When I graduated from college, I was naïve and optimistic. I had studied hard, earned high grades, and figured I’d get any job I wanted. I envisioned something along the lines of Carrie Bradshaw’s life from Sex and the City—happy hour lunches, an exciting career, maybe an attractive, worldly boyfriend. I surfed the Internet, submitting applications to websites that told me my next job was within reach! All I had to do was apply. Turns out, it wasn’t that easy. Rejection letters stuffed my inbox, and I ended up moving in with my parents and taking a job as the beer cart girl at a public golf course.
Mitch, the course’s assistant professional, was 28 and lived in a one-bedroom apartment across from the seventh fairway. One afternoon when his car broke down, I dropped him off in the rough and watched him walk home through the long grass. By most people’s standards, he wasn’t attractive. He was lanky and balding—covering his comb-over with a Titleist hat. In college, I wouldn’t have dated him, but then again, I wouldn’t have expected to become the beer girl. I wouldn’t have thought that men, old enough to be my father, would flirt and rub ice down my arms.
“This will cool you down, sweetie,” they’d say, wrapping their sweaty arms around me. Over time, I learned to flirt back. I learned that hugs led to five dollar bills. Kisses on the cheek upped the ante to ten.
With all of my graduated friends living in different states and my sister returning to college for her sophomore year, I was bored. And I liked to go out. So, after work, I started meeting Mitch for drinks. One night, I climbed the stairs to his apartment and found him outside, smoking a bowl. “My dad grows it,” he said, coughing. Smoke puffed in the air around him like small clouds. “You smoke weed?”
I shrugged and took a few hits, feeling my body grow light and relaxed.
That night, we walked to a bar by his apartment. We sat in a corner table next to blown up flamingoes and a giant blue surfboard. A man in a tie-dyed shirt played a Tom Petty song at sunset, and for a moment, I forgot that I hated my job and that I couldn’t afford my own apartment. Mitch and I spent the evening gossiping about people from work—the girl who stole money from the register and ended up in jail, the food and beverage manager that ate double cheeseburgers at 8:30 a.m. We joked about running away, reinventing ourselves, and leaving the golf course for good.
Later that night, underneath the Nurf basketball hoop in his apartment, Mitch told me I was gorgeous. He said I was one of the coolest girls he’d met and that he’d date me if he thought he’d ever have a chance. Now, I can see through the lines. I can see that a 28-year-old guy wanted one thing from a 22-year-old girl. But then, when his two brown eyes that squinted like slits of a snake, held mine, I was hooked.
A few weeks in, I knew Mitch wanted sex. He groaned when I pulled away from his soft lips after heated make-out sessions. “I know you need to know me better,” he said. “I know you need to trust me.”
I didn’t tell him I was a virgin, that sex was a huge deal, or that I wanted to wait for love. Not only that, but I had spent twelve years in Catholic schools; I was terrified of intercourse. Sex meant pregnancy. It meant disease. It meant pain and blood and the possibility of being labeled the “cold fish” I’d heard people talk about.
At night, as I lay in my childhood bed surrounded by soccer trophies and beanie babies, I thought about Mitch’s naked body on top of mine. Was it worth the risk? Did he like me enough? Was it love?
Then, guys from work came to me with stories. Mitch never passed the playing test to become an official PGA professional, they told me. He never graduated from college. He took golf clubs from the lost and found and sold them on eBay. And one day when my friend heard him say another beer girl was hot, I sat on the toilet and cried.
“That pisses me off,” Mitch said when I confronted him. “These guys like you and that’s why they’re spreading this shit about me. It pisses me off that you believed them.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, and to show I meant it, I went back to his apartment and sucked his dick.
The worse my job got, the more I wanted him. I texted him when my parents annoyed me. I texted him when I heard something funny. I texted him when I saw pizza rolls because once, we made pizza rolls together. But the rumors didn’t stop. “He told everyone he had a threesome with you and another beer girl,” one guy told me. “He’s an ass.”
As much as I wanted to trust him, part of me believed the other guys. Part of me could see Mitch bragging about his conquests like a football player in a high school locker room. This time when I confronted him, he slammed his car door and drove away.
Please answer me, I texted him when I got home. Please, can we talk tomorrow?
When winter came and golf season ended, I panicked at the thought of not seeing Mitch. I began waiting tables at Red Lobster and drove past his apartment after my shifts. When his car wasn’t there, I obsessed. Where was he? Was he with another girl? How could he like someone more than he liked me?
I stopped applying for jobs and focused, instead, on winning Mitch back. The job search was useless anyway. I was 22. How could I find a position when companies demanded years of experience I didn’t have? How could people decide on careers that affected the rest of their lives?
I did anything to get his attention. I went on a date with another beer girl’s brother in hopes that he’d hear. He didn’t—and I was forced to sit through a movie with a guy in a skull shirt. It had been months since we’d spoken when I ran into him at a bar near his apartment. I was with my best friend Tara.
“Shit,” I said, darting toward a corner table. I acted annoyed but inside I was thrilled.
Mitch sat at a table with a middle-aged alcoholic who cleaned carts at the course, and he followed me when I walked up to the bar.
“I got some new weed,” he said, leaning his elbows into the counter dusted with crumbs and spilled beer. “You want to come over and try it?”
I shrugged, brushing him off, but secretly I screamed. Was this real? I’d spent months hoping he would invite me over, and now it was happening. Maybe things would turn around. We had our problems, but that’s what couples had to go through to achieve greatness. Mitch, I thought, could possibly be my future husband.
The night he cooked me tilapia, I slept with him. I didn’t tell him that I thought I loved him or that his white sheets would soon be saturated with heaps of blood. I let him pull off my pink underwear and slide into me. It lasted a long time, close to an hour, but it didn’t hurt as badly as I thought it would. Mitch twisted my legs in different positions. He put my feet on his shoulders. He pulled me on top of him. “Oh, I’m about to burst,” he said, closing his eyes. “I’m an ass and blowjob kind of guy,” he told me another time. I never asked questions. I finished him in my mouth every time.
“That was the best sex I’ve had in my life,” he said. “And you got off a couple different times, didn’t you?”
Did I? How would you know? “Yeah,” I lied, thinking maybe I had. “That was amazing.”
“But if you thought I was such a bad guy, why’d you come back?”
I wrapped my arms around him. “I guess I wondered if all along, you were telling the truth.”
“You shouldn’t listen to other people,” he said, kissing my forehead. “But it’s okay. Now you’re back where you belong.”
Mitch and I slept together for a month before he accepted a job in Georgia, packed up his car, and never came back.
I don’t need to go into how I fell further off track. How I made a fake Facebook profile to stalk him, how I watched him fall in love with a young blonde, how I watched them draw their names in the sand.
Now, I know it was never about Mitch. He was nice when I felt like a failure. I obsessed over him because I was bored. Maybe if he stayed, I would have broken it off. But maybe I wouldn’t have. I may have stayed naïve too long, afraid to take risks, afraid of adulthood, afraid of asking myself to be more than just the beer girl.
I bet as soon as Mitch’s car reached Georgia, he forgot about me. I bet he walked into the ocean, smiled his crooked smile, and never looked back. I’m glad he didn’t.
Amy Gaughan is an MFA student at Butler University. She received her undergraduate degree from DePauw University, and her primary interest is creative nonfiction. She is a reader for Booth, Butler’s literary journal.