The Sepher Incident
The night was warm and young. The scent of orangeblossom and hybiscus hung thickly in the evening air as Meaghan and I hurried down the steps of Kimberly Hall and onto the streetlamp-lined avenue. As we walked in the mingling shadows of moonlight and lamplight, we smiled at one another with delicious anticipation... it was time to observe the male gaze.
"Women's Studies class is a riot," Meaghan remarked, running her hands through her silky blonde hair. "I never guessed I'd come to college and have a professor tell me to go to parties and check out guys."
I winked. "You mean check out guys checking out us," I corrected. We smirked at one another as we approached the loud noise of the keg party. This was our perpetual homework assignment: hitting Claremont McKenna parties to observe what our professor called the male gaze. This, we had decided, would be the most enjoyable A we would earn in the aggregate experience of our college careers.
"Hey Christine, Meaghan," a voice called.
We turned to see Joe Ski, CMC freshman class president and hallowed lush, approaching us with a bottle of Wicked Ale. "Nice shoes," he offered, glancing at my strappy sandals and throwing an arm around the two of us. "Where ya going?"
"A la fiesta de cerveza!" I told him with a huge grin.
"Keg party," Meaghan translated. "I take it you've already been there."
"It's roaring," Joe said, ruffling his mass of light blonde curls. He looked at me and grabbed my hair with the hand he had draped over my shoulders. "Look at this hair," he exclaimed, "we could be twins!"
Meaghan laughed. "Maybe," she said.
"Probably not," I added.
Joe looked hurt. "Oh, well," he sang out, "are you meeting any more caring and appreciative friends at the party?"
Meaghan flashed a smile in my direction. "Actually, we're looking for guys cuz we're gonna observe the male gaze. Are they at the keg?"
"GAYS??" Joe exclaimed indignantly. "I don't know any gays!"
"Gaze," I annunciated. "As in G-A-Z-E."
"Oh." Joe nodded slowly. "I see... well, you'll get some like usual." He paused to take a swig from his bottle. "That way, at Green. Three kegs. Big party."
Meaghan and I laughed as we left Joe. This would just be too much fun. We walked off in the direction of Green Hall. There were masses of people crowded around doorways. Red plastic cups littered the sidewalks and Snoop blared from a pumped-up stereo system.
"Male gaze!" Meaghan shot at me in a hushed whisper, and I couldn't help laughing.
"Where?" I demanded.
"Over there!" She nodded backwards, ever so casually, at a group of men who were staring, glassy-eyed, in our direction.
I made a face. "Not the gazes I prefer to study," I whispered.
We headed over to the kegs where most of the men were, and leaned casually against a wall.
Male gazes were transpiring left and right, much to our amusement, and because of the nature of our mission, we could barely keep ourselves contained. Soon a group of drunk water polo players approached us with cups in hand, Coors Light sloshing over the rims.
"He-e-e-ey," one said, leaning against the wall next to us. He looked at me with quasi-recognition. "You're Christine, huh? Nice skirt."
Meaghan grabbed the Coors out of his hand before it spilled on one of us. "Hm," she said and looked at him. "You don't need this stuff. You're pretty drunk already."
"Aw, nooo!" his friends chimed in unison. "This is our first drink!"
I raised my eyebrows and returned my attention to the male gaze subject leaning against the wall. "What were you saying about my skirt?" I asked.
"Nice skirt," he replied. His friends laughed.
"Do you mean nice legs?" Meaghan asked directly.
"Uh..." the waterpolo players were thrown off guard.
With a knowing look, Meaghan pulled out a little green tablet and requested he tell her what he really was thinking.
"What is this?" one asked.
I stepped closer to Meaghan. "We're studying the male gaze and we need some more data," I explained.
The water polo players did a double take. "We're not gay!" one of them retorted in disgust.
Meaghan and I doubled up laughing, and she took a sip of the Coors. "G-A-Z-E," she responded, then added quickly, "this beer sucks."
The guys just laughed, and Meaghan, clearly perturbed in all her hard-wired feminist philosophy, rolled her eyes, made a little scoffing sound, and downed the whole thing without batting an eyelash. The water polo players were impressed.
"Wow!" one leered. "There's nothing that turns me on more than a woman who can take her beer-drivers the right way."
Meg looked at me.
"Beer-drivers," the guy repeated. "Rum, vodka, and Coooooors Light!"
Meaghan looked at the 18-oz cup in her hand. "Awh, Jesus!" she groaned. "No wonder that stuff tasted like shit." She looked at them with disgust. "Enough male gaze here," she said. We gave the boys dirty looks and headed off in the opposite direction.
Male Gaze was prevalent that night. "Look over there," I suddenly hissed. I pointed to what had to be the most gorgeous man I had seen in my whole life... well, that night at CMC at least. Dark, handsome, built like a Greek god, a face like an Italian supermodel...
"Oh, God," Meaghan said. "Let's order in Little Caesar!"
We walked by Caesar, brushed into him, stood near him, breathed on him, did everything in our power to coax out his male gaze. He wasn't looking. But everyone else was.
"Check that joke out," Meg ordered, nodding in the direction of a low brick wall.
I turned to see a guy holding a cup of beer to his lips. His face was red and sweaty as he locked eyes with me. I just stared at him with a wrinkled forehead, as he tilted up his cup and drank his beer...slowly... without breaking his mooney stare. Then he wiggled his eyebrows like John Belushi in Animal House.
I turned away. Yuck. Meaghan burst into a fit of giggles. I looked at her kind of funny. "Come on, where's Caesar?"
Little Caesar, meanwhile, was walking about looking mighty tasty. Heading once again in his direction, I could feel an aritillery of male gazes firing -- and shooting to kill -- from the midst of a bevy of inebriated men. Every time I said "male gaze," Meaghan started laughing.
"Knock it off, Meg," I told her. "You've got to get it together. Let's talk to Caesar."
Meaghan stopped dead in her tracks. "No," she said and then started laughing. I opened my eyes wide, totally baffled at her sudden change in demeanor. "Come ON," I directed. I then dragged Meaghan, who was laughing indiscriminately, into the group where Little Caesar stood. He and four very well-built friends held bottles of Michelob Dark. They looked up and smiled when we approached.
"Hi," I said. They were drunk. "I'm Christine."
"Christina or Christine?"
The guys grabbed my hand like politicians and then grabbed Meaghan's.
"This is Meaghan," I said when she failed to introduce herself.
She grinned. "I'm Meaghan."
The boys laughed.
"We were observing you," she said. "Dorks."
My mouth dropped open. What was she saying? That wasn't the in plan. The boys looked at me for an explanation. "Uh," I said tossing my hands in the air with feigned disinterest. "Nothing."
"Nuh-uh-uh-uh," Meaghan insisted. She was getting plowed from the beer-driver. "We're observing you cuz of your male gaze."
"We're not male gays!" sputtered Little Caesar.
"Fuck no!" shot one of his friends.
I stepped on Meaghan's foot. "Don't step on my foot," she directed.
Embarrassed, I turned back to Caesar and said with a fairly decent amount of dignity, "We're in a Women's Studies/Female Eroticism class, and we're supposed to check out the way guys observe girls. You know, the male G-A-Z-E."
"Oh..." The boys shifted on their heels. "What's that book for?" they questioned, nodding to the little green tablet I was holding.
Meaghan grabbed the book. "Screw you!" she said. "It's TOP SECRET!" She held it firmly against her chest.
"Meg," I said under my breath. "It's cool. Give it back."
Meaghan began to hand over the tablet but suddenly stopped, fumbled for a pen, and leaned up against Little Caesar. "Fuck it. Give us a quote," she purred.
Caesar's mouth dropped open. "Huh?"
"A quote, asshole," one of his friends shouted in an attempt to be heard over the blaring music.
"Uh..." Caesar looked up blankly. He scratched his head. His friends shoved him in the back. He took deep swallow of his beer. His friends shoved him some more. Finally he said, "Man was put on Earth to seek women."
"Yeah!" his friends shouted in approval.
Meaghan was struggling with then pen. "Man... was... put... on... Earth..." she was writing.
"To seek women!" the guys filled in with gusto.
Caesar smiled. "Make that HUNT and seek women," he corrected.
"YEAH!" his friends hollered again.
Meaghan looked at the tablet in confusion. "Man was what?" she asked.
Deftly, I slipped the paper and pen from her fingers and said to Caesar with meaning, "So, is there a name I can tagline this quote with?"
Caesar took a swig of beer. "Dan," he said. "Dan Cella."
His friends busted up and started nudging one another. I took that as a good sign.
Dan Cella and I hung out all evening. Meaghan became progressively intoxicated, thanks to the drunk water polo shitheads, and I had to find good old Matt from Canada to take care of her. Of course, it was a detriment to lose my observation partner, but well... the research had to go on.
Dan, as Dan explained that night, was a good Catholic. He was a government major who votes Republican. He was a Sicilian... as in born in Sicily. His grandfather had been in the mafia.
Hitting it off remarkably well, Dan and I went to another party at the CMC apartments, and then decided to go over to the rave at Pomona. On our way there, the guys (who were drunk as all hell and still lingering annoying nearby) decided that we were all going to In-N-Out instead... and they were going to drive there.
"I don't think any of you are sober enough to drive," I informed them.
"Hey, Pamela Anderson, I think we are," one of them snapped.
"I think you're not," I returned. I stood there shaking my head as the guys hollered in wounded voices because I wouldn't let them go. Finally, quite irritated because the drunken coterie was making conversation with the gorgeous Dan Cella nearly impossible, I went and found a sober Asian-American math major who owned a huge gray carpet cleaning van. She took us all to In-N-Out.
On the way to the drive-thru, Dan and I talked excitedly. He put his arm around me, sucked on a beer bottle, and told me stories about his grandfather in Sicily, and how he came to Chicago, and what his grandfather's grandfather had done because he was in the mob, too. He explained how his last name had been changed from Cellini to Cella because his good Catholic family didn't want to be associated with the mob.
When we got back from In-N-Out, Dan was moderately plastered, but our conversation was fascinating. I told him how I was learning Italian, and he asked me to teach him something. He said he had always wanted to learn, but that his mother would not let Italian be spoken in the house. I taught him to say "Ciao" and "Va bene" and "Spogliami."
Dan explained that because he was a freshman, he didn't have room for a foreign language in his first semester schedule. But, he stressed, he wanted to learn Italian so badly, and when he was finally a junior he would go abroad and study in Florence.
The drunken entourage, previously captivated by Dan and my conversation, eventually grew bored and decided to continue with the previous Pomona rave plans. Instead of accompanying them, Dan and I opted to go to his room and talk. He took out his picture album and showed me pictures of his grandpa and grandma. "His name is Alberti," Dan said when he pointed to his grandpa. Then he added wistfully, "His name was Alberti."
I felt just horrible that Dan missed his grandpa so much. Dan then told me how Alberti's wife, Grandma Sophia, lived in Parma now. His other grandparents, Giovane and Pina, lived in Rome. I was excited and told him how I had been to Rome.
We ended up turning off the light and switching on the lava lamp. Then we talked for hours about Italy. Sometime during all of this Dan was beginning to sober up, which, of course, was nice since I hadn't touched a drop of alcohol.
I couldn't help but think of how incredibly fine he was. I taught him to say "Dan e molto bello." He told me how happy his grandfather would be if he were alive to know that Dan was learning Italian.
Then, after a while, Dan kissed me. I told him he was a good kisser and I taught him to say "kiss" in Italian. By the time we finished talking, it was three thirty in the morning.
"You can crash here," Dan offered.
I thanked him and we fell asleep on his bed. Dan, I thought with a sigh, was absolutely awesome. Wait until Meaghan heard!
The next morning, Dan woke up early for football practice. He gave me a kiss on the forehead when he left, and he said he's give me a call if he came back and I had already gone home. I said I was going back to sleep right then, but that, yes, I would be going home before football practice was over.
But of course I didn't go back to sleep. As soon as Dan left I jumped out of bed and flung open his desk drawer so I could stare at the picture of him he had shown me the night before. Underneath the picture was Dan's college ID card. I looked at his picture and thought about how photogenic he was. Definitely model material. I breathed in a sigh of pure bliss. This guy was so gorgeous, so fascinating, so... so Italian! And I had kissed him!
But then something caught my eye. At the bottom of the card was the name Sepher. Sepher, followed by a last name I couldn't even pronounce. I looked at the birthdate; Dan had obviously gotten a fake 5CID so he could get beer at parties. They year was 1976.
1976? I did the math. He was awfully old for a freshman, but not yet old enough to get beer. I knit my eyebrows and opened another desk drawer. Inside was a picture of the 1995 CMS Stags football team. Someone named Sepher had played defensive back. Someone named Sepher had gone to CMC last year. Someone named Sepher looked exactly like Dan Cella.
Someone named Sepher was full of shit.
I reopened the top drawer of his desk and took out his telephone book. I flipped through the pages looking for the "C" section and anyone with the last name Cella or Cellini. Clark, Cunningham, Curtis... no Cella. No Cellini. I flipped through every page, and there in the "S" section I read "Grandma Sue & Grandpa Dale." Sue and Dale had an Encino, California mailing address. Grandma and Grandpa White were listed in the "W" section with an 818 prefix. Sherman Oaks... California... USA.
Refusing to believe what I was seeing, I searched Dan's -- or rather Sepher's -- bookshelf for the CMC Guide to Student Life, which includes pictures of all incoming freshman. I flipped to the "C" section. Then I saw the name: Dan Cella. I looked at the picture... the chubby, round, smiling face of a short blond kid with little blue eyes. Dan Cella. Sepher...
I was in shock. That asshole had lied to me all night. God, I must have looked stupid. Fuck.
After carefully replacing everything I had moved, I took a small piece of paper from Sepher's desk and wrote in small square black letters:
I HAD A GOOD TIME PLAYING YOUR GAME LAST NIGHT. HOPEFULLY IN THE FUTURE YOU WILL REFRAIN FROM TELLING TALES THAT REEK OF SUCH GLARING BULLSHIT WHILE ON YOUR NEVERENDING QUEST TO HUNT AND SEEK WOMEN. THE REAL DAN CELLA AND I ARE GOOD FRIENDS... NOT EVERYONE IS AS ON TOP OF THINGS AS I AM. CIAO.
That night I got a phone call. It was Sepher. "My name is Suh-pear," he told me sheepishly. "It means 'sky' in Persian."
I laughed with undisguised bitterness. "And did your grandpa fight and die thousands of years ago during the Persian Wars?" I asked.
"Uh... no," he said, clearly a little embarrassed at being found out. "I don't know why I made all that up. Will you give me another chance?"
"No," I returned. "You're good looking, you play ball, you seemed reasonaby intelligent... and yet you had to make up a bunch of bullshit... for what?"
"Guys kind of do that," said Sepher. "Nothing personal." There was a short pause before he ventured, "you, uh, want to come over?"
I couldn't stop the laugh that came out of my throat. "And then you woke up!" I taunted. And with that, I dropped the phone back into the cradle and found myself thinking, much to my chagrin...
Damn, he was hot.