I was trying to side-step broken glass on a wet hardwood floor the night I met Mr. Right. We were at a frat party. Earlier I’d been dancing upstairs with everyone else. I decided to go to the basement where it was quieter and they generally played music I liked. Upstairs rap music was being played on large subwoofers, the DJ a fraternity brother who stood in a corner smoking cigars, openly watching sorority sisters dance with each other.
I went to the basement and there were maybe three people playing pool. There was always another CD player in the basement. That night the boom box belonged to Sam. It was covered in elaborate designs, done in fingernail polish—the neon colors that girls wore a lot in 1996. I glanced at the boom box and then connected it to Sam and then realized the music must be Sam’s, too. Who the hell is that? I asked. Steve Burns he said. Steve Burns died, I told him. Mr. Right shook his head.
Steve Burns was the guy from that Nickelodeon show Blue’s Clues that everyone assumed OD’d. Sam turned the CD up louder and played a song called Troposphere. After a little while I thought the music was good. Later on that night we went upstairs looking for something to drink. I was starting to have a good time, but there was nothing left to drink anywhere. The music was louder than ever. He walked me back to my dorm, boom-box in one hand, an acoustic guitar in the other. He slept on the floor and I crawled into the top bunk.
The next day he told me he was Mr. Right and I said you expect me to believe you are Mr. Right? He said that was his name and lifted his shirt. There on his chest was a small family crescent tattoo, but the word Right was missing (I pointed it out). He seemed agitated and put 69 Love Songs on my computer and said I would like it. When he left I listened to it. I did like it, but I still made a point to tell everyone in the school he was not Mr. Right. I avoided buildings I knew he may be at, I erected large banners in the cafeteria, shouted it through a mega phone as classes were changing, and never, ever answered his phone calls or emails. He was not Mr. Right. I had to make him believe this.
For example: I knew Mr. Right didn’t smell like pot and Sam always did and Sam even went so far as to tell me 98% of the time you are around me I will be high. My Mr. Right didn’t carry little diluted bottles of Listerine around to mask the smell of smoke. He didn’t wear black constantly. He didn’t wear a newsboy hat with a single red star in the center, and he didn’t play guitar just for the hell of it in the student union without a shirt on. And, above all, Mr. Right wasn’t a Sociology major — like Sam was.
Weeks passed and his attempts to contact me were starting to fade. One afternoon, I walked by Sam outside the classroom building. He was propped against his guitar case asleep on the grass with his newsboy cap laid across his face to block out the light. The sun was out and it was spring and in my pocket I had a copy of a great love poem. I walked up to where he lay and I took the poem out of my pocket and sat it on the exact place I knew his tattoo to be and walked away.