The boyfriend plate

13 Feb

Right after I told my brother-in-law that I need to have more fun in my life, we got a shot of wet snow that snarled our Friday rush hour and canceled my happy hour plans.

Two days after that, my son began throwing up every hour on the hour until 3:30 in the morning.

Then one of our students had an anger implosion in front of me in study hall, and one of our graduates – an honor roll student – found out she wasn’t getting financial aid for the next school year.

Oh, and I broke the boyfriend plate.

The boyfriend plate. Yeah, 20 years ago the guy I was dating brought my college roommates and me a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. He left the plate at our apartment. In the jumble of possessions – the worldly belongings of four women in closet-sized accommodations – I never noticed until long after I broke up with him that I still had the plate.

Oops.

I did what most twenty-somethings would have done as they were packing their stuff up in the days after graduation. I kept it.

It wasn’t special. A plain white, salad or dessert plate. Your basic T-shirt of plates, there wasn’t even a name brand stamped on its underside. Who knows where he bought it?

He wasn’t a particularly materialistic or stylistic fellow. He was a jeans and scruffy shirt nerd who often forgot to get his hair cut. And he unabashedly drove an old muffler-chugging Dodge that embarrassed even me — and I drove a powder blue 1980 Buick Regal. I looked like a pimp rolling from College Park into Northeast D.C. so I could catch the Metro at Rhode Island Avenue — junkie heaven — to get to my internship. But his car? Wow, talk about a junk heap on four wheels.

Ah, the good old days.

He was a dork, that boyfriend. A “Big Bang Theory” inspiration. A kid from the D.C. suburbs, he was political, opinionated, head strong. Inexperienced with the ladies, but the adored youngest child in his family. The only boy.

He loved music and made great mixed tapes. He was wildly liberal and devoutly Catholic, busy in every second of his day with some sort of school activity or academic pursuit. He could grasp the most remote concept of theory, and ideas came to him too quickly to be captured – I remember nearly tearing my hair out editing a paper of his that made not one bit of linguistic sense but was clearly full of good ideas.

He was accepted into every graduate school to which he applied that fall, much to the great dismay of one of my friends who had the opposite fate of being resoundingly rejected from all of her choices. She harbored a grudge about that for a long time — he was oblivious.

My roommates, meanwhile, liked him or at least the cookies. And the pancakes he sometimes flipped for us. And the self-important, college-type arguments they got into. The general fun of having a guy around our place.

I broke up with him the day after Christmas, and he cried horrible, big tears. We were too different, I felt. I wasn’t as intellectual. I was a reporter, hands on, no theory. I didn’t want big ideas. I wanted life experience. And … there was eventually a guy I liked better than him.

But I always remembered him fondly and thought about him from time to time when I pulled the plate out of the cupboard and covered it with apple slices for the children’s lunch, or sometimes even my own freshly baked cookies.

It was a nice memento, that little white plate. Since I’ve scooped its broken pieces into the trash can, I find myself glancing around the house for the other treasures I still have from that time.

I wonder if I saved any of the mixed tapes.

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