Monday, August 1, 2011

My Cameroonian roommate, learning the game

Me: "How's that Indian girl?"

Him: "Oh, I went on a date with her. No big."

"Whoa. So you going out with her?"

"Well, we're going on a date next week. She said, 'Let's do this again.'"

"Damn man, congrats."

"It was so easy man. See, I was going out with some friends and invited her along. She told me she was hanging out with her friend from Columbia, but maybe she'd see me at the office tomorrow. So I go to the office the next day, and get this -- I come in and instead of going to her desk like I usually do, I say hi and then go to my desk and do my work, until she comes over to me! She asks me, 'So, what exactly is your job this summer?' and at this point I'm like come on man, we've been working 10 weeks already, is that what you really want to know? We have this conversation: 'I'm hungry, I'm going to grab food right now.' 'Again?' 'I get hungry alot.' 'Do you want to grab food later tonight?' 'Ok, but I need to check with my cousin. He's in town.' 15 minutes later, she comes back and says sure, the cousin's out of the picture, let's do it. But she makes sure to add on -- and this cracked me up -- 'But let's make it a quick dinner.'"

"Which it obviously isn't."

"Right. We're there for 2 hours."

"Of course. Plausible deniability. She couldn't throw herself fully, immediately, and tell you she'd love to have dinner. She wanted to be demure, put on that un-needy facade."

"Yup. I know what's going on man, I know what's going on."

"Congrats. You finally did it. You learned the game."

"You have to learn at some point."


"It was easy because I had the help of Dan and Christina. It was easy, man. I don't think I could replicate it in a different setting."

"Come on, dude. It was all you.'

"That's the thing about me, man, I don't want to aspire to be a player. I recognize it helps in some circumstances, but I just want to have that one girlfriend and not have to worry about anything."

That's my roommate for the summer. When I first learned I would be living with him, I was a little anxious. I checked out his Facebook. His profile picture made him look like a dweeb-y 5'2" computer geek straight from Cameroon, and while that isn't without its charm, I guess I was looking for someone a little more refined. Turns out he's actually 6'1", is working for Citibank in some global division, and is the most angst-riddled male I've ever met, even more than me, to the point where, one night, when we were both in our respective beds, he would not stop talking, lamenting, over and over, "Girls are just so complicated man," drawing out that 'i' sound into a "eeee." I had to tell him -- me, of all people -- "Get over it. I need to go to sleep." 

On weekday evenings around 11 p.m., when he'd come back from work, he'd give me the progress report. The first girl he had been crushing on was taken, swiped away by another intern, though it wasn't like he had a chance, what with him still trying to get over this Indian girl back at American from last semester. The second girl was another Indian, who, in my opinion, wasn't all that attractive, at least on Facebook, but to him was gorgeous -- look at her, he said often, turning his laptop so I could see. She's got alot of personality, if you know what I mean -- and on top of that "personality," she was also shy and smart and year-long girlfriend material, if you know what I mean.

In the past few weeks, there have been many questions. "I walked her to the cab. But she didn't give me a hug when she got in. How bad is that?" "Is it typical for an American woman to pay her own check?" "Do you sit next to her or across from her at dinner?" I tried my best to answer them all. I told him nothing mattered, that confidence was key. I told him he needed to stop worrying. Heck, I even told him he was a stunningly attractive man.

It feels weird to play Hitch, to personify a soothsayer quelling insurgent emotions, to listen and empathize and formulate a reasoned, relevant response, because, well, it's usually me who needs to talk: about developing relationships, about the fragile nature of my happiness, about the shortsightedness of perpetual optimism. For now, though, it's kind of nice. Relaxing. Soothing, even. When I'm back in the room, there's nothing I'd rather be doing, other than, of course, writing for this blog. 

In 5 days, I'm moving out of these dorms. In the last 30 days, I've seen my roommate grow up -- from a professional standpoint, in his investment bank work, and also from a personal standpoint, learning how to deal with women. The only regret I have is that we never found time together so I could school him in basketball.

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