This morning I arrived a little later than I probably should've to pre-register for visual arts classes for the spring semester. Pre-registration was allegedly from 9 AM to 3 PM; I got there at 9:15, and the line was around the block, and barely moving. The young woman standing a few people behind me was there with her boyfriend keeping her company; he had his arm around her. After we'd been there for a few minutes, a sort of slithery-looking young man with a moustache like the guy in Sparks sidled up to her, made a little lubricated-sounding small talk, and asked her out. She gently deflected him, and he sidled away again.

While the Sparks guy had been talking to her, another young man, this one sullen, corpulent, full-bearded, red-haired and wearing a safety-pinned yarmulke, had been staring in her direction from a distance. He stalked up to her and muttered "We have to talk."

"You keep saying that," she said. "Just tell me what you have to say!"

"Come with me for a few minutes. Let's go someplace and sit down."

"I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"I'm in line to register for a class!"

"Just for a few minutes."

"I'm in line! I can't leave! Just tell me!"

"I don't want to tell you here."

"What could possibly be so bad, so horrible, that you can't tell me right here and now?!?" Etc. The woman standing next to me and I glanced at each other. "Don't listen don't listen don't listen," she whispered. "I'm trying," I said. She pulled out a cell phone and started dialing some numbers, trying to get through to anyone who'd distract her. My attention drifted back to the conversation behind me.

The corpulent young man was still muttering. "You agreed to love me with all your heart and all your soul."


"You were going to move to a brownstone in Harlem with me and make Jewish babies."

"We had dinner once, a year ago! I don't know why you think we were going out!"

"You have a way of cutting off people you've dated. I don't want to be one of those people. I've been worrying about you. I call you every day, sometimes a few times, and you never answer the phone. I don't know if you're all right."

"I'm all right, but I don't know if you're all right. You know, I'm terrified of you."

"What do you mean? I'm bigger than you are, but you're fit, and I'm not."

By this point, the woman next to me and I were exchanging heebie-jeebies glances again. We tried to make small talk about classes and instructors, and succeeded for a while, but the woman behind us (her boyfriend's arm still around her shoulders) was getting louder and louder, and the corpulent young man was still maintaining the same low mutter, if a bit more agitated, and eventually we gave up and let the scene keep going (although we kept whispering "should we saysomething?" to each other. The gist we were getting was that she had never actually told him to get lost and stop calling her, and wasn't about to, since she was constitutionally incapable of directly saying no to anything, but really really needed to. Eventually she agreed to get a meal with him sometime (leaving it purposefully vague when). Naturally, he pressed the point.

"Thursday nights are best for me," he mumbled. "This Thursday is bad for me, though. Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. How about the Thursday after that?"

"I can't," she said. "I have a muster."

"A what?"

"A muster! A fife and drum muster?"


"I play the FIFE! It's a fife and drum ensemble--two hundred people! It's the single most popular instrument of war!"

"You play the fife?"

"OH MY GOD!" she shrieked. "You've known me for ALMOST TWO YEARS and you didn't KNOW that I play the FIFE?!?"

"You say two years--I say just over one year," he mumbled indignantly. "The fact that you sat behind me in some class, half-naked, doesn't count as far as I'm concerned."

[By this point a radius of five or six people around them were all trying very hardnot to look, shooting each other clandestine what-the-fuck?!? expressions, clamping down on terrified giggles.]

"Well, then," he concluded, "I'll just come and knock on your door at Barnard, at noon on Sunday."

"You can't do that."

"Why not? We've been friends long enough."

"I mean--I won't be there!"

"Where will you be?"

"Well, think about it--I'm going to be in CHURCH! I'm CATHOLIC! That's why I couldn't bear your Jewish BABIES!"

I think I psychologically blacked out at this point from the effort of trying not to burst into gales of laughter or scream at him or something. Finally, she returned to the you're-creeping-me-out theme as the conversation seemed to be winding it down, and a couple of the people I was standing with and I took it upon ourselves to announce that actually he was creeping us out too, and could he please deal with this some other time? "This isn't really your business," he mumbled loudly. We noted that he had been making it our business for about half an hour, and wished he would stop, and he stalked away.

"I guess I'm just too nice," the young woman sighed (as her boyfriend, his arm still around her shoulder, nodded sympathetically). "I mean, maybe he'll get the picture eventually, you know?" Like some kind of Hellenic chorus of empowerment facilitators, we indicated that it was fairly clear that this particular breed of "niceness" was really not at all what was called for here. Just as we were explaining it to her, the guy with the Sparks moustache sidled up to her again, waved cheerily at the boyfriend, and asked her if she wanted to go out dancing this weekend.

At that moment, they finally let us into the room where we could sign up for our classes. I put my name on the list for Drawing I and sprinted out of the building.



previously ask for advice