Poster Tape

Originally published September 8, 2011

I missed move-in-week and the first two days of classes during my first semester at college. I was very sick and bedridden so I didn’t move in until Labor Day weekend. As soon as we got there, my parents quickly helped me carry everything up to my dorm room. This was going to be my new home for the next year. My mom made my bed and choked back tears as we said goodbye. “Call me tonight!” she ordered. I agreed, sensing how important it was that I not forget to call her that night. They left and I began unpacking the boxes and boxes of useless stuff that I packed, certain that I would need it all (only to realize later that I never used any of it).

It was late morning when I finished unpacking and went to the bookstore to get my class books. The campus was pretty deserted since most kids went back home for the three-day weekend. It was a long walk to the bookstore and I knew that walking back to my dorm with all of my textbooks was going to be impossible. Fortunately, the campus busses were running that day. Un-fortunately, I had no idea how to use the bus system.

I asked a passing kid about the busses and how to figure out which bus would bring me back to my dorm. He simply replied “the bus that says ‘right’ goes to the right; the bus that says ‘left’ goes to the left,” and continued walking on. I walked away thinking “WTF does that mean?!?” I made it to the book store and quickly found all of my books. I had to pay more than expected since all of the used books were already bought. I gathered my purchases and walked to the bus stop. There were three busses sitting there. All of them said “right.” I stood there hesitant to get on a bus that I had no clue about. I finally decided that I didn’t really have much choice and I boarded a bus. It was empty except for the bus driver and a boy in a Hawaiian shirt. I sat down at the front of the bus so I could get a good view of where we were driving. I prayed that the bus was going to go somewhere remotely close to my dorm. My heart dropped to my stomach when the bus pulled out and went the exact opposite way of my dorm. As we traveled to the end of campus and pulled into the turn lane heading completely out of the campus, I began to panic. I couldn’t see my dorm anymore and I was stuck on a bus, lost in a town that I had been in for only a couple of hours.

“Did they give you free poster tape too?!” the boy in the Hawaiian shirt asked me. He was very irritated. I looked at him a little confused. “They gave me free poster tape. Did they give you free poster tape too?!” He asked again, even more incredulously. I looked in my bags and saw that I didn’t get free poster tape with my book purchases.

“No. I didn’t get free poster tape. All I got was some coupons and a couple of flyers,” I politely responded. I smiled at him. He was cute. I wanted to say more but I needed to focus on remembering every turn we made. I figured I would probably end up walking the whole way back and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get lost.

“I went to the bookstore to buy postertape. And then they give me free postertape with my purchase!” he threw his hands up, “if I would have known that, I would have bought something else!” he huffed.

“I’m sorry. That really sucks,” I said to him.

“Are you a freshman?” he asked.

I shook my head yes. “You?”

“No. I’m a junior,” he said proudly. We started talking about school and other small pleasantries. He was awkwardly shy and confident at the same time. I thought it was endearing. It was very easy to talk to him. It was also very distracting. Soon I had lost track of where we had driven and I was completely lost.

I asked him what dorm he stayed in. “Stevenson,” he said, “only the upperclassmen get to stay there.”

I knew where Stevenson was. It was only just across a small field from my dorm. I knew that if I got off at whatever stop he got off at, I could follow him to his dorm and then I would be close enough to my dorm to be able to walk there! “I’ve heard those dorms are nice. I’ve never seen them before,” I encouraged.

“The rooms are much bigger,” he said, “do you want to see my room?” he cautiously asked. I could tell he wasn’t asking me to go to bed with him. He was sincerely offering to let me see his room as a nice gesture.

“Sure! I’ll get off with you at your stop and then I’ll walk back to my dorm from there,” I said relieved to know where I was going.

We talked some more and got off together at his stop. He brought me up to his room and showed me around. He bragged about the Stevenson cafeteria and suggested that maybe we eat there together sometime. I said that would be nice. He walked me to the lobby and asked me for my phone number. We both realized that we never exchanged names.

“I’m Ryan,” he said, “actually it’s James but I go by my middle name. I hate James. It’s so formal! It’s my dad’s name. But he goes by Jim,” he rambled on. He suddenly got embarrassed that he might have said something dorky.

“It’s nice to meet you Ryan. I’m Tanya. In Russian it’s short for Tatianna” I said mimicking his ramble.

“I’ll remember that,” he said and smiled as he ran up to his room to write down my number before he forgot it.

I walked back to my room and set my books down with a big sigh. And a smile. I called my mom and told her about my adventure. She laughed. “You’ve only been there for three hours and already you’ve met a boy! Is this why you wanted to go to college?” she teased.

“It’s not like that,” I said, smiling so big my cheeks hurt, “he’s just a friend. I’m here to study, not date!”

He called me a couple of hours later and asked if I wanted to eat with him at the Stevenson cafeteria. We ate every meal together for a week before we started officially dating. Almost 5 years to the date, we got married. Today we celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. We’ve been through a lot these last nine years. We’ve grown, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve gained and lost, we’ve triumphed and failed. But most importantly, we’ve loved. I couldn’t be more thankful for the miracle of Ryan; without him, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I pray that we get to spend many more years growing together. And maybe one day, when our children are grown, we can get on a bus together and just get lost.

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