Having last year in February told the story of my own romance, I have decided to begin telling the stories of some of my roommates. I had hoped to finish the effort in February, but it appears I will have to extend it well into March, or even April.
I begin with my dear, dear roommate and very good friend, Gary Mathews.
Great Lovers I Have Known--Gary Mathews
Gary Mathews was my roommate for about four years, although the last two were only in the summer months. He was not what I would characterize as the "great lover type" which was probably better represented by the other Gary in our apartment, Gary Jensen. Gary M. was rather short and chubby and a little rough around the edges--speaking about his manner rather than his appearance, In appearance, Gary had no edges
Gary was always very much for doing his religious duty and since, for a returned Mormon missionary almost your most important duty is to get married, Gary was all for doing it and the sooner the better. If he had had a crystal ball that had told him how long it was going to take, I suspect he would have been very discouraged indeed. But those of us who did not get married until we were 35 are in no position to talk about either crystal balls or discouragement.
But, of course, all of us in our apartment were conscientious about doing our duty and were, therefore, pretty diligent daters--all except Robert Patterson. I throw that in just to point out that Gary must have had several dates and much dating experience before the first great love of his life. But I don’t really remember much about Gary’s early dates (for that matter I don’t even remember much about my own from that period). What I do remember is how hard we worked to get Robert Patterson out on a date. We felt that it was absolutely terrible that Robert was not only not doing his religious duty, i. e. getting married--none of us were doing that--but not even moving in that direction by dating. We all would encourage him in every way we could, by, for example, telling him about what a wonderful time we had on our latest date, which, of course, was generally an exaggeration if not an outright lie, but, naturally, when you are encouraging a person to do his religious duty, you are naturally allowed a great deal of leeway, religiously speaking. I mention all this because we were finally able, using a great deal of persuasion, an even greater deal of force, a bit of fib telling and a great bit of chicanery to get Robert to go out on a date with the girl next door, who, we felt, was just his type.
I mention all this about Robert because it was almost the end of the year before we got him to go on that date--actually, I think he finally went on two or three--all with the girl next door. Anyway, we all went home to work for the summer and what should we get from Robert toward the end of the summer but a wedding invitation! Naturally, we all went to his reception and lo! And behold! Wonder of wonders, the girl he married was very cute and very charming, which we all agreed was terribly, terribly unfair especially considering how little effort he put into the whole "struggle to find just the right person" thing. But the other thing we all agreed on was that it almost certainly never would have happened had we not essentially forced him to date the girl next door. I mention all this because, if anything, Robert was even rougher around the edges than Gary M. with, physically speaking, even fewer edges. For example, when we all went to the opening social at church, the Bishop came up and asked Robert his name, he said, "Robert Patterson." To which the Bishop good naturedly asked, "Do your friends call you Bob?" To which Robert replied very gruffly, "Some people do, but they aren’t my friends."
But I digress. The point of all that was that Gary went out on several dates before he started dating A_____. I don’t really remember her name, but I do remember that it began with A and I’m pretty sure it was April, but if her parents had wanted to name her by characteristic they would have named her Anxious--as in "Eager to get married". By the time Gary started dating April, he and I had become good friends, so naturally, I wanted the best for him, and, in my view, at least, April was anything but the best. She was cute enough, but she had just graduated from high school, was not interested in going to college, and saw life (again in my opinion) after high school as a Sadie Hawkins race in which she was determined to grab the slowest runner who could take care of her for the rest of her life. When it came to running away from cute, young girls, Gary was (at that time, at least) about the slowest runner around.
Gary would be in absolute ecstasy when he described their latest date. For my part, I don’t remember the dates so much as the notes they wrote to each other. Gary was working a job at the time that allowed him unlimited access to butcher paper, which he used for his own notes and provided to April to use for hers. So all over our room were these large notes with messages that can best be described as mushy. I think Gary got his from the Western novels he was always reading--after all, those cowboys, after they finished chasing cattle rustlers and running from Indians, would have to think of something to say while they sat on the front porch with the boss’s adoring daughter. I think Gary figured that since it always worked for his western heroes, it should certainly work for him--but I would have been dubious, if I had been him. One went, Roses are red violets are blue, I love you lots and I hope you love me too." Another read, "How do I love you? Let me count the ways" (admittedly, not a bad line. He must have gotten that one from one of the better writers--Zane Grey or Max Brand, but it went down hill from there), "I love you from your head to your toes and in lots of other ways too."
But if his notes to her were bad, hers to him were even worse. The one I remember went something like, "When I am with you I shake all over and come unglued." (Which, of course, one hopes is not the same thing as coming unstitched.)
At any rate, it was pretty clear that Gary thought his duty--at least so far as getting married was concerned--was all but done. What he would have known if he had read Shakespeare instead of Zane Grey (which I know, because I had to read him in the 10th grade) was that the course of true love never runs smooth and (I’m not one hundred per cent sure this is Shakespeare--I was in the 10th grade a long time ago) you should never count your chickens before they are hitched. The fly in the wedding cake, so to speak, in Gary’s case was that he didn’t have any money--or at least, not very much. A trip to the jewelry store showed him that if he could have bought an engagement ring at all, the biggest thing about it would be the microscope required to see the diamond in it. This discouraged him a great deal and resulted in the use of a great deal less butcher paper, especially on April’s part, who, as soon as Gary mentioned that they might have to wait for awhile before they happy day, began to notice that her glue was beginning to hold. Finally, she did Gary the biggest favor (in my opinion) she could have done for him. She hopped onto the back of an old boy friend’s motorcycle and together they ran off to Las Vegas. Gary learned that for someone like April, a large piece of butcher paper--even butcher paper covered with lines from a horse lover like Zane Grey--will not hold up to a Harley Davidson.
Poor Gary was disconsolate and for months and was even worse than Robert Patterson about doing his duty. But time, about fifty Wester novels, and a little pushing to remind him about his duty, and he was--to all appearances at least--pretty much his old self.