We last left Nora at nineteen. Here is a quick recap of the next seven years.
I left Purdue after my sophomore year. I continued to live in West Lafayette for a while, working in a skating rink and hanging out with the punk-rock kids. I moved to Indianapolis and took a few classes at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis) and worked in a nursing home full time, until I started working at Benihana restaurant -- which was the first restaurant I'd ever worked in, unless you count making cotton candy and Sno Cones at the rink. I was having fun, but not too much fun - if you know what I mean. I was still basically a good kid, although I'm sure those years gave my parents fits. I turned twenty-one and dated punk-rock boy. Carol was attending school in NYC and I spent weeks at a time sleeping on her dorm room floor and soaking in the city.
When I was twenty-two a nice farm boy from Lafayette called and I was immediately smitten. GB and I spent a lot of time together and I re-enrolled in school so I could move closer to him. Carol was back at Purdue and she and I became roommates again. I did much better in school that time around, worked at a nursing home and a pizza place and spent a ton of time with GB. The only thing that was wrong with our relationship was my immaturity. GB proposed and I freaked out and dated one of his friends. It was awful for everyone, but I learned some huge relationship lessons. I've never been unfaithful since then, and I learned that breaking someone's heart sucks as much as getting your heart broken.
I graduated when I was twenty-six with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant management and nineteen job offers. Being an "older" student with work experience paid off at interview time. Today I was sitting in Elliott Hall of Music in almost the same, if not the same seat I had for my graduation.
Today I was there to see the Dalai Lama. He was charming and wise and surprisingly funny. All and all it was a lovely day. I took the day off, had a nice leisurely morning, drove to West Lafayette and had lunch with Mom and two friends. Our seats for the talk were wonderful, in the eighth row, center. Supporting the Convocations series finally paid off ( I cashed in all of the points I've earned over the years). There was no one in the seat in front of me and I could really see all of his expressions. Mom rode back with my aunt and uncle that joined us for the talk. My friends and I took our time driving back to Indianapolis stopping for coffee in Lafayette and for dinner in Zionsville -- my friend Scott was playing with his jazz trio at the restaurant.
At twenty-six I was more confident around boys that I liked than I am twenty years later. The last time a boy cozied up to me I talked about Leprosy as he tried to kiss me. Seriously, Leprosy. What the Hell is wrong with me?
I stopped at the Red Key on the way home. Band practice boy was there and invited me to join him. We were having a nice conversation about books and music and our families and our jobs. I was giving myself a virtual pat on the back for how well it was going. I hadn't talked about a disease or spilled anything yet. Our waitress (and my coworker) handed me a note. I looked at it and blanched. And since I was rude and read it in front of him, I felt like I needed to show it to him. "Bring tampons, the drawer is empty." I started keeping a stash behind the bar a couple of years ago for the waitresses and customers. That sure interrupted our conversation about our favorite authors. I'd just recovered from that when Lana stopped by our table for another story. The Red Key sells little screw cap bottles of wine. We are phasing them out and pouring wine from actual bottles. In my five years of working at the Red Key I'd never sold a little bottle of White Zinfandel. There were at least twenty-five in the cooler and a case of forty-eight in the basement a few months ago when I grumbled one night that I'd do a naked cartwheel when all of the White Zin was sold. Inexplicably the wine started disappearing -- at an alarming rate. A few weeks ago when we were down to twenty bottles, I joked that maybe I still had time to lose twenty pounds... and learn how to do a cartwheel. We're now down to three bottles. So, Lana is telling this story, only changing a few details. Like that I needed to lose THIRTY pounds.
So, if I don't manage to screw up an encounter with a boy, at least I know that here is someone close by to do it for me.