I dove into my junior year head first and arms flailing. After two years of swallowing his lies, I didn’t know who I was. The only way to reconstruct my identity was to try on as many hats as possible. Was I an actress? A leader? An artist? A singer? A victor? A victim? I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that the days of self-doubt and self-loathing were over. I was sure I was finally free to be myself. Whoever that was.
I was sure of one thing more: I was never going to be in love again.
I had met Sam the year before, during a shaky honeymoon period in my relationship with my then-boyfriend. Sam was his opposite in every way: tall, thin, brainy, fidgety. Happy.
We met backstage as cast members of a campus production. My boyfriend had recently told me that I was no good at acting and I shouldn’t audition for any more plays, so I was enjoying this one as one of my last, savoring every cue. The whole time I felt a coldness in other cast members’ eyes, as if they pitied me for my feeble efforts. Their scorn was nonexistent, of course; his words tended to poison my perception of other people.
But Sam was kind, and nothing my boyfriend said about how people saw me could convince me otherwise. Yet I avoided Sam, lest I be tempted to dream of a life with someone other than my self-proclaimed savior.
Sam didn’t avoid me. Fast-forward eight months, and we were running into each other all the time. Campus leadership meetings. On the sidewalk. In the halls. In the cafeteria. I didn’t mind. He was dating a spunky go-getter he’d known for years—I got that from credible sources. He wouldn’t be coming after me. We formed a happy, pressure-free camaraderie. I was safe.
Until the fateful day I got the phone call.