Narrative Film was probably one of my favorite classes in college. It’s the perfect combination of work and play, or so I thought until the weekend before the project was due. The class operated by submitting short fiction film pitches and the class voted on their top five. The top five were allowed to write and direct their film. I pitched mine with more certainty and gusto than I actually possessed. My film made it through, to which I was both proud and horrified. I dislike herding people, especially students, which was pretty much the summation of being a director in Narrative Film. That, and being agents of change and beauty. Students are like cats. Frantic, sassy, sweat panted, nap lovin’ cats, who can thrive off of Taco Bell at midnight, something that would now slowly kill me before dawn’s first light.
My crew of cats assembled, Dave, my dear friend and class seat buddy, was our cinematographer. He was my cheerleader in college. I don’t know if I would have graduated without all of his encouragement. Jordan was our editor, an extremely attractive young man with the face and body of a Greek god or hair model. I didn’t know him but vowed that I would by the time the credits rolled from our earth shattering breakthrough film. Jess was our assistant production manager and my roommate. She made sure everything was accounted for and where it needed to be. And also made sure I was up for class, she an insomniac who probably slept a week total that school year and I, a chronic morning struggler who slept more than probably our whole class combined. It was a match made in heaven both personally and professionally. Harv was our sound guy, but worked almost full-time at a sports equipment store and was rarely around, thus we sort of made up jobs to make him feel a part. And then there was Justin, our gaffer. Justin was an international student from Thailand famous on campus for having terrible dandruff and temper and also for running everywhere. He ran to the cafeteria, he ran to check campus mail, he ran to chapel. He was known on campus simply as “Running Man”. One day I overslept and walked out of my dorm to see campus completely empty and Justin off in the distance running to class, my class. The one I was apparently late to. I panicked and ran all the way across campus, sliding into a darkened, empty class room. I sat down, confused. Justin and I sat there alone, panting heavily. “Are we late?” I asked, he glanced at his Velcro watch, “No,” he heaved, “We’re fifteen minutes early.” He curled up and began to nap. I sat there, mortified at my immediate past and all who sat bored and hungry, looking out of the art building, probably laughing at the fool who chased after Justin, the Running Man.
We were an odd few, we desperate upperclassman, hoping to make something we could put in a portfolio reel while applying for our inevitable jobs post college at movies theaters, canning plants, and nanny positions. The film did not prove to be such but most of us included snippets anyway, as our reels were malnourished as they were. But we had fun, as all things outside of due dates in Narrative Film were. I found Justin sleeping on set in the backseat of my car, which was both terrifying to discover yet comforting I didn’t have to worry about him yelling at our extras or running over loose equipment.
Production ended on schedule, which was a relief as we slid into the editing room for our last phase, aka Operation Get to Know the Hot Guy in Class 6.0. Jordan transferred to the university the semester before, making him a novelty. Tiny private schools boast the student teacher ratio 13:1 but tend to hide evidence that the dating scene feels a bit incestuous by senior year. Everyone knew everyone before you even met them. And everyone knew Jordan, as his face preceded him. To be honest, he probably was more attractive as a middle schooler than I was in my early twenties but I was banking on my swanky leadership skills and kind-of -funny humor to woo him in the Mac lab, a windowless attic filled with overheating machines, and the stench of stale fast food and unbathed bodies. I walked in the lab and spotted him across the way, unpacking an external hard drive and headphones. He nodded at me. Good. We were off to a great start. “What’s up man?” I asked, trying to internally grab the bro-ish words as they stampeded out of my mouth. He didn’t seem phased. “Hey, we’ll have to edit as much as we can until 9:30 and then I have a meeting until 10:30. Then we can edit after that.”
I was annoyed that I was just now hearing of this, the one evening I had cleared my entire night for to make both professional and personal magic. But he smiled, “But don’t worry it’s going to look awesome!” Okay, that made me forget. “Sure!” I laughed as daintily as my horn like laugh would allow, “Take all the time you need!” We didn’t talk much outside of the film, as it’s almost impossible, plus I was slowly deterred by less than stellar footage and annoyed that his leg twitched nonstop. 9:30 rolled around and I began to pack up to grab a late dinner. “See you in an hour” I said, and left. I returned fifteen minutes early to catch him still in the mac lab, holding hands with an attractive blonde, eating cookies and milk. They giggled and played with each others’ hair and shared cookies. He had set aside an hour “meeting” with his new girlfriend, milk, and cookies while I checked on my empty mail box, ate a soggy sandwich while I edited a paper, and missed a trip to EZ Mart with my friends to get Icees and blow pops, the greatest duo known to man. The man was both frustrating and cunning. I ended their cookie and cuddle date/meeting shortly and halted my wooing, as it proved I didn’t actually have much woo anyway, he was spoken for, and we were behind schedule.
I left the mac lab late that night, worn out and annoyed. It was raining and I’d cultivated a terrible habit of not wearing appropriate footwear for such occasions, but the weather was warm, so I slipped off my shoes and rolled up my jeans, running quickly to my car. I thought about Jordan and what it would be like to be adored distantly by all, simply because you lucked out on the gene pool and transferred to a small, sexually starved Christian university. I remember a guy once asking me in the hallway if I had cancer because I was wearing my hair shorter. I talked about that for months. It was simultaneously disturbing, offensive, yet exciting that a stranger noticed me. Later that night, I slumped into my dorm, my wet feet squeaking on the tile. Jess was laying in the dark, her version of sleeping, and whispered, “how was editing tonight?” I sighed. “Jordan told me that he had a meeting to go to but really planned a mini date with his, I guess, girlfriend. Plus the footage was just okay.” I was tired and defeated. She rolled over and turned on her reading light, “Jordan’s stupid.” She said. “They were eating cookies and milk.” I informed flatly, just standing there in the middle of the room. It was quiet. Jess burst into her sing-songy laugh. She laughed long enough for me to join -and mean it. I shook my head, “All I know is that relationship better work out because I sacrificed going to get Icees with you guys.”
Their relationship did not last in college, and he moved on as most things in college do. I think about that night often, at how silly I was and how much fonder I’ve become of that story over the years. It gets funnier to me with time. Yesterday an old college buddy posted a funny picture of her child on Facebook and underneath it was a comment from Jordan exclaiming, “Right on!” I clicked to his profile, almost five years removed from that class.
He and the blonde are back together. I’m going to buy myself an Icee.