Lying on my bed staring at the ceiling on either a Sunday in September or a Monday in October. Who the hell knows? When the world is full of nothing you can never be too sure of these things. Reflecting on what’s gone on in just a few short weeks back in this town, which feels like years – a semester where thus far all I’ve done is spend endless hours and days boozing with Dan and the guys, with the biggest decisions to make about whether or not we should go out to the bar or stay in and watch bootlegged films downloaded from the web and play them on our big screen TV in the chill-room, inviting over sorostitutes or younger underclassmen (underclasswomen, that is) who have yet to learn they’re nothing but a fuck to us (or bitches already DTF who don’t expect to cuddle afterward). I find myself thinking about Sam a lot – a little too much. She was right, though, she got herself into the situation and only she can get her out. Still … after that night I went over Neco’s and hung out for a while, knowing that he and Rocco (the guy who ran the Emerald, the guy who supposedly held her debt) were friends to some degree – why, I really don’t know – and fished around looking for something I could use. It didn’t take long for Neco to catch on and he let it be known that whatever I was thinking about doing, don’t. “This is his town,” he had said. “As shitty as it is – and yeah, we all know it is – don’t underestimate him. I’m telling you this as a friend Christian. I’d hate to see something happen to you.” I said OK and dropped it, started talking about an album coming out in the spring instead, but I didn’t forget about it – I couldn’t. Whether I liked it or not I made her problem mine and am hell bent on fixing it. It’s not the first thing on my list of shit to do this year but it is there all the same.
The more pressing matter at hand is how I’ve been feeling lately. I’m quite positive I’m dying. Been feeling weak, looking pale – hell, I hit the tanning salon three times last week and still am whiter than Lindsay Lohan – to the point where every time I look in the mirror and see my ghastly self, I question whether or not I’m already dead, if I’m just a ghost walking this earth because I have yet to accept the truth. Or maybe it’s just biological? An ailment killing me, slowly, painfully. I work up the strength to get out of bed, dragging myself in pajama pants and what was once a white tee shirt, now yellow due to the three days I’ve laid in bed sweating, weak, too weak to move or eat or go to class. I sit down at my desk and power up my laptop and while I wait for it to load smoke a joint I rolled two days ago and then spend the next thirty minutes tinkering around with some story I started God knows when about God knows what that I’ll probably never finish and listen to Dan and Tim playing guitar across the hall, quietly singing along to the Jack Johnson song they’re strumming until they stop abruptly, and that’s when I hear that faggot roommate of ours, Mark Dreitol, bumming for cigarettes. I smoke more pot and eventually wind up back in bed, listening to Howie Day on my iPod.
These are the days.
This is what occurs.
Amy calls for the fifth time this hour and eighth overall for the day, leaving three voicemails despite her knowing how much I despise them as well as a half dozen texts. All have been ignored but this time I quickly answer with a big “Yes Amy?” and then pretend to listen while I watch Fox News. My Bulova reads quarter to one and I order “one more for the road.”
“Where are you?”
“I asked where you are Christian.” Stern, annoyed. I smile.
“I’m busy Amy, what do you want?”
“Busy with what? Sounds like you’re at the bar.”
“Yeah, Amy, I am.” I sip my vodka-tonic and read the headline on the news: “Economy Worse Since The Great Depression, Are Government Bailouts The Answer?” “I’m finishing lunch at The Corner Bar, I’ve got class in twenty minutes and still need to drop by the office to print out my paper, so excuse me if I’m a little temperamental. Now, if you don’t mind – what is it that you want?”
“Oh my God Christian, you’re impossible.” I hear her sigh followed by a pause and then she asks me to dinner – in not so few words. On the television Neil Cavuto is talking with some hedge fund manager, specifically about the stock market fallout.
“Yeah I don’t know Amy, I’m a little swamped.”
“Right, you’re busy. Mr. Busy Man.”
“Amy, try to use your brain here. It may get a little difficult but try to follow. About a month ago, as we were driving back here, do you recall any … conversation we had? Y’know, like the one where you broke up with me?”
“Christian,” she says, dragging her voice down to a sexy pleading whine. Enough to make me nauseous. “Dinner. That’s all I’m asking.”
“Fine,” I relent. “But let’s make it early.”
“Okay, my place – seven?”
“Better make it six, I’ve got an article due in the morning.”
“Okay, seven it is. Ciao.” She clicks off.
Good God Christian, what the hell did you get yourself into now?
After a sociology lecture and forty minutes at the gym spent on cardio and my upper body I drop by Biff’s, partly because it’s on my way but mostly because he just got some killer weed in from Cali, where he’s playing Call of Duty (headset and all) and talking shit to a 12 year old. He tosses a grenade through a window and after the explosion the game ends with a screen displaying Biff’s username at the top. “I’ll be back later. Go ahead and cry to your Mommy,” he says tossing the controller on his way to the fridge.
“So let’s see this bud you’ve been talking up all week.”
“Yeah, I guess.” He walks back in and hands me a can of Natural Light (or Natty Lights) and I tap the top before I open it to avoid it blowing up on me.
On the small coffee table is a jewelry case that Biff opens and whew, immediately the sweetest aroma I have ever smelled, a juicy orange-pineapple mixed with some cherry Starburst and the richness of the most exotic marijuana I can ever imagine. There’s an eight-sack in a sandwich bag and I treat it as I would a fine wine, inhaling it, my mouth watering before I could even smoke it. “Wow,” is all I can say – all that needs to be said. “This smells fucking amazing.”
“I told you,” he says. “I told you this shit would rock you.”
“Let’s fire it up,” I say, more excited about the prospect of smoking pot than I have been about anything that comes to recent memory – and it’s a bold statement but I’d be lying if I said sex is in a different category.
“Let’s go blow shit up!” Tim Ruthers, loud and armed, bursts through Biff’s side-door carrying a goddamn assault rifle, wearing military-style cargo pants and long sleeves, fuckin’ boots – everything black – with a smile I’ve only seen him in after bagging an unusually hot chick.
I’m on high alert, heart pounding as if I just did an eight-ball, don’t know what the fuck’s going on. Biff’s rolling a blunt, smiling. Tim looks like a fucking mercenary. “What the …” I start but don’t know where to go with it.
“Just picked this bad boy up,” Tim says, sliding in between Biff and myself on the couch, holding this giant gun and happier than a pig in shit or a fat kid with cake. So cliché yet oh-so-true. Here’s another: There’s never a dull moment with these morons.
“Where the fuck did you get that?” I ask, still quite bewildered.
“Remember those Russian chicks we took out? Well the one has an uncle that runs guns for the Russian Mob. So they smuggle the shit into the States on ‘pre-approved flights’ for the foreign-exchange students. All over the country, right through Customs and Airport Security. I don’t know, they’ve got it all worked out. Who the hell really knows – all I know is that one …” He snaps his fingers, searching for a name. “Claudia chick. She helped me. Look at this thing. Come on, let’s go shoot shit.”
So we do, all of us, first stopping back at our house after leaving Biff’s because Tim’s car got booted by campus security (again, third time this semester and we’ve still got all of October and November to go) and because Biff’s Land Rover is in the shop following last week’s late-night drunken “accident,” I’m left as the sole person capable of driving and when we get back to 220 and get in my Audi, Dan and Tyler are pulling in and they fill the two vacant seats and then we’re off, heading out of town and over the bridge into Hickville, taking it easy on the 402 that runs alongside the Susquehanna River due to wicked turns and a decreased speed limit of 45 – not to mention the fully automatic, highly illegal machine gun in the trunk or the blunts being passed back and forth – following the near-deserted road further and further into the countryside only half-joking we’re on our way to take on the Zombie Invasion that in all seriousness may be coming sooner rather than later, and finally we come to a stop and park the car a couple hundred yards away from the wooded area Tim leads us to, taking turns shooting up a batch of stolen pumpkins all the while getting drunk off a bottle of Jack.
It’s after seven and I’m at Amy’s, sitting on the couch watching last week’s episode of The Hills, drinking a Miller Lite and waiting for Amy to finish cooking dinner. Skye is upstairs, downstairs, down the hall, in the kitchen, in the living room where I’m sitting, back upstairs slamming doors until she finally comes back down and, screaming crying, has a severe psychotic breakdown and since I’ve already seen last week’s Hill’s I mute the tube and tune into SkyeTV instead.
In the kitchen, about ten feet from where I sit – the two rooms separated solely by a small divider I can see over by moving my seat just a tad – I watch Skye cry, her high-pitched annoyance of a voice elevated to the extreme, making it near-impossible to understand what she is saying but I give it a go anyway: She’s upset because she hasn’t heard from Tim in two days and the last time she did see him he told her he loved her and that he’d call – but of course he hasn’t and now she is freaking the fuck out because he hasn’t answered any of her calls or texts.
“I was just with him two hours ago,” I volunteer. Amy gives me the death stare and Skye puts her face in her hands. More crying and yelling, a little stomp – not unlike what a child would do if his Mommy wouldn’t give him desert. “Security booted his car again for parking in the staff-lot.” I get up and walk to the fridge, passing right by Skye and Amy, and grab another beer.
“Did he say anything about me?” she asks.
“Nah, never,” I say, drinking away. “Well maybe once. Yeah, he said he fucked you and –”
“Christian!” Amy screams.
“You’re such an asshole Christian!” This time, Skye.
“Go to your shrink and ask for an early refill on your Zoloft … or Prozac, whatever the hell it is that you take.”
“Fuck you.” And off she goes, fleeing upstairs – for comfort, for sanctuary. Maybe she’ll find some by crying in her pillow.
“Christian,” Amy says and just as the words come out of her mouth, the timer on the oven goes off and she takes out what I think is … meatloaf? I can’t be too sure.
“When did you learn to cook anyway?”
She reassures me she knows what she’s doing and we sit down at the table and eat rock-hard baked potatoes, overcooked green beans and the “meat” in question. We drink a bottle of wine, sit on the couch together and eventually she starts blowing me which in turn leads me to rip her clothes off, starting with her jeans and then begin to eat her out, licking it, sucking it, nibbling on her cunt all while her panties are still on and I tear them and her bra off as she orgasms back to back, tasting it, swallowing her come, as she moans and says “fuck me Christian, fuck me” so I do, on top kissing her as she tears what’s left of our clothes off, grabbing my cock, sucks on it for a few seconds before putting it inside her, leaving her to immediately come again, and I’m rock hard pounding her harder and harder until finally, I bust. “I fucking love you Christian,” she says and I open my mouth but no words come out so I grab the remote and turn on Showtime, watching Dexter and lying there on the couch, naked, with Amy spooning me. The last thought I have before falling asleep is that Amy must be right.
Nobody can be alone anymore.
Sunlight creeps in, early – unusually early – and I’m able to sneak out without Amy noticing but my cell’s dead and I didn’t catch the time before I left her place and there’s not a person in sight which tells me it’s nowhere near 8 which is kind of a good thing, I suppose, being that I still have an article to write up before it goes to press this morning and then from nine to one I’ll be stuck in the studio, handling affairs with our student radio station – RBU 99.7 – like I do every Tuesday and Thursday – sometimes on-air but mostly on the other side of the glass. Her house isn’t far from campus so I head that way, hoping that when I pass the Student Center Starbuck’s will be open and I can get a rush of caffeine to start what, I’m predicting, will be a long day full of bullshit, but all the lights are off so I sigh and instead walk to the office.
It’s only twenty after six when I get in and I immediately head to my desk and fire up the desktop. Sift through some emails, search Word for the article I’m looking for, spend fifteen minutes rewriting what I already have and another ten to finish it, send it right to the printer, toss it on dickwad’s desk and I’m out the door at 6:52 – eight minutes away from my coffee.
I pass Commons on my right and then take a stroll down Ivy Lane (the brick walkway that starts at Admissions and goes all the way to the other side of campus) enjoying the silence that accompanies me – a silence that will at any given moment disappear beneath the low roar of campus life, students rushing to the top floor of the Student Center to eat breakfast before they start their day, or the type who’ll wake up at the last possible moment and have to run just to make it to their 8 a.m.’s (or even worse, having to stop at the library first because they didn’t finish that paper quite yet) – and as I walk I take notice of my surroundings, amazed by how much has changed since I first came here, a mere four years ago. At the center of the University is the aforementioned Admissions Building (it also serves as the Financial Aid, Registar’s Office, Business Office, etc., in addition to housing the offices of the Dean, President, so on and so forth), the landscape sprawling with a large lawn, a fountain and wishing well (pennies and all), benches, a barbeque pit under a white canopy tent for use in the various events RBU hosts – usually “family day” or orientation activities, or when the Greeks hold their yearly rush events. Not to mention huge maple trees that provide shade for those liberal arts majors, the type of students who gather for poetry readings while contemplating suicide – the Dead Poets Society springs to mind. But for all of the changes that have been made at the end of the day, none of it really matters. It’s been Rock Bottom U from the start and come May, it’ll be no different. So, really, what’s the fucking point?
As I enter the Student Center a loud, powerful thud erupts and holding the door, half-in half-out, I look past Admissions, eyeing the oldest building on this campus – the library – and the bell tower that sits aside it. The ringing of the bell hums lower and lower until, finally, the minute ends. The door closes behind me and I become Starbucks first customer of the day.
Thankfully the Starbucks-Bitch isn’t on, instead the barista is a dude – someone I recognize actually – and when he sees me he smiles and says “What’s going on Christian, how’ve you been?” and since I can’t recall exactly how I know him I say “Not a hell of a lot, just hanging around.” Which is mostly the truth.
“Living it up, aren’t you man?” He reaches over the counter to shake my hand, which I reluctantly do. “You and your boys. Your crew.” I smile uneasily.
“I wouldn’t call us a crew. Last time I checked we’re not out casing banks.”
“Of course not,” he says.
“No, we’re strictly murder-for-hire now,” I joke. “Double-tap in the chest, one in the head. Poof, they’re dead.”
“The Boys of 220 – everybody better watch out!” We both fake-laugh, after which he says: “What can I get for you man?”
“Let me get a Grande Café Latte, a couple extra shots of espresso.”
“You got it man. How about I charge it as just a regular Cup of Joe; save yourself a couple bucks.”
“Works for me,” I say, turning around to a group of people heading upstairs to the dining hall. Another group comes this way. The Starbucks-Dude makes my drink. The noise from the espresso machine reminds me of an electric handsaw cutting through thick linoleum, my ears, like always, sensitive to various sounds. For example, the sound of a nail-file gets to me so much that I automatically imagine the file grinding against my teeth – the extent of that particular sensitivity can be brought on by the sight of it alone. Weird, I know, but true nonetheless.
A minute or so goes by before the Starbucks-Dude hands me my drink and I thank him (though I still haven’t an idea as to who he is) and start backing away – him telling me that hopefully he’ll see me out this weekend, and me simply trying to get the hell out of here stat – sipping my coffee, a blue folder tucked under my arm and still in last night’s clothes (faded jeans and a black graphic tee under a grey blazer) when I bump into her.
Who her? The one I saw a couple weeks back at The Talion, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen – the girl whose beauty stopped time – even if it was just for a split-second across a crowded club. We had that moment when our eyes locked and the rest of the world was on pause, the girl I never thought I’d see again – the James Blunt song “You’re Beautiful” sums up exactly how I feel about this gorgeous girl – is now here, in front of me. I somehow manage to lose my footing and nearly stumble into her, the folder falling to the floor. The coffee makes a splat sound as it crashes.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she says. “I wasn’t paying attention – Please say it didn’t get on you?” I swear it sounds as if she’s being sincere – true sincerity.
“No, not at all, it’s fine. It was my fault, I was walking and turned back –” The contents of my folder lie spread across the floor, along with my latte. People start walking by as I get down on my knees and try to prevent all my shit from getting ruined, and she bends right down with me to help. I look up and our eyes meet again.
Memory serves me correct her eyes were hazel with a bluish tint. Indeed it was from across the room, in-between about fifty people but I remember what I saw – those were details I’d never forget – and what I see now are a pair of golden bluish-browns (an honest brilliance about them) that match her slightly tan, yet oh-so delicate skin tone, and her eyes put me in a trance and we’re within a foot of each other and her smile is enlightening, keeping me engaged with her every move and breath.
“I hope I didn’t just destroy a paper you’re about to turn in,” she says.
“No, I think I’ll be all right. They’re not too important.” We’re both back on our feet, her handing me the rest of my papers.
“Let me buy you another cup of coffee, I feel terrible. It’s just been a crazy morning, I’ve got a huge exam in an hour, and out of all days I woke up to an empty pack of cigarettes and just don’t have the time to go to the store, need to study more.” A mile a minute would be an understatement, I can barely hear the words coming out of her mouth, a fast-talker indeed.
“Don’t worry about it, seriously,” I smile, reaching into my blazer pocket. “Here, these should get you through the morning.” I toss her my pack of smokes.
“I can’t take the rest of your cigarettes.” She’s laughing, I’m laughing, I can’t think of a way this conversation could get any better.
“Eh, don’t worry about it. I’ve got another pack.” A lie.
“You just saved me from a panic-attack, thank you so much.”
“Christian, nice to meet you.” I extend my hand, which she graciously takes and the first thing that runs through my mind is how soft hers are and I spot a small tattoo on her wrist but can’t make out what it is.
“Stephanie,” she says. “Stephanie with an F.”
Smiling, I say “Well Stefani with an F, how about I buy you a cup of coffee?”
“You buy me a coffee? It was my fault yours is all over the floor!” She laughs, revealing a perfect smile. “How about I buy you a coffee instead. I insist.”
“Fine, fine – you don’t need to ask me twice.”
Back in line, behind two people, the Starbucks-Bitch is behind the counter (she must’ve came in while I was charming Stefani – Stefani with an F) taking orders while my new friend, Starbucks—Dude, makes the drinks. Upon his delivery of the person in front of me and Stef, the Starbucks-Bitch stands a foot or so away from us and as I try to order a drink she interrupts me, saying “Umm, don’t you think you should clean your mess.”
Stefani puts up her hand, says “That’s my fault, I’m sorry.”
“Hey, don’t worry, I’ve got it.” My favorite barista.
“Well,” the bitch begins. “Whatdoyouwant?”
“A dark roast, venti. Christian?” Stefani looks at me and I say “yeah, same thing, sounds good,” and after we get our coffees we walk outside together, the morning air crisp, rattling the leaves of the trees as a gust of wind swoops up and around – the first signs of the Fall season – and in it my eyes can’t stay off of her and she smiles and blushes when I call her beautiful, and because she has to leave for the library to cram in a last-minute study I ask what she’s going to be up to this weekend and she says “I’m not sure but Saturday night I might be at The Talion” and I understand exactly what she’s saying and I tell her I’ll see her around, and she says maybe I will.