A short story.
*The characters in this story are fictional. Any likeness to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The first thing that I noticed about Jaynie Lamar was her awkward smile. Initially, I couldn’t tell if she was simply uncomfortable in her own skin or a painfully fake person. The truth, it turned out, was someplace in the middle.
The first time we met, late September of our freshman year, I was perched on the brick wall surrounding Massell Pond. I was pretending to study, occasionally tossing tidbits of bread to the ducks, contemplating some meaningless party, unremarkable interaction from the evening before, or random boy (truth be told, after meeting my husband, every other boy became random, but I digress). Whatever the reason, I was lost in my thoughts, unwinding from the constant drain of constantly being surrounded by new people.
The second thing that I noticed about Jaynie Lamar was that she had an issue with boundaries. She plowed through situations like a mac truck. She either couldn’t take a hint or chose not to take a hint.
Jaynie sat down next to me and started asking questions. “We’re in the same Freshman Seminar. Are you studying for the midterm?” I stared at her, startled and confused. Absent-mindedly. “Oh, yeah. This is just a ruse. I’m trying to clear my head.”
Jaynie smiled, awkwardly, trying to decide what to say next. “I’m Jaynie. I live in Deroy. I think we officially met last night. You were on Moody Street, right? Which building are you in?” Acknowledging that she was putting herself out there, trying to meet someone new, I nodded, said my name, half-smiled, and pointed to a dilapidated building on the other side of the quad. “Oh, do you live on Deena’s floor?” Without waiting for my response, she vomited that she went to the same high school as Deena, talking about her high school boyfriend with whom she was “still trying to make things work long distance.” I continued to offer a half smile.
On some level, I appreciated the distraction as it made me feel less guilty about not studying. But as she continued on, I lost focus. Two minutes later, I couldn’t have identified the salient points – if there were any – of our conversation. Yet, Jaynie assumed my half-smile demonstrated interest. “I have to get to the library,” she said as if I was keeping her there. “Let’s get dinner tomorrow night after Freshman Seminar,” she didn’t ask, she stated, as she got up and walked away.
The third thing that I noticed about Jaynie Lamar was that she was shaped like an upside-down egg. While this seems like an unkind observation, it was not meant as a judgment or a slam. Rather it was in response to the story she told me the next evening over dinner.
“Do you like your roommate?” she asked me. “She’s fine as a roommate,” I lied. In fact, I disliked my roommate. She was quite judgmental about trivialities, things that were none of her business, like the way you danced, or the people whom you considered befriending, or the subjects you wanted to study…the list goes on (and this comes from someone who is admittedly judgmental and was always super self-aware of her tendency to judge). Yet, the thing I disliked most about her was that her best friend from high school lived upstairs from us, and she turned on her. She was downright unkind, telling her not to come around. But I wasn’t prepared to share this perspective with anyone on campus at this point, saving it all as fodder for my home friends.
“I feel the same way about my roommate,” Jaynie said this as if I was suddenly her soulmate, once again flashing me that pained smile. “She’s fine, but I never would have chosen her on my own.” She went into extreme detail when describing her roommate, suggesting that she was her physical and intellectual opposite, a tall young woman, a “Masshole” with dark, frizzy hair, jet black eyes, and an athletic build who wanted to study economics. She used the word “intense.” Jaynie, short, blond, blue-eyed, and, as I noticed at that moment, egg-shaped, wanted to major in romance languages and travel the world. She hoped her life would be one great adventure.
I liked that about Jaynie. She was open and adventurous, not guarded and cautious like me. She led scavenger hunt teams and planned Scorpion Bowling nights in Cambridge, encouraging evenings of laughter.
But my antenna shot up after noticing a fifth thing about Jaynie Lamar. It was something that I started to see more regularly about six months after we first met, as Jaynie was not only unaware of boundaries, she was inconsiderate of them. And this is when Jaynie, the egg-shaped, awkwardly smiling young woman from Deroy, became quite intrusive.
She became a rotten egg.
Within a week, Jaynie befriended a boy I considered dating and started dating one of my male friends. When I suggested that she was making me uncomfortable, she flashed that awkward smile. “We’re just attracted to the same people in different ways,” she told me. I was utterly speechless, unable to find an appropriate retort.
She crossed this line several times with several people whom she tagged as friends, which led to the mass exodus from the Jaynie Lamar Fan Club. Sure, we all enjoyed the Scorpion Bowling nights, but when she notoriously hinted that she knew things about all of us that we didn’t know about ourselves, we started to step away. And, as she played the sympathetic ear on both sides, quietly reveling in the intimate knowledge that gave her a sense of power and the control over her friends’ lives, more people retreated.
Months later, many of her friends would lament that she knew when their relationships were on the rocks before they did. A few people stuck around, unable to decide whether to run in the other direction or stand firm to guard the relationships that she was uncomfortably infiltrating.
At the time, I certainly wasn’t secure enough in myself, my new dynamic, or the new people with whom I was building relationships to wait around for her to hijack these relationships. I went back to my spot by the pond, relieved that I only shared my secrets with my friends from home, and decided to silently distance myself from the scorpion bowls and scavenger hunts, immersing myself in adventures with other people.
The final thing I noticed about Jaynie Lamar was that she was anxious to escape the confines of our college campus. She had done her damage, and she was anxious to spread her wings. The last time I saw her she was packing up her car and preparing for her year abroad in France. Disinterested and disgusted, I could barely muster a half smile for her.
Then I forgot about her; I forgot all of the things about Jaynie Lamar. She was a blip on my college screen, easily erased from the far recesses of my mind. Until about three years later. As I wandered the New York City streets, hopping from bar to bar with friends from college, I ran into one of Jaynie Lamar’s former boyfriends. After laughing and reminiscing at MacLeer’s for hours, we struck up a friendship during which I, only somewhat unintentionally, learned as much about Jaynie Lamar as she must have known about me when she crossed the boundaries I tried so hard to establish with her.
While a rotten egg might retain its oval shape, many other things in life come full circle.