by Johnny McNulty
1.) Don’t ever forget that you’re at college. In fact, the next time you go to a frat party, you should yell “Whoo hoo! College!” just for the benefit of those around you who might not know.
2.) Immediately begin writing letters to the girl next door. Everyone else thinks she’s the “cute a capella girl,” but you know that your anonymous, unsolicited notes, slid under the door every night at 2:23AM are like little seeds spread on the once-fallow field of her heart. This will continue until December, when you’ll knock on her door and say “Hey Sarah.” She’ll say “Hey Johnny, how’s your seminar on Amsterdam?” You cringe when you think of the lie you’ve been living.
3.) Maintaining the façade required painstakingly altering your tone. The Johnny that lives through your pen is an older man, wiser but vulnerable, stroking his four day old stubble and writing with his remaining hand, the other one lost to a stray line whilst fishing for King Crab. But he’s still you, make no doubt about it.
4.) “It’s pretty bizarre,” you’ll say, “I learned a lot about Dutch history and, you know, drugs and prostitutes.” You’ll both laugh, because you know that she likes to smoke weed. It’s not the most attractive thing in the world but you’ve made your peace. “Yeah,” she’ll say “I’ve got a big essay due tomorrow for my seminar…”
5.) Man, make sure to wear sandals. Nothing sucks more than athlete’s foot right? If you use the yellow bottle of Gold Bond, you’re a pussy. Green, baby.
6.) TODAY’S THE DAY! RIGHT NOW! DO IT! “…so I can’t wait for Friday because I’m going to get, like, really drunk.” “I’m the one who’s been writing you those letters, Sarah.” Your voice has sunk and become more gruff, you’re becoming the Sea Johnny as you reveal your true emotions.
7.) Your love faces its hardest test when she scratches your face and slams the door, shrieking like when the wind rushes between the arctic waves. You stand there, shocked, red stripes blooming on your face. You turn; shoulders slumped, spirit broken, and trudge the six feet back to your room.
8.) As you await the call from the Office of Student Conduct, you write one last note. Sea Johnny gasps out his last thoughts as he shivers to death in the bleak Bering Straits. “Dear Sarah, It’s been a tough haul. Sometimes you need a tough skin to deal with that icy, hateful gale. You’ve been the only spark that’s warmed my leathery cocoon. I only wish that…”
9.) Suddenly there’s a knock on the door. You expect that behind it will be the steely visage of Allied Security, but when you open it up, lo! It’s Sarah! Cradled in her arms is a shoebox overflowing with enclosed envelopes. She is sobbing and smiling all at once. “Oh Johnny, here are all the letters I wrote back, every day. I just didn’t ever know where to mail them before.” You won’t, and can’t, say a word, so you just gently take the shoebox and put it on top of your Bio lab binder. When you turn back to her she’ll hug you like a barnacle. “Is there room for one more in your bunk, sailor?”
10.) For two years, unabated is the rule of the day. Every day after class you reunite, in the spring and fall for picnics, and during the winter for Netflix and popcorn. You wonder what life was even like before you found love.
11.) One day you look in her purse for some sugarless gum and discover a stub for a 10PM bus. You take the stub and ask for another piece of gum the next day, only to find a new stub! You become obsessed, and begin monitoring her call logs, and notice “Antonio” popping up a lot. Unable to bear it, you tell a cab to follow the sin bus. To your shock your hired cabbie tails her to the barrio.
12.) Joining a fraternity is a serious decision. Weigh carefully the risk that you might just be joining the house for the parties and instant social acceptance rather than a true bond with the brothers and the house’s mission. Also, you might look pretty gay.
13.) You get out and follow her to a bar, where outside she meets a well-muscled, olive-skinned man in jeans and a white cotton t-shirt whom she kisses, electrifyingly, like an eel. This is Antonio. You step out from behind your potted plant and walk towards them, screaming “How could you do this to me!” Sarah begins to cry and apologize, but Antonio becomes enraged, and he gestures inside. Suddenly five men resembling him form an advancing wall. Your white v-neck sweater with a red-and-blue collar prompts them to correctly label you “college boy.” This is the last thing you hear before you are knifed by one of Antonio’s friends.
14.) When you awake, Sarah will be by your bedside. A cop wants to know why you two were in that neighborhood. You say you were “going dancing.” Once your mother leaves, you turn your most steely look upon Sarah. “Please forgive me” she says “I almost died when I thought I lost you last night. I was foolish, and selfish.” Tired and still a slave to love, you tell her you forgive her. But like the tip of that switchblade, a small piece of festering hate is absorbed into your body. Oh, you try some things, you write a few notes to new women, but you’re just too cowardly to start a whole new love. Later, when you’re at your daughter’s 3rd grade play about a sailor lost at sea, you’ll think back to this, the day you really gave up, and slipped silently into the icy abyss.
15.) “Clapping” your roommate, though funny, is a double-edged sword.