Modern Love at USC

Instances and small chances of modern love at the USC campus based on both reality and fiction.

by Chloe Ehlers / Garnet & Black

Whether it means falling in love with the trees on the horseshoe, spotting constellations from the observatory, or admiring the pastel sunsets at horizon garage: feel the love.

Karen hearts Thomas '87

I met Thomas when I bent down to tie my shoe on the stairs of the fountain at Thomas Cooper. He conveniently ran into me on his way to class, almost knocking me headfirst into the stone. When I looked up to see who hit me, I saw a boy who looked like nothing special. Someone I've probably passed a hundred times without knowing. His hair was a mop of brown curls that seemed to match his messy aura. The only thing that set him apart was his smile, almost a smirk. It seemed to draw me in enough to know he wasn't my type. Just from his smile, I could tell that Thomas was someone who was far from organized and prepared for anything. Obviously, he could barely even look where he was going. Despite my first impressions, he found it suitable to apologize with a cup of coffee and a promise to see me again. Instead of taking his first offer, I told him I was rushing to get lunch with my roommate.  In that moment, all I thought of it was a stupid accident caused by a stupid boy. I had no clue how stubborn Thomas would turn out to be. 

A few weeks later at a small gathering with a few of my friends at their house, Thomas walked through the doors. His eyes flashed straight to me and widened. Even now, he denies knowing it was my party, but I beg to differ. Somehow it wasn’t until that night that I had noticed him or known we shared mutual friends.

We spent our night sharing glances across the crowded room and talking in circles together but never with each other. Despite sharing friends, I wanted nothing to do with him. Now was not the time that I wanted to get involved with anything. I had an internship lined up for the next semester and my classes kept me busy enough. The last thing I needed was a brash guy getting in the way. Everything was fine as is. 

As most parties do, the hours crept along until no one was left except me, my few close friends, and Thomas. In the quiet of throwing away solo cups and sweeping glitter off the hardwood floor, he came up to me, smiling like a bandit who knows he’s already gotten away with his crime. 

“So, Karen, I still owe you that coffee for the other day.” 

I tried to hide my smile and turned away, “It’s fine, Thomas. I’ll let you get away with it this time.” 

“What if I don’t want to?”

“What?” I said, dropping the trash bag onto the ground. He really wasn't going to give it up. 

“What will it take for you to go on a date with me?”


“Anything,” he beamed. 

“Take a dip in the fountain, and then we’ll talk.” 

His smile widened, lighting up the room, and a surprising warmth filled my chest. 

One of my friends, Miranda, slipped beside me as Thomas turned to discuss his fountain plan. "You're not going to make him do that, are you?"

“Let’s see how far he takes it.”

Then at two in the morning, we were all standing around the fountain waiting to see if he was actually going to do it. I hugged my jacket around me as Thomas stripped his off. Before he could reach for his shirt, I stepped forward and stopped him. I couldn't let his bravado get him sick or embarrassed. “Fine. We’ll go on a date. Just one.” 

“You will?”

“Yes, please just don’t jump in.”

“Only if you tell me to,” he said with a wink. 

On that first date, everything I assumed about Thomas was wrong. My initial judgements proved to be the opposite of everything. He carried around a leather bound journal that carried a to-do list longer than my own, which was quite the feat. We talked about our classes and his engaging ideas that almost made me late to class. For the longest time, I thought love was something to put off. That I would look for it when I felt ready, but as fate had it, love tripped in front of a fountain. 

Hundreds of coffee dates and two years later, Thomas dragged me back to the spot we first met. Carved in the first cement was “Karen hearts’ Thomas ‘87.” It felt special to know our names, our story would stay here as a marker. However, it wasn’t as special as the permanence of a life with the artist who lovingly dug a stick through wet cement to proclaim his love. From that first day, Thomas has kept a hold of my heart, but a little piece of it has sat in front of the fountain carved in weathered stone for thirty-six years.

Laura Lucivero / Garnet & Black