards him, I confided in him the story, because who else could I tell? Quickly, he congratulated me and I ran out to catch up with the others.
Donna drove the four of us up to Wentworth By The Sea, an abandoned hotel up on the Atlantic coast in New Hampshire, with Stef and I in the back seat not knowing how to act in this awkward, forced situation. The place kinda spooked everyone out. I’m not sure why they took us there, but Stef wasn’t a big fan of the place and even though I’d never seen it, I’m sure there were other places that would have been better suited for two shell-shocked people to spend their first moments as a couple.
We came home and I went off to bed, knowing it was the beginning of a long, strange trip, and that this one would be unlike anything else I’d ever experienced.
[From Our First Moment]
Still rather ill-equipped in matters of the heart, I found myself both excited and terrified. This seemed, from the start, like it could be the beginning of a completely different sort of thing than I’d ever experienced before, a mostly wonderful thing, and I didn’t want to mess it up right there at the start. So, in typical ChrisClark fashion, I avoided the girl who had just professed her feelings for me like she was the plague.
...I was avoiding Stephanie because I didn’t know what to say. The rest of the afternoon went by and it began to rain outside. When I finally had to come back to the Cluster House later that night, I took the long way around the back of the Clusters because I wanted to avoid seeing Stef, who was studying in one of the rooms on the lower level.
[Excerpted from [From Our First Kiss]
And that was that — we’ve been together ever since. I could go over more of the story but, really, this entire website is about Stephanie and me. Even before she was wrote out that card, the things I was doing and the paths I was choosing were all leading to her, were all preparing me for this most strange and complicated and miraculous chapter of my life.