don’t eat the chinchilla food.

I went to college my freshman year with a guy named Shidot (not his real name). We kept in touch on and off, even after we both transferred to different colleges, although we rarely saw each other in person. One weekend about two years ago, I was at my parent’s house and Shidot, who lived in Columbia, phoned me and asked if I wanted to hang out.

He arrived, and I greeted him at the front door. He stood awkwardly on the lawn about five feet away until I finally remembered my manners and asked him in. Once inside, he seemed really restless – roaming the house, picking things up, peering into boxes, handling my parent’s belongings very casually, like you might expect someone who’d been over to the house 1000 times would do. He even opened a box of cookies and began eating out of it.

After about half an hour of this strange roaming, peppered with awkward bits of conversation, we decided to go get coffee. On our way out the door, Shidot stopped in the family room to look at Ralph, our brother’s pet chinchilla. Ralph, an often surly creature, loves treats and I suggested Shidot feed her one. I handed him the container of sugar-coated fruit but instead of passing one to the chinchilla, he started popping the treats into his own mouth. I started laughing, thinking it was some sort of joke, but he just looked at me and kept eating them. I stood there, confused, for another minute, then diplomatically (I hope) confiscated the chinchilla treats and dragged him out the door.

I had imagined we’d go sit somewhere and talk over coffee, but as we passed a Home Depot, Shidot suggested we get coffee to go and walk around inside.The next hour and a half was spent walking around Home Depot with cups of take-out coffee, inspecting various doors, plants, and bins of nails and screws. Shidot made several comments when we first got there about wanting me to only walk on his right side, and asked me to move to accommodate him. Not being very knowledgeable about home improvement products, I didn’t know what to say or do, so I kept feigning interest in things: “Hey, look at that lawn hose! I didn’t know they came in orange!” or “Wow, there’s a lot of lumber here.”

Finally, we headed back to my parent’s house. I can fake interest in anything for awhile, but I’d hit my limit and if Shidot didn’t leave soon, I was going to crumple to the ground and start sobbing. We hit my parent’s driveway and I told Shidot I’d walk him to his car. As we arrived at his car, my parents drove by, on their way home from the grocery store. Instead of leaving, Shidot did an about face, saying he wanted to meet my parents. They were good sports, but he kept making odd comments and even my mom, the nicest human being to walk the planet, started to look uncomfortable.

Shidot decided he’d better get home. I walked him to his car (again), where we exchanged a clumsy goodbye hug. Instead of pulling back, as is proper in a hug, Shidot just stood there. I had already stepped back a bit and I was afraid, if I slowly backed away, like I would from an angry badger, it might be construed as rude, so I just stood there as well. Suddenly, Shidot leaned forward and kissed me on the mouth. As I stood there frozen, he told me he’d call me, then hopped into his truck and drove away. I haven’t answered his phone calls since.

The moral of the story is this: guys, you can do a lot of awkward things and most girls will be willing to give you a second chance. But don’t eat the chinchilla food.

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