In the fall of 1998 I traveled to Cambridge, England to study abroad with about 30 other people from my university. We weren’t actually enrolled in Cambridge University, but we used their facilities. Basically we were on a 4 month field trip taking 12 credit hours. We studied Irish Drama, Modern British Drama, Modern British Novel and Elizabethan Drama. The gregarious, flamboyant and passionate, Dr. Pat Taylor, lead the way and taught all of our classes. It was my first time abroad and paved the path for my future travels. Pat had pointed to me during her Modern American Drama class and said, “You are coming to Cambridge with me next fall!”
This was the fall following what had been me throwing caution to the wind and hooking up with anyone for whom there was a mutual attraction. In the time between April of 1998 and August of 1998 I had slept with, given blow jobs to and/or received oral sex from at least 9 people. For me, the girl who was “trying to keep her numbers low” prior to this time period, that was a record. I was 22, about to be a college senior and really unsure of what life had in store for me after I graduated. I believed that this was the time I was supposed to be finding true love. And I guess I thought I’d find it while sucking someone’s cock. Funny enough that penis always went limp when he asked me what I planned to do when I graduated. I always told the truth: I want to be a mom. Maybe I’ll find a part time job at a theater. My husband will make enough money for me to only have to work part-time. I’ll do yoga, cook and bake, and do art projects with my kids. Yeah, no guy wanted any part of that equation. They all assumed that I wanted to be a mom right now. That wasn’t the case. I knew there was some living I needed to do before becoming a mom, but, in the end, it’s really what I wanted. Truthfully, I couldn’t imagine anything else for myself.
I hadn’t found love with the baseball player, the football player, the Governor’s grandson, the actor, the set painter, the cook, the other set painter, the photographer/ex-boyfriend of my best friend(I know, totally shitty), the other photographer or the ex-lover who had a new girlfriend(to whom he is married now). So love must be waiting for me in Cambridge!! Can I tell you what a bummer it is to look around at the group of 33 of you who’ve just arrived to the UK with for a semester away and think, ugh, I will not be fantasizing let alone kissing a single one of these people?! For one, there were less than a handful of guys on this trip. Secondly, two are gay (but one didn’t know it yet), one was into death metal and one was taken. I knew I had to look elsewhere.
Our classes were held at Fitzwilliam College on the edge of town. It was about a 10 minute walk to Cambridge City Centre. Many days after classes we’d walk into town to browse Boots Pharmacy, drool over clothes at H & M or have a plate of chips and a pint at a pub. Often in the center of town there would be musicians busking (think Once). The first time we came upon the string quartet I immediately fell in love. Classical musicians rocking out. Their music was gravitational. They played classical with a twist as well as traditional folk music. And in the center of the quartet, standing about 6’5″ was the violin player, Adrian. His first asset was his instrument; I have a deep love for the fiddle. And his second asset was his height. From earlier posts you’ll know that I really like tall guys. Adrian stood above his band-mates and nearly everyone for that matter. He had blonde curls and often wore a thick cream-colored cable knit turtle neck sweater. He looked like a Norwegian dream. I was instantly smitten.
I remember going back to my host family’s house the evening I first heard and saw Adrian. My host mum and I were washing dishes and she said, “you’re quite cheerful, what’s happened today?” I told her that I’d fallen in love with the fiddle player in the square! She said, “oh, he is quite nice! Did you speak to him?” Um, no. But I’ll definitely be going back to see him play again! And so I did. Eventually I got the courage to speak to the band one day when they were finishing up. I introduced myself, “hi, I’m Jocelyn. I love watching you all play.” “Hi, I’m Adrian, yes, I’ve noticed.” Blushing! “I’m studying here from the US.” “Yeah, I can tell.” Ouch? “So, what do you guys do after? Are you heading to a pub? ” “Nope, heading home.” Hmmmmm, that didn’t go as well as I’d have liked, but I’m not one to give up.
Every Wednesday afternoon, I made my way to the city centre to see the quartet play. I continued to hope that maybe Adrian and I could go get a pint when they finished. And I continued to tell my classmates, my professor and my host family about Adrian sightings! Literally everyone in my life knew about Adrian. My professor, Pat Taylor, encouraged my crush. She was a very passionate woman who strongly promoted the idea of “intense physical passion.” She shared that she had experiences of being intensely physically attracted to someone outside of her marriage and that it was a shared, reciprocated attraction, but it didn’t mean she didn’t love her husband. And that all of us, being single, should follow that attraction. We’re young, we’re free. Don’t deny yourself the experience of physical passion!
In November our class set off on a week-long bus tour of Northern England and Scotland. We visited the Lake District, Loch Ness, the home of the Bronte sisters and Edinburgh. Our bus had just pulled into Edinburgh on route to Edinburgh Castle when I awoke from a nap. My head was leaning against the window and I was looking out. We were literally inching along in bumper to bumper traffic. All of the sudden my eyes focused on someone walking down the sidewalk next to our bus. It was Adrian!! Four hours away in a different town and country, Adrian was fucking walking down the street! This could not just be coincidence, it must be fate! Immediately I jumped up from my seat and began shouting, “oh my god! It’s Adrian! It’s Adrian! It’s the violin player! He’s walking down the street!! It’s fate!” My friend sitting next to me said, “you’re not getting off the bus are you?” I said I had to go talk to Pat. I ran to the front of the bus and said, “Pat! It’s Adrian! You know, Adrian, the violin player?! He’s here in Edinburgh!” Pat said, “Go! You must go! Driver! Let her off the bus! Honey, meet us at the castle! Good luck!”
And there in the middle of traffic, with 32 of my peers watching, I ran off the bus, through 2 other lanes of standstill traffic to the sidewalk shouting, “Adrian!! Adrian!! Hey!!” He turned toward the call of his name with a look that said who could possibly be calling to me? I ran up breathless and said, “Oh my god! Adrian! It’s me! Jocelyn?! You know, from Cambridge? From the square?! I saw you from the bus and was like, oh my god, it’s Adrian. It’s like fate! Can you believe we’re both here? Who would have thought? I just had to say hi! Where are you going? We’re going to the castle. Are you going to the castle?” I literally never took a breath. His head tilted from side to side. And then very slowly and with some concern he said, “Uh, did you know I was here-” “No, of course not! I mean did you know I was here?” “Wow, yeah, so this is my girlfriend, Catherine.” I had not even seen her. I was blinded and could only see him. She had dark hair styled in a pixie cut, creamy fair skin, brown eyes and seemed to be half his height (the complete opposite of me.) With a look of confusion and almost disgust her eyes narrowed as she said, in her British accent, “So, that’s your coach?” Yeah. “And you just ran off?” Yeah.
At that point I decided I needed to quickly get myself out of this extremely awkward situation and get back on that bus. The light had turned green, but traffic still wasn’t moving. I said I’d better get back to the bus before it took off. I turned and ran. As I climbed back on everyone cheered and clapped and said, “That was so amazing!” “You’re so brave!” “Beautiful!” “That was like a movie!” I screeched through my red face, “That was his girlfriend!” and burst into tears. Despite the praise and admiration from my classmates and professor I felt embarrassed and heart broken. I wanted the Romantic Comedy ending. Needless to say I don’t remember much about Edinburgh Castle. I sat on the bus for quite awhile letting the tears flow. The shame and humiliation getting the best of me. And for the next few weeks, under gray cold skies, I listened to Jonie Mitchell’s Blue on repeat as I walked through The Commons. I never saw Adrian again.
Neither love nor intense physical passion was to be had while studying abroad. I didn’t even have one single kiss the entire semester. Not even when I went to Italy! (Hmm, or did I? At 2am after that dance club with those two Italian guys? But there were three of us girls, so that doesn’t add up.) Despite the heartache, this is one of my favorite experiences of my life. I took a risk! My story actually preceded me coming back to the States. When classes began the next semester I was hanging out in the Green Room of the Theater Department when two guys came up to me and said they’d heard “The bus story!” They were truly in awe. They asked if they could write a screen play about it. A big smile crossed my face, “Sure, go ahead! So happy my heartbreak is entertaining!” And I meant it without one single bit of sarcasm. If I hadn’t jumped off the bus I would have never known the ending and that would have pained me so much more. The crush needed that closure. I needed that closure to know that love was still out there for me, most likely stateside.