(This follows on from Nineteen, and before that, Seventeen and Eighteen, and before that, Sixteen, and before that, Fourteen & Fifteen, and before that, Twelve & Thirteen, and before that, Eleven, and before that, Seven Through Ten, and before that, Zero Through Six.)
2000, aged twenty: Sean and I have broken up, and this is the year of boys who are not him. Handily, this dovetails nicely with my first and second years of university in London, where exciting new people lurk everywhere. I take up with a gawky art student from Vermont whose hair I cut in the kitchen, a rabid stockbroker from New Jersey who'd be better looking if weren't for his Napoleon complex, and even---during my summer back home in Connecticut---my shyly handsome manager at Abercrombie and Fitch. I have a type, apparently, and the type is American.
Things are good with the art student from Vermont, and then suddenly, very suddenly, things are bad. It is partly my fault---I don't bother hiding my crush on his curly-haired friend from California, for instance, another art student whose prowess on the guitar cleverly masks the fact that he can't draw or paint to save his life---but also it is partly his.
At the end of the summer term, we throw a joint party in our dorm---our rooms are across the hall from each other, a recipe for disaster if ever there were one---and midway through it, I accidentally walk in on him and an arty-looking Italian exchange student, the only detail of whom I remember is her buzz cut. Unsurprisingly, he is not helping the arty-looking Italian exchange student conjugate some particularly challenging English verbs. To his credit, he doesn't even try to pretend that he was.
He goes away to work on a farm in Italy for a month, and I take some important exams, and although we've always kept things fairly loose between us, it's never quite the same again. His study program ends and he packs up to go back to Vermont---he never brought much with him anyway; for the first week he didn't even have any sheets or towels---and the way we part is awful. It's curiously stuffy for London in June and he calls goodbye through my closed door and I almost don't open it, but I open it in the end, and even though my brain is going be nice be nice be nice, you don't know when you'll see him again, something has gone rotten and fetid between us. I'm rude and tough and snappy. I answer only in monosyllables.
A few months later, he calls me from a van on the side of the road---he's in Florida, on a roadtrip, I don't ask why---and years and years after that, I think of him suddenly in his soft flannel shirts, his long, paint-spattered feet, and I google him one evening in a fit of nostalgia. His girlfriend turns out to be a moderately famous singer who's opening for Ani DiFranco just blocks from my apartment in San Francisco, and for a few weeks I actually consider going to the concert. But time passes and my curiosity fades and in the end I forget about it. It's probably just as well, though: I never liked Ani DiFranco anyway.