Nobody can be alone anymore. Oh-so typical – even when it’s over she still has something to say. As if she still had power over me. Nobody can be alone anymore, I think yet again. Alone. I suppose that’s the irony in it, being that in the same two-hour drive when, while playing with her new iPhone and all but ignoring me, she said it, she also had another sentiment – that one being that we should break apart. “Space,” she had said. “It’s just that, y’know it’s our senior year, and we’ve been together for, like, ever. I guess I just want to see what else is out there.” And then, as I put the Audi in park – right in front of the apartment she shares with her former Cheerleader friend and Class-A-Bitch Skye – she said “I don’t know who I am without you Christian. I need to be alone right now. Figure out who I really am.”
I look across the crowded room – everybody drunk and jolly, especially the new fresh faces – and catch a glimpse of Amy and Skye laughing and flirting with two guys whose faces I can’t see through the darkly-lit room. I finish my beer and walk to the keg. “Excuse me,” I say to some random dude hovering over the keg trying to fill his cup. He tilts his head sideways as nothing comes out, stunned –puzzled perhaps – and too stupid to realize it needs to be pumped first.
Typical freshman, I think pushing him to the side. “Hey,” I yell over the music. “Let me help you with that pal.” He’s wearing a pair of Aeropostale jeans with more holes than denim and a dumb fuckin’ T-shirt that may as well be his sisters – why these young kids think baby doll T-shirts that show off their biceps is cool is something I’ve never quite understood. Perhaps it’s a jock thing, who knows. I pump the keg, fill my and the dumbass freshman’s cup and exit through the side door.
Outside on the porch overlooking a fenced-in yard, a pool in great use tonight, it takes me three matches to light a cigarette (Marlboro Reds, forever and always) due to the wind on this August night that is still so young – much like the sea of freshman who, for the first time in their short lives, finally have the freedom to drink, smoke and fuck whatever and whoever without Mom and Dad breathing down their neck.
The night has just begun.
I’m still on the porch when Neco comes walking up, dripping wet from the pool and when he sees me, he smiles and we shake and slap each other’s backs. “Christian,” he says, throwing a towel over his shoulder and leading me to the other side of the porch where there’s a table and several patio chairs. “Sit, sit.” I do so. When Neco says something – whether it be a small, kind gesture or a downright command – it’s wise to do as he says or asks of you.
A couple weeks into freshman year me and my roommate Dan, along with Tim who lived in the room next to us (shared the same shitter and shower) wanted to score some cocaine but the only dealer we knew lived down the hall from us and only sold shit-weed full of enough stems and seeds you could start your own farm. I thought back to our first night as free men – the huge party everybody in school seemed to be at and remembered something, someone.
When I met Neco back then, he was a junior – maybe not in credits but certainly in years – and during a chance meeting at the party couple weeks back, remembered him telling me that if I ever need anything – “anything at all,” he’d said – to let him know. That was three years ago. Neco has been my dealer ever since, and over the years we’ve even become friends.
“So how was summer?” he asks, and the memories of what used to be flash past in what seems like seconds and five minutes later he tells me he needs to get changed so I follow him in, once again tossed into the sweaty crowded quarters, and down the hall to his room. He unlocks it, says something about “these cocksucking fucks” and listen to him bitch about some “whore” that owes him money as he takes his shorts off and dries off while I gaze around his room, silently jealous of his new house, and then he throws on a graphic tee and says “catch” as he tosses it – the viva la white girl – and after a few lines courtesy of him, it’s back to the party, the fucking zoo, people everywhere.
I’m looking for Dan and Tim while trying to avoid an encounter with Amy but it’s just so crowded and dark that it’s hard to see much of anything and this pale-looking Asian chick with short black hair and lots of piercings wearing all black and who is likely a vampire (and a freshman at that) gets tossed on me and without even attempting to fuck her, she drops her Solo cup and pushes me hard against the wall and sticks her tongue down my throat and a minute later we’re upstairs. She tells me I’m hot. She says I listen better than Ricky ever did. I go with it and a minute later me and the Asian Vampire are in the laundry room, her sucking me off and me just enjoying it. It couldn’t come at a better time I think, so I let her go down on me for a few minutes before grabbing her ass, tearing whatever clothing she does have on off, and then fuck her. She moans, groans and makes pretty much every other noise in the book while we go at it, her ass atop the dryer with me pile-driving her. After two or three minutes she brings up the fact we’re not protected. “Daddy,” she calls me in mid-come.Daddy? Seriously, what’s with girls wanting to fuck their fathers? Something I never quite understood. But fuck it, what’s there to do anyway? I slam her even harder and, again during orgasm, she calls me Daddy. It’s loud enough – even in the laundry room – in the house for me to pretend I don’t hear her; and when I do, I put a hand to my ear and say “Me speak no Chinese.” After two more minutes and another orgasm (yes, she is a squirter) she starts to bore me so I speed up and as I pull out ready to cum, guess what? Here we go again. Our bodily fluids wind up on her jeans –woops! – but I manage to stay clean so I dress quickly and leave the laundry room so quick I forget my briefs and undershirt. Shit happens.
Close to midnight and we’re at The Talion – renamed from G’s a year ago – and unlike the other bars in town, The Talion’s more of a nightclub than the traditional sports bars – The Glider and The Corner Bar – and since we’re in a college-town, it’s cliental is sketchy – stretching from the townies hoping to fuck young, drunk and dumb coeds to shady dealers selling cut garbage and roofies to the people this club is for: those young, drunk and dumb students both male and female. The Talion’s a good mile or so from the college, just past downtown and straddles the city-limits. Its last stop, the club doing the majority of its business after midnight. Except on Thirsty Thursdays or even a Saturday night Bar Crawl that students take so serious – y’know, those good old college rituals. What a joke. Rock Bottom University is an understatement.
Red and blue and green and yellow lights illuminate a packed dance-floor while strategically placed strobe lights flash throughout and the club has two separate bars, but the few tables they do have are packed away, leaving the dozen booths the only place to sit. It’s a clusterfuck in here with sweaty assholes dancing like idiots, others standing around spitting “game” to drunk chicks they have no chance of fucking, and then there’s us – the fortunate few with booths. A twenty at the door to some big, black bouncer guarantees a booth every time, without fail.
The four of us (Dan, Tim, Tyler and me) and three sophomores (all pretty and on the soccer team) the guys picked up at the party but weren’t able to close the deal were all eager, despite being underage, to go to the club. Halfway there they began to have second thoughts but Tim is smooth and a natural-born ladies-man, so he re-convinced them, promising we could get them in – something I was unsure of myself. I don’t know exactly what Tim said or how much he paid to get the girls in, but he was obviously successful. Having been here for a little over an hour and getting tired, not to mention bored watching the three of them working to seal the deal, I space out and sit in the crowded booth, smoking cigarette after cigarette and nursing a vodka tonic, ignoring the terrible club-music blasting from speakers I didn’t know existed and scan the scene: despite the overcrowded place, I can see clear as day two dudes and one girl three-way-kissing, all dressed in typical emo-attire (skin-tight black slacks, the guys both wearing beanies and black hoodies and the girl’s dressed pretty similar); the DJ getting head, although it’s difficult to see who the “giver” is; some townie wearing dirty Levi’s, a similarly filthy jean-jacket and a red hat who is definitely over 40 is doing … some kind of dancing, grinding 20-something-girls-asses until they turn to see who they just let rub their cock against them; and fags, everywhere, the majority all clean, good-looking guys and I wonder if maybe tonight was supposed to be “rainbow night” or something; otherwise, it’s all so typical and no different from any other night, so after my attention is lost, I wonder why the fuck I’m in the middle of the booth while six people all but fuck around me, sandwiched between them like I’m goddamn spread and they’re the bread.
Thirty or so minutes later the booth’s cleared out, the girls all gone, Tim having left with two of the three, including the brunette Dan was hooking up with, essentially cock-blocking him from any future sexual activity. The redhead Tyler had fingered while sitting less than two feet from me was the first to leave. She was the shyest of the three, even speaking intelligently while plastered (Props), and I think she was sobering up and started feeling both awkward and embarrassed. I’ve seen worse – muchworse – but it’s still a slut move. I give it a 5 on the Richter scale. After the girls left, Tyler and Dan were ready to call it a night so after two more shots I asked the waitress for the bill.
Here they go again, I think, while I listen to them attempt conversation – music of course. But they’re so trashed, I don’t hear a single sentence that makes sense in any world – drunk orsober – for five minutes. Instead I listen to the two of them scream at each other while once again caught in the crossfire and yes, I’m a little drunk but mostly I’m just crashing from the coke and therefore a mind-numbing headache is beginning to set behind my eyes and somewhere in the middle of multi-colored lighting effects and an increasing frustration with two voices screaming over super-loud music I begin to lose control, the anger building at an alarming rate, the headache sharp and throbbing and with no end in sight I simply put my head down and sit there and wait for the fucking check when all I want is to be home, in bed, asleep.
Finally the check arrives and I charge everything to Dad’s AmEx, call a taxi and head towards the door when everything stops, frozen, reality on pause – or maybe the world stops revolving around its axis (I don’t know) – but in that second my eyes lock with hers and I see her so clearly, so vivid, wearing a dress and heels, framed glasses and underneath them the most beautiful set of eyes that are mine and mine alone to observe, hazel with a tint of blue unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and she is so beautiful, fine and delicate features, a skin tone not too tan, and she’s smiling, her lips luscious, full and lightning red; but suddenly the film starts up again, reality shifts and the play button is pushed and I’m gone, outside, my world shrouded in darkness.
Two days later I’m in class for the first time since May suffering through some new Econ-professor in his late-50‘s with a terrible receding hairline wearing quite possibly the most hideous sweater I’ve ever seen with ill-fitting slacks and a belt that doesn’t match his shoes, and in his introduction to the class,Microeconomics, he attempts to humor us with a lame joke that flies right over my head and I sigh and roll my eyes, lean back in the seat and think how long this semester’s going to be. I’m wearing jeans and a corduroy blazer over a vintage tee I bought in New York City this past summer and when I check my watch I realize only a mere 10 minutes have passed. Forty more to go, I think.
Class is in the Billinger building, the business and finance department, and despite being directly in the center of campus this is only the third time I’ve ever been in this building.Macroeconomics, which I knocked out freshman year is the only other business class my major requires and in the spring of my freshman year I showed up the first day of class, got my syllabus and because the course had just oneexam (the final) I didn’t show up until that very day.
The torture becomes too much, totally unbearable, and I know for a fact I’ve got a Xanax somewhere so I root through my jeans, find it and eat it but it’s obviously not an immediate fix so I throw in my earpiece and listen to my iPod, randomly landing on John Mayer’s “No Such Thing” and by the time the song peaks the Xanax has too, and I totally fucking agree: there is no “real world,” it’s all bullshit fed to us by a failed generation of parents and a society where MTV reveals more truth than CNN; and so I say “fuck it” and leave class 25 minutes early.
It’s twenty after twelve and I’m still on campus when I run into Dan. Like me, he’s got over an hour until his next class so we sit outside Commons smoking cigarettes in front of the NO SMOKING sign and look at the girls passing by, oh so young – year after year they stay the same age while we grow older – when we decide to grab lunch. Normally I would never eat on campus, especially not the dining hall, but today’s the first day back and for some reason they actually make decent food the first week – my guess, to lure in the newbies because soon it all starts to taste like dog food. It’s no wonder you can’t even take a normal shit.
Upstairs trying to find a place to sit carrying an orange tray with hamburgers, fries and pizza with my right hand, having to raise it above my head more than once as freshman walk in droves not watching where they’re going and when I set my tray down for a quick minute to fill a plastic cup with soda I scan the dining hall: hundreds of kids everywhere, some too young to even buy cigarettes, traveling in packs like wild dogs, it’s all just … too much. My anxiety is through the roof and I’m lost in this crowd and have no idea where Dan is or where I’m going and I realize I’m being stormed upon by a hoard of zombies and everything is blurred and I can’t see in front of me and everything begins to melt away and then
Biff, who I’ve known since freshmen orientation, smokes a joint and my father calls twelve times within an hour and leaves at least three voicemails before sending an angry text message which I completely ignore while flipping through Biff’s massive CD collection sitting on a couch watching him play Call of Duty in his underwear, lying on the floor.
I ask how his classes went before taking a huge bong-rip, coughing up clouds of smoke.
“Did they start already?” he asks, craning his neck in my direction momentarily taking his eyes off the screen. He gets hit with an airstrike and dies. “Fuck,” and then, “so what about school?”
“I asked how classes went.”
“Yeah, damn, that’s too bad – fuck!” He screams “IED!” to somebody over the headset and then I hear an explosion and he sighs. “Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.” As an afterthought, he says quietly “I think I need to see my advisor … or someone.”
I say something disinterestedly and toss aside a sleeve of CDs and then stare at the wall opposite me, concentrating on a black smudge that looks like a cigar-burn for the next two minutes before I run a hand through my hair realizing I need a haircut. The last time I got my hair cut in this town, the dumb slut nearly shaved off my entire head of hair. I wonder what I’d look like with a mohawk, picking up a small circular mirror we use to do coke on and inspect my facial features: hair long and starting to curl, check; and since I can’t remember the last time I shaved, I figure I have a week’s worth of stubble. Biff says something odd but it goes in one ear out the other, and then I spend another minute looking at my hair, my face, myself in the looking glass, close my eyes and still have a mild out-of-body experience which leaves me anxious and nervous.
“Anyway, like I was saying,” Biff begins, the controller still in his hands and eyes glued to the tube “my dad got lucky on the horses and he’s wiring me, like, a fuckton.” He stands up and walks over to the couch, sits down and gets out a notebook which he uses to help roll another joint. “We should throw down on an eight-ball,” he says, almost like an afterthought. “A quarter maybe.” When I don’t answer he says “Christian, you still with us dude?” snapping his fingers in front of me. He lights the joint and as he smokes it the particular strong scent overtakes me, beckons me to take one more rip from the bong.
“What?” I ask. Biff starts talking again but whatever he’s saying I can’t hear. It just sounds like a bunch of mumble-jumble but it doesn’t last long – maybe fifteen seconds or so – and after a brief moment I’m all good, everything’s fine. Cool, mellow and relaxed.
“So,” he says and then walks back to the middle of the room and plops back down on the floor, resting his arms and head on a pillow while he waits for his game to start up again.
“Want to split a ball?”
“I don’t know,” I say.
“What’s there to know?” As his game starts back up he stands in front of the television jabbing at the XBOX controller and the apartment is lively once again – shots being fired, bombs dropping and people crying out as they die, everything coming from massive speakers and a surround-sound system. “The blow? Yes or no?” He screams over two airstrikes, exploding grenades and gunfire everywhere with the bass cranked which nicely complements the sound of mass-warfare. Perhaps he realizes this too because the next time he dies (uh, can you say airstrike?) he picks up a remote and turns it down to a low-roar.
“Whatever,” I say, stoned and comfortable on the couch.
“We could get meth,” he says, and while this proposal is interesting, it’s not really my thing.
I’ve never done meth and there isn’t much I haven’t done at least once but the excitement dissipates quickly and I say “yeah, some blow, sounds good,” because, well, fuck it, what else is there to do?
My house – Casa 220 – is a mere two blocks down and another three up the hill from Biff’s and is at the intersection between campus and town which makes it an ideal place to live. The actual house is a former fraternity house, one who lost their charter for hazing a few years before my arrival as a freshman, and therefore is very large (once housed as many as twenty people) and equipped with all the necessities of a good party house: a two-room sized dance floor complete with a DJ booth and speakers loud enough to alert the entire block; a downstairs kitchen converted into a bar – convenient in oh-so many ways – with two large fridges and shelves kept full of booze and liquor; another large room in the rear used for beer pong or to play pool; and the patio outside near our parking lot with some picnic tables and a nice yard complete with a horseshoe pit. There’s also three bedrooms on the ground floor, all unoccupied. Upstairs to the second floor where we’ve got several more bedrooms: Tyler’s to the left of the landing and down the hall; and then unfortunately faggot Mark Dreitol (a roommate of ours none of us can stand, especially me); and then there’s Dan and me, next to the bathroom and across from one another. Tim’s Fuck-Pad, easily the most lavish room in the whole house, is upstairs on the third floor and is huge – literally two rooms in one, as he knocked out the entire wall of the bedroom formerly next door (but hey, his father is the one who bought the house the summer before our sophomore year so we’d all have a nice place to stay after that tortuous year in the dorms). So right now it’s the five of us – there was eight our first year but then two dropped out and by our junior year we were down to six but halfway through last year, Trevor (another one of our friends from the dorms) dropped out to focus on his music career – and if I had it my way, it’d just be us four and I’d kick Mark’s faggot ass out for good. Fortunately he’s had a death in the family so he hasn’t yet returned from wherever it is he lives.
My room is very simple, nothing special. A bed, a computer desk full of notebooks and folders with stories and/or ideas I’ve scribbled over the past few years, a dresser and a closet. The walls are white and bare except for one poster, the cover of an album, emboldened with the deadly Reaper who appears to stare into my soul every now and then. Like I said, simple.
I finish the iced coffee I bought from Dunkin on my way home, turn on some music from my iDock – Coldplay, Viva la Vida off their latest album that dropped this past summer – and hum along while I change out of my jeans and into a pair of khakis which I find much more comfortable.
My father calls again and I really can’t avoid him forever so I answer it and of course he starts yelling at me, asking how it’s even possible to spend seven-hundred dollars for one night at a bar and why I withdrew more than a grand in less than two weeks, and then he plays Daddy telling me to be more “fiscally responsible” and reminds me the credit cards are supposed to be for “emergencies” only, not bars and strip-clubs. I tell him I wouldn’t have had to withdraw it if they accepted credit. He calls me a smartass and an “entitled bastard,” and lectures me some more before he asks how my mother’s doing. I tell him I don’t know and say he should call her himself, declaring that “after all she is yourwife.” Ex-wife, he reminds me and then I say “Oh yeah, you left your family.” Once again he calls me a smartass and I envision where this could end up so I say I need to go and he says that sounds like a good idea but before we get off the phone he asks if I need any money and even though I really don’t I tell him “yes I need to buy books” and he ends the conversation by telling me he’s at a Western Union right now sending me a thousand dollars and not to bother him for the next month because he’s going to be in Chicago on business and I say “don’t worry I won’t” and he hangs up first while I study the difference between two shirts that look nearly identical before blindly grabbing one and then Biff and I buy an eight-ball a piece from Neco around 9:30 and the rest of the night is a blur – when I open my eyes it’s 6:42 am and I’m lying naked with a hard-on next to some chick I’ve never seen before and I realize we’re in the North Hall dorms but when I stand up to look for my jeans the freshman I’m in bed with grabs my cock and it’s still hard when she sucks me off while some naked dude pops out of nowhere and starts masturbating over top of us and this is all too surreal so after I come in her mouth I find my jeans and leave.
Sitting on top of my desk in the office of the student-run newspaper, The Weekly Rag, an ass-kissing deuschebag who I thought for sure graduated last year has called a mandatory-meeting for anybody working for or hoping to be a part of this year’s staff and it’s getting late, after seven, and there’s twenty or more students crammed together in this small space and out of the twenty I recognize maybe half but only six of them were with us last year and I sigh louder than I mean to and it echoes throughout the room during a lengthy silence. This brings unwanted attention and even with my eyes closed I could feel some staring at me while I chew on a piece of Nicorette gum and lightly tap my feet against the side of the desk.
“Christian.” It comes from somewhere and I scan the room, finally locking eyes with Sonny — the ass-kisser who called this meeting. “Everybody, Christian’s been with us since his freshmen year.” All eyes are on me. “He is one of our best writers — and a terrific team-player. Let’s give him a round of applause for a job well done three straight years.” I literally feel the walls closing in on me and every single person stuffed in this small office claps for me. I feel like a fucking special-ed kid people applaud for just participating.
This girl Jenny who’s been working with me the last two years is standing right next to me, laughing. She has dark brown hair and a perfect face, one that never requires makeup. She’s neither heavy nor anorexic and isn’t tall or short. She’s nearly perfect looking but aside from that one time, we’ve never dated or fucked for an extensive period despite working with her on many projects – including that all-nighter last fall.
I feel the burn on my cheeks, and right now the only thing I’m thinking is what Sonny’s head would look like on a stake. Sonny has started talking about some bullshit and the heat’s off me and I’m looking around the room, watching the majority of these assholes hanging on the guy’s every word. Ridiculous, I think.
“Okay everybody, I want to thank you for your attention,” Sonny yells, standing on a chair so he can observe the whole room. “I know it’s late and everybody’s just trying to get adjusted right now with their schedules so I appreciate all of you bearing with me. Like I said, anybody interested in joining our staff this year the applications are up here in the front, and I do need them turned in by Friday — five at the latest. The very latest.” The room turns to a medium-roar and when I turn around to hit on Jenny, she’s gone and who’s in my face but Sonny.
“Sonny,” I say, sitting at my desk, swiveling around on the chair. It’s all I can think to say to him and for me to pronounce those two syllables it takes everything in me not to jump up and start beating him with my goddamn shoe. Why is he still here? is all I can think and I’m so hostile right now that when this Asian dude Chun approaches us to hand Sonny his portfolio, I nearly snap at him. And I like Chun. Sonny wouldn’t put him on staff last year and I think it was a big mistake. But this is supposed to be my year, not his. This was my year to be Editor so why is he here, right in my face, calling the shots? No, I think. Fuck.
“My portfolio,” Chun says trying to hand it to Sonny.
“Yeah, that’s great man,” Sonny says, ignoring him and taking the seat next to me (Jenny’s). “Just toss it in with the rest.”
Chun, this poor damn Asian, is short and wobbly and has bad acne which is probably why I always see him walking with his head down and he wears cheap eyeglasses, scotch-tape holding it together in two separate areas and his clothes are from ‘92, and it’s now when I make an executive decision, taking matters into my hands, convincing myself that I won’t let Sonny destroy my senior year. “Hey Chun, let me take a look at that.” For the first time ever I see the kid smile and he hands me his portfolio and I begin to leaf through it and it’s apparent the kid has real talent (his photographs aren’t just good, they’re amazing) and Sonny’s still sitting next to me and I sense his aggravation which fuels me to finish looking at each andevery photo, shaking my head in approval. I hand back the portfolio. Sonny waves him off and immediately the kid’s smile disappears and he turns and begins to walk away, his head drooping to the floor and that’s when I say, loud and authoritatively “You’re hired.”
“Truly?” he asks, eyes popping out of his head like a damn cartoon-character.
“Yes,” I say, slowly turning to Sonny who sits there silent, hands clutched in a shaky fist, looking away from us. “We need a new photographer,” I say, to Chun, to Sonny. “Jesse was our best and he graduated.” I say this so convincingly, throwing up my hands as if to say “what could we do?”
“Why not,” Sonny says. We exchange glances, and it’s so hard not to mock him just as I’m sure it’s difficult for him to smile like all’s well. After a long silence, the three of us not wanting to make the first move, Sonny says “Our first editorial meeting is Sunday. We’re gonna aim for noon. See you there Chow.”
“It’s Chun,” he says, almost in a whisper – afraid of saying anything at all I’m sure.
“Right … Chun. Get home safe now.”
Chun walks away, weirdly skipping before he does a hop-and-a-leap outside and I’ve got to admit: I feel better. A minor victory, sure, but still a win.
Now with the office empty, it’s just the two of us – Sonny and me – and I’m interested to see how this one plays out. My chest is actually pounding and I know I have to keep myself together for this one. Can’t fuck it up. In my head, along with a few other odd thoughts, we’re playing a game of chess and every move is vital and important. Any immature or foolish or deadly thought speaking to me I try to block, instead concentrating on that first move. After a three-minute stare-off he moves the first piece and I’m able to relax somewhat.
“I know Christian,” he says, lowering his seat. He’s unable to look me in the eyes giving me somewhat of an advantage and ironically we’re both wearing jeans, button-downs and blazers – mine navy and from Brooks Brothers, his an ugly shade of brown and too tight. “I get it, I really do … and I’m sorry for the way this worked out. I imagine you’re not happy, and I see where you’re coming from but …” His voice is raspy and he’s clammy and coming off nervous.
“What?” I say, dragging the word out making it more of a statement than a question.
“I know you were supposed to be Editor this year,” he says, his voice picking up, confidence returning. “It’s no secret. I know. Everybody knows.”
“Oh yeah? You know? Everybody knows? Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.” I stand, find my bookbag and start opening and closing drawers, grabbing papers (old articles, some short stories I wrote over the course of my college career – all sent out to various magazines, the rejection letters still paper-clipped to the stack of them) – and then open every drawer again, searching for the lone copy of a novel I started freshman year thatstill remains unfinished, and even though we’re the only two in the office, my opening and slamming drawers with extreme force makes the office sound as if the entire staff’s here, working hard to finish the week’s issue in time for it to go to print.
“Christian, please?” Sonny stands right next to me and I’m more than half-tempted to punch him the fuck out. He keeps going, in my ear as I pack my entire desk in a bookbag too small to hold everything anyway, causing me to scan the room for an empty box. “Christian.” He screams it this time and grabs my arm.
I immediately stop everything and slowly bring my eyes from the desk to him. It’s a bold move. I have to give him that, given the circumstances. It’s not like he hasn’t ever seen me in a fit of rage before. He risked a lot with that move. In movie-like slow motion, the basement office becomes quiet again. There’s nobody screaming, no rusty drawers squeaking as they’re being ripped open and shut, every sound vibrating and echoing throughout the office. Those few seconds of silence are golden, and I don’t even realize how badly I’m shaking (Parkinson’s bad) until I close my eyes and try to relax. You know where this can go, I think, eyes still shut and I’m trying to breathe, doing my best to “let it go.” Something Dr. Lynn would say.
“Look,” he says “I know you probably hate me, but let me at least tell you the what and why.”
“Where’s Henry?” I ask, still angry, defensive, pacing back and forth in a five-foot area. Henry, or Professor Cue-ball, a nickname that stuck with him since he began teaching here in the ‘60‘s or some shit, obviously due to the fact he has absolutely no hair and not just on his head but apparently everywhere. Kind of crazy, huh? Regardless of that, he was a student here way back, when the only majors offered were in the liberal arts. Henry (or Cue-ball, whatever) came from a prominent family that owned something like a dozen newspapers and, from both legend and knowing him personally, he got his father to donate a building and other contributions so long as RBU developed a department for journalism. Henry graduated with a general degree but he was then hired by the University to develop the Program, along with its curriculum. The Weekly Rag was founded when Henry was a sophomore, its original staff him and one other student. It took a long time for the program to take off but eventually it did, thanks to Henry, good ole Cue-ball. He’s head of the Mass Communication department (which eventually the Journalism program grew into) and he also oversees the operation of The Weekly Rag since its inception, with one specific rule: the paper is to be staffed by students and run solely by them. His function within the Rag is to guide the students working for it and to facilitate the transition of its Editor each year. So, once again, I ask Sonny “Where’s Henry?”
It’s after eight when I leave the office and I’ve mellowed out a bit after popping a Klonopin and I’m trying to take Dr. Lynn’s advice to “let it go” and because there’s so much shit on my mind I forget to take the back streets home so I’m walking through campus and the sky is plastered with stars, the moon full and beautiful and since I’m going to pass by there anyway I stop at the Student Center and everything besides Starbucks is closed even though it’s only 8:17 but that’s fine because all I want is a coffee so I walk in and there’s a solid crowd and while waiting in line I hear Skye’s piercing voice followed by a laughing Amy. There’s two people in front of me with only one worker so I know I’ll be here longer than I want, leaving me no choice but to say hi to the girls and I let Amy kiss me on the cheek and listen to Skye rant about her and some guy she was with last night and after only half a minute I become bored with it all so I tune out and now there’s only one person in front of me.
“Sir. Hello, can I get you something?” I get lost for a second. “Hello?” This time the lady behind the counter is rude, a total bitch.
“Christian,” Amy says, standing beside me. “Order something.”
I turn to the Starbucks-bitch and say “A Latte.”
She rolls her eyes. It doesn’t faze me at all. The K-pin’s hard at work.
“Christian, what size and how do you want it?” Amy puts an arm on my shoulder and I let her hold my hand. When I continue to say nothing she orders me a ‘Venti Latte’ with an extra shot of espresso and two frappuccinos for her and Skye, reaches in my back pocket, grabs my wallet and pays for it with my Visa.
The world shifts and spins and we’ve migrated from inside Starbucks to outside the Student Center smoking cigarettes and it isn’t until two kids wearing dark jeans and hoods skate by us smelling of marijuana that I fully come to, and I search my blazer for a dime bag I had earlier but can’t find it so I sigh, listening to Skye as she continues to go on and on about the guy she fucked last night. “I’m seeing him again tomorrow night, and have no clue what to wear.”
“It’s not like you’re gonna be in it that long anyway, you slut,” Amy says, smiling and laughing. “I have this gorgeous dress Davis bought me last week you can have. You’ll look so pretty. It’s soyou.” I’m not sure if Amy says this to make me jealous, or alert for that matter, but it does stir up something and I try to remember where I heard this name before. Davis. Last week. Amy and I were still “together” last week.
“I hope he likes it,” Skye says, pouting, tossing out half a Newport and sipping her frap. “He’s so … amazing. And for him to pick me,” she points to herself “out of everyone … I’m so into him Amy.”
“I know honey,” Amy says, hugging Skye as she tears up. “He does, he does. And after tomorrow night I have no doubt that he’s truly into you. Tim’s a good guy, Skye. Yeah, he has a reputation but … trust me, he’s into you.”
I finish smoking my cigarette and gulp down half the latte in one sip, my throat on fire and that’s when I make the connection and after adjusting to the burning I say “Wait, Tim? My Tim?”
Skye looks at me as if to say “duh” but then loses it and starts crying hysterically. Amy hugs her and calm her down as she shakes and appears to be having a mental breakdown. They’re talking but I’m a good five feet away and looking the other way so I can’t hear a word.
“You and Tim have a date?” I say with a laugh and a smirk.
“Yes Christian!” Skye screams and under the streetlight her face is fully visible and I can’t help but laugh as her mascara runs, streaming black down her cheeks, eyes puffy.
“Christian,” Amy says, her eyes begging me to “shut up” but I have no intention of doing so.
“Skye, you and Tim Ruthers are dating?” I laugh so loud coffee comes pouring out my mouth and nose.
“Goddamn you Christian! I fucking hate you!” She turns and walks away, cursing and crying like the pre-Madonna she is and Amy says “Just head to the car, I’ll be right there” and then she approaches me and whispers in my ear “tonight, my place?” and I feel her breath on my neck and we’re leaning into each other, her lips daring me to kiss as they draw nearer and I close my eyes and all I see are flashes of our past: her in a tight pink bikini at the beach lathered in tanning oil, her ass and tits pronounced; naked in my hot tub drunk on a stolen bottle of wine fingering herself as we kissed; skinny-dipping in her dad’s pool when we were in ninth grade; making love for the first time that summer in my backyard, the sky lit with stars, holding each other afterwards; last winter, her crouched in bed wearing flannel pajamas unable to hold down a cup of tea or bowl of soup, yet still reading this feature I wrote – the one I thought was going to make me – telling me how wonderful it was, that I was “so talented” and I was going to make it; and then the last night we spent together, this past summer when I visited her in L.A. where she was supposedly crashing at her cousins and I surprised her and at dinner she could barely look at me, suggesting we stay the night at the Four Seasons instead of her “cousins” and when we made love that night it wasn’t the same, and the following morning I flew back to Pennsylvania and on the ride home I got a text from her saying we “need to talk” and still I was naive, and it wasn’t until a few days ago when we were driving back to school when she ended it and then, within the same two hours, said “nobody could be alone anymore” and I’m thinking about all this as she begs for a kiss and I begin to shake and the latte crashes to the sidewalk and I wind up walking away – silent and confused, nervous and crying – towards 220, jogging the whole way home, searching my backpack for more pills before realizing they’re back at the house and when I get home I run up the stairs, trip twice, and once in my room I turn off the lights and rummage through my dresser until I find my script and, while shaking, pour more than I should into my hands, chasing them with Jack Daniels, and then spend the next twenty minutes crying in the darkness, the Reaper’s eyes always on me and eventually I nod out and don’t wake up until 7 p.m. the next day, and soon find myself
taking shots of Crown in a downtown bar, nursing a lager. Tim met three foreign exchange students from Russia in a music-history class he’s taking this semester. Everybody at the table is cracking up so I join in, completely unaware of what I’m laughing about – although I doubt it matters. Besides the Russians and Tim, it’s me and Dan who make up the other half of the date. After yesterday the last thing I wanted to do was go out but when I finally woke up earlier Tim reminded me of our “triple-date” and though Tyler was originally supposed to come out with us in place of Dan, his girlfriend from back home found out the extent of his cheating last weekend and, as of when we left, was cursing him out live via Skype and even with his door closed all of us could hear her shrieks and he kept saying “babe, just hear me out” but her screaming-crying-yelling was all that prevailed. Finally, at quarter to ten Tim told Dan to get dressed and five minutes later when he came out of his room, Tim was pacing the hallway smoking cigarettes wearing jeans from Express, a navy-blue polo and a fresh pair of New Balances. Dan, as usual, in his traditional attire: a very bland and wrinkled pair of jeans, a Coldplay tee shirt and a ballcap that had seen better days. Tim, shaking his head, said “I’m driving,” and by the time we arrived at Hal’s the Russians were already seated, and they were so fucking hot that I was instantly hard.
An hour into the date the Russians order two more rounds and it’s almost as if they have taken a page from Tim’s playbook, getting us wasted (hopefully to take advantage of us later). It’s the vodka, shot after shot – all Stoli – and the three of us are close to gone, heading into blackout territory.
“Wow,” Tim says “I’ve got to hand it to you ladies.”
“Oh … and what is this?” one of them says. It could have come from any one of them. All three have long dark hair, matching dresses and the same red lipstick and fur-coats – even though it’s September and sixty degrees out – and they’re all holding their liquor. Perhaps better than us. We may have met our match. Damn, I think, ridiculously drunk – shocked I’m still holding it together. For the time being at least.
“I’ll say it,” Dan slurs. Seconds after he coughs and throws up on the floor beside him. He clears his throat several times and puts his hands up as if to say “I’m good,” and then he leans against the back of the chair, reaching for his beer. He finishes the pint of Guinness in front of him and then belches loud. “My bad,” he says — an astonishing amount of clarity in his voice. “Anyway, like I was about to say: you girls certainly know how to drink. Russia has taught you well young grasshopper.” There’s a half-shot of vodka somewhere on the table which he picks up, tips toward the Russian closest to him and slams it down.
“Grasshopper?” the Russian asks, clearly bewildered as she shakes her head.
“It’s a saying,” Dan says. “Like …” I see his mind drifting. “Like … a Kung Fu thing.”
“Jesus Christ.” Tim, putting his head on the table, perhaps seeing the night working against him. “Fucking shoot me.”
“You know, Kung Fu,” Dan says, slowly dragging the words out. “Martial Arts? Karate?”
“Karate, yes, yes.” I’m quite sure that was the three of them, all verbatim.
“Even better,” Dan begins, “‘Learn from me, young padawan.’” All three are now staring at him, once again completely lost. “Star Wars?”
“Star Wars, yes, yes.” It’s as if they share the same brain.
Dan stands up as if this is a fuckin’ comedy-club and imitates Star Wars characters – Yoda, Luke, even Darth-Vader – and Hal’s quickly turns into the Dagobah system. I look around and the people at the table next to us are laughing, cheering on Dan’s Star Wars impersonation and the Russians love it, are cracking up. He continues his routine for another minute and once again we’re all lively, back in the game, over the worst of our drunken states.
Tim Ruthers, who thought the night was “fucked” only twenty minutes ago, nods his head to Dan as we say “cheers.” I check the Bulova and am shocked it’s already five to two and for last call Tim shells out a hundred bucks for a bottle of Bollinger Champagne and we all stand up, tip our flutes to each other and drink every last drop and even though Tim suggests we take the party back to our house the girls say it’s only two and suggest we go to the strip club so we leave Hal’s and walk to the other side of town and the night is brisk and cool but that’s okay because the alcohol is warming and it’s at this time when we swap dates – the chick that was supposed to be “mine” holding Dan’s hand instead and the girl Ruthers initially met and was planning on sleeping with tonight has also gravitated to Dan, leaving my Russian for Tim – and I’m bringing up the rear, listening to the five of them as they flirt and throw around sexual gestures and since it looks like I’m not getting laid tonight I consider skipping out on the rest of the night, realizing Thursday night is now early Friday and in less than six hours I have class (an 8 am Public Relations course I’ve already missed twice this week) followed by a meeting with Henry and fucking Sonny at 11 that I do need to attend as it has to do with my job at the paper, but I talk myself into going anyway thinking I might find some dumb drunk bitch at The Emerald Club that I can fuck, or at least get my dick sucked.
A guy wearing a dark suit with a blue tee-shirt and a gawky gold necklace right out of an episode of Miami Vice surprisingly checks our ID’s at the door and we shell out twenty bucks each for the cover – ten for the girls. Once inside I head towards the bar and order a drink ignoring the fugly old blonde in a pink thong trying to talk people into lap dances. Me? I’m content to sit in a stool and drink away my sorrows while watching a trio of hot brunettes share a pole on a side stage. Dan and Tim wander through the semi-crowded club and sit down near the main stage with the Russians.
I order a Miller Light and finish it just as fast but when I try to order another the bitch tending bar flat-out ignores me and flirts with some dickhead from some lame fraternity whose name is either Evan or Edwin and who, according to an Amy-Skye gossip story, was spotted giving an incoming freshman a blowjob behind Neco’s last weekend. I shout louder than I should have to, take a fifty out of my pocket and hold it out saying “hello, hello hello” until she turns around – but not before I catch her rolling her eyes in the reflection of a tequila bottle – and heads my way with a smile as fake as her Louis Vuitton heels.
“Another please,” I say sliding the empty to her. Fake smile still intact, she reaches below the bar and grabs a bottle, opens it and places it in front of me. I turn the fifty into a five and tell her to “keep the change” knowing there isn’t any – and then I’m the one with the smile and it’s far from fake. She walks off pocketing the bill and calls me a “dickhead.”
I’m extremely drunk and really don’t give a fuck what I may say but instead I think Fuck it and walk away but it’s so dark I nearly trip over three butch-lesbo’s making out, number one sucking number two’s nipple while number three fingers number one’s asshole and I push through an overwhelming crowd all dancing to a daring blend of new-wave electronic music infused with rock’n’roll elements and old-school hip-hop all mashed together with the choruses of recent hits and it truly is catchy. I stumble, spill my beer but retreat to my feet and fall into an empty chair center stage. Drunk and dizzy I put my head down and feel the tickle of fingers run through my hair, hands so soft and warming. “Hey baby, how about a little dance?” I lie back in the seat and roll my head looking up to see who those soft hands belong to and either it’s thedizzies or she’s black … kind of. Perhaps a mixed-breed? What you call em? Mulattos? Or maybe she’s got a J. Lo kind-of-thing going on rather than a Halle Berry. I just don’t know. Either way she’s hot. Smoking hot. So, in my drunken-stupor I watch her straddle me and then starts rubbing her tits against my face, which is not good because my normal reaction is to nibble on them but they frown on those things here (unless you pay for it; and no, I don’t mean stuffing a dollar bill in her panties) so I’m more than happy when she turns around and gives me an exceptionally good lap dance until the point where my snake starts to dance to the beat of her drums – the last thing I need is a tease when I know there won’t be a payoff so I thank her and shoo her away saying “gracious” in the off chance she’s a Latino and give her a five. She looks at me with contempt but smiles anyway and walks off.
It’s at this point when I become conflicted, don’t know what to do, so I ponder my options: I could leave by foot – afterall I’m only downtown – or call a cab to go home and masturbate myself to sleep; I could go through my phone and drunk-dial everything with a vagina, send out a mass-text and see what happens; or I could shell out the cash to go to The Pit – not your everyday private room lap dance, the mysterious basement level of the club is full of cageswith a variety of different women where you pay a good chunk of change to have your way with them. If Halle Lopez hadn’t stirred up the desire in me, the former may very well have done, however she did wake up my sexual appetite thus I must go with the latter, as it is a sure thing. Amazing what money could do. My journey begins and I push my way through the masses eyeing up the strippers, shudder as I watch filthy disgusting men get lap dances, watch the pretty lady dancing on the stage and then I wind up in front of the bouncer standing guard and all it costs me is a smile and a hundred bucks. I’m led down a dark stairway and then a dimly-lit hallway looking at the stone-covered walls and the girls touching themselves – some fingering themselves – and for a split second I feel like Clarice from The Silence of the Lambs walking down the cell hall on her way to meet Hannibal Lecter when I finally stop in my tracks upon seeing Girl #7 where something other than my penis is erect: my attention.
It’s an awkward moment and all I can do is stop and stare – as does she. Hair an auburn-blonde, her breasts small yet full with nipples so hard it could cut the glass she stands behind; long legs and a hairless vagina that’s pink, healthy and quite familiar, however there’s something else about her that screams disgust and as soon as our eyes meet the gigs up, it’s too late – and she knows it, she sees it and I can see her tearing up and that’s when the bouncer takes a couple steps forward and looks at me, then to her before back to me. “Is there a problem here?” he says, folding his arms across his chest. I can see the black man’s muscles bulging, the veins in his neck ready to pop but before I open my mouth to start fumbling words,she looks at him and says “He’s a regular” and though he doesn’t say anything he continues to look at the two of us, unconvinced, so finally she says “Everything’s fine Jay, really” and then he mumbles something and holds out his hand. Taking his cue, I pull the money from my pocket and take it out of the clip and start laying out bills – the fifty from earlier along with a twenty but his hand is still out so I peel back another twenty and continue to look at him as I feed him bill after bill until all that’s left is a ten, two fives and some ones – and then, after a long stare, he opens the cage and lets her out and leads us the rest of the way down the hall passing by three more girls in their respective cells and I could feel him staring at the back of my head, feelhis breath on my neck as we finally reach the door. He pushes the two of us to the side, puts a key in the door, slides it open and then, once again, leads us down another hall (thankfully a shorter one) and to a set of three more doors. Door #1, on the left, has a sign on it that reads:Bondage. The door directly in front of us, the middle, is marked: Occupied. The third door is unmarked. “How come this doesn’t say anything?”
My new friend, the bouncer, says “It’s a fucking door. Now go. One hour.” Without further conversation, the door opens and we step into a small room with a bed, nightstand and a loveseat. She curls up in a naked ball. I take off my button-down and toss it to her as I pace back and forth smoking a cigarette, drunk, confused and not knowing where to even start. She puts on my shirt and brushes hair from her eyes, looking down, around … anywhere but at me. I similarly am having a hard time looking at her. She’s perspiring, forehead clammy and ghastly pale, breaking out and biting her lower lip, sores all over. Can’t weigh more than eighty pounds and is as close to a skeleton as humanly possible. The rest of her is complementary to her face. Fuck a mess, she’s a downright shipwreck. Fucking debris. I smoke it down to the filter, sit on the bed facing her and say “What the fuck Samantha?”