For several weeks after meeting her, I would occasionally see her in the dining hall. I would have brief one- to two-minute exchanges with her on my way out in order to avoid appearing aggressive. She, always alone, would smile and laugh at my jokes and inanity.
One Sunday in the winter quarter of 2007, I ate with a large group of Foster House guys; about 20 of us occupied two tables along the west wall. I, at the south table and facing south, saw her brisk past me. Resolving to say hello, I finished my meal and cleared my tray. I then walked back and saw that she had taken the table immediately north of the Foster House tables and was facing north. As I approached, I also saw that there was a tray across from her and wondered with anticipation what kind of friend she was finally eating with.
I saw down next to the tray and said "Hi! How are you?" As she replied, I became distracted by a flurry of whispering at the table behind her, and as she finished speaking I saw a dozen sets of Foster House eyes turn and stare at the two of us. The guys then turned back to their table, grinning stupidly. My first thought was "That's right, stare! I know this girl!" The reality of the situation became apparent moments later, as the owner of the tray returned.
He was musclebound, with tattoos and piercings. He sat down in front of the tray and queried me, "Hi. How do you know [my girlfriend]." She giggled and announced "This is my boyfriend!" I fumbled my way through a brief introduction, ended my conversation with her, and headed out.
Back at Foster House, the guys laughed that they had seen him with her, and that they couldn't wait for him to return to the table. "I just wanted to turn my chair around to face the table and watch the whole thing!" crowed my CA.
At dinner that evening, I saw her again by herself and sat down across from her.
"You know how, in the movies, there's the guy who likes some girl, and he keeps hanging around her, but she's not interested, but he keeps pursuing her, and then one fateful evening he's talking with her and her boyfriend walks up, there's an awkward introduction, the boyfriend casually dismisses the guy, and the boyfriend and the girl head off, leaving the guy behind to mope? If this were that situation, I would know how to deal with it. I have a lot of experience with those situations, because I've watched lots of movies. This isn't that situation, though. I'm not romantically interested in you."
She replied, "I know. If you were, you would have asked for my phone number by now. But you haven't. It's refreshing."
"Great. But I still feel really embarrassed about lunch today. To tell you the truth, I've been really curious why you always sit by yourself, but I figured it would be too bizarre to just come right out and ask right after meeting you."
She replied, "I live in Kemper, so nobody I live with is on the meal plan. Plus, most of my friends live off-campus or go to school in Chicago."
Well. That was easy enough.