The Greatest Compliments I’ve Ever Received

It’s Halloween 2004 and I’m at a friend of a friend’s apartment for a party, dressed as a cute-not-slutty bunny, munching on my accessory – carrots still wearing their leaves – and wearing pointy black pumps from Target. I walk into a room and one of the guys on the couch sits forward abruptly, holding out his cigarette like an offering and says, “Oh, is it okay if we smoke in your house?” I wrinkle my nose, unintentionally scrunching the black eye-liner whiskers I’ve drawn on my cheeks in a very bunnyesque expression and say, “This isn’t my house.” “Oh,” says the guy, settling back into the couch, “I thought you lived here, you just walked in like you owned the place.”

After seven years of friendship, Jonathan finally invites us up for the tour of his bedroom. Hardwood floors and a four-poster bed, it’s very elite Texas homestead meets Fairfield county socialite. He apologizes for the closet, a shirt-sleeve is askew. The surfaces are immaculate, everything lined up at right angles, including his 17-inch Apple laptop. “What are your thoughts on the Apple?” I ask, “I’ve been considering making the switch.” Wait, Emily,” Jon says, clutching my elbow as we both gaze down at the Powerbook like a newborn through the nursery window, “You’re not a Mac person? I’ve always thought you were a Mac person!”

Back to school 2003, I am a freshly matriculated sophomore at Hamilton College, meeting with my new advisor for the first time. “Do you have any writing samples?” Of course I do, in a folder marked Mount Holyoke Writing, which I am holding in my lap against my plaid knee-skirt. I sit with my ankles crossed even as I remind myself that this isn’t a tea ceremony. I’m just feeling academic. The professor skims the first paragraph of whatever essay I have displayed. “Well,” he says, “I’m glad to see that you’ve certainly mastered the art of the complex sentence.”

It’s the end of freshman year at Mount Holyoke and everything is up in the air. Transfer applications are in but I don’t know where I’ll be at the end of the summer. Allegra asks me if I’m scared, about transfering, about staying, about all the not knowing, and I nod emphatically and tell her I am. She laughs and says, “That’s what I love about you, everything you say is just honest, you always say exactly what you feel.”