I met him at Terrace. I was looking for a boy in my math class who had texted me earlier, and instead found N. He knew the girl who had led me upstairs and stopped her to talk. After she left, he asked me just one question — whether I discriminated against smokers. I smiled at the thought of the make-out session I knew would follow my answer, and he picked up on the signal. The scene was typical. I leaned back and was just drunk enough that the change in balance kept me mentally engaged while he took over. Two girls nearby had been watching us and giggled about our cuteness. N told them they only thought it was cute because we were both boys and then asked if I wanted to go back to his room.
I obliged. It was still early, and I assumed I would wander back to my own room after visiting N’s to finish my nightly routine of washing, changing and moisturizing before hopping into my own bed to sleep. I knew I wanted to get enough rest to have a productive Sunday but thought a little extracurricular activity would reinvigorate me before the ambitious homework schedule I had planned for the next day.
As we walked back up campus, he laced his fingers through mine. We talked the whole way, mostly about our classes. I had heard his voice before, at a Quipfire! show I saw during frosh week. He had volunteered to inspire a sketch based on details from his day. I remembered everything he was telling me about himself from the show weeks before, but I never brought that up. Letting N know that I already knew about him felt a bit too awkward and might lead our conversation beyond small talk. I was here for one reason, and making a new friend wasn’t it.
We ended up somewhere back in Rocky or Mathey, and I waited outside his quad as he went to the bathroom. Someone walked by and asked if I was his friend. I wasn’t sure, but her voice sounded uncomfortable while searching for a word to describe me, so I told her we were. But we weren’t really friends. In fact, we didn’t know each other very well at all. I figured I knew him better than he knew me from his brief stint with improv, but on a campus as small as Princeton, I’m never quite sure.
N came back and let me into his room. He had texted his roommate to tell him I was coming. We briefly met in the common room, where he was on a futon with his girlfriend. (I now see his roommate once a week in precept and always wonder if I should say hi.) N led me into his bedroom, where I took off my shoes, climbed the ladder to the top bunk and waited.
The actual hookup passed quickly, but afterwards, he trapped me under his arm and closed his eyes. I wondered if he was asleep. His breathing was still short and shallow. I wanted to leave but didn’t feel like talking to him. Instead, I scanned the room for a clock.
I couldn’t find one and began to worry about the time. I didn’t know how long this would last. After just a few weeks at school, I had heard about all of my friends’ sexcapades, but none of them created a typical vision of what I should have expected. I knew that some people wanted them to stay afterwards; some wanted them to leave immediately. Others asked for their numbers, and a few even tried to spark relationships based on their night together. I didn’t know what was happening with mine, except that N clearly expected me to sleep in his room that night. I had different ideas, but needed a bit of time to plan my next move. Unfortunately, our limbs had tangled together to form a gangly mess of teenage boy. I resigned myself to stay the night rather than initiate the uncomfortable process of leaving.
My moment of escape came unexpectedly when he stirred and decided to get some water. The situation seemed too good to be true. I climbed down the ladder, pulled on my pants and looked out the window. We were only on the first floor. Normally, I would have left out the door but I didn’t want to run into N or his roommate. Being alone in the room made leaving seem so much easier. I didn’t have to talk to anyone or clarify anything. I didn’t have to admit that I had used N for fun, regardless of whether or not he wanted that too. I still had no idea what he wanted, but I didn’t want to stick around and find out. I wanted to leave on my own terms.
In any case, the window was open, so I had my way out. I vaulted off of the sill and onto the ground below. The grass felt cold and wet between my toes — I had forgotten my shoes in the room, but I couldn’t trek back to Forbes without them. I turned back to face the expanse of gothic architecture I thought I had finally left behind me and wondered how to sneak back in.
Unfortunately, my reentry to the room was not nearly as graceful as my exit. The foundation of the building stood a few feet above the ground, meaning the gymnastics I had executed so well moments before required a bit more strength than I had. I shook as I lifted myself up and managed to slither through the window. I found my trusted Chuck Taylors but left again before putting them on. I didn’t want to awkwardly encounter N if he returned while I laced up my shoes.
I wandered back to Forbes, shoes in hand, buttoning up my shirt along the way. The townies laughed at me as I passed the Wa, but I’d escaped unscathed. I wondered if N had too. The next day, my mind kept wandering to what had happened the night before. I felt embarrassed for ditching without the decency to tell him, but I had just started my first semester of college. A few months before, everything in my life had fit soundly into place. Now, I couldn’t seem to handle my social life or my academics as easily in this unfamiliar territory. I didn’t think I could attend to another kind of relationship, no matter how casual.
I’m pretty sure N thought I left because I had felt uncomfortable that night. Over the next couple of days, he tried to talk to me. He seemed genuinely concerned. I always regretted letting him think that he might have hurt me, but I didn’t know how to casually talk to him about what had happened. The conversation would certainly have propelled us out of the realm of acquaintances and into something else that was more confusing and less defined. After a few weeks, N became nothing but an unnamed character in a story I told occasionally. I suppose that’s all I ever wanted him to be. I assumed I had become the same for him after hearing the legend of our night together repeated back to me a few times from new friends I made up-campus. I used to wonder what he thought of me, but my new life here at Princeton was hectic, and I never made the time to ask.