Arizona State University — September 2012
I had just started my freshman year of college. What a time to be alive! I had just turned 18 and moved to Phoenix completely on my own. Many students were fearful to be completely on their own but I was ecstatic. School was just getting started so I was in my absolute prime making new friends. I met one particular friend on the University’s new student social mingling site and immediately we clicked! We shared the same major and she seemed pretty cool. I recognized her in the dining hall and rushed to her. Looking back, I probably startled the poor girl but boy, do I know how to make a first impression. Weeks after, our friendship was blossoming quite nicely. She was an Arizona native from a small town south of the state. She was sort of talking to this guy at the time (and by sorta I mean that on-and-off-again thing that teenagers do). I had heard so many stories about this guy — good and bad — and had already summed him up. Jerk. He just made her too emotional. But hey, I was in no position to scare off any potential friends so I was supportive and just went with it.
September was full of new student events to kick off the academic year so of course, we had our annual Summer Luau. This was also the day that I met her infamous fling. Trei Palmore. To be quite honest, I don’t remember this day all too clearly but he swears up and down that I couldn’t stand his guts the first time I saw him. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance, she had already made an iffy first impression for me so he was doomed from the get go. (Don’t feel too bad though, things really start to look up for him as we go on).
So off we were, on the brink of a wild friendship. With time, he started to grow on me. He was pretty funny and had a laugh that was contagious. And such a warm, genuine smile. But most of all, he was so much fun. I just couldn’t get enough of being the third wheel to their duo. Eventually, with my support, they made it official and started dating. From then on, we just couldn’t get rid of Trei. He had practically moved himself into her dorm! He was attending a small junior college in Central Arizona but we considered him one of our own.
They were my family and my very best friends. There was never a dull or quiet moment. From junk food to football games and game nights to all night study sessions, we were attached to the hip. We experienced so much together. Our very first exams (straight A’s and the exams that I’d prefer to forget), late nights on the quad and those drunk nights etched in my memory — well, some of them. It was the first time that I truly felt like I had a team.
I finally felt like someone finally saw me.
But like any real friendship, things didn’t say as perfectly scripted like the movies. We made additional friends and our focuses shifted a bit. Our priorities changed and our perspectives shifted. I was pretty unfazed until I had gotten dumped by what I thought at the time was my first “love”. I’ll get into that maze another time. She seemed so insensitive to my pain and all of the minor imperfections of her friendship really started to show. But it was okay right? We’ll get past it I thought. But we never really did..
Trei and I had always been consistent, and his intentions were always pure. He was a great friend to me — always wanting to make me laugh and wanted to make sure that my days were never too cloudy. What always stood out to me was his undeniable loyalty. I could always count on him. Rain or shine, I knew that if I ever needed anything, he’d drop everything to be by my side. I couldn’t say the same for her, which was unfortunate.
Sophomore year, after a long summer, she and I chose to move in together in an effort to continue what we felt was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. In retrospect, it was detrimental to our bright future. Of course, Trei came along with us, becoming our pseudo roommate and we went on as usual — three peas in a pod. But a storm was brewing and suddenly, she moved out. She took everything with her without a word. Her belongings, our cherished memories, and Trei. Because things had taken such a sour turn, I respected her decision and continued to try to find myself. Respectfully, I spoke and saw less of him as well in an effort not to step on her femininity.
A year went by.
It wasn’t until a cold day in February, the day of the NFL Pro Bowl that I needed someone. I needed a friend. I was stranded without a way home from the event and had nowhere to turn. So who did I call? No, not Ghost Busters. I called Trei. I had always known that if I needed someone, he’d be there. And as his character had proven all along, he came. We spent the day catching up and reminiscing on old stories. Drunken nights where he’d have to carry me back to my dorm, and car rides of terrible karaoke. It was like we hadn’t skipped a beat. But there was trouble in paradise for their relationship as well and things weren’t looking good. Our little team had fallen apart which I’ve learned is nothing more than life taking its course. But our friendship stood amongst the storm and I still had a piece of what we shared.
Junior year she graduated, and they broke up.
She planned to move back home but wanted to get the gang back together for one last summer. As uncomfortably different as it was, Trei was the glue that kept us together. But it just wasn’t the same. They weren’t the happy couple and I was no longer the handy-dandy companion. She spent less and less time with us, leaving Trei and I to turn the trio into a duo. We grew even closer than before and I was happy that I still had my right hand. Things were just so easy with him. His utter honesty and shoot from the hip mentality was so refreshing in the midst of all of this change. I really appreciated him.
We still had our movie nights with pizza and wings and a new, thrilling adventure — motorcycles. Trei couldn’t (and still can’t) resist that thing. It had become his new escape. And he let me tag along for the ride, literally. We had reached a new level of friendship, which to my utter ignorance, had grown into something even more.
Wait a minute…do I like him?
He was my only friend that summer. It was Senior year and my roommate was 21. Being the baby of my class, I was still underage so no bars or wild nights at the club for me. So all I had was Trei. I found myself excited to see him and just enjoy his company. I caught myself waiting for the “Wanna come over” texts and invites to the hookah lounge. It was his vice and I was his go to. Once again, I felt seen and more importantly, I felt valued. But he was such a good friend. They couldn’t have been butterflies I was feeling right? No way.
I was under his spell.
By early July, it seemed like the love bug had bitten him too because he started looking at me all funny. Like the “I really like you” kinda look. The endearing smiles and high school giggles. One morning we decided to sit and watch the sunrise and just talk — something that I take great comfort in. And suddenly he mustered the courage to stutter the words
Paige, I really care about you…and I think that I like you.
Ah shit. He said it. Now what? I cared for him deeply too! But what about our friendship? And an even more terrifying thought, what about her? They were no longer an item but it would crush her. What do we do? Before I could even process his words, he asked the question.
Will you be my girlfriend?
Fuck. There it was. In all of its glory. I looked into the sunrise, sun burning into my eyes and I took a deep breath. I mean, why not. So much to lose, yet so much opportunity.
July 11, 2015 — The day that changed it all. Maybe I’ll care to share the messy details of her reaction later but as you’d expect, she didn’t take it well at all. Effective immediately, she checked out and burned us from her memory. But without fear, we started our adventure. A new chapter if you will. It was as the sun rose that day that we began writing our story. I often think back to those early days at ASU and am so grateful for what has come. Just a tale of three naive teenagers with no worry in the world. But most of all, I had been writing my love story the entire time.
— Little Miss Sunshine