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Stair-Crossed Lovers

By Mary LOUISE Kelly

LITTLE DID I KNOW when I was assigned to the fourth floor of Eliot House that my love life was doomed.

The fourth floor, I thought: A bit of a climb, but a great view of sunsets over the river to make up for it. And everybody knows that heart rises.

I could already picture cozy winter evenings, nestled up in front of a roaring fire with my sweetheart.

We would feed each other marshmallows and hot chocolate and not feel so bad about having scaled all those stairs to get there.

But as any resident of the fourth floor or higher can tell you, it just doesn't work that way.

I noticed this depressing phenomenon even before I actually moved in. My boyfriend called the second week of September to find out my room number and when I planned to return to school.

I told him the fourth floor of K-entry, and added sweetly that any help hauling up our heavy couch/rug/futon/army trunks would be greatly appreciated.

He fled to the Cape before my plane had even touched down at Logan. He didn't come back for four days. Coincidence? I think not.

But even after my roommates and I finished dragging all the furniture up and he had finally ventured up to the room, things were never quite the same again.

He never just stopped by anymore. When we met for dinner in Eliot, he called up from the Centrex phone in the Breezeway to ask me to meet him downstairs in the dining hall.

And he started eyeing other women--women who lived on lower floors.

Within a week we had broken up. Bear in mind that this relationship had lasted almost nine months--during which I lived on the SECOND floor.

Call it fate.

Call it the post summer "I guess we're not destined for each other after all" blues.

I say it was those four flights of stairs that killed our romance.

THE JINX didn't stop there. A few weeks later, a cute senior called to ask me to a fall formal. Carefully I picked out my slinkiest cocktail dress, matching high heels, and a large vase to hold the armload of flowers he would undoubtedly bring.

When Friday night arrived, he called up from the Centrex phone in the breezeway, asking me to refresh his memory with what room number I lived in.

"The FOURTH floor of K-entry?" he repeated nervously. "Why don't you just meet me in the breezeway? I...um...don't really have a key to let myself into your entry." Funny how he was able to let himself into the house.

As I gathered up coast, scarf and gloves, muttering about how much NICER it would have been for him to come to the door, he called again from the Centrex to inquire what was taking so long.

No, really, he did. I am not making this up.

And the truly amazing thing was that when I finally made it downstairs, I realized there was a whole line of men by the phone, waiting to call their dates to meet them downstairs.

Maybe I'm a hopeless romantic. But somehow, radiantly greeting him at your door is more appealing than meeting outside, bundled up in hat and coat, hair already disheveled from running downstairs.

All I know is, I am beginning to hate that Centrex downstairs in our breezeway.

BUT I CAN'T really blame these guys, either. I mean, there are serious logistical problems with dating someone who lives above the third floor.

Anybody but a triathelete is so exhausted after scaling four or five flights that about the most exciting thing they're ready to do in bed is sleep.

Second, it just takes too much time to drop in for a surprise visit if your have to trudge up a thousand stairs.

Instead, you fall into the rut of phoning ahead, just to make sure you're not about to trek all the way up for nothing.

Rather than show up with an impulsive Chinese dinner for two, you ritualize 6 p.m. Wednesday night dining in Dunster House.

And poof! There you go: all the spontaneity vanishes straight out of your relationship.

No more last minute passion, no impromptu rendez-vous. Before you know it, your romance has dwindled into a yawn-inducing monotony of phone calls between Centrex phones.

OKAY, okay, so maybe I'm getting a little melodramatic. Actually, I should probably count my blessings. I mean, it could be worse. Much worse.

Just think about what life must be like for those poor Harvard students who live even farther up than the fourth floor. Like, say, the sixth floor of Adams House. I shudder to imagine the dreary monotony that must be their sex lives.

Still, even as I write this in my lofty fourth-floor abode, a close guy friend in another house has just called, asking to borrow a book. He'll be happy to run over and get it, he says, if I can just meet him downstairs in two minutes.

It is, of course, splendidly clear that climbing a few flights of stairs requires a far greater effort than walking across campus in 15-degree weather to get a book.

But I don't let it bother me anymore. After all, I already have a date lined up for Friday night.

You might have noticed him if you were in the MAC last weekend--he was the hunk on the Stair Master.

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