Way back when I was still at Bag End, back in October, some of my friends had held a Halloween party off campus. (This was the one that Grîma Wormtongue surprised me and came to, matching me. I was Trinity from the Matrix, which I’d just watched for the first time, and he was one of the villains in the sunglasses – appropriately enough.) At this party, I’d met one of my girlfriend Galadriel’s friends – a charming, gregarious fellow named Legolas. He was very, very smart and had a wide grin and a slight lisp, and he loved swing dancing. Legolas and I had a nice conversation about music and literature at the party, and he and I chatted sporadically on Facebook throughout the rest of the semester. It turned out that he’d been homeschooled too, and had graduated from Palantîr Christian College down in Florida, before becoming a computer programmer in Augusta, GA.
After I told my mother about Grîma Wormtongue , she took away my phone and told me I had to shut down my Facebook immediately. (In her mind, Facebook was some kind of source of contamination that allowed me to communicate with the outside world and meet unsavory people.) I logged on and, before canceling the account, I sent a quick message to a few of my friends, including Legolas, saying that I’d just broken up and I was “taking a bit of a media fast.” (Such a spin artist, I was.) Legolas said “BTDT,” so I was glad he understood.
My good friends Bilbo, Galadriel and several others still communicated with me via email. I am not sure whether my mother knew I had a Gmail address or not, and I wasn’t about to draw her attention to it if she didn’t know. Sometime in mid-January, Galadriel emailed me, “By the way, Legolas asked me to give you his phone number. He said you should give him a call sometime.” And there was the phone number.
I said, “Is he interested in me or something?” And Galadriel said “Oh, I doubt it: I think he just wants to be friendly. He’s a very friendly person and people always think he’s flirting with them. Anyway he has a girlfriend in Atlanta, I think.”
Well, that was a little disappointing, but still, I liked Legolas and enjoyed talking to him. I wrote down the phone number and put it in the top drawer of my tiny dresser and figured that if I ever got another cell phone, I’d give him a call.
Around this time, Bilbo told me that I was doing awfully well as a cashier, “upselling” a lot of things, and he was thinking of promoting me to some sort of manager. I came home and excitedly told my parents this news. A few days later they said to me, “It’s not really working out for you to have this job because it’s too far out of your father’s way to drop you off in the mornings, so you’re going to have to quit.” I was very bummed out about this, but we lived in the backwoods of Greenville, away from any bus stops, and I didn’t really see any other feasible way for me to get there. So sadly, I told Bilbo I would have to quit working at the café. This was at the beginning of February, 2011.
My last day at the job, I had to wait a while for my father to come and pick me up. So I walked a long way down to the Verizon store downtown and used some of my last paycheck to buy a small, pay-as-you-go cell phone. Then I texted Legolas’s number, “Who is John Galt?” He soon figured out it was me, and we had a long, nerdy text conversation.
Eventually the text conversation spilled over into emails, with long discussions of everything under the sun, including shared thoughts and dreams and poetry. Then we started talking on the phone. I was having so much fun, and in a nerdy way, I was definitely flirting. I tried not to think about this girlfriend he had in Atlanta. He was just being friendly, I told myself. But it was so much fun.
He asked me if I wanted to go swing dancing the next time he was in town, because they had beginners’ classes. I thought: It’s a date! He’s asking me out! Maybe? No, he’s just being friendly of course. I said my parents didn’t approve of swing dancing, so I couldn’t go, but thank you.
Now that I wasn’t working at the café, I felt like I was kind of at a loose end. I started sending my music resume to all the schools and studios in the area, seeing if they needed any teachers. I got set up as a teacher at one studio, and I pulled in exactly one student, a young man who asked me out after a few lessons and so of course I told him I couldn’t teach him any more, so that was the end of that. I did some accompanying for the spring festival at a middle school, which was fun, and I met a lady through Craigslist who wanted an illustrator for her self-published children’s book. After getting halfway through the project, she told me she wanted exclusive rights to all the drawings and I couldn’t agree to that, so I gave up the project. I kept on having meaningless fights with my mother, trying to stay out of her way and not succeeding, and having to ask permission for every tiny detail of life. I felt very directionless, and like I was just flapping my wings. My conversations with Legolas, and my occasional outings with my friends from Bag End, gave me something to look forward to.
Then one day Legolas sent me an email that said, “I’ll be in town this weekend for a swing convention. Can I stop by your house for lunch on Saturday?”
Very casually, I went to my mother and said, “You remember that nice young man I told you about, from Palantîr Christian College? Galadriel’s friend? (Mom liked Galadriel.) He wants to come over to our house for lunch on Saturday.” I tactically left out the part about the swing convention, because I was sure that would not go over very well. Surprisingly, she agreed to let him come over for lunch.
I was so excited! Next time we were out, I asked Mom to drop me off at Goodwill and I bought a pretty pink sweater with roses on it, which I knew I would be allowed to wear because it had a high neck and it wasn’t tight. But it was a very pretty color on me.
To be continued.