The only reason that I knew Stefania was because of Rajiv.
I was 23, and out with my neighbor, when Rajiv walked up to me in a lounge in Baltimore. Numbers were exchanged, dates were had, and for the year and a half afterwards, people marveled at the fact that we were the bar hookup that worked. (But it wasn’t a bar, you guys. It was a lounge. Keep it classy, 23 year olds.)
As many of you know from reading this site, Rajiv is a successful, Indian business owner. He’s an entrepreneur who sits at his desk until 2 or 3 in the morning trying to put his ideas into action. We still talk and hang out regularly, and one of the reasons that I’m still friends with him is that I love his creativity and ambition. Whenever we talk after a three or four month hiatus, one of my first questions is, “So what’s going on with the business?” Without fail, a shopping center has been bought or sold. He has a money-making scheme that he’s finding investors for. He’s decided that he’s selling 2/3 of his small businesses to buy into a national upstart. As a friend on the sidelines, watching him roll in the big leagues is thrilling and fun. As a girlfriend who is not a risk taker, it was terrifying.
Anyway, several years ago when I was his adoring girlfriend, one of Rajiv’s many projects included getting a real estate license. It was mainly for commercial purposes, but when his friend Nick decided to sell his house, Rajiv is the one who put it on the market for him. At the time, Nick’s sister, Stefania, lived with him while she was going to graduate school.
But, like in any good family, there was drama. There is always drama. (I say this without judgment, by the way. Have you read about my family drama here? Exactly.)
Nick was dating a woman who was eight years his senior, and who also happened to have two teenage kids from an earlier marriage. Then, that girlfriend moved in with him. And brought her kids. Nick’s girlfriend hated Stefania and bad-talked her all the time in my presence. But, from an outsider’s perspective, I felt for whomever Nick’s sister was. Nick’s girlfriend wasn’t exactly the nicest person and I can’t say that I’d be totally thrilled with a woman who openly hated me moving in on my brother and then…(wait for it)….convincing him to sell his house in Maryland, quit his job, and build her a 4,000 square foot house in North Carolina.
I used to marvel at what unknown quality she must possess to land someone like Nick and remember telling Rajiv that she should write a book on how to trap a man.
Somehow, though, she did it. And so, Nick put up his house for sale, let her hire an architect for a new house, and started job hunting in North Carolina. To everyone’s surprise, Nick’s house sold within 3 days of hitting the market and immediately went into closing. But, no one told Stefania. Nick’s girlfriend thought that it would be a good “punishment” for Stefania to have to scramble for last minute housing when they moved and Nick agreed. Rajiv said that it wasn’t our place to get involved and that we should let them work out their family drama.
I was appalled.
Maybe because I was not far removed from having graduated from a certain very hard, very prestigious research university in Baltimore. Or maybe it was because I was chasing dreams of medical school, but I shuddered at the thought of someone announcing to a graduate student that she had less than 30 days to find a new home.
I took Rajiv’s phone, called up Stefania, introduced myself, and let her in on the family scheme that was about to shatter over her head.
I’m not sure that I would do the same thing now, but I was significantly more badass in my early 20s. As far as the potential wrath of Nick and his girlfriend, I can’t say that I respected Nick’s spinelessness or his girlfriend’s griminess. I told Rajiv that they could shove it and that I had absolutely no loyalty to people who did things that were mean and wrong. I’m sure Rajiv heard the typical man-criticism from Nick about “controlling his woman,” but as was evident by my actions, I didn’t care.
Not so coincidentally, I was having housing problems of my own. I had moved into a two bedroom apartment that I couldn’t find a roommate for, and I told Stefania this. In addition to having nowhere else to go, she was probably endeared to my disregard for Nick’s scheme and obviously, I continued to give her the down low on what was happening with Nick and the house.
Stefania and I lived together for a year and a half and she was probably the best roommate that I ever had. We parted ways when I moved to DC to start my post-baccalaureate program, but I remember many phone calls over the next year crying about how we missed one another and lamenting our respectively sucky new living arrangements. (I moved into a basement studio that had crickets, and had a crazy landlady who lived upstairs and came downstairs whenever she wanted.)
When Nick married his girlfriend around this time, Rajiv was his best man. While his girlfriend had originally asked me to be a bridesmaid, the reality was that I didn’t even know her well, much less like her. I’m sure that I was just her pawn—a way to hurt Stefania, who was supposedly not even going to be invited to the wedding. By the time Nick got married, though, Rajiv and I had broken up. Stefania went to the wedding, was a bridesmaid, and did the best that she could to restore the relationship.
As for her own wedding, it would be another four years before she met Mr. Right. But, she did! They got married this weekend in Annapolis.
(To be continued…)