“Well, why not?”

By the spring of 1998, I was starting to dip my toe in the pool of dating again and no one was a bigger cheerleader for me than Adriene.

“She might say no, Jeff, but she should know she’s missing out on a great guy.”

I appreciated the sentiment, but it didn’t make asking girls out on dates any easier. I was never any good at that stuff. No matter how smooth I tried to plan out what I was going to say, it always came out wrong or circumstances always rendered what I said nonsensical. Nonetheless, at least I was moving on.

During this time, the transitions in all of my friends’ lives were still going on. Friends were falling out of and falling into love in relationships around me. Adriene had just come out of a relationship and we spent a lot of time talking late into the night about the confusing nature of relationships. We tried to encourage each other and not fall into self-pity or bash the ex-es. The result of all this was that now Adriene was doubly off-limits. First of all, she was still a freshman and I was under a self-imposed no freshman rule. Now, however, she was on the rebound and I wasn’t about to be any girl’s rebound. Plus, it just seemed predatory to counsel her on emerging out of a relationship and then follow it up with asking her out. So, she wasn’t even on the list for me. There were other girls that I was interested in and wanted to get to know better.

At the end of the school year she went home to Savannah and I was left in Atlanta to fend for myself and I had a great summer. It was probably one of the few times in my life that I got out, went places, and lived like a single person and enjoyed it. I didn’t go on very many dates, but it felt good to be alive. Meanwhile, thanks to the technology that is e-mail and Instant Messenger, Adriene and I continued to converse over the summer on a regular basis. In the middle of the summer she planned to fly up to Atlanta to go to a wedding and asked if I would pick her up at the airport and I told her I’d be glad to.

My sister wryly picked up a scent, “So, is there anything going on between you and this girl?”

“No,” I shook my head. “I’m just picking her up so that she can visit with some friends and go to the wedding. There’s nothing going on there.”

“Well, why not?”

I gave her my list of reasons and she shrugged and said, “Well, OK, if that’s the way you want it. I dunno. I don’t know how many casual friends I would drive down and pick up at the airport or would ask me to pick them up at the airport.”

Thanks to my sister, I was now second-guessing. Sure, I really enjoyed the time I spent with Adriene, but dating had bad idea written all over it. I was entering my final year of college and a year from now I might be living anywhere with a new job. Getting entangled in a relationship with a second-year student and facing the possibility of yet another long-distance relationship if I moved after graduation was extremely unappealing. I had a good friendship with Adriene and if I knew what was good for me, I wouldn’t screw it up with a botched romance. No, I was going to steer clear of this and keep looking elsewhere.

Somehow, though, she stayed in the back of my mind. She had snuck onto the bottom of the list.

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