It was just before one A.M. before my, Brian, and Tyler's viewing of Christopher Nolan's masterpiece Memento came to a close. Tyler said he was "pissed off", while Brian took a more reserved approach in coming to a conclusion about the ending.
After some scant discussion regarding what may or may not have been the point of the movie, (I myself choose not to subscribe to one decisive end of the story), Brian and I departed from Tyler's residence in Park Place and began to walk down E Beaver Ave.
After a particularly painstaking stretch of sidewalk where Brian and I found ourselves nearly flat-tiring a trio of drunk-as-a-skunk co-eds who felt that the best way to traverse downtown was arm in arm while laughing hysterically (something about a tea kettle?), I heard someone say "That's a great jersey."
Now of course, I had warn my Penn State home jersey, #34, because the Blue-White game was today and, lets face it, even the glorified practice of a contest was too much of a little piece of heaven after months of gray skies and depressing Nittany Basketball for me to not coordinate as many parts of my day with.
I must be honest, after living on Beaver avenue for several months, I have treated many of its occupants on weekend nights like wild raccoons - amusing and endearing at times, but likely to turn on me at any moments. As a result, as soon as I step off campus during the wee weekend hours, I become one of the most non-confrontational people in the world. Don't make eye contact, that's a sign of aggression, laugh when someone makes a joke about your stupid haircut, etc.
My plan, not knowing who was forcing me into interaction on what has become dreaded territory, was to put on my best "Who me?" face, and turn to nonchalantly reply, "Oh, mine? Thanks."
The guy was an imposing figure. About two inches taller than me, and definitely more built. He wore a tight black t-shirt that displayed the simple fact that he could break me in half if deemed appropriate and walked with authority.
"Who wears that number?" He asked.
I was suddenly Micheal Cera's character in Superbad when the cocaine enthusiasts notice him in the bedroom. Just act naturally, I reassured myself. Maybe you won't give him a reason to kill you.
"Matt Hahn, and Franco Harris." I said nervously, head cranked backwards while still keeping pace with Brian's stride.
And then the words that I never expected to hear in this situation were uttered.
"I'm Matt Hahn."
"No way!" I blurted. This guy had to be kidding. But there he is.
"I'm glad to see my number out there. I don't ever see any #34 Jerseys."
"I'm just glad I said your name first," I replied, not knowing what else to say.
"You're one of the first people I've seen wearing my jersey. This is so cool."
"Man, every time you made a play, I was holding the three and the four up."
"Can I get a picture?" Hahn said, taking out his cell phone. "I never get any credit."
"Sure, sure!" I gasped, holding up the screen-printed numerals.
"Whats your name?" He said, extending his hand for a cool-guy handshake, the kind I always mess up in attempting to walk the thin line between wall-street hand lock and full-on Bro-hug.
"Mark, It's Mark."
"My parents almost named me Mark!"
"Cosmic connection right here," I choked out while gesturing my index finger between our torsos.
We walked with Hahn down Beaver all the way from Pugh to Locust Lane. He asked us what we'd been doing for the night, where we were going, if we went here, if we were twenty one. Turned out we were both beat and heading for bed. Another thing in common! Brian introduced himself when not receiving my looks of "SERIOUSLY?" with his trademark Brian expression. Even the awkward silences were awesome. I'm having an awkward silence with Matt Hahn!
Mr. Hahn was even courteous enough to exclaim "Lesbo Alert!" and direct our view to two young women tenderly embracing each other on a parallel sidewalk. "Good call," I said. And it totally was.
Right about when we hit Canyon Pizza, Matt said his goodbyes, gave me a friendly pat on the back and thanked me for my support. I thanked him for supporting me in supporting him in naturally maladroit fashion.
By now, I've realized that what I should have said was "Thank You for going out and playing so hard for my school" or "Thanks for being such a cool, down to earth guy who would yell 'Lesbo Alert' to two dudes you just met." On top of that, I should have got him to sign my Jersey. Hell, if I had had my camera on me, I would have gotten a picture of him rather than him taking a picture of me.
As I now recount this experience, having since run to one of the deserted 24-hour computer labs on campus to do what every other cool college kid does on a Saturday night, blog, I realize two lessons:
1. Not everyone partying downtown wants to kill me, rape me, or kill me while raping me. While it is prudent for me to swerve away from people uncontrollably swerving while walking, there is the off chance I can have a short conversation with someone pretty cool. This doesn't mean I'll take Tyler's approach, offering people my half-eaten Rita's Water Ice in an attempt to be the pivotal figure in some buzzed dude's lamest anecdote of the night, but it does mean i'll be less of a paranoid refugee.
2. Don't buy the quarterback's jersey. EVERYBODY DOES THAT. It makes me want to vomit whenever I see someone wearing Anthony Morelli's #14 - you know thats only one of three players they can name (fakers, you're on notice.) Go for a number that few people have - you just may run into a very appreciative alumnus who will thank you over and over for simply wearing a number.
I've had classes with a number of football players - starting tackle Ollie Ogbu (#85) was in my acting class with last year's defector Antonio Logan-El, and currently suspended tight end Andrew Quarless (#10). I tend to joke that I am part of Quarless' receptions because I held his hand in a group exercise. But Matt Hahn was so freakin' cool. This guy was genuinely excited that I had chosen to wear his jersey. And now I am even more so than I was before.