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					An Autumn

   BY

 LUKE
WALKER
“Everything which we now call culture, education, civilization—all this will at some stage
                 have to appear before the infallible judge, Dionysus.”
                      -Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy




      “I'll take you where nobody knows you and nobody gives a damn either way.”
                                        -WOLF
                                       PARADE
         “My iPhone is totally broken,” Jessica is telling me. I am sitting with her and her

boyfriend Allen outside the student union, drinking iced coffee and watching people. I am

smoking a cigarette even though I'm supposed to be cutting back. Allen is hungover but not too

badly, and he doesn't have tennis practice today so he's in a good mood. We bought two grams of

coke last night but only did a little.

         “I, like, dropped it last night,” Jessica goes on. “Off the balcony."

         “Did you get insurance?” Allen asks. “Maybe you can get a new one. The new one is

cool.”

         "My dad will probably just buy me another one," Jessica says. "But is the new

version, like, better?"

         "YEAH," HE SAYS. "IT

         IS." "OKAY."
        “Give me some of that, Walt,” Allen says. I hand him the smoldering cigarette and he

takes a long drag. He closes his eyes, leans back, hands it back to me. “I should be writing

my lab report.”

        “Don't do it,” Jessica says. “We're going to go out to dinner. We're going to get sushi.

Aren't we, Walt?”

        I NOD, RAISE MY EYEBROWS. I AM A JUNIOR AND JESSICA AND ALLEN ARE SENIORS. I

AM IN LOVE WITH JESSICA BUT SHOULDN'T BE.

        “Fine,” Allen is saying. “I can just get my tutor to do it. He'll do it, won't he?” “He

        should for what you're paying him,” Jessica says.

        I LOOK AT MY BLACKBERRY. I HAVE SIXTEEN NEW MESSAGES AND ONE MISSED CALL.

IT IS FIVE-THIRTY IN THE AFTERNOON. “WHEN DO YOU WANT TO GET DINNER?” I ASK.

        “I'M STARVING,” JESSICA SAYS.

        “I could eat,” says Allen. “Let's go at, like, six.”

        JESSICA NODS AND WE ALL SIT IN SILENCE FOR AWHILE, WATCHING THE STUDENTS GO

BACK AND FORTH ALONG THE PLAZA BEFORE THE STUDENT UNION.              I DON'T WANT TO RESPOND

TO MY TEXT MESSAGES AND E-MAILS AND MISSED CALLS.              I TAKE OFF MY RAY-BANS AND LOOK

UP AT THE SKY. THE SUN IS LOW ENOUGH THAT I DON'T NEED TO SQUINT AND, ALTHOUGH IT IS

STILL WARM, PART OF ME KNOWS THAT SUMMER IS OVER AND FALL IS STARTING. THE LEAVES

ON THE TREES ARE STILL GREEN, BUT YOU CAN TELL.           BY SEPTEMBER YOU CAN TELL THINGS

ARE GOING TO CHANGE AGAIN.




        ERICA AND JOHN END UP COMING WITH US TO THE SUSHI RESTAURANT. I KNOW ERICA

BUT NOT JOHN.     I DON'T THINK THEY ARE DATING. THEY LAUGH TO EACH OTHER AS THEY

WALK TOWARD US IN THE PARKING LOT.         JESSICA INTRODUCES US. ERICA SMILES AT ME.
         Inside it is dark and cool. The maitre 'd sits us quickly. I sit down between John and

Allen.

         “YOU'RE A SENIOR?” JOHN ASKS

         ME. “JUNIOR.”

         “OH. ME TOO.”

         “COOL.”

         The waitress comes and we order beer and Allen also gets sake.

         Erica asks me how my classes are and I tell her they're okay. She starts talking about

this history class she is taking, about her pre-med requirements. She tells me about her

philosophy double-major. John says something boring about applying to medical schools and it

makes me too anxious. The drinks come. Allen drinks his sake and puts

HIS HAND ON JESSICA'S LEG AND THEY TALK TO EACH OTHER ABOUT HIS UPCOMING TENNIS ROAD
TRIP.

I watch them in silence. The restaurant is quiet at this hour and the waitress stops by and chats

with us for awhile. She tells us she is a graduate student in the English Department.

         I order a second beer and start to feel okay. I look at Jessica, who is blonde- haired

with blue eyes and a few freckles. She looks a lot like Lindsey. Usually I try not to think

about that. She smiles at me.

         “YOU SEEM HAPPY,” SHE TELLS

         ME. “I AM,” I SAY.

         “I'M GLAD. BETTER THAN LAST FALL?"

         Allen laughs at this and I don't answer her.
         AFTER DINNER I DRIVE ALLEN AND JESSICA TO THEIR APARTMENT IN MY FATHER'S
         RANGE

Rover. Allen takes the small plastic bag out of his pocket and asks if I want to come in. "Don't

         be a pussy, Walt," he says.

         I'M LOOKING AT HIM, AND AT JESSICA WHO IS HALFWAY UP THE STAIRS BUT HAS

STOPPED TO TURN BACK AND SEEMS DELICATE AND PALE IN THE LAMPLIGHT. THE SUN HAS SET

AND THE STARS ARE OUT AND THE AIR AROUND MY CAR IS WARM, SCENTED SOMEHOW WITH

FLOWERS. THERE IS A DECISION TO BE MADE, I KNOW THIS, AND PART OF ME WANTS TO DRIVE

AWAY AND JUST GO HOME BUT MOSTLY I DON'T WANT TO BE ALONE AND THIS REALIZATION

MAKES ME SO NERVOUS THAT I'M SUDDENLY GETTING OUT OF THE CAR AND ALLEN IS SMILING

AND JESSICA IS TURNING AWAY, GOING BACK UP THE STAIRS, DIGGING FOR THE KEYS IN HER

PURSE.

         INSIDE JESSICA FLOPS ONTO THE COUCH AND TURNS ON THE TELEVISION. ALLEN AND I

SIT DOWN IN TWO BIG CHAIRS.       I TAKE IN THE ROOM. ALLEN'S CLASH POSTERS ARE ON THE

WALL, HIS BOOKS ON THE SHELVES, AND THE ONLY THING LEFT THAT'S MINE IS A BOX OF

WINTER CLOTHES IN THE FOYER THAT I NEED TO TAKE BACK TO THE DORMITORY.

         Allen puts some of the coke on the coffee table's glassy surface and we do it with a piece

of plastic straw that Jessica finds in her purse. It's the same as last night and it's not bad. The

rush comes quickly, familiar, and I'm feeling the drip starting and thinking, I do not give a shit

about anything.

         We sit back and talk about nothing while staring at the TV. Jessica and Allen start

making out. After awhile I leave, taking my box of clothes. Inside my father's Range Rover the

clock says 12:25 AM and on the road back to campus the Carolina pines are

tall and dark like the ghosts of lost things.
       The next day I am walking to class with Lisa, who is back from studying abroad in

London. I was in Rome for the first half of the summer but we never made any effort to see

each other which, at the time, seemed fine but now makes me feel bad.

       “DID YOU MISS ME?” LISA IS ASKING.

       “Of course I missed you. I told you I missed you.” “I

       know,” she says. “I just like asking you.”

       I LAUGH. “I DIDN'T DO THE HOMEWORK FOR TODAY,” I

       TELL HER. “NEITHER DID I.”    SHE SMILES UP AT ME.

       WE WALK CLOSE TOGETHER THROUGH THE HIGH ARCHES OF THE MAIN CAMPUS,

ALONG THE FLAGSTONES AND WINDING PATHS.         EVERYTHING IS GREEN AND FRESH-SCENTED.

PEOPLE WALK BY, LONE STUDENTS HURRYING, COUPLES HOLDING HANDS, FRIENDS LAUGHING

WITH EACH OTHER.      I WANT TO SMOKE A CIGARETTE BUT IT'S NOT AN URGENT NEED SO I TELL

MYSELF TO WAIT.    IN SPITE OF THE COKE I MANAGED TO FALL ASLEEP LAST NIGHT BEFORE

THREE AND I'M FEELING SURPRISINGLY FUNCTIONAL.

       “HOW ARE YOU?” LISA ASKS ME.

       “I'm feeling good,” I tell her. “Really, I am.”

       “Don't freak out again,” she says.

       “What's that supposed to mean?” I ask.

       Lisa shrugs.

       LISA WAS GOING OUT WITH BRENT DURING THE SUMMER, IN LONDON, BUT I HEARD

THEY BROKE UP.    I HAVEN'T ASKED HER ABOUT IT. BRENT IS ON THE BASEBALL TEAM.

SOMETIMES I BUY ADDERALL FROM HIM BUT IT'S XR, WHICH ISN'T AS GOOD, AND ANYWAY I

HAVEN'T SEEN HIM SINCE THE SPRING.
         JESSICA CALLS ME ON A WEDNESDAY AND ASKS IF I WANT TO COME OVER TO THE

APARTMENT. I AM DONE WITH CLASSES AND BORED SO I DRIVE OVER. THE ASHTRAY IN MY CAR

IS SORT OF FULL AND I THINK ABOUT EMPTYING IT BUT DON'T.          JESSICA AND ALLEN ARE LIVING

FOR THE SEMESTER IN THE APARTMENT I SHARED WITH THEM AT THE END OF THE SUMMER. THE

PASSCODE FROM THE SUMMER STILL WORKS AND THE GATE OPENS.                I PARK AND WALK UP THE

STAIRS, KNOCK ON THE DOOR. THERE IS NO ANSWER.           I TRY THE HANDLE AND IT OPENS.

         Inside the apartment is dark and cool, the shades drawn. Everything is clean. I

SEE JESSICA'S PURSE AND A FEW SCHOOL PAPERS ON THE

         COUCH. “I'M OUT ON THE PORCH,” JESSICA CALLS.

         “Hey,” I say. I go outside. She is sitting in a big chair, facing the trees. I sit

down in the other chair. “How's it going?”

         “PRETTY GOOD,” JESSICA SAYS. “SLEPT IN AND DIDN'T GO TO ANY CLASSES

         TODAY.” “ME TOO,” I SAY.

         “Yeah,” she says. "Back to normal." I smell marijuana and as I'm noticing this

Jessica brings her right hand up to her mouth, holding a joint between two long fingers, and

smokes some. She holds it in then exhales. “You want some?” she asks, her voice thick with

smoke.

         “Okay,” I say, taking the joint and smoking a little. I give it back to her. “I

HAVEN'T SMOKED MUCH LATELY,” I TELL HER.

         SHE SMILES. “TOO BAD. I JUST BOUGHT A BUNCH MORE TODAY, IF YOU'RE

         INTERESTED.” “YEAH?”

         “I'll sell you some.”
        “I MIGHT BUY A LITTLE.”

        “OKAY. WHEN YOU

        LEAVE.”

        WE SIT FOR AWHILE AND SHARE THE JOINT AND LOOK OUT AT THE TREES. THE

APARTMENT IS AT THE BACK OF THE COMPLEX AND THERE IS NOBODY TO NOTICE THE POT. WE

TALK ABOUT FOOTBALL, ABOUT CLASSES, ABOUT ALLEN.            SHE SAYS HE WENT TO A MATCH IN

VIRGINIA. HE IS COMING BACK ON FRIDAY.

        “I'm sorry about this summer,” she tells me.

        “It's fine,” I say.

        “THAT'S NICE OF YOU. BUT I WAS BAD. I HAVE...PROBLEMS, I THINK.” SHE FINISHES

THE JOINT AND STUBS IT OUT IN AN ASHTRAY.

        “IT'S FINE, REALLY," I

        SAY. “I NEVER TOLD

        ALLEN.”

        “I GUESS THAT'S FOR THE BEST.”

        She nods and doesn't say anything else. “It was only twice,” she says finally.

        I do not respond. After a few minutes she tells me she needs to start doing her

homework and I buy a little pot from her then leave.

        I SIT IN MY CAR FOR AWHILE BEFORE PULLING OUT OF THE APARTMENT COMPLEX,

LOOKING AT THE PLASTIC BAG OF POT, SEEING THE SMALL WHITE CRYSTALS STUCK TO THE

GREENNESS, KNOWING THE POT IS GOOD, WONDERING.




        Two nights later and I'm driving to a party at the Sigma Nu fraternity house with James

and Pete for no reason except that Pete says his ex-girlfriend is going to be there and he wants

to "see if she got fat over the summer." We take James' father's Lexus LX
470 AND I'M IN THE BACK SMOKING CIGARETTES ALMOST CONSTANTLY BECAUSE THERE'S

NOTHING ELSE TO DO AND NOBODY IS TALKING.         PETE TAKES A PULL FROM A FIFTH OF SVEDKA

AS WE DRIVE THROUGH A YELLOW LIGHT AND HE TURNS AROUND, HIS EYES BRIGHT.                   "YOU

WANNA GET FUCKED UP, WALT?" HE ASKS.

        I NOD AND HE HANDS ME THE FIFTH AND I DRINK FROM IT, THE ALCOHOL COLD AND

BITING, THEN WARMING.     PETE TAKES THE BOTTLE BACK. HE IS WEARING A PINK POLO SHIRT

AND WHITE SHORTS WITH RAINBOW SANDALS.          HE IS FROM STOWE, VERMONT AND I THINK HIS

FATHER IS A CFO OR SOMETHING BUT I CAN'T REMEMBER.          GANGSTER RAP IS PLAYING ON THE

SATELLITE RADIO.

        THE LAWN OF THE SIGMA NU HOUSE IS PACKED WITH UNDERGRADUATES AND BASS

NOTES ARE THROBBING FROM SPEAKERS SET UP ON THE PORCH.           JAMES PARKS THE LEXUS

ACROSS THE STREET AND SHUTS IT OFF. WE GET OUT AND THE NIGHT AIR IS WARM AND ALIVE,

THICK WITH THE STENCH OF MAGNOLIA TREES AND WARM DIRT.           SOMEWHERE A GIRL SHRIEKS

AND PEOPLE LAUGH. A BOTTLE SHATTERS ON THE SIDEWALK.

        "Give me some of that," James says as we walk up to the house. Pete passes him the

Svedka and James drinks. A couple fraternity guys are playing Beer Pong on the lawn with their

shirts off. A big banner is hung over the front door. "Fuck School 2K9" is scrawled on it in

spray paint.

        "YO, PETE!" SOMEONE CALLS. PETE TURNS AND A FRAT GUY IN A BASKETBALL JERSEY
        AND

Wayfarers gives him a hug. "What the fuck is up?" he yells.

        "Nothing," Pete says. "Is Michaela here?"

        THE GUY LAUGHS. "SURE SHE'S HERE. IS SHE STILL FUCKING BEN

        CARSON?" PETE LOOKS AT HIM BLANKLY. "WHO'S BEN CARSON?" HE

        ASKS.

        "Are you serious?" the guy says. "Ben Carson. Whatever. Let's go inside."
         HE STARTS WALKING UP THE STAIRS. SOMEONE HAS WRITTEN FUCK NIGGERS ON HIS

NECK IN RED PERMANENT MARKER. THE THREE OF US FOLLOW HIM INTO THE FRATERNITY

HOUSE.

         INSIDE IT'S TOO HOT AND BROKENCYDE'S "GET CRUNK" IS HOWLING FROM TEN

SPEAKERS SET UP AROUND THE MAIN ROOM. THE PLACE IS PACKED WITH PEOPLE.                PETE

DISAPPEARS WITH THE FRAT GUY UPSTAIRS.         JAMES RAISES HIS EYEBROWS AT ME THEN HEADS

TOWARD THE KEG.      I FOLLOW HIM AND WE GRAB RED PLASTIC CUPS AND FILL THEM UP.

         "THIS BLOWS," JAMES SAYS, GULPING BEER AND SURVEYING THE ROOM. "IT'S TOO

EARLY IN THE YEAR FOR GOOD PARTIES."

         I nod and drink my beer too quickly, then refill the cup. A drunk girl in just her bra

bumps into me and laughs when beer spills over her chest. "Watch it, fucker," she slurs.

         "WENDY?" JAMES ASKS.

         She turns to him and smiles. "Hey, James."

         "What have you been up to?" James asks. He hands her his beer and starts

pouring another for himself. "I haven't seen you in, like, forever."

         WENDY SHRUGS. "NOTHING. INTERNSHIPS. TRACK

         PRACTICE." "AWESOME," JAMES SAYS.

         "Totally!" Wendy says.

         "So what'd you do this summer?" James asks her. "I

         was in South Africa. You?"

         "Europe."

         FOR AWHILE THE THREE OF US JUST STAND AROUND AND WATCH THE PARTY AS IT

STARTS TO BLUR. WENDY DRINKS HALF HER BEER IN ONE GULP AND THROWS THE CUP ON THE

FLOOR. THEN SHE WAVES
TO SOMEONE ACROSS THE ROOM AND STARTS WALKING AWAY.                JAMES SETS DOWN HIS CUP AND

STARTS FOLLOWING.       HE LOOKS BACK AT ME ONCE, SHRUGGING, AND THAT'S WHEN I TURN

AWAY AND START LOOKING FOR ADDERALL BUT I CAN'T FIND ANY AND I END UP DRIVING HOME

WITH DAN AT TWO IN THE MORNING AFTER I FIND HIM SMOKING POT ALONE ON AN UPSTAIRS

BALCONY.




         The next afternoon Kelly and Christine ask me to have a picnic in the gardens with

them. We go over in the early evening and it is still very bright outside. The light grows golden

as we set up the blanket and take out the sandwiches, a bottle of wine. Shadows lengthen across

the broad lawn. Some townies are playing near the fountain, two adults watching maybe four

or five children. They laugh and the sound of their laughter mixes with the splashing of the

fountain and carries over to us across the green grass. I lie on my back and chew some of the

sandwich. Christine passes me the bottle of wine and I take a long pull.

         WE TALK ABOUT OUR SUMMERS. KELLY WAS ABROAD IN AUSTRALIA. CHRISTINE

WAS WORKING ON RESEARCH AT DUNHAM.           SHE LIVED IN APARTMENT WITH CHAD, HER

BOYFRIEND, BUT THEY BROKE UP HALFWAY THROUGH THE SUMMER AND SHE NEEDED TO FIND

A NEW PLACE.      SHE LIGHTS A CIGARETTE AS SHE TELLS US THIS. I TELL THEM ABOUT ROME,

ABOUT RESEARCH.       NOT ABOUT JESSICA.

         KELLY TELLS US SHE THINKS WE HAVE ALL DRIFTED APART SINCE FRESHMAN YEAR.

CHRISTINE SAYS PROBABLY AND I NOD MY HEAD. WE ARE ALL FROM THE MIDWEST. WE WERE

ALL IN THE SAME DORMITORY FRESHMAN YEAR.

         “Do you think this will be a good year?” Kelly asks. “I mean, it's a few weeks in but I

feel like it's still summer.”
        “I THINK IT WILL BE PRETTY GOOD,” CHRISTINE SAYS. “I'M SO EXCITED TO TAKE MY

        LSAT." "AREN'T YOU GOING TO TAKE THE MCAT, WALT?"

        "Yes," I say.

        "YOU NEED TO DO IT SOON, DON'T

        YOU?" "I GUESS."

        Kelly lies back on the grass, stretching. “You need to find a girlfriend, Walt.” “I

        do?”

        “Totally,” she says. “Doesn't Walt need to find a girlfriend, Chrissie?” “He

        does. You aren't gay, are you?”

        “WALT'S NOT GAY. WALT'S JUST A MAN WHORE.”

        Christine shrugs. “Lots of people are man whores right before they turn gay.

That's what I heard. That's what happened to Holly's ex-boyfriend, isn't it?”

        Kelly gasps. “It is. That was a long time ago though. Like, freshman year.”

        “Yeah, it was,” Christine says.

        “I'm not gay,” I tell them.

        "WELL THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU HAVE SEX WITH MINA LAST SPRING?" CHRISTINE

        ASKS. I LOOK AT HER.    "BECAUSE I WAS...HAVING MENTAL PROBLEMS," I TELL

        HER.

        "Well that shouldn't matter," Christine says, and laughs.




        WE FINISH THE WINE AND THE SANDWICHES AND BY THEN THE FIREFLIES ARE

BEGINNING TO COME OUT.       KELLY STARTS HUMMING THE MELODY TO “FIREFLIES” BY OWL

CITY. THAT SONG WAS BIG THIS SUMMER.

        “GOOD CALL ON THE WINE,” CHRISTINE TELLS KELLY.
        “THANKS. CAN I HAVE A CIGARETTE?”

        CHRISTINE HANDS HER ONE, LIGHTS IT. SHE GIVES ME A LOOK AND I NOD AND TAKE

ONE AND LIGHT IT FROM     KELLY'S. THE THREE OF US SMOKE IN THE SUNSET LIGHT AND THERE'S

SOMETHING FAKE, AFFECTED ABOUT THE WHOLE THING THAT DEPRESSES ME.

        “THINGS ARE GOING TO GET BUSY PRETTY SOON,” KELLY SAYS. “YOU GUYS HAVE TO

KEEP IN TOUCH.”

        “I'M SURE WE'LL SEE EACH OTHER AROUND,” CHRISTINE SAYS. “WE ALL LIVE ON

CAMPUS. HOW HARD CAN IT BE?”

        "Not hard," Kelly answers. "As long as Walt doesn't freak out again."




        The partying picks up as September goes on. Allen has tennis practice or tennis matches

and afterward he calls me and takes me to frats or bars or just to people's apartments where the

shelves are lined with bottles and there is usually some marijuana or a little cocaine to do. Most

of the time Allen is not with Jessica. Usually I see Tiffany or Carly or Kelly out, pretty drunk,

but so am I, and we talk. Catch up.

        THERE IS A BIG PARTY AT TOM'S FRATERNITY ONE THURSDAY NIGHT AND ALLEN

CONVINCES ME TO GO.      JESSICA IS NOT THERE AND ALLEN GETS DRUNK WITH ME AND SOME

GUYS ON THE

LACROSSE TEAM AND TOM AND SAUL. TOM'S FRATERNITY HOUSE IS BIG AND OLD AND SMELLS

OF STALE BEER.    PRETTY GIRLS, MOSTLY SOPHOMORES AND FRESHMAN, ARE EVERYWHERE.

LOUD MUSIC BLARES FROM SPEAKERS SET UP IN THE LIVING ROOM AND ON THE LAWN. WE

START DRINKING OUTSIDE,

where a Beer Pong table is set up in the backyard, but move inside when it starts to drizzle. I

see a girl in line for the bathroom who looks just like Lindsey and I start to feel funny so I go

outside and smoke a cigarette.
          ALLEN GETS LOST HALFWAY THROUGH THE NIGHT BUT I SEE HIM MAKING OUT WITH

SOMEONE IN A BACK BEDROOM WHEN I GO TO THE GARAGE WITH SAUL TO GET MORE BEER.

LATER BRIAN CALLS ME AND HE TELLS ME SOME PEOPLE ARE GOING OUT TO THE BARS SO I TELL

HIM TO COME PICK ME UP AND HE DOES AND THAT IS THE THIRD THURSDAY NIGHT OF

SEPTEMBER.




          MY FATHER, A SURGEON, TELLS ME HE IS LEAVING TO GO ON A MEDICAL MISSION TO

RURAL CHINA FOR MOST OF OCTOBER.         HE ASKS ME IF I WANT TO GO ALONG BUT I TELL HIM I

HAVE TO STUDY, WHICH IS SORT OF TRUE.       HE TELLS ME I AM MISSING OUT. I TELL HIM I'M

SORRY.    HE SAYS IT'S OKAY AND ASKS ME IF I WANT TO SPEAK TO MY MOTHER. HE SAYS SHE

IS VISITING FOR THE WEEKEND, SEEING MY SISTER.       I SAY FINE.

          My mother asks if I have signed up for an MCAT prep class and I tell her I am going to

do it soon. She says she loves me. I tell her I love her too then hang up and feel very far away.

It is six in the evening on a Wednesday. Wednesday Night Drinking Club is happening at Erwin

and I promised Matt I would go with him. He lives at Erwin but he is out to dinner with

someone named Tony and he says he will pick me up.

          I DON'T WANT TO GET DRUNK, OR HIGH, BUT FEEL OBLIGATED TO BECAUSE MATT IS

A GOOD FRIEND AND I HAVE NOT SEEN HIM IN A FEW WEEKS.




          Matt picks me up in his father's BMW X5 and asks me what I have been doing with

myself.

          “JUST...HANGING OUT. READING. SOME WORK.”

          “Sounds gay,” he says, laughing. “Don't study too hard.”

          “I'm not. I'm really not.”
        HE LOOKS AT ME, UNSMILING. “YOU SURE? I DON'T WANT YOU TURNING INTO ONE OF
        THOSE

ASIANS. ONE OF THOSE JAPANESE.”

        I laugh a little. “I think they're mostly Chinese at this school.”

        “Yeah, man. Don't go all Chinese on me. You want to get drunk or what?”

        “Definitely,” I tell him, but really I'm not so sure.

        He turns up the stereo in his car. He has HED PE's new CD in and it's on the first track,

“Foreplay.”




        Lots of drunk girls at Wednesday Night Drinking Club. Some beefy football players

wandering around, two feet taller than everyone else and glaring. Matt leads me to the back

where I see Jack and a couple other girls. Tom is there too but he's making out in the corner

with someone I can't see. The music is loud and there is a lot of beer

AND NOBODY KNOWS WHO ANYBODY ELSE IS, REALLY. A BIG FLAT-PANEL TV IS ON ONE WALL

WITH A MOVIE PLAYING.

        JACK GETS ME A BEER FROM THE FRIDGE BUT MATT IS POURING ME A SCREWDRIVER

TOO SO I TAKE BOTH OF THEM.      “POUR HALF THE BEER INTO THE SCREWDRIVER,” ONE OF THE

GIRLS WITH JACK TELLS ME.      I DO IT AND TASTE IT AND IT'S NOT BAD. THE ROOM IS THICK WITH

SMOKE BUT IT'S MOSTLY FROM CIGARETTES.

        “WHAT'S YOUR NAME?” ONE OF THE GIRLS ASKS

        ME. “I'M WALT,” I SAY.    “WALT THOMPSON.

        YOU?” “EMILY. ARE YOU A FRESHMAN TOO?”

        “No, I'm a junior.”

        “NICE. WHERE DO YOU LIVE?”
        “Um, on campus.”

        “NICE. I LIVE ON CAMPUS

        TOO.” “GREAT.”

        She turns around and taps another girl, taller, on the shoulder. The other girl turns around

and smiles. “This is Walt. Walt, this is Samantha.”

        WE SHAKE HANDS AND SAMANTHA ASKS ME IF I WANT ANOTHER SCREWDRIVER. I

NOD AND SHE MAKES TWO AND HANDS ONE TO ME.             I LEAN AGAINST THE COUNTER AND WE

TALK FOR AWHILE. SAMANTHA IS A SOPHOMORE.             I TAKE OUT A CIGARETTE, OFFER THEM THE

PACK.   EMILY SHAKES HER HEAD AND SAYS, “EW. GROSS.” SAMANTHA TAKES ONE AND I

LIGHT IT FOR HER.

        “I have some Ritalin,” Emily offers.




        THREE HOURS LATER AND I AM BACK ON CAMPUS IN SAMANTHA'S DORM ROOM, IN HER

BED. I AM LICKING HER NECK WHILE SHE CLAWS AT MY BACK, HER DRESS STILL ON, MY SHIRT

OFF. EVERYTHING IS A BLUR AND I REALIZE I HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS SINCE SPRING

SEMESTER. SHE MOANS AND WRAPS HER LEGS AROUND MINE AND MOVES HER HANDS DOWN TO

MY BELT, WORKING IT OFF AND UNZIPPING MY FLY.

        “I want you,” she says.

        I DON'T SAY ANYTHING, JUST KEEP KISSING

        HER. “DO YOU HAVE ANY CONDOMS?” SHE

        ASKS ME. I SHAKE MY HEAD.

        "Whatever," she gasps.
        SHE OPENS HER MOUTH TO SPEAK BUT THEN I AM INSIDE HER AND SHE THROWS HER

HEAD BACK, MOANING.       SHE STARTS TO MOVE HER HIPS AGAINST ME, HARD. SHE KEEPS

MOANING.    MY BACK IS SLICK WITH SWEAT.

        “I'm coming, oh God, I'm coming,” she says. A shudder runs through her, so powerful I

can feel it through my fingers, and then she collapses against me, whimpering. I pull out then fall

back onto the mattress next to her. I'm still drunk and the room is spinning. I wonder absently

if she has any more Adderall left.

        “DO YOU WANT ME TO DO ANYTHING TO YOU?” SHE ASKS ME AFTER WE BOTH STOP

        PANTING. “I DON'T KNOW,” I SAY.

        She kisses me and laughs, smiling, then reaches down. I put a hand on her head, run

my fingers through her hair. She goes slowly, sloppily, too drunk to be any good. I try to

concentrate but start to feel terrible. I stare down my chest at her, watching.

        Then someone tries to open the door and the lock clicks loudly. Samantha leaps off

the bed. “Fuck!” she yells. “Wait!” She goes to the door and locks it, leans against it.

        I SIT UP AND LOOK AT HER. “IT'S MY ROOMMATE,” SHE SAYS. “I THOUGHT SHE

WAS SPENDING THE NIGHT AT HER BOYFRIEND'S.          SHIT.”

        I pull my pants on, laughing a little. “It's okay. Where's my shirt?”

        SHE SAYS SHE DOESN'T KNOW. SHE IS PANICKING. I TELL HER TO CALM DOWN. I

TELL HER THIS HAPPENS A LOT. THEN SHE STUMBLES TOWARD HER DESK AND BENDS OVER

AND STARTS THROWING UP INTO A TRASHCAN.
         IN THE END WE CAN'T FIND MY SHIRT AND SAMANTHA THROWS UP AGAIN AND I

LEAVE TOPLESS, NODDING AT HER ROOMMATE WHO IS STANDING IN THE HALL IN JEANS AND A

BLACK NORTH FACE JACKET, HER BACKPACK ON.        I GRIN. SHE SNEERS BACK.

         I WALK BACK TO MY ROOM AND AM GLAD THE QUAD IS EMPTY. IN MY ROOM I

SMOKE A CIGARETTE, THINKING.    I CONSIDER JACKING OFF BUT DON'T FEEL LIKE IT.

         I LOOK AT MY BLACKBERRY AFTER GETTING INTO BED AND SEE THAT JESSICA HAS

CALLED ME TWICE. THEN I PASS OUT.    BUT I DREAM ABOUT LINDSEY AND WAKE UP BEFORE

DAWN AND CANNOT FALL BACK TO SLEEP. THERE ARE A COUPLE XANAX IN MY BACKPACK

FROM JIM'S HOUSE, I REMEMBER, SO I TAKE ONE AND THEN I'M FINE AND I DECIDE TO DO SOME

HOMEWORK.     SOMEHOW THINGS STILL FEEL NORMAL.




         MOST OF MY CLASSES THAT SEMESTER ARE EASY AND I SKIP THEM SOME DAYS WHEN WE

WANT TO DRIVE OUT TO THE QUARRY AND PRETEND IT'S STILL SUMMER.        I GO WITH LISA AND

BRIAN AND SOMETIMES PAUL. WE DRIVE MY RANGE OR PAUL'S NAVIGATOR AND PARK IT AT

THE HEAD OF THE TRAIL, THEN WALK THE MILE UP TO THE QUARRY CLIFFS.       IT'S A HOT DAY AND

THE TRAIL IS DUSTY, SUN- DAPPLED BENEATH BRANCHES OF GREEN LEAVES.

         I STAND ON THE CLIFF NEAR THE BIG PINES IN MY SWIMSUIT AND WATCH BRIAN AND

PAUL LEAP SCREAMING OFF THE EDGE AND THEN I FOLLOW THEM, MY FEET POUNDING THE HOT

EARTH.   MY HEART BEATS IN MY EARS AND THEN I AM FALLING IN SUNLIT SILENCE. WHEN THE

WATER RUSHES UP TO MEET ME EVERYTHING GOES DARK AND IT IS COLD AND RUSHING IN MY

EARS, MY NOSTRILS, AND

WHEN I COME UP SPUTTERING THE SKY IS VERY BLUE AND THE SUN SPARKLES IN MY EYES AND I

smile and laugh. Paul tells me it was a good jump. Lisa jumps too and we float around
IN THE WATER AND TALK. WHEN THE LIGHT GROWS GOLDEN AND OUR TOES SHRIVEL UP WE

CLIMB OUT, CLAMBERING UP THE SLICK BOULDERS TO THE CLIFF TOP, AND HIKE BACK TO THE

CAR.   SUMMER ENDS SLOWLY IN NORTH CAROLINA. BUT IT STILL ENDS.




          I GO THE LIBRARY WITH MINA ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT. I DON'T KNOW WHY. SHE

CALLS ME AND ASKS ME TO KEEP HER COMPANY AND THERE'S NOTHING BETTER TO DO. WE SIT

AT AN EMPTY TABLE IN THE LOWER BASEMENT OF HIGGINS. WE ARE READING FOR THE

GENETICS CLASS WE ARE BOTH ENROLLED IN.

          “YOU'RE BEING STUDIOUS, WALT,” MINA TELLS ME. SHE IS MORE THAN HALFWAY

THROUGH OUR SECOND BOOK AND I HAVE BARELY STARTED THE FIRST.

          “Am I?” I ask. “Am I really?”

          MINA SHRUGS. “DON'T TELL ME YOU'RE TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF. IT'S TOO LATE

FOR YOU. YOU'VE COME SO FAR.”

          I laugh but quietly because there are other people studying around us. “Maybe

I'm just interested in the subject.”

          “Maybe,” she says, smiling.

          “What? I can't study?”

          “You must have had a good summer,” Mina says. “You're so tan and you seem

happy.”

          “Maybe I did.”

          WE READ IN SILENCE FOR AWHILE. I WATCH WHILE MINA PICKS UP HER HIGHLIGHTER

AND, AT INTERVALS, MARKS HER BOOK. WE TAKE A BREAK AFTER ANOTHER HALF HOUR AND GO

GET COFFEE FROM THE LIBRARY CAFE.
         In line, Mina asks me when I'm going to take the MCAT. “I

         don't know,” I tell her.

         “YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY TAKE IT SOMETIME THIS YEAR. THAT'S THE BEST TIME TO

TAKE IT IF YOU'RE PLANNING ON APPLYING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL DURING YOUR SENIOR YEAR.”

         “I know that.”

         “I TOOK A PREP COURSE THIS SUMMER AND IT HELPED A LOT,” MINA SAYS. SHE

SHUFFLES FORWARD AS THE LINE MOVES.        “I'M SCHEDULED TO TAKE THE MCAT NEXT

WEEK.”

         “REALLY?” I'M STARTING TO FEEL EMPTY INSIDE.

         “Yeah,” says Mina. “Did you take a prep course? They're actually sort of fun.”

         “Fun?” I ask. “No, I didn't.”

         “OH, OKAY. WELL IT'S SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT.” MINA MOVES UP TO THE COUNTER

AND ORDERS. THEN SHE TURNS BACK TO ME.        “SORRY, I DON'T MEAN TO BORE YOU. I DON'T

MEAN TO TALK ABOUT THAT SO MUCH.”

         “YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT IT...SO MUCH,” I SAY.

         SHE LAUGHS. “IT'S JUST IMPORTANT TO KEEP ON TOP OF THE MEDICAL SCHOOL

APPLICATION PROCESS.      AMSA RECOMMENDS THAT ALL COLLEGE PRE-MEDS TAKE AT LEAST

ONE DAY PER WEEK TO FOCUS ON THEIR APPLICATION, OR          MCAT STUDYING, OR ON MAKING

CONNECTIONS WITH PROFESSORS WHO CAN WRITE YOU REFERENCE LETTERS.”

         “YEAH?”

         “IT'S VERY IMPORTANT TO CREATE MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR

PROFESSORS. THAT'S HOW GOOD REFERENCE LETTERS GET WRITTEN.”

         “Oh,” I say.
        I STEP UP TO THE COUNTER AND ORDER A LATTE. “HOW MUCH LATER DO YOU

WANT TO STUDY?” MINA ASKS ME.

        “I don't know. Maybe an hour.”

        “Just an hour?”

        “HOW LONG WERE YOU...GOING TO STUDY?

        “I'LL PROBABLY BE HERE UNTIL MIDNIGHT, MAYBE LATER. I WANT TO REVIEW SOME

NOTES FOR ANOTHER CLASS.       MAYBE START WORK ON AN ESSAY I GOT ASSIGNED.”

        “Okay,” I say.




        I GO WITH TOM AND LISA TO A FRATERNITY PARTY ON FRIDAY AT A HOUSE I HAVE

NEVER BEEN TO PARTIALLY BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO DO AND PARTIALLY BECAUSE

IT LOOKS COOL IF YOU GO TO PARTIES.      LISA DOESN'T WANT TO GO. SHE IS ON HER BED

READING WHEN TOM AND I KNOCK ON HER DOOR.           BUT TOM JUMPS ON HER BED UNTIL SHE

STARTS LAUGHING AND THEN HE STARTS TICKLING HER.           I WATCH THIS FROM THE DOORWAY.

LISA GETS OFF THE BED AND TELLS US SHE NEEDS A FEW MINUTES TO GET READY. WE LEAVE

FOR THE PARTY AT TEN P.M.

        I am tired before we get to the party. Tom knows somebody named Mac who lives in the

house and while he asks for him at the door I stand back with Lisa. I survey the yard. People

are milling about, some drinking from red plastic cups, others talking on their phones or checking

their messages. It is cold and most everybody is wearing long pants and jackets. I put my hands

in my pockets. There are still leaves on the trees but most of them have changed from bright

autumn colors to deeper, darker hues. The house is big and Victorian, like all the fraternity houses

at Dunham, and by the time we get inside there is a line behind us.
       TOM IS TALKING LOUDLY TO MAC, WHO IS DRUNK, AND THE HOUSE SMELLS LIKE

MARIJUANA. I LOOK AT LISA AND SHE LOOKS BORED. WE GO INSIDE ANYWAY AND DRINK BEER

WHILE STANDING AROUND THE FOYER.         MOVE INTO THE KITCHEN, SAME SCENE. I WONDER

WHY I CAME.

       “WHY DID WE COME TO THIS?” LISA ASKS.

       “I don't know,” I tell her. “Because there's nothing else to do?”

       “Yeah,” she says.

       WE WALK AROUND AND I KEEP DRINKING BEER TO STAVE OFF THE FATIGUE AND

BOREDOM. LISA IS DRINKING TOO BUT NOT AS MUCH AS ME. AT SOME POINT TOM GETS LOST

AND LISA AND I GO OUT TO THE BACKYARD. A LONG-HAIRED KID IS ROLLING JOINTS AND HE

GIVES ME ONE.   I LIGHT IT AND LISA SHARES IT WITH ME WHILE WE TALK ABOUT NOTHING.

       “DO YOU WANT TO GO BACK?” SHE ASKS

       ME. “I DON'T CARE,” I TELL HER.

       Some ugly fraternity guys come outside and start talking to Lisa. It's clear that

SHE KNOWS THEM.      I WONDER IF SHE HAS HAD SEX WITH ANY OF THEM AND THE THOUGHT

MAKES ME FEEL DEPRESSED.      THEY ASK IF WE WANT TO PLAY DEATH RING. LISA GIVES ME A

LOOK AND I GIVE HER A LOOK. THEN WE FOLLOW THEM INSIDE AND UPSTAIRS.

       “What's your name, bro?” one of the guys asks me.

       “Walt,” I tell him.

       “SWEET. I'M GRANT. YOU IN A

       FRAT?” “NO.”

       “TOO BAD, MAN. TOO BAD.”
        At the top of the stairs we turn left and go into a big common room with couches and a

flat-panel TV showing reruns of a medical drama. A few other people are sitting on the couches.

One guy is smoking a joint. A girl is passed out in a big chair.

        We sit around a coffee table, myself, Lisa, and the three guys. They bring beer and

cups and quarters. The satellite TV is turned to an all-music channel. The music is turned up.

Lisa smiles at me.




        WALKING BACK SOMETIME AFTER THREE. I AM TOO DRUNK, A LITTLE COKED UP, AND

LISA IS STUMBLING, LEANING AGAINST ME. WE WEAVE BETWEEN THE SIDEWALK AND THE

DESERTED STREET. IT IS COLD NOW AND I ZIP UP MY JACKET. WE WALK THROUGH LONG

STRETCHES OF DARKNESS BETWEEN THE FAINT POOLS OF LIGHT CAST BY THE STREET LAMPS.

        “I'M DRUNK,” LISA SAYS.

        “YEAH YOU ARE,” I TELL

        HER.

        “What do you...want to do now?” she slurs.

        “Go back?” I ask.

        “OKAY,” SHE SAYS. AND THEN SHE TURNS AWAY FROM ME AND VOMITS INTO A BUSH. I

STOP AND WAIT FOR HER BUT SHE KEEPS VOMITING, LOUDLY.              I PUT MY HAND ON HER BACK,

RUB IT AWKWARDLY.       SHE RETCHES AGAIN, GAGGING, THEN STOPS. SHE HAS HER HANDS ON

HER KNEES AND IS PANTING.

        “Are you okay?” I ask her.

        SHE NODS, HER FACE TURNED AWAY FROM ME. THEN I WATCH AS HER LEGS BUCKLE

AND SHE COLLAPSES ONTO THE GRASS BESIDE THE SIDEWALK. WHEN I TRY TO PICK HER UP SHE

THROWS UP ON
MY ARMS, ON HER JACKET.      IT IS ANOTHER HOUR BEFORE WE GET BACK TO THE DORMITORY

AND I'M OUT OF XANAX, EVEN OUT OF NYQUIL, SO I'M UP UNTIL DAWN DOING NOTHING.




        The weeks go on. I go to Shooters and make out with Kelly once or twice but I find out

from Chris that she has a boyfriend at Johns Hopkins. Tiffany takes me as a date to one of her

sorority functions and she gets too drunk and throws up on some guy who is on the track team

and I have to drive her home early. I get dinner with Lisa and she tells me Brent is gay now and

dating someone named Carlos who lives in Portugal, which sounds funny but isn't.

        I borrow notes from Allen for my chemistry class and and don't do too badly on the first

exam. Lisa and I go to class together. I smoke most of the pot Jessica sold me but do not see

Jessica again, except drunk at parties where I worry that she is going to tell Allen about last

summer. She doesn't. Allen takes a freshman girl home with him one night when Jessica goes to

visit her friend at Columbia for the weekend. I don't see him do this but Rebecca tells me she

saw it happen.




        JIM IS SETTING UP A MEETING WITH HIS DEALER VIA FACEBOOK. I AM SITTING ON HIS

COUCH DRINKING MY FOURTH BEER OF THE NIGHT AND STARING AT A BASKETBALL GAME ON

JIM'S FLAT-PANEL PLASMA.

        "How much shit do you want?" Jim asks.

        I turn to look at him but he is staring at the computer screen. "I don't care,” I say. “I

only have like two-hundred dollars on me."

        "Well we're not getting it tonight so we don't have to pay now. Let's just get two
grams. I don't even know if Brad can hook us up with that much."

       "Fine," I say. I refocus my attention on the basketball game.

        I FINISH MY BEER AND GET UP AND GET ANOTHER ONE AND ONE FOR JIM. JIM IS

SMOKING A CIGARETTE.     THE GAME REACHES HALFTIME. JIM SAYS BRAD IS NOT RESPONDING

SO HE TURNS OFF HIS COMPUTER AND WE WATCH THE REST OF THE GAME TOGETHER.

       AT SOME POINT IT STARTS TO RAIN OUTSIDE AND THERE IS A DEAFENING PEAL OF

THUNDER. THE LIGHTS FLICKER AND THE TV SPUTTERS.        JIM LOOKS AROUND AND THEN

CHECKS THE TIME ON HIS IPHONE.     I LOOK OVER AND SEE THAT IT'S ALMOST ELEVEN.

       “DO YOU WANT TO GO OUT?” JIM ASKS

       ME. I SHRUG.    “WHY?”

       “I want to find Brad.”

       “In a hurry?”

       “DON'T YOU WANT TO GET HIGH?”

       I nod. “Yeah,” I say. “Whatever.”




       OUT AT OLIVER'S BAR, AROUND ONE, THE STORM GONE, JIM LOOKING AROUND
       ANXIOUSLY FOR

Brad. Brad is a second-year graduate student, Jim told me on the drive over, and Jim

SAYS HE KNOWS HE WILL BE AT OLIVER'S TONIGHT.       I DO NOT ASK JIM TO EXPLAIN. I AM

REASONABLY DRUNK. A CIGARETTE TAKES THE EDGE OFF AND I FOLLOW JIM AS HE WANDERS

AROUND LOOKING FOR THE DEALER.       I KNOW ALMOST NOBODY AT THE BAR, WHICH, FOR ONCE, I

AM GRATEFUL FOR.    I SEE JIM TALKING TO A SHORT, MEXICAN-LOOKING GUY NEAR THE

BATHROOMS. THEY SHAKE HANDS. THE

short guy puts something in Jim's jacket pocket. I do not walk over. Finish my drink.

       SOON JIM COMES UP TO ME AND TAPS ME ON THE SHOULDER AND TELLS ME WE CAN GO.
        In the car Jim turns the ignition and messes with the radio. “Do you want to do some

now?” he asks.

        “I guess,” I say, and Jim turns the radio up and takes out the bag and digs into it with a

credit card. I watch him intently as he bends down and snorts the clumps of white powder.

Then he lifts his head, sniffing, and I take out my credit card and do some. It's only okay.

        WE LISTEN TO THE RADIO AND DRIVE BACK TO CAMPUS.




        I SPEND MOST OF THE NEXT NIGHT IN THE BATHROOM THROWING UP BECAUSE I DRANK

SO MUCH VODKA AND SMOKED TOO MUCH MARIJUANA WITH JIM AND MATT.                   I STARE AT THE

VOMIT IN THE TOILET, MY GUTS EMPTIED.       I ALMOST PASS OUT ON THE TOILET BUT MANAGE TO

MAKE IT BACK TO MY ROOM WHERE I FALL INTO A DRUNKEN SLEEP FOR NEARLY TWELVE HOURS.

WHEN I WAKE UP I HAVE A LOT OF MISSED CALLS AND NEW TEXT MESSAGES BUT I DELETE THEM

ALL.   WHEN NOTHING HAPPENS I GET UP AND SHOWER AND GET BREAKFAST BY MYSELF. I

SMOKE A CIGARETTE AND DRINK A LARGE LATTE WHICH I BUY AT THE STUDENT UNION AND

START TO FEEL OKAY.     I THINK ABOUT CALLING LISA BUT DECIDE NOT TO. I READ A BOOK

OUTSIDE ON THE QUADRANGLE. THERE ARE NOT MANY

MORE WARM DAYS LEFT, I KNOW.




        SUNDAY NIGHT AND I WANT TO FIND JESSICA, TO HANG OUT WITH HER, BUT I HEAR

FROM SARAH THAT SHE'S GOING TO A SORORITY FUNCTION WITH TED, WHO I BARELY KNOW.

SARAH SAYS IT'S JUST DRUNK BOWLING BUT I FEEL WEIRD ABOUT IT FOR NO REAL REASON.

TOM AND CHRIS ASK ME TO GO WITH THEM TO A FREESTYLE RAP CONCERT THAT SIG CHI IS

HOSTING. WE PREGAME IN TOM'S ROOM WITH GIN AND TONICS WHILE LISTENING TO TAYLOR

SWIFT. A COUPLE GIRLS STOP BY,
INCLUDING TIFFANY AND CARLY, BUT WE DON'T TALK MUCH AND ONLY TOM, CHRIS, AND

MYSELF END UP GOING TO THE CONCERT.

        THE CONCERT IS BEHIND THE MAIN QUAD IN A BIG GRASSY FIELD THAT SLOPES UP TO

THE DUNHAM FOREST.       IT'S ALREADY HALFWAY OVER BY THE TIME WE ARRIVE. THERE'S A

PRETTY BIG GROUP IN FRONT OF A SMALL STAGE, LIT UP BY FLASHING COLORED LIGHTS.

MOSTLY UNDERGRADUATES. A FEW TOWNIES. I RECOGNIZE THE GUY RAPPING. I THINK HE'S

A JUNIOR BUT CAN'T REMEMBER HIS NAME.

        Tom and Chris push forward into the crowd, trying to get closer. I stand back. The

guy on the stage, white, is wearing an oversized letter jacket and a big baseball hat, the brim

cocked sideways. He is singing about girls and cars and drinking.

        I start looking around the crowd for people I know. Most everybody seems really into

the song, jumping up and down and waving their arms and screaming. I wonder if something is

wrong with me. A couple fat guys, definitely townies, pass around a blunt. They look tired,

bloated. They are wearing greasy t-shirts and baseball caps. Their flesh sort of jiggles as they bob

up and down to the throbbing bass. Suddenly one of them looks over and catches me staring. I

look away.

        “YOU CAN'T STOP ME NOW,” THE GUY ON STAGE RAPS. “I'M GOING STRAIGHT TO THE

FINISH / CHEAP WHISKEY GOOD POT AND A WHOLE TON OF WOMEN.”

        “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT, PUNK?” ONE OF THE TOWNIES SAYS.

        I don't turn around, just keep looking at the stage. Now there is dark fog spilling from

the wings, blanketing the speakers and the DJ. It curls around the feet of the guy in the letter

jacket. His name comes to me then—Derek Forrester. I may have had a class
WITH HIM.   NOW THE CROWD IS SCREAMING, ROARING, PUSHING FORWARD AGAINST THE

STAGE. SOMEONE BUMPS INTO ME FROM BEHIND AND I STUMBLE.

        “Break it down break it down break it down / Ladies put your drinks in the AIR!”

        “Yeah, fuck you too, college boy,” one of the townies says.

        I glance over to see if they're walking toward me but it actually looks like they're

leaving. I feel cold and hollow. The song ends and the crowd cheers. People are spraying beer

in the air, throwing cans. Part of me registers that it is Sunday night. Drops of liquid spray

across my face and I blink, startled.




        THERE IS A BIG SEMIFORMAL FOR MATT'S FRATERNITY ON THE NIGHT OF THE

TWENTY-FIRST. MATT TELLS ME I NEED TO GO, THAT IT'S GOING TO BE THE BEST TIME EVER.

FOR SOME REASON I BELIEVE HIM AND HE TELLS ME HE CAN SET ME UP WITH A DATE. I SAY

SURE.

        GRATEFUL FOR SOMETHING TO DO, I SPEND MOST OF THAT FRIDAY IRONING MY SHIRTS

AND TIES, MAKING SURE MY GOOD DARK SUIT IS CLEAN.          I FINALLY DECIDE ON A SHIRT AND

TIE—BOTH FROM POLO, THE SUIT A CHARCOAL PINSTRIPE FROM J. CREW—AND I TEXT MATT

ASKING WHAT TIME I SHOULD BE READY.         HE TEXTS BACK SIX O'CLOCK. IT'S FIVE NOW. I

WANDER INTO THE COMMON ROOM AND STARE BLANKLY AT THE TV WITH THE OTHER GUYS

SITTING THERE.   LISA IS IN THE COMMON ROOM, TOO, DOING HOMEWORK AT A TABLE. I WALK

OVER.

        “HEY, WALT,” SHE SAYS, NOT LOOKING

        UP. “HOW'S IT GOING?” I ASK.

        SHE GRUNTS. “I HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO

        DO.” “DOING ANYTHING TONIGHT?”

        “Maybe. I got really drunk last night so I don't know. This is due on Monday.”
        Nick lifts his head from the sofa where he is lying. “Get drunk tonight, Lisa. It's

fucking Friday. Come on.”

        LISA SMILES BUT DOESN'T SAY ANYTHING. I LOOK AT NICK. HE HAS GOTTEN

FATTER SINCE LAST YEAR, HAS STARTED WEARING A BEARD.            HE IS LESS OF A FRIEND THAN

AN ACQUAINTANCE, AN IRRITANT.       I THINK HE TOLD ME ONE NIGHT, DRUNK, THAT HE WANTS

TO FUCK LISA.   I CAN'T BE SURE.

        I SIT DOWN ON A COUCH. “IS ANYBODY ELSE GOING TO THE

        SEMI-FORMAL?” “FUCK THAT,” SAYS NICK.         “I WOULD RATHER SLIT MY

        NUTSACK OPEN.”

        Wes snorts. “That sounds painful.”

        “It is,” Nick insists. “Why are you going?”

        I SHRUG. “I DON'T KNOW,” I SAY, KNOWING IT'S ACTUALLY THE TRUTH.

        “We're going out to Oliver's, if you want to bail on Matt,” Wes says. “Tiffany and

CARLY ARE MEETING US THERE. BRINGING SOME

        SOROSTITUTES.” “HOT SOROSTITUTES,” NICK SAYS.

        I nod but I'm starting to feel slightly sick to my stomach so I stand up and walk out.

Lisa is too busy working to notice. I wonder idly who my date will be but decide it doesn't

matter. Matt is taking Sarah, I think. Maybe Jacki. I haven't seen Jacki in two weeks.

        I GO BACK TO MY ROOM AND DECIDE TO GET DRESSED EARLY BECAUSE THERE ISN'T

ANYTHING TO DO.    I TAKE A SHOWER AND TOWEL-DRY MY HAIR, LETTING IT FULLY DRY WHILE

I DRESS. MY SUIT FITS WELL. MY PARENTS PURCHASED IT FOR ME FOR AN INTERNSHIP

INTERVIEW IN THE SPRING AND I'VE ONLY WORN IT MAYBE TWICE.           GETTING DRESSED TAKES

MAYBE THIRTY MINUTES, BUT BY THAT

TIME MY BLACKBERRY HAS STARTED BUZZING WITH TEXTS FROM MATT SO I WALK DOWN TO HIS
ROOM.
       HE IS DRINKING SCOTCH, ALREADY DRESSED. JACKI IS THERE, DRESSED UP WITH HER

HAIR CURLED. THERE IS A TALL GIRL NEXT TO HER.       MATT INTRODUCES HER AS MY DATE,

STEPHANIE. SHE IS PRETTY, SLIGHT. IT'S CLEAR SHE HAS ALREADY BEEN DRINKING. WE HUG

AND SHE KISSES ME ON THE CHEEK.

       “More drinks before we leave?” Matt offers.

       “Oh God yes,” says Jacki.




       THE DANCE IS AT A MEDIOCRE HOTEL DOWNTOWN. THE FOUR OF US TAKE A TAXI. AS

SOON AS WE WALK IN MATT STARTS TALKING TO HIS FRATERNITY FRIENDS.        STEPHANIE

LIGHTS A CIGARETTE OUTSIDE OF THE TAXI AND KEEPS SMOKING IT INSIDE THE HOTEL LOBBY.

THERE IS A BIG BAR WITH SURLY-LOOKING BARTENDERS WATCHING THE COLLEGE KIDS

STUMBLING AROUND AND YELLING AT EACH OTHER.

       STEPHANIE IS A SENIOR AND SHE IS APPLYING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL NEXT FALL. TAKING

A YEAR OFF.   SHE TELLS ME SHE IS FROM NEW JERSEY. EVERYONE AT THIS COLLEGE IS FROM

NEW JERSEY, SHE SAYS. ALL HER HIGH SCHOOL FRIENDS ARE HERE AND SHE SAYS IT FEELS

CLAUSTROPHOBIC. SHE SAYS HER PARENTS ARE DIVORCED AND THAT SHE USED TO BE BULIMIC

AND SHE BROKE UP WITH HER HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIEND ONLY LAST YEAR, AFTER DATING HIM

FOR SEVEN YEARS.   SHE TELLS ME ALL THIS WHILE SMOKING CIGARETTE AFTER CIGARETTE.

SHE IS SMOKING MARLBORO LIGHTS.

       “YOU SMOKE?” SHE ASKS WHEN I TAKE OUT MY PACK OF BENSON AND

       HEDGES. “YEAH, BUT I'M NOT SURE WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE SMOKING IN

       HERE.”

       “WHO CARES?” SHE SAYS. “FUCK THIS PLACE.”
        I laugh and she holds out her cigarette and lights mine and we stand by the bar

and smoke and watch. I tell her about myself. I think about telling her about Lindsey but

decide not to.

        “I HATE BEING PRE-MED,” I ADMIT. “I FUCKING HATE IT.”

        “I do too,” she says. “I might not go to medical school. Even if I get in.”

        A SHORT, JEWISH-LOOKING GUY COMES UP AND STARTS TALKING TO STEPHANIE. I

LITERALLY TOWER OVER HIM.        SHE INTRODUCES ME. HIS NAME IS ADAM AND HE IS A

SOPHOMORE. AFTER HE LEAVES STEPHANIE TELLS ME HIS FATHER IS THE CFO OF GENERAL

MOTORS AND THAT LAST SPRING HE ASKED HER TO GO ON VACATION WITH HIM IN THE

CARIBBEAN FOR THE SUMMER. I LAUGH BUT THIS DEPRESSES ME.

        “Have you ever done heroin?” Stephanie asks me. I

        shake my head. “You?”

        “ONCE,” SHE SAYS, FLATLY. “I SMOKED IT. IT MADE ME THROW UP BUT IT ALSO FELT

REALLY GOOD.”

        I NOD.

        “Don't try it,” she tells me.

        “I doubt I will. I don't know anybody who does it.”

        “You'd be surprised,” Stephanie says.




        MUCH LATER WE ARE BOTH DRUNK ON BAD GIN FROM THE BAR.                         MY TIE IS

LOOSENED AND SOME OF        STEPHANIE'S HAIR HAS FALLEN FROM HER BUN AND IS SPLAYED

ACROSS HER FACE.     JIM IS TALKING TO ME ABOUT SOMETHING BUT I CANNOT HEAR HIM OVER

THE MUSIC. WE HAVE MOVED
into the central ballroom and it is dark. Strobe lights flash across our faces. Stephanie has

taken off her heels and is now more than a foot shorter than me.

             “WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?” JIM IS

             ASKING. “WHAT?” I ASK.

             “I can't hear you!” Stephanie says.

             “WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE WEED?” JIM ASKS

             “I didn't do any weed,” I say.

             “Oh,” says Jim. “Why?”

             “WE HAVE TO GO,” STEPHANIE SAYS.

             “OK,” JIM SAYS. HE FADES AWAY INTO THE CROWD, ALREADY FINDING SOMEONE

ELSE TO TALK TO.        I FINISH MY DRINK. STEPHANIE TAKES MY HAND AND WE WANDER AWAY

FROM THE SPEAKERS.




             Memories from the last summer with Lindsey. The look of the sunset from the

speedboat, lying on my back and feeling the warm deck beneath me, feeling the evening wind

ruffling my hair over the gunwales of the boat. Trying to be happy and forgetting that all last

night Lindsey cried and told me she couldn't stop thinking about the future and that she couldn't

handle being away from me for one day, one hour, one minute. Not anymore. Toward the end

of it all.

             “It's going to be okay, right?” she asked.

             A nod and nothing else because I didn't know the answer to that question. “I

             love you,” she said.

             “I love you too.” Finishing my beer and crushing the can, opening another one.
        The redness of the sky over the stilling water while I tried to forget.

        Watching sunsets.




        “DO YOU WANT TO DANCE?” STEPHANIE ASKS.

        “Sure,” I say, and we move to the dance floor. I'm noticing for the first time Stephanie's

green dress, the way it sparkles and fits her body, but it fails to move me. We sway on the dance

floor to a slow song, neither of us drunk enough. My arms are around her hips and her fingers

are laced behind his neck. I realize that I know her vaguely, from somewhere. A class, maybe?

A laboratory? It gets hard to tell after awhile.

        The song changes, faster now, rap. Stephanie smiles and turns around, her back to me.

She keeps dancing. She looks up at me and says something.

        “What?” I yell back through the music. “I

        said, you’re in my chemistry class.”

        “Yeah, I know!” I lie, screaming it.

        WE DANCE FOR AWHILE MORE. A FEW SONGS GO BY. I SEE MATT AT THE EDGE OF

THE DANCE FLOOR, MAKING OUT WITH HIS DATE.          HE HAS ONE ARM AROUND HER, A DRINK

IN HIS OTHER HAND HELD ABOVE HIS HEAD.         STEPHANIE SAYS SOMETHING ELSE THAT I

DON'T HEAR.

        “HUH?”

        “I SAID, DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A

        BREAK?” “SURE.”

        She takes his hand and leads me out into the hallway. The noise of the dance floor

fades. I lean against the wall and loosen my collar. I wipe some sweat from my
BROW.   STEPHANIE LEANS AGAINST ME, LOOKING UP AT ME. SHE SLIDES HER ARMS

AROUND MY BACK.      I LOOK DOWN AT HER.

        “So Walt,” she says. “I think you’re very cute.” I

        smile in spite my himself. “Thanks.”

        And then she is on her tiptoes, her face up against mine, her mouth opening. I let her

come closer, and then we are kissing and her tongue is in his mouth. I can smell vodka and it's

clear she is drunker than I thought.

        Stephanie bites my lip and puts her hand up his shirt, untucking it. We stay like that,

making out, for awhile. Then she pulls back for breath and her hands go to my belt, fumbling

with it. She looks up at me and smiles expectantly.

        “Uh...Stephanie?”

        “I FUCKING WANT YOU, WALT. I WANT YOU RIGHT HERE.”

        I LOOK AROUND. THE HALLWAY IS DESERTED. MUSIC FILTERS IN QUIETLY FROM THE

DANCE FLOOR.     I CAN SEE THE STROBE LIGHTS FLASHING THROUGH THE WINDOWS.

        Stephanie has undone my belt by now and she has her hands down my pants. She starts

massaging my cock. She looks up at me, still grinning drunkenly, her face sweaty. Her lipstick

is smeared and somehow this is important. I'm too drunk or something and feeling depressed.

Stephanie looks sort of like Lindsey, too, and that makes it worse. I push her away.

        “WALT, WHAT?”

        “I HAVE TO GO,” I SAY.

        And I leave her standing there.
         I GO THROUGH THE DANCE FLOOR TO GET OUTSIDE. MATT SEES ME AND YELLS

SOMETHING AT ME BUT I IGNORE HIM. THE ENTRYWAY IS AS LOUD AND CROWDED AS THE DANCE

FLOOR, SAVE FOR A CORNER WHERE SOMEBODY HAS THROWN UP AND THAT PEOPLE ARE

AVOIDING.    FOR A SECOND I STARE AT THE WALL AND LOOK AT THE VOMIT SPLATTERED THERE.

THE ORANGEISH SPEW IS JUST BEGINNING TO TRICKLE TO THE CARPET, POOLING ON THE

BASEBOARD. THE FAMILIAR, NAUSEATING ODOR TICKLES MY NOSTRILS AND I KNOW I HAVE TO

GO OUTSIDE OR I'LL THROW UP.

         JACKI COMES OUT OF THE BATHROOM BY THE DOOR AND SEES ME. “WALT?” SHE

ASKS. “WHAT'S UP?”

         I push my way through the crowd in their formal gowns and suits. A guy and girl with

their tongues down one another’s throats part briefly and I get outside beneath the night sky and

the trees and the quiet lamplit parking lot. Stumbling, I move away from the door. The music

fades.

         JACKI IS STILL STANDING AT THE DOOR, SHOUTING AT ME. “WHERE'S STEPHANIE?” SHE

         YELLS. IGNORING HER, I WALK DRUNKENLY ACROSS THE PARKING LOT AND FIND MY

         FATHER’S RANGE

Rover parked in front of the gates and get inside. I grope for the keys and stick them in the

ignition and sit back as the big car roars to life. In front of me the asphalt is lit up in harsh

relief by the twin headlamps. For a second I think about Stephanie and feel guilty. Then I drive

off.




         On Friday Jessica calls and she tells me she misses the summer. She tells me she's

smoking too much and bored at her apartment. She tells me she misses Allen.

         “WHY DO YOU MISS ALLEN?” I ASK.

         “OH, I DON'T KNOW.”
        “Did he have a tennis match again?” “A

        weekend tournament in Georgia.” “Oh.”

        I AM OUTSIDE THE LIBRARY, WEARING A WOOL COAT AND STANDING UNDER THE ARCHES

BY THE MAIN DOORS.     IT IS EARLY OCTOBER. SOMEONE I DO NOT RECOGNIZE NODS HELLO TO

ME ON HIS WAY INSIDE AND     I NOD BACK. “DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR THE NIGHT?” I ASK

JESSICA.

        “I was wondering if you would want to come over and have dinner.” I

        hesitate for too long and she says, “Walt?”

        “THAT SOUNDS REALLY GOOD,” I TELL HER.

        “OH YEAH?” SHE ASKS, AND I CAN TELL FROM HER VOICE THAT SHE IS SMILING. “WHAT

TIME DO YOU WANT TO COME OVER?”

        “Eight?”

        “See you then,” she says and then hangs up. I stare at my Blackberry for awhile, her

Facebook picture displayed by the blinking call timer, Allen's muscular arm draped around her.




        I AM WALKING UP THE STAIRS TO JESSICA'S APARTMENT. I RING THE DOORBELL. I

HEAR FOOTSTEPS AND THEN IT OPENS.       JESSICA IS WEARING A SKIRT AND A DUNHAM

UNIVERSITY T-SHIRT. SHE HAS A BLOW-DRYER IN ONE HAND, HER HAIR STILL DAMP. SHE

SMILES WIDELY AND GESTURES ME INSIDE.

        “HEY!” SHE SAYS, HUGGING ME WITH HER FREE HAND. “DID YOU GET

        TALLER?” “I DON'T THINK SO...”

        She laughs. “I guess I'm just used to Allen. He's only like, six-feet or
something.” I smile and follow her into the kitchen. She tells me I can make us drinks. I

GRAB A COUPLE OF BEERS FROM THE FRIDGE.

         “WHEN IS ALLEN GETTING BACK?” I

         ASK.

         “What?” Jessica yells. She has gone into the bathroom and the blow-dryer is on.

         “Never mind,” I say.

         WHEN SHE COMES OUT OF THE BATHROOM HER HAIR IS DRY, SWEPT HALF OVER HER

FACE. SHE HAS PUT ON A LITTLE MAKE-UP.      SHE WALKS OVER AND HUGS ME. I PUT MY ARMS

AROUND HER AND SHE LOOKS UP AT ME. THEN SHE SMILES AND PULLS AWAY.            SHE TELLS ME

WE'RE HAVING PASTA FOR DINNER.

         “I'M PUTTING YOU TO WORK,” SHE TELLS ME. “CAN YOU CHOP UP THE PEPPERS IN

THE REFRIGERATOR?”

         “Sure,” I say.

         WHILE I STAND OVER THE CUTTING BOARD I GLANCE BACK AT HER AND CATCH HER

LOOKING AT ME.     SHE WINKS AT ME AND SIPS HER BEER.

         “What do you want to do tonight?” she asks.

         “Anything,” I tell her.




         LATER THAT NIGHT, AFTER THE WINE WITH DINNER AT HER APARTMENT AND THE

DRINKS AT THE JOYCE AND THE TRIP TO SHOOTERS WHERE WE DANCED FOR ALMOST AN HOUR

UNTIL WE BOTH STARTED SEEING TOO MANY PEOPLE WE KNEW,. WE ARE BOTH DRUNK BACK AT

HER APARTMENT. IT IS RAINING AND I SHAKE OUT HER UMBRELLA AND LEAVE IT IN THE FOYER.

I SMELL LIKE WET DOG AND CIGARETTE SMOKE BUT SHE TAKES OFF MY COAT AND HUGS ME

CLOSE.
          “I MISSED THIS,” SHE SAYS, BURYING HER FACE IN MY

          CHEST. “ME TOO,” I SAY.

          WE TAKE OFF OUR COATS AND SHE TURNS ON A LAMP. I GO TO THE COUCH AND SIT

DOWN.     I DO NOT FEEL DRUNK ENOUGH FOR WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. JESSICA SITS NEXT TO

ME.     SHE TURNS, FACING ME. SHE PUTS HER HAND ON MY THIGH.

          “I'M SORRY ABOUT THE SUMMER,” SHE SAYS. “I REALLY AM.”

          “It's okay,” I say, not sure if it really is. I can smell the vodka on her breath but don't

care.

          SHE MOVES CLOSER TO ME, HER EYES BRIGHT. I PUSH A LOCK OF BLONDE HAIR AWAY

FROM HER FACE.        SHE REMINDS ME TOO MUCH OF LINDSEY. I REACH OUT AND WRAP MY

HANDS AROUND HER FOREARMS.               HER SKIN IS CHILLY AND DAMP FROM THE RAIN. WE

HESITATE FOR A HEARTBEAT AND THEN SHE SLIDES HER ARMS AROUND MY NECK AND WE ARE

KISSING.

          She moans softly, her mouth opening. Our tongues touch. She bites my lip, gently

at first then harder. Still kissing me, she lifts her legs and straddles me. “God, Walt,” she

whispers.

          OUTSIDE THE RAIN COMES DOWN.




          I wake up early but Jessica is already awake, sitting up next to me in bed. The television

is on and she is watching it with the volume turned down. Her hair is tousled and she is

wearing only a large T-shirt. She looks perfect. I recognize the shirt as one of Allen's. I've

seen him wearing it at the gym.

          “HELLO YOU,” JESSICA SAYS.

          “Hey,” I say. “Have you been up long?”
        “NOT TOO LONG,” SHE SAYS. “MAYBE THIRTY MINUTES. I READ MY BOOK FOR AWHILE.

HOW ARE YOU FEELING?”

        “I FEEL GOOD. WHAT ABOUT YOU?”

        She shrugs. “Pretty good. Do you need me to drive you back?” “I

        guess so. Do I need to leave now?”

        “NO,” SHE SAYS.

        “Okay.” I want to kiss her, to reach over and hold her, but it feels wrong for some

reason. Unwanted.

        JESSICA TURNS BACK TO THE TELEVISION. I DON'T KNOW THE SHOW SHE IS WATCHING.
        AS I

lie there and watch, still tired, Jessica laughs at parts I don't find funny.

        Later I groan and get out bed. I am naked but I don't bother looking for my boxers. I go

to the kitchen, pour a glass of orange juice and drink all of it. I wipe my mouth with the back of

my hand and take in the living room, quiet, still dark. Two glasses and a half-full bottle of

scotch on the coffee table. Our coats on the sofa. I think

ABOUT ALLEN.      PLAYING TENNIS. WINNING MATCHES OR LOSING THEM. GOING OUT FOR

DRINKS WITH THE OTHER GUYS ON THE TEAM.            I WONDER IF HE CALLS JESSICA WHILE HE IS

GONE. A WAVE OF FATIGUE HITS ME.

        I go out to the porch and light a cigarette. While I smoke the sky lightens further and I

watch the lamps in the parking lot go off. The cigarette tastes stale and acrid. The smoke stings

my eyes. When I go back inside Jessica is still in bed watching television.

I LOOK AT HER, SEE HER STARING GLASSILY AT THE TELEVISION. BLUE FLASHES FROM THE

FLAT-PANEL SCREEN PLAY ON HER FACE AND I'M THINKING, THIS IS SO FUCKED.             FINALLY SHE

LOOKS UP AND SEES
ME.   SHE TILTS HER HEAD. BEHIND HER BED IS A MIRROR AND I CATCH MY REFLECTION. TOO

SKINNY, THE EYES DARK.      MY HAIR IS A MESS AND I'M STILL NAKED.

         "I HAD A GOOD TIME LAST NIGHT," JESSICA SAYS, SMILING.




         Taking the speedboat out on the lake for the last time that year with Lindsey. It is late
                                                                            th
morning and we need to drive home that afternoon because it is August 15 and high school is

starting tomorrow. But we live in the same neighborhood and we're in all the same classes so

the only thing to be sad about is saying goodbye to the speedboat and the lake. I drive the boat

and we listen to The Cure while Lindsey sits in the front, facing backward. The wind whips her

hair about her face, across her sunglasses. She smiles at me and although we can't hear each

other over the wind and the waves and the engine it is clear to both of us that we don't need to

speak.

         Some ducks are in our path and as the boat roars toward them they take off around us.

Nobody else is out on the lake. I make a few sharp turns, kicking up water, splashing Lindsey

a little. She laughs and brushes the droplets off.

         “Just Like Heaven” is playing and the moment is almost too perfect. I open the throttle

up and we accelerate toward the dock by my lake house. Lindsey turns around to watch the

water speeding by. The sun is sparkling in the water, the sky is pure blue, the air smells of pine

and summer.

         On the dock is Mike's dog, a fat Welsh Corgi, wagging his tailless bottom and panting.

After I dock Lindsey leaps off the boat and hugs the dog, laughing as it licks her face. I look

toward the house and Mike is waving us on, yelling that the cars are packed, heralding another

summer come and gone.
        I remember these things only sometimes, only when I let myself. And sometimes when I

think like that, about those things, the remembering is so clear and so real that it stops my heart

and I have to close my eyes but it doesn't help. The pain comes anyway, like it's been waiting,

gathering strength, and it is cold at first but rapidly warming, and I promise myself that I won't

remember anything ever again if it feels like this.




         WE GO OUT TO DINNER AGAIN THE NEXT NIGHT. SATURDAY. I ASK JESSICA TOO

EAGERLY IF THIS IS A GOOD IDEA.

        “IS WHAT A GOOD IDEA?” SHE

        SAYS. “THE TWO OF US.”

        She looks at me. “You don't have to say it like that.”

        “Okay,” I say. She is wearing a light yellow sundress, probably from J. Crew, and I

realize she is beautiful enough to do whatever she wants. I suddenly hate myself very much and

want to get out. I stand up. “I think I need to go,” I tell her.

        “DON'T BE SO MELODRAMATIC,” SHE SAYS, LOOKING AT ME THROUGH HER

WAYFARER SUNGLASSES WHICH SHE HAS YET TO TAKE OFF, EVEN THOUGH IT'S DARK IN

THE RESTAURANT.      “WE DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING YOU DON'T WANT TO DO.”

        I HAVE A VISION OF MYSELF DRIVING HOME, THE RADIO ON. I OPEN THE DOOR TO MY

DARK DORM.     SPEND THE NIGHT ALONE READING, MAYBE GOING TO THE BARS WITH MATT

AND CHRIS AND THEN EITHER GOING TO BED ALONE OR FINDING SOME GIRL I DON'T KNOW AND

HAVING SEX WITH HER AND THEN NEVER SEEING OR TALKING TO HER AGAIN AND I REALIZE I

WOULD RATHER BE WITH JESSICA THAN ALONE. I SIT BACK DOWN.

        “Good boy,” Jessica says. The waiter arrives and we order drinks.
        I look around the restaurant. I don't see anybody I know. I wonder if that is good

OR BAD.

        “What do you think you're going to order?” Jessica asks me, idly. “I'm

        not...sure,” I say.

        “The grouper sounds good. I hear they get it shipped in from the coast every

day.”

        I NOD, NOT THINKING ABOUT THE FOOD. I WANT A CIGARETTE. OUR DRINKS COME, A

GLASS OF WHITE WINE FOR HER AND A BEER FOR ME.           I DRINK GREEDILY FROM THE GLASS WHILE

JESSICA ORDERS THE GROUPER. I TELL THE WAITER I WILL HAVE THE SAME AND THEN HE

LEAVES.

        “How was your day?” I ask her.

        “IT WAS GOOD,” SHE SAYS. “NOT AS GOOD AS THIS MORNING, THOUGH.” SHE SMILES

shyly. I look at her face in the dimness. Candlelight plays on our glasses. The restaurant is

busy around us. I smile back. I start to feel okay.

        “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TONIGHT?” SHE IS ASKING

        ME. I SHAKE MY HEAD.      “ANYTHING.”

        “We can see where the evening takes us,” she says softly. She lifts her wine glass with

one delicate hand and sips from it. She sets it down and, carefully, brushes a strand of hair from

her forehead.

        We finish our drinks before the food arrives and order new ones. When the food comes

it is delicious and we talk quietly while eating. After our plates are cleared away Jessica excuses

herself to go smoke a cigarette, tells me to order dessert. I think about joining her but stay at

the table and watch her walk through the crowd, her dress perfect, her body perfect. I think

about Lindsey and feel a little sick but the sensation passes.
        We do not talk on the drive home to her apartment in my car.




        UNDRESSING HER IN THE DARKNESS OF HER BEDROOM. THE ONLY LIGHT COMES FROM

THE WINDOW, FROM THE PARKING LOT.       SHE RAISES HER ARMS AND I SLIDE HER DRESS UP AND

OFF.   I BEND FORWARD AND KISS HER BETWEEN HER BREASTS, THE SKIN SOFT AND WARM. SHE

GASPS A LITTLE AND PUTS HER ARMS AROUND ME.        HER TOUCH IS LIGHT, FRAGILE. I TAKE OFF

HER BRA AND PULL HER TOWARD THE BED.

        “I THINK I'M IN LOVE WITH YOU,” I TELL HER.

        I SEE HER SMILE IN THE MOONLIGHT. “THAT'S SWEET,” SHE TELLS ME. SHE BENDS

DOWN AND KISSES ME.     I CARESS HER BREASTS. A PAINFUL ERECTION PRESSES AGAINST MY

JEANS. JESSICA SLIDES ONE HAND DOWNWARD AND SQUEEZES.

        “I think I've been in love with you since summer.”

        “Yeah?” she says, still kissing me. I kick my jeans off. I slide my hand beneath her

panties. She moans, drops her head so she's kissing my neck.

        “I want you so bad,” she whispers. “I've wanted this for so long.” She

        grips me with one hand, stroking.

        “WHAT HAPPENED TO US?” I ASK

        HER. “SHH,” SHE SAYS.

        I think about the summer. I think about her smile, her laugh. I think about endless

hours by the pool, endless sunsets. Holding her hand. Getting high. Getting drunk. Making

her dinner. Cigarette butts in an old Coke can. Allen always gone, not an issue. I think about

how I lay awake at night when he was home, knowing they were
together in the next room. And how it didn't bother me at first. Too much alcohol that

summer. Everywhere.

        Then I am inside of her and then she is moving on top of me and then I stop

thinking.




        Later the next day Matt asks me where I've been and I tell him I've been seeing this

girl. He asks me what her name is and I say Betsy for no reason.

        “Holly who?” he asks.

        “Uh...Jenkins,” I say.

        HE SHAKES HIS HEAD. “BETSY JENKINS? ARE WE IN MAD MEN?"

        “FUCK OFF, MATT.”

        He laughs and opens his second beer of the afternoon. “Fine. I am so hungover. I

can't move.”

        “Good,” I say.

        “I DID WAY TOO MUCH COCAINE LAST NIGHT," MATT TELLS ME. "SHIT.”

        I don't say anything to this because it's clear he just wants a reaction. We are sitting

outside on a big bench outside the dormitory. Matt is wearing dark sunglasses. Today is the first

warm day at Dunham in several weeks. The sun is out and the sky is blue. It is the middle of

October. Nobody is playing games on the quad. The rain has soaked the ground and the grass is

still soggy. Someone in the dormitory has his window open and is playing loud country music

from two speakers set on the sill.
        I feel vaguely nauseated. Vertiginous. I check my Blackberry for the tenth time. No

messages, no missed calls. Matt is lighting a cigarette so I have one too. Matt smokes only

Parliament Lights and I find this comforting for a reason I cannot explain.




        Later Lindsey would drive us home, either to my house or hers, and if her parents

weren't home we would sneak up to her room and take a shower. On the best days we would

make love in the shower and then again on her bed, unwrapping our bath towels and lying

across them so we wouldn't soak the comforter. Then Lindsey would stand up, naked and

tanned and glowing, and turn on her radio and we would lie on the floor and read magazines or

just talk until we knew her parents were about to come home. Then she would drive me home

and we would do it all again the next day.

        I remember the way she looked with her hair wet and slicked back from her forehead,

her face pale and clean. Mostly the way her eyes looked. But usually I try to forget.




        I spend most of Monday thinking about the weekend with Jessica and staring at my

Facebook profile, perusing the seventy-eight new photographs of me that have been “posted”

since last week. There are now six-hundred thirty-nine pictures of me on Facebook. Almost

all of them have been added by friends. Only a dozen or so, from a trip my family took to

Greece, were added by myself.

        Almost all of the new ones are of me in various stages of intoxication, my arm around

an equally wasted-looking Jessica. I look at the blurry, boring pictures and read the comments

and suddenly a wave of total nausea sweeps over me and I have to close
MY COMPUTER—I ACTUALLY SLAM THE LAPTOP CLOSED SO HARD THE DESK SHAKES—AND I

LEAVE MY ROOM AND GET OUTSIDE THE DORMITORY INTO THE CRISP, CLEAN AUTUMN AIR AND

DECIDE ON A WHIM TO CALL MY FATHER FOR THE FIRST TIME IN WEEKS BUT THERE IS ONLY THE

ANSWERING MACHINE BECAUSE I HAVE FORGOTTEN THAT HE IS SPENDING THE WEEK IN

CHICAGO WITH MY STEP-MOTHERS.




       I decide to call Jessica on Monday night. I have not seen or talked to her since

SUNDAY MORNING. THIS FEELS LIKE A LONG TIME. SHE PICKS UP ON THE FOURTH RING.

       “HELLO?” “HEY, JESSICA.”

       “Walt?”

       “Can I see you tonight?”

       SHE IS SILENT FOR AWHILE. THEN, “UM, ALLEN IS HERE.”

       “Oh,” I say. Pause. “I, uh, don't have to spend the night or anything.” A

       longer pause.

       “It's not a good idea, Walt.”

       “What about what we talked about?” I ask. I

       hear Jessica sigh. “When?”

       “JESSICA...”

       “I can't, Walt. Not tonight. I'll talk to you later.”

       Then she hangs up and I am alone.




       “Do you want to try to get in on this?” Jack is asking from my doorway. I am

reading a book on my bed.
         I STARE FOR A SECOND, PURSING MY LIPS. “I THINK SO,” I SAY. “WHO ARE YOU BUYING
         IT


FROM?”

         “Some bartender at Oliver's Pub. I think Wallace knows him.”

         “Wallace?”

         “Friend of Dan's. Don't worry about it. Can I come in?”

         I NOD AND JACK COMES IN, SITS DOWN AT MY DESK.             HE STARTS LOOKING

THROUGH MY STUFF, TURNING OVER BOOKS AND PICKING UP STACKS OF PAPERS.          HE PICKS

UP THE   KINDLE MY FATHER SENT ME AND SPINS IT AROUND IN HIS HANDS. I SET DOWN MY

BOOK AND LOOK AT HIM.

         “How much are you buying?” I ask.

         “Couple grams. It won't be very expensive.”

         “THAT'S FINE. JUST GET IT AND THEN TALK TO ME. I DON'T WANT TO BE

         INVOLVED.” JACK LAUGHS.       HE FLIPS THE KINDLE ON, THEN OFF. GETS BORED

         AND SETS IT DOWN.

“YOU'RE SUCH A PUSSY, WALT. IT'S JUST

         COCAINE.” “EXCEPT WHEN IT'S NOT."

         Jack frowns. “That was an...aberration.”

         “Whatever, man.”

         JACK PICKS UP MY IPOD. IT'S ATTACHED TO THE SPEAKERS AND HE TURNS THEM ON

TOO.   HE STARTS PLAYING SOME SONG BY BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. “THE RIVER.” I ASK HIM TO

TURN IT UP AND HE DOES.      FOR AWHILE WE JUST SIT THERE, STARING AT SEPARATE WALLS,

LISTENING.

         “This is good shit,” Jack tells me.

         “Yeah,” I say. “It is.”

         “So...a gram for you?”

         “Sure.”
       “THANKS, MAN. YOU CAN PAY ME LATER. I KNOW YOU'RE GOOD FOR IT.” THEN HE

STANDS UP AND LEAVES.

       AFTERWARD I CALL JESSICA BUT SHE DOESN'T PICK UP.




       That year I go to New York City with Matt and Dan for Fall Break. We stay in the

apartment of one of Dan's friend's who goes to Columbia. I've been to New York a lot

BUT MATT HASN'T SO WE END UP SPENDING ONE WHOLE DAY WANDERING AROUND THE

MUSEUMS. AT NIGHT DAN'S FRIEND TAKES US TO SOME BORING CLUBS AND I GET VERY DRUNK.

AS THE TAXI DRIVES US BACK UPTOWN, THROUGH TIMES SQUARE, I LOOK OUT THE WINDOW AT

THE BRIGHT LIGHTS. THE TAXI PASSES INTO A DARKER STREET AND THEN I CAN SEE MY

REFLECTION IN THE GLASS, HAIR MESSED UP, EYES BRIGHT. THERE IS SOME STUBBLE ON MY

FACE AND I LOOK SAD.   MATT AND DAN ARE PASSED OUT NEXT TO ME. DAN'S FRIEND IS

TALKING TO THE CAB DRIVER ABOUT MARIJUANA HASH IN THE FRONT SEAT.

       SOMEHOW I CANNOT STOP STARING AT MY REFLECTION, HATING IT, WONDERING WHY I

HATE IT, AND WHEN WE GET BACK TO THE APARTMENT I FALL ASLEEP ON THE COUCH AND SLEEP

FOR TWELVE HOURS. WHEN I WAKE UP THE OTHER THREE ARE STILL ASLEEP.          I GO INTO THE

KITCHEN AND EAT SOME CEREAL WITH SOY MILK, THEN BRUSH MY TEETH AND LOOK OUT THE

WINDOW AT THE CITY.

       WE DO NOTHING ALL DAY THEN GO OUT AGAIN AT NIGHT. MATT THROWS UP AT SOME
       BAR ON

  TH
14 STREET AND WE ALL LAUGH ABOUT IT AND DAN'S FRIEND FROM COLUMBIA ENDS UP

MEETING SOME SLUTTY NYU GIRL AND GOING TO HER PLACE.          HE GIVES DAN THE KEYS TO

THE APARTMENT AND WE TAKE THE SUBWAY BACK UPTOWN BECAUSE IT IS STILL EARLY AND

WE ARE ALL TOO TIRED AND STILL HUNGOVER. THE NEXT DAY WE PACK AND GO OUT TO

LUNCH AND DAN'S FRIEND DOESN'T COME BACK TO THE APARTMENT AND THEN IT IS TIME TO

GO HOME.
         That is Fall Break.




         WEDNESDAY EVENING. I DECIDE NOT TO GO OUT BECAUSE I'VE BEEN LOOKING AT THE

NEW PHOTOS OF ME ON FACEBOOK TOO MUCH AND I FEEL UGLY.             I WORRY ABOUT GOING

PREMATURELY BALD AND I SPEND THREE HOURS AFTER DINNER STARING AT MYSELF IN THE

MIRROR ATTACHED TO MY CLOSET DOOR, LOOKING FROM NUMEROUS ANGLES AND IN NUMEROUS

TYPES OF LIGHTING, TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IF MY HAIRLINE IS RECEDING. A LONE HAIR FALLS

ONTO MY HAND AND SUDDENLY I AM ON THE VERGE OF TOTAL PANIC.              I TEAR MYSELF AWAY

FROM THE MIRROR AND LIE ON MY BED.        I LOOK UP AT THE CEILING. MY PALMS ARE SWEATY

AND MY HEART IS RACING.        EVENTUALLY THE ANXIETY FADES, LEAVING BEHIND IT A BLACK

RESIDUE OF DEPRESSION, HOLLOW AND CLINGING. AT NINE-THIRTY I TURN OFF THE LIGHT BUT

DON'T SLEEP.




         AT ANOTHER PARTY, THIS ONE IN THE DUNHAM GARDENS ON CAMPUS. THE PRESIDENT

OF THE UNIVERSITY IS HOSTING IT, I READ IN THE CAMPUS NEWSPAPER.          IT'S COLD OUTSIDE BUT

THERE ARE BIG SPACE HEATERS SET UP UNDER THE WHITE PAVILIONS AND, SURPRISINGLY,

THERE ARE STILL SOME YELLOW AND RED FLOWERS LEFT ALIVE. A LIVE BAND PLAYS FOLK

MUSIC.   PEOPLE STAND AROUND AND DRINK FREE WINE AND BEER FROM CLEAR PLASTIC CUPS.

         Everybody is dressed up. Most of the guys are wearing navy blazers and khaki pants.

The girls wear dark dresses. Allen called to ask me to go with him and Jessica. I told him I

would meet him there. Now the three of us are standing near the bar. We have been talking

about Allen's tennis tournament. Allen and I finish our third beer of the night and he goes back

for more. I look at Jessica but don't say anything.
        “How's it going?” she asks me. She is wearing a slim fitting blue dress and

nothing else. She looks cold.

        “It's fine,” I say. I don't want to talk about anything. I want her to bring it up. “Did

        you have a good week?”

        “PRETTY MUCH. WHEN DID ALLEN GET BACK FROM

        TENNIS?” “MONDAY MORNING.”

        She looks around the pavilion, not looking for anybody. I stare down at her

cleavage. Allen comes back with the beers. He hands one to me. “Have you seen

Chris?” he asks me.

        I shake my head.

        “I THOUGHT I SAW HIM EARLIER,” JESSICA SAYS.

        “HE WAS SUPPOSED TO GET ME SOME POT,” ALLEN SAYS.

        “DAMN.” “I HAVE SOME,” JESSICA SAYS. “YOU KNOW THAT.”

        “Yeah,” Allen says. “I guess.”

        “Well why don't you just have some of mine?”

        “Because I want...my own?”

        Jessica rolls her eyes and gives me a look but I just stare back at her. I see some people,

drunk, friends of Allen's, approaching. I think they are on the tennis team. When the first one

gets to us he throws his arm around Allen and yells and Allen spills his drink and I stand back.

Later I walk outside the pavilion and ask someone I don't know for a cigarette. He gives it to me

and we smoke in silence on a small patch of grass, watching the people at the party.
        I am in bed with Tiffany later that night. Actually I am sitting on the edge of the bed in

my boxers. Tiffany is lying down, naked and looking at me reproachfully, the covers wrapped

around her waist.

        “Am I...doing it wrong?” she asks. “I

        don't think so,” I say.

        SHE CROSSES HER ARMS, COVERING HER PERFECT

        BREASTS. “WELL, SOMETHING IS WRONG,” SHE SAYS.

        “Not with you,” I say. I feel very cold inside, very dead.

        “OBVIOUSLY,” SHE SAYS, ROLLING HER EYES. SHE PULLS THE COVERS UP TO HER

CHIN AND ROLLS OVER ONTO HER SIDE, AWAY FROM ME.              “WHAT'S THE DEAL?”

        “I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT,” I SAY. AND THEN I GET DRESSED AND LEAVE. IT IS

THREE IN THE AFTERNOON ON A TUESDAY.           LEAVING HER ROOM, I LIGHT A CIGARETTE AND,

STILL FEELING HOLLOW, DISCONNECTED, I REALIZE IT WILL PROBABLY BE JUST A FEW DAYS

BEFORE TIFFANY TELLS THE REST OF THE CAMPUS THAT I CAN'T GET IT UP.




        I am moved to go to the library because it seems like everyone is there this week and I

don't want to feel left out. When I realize this is the reason I am going I start to feel like crying

but don't. I finish putting my books in my backpack and go to the library. I spend two hours

looking at Twitter. Jessica and Allen stop by. Gordon is with them. Allen tells me that he and

Jessica are working on their law school applications. Jessica says they want to try to go to the

same school. I nod.

        “I don't know why they want to go to law school,” Gordon says.

        “Why do you want to go to law school?” I ask them.
          ALLEN SHRUGS. JESSICA SHRUGS. “GET PAID,” SHE SAYS. “BE

          RESPECTED.” “YEAH,” I SAY.


          “I mean, you should just go to medical school,” Gordon says. “That's what I'm

doing.”

          “YOU MEAN IF YOU GET IN,” ALLEN SAYS.

          JESSICA SIGHS. “OF COURSE HE'S GOING TO GET IN,” SHE SAYS. “WE'RE ALL GOING

TO GET IN SOMEWHERE.        EVEN IF WE HAVE TO GO TO, LIKE, OHIO STATE OR SOMETHING.”

          “What are you going to do next year?” Gordon asks me. “I'm

          a junior,” I tell him.

          “OH,” HE SAYS. “WELL, WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS SUMMER?”

          I look at him. “I'm going to be doing research at a lab in Chicago. I worked there two

summers ago. Co-authored three papers.”

          Gordon raises his eyebrows. “That's so cool, man,” he says. “I

          guess,” I say.

          “YOU GUESS?”

          “IT'S COOL,” I TELL HIM.

          “Maybe you'll get a lead authorship this time. I got a lead authorship at the

HARKNESS LAB LAST SUMMER. IT WAS A BIG

          DEAL.” “MAYBE I WILL,” I TELL HIM.

          “KEEP GETTING PAID, MAN. KEEP GETTING PAID.”

          “WHAT?” I SAY.

          Gordon nods. “Cool, man. I've got to go. Peace. See you Allen. Jessica.”
        THEY SAY GOODBYE AND THEN HE LEAVES. ALLEN AND JESSICA STAND AROUND THE

TABLE WHERE I'M WORKING. ALLEN SHIFTS HIS WEIGHT FROM ONE FOOT TO ANOTHER.                “YOU

WANT TO GET SOME DRINKS TONIGHT?          I NEED TO GET WASTED.”

        “Please come, Walt,” Jessica asks. “I

        can't,” I tell them.

        “Why not?” Allen asks.

        “I'm...applying for something.”

        “What is it?”

        “AN, UM, APPLICATION” I TELL HIM.

        “When's it due? You can do it later. Come out tonight. It's my senior year.”

        I LEAN BACK IN MY CHAIR. “LET ME SEE HOW MUCH WORK I GET DONE ON IT. I'LL CALL

YOU AFTER DINNER, OKAY?”

        “Sweet,” Allen says. He slaps me on my back. “Don't be a pussy. Okay, we're out.”

They wave goodbye and leave. I watch them walk out the door, hand in hand, then close my

computer and start putting my things in my backpack.

        I do not call them after dinner but when I see them next, a few days later, both of them

have forgotten about it.




        I WALKED AROUND CAMPUS EARLY IN THE MORNING ONE DAY IN THE SPRING OF MY

FRESHMAN YEAR.     I REMEMBER HOW IT FELT COMING OFF COCAINE AND VODKA AND WEED ALL AT

THE SAME TIME, FOR THE FIRST TIME, SMOKING A CIGARETTE AND WONDERING IF I WAS GOING TO

FEEL THIS BAD FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
        I WATCHED THE SUN BURN THE MIST OFF THE GRASS AND SAW THE MORNING SUNLIGHT

TWINKLING BEHIND THE HIGH SPIRES OF THE CHAPEL.         THE SKY WAS PINK AND PURPLE, SLOWLY

BLEEDING TO BLUE.    I THOUGHT ABOUT HER. LINDSEY ALWAYS LIKED TO WATCH THE SUNRISES.

SHE WOULD WAKE ME UP TOO EARLY AT THE LAKE, ESPECIALLY DURING THAT LAST SUMMER, AND

MAKE ME WALK OUT ALONG THE LONG DOCK WITH HER.            SHE WOULD PUT HER ARM AROUND ME

AND WE WOULD STAND AND LOOK OUT ACROSS THE STILL WATER. THE WORLD WAS UTTERLY SILENT

AND, IN THE FLEETING MOMENT AFTER THE DOCK LIGHTS WENT OFF BUT BEFORE THE SUN ROSE,

YOU COULD IMAGINE YOU

were standing in a different time. Before the rise of man, maybe. Something. And when the

sun came up, streaking the clouds, and the geese took off squawking and honking across the

pines, Lindsey would look at me and tell me she loved me.

        I stood there in front of the chapel at dawn and thought about all that but the day grew

hot and my head was pounding and I heard someone coming along the path. Suddenly the whole

thing seemed contrived and fake. I felt very naïve.




        What happens is a kid named Gary, a sophomore, Asian, tries to kill himself and ends

up just putting himself in a coma. A lot of people know him but I don't. The Gazette runs a big

front-page story on it which a lot of people find distasteful. Apparently Gary bought a shotgun

from a store downtown, waited the two weeks, then

brought it back to his dormitory and put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger. But he was stupid

about it, and the angle of the barrel was too shallow and it just blew out the back of his throat.

Dunham University, The Gazette noted, has an award-winning EMS service and when the girl

next door called 911 they got him to the hospital and had him stabilized
WITHIN AN HOUR.     HE ENDED UP ON LIFE-SUPPORT IN WHAT THE DOCTORS WERE CALLING “A

TERMINAL COMA.” TWENTY YEARS OLD.

        THE STORY SPREADS AROUND CAMPUS AND I HEAR DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF IT FROM

TWENTY- THREE DIFFERENT PEOPLE. THERE IS A LOT OF CREEPILY EXCITED GOSSIP AND I HEAR

MORE THAN ONE PERSON USE THE TERM “SCHADENFREUDE.”              I TELL JESSICA THIS AND SHE

ASKS “WHAT'S SCHADENFREUDE?” I TELL HER TO FORGET IT.

        Gary's suicide attempt occurs within a week of the first big cold front of the year,

brought in by a massive rainstorm that causes flooding and road closures. It also occurs within

two weeks of a big campus-wide shooting/suicide at a public university in the Northeast that

leaves fifty-four dead. The end result is that nobody really talks to anybody about anything else.

Classes get canceled for three days in a row. The e-mails sent by the provost tell us it is because

of the rainstorms but nobody is really sure why they are canceled.

        JIM PRINTS UP THE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE FOR THE TERM “SUICIDE” AND STAPLES THE

PRINTOUTS TO HIS DOOR.     PEOPLE FIND THIS PRETTY FUNNY BUT THE RA TELLS HIM TO TAKE IT

DOWN.   JIM TELLS HER TO FUCK OFF AND THERE IS ALMOST A FIGHT BUT IT DOESN'T HAPPEN

AND JIM TAKES DOWN THE PRINTOUT ANYWAY AFTER ANOTHER FEW DAYS.




        THE DUNHAM STUDENT GOVERNMENT HOLDS A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FOR GARY ON THE

MAIN QUADRANGLE, IN FRONT OF THE CHAPEL.          THE GAZETTE SAYS THE “EVENT” WILL START

AT NINE.   I WALK BY THE DESIGNATED AREA ON MY WAY BACK FROM THE LIBRARY BUT IT IS

DARK AND DRIZZLING AND I DON'T SEE ANYBODY THERE.            I TURN THE COLLAR OF MY COAT UP

AND HURRY BACK TO THE DORMITORY.
         A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE IN THE COMMON ROOM WATCHING THE BASKETBALL GAME.

CHRIS IS SMOKING A CIGARETTE IN THE FOYER. HE SAYS IT IS TOO COLD TO GO OUTSIDE TO

SMOKE.    I WANDER INTO THE COMMON ROOM AND LOOK AT THE TV. A FEW GIRLS ARE

CHEERING.    MOST OF THE PEOPLE WATCHING ARE JUST SITTING ON THE COUCHES, LOOKING

TIRED AND DRUNK. A POSTER ON THE WALL ADVERTISES THE UNIVERSITY A CAPELLA BAND.

         “WALT,” SOMEONE SAYS. I LOOK OVER AND IT'S CARLY, SITTING BY HERSELF ON A

COUCH, LOOKING HIGH AND OUT OF IT.

         “Hey.”

         “SIT DOWN, YOU CREEPER.”

         I do and Carly hands me a beer and tells me to drink up. “I have...homework,” I

TELL HER.

         “OH DON'T BE SUCH A WHINER,” SHE SAYS. “YOU'RE TOO CUTE TO DO

         HOMEWORK.” “THANKS,” I SAY, NOT REALLY MEANING IT.         BUT I TAKE THE BEER

         AND CRACK IT OPEN

anyway.

         I TURN MY HEAD TOWARD THE BIG TV BUT THERE ARE COMMERCIALS ON NOW. A

MIDDLE- AGED MAN IS SCREAMING AT THE SCREEN, TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT A SPECIAL FOR

DEEP-DISH PIZZAS AT A PLACE CALLED “FAT WILLY'S.”       SOMEHOW EVERYBODY IS STILL

WATCHING, NOT SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER.          I DRINK THE BEER QUICKLY AND ASK FOR

ANOTHER ONE.      CARLY GIVES IT TO ME.

         “I MISS YOU, WALT,” SHE SAYS, LEANING HER HEAD ON MY

         SHOULDER. “WHY?” I ASK.

         “Because you have a nice penis.” “I

         do?”

         “YOU DO.”
       SOMEONE SITS DOWN NEXT TO ME AND CARLY GLANCES AT HIM. SHE TAKES HER

HEAD OFF MY SHOULDER AND SIPS HER BEER.      “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TONIGHT?” SHE ASKS

ME.

       “I don't know.”

       “A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE GOING OUT TO SHOOTERS IF YOU WANT TO COME. THERE'S A BIG
       TRI

DELT THING GOING ON. IT'S GOING TO BE

       INCREDIBLE.” “I'LL THINK ABOUT IT.”

       “Please, Walt. I never see you around. Ever. Please?”

       “Maybe.”

       “I'll be your date.”

       I STAND UP THEN, LEAVING MY BEER ON THE TABLE. I TELL HER I NEED TO GO TAKE A

NAP, WHICH IS TRUE.   SHE SAYS SHE CAN COME WITH ME IF I WANT BUT I WALK AWAY AND

SHE TURNS BACK TO THE TV, WHERE THE GAME HAS COME ON AGAIN.      ON MY WAY UPSTAIRS

I PASS THE FIRST FLOOR BATHROOM AND I HEAR SOMEBODY VOMITING. AT THE STAIRS I

LOOK BACK AND WENDY COMES OUT, WIPING HER MOUTH.        SHE MAKES EYE CONTACT WITH

ME BUT I FEEL NO GUILT, NO SHAME, AND JUST STARE BACK AT HER.   HER EYES ARE RED, TOO

BRIGHT.   EVENTUALLY SHE STOPS LOOKING AT ME AND GOES BACK TO THE COMMON ROOM.

       “LET'S GO DUNHAM!” SHE CHEERS AS SHE ENTERS.

       I GO UPSTAIRS TO MY HALLWAY. EVERYTHING LOOKS TOO YELLOW. I GO TO MY

ROOM AND GET IN BED AND FALL ASLEEP AND DON'T WAKE UP UNTIL THE MORNING. WHEN I

LOOK AT MY BLACKBERRY THERE ARE FIVE MISSED CALLS FROM CARLY AND THREE FROM

HER FRIEND, VICTORIA.    I DELETE THEM ALL WITHOUT LISTENING TO THEM, THEN GO TO THE

GYM AND RUN FIVE MILES.
         Tonight we are going to find Brad, Jim's dealer, because he has not contacted Jim in

three days and Jim is worried that he is dead although it really just seems that Jim is

withdrawing from drugs and getting paranoid and depressed.

         WE PICK UP BURGERS AT COOK-OUT AND THEN WORK OUR WAY TOWARD BRAD'S

HOUSE. JIM DRIVES.    I PUT MY FEET ON THE DASH OF HIS FATHER'S AUDI, TOUCHING MY

HAIR AND MUMBLING THE WORDS TO JAY-Z'S “DIRT OFF YOUR SHOULDER” WHICH HAS

JUST COME ON THE SATELLITE RADIO. WE DO NOT TALK BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING TO

TALK ABOUT.     JIM IS A GOOD FRIEND.




         THERE IS A PARTY AT BRAD'S AND THE FIRST FLOOR OF THE BIG VICTORIAN HOUSE IS

FILLED WITH SOPHOMORES BUT NEITHER BRAD NOR HIS ROOMMATES ARE IN SIGHT.                   JIM IS

DRINKING FROM A RED PLASTIC CUP GIVEN TO HIM BY A CUTE GIRL WHO ALSO OFFERS ME ONE.

I ACCEPT, LIGHTING A CIGARETTE BEFORE SHE HANDS ME THE GLASS. I LOOK AT THE GIRLS. I

THINK ABOUT FINDING A GIRL, TALKING TO HER, FAKING CONFIDENCE, GETTING HER DRUNK,

FINDING A CONDOM, FINDING A ROOM, LEAVING IN THE MORNING.             IT SORT OF DISGUSTS ME

BUT NOT REALLY.     I FOLLOW JIM AROUND THE PARTY AS HE ASKS PEOPLE IF THEY KNOW BRAD.

WE STAY FOR AWHILE AND DRINK TOO MUCH. JIM DOESN'T FIND BRAD. AFTER AWHILE WE

STOP SEARCHING AND STAND BY THE FIREPLACE, LISTENING TO THE MUSIC AND SURVEYING THE

PARTY.   I AM DRUNK.

         “I find the expectant passivity of most women to be truly obnoxious,” Jim is

saying, leaning over so I can hear him.

         “TOTALLY,” I SAY.
        “I mean, it's pretty clear that all these girls want is to be thrown on the bed and

fucked,” Jim continues. “Maybe it's some sort of self-esteem thing. Or a dominance thing.”

        I nod.

        “SO, I GUESS I GET THAT,” JIM SAYS. “BUT SOMETIMES I WANT TO BE THROWN ON THE

BED AND FUCKED.     SOMETIMES I NEED TO BE EMOTIONALLY DOMINATED.”

        I look at him. He looks back at me, then bursts out laughing. He finishes his drink

and tossing his cup on the floor. “Whatever, Walt. You're such a fucking prude. This party

blows. Let's go.”

        As we're leaving, some frat-looking guy holds the door open for us. Jim leans toward

him and grabs his shoulder with one hand. “I am in no condition,” Jim tells him, “to dominate

anybody. Physically or emotionally. I'm sorry if that's weird or unorthodox to you.”

        “Nice,” the guy says, holding his hand up for a high-five, which Jim gives him.




        IN HAWAII WITH MY FAMILY A LONG TIME AGO. BEFORE THE DIVORCE AND THE XANAX. I

LEAVE MY BLACKBERRY AT HOME AND I LEAVE MY COMPUTER AT HOME AND NOBODY, NONE OF MY

FRIENDS, KNOW WHERE I AM.     MY FATHER, MY MOTHER, MY SISTER, AND MYSELF GET TWO ROOMS AT

A BIG RESORT IN WAILEA.   THERE IS THE SUN-BLEACHED WRECKAGE OF AN OLD PLANE ON THE

BEACH. THE WATER IS ALMOST TRANSPARENT BLUE AND THE AIR SEEMS PURER, RICHER, THAN THE

AIR BACK HOME.

        I WAKE UP EARLY MOST DAYS AND GO OUT TO THE BEACH AND JUST SIT IN THE WHITE SAND,

READING OR STARING OUT AT THE WATER.       WHEN I GET BORED I DIVE INTO THE WAVES AND SWIM

OUT
TO THE ROCKY PROMONTORY WHERE KIDS ARE CLIMBING UP THE LOW WET GRANITE CLIFFS

AND LEAPING, SHRIEKING WITH DELIGHT, INTO THE WATER.

        One day we go for a walk in a big national park. Waterfalls gurgle and tall palms wave

in a warm breeze. It is early and only a few other people are out walking around. We are all

wearing our swimsuits under our clothes and at the top of a big hill there is a cool, clear pool

with fish in it. The pool is fed by a big waterfall. I wade in and the

water is cold and crisp and alive. I lie back and float and stare up at the blue sky and the puffy

white clouds wafting overhead.

        My father is laughing with my mother, taking pictures while sitting on a big rock.

Somehow I have never seen him this happy. My mother looks very beautiful. I swim around

for awhile and then get out, dry off. I lie in the sun and when it is finally time to go back I

stand at the lip of the cold pool for a long time, just staring into it.




        Lisa has two friends visiting from Amherst. We are sitting in her room watching a movie

but nobody is paying attention to it. Her friend Kip is wearing khaki pants and a Rolling Stones

T-shirt that looks old, authentic. He is tall and has long, dark hair. Her other friend, Dani, is

wearing jeans and a white Polo shirt. She has glasses and her hair is tied back in a ponytail.

We're sharing a bottle of wine, taking pulls from the bottle. Dani and Kip are both English

majors, Lisa tells me.

        “We should hang out more,” Lisa is telling me. “Why don't I ever see you

around?”

        “I don't know. I've been doing a lot of stuff with Allen and Matt on the

weekends.”
          LISA SHAKES HER HEAD. “BAD INFLUENCES, WALT. BAD

          INFLUENCES.” “I LIKE BAD INFLUENCES,” KIP CHIMES IN.

          DANI SIPS HER WINE. SHE HAS VERY LARGE EYES.

          “How's Jessica?” Lisa asks. “I haven't seen her in awhile.”

          “Neither have I,” I tell her.

          SHE RAISES HER EYEBROWS. “SHE'S NOT WITH

          ALLEN?” “NO, SHE IS. HE JUST DOESN'T PARTY WITH

          HER.”

          “Oh,” Lisa says. “I see.”

          “Stop talking about people I don't know,” Kip says, but he says it jokingly and we all

laugh.

          THE WALLS OF LISA'S DORM ARE COVERED IN POSTERS, SOME FROM OLD CONCERTS,

SOME OF FAMOUS ATHLETES.          A BIG FRAMED AND SIGNED POSTER OF THE X HANGS OVER HER

BED.     I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO THE X ARE BUT LISA'S LACK OF INTEREST IN ARTISTS LIKE THE

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS OR BOB MARLEY OR BOB DYLAN IS REFRESHING. WE LIVE IN AN OLD

DORM, KETTLER HALL, AND THERE ARE PIPES COMING OUT OF THE CEILING BY LISA'S DOOR.

THE CROSS-PANED WINDOW JUTS OUT FROM THE ROOF, OVERHUNG BY WOODEN EAVES. FOUR

STORIES BELOW ARE THE WALKWAYS AND LAMPS OF THE QUAD.               IT IS RAINING AGAIN.

          “I'm so sick of Amherst,” Dani says. “I'm so fucking sick of all the people there.” “They

          are a bunch of pricks,” Kip agrees.

          LISA POURS HERSELF MORE WINE. “I'D TELL YOU TO STAY HERE BUT...” SHE LOOKS

          AT ME. “EVERYONE SUCKS HERE, TOO,” I SAY.

          “EVERYONE AT AMHERST IS JUST SO...ARTSY,” DANI SAYS.
        “HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO BE FRIENDS WITH SOMEONE WHO IS LEGITIMATELY EXCITED

ABOUT GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?” LISA ASKS.         “HAVE YOU?”

        Dani shakes her head. “Nobody wants to go to law school at Amherst. Well.

Maybe the Asians.”

        I laugh at that for no reason. “Asians,” I say.

        “Just stay here for a week,” Lisa says, drinking. “Stay here for a week and try to be

friends with someone whose life ambition is to be a management consultant.”

        KIP SMACKS HIS HAND AGAINST HIS FOREHEAD. “FUCKING KILL ME NOW,” HE

        SAYS. “THEY'RE NOT...THAT BAD,” I SAY.

        “Oh really?” Lisa asks.

        “THEY KNOW HOW TO...PARTY?” I DON'T KNOW IF THIS IS THE RIGHT THING TO

        SAY. LISA ROLLS HER EYES.     “YOU KNOW HOW TO PARTY,” SHE SAYS.

        Kip laughs. “Yeah he does. You know how to party, don't you, Walt? Are we going

to party tonight?”

        Dani smiles. “Take us to a party, Walt.”

        “Really?” I ask.

        “THERE'S NOTHING ELSE TO DO,” LISA SAYS. SHE GETS UP AND COMES OVER TO ME,

GIVES ME A HUG.      “PLEASE, WALT? DO IT FOR ME?”

        “I think there's something going on at KA tonight,” I say. “Jeff might be going. I

COULD CALL HIM.”

        “That sounds good!” says Dani. “I haven't been to a frat party since, like,

freshman year.”

        Lisa stands up. “If we're going,” she says. “I guess I should get ready.”
        “You don't need to get ready,” I say. Their enthusiasm is baffling but I am starting to feel

bored and I am thinking about smoking cigarettes. There would be worse things

to do tonight than going to a KA party. Maybe. I am never going to see Dani or Kip again in

my life, and I'm probably not going to see Lisa again for another few weeks, and if we all get

fucked up tonight and act stupid it's not going to mean anything.

        WE FINISH THE WINE AND LEAVE. I WONDER IF DANI AND KIP ARE FUCKING.




        IN A BATHROOM AT THE KA FRATERNITY HOUSE. I AM STARING AT MY REFLECTION,

TOUCHING MY HAIR AND MY CHEEKS AND MY LIPS OBSESSIVELY.              THE BATHROOM SMELLS OF

OLD URINE AND    I HAVE JUST SMOKED TOO MUCH CHEAP MARIJUANA. I LIGHT A CIGARETTE

AND SMOKE IT, NOT TAKING

it out of my mouth to exhale, still touching my face. The mirror is cracked and splintered with

what looks like dried blood etched along the broken glass. The bathroom is wallpapered in

centerfolds from Playboy and Hustler. Someone has written Fuck

NIGGERS ABOVE THE TOILET IN THICK RED PERMANENT MARKER. I SPLASH SOME WATER ON

MY FACE THEN LEAVE.

        “Walt! Walt!” someone yells as soon as I exit the bathroom. It's Nathan. His face is

bright red. I walk over to him.

        “WHAT THE FUCK IS UP?” NATHAN ASKS. HE GIVES ME A HIGH

        FIVE. “UH, JUST HANGING OUT,” I TELL HIM.

        “Fuck right you are,” he says. “Who are you here with?”

        “Lisa,” I say. “Some of her friends.”

        “DON'T KNOW HER,” NATHAN SAYS. “OKAY, I'M GOING TO GO GET SOME SHOTS. DO

YOU WANT SOME?”
       “Okay,” I say.

       WE WALK INTO THE KITCHEN AND DO THREE SHOTS OF CANADIAN CLUB APIECE. I

DON'T KNOW WHY THERE IS CANADIAN CLUB HERE.          I SEE DANI BY THE WINDOW, TALKING TO A

BASKETBALL PLAYER.      KIP IS PLAYING BEER PONG NEARBY. NATHAN SEES SOMEONE ELSE HE

KNOWS AND DISAPPEARS.     “HEART OF A CHAMPION” BY NELLY IS BLASTING FROM SPEAKERS IN

THE MAIN ROOM.

I PUT OUT MY CIGARETTE IN AN EMPTY PLASTIC CUP SITTING ON THE COUNTER.

       Someone taps me on the shoulder. It is Lisa. “Hey,” she says.

       “Hello,” I say. “How are you holding up?”

       “I'M GETTING DRUNK,” SHE SAYS. “I HOPE DANI AND KIP ARE HAVING A GOOD

       TIME.” “DID YOU FIND SOME INVESTMENT BANKERS FOR HER TO TALK TO?              SOME

       PRE-LAWS?”

       Lisa laughs, putting her had on my shoulder. “Everybody in KA is an investment

banker.”

       “I MIGHT GO BACK EARLY,” I TELL

       HER. “AWW.”

       “I'm exhausted. It's Tuesday. I'm going to be an alcoholic.”

       “Everyone's an alcoholic in college,” Lisa says.

       “Except you.”

       “Except me.”

       I look around and see that Dani has started making out with the basketball player. Kip

sees this but keeps playing Beer Pong so I assume they aren't dating or anything. Pot smoke

starts blowing in from another room. Lisa coughs and waves her hand in front of her face.

       “Kip told me that everyone here is so crazy compared to Amherst,” she says.
        “SO CRAZY?”

        “Like, we party so much more.”

        “That's cool,” I say.

        “Is it?” Lisa asks. “I'm going to get another drink. Do you want anything?” I

        shake my head. “I just did, like, three shots.”

        “Okay,” Lisa says. “Well, I'll miss you if you leave. You should stay.”

        She wanders away toward the keg, leaving me alone in the middle of the party. I watch

her go. Lisa is a good girl. I think about what it would be like to kiss her. I wonder if she is

seeing anybody. I wonder if she hooks up. For some reason I do not want her to.

        Then Brian walks up to me from nowhere and asks if I want a Xanax and I look back

at Lisa once more then tell him sure and he gives me the small pill and I wash it down with

another shot of whiskey and that is Tuesday night.




        JIM IS DRIVING ME TO AN APARTMENT COMPLEX OFF NINTH STREET. THE APARTMENTS
        ARE

IN THE CONVERTED SHELL OF AN OLD TOBACCO WAREHOUSE.             JIM GETS OUT OF THE CAR AND,

HURRIEDLY, RUNS TO THE MAIN DOOR.        HE BUZZES NUMBER FIFTY-FOUR AND AFTER A MOMENT

HE BUZZES IT

again and yells, “Nathan!” into the speaker.

        “YO,” SOMEONE SAYS ON THE OTHER END. THE DOOR CLICKS AND JIM GOES

        IN. “I THINK I HATE PEOPLE WHO SAY 'YO,'” JIM TELLS ME ON THE WAY UP.

        “Me too,” I say. “But that's a pretty negative attitude.”

        “Uh-huh,” Jim says.
        Upstairs, Nathan's place is big and fratty and boring. Beer posters are stuck on the

walls, advertising beer brands from Amsterdam or Paris. There is a well-stocked bar against one

wall near a big flat-panel TV with an X-Box, PS3, and GameCube below it. A Chicago city flag

is above the mantle. Nathan is short and dumpy, dressed in LaCoste and drinking scotch with

ice. Trying to look cool. He gestures for us to sit in a pair of ragged leather sofas. Two other

guys are drinking Busch Lite and playing video games on the TV. They nod to us without

looking away from the screen.

        Nathan gets us beers from the bar and, handing them over, sits down across from us.

“Scoot over, niggers,”he says to the other guys. He has to shove them hard before they move.

        “DON'T SAY NIGGER,” ONE OF THE OTHER GUYS SAYS. THE SECOND ONE GIGGLES FOR

TOO LONG AND I REALIZE, BELATEDLY, THAT THEY ARE BOTH INCREDIBLY HIGH.

        “Have you seen Brad?” Jim asks.

        “FUCK NO,” NATHAN SAYS, DRINKING. “HE HASN'T BEEN HERE IN LIKE, I DON'T

KNOW, WEEKS, PROBABLY.”

        “WELL, HE HAS MY...DRUGS,” JIM SAYS. HE SOUNDS CASUAL BUT HE IS CLENCHING

AND UNCLENCHING HIS FISTS, HIS LEGS BOUNCING UP AND DOWN.

        “I think you should ask Brad's roommates,” Nathan tells Jim. I finish my beer and

take a Busch Lite from the case on the table. It is warm but I crack it open and sip from it

anyway.

        “We were just there the other night,” Jim tells him. I nod. Nathan looks at me

drinking the beer. Nathan and I do not know each other. I also don't know the two guys

playing X-Box. I don't care.
         “There was some big party there,” Jim says. “Really busy. But we looked around and

couldn't find anybody we knew.”

         Nathan nods.

         “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON, NATHAN?”

         NATHAN EXHALES AND GLANCES AT THE OTHER GUYS. HE TAKES A SIP FROM HIS

SCOTCH, THEN SETS IT DOWN ON THE COFFEE TABLE, THE WHOLE MOTION COMING ACROSS AS

INCREDIBLY AFFECTED AND PRETENTIOUS.         HE LEANS FORWARD AND LOOKS AT JIM, THEN ME,

THEN BACK AT JIM.     “BRAD WENT TO...REHAB,” HE SAYS FINALLY.

         ONE OF THE GUYS PLAYING X-BOX GIGGLES AGAIN. “YEAH, REHAB. WHAT A

         NIGGER.” JIM GROANS AND VISIBLY DEFLATES.       HE CRADLES HIS HEAD IN HIS HANDS.

         “HE WENT TO

 rehab? Rehab? Oh what the fuck...”

         NATHAN SHRUGS. “APPARENTLY HIS PARENTS FOUND A BUNCH OF SHIT IN HIS

LUGGAGE WHEN HE WENT HOME FOR FALL BREAK.”

         “No shit,” Jim says.

         WE ARE SILENT FOR AWHILE. THE ONLY NOISE IS THE GUNFIRE AND SCREAMING

COMING FROM THE TELEVISION.       I FINISH MY BEER BUT DECIDE NOT TO HAVE A THIRD JUST

YET.

         Jim stands up, looking anxious. “Brad would never go to rehab. He wouldn't let his

parents send him to rehab.”

         NATHAN LOOKS UP AT JIM, BEMUSED. “OH

         YEAH?” “YEAH.”

         “Uh...he was pretty fucked up the last time I checked,” Nathan says. And I know he is

right.

         “OKAY,” JIM SAYS. “OKAY.”
        “Fuck that faggot,” Nathan says. “He had it coming to him. He was so fucked up the

last time I saw him.”

        Jim laughs nervously. “So you said.”

        “So you guys want to do some shots?” Nathan asks.




        OUTSIDE JIM SEEMS LESS ANXIOUS BUT NOW ALSO GENUINELY DESPONDENT. “DO

YOU BELIEVE HIM?” HE ASKS ME AS WE GET IN THE CAR.

        “Sure,” I say. “I guess.”

        “THE PROSPECT OF SPENDING THE REST OF THE SEMESTER WITHOUT ANY

DRUGS IS COMPLETELY OVERWHELMING,” JIM SAYS.

        “I'M SURE YOU'LL FIND SOME....SOMEWHERE,” I

        SAY. “I DON'T KNOW,” SAYS JIM.      “GOD DAMN IT.”

        We sit in the Audi in silence, our faces bathed in the pale glow of the dashboard. “Kiss

Me Thru The Phone” by Soulja Boy Tell Em is playing attenuated on Jim's Sirius- XM satellite

radio. I pull out my BlackBerry and start checking my emails.

        “I PROBABLY SHOULDN'T DRIVE HOME,” JIM

        SAYS. “WELL I'M DRUNK,” I SAY.

        “Okay,” he says. Then he turns the ignition fully and the Audi purrs to life and we get

onto Ninth Street and drive the three miles back to campus.




        Last spring. I remember sitting out on the lawn with Allen, watching a band

playing on a small stage. It is the first real day of spring at Dunham. The grass is a

bright, pristine green and we sit on it with our shoes off, letting the cool blades rustle
against our skin. The sky is a bright and clear, almost supernatural blue. I lie back, sunglasses

on, my arms behind my head. Allen's hair is long and he has grown a beard because he said he

always wanted to see how it would look. It's the off-season so he can do it. His beard is patchy

in places but most of the girls who matter have said they like it.

        AROUND US ARE PEOPLE WE KNOW BUT DON'T SAY HELLO TO. THEY ARE SMOKING

CIGARETTES OR DRINKING BEER.      GIRLS WALK BY IN SUNDRESSES AND WHITE BIKINIS. THE AIR

SMELLS FRAGRANT, ALMOST EXOTIC.       FLOWERS ARE BLOOMING NEAR THE WALKWAYS.

        ALLEN'S NEW GIRLFRIEND, JESSICA, ARRIVES. ALLEN INTRODUCES US. SHE SMILES,

ALREADY A LITTLE TAN, HER EYES BLUE LIKE THE SKY.      I SHAKE HER HAND AND THE SKIN IS SOFT

AND COOL.

        BELOW US ON THE STAGE, HOWIE DAY HAS STARTED PLAYING. PEOPLE CLAP POLITELY. A

FEW CHEERS.    HE PLAYS “PERFECT TIME OF DAY,” WHICH I AM NOT EXPECTING, AND IT IS A SONG

THAT LINDSEY AND I USED TO LISTEN TO AND FOR A SECOND SOMETHING WELLS UP IN ME AND I SEE

ALLEN WITH JESSICA, WHO SORT OF LOOKS LIKE LINDSEY, AND EVERYTHING FADES INTO SILENCE.

HOWIE DAY KEEPS SINGING BUT I CAN'T HEAR HIM. ALLEN'S MOUTH OPENS AND HE SAYS SOMETHING

TO JESSICA AND SHE SITS DOWN NEXT TO HIM, HIS ARM AROUND HER. A KID IN THE FRONT ROW

STANDS UP TO SHOTGUN A BEER.      HOWIE DAY'S DRUMMER SPINS HIS STICKS AROUND HIS FINGERS. I

GASP, CHOKING ON SOMETHING I HAVE PUSHED AWAY AND LOST IN THE SPINNING YEARS SINCE THAT

FINAL DAY AND WHEN IT FINALLY STOPS I HAVE TO TAKE OFF MY SUNGLASSES AND STARE UP INTO THE

BRILLIANT SKY FOR A LONG TIME JUST TO CALM DOWN.

        I REMEMBER OTHER THINGS FROM THAT SPRING BUT WHEN I TRY TO THINK ABOUT THEM

THE MEMORIES SEEM FADED, ALREADY MONOCHROME AND MUTED.               LIKE IT HAPPENED TO

SOMEONE ELSE.    MOST OF THE TIME I TRY NOT TO REMEMBER ANYTHING AT ALL.
        I AM STANDING OUTSIDE MY ROOM IN THE HALLWAY, SMOKING A CIGARETTE

ALTHOUGH IT'S NOT ALLOWED INSIDE AND TALKING TO EMILY AND LISA.               EMILY IS TALL AND

BLOND AND EMACIATED. SHE IS DRESSED FOR THE GYM IN TIGHT SHORTS AND A DUNHAM

UNIVERSITY TEE-SHIRT. LISA LOOKS LIKE SHE JUST WOKE UP AND IS DRINKING A

REGULAR-CALORIE COKE.        SHE IS DARKER AND SHORTER THAN EMILY. THERE ARE CIRCLES

UNDER HER EYES.

        Lisa says she is taking a break from writing an essay. I am not doing anything. It is

eleven in the morning and I do not know what day of the week it is. Last night I lost my

Blackberry.

        “How far are you going to run today?” Lisa is asking Emily.

        “I don't know,” Emily says, although by her tone I'm pretty sure she knows exactly how

far she is going to run today, down to the inch, and how long it will take her and how long her

warm-up and cool-down exercises are going to take.

        EMILY FIDDLES WITH HER IPOD AND CONTINUES. “I RAN FOUR MILES YESTERDAY, SO I

MIGHT DO FIVE OR SIX TODAY?         HOPEFULLY SEVEN-MINUTES PER, PLUS COOL-DOWN. DOES

THAT SOUND LIKE TOO MUCH, WALT?”

        “That sounds really rad,” I tell her. “Totally rad.”

        “Yeah,” says Emily, brightening, genuinely excited now. “Coach wants us to get in at

least forty miles this week and I really want to do fifty but I have this big organic chemistry test

coming up.”

        “OUCH,” LISA SAYS.

        “SERIOUSLY,” EMILY SAYS, HER VOICE SPEEDING UP FURTHER. “I HAVE TO GET AT

LEAST A 93 ON IT BECAUSE I GOT AN 88 ON THE LAST ONE AND I NEED A 90 IN THE CLASS TO GET

AN   A. THE TESTS ARE WEIGHTED REALLY WEIRD TOO, SO I HAD TO SPEND ALL NIGHT

CALCULATING THAT!”
        “Uh huh?” Lisa says. “That's tough.” She sips her Coke and gives me another look

and I feel giddy, almost on the verge of laughter.

        EMILY NODS. “SO I NEED TO STUDY MOST OF TONIGHT FOR THAT. PLUS WE HAVE A

TRACK MEET THIS WEEKEND AND MY RESEARCH INTERNSHIP IS FINISHING UP SO I NEED TO MAKE

A PRESENTATION SUMMING UP MY EXPERIENCES IN DR. PARKER'S LAB.”              SHE SHIFTS HER IPOD

TO HER OTHER HAND AND STARTS DOING QUADRICEP STRETCHES THERE IN THE HALLWAY.                     I

EXHALE SMOKE, TRYING NOT TO BLOW IT IN HER FACE.          “ANYWAY, I GOTTA GO. IT'S GOING TO

BE A REALLY BUSY NIGHT. HEY, LISA, CALL ME ABOUT DINNER TOMORROW! WALT, YOU

SHOULDN'T SMOKE.”

        I SMILE AND NOD. WE SAY GOODBYE AND THEN SHE IS GONE, JOGGING LIGHTLY DOWN

THE HALLWAY AND OUT THE DOOR. THE DOOR SLAMS AND LISA AND I ARE ALONE IN THE

HALLWAY.

        “She is completely anorexic,” Lisa says. “I

        guess, I say.”

        “All I ever see her eat is raw vegetables. And she only drinks water and tea. All day.

Every day.”

        “MAYBE SHE'S A VEGAN.”

        “ANOREXIC.”

        I don't say anything. I remember the time I caught Emily throwing up in the men's

bathroom, last spring when we were sophomores.

        “DO YOU WANT TO HANG OUT?” LISA ASKS.

        I say sure and stub my cigarette out on the door frame, then toss it into the

HALLWAY TRASHCAN NEAR THE BATHROOMS.             “AS LONG AS YOU DON'T WANT TO GO TO THE

GYM,” I TELL HER.
        Lisa laughs. “No, I was thinking more like a movie or something. But maybe you

should go to the gym, Walt. You're too skinny.”

        “I'M TOO SKINNY?” I ASK. “LOOK AT YOU.”

        LISA GRINS. “I'M NOT THAT SKINNY. YOU SHOULD WORK OUT MORE. GET JACKED AND

        TAN.” “I'M A LITTLE TAN,” I ARGUE.   “AND ANYWAY, I PLAYED BASKETBALL IN HIGH

        SCHOOL.   I'VE

got muscles.”

        “You did?” she asks. “I thought you were this druggy, emo kid.”

        “No, I played varsity basketball for four years. I was a good kid. Otherwise I

PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE GOTTEN INTO DUNHAM.”

        “Varisty?” she asks. I nod and wonder if athletic guys turn her on. “It

        sucked, though,” I tell her.

        Lisa finishes her Coke and tosses it into the trashcan. “Why did it suck?”

        I run my hand through my hair, lean back against the wall. “I don't know. The

workouts were hard...the people sucked?” I say it like a question. “Yeah, I don't know. The

people sucked.”

        “WELL YOU SHOULD HAVE STUCK WITH IT. MAYBE YOU COULD HAVE PLAYED FOR

DUNHAM. GOTTEN A SCHOLARSHIP.”

        “YEAH RIGHT,” I SAY, LAUGHING.

        “WELL, MAYBE YOU COULD HAVE PLAYED ON THE CLUB

        TEAM.” “FUCK THE CLUB TEAM.”

        “I'M JUST SAYING, WALT,” LISA SAYS.
          “I didn't need a scholarship, Lisa,” I say. “And I definitely have better things to do

with my time than play on the stupid club team. Those guys, Lisa? The club basketball team?”

          LISA LAUGHS AGAIN, QUIETLY. “I'M JUST KIDDING AROUND, WALT. YOU NEED TO
          LIGHTEN

up. Anyway, I would probably hate you if you were on the basketball team here. I doubt we'd

even know each other.”

          “PROBABLY NOT,” I SAY.

          She looks up at me then, eyes bright. She takes a strand of her dark hair in her hand

and twirls it around one finger. “That would be so sad,” she says.

          “Yeah?” I say lamely. “I guess. Do you want to get some food?”

          “Sure! I'm starving.”

          OUTSIDE IT IS COLD AND WINDY. I PULL MY COAT TIGHT AROUND ME. THE SKY IS A

SLATE OF GRAY CLOUDS.        IT IS EARLY NOVEMBER. ON THE WAY TO THE DINING HALL LISA

LEANS INTO ME AND RESTS HER HEAD ON MY ARM.            I PRETEND NOT TO NOTICE.




          “DO YOU THINK EMILY IS ANOREXIC?” I ASK MATT.

          “I don't know,” he says. Then: “She's not so bad anyway. I get all my Xanax from

Emily.”

          “WHY DOES SHE HAVE XANAX?” I ASK MATT.

          He looks at me blankly. “Why does anybody have Xanax?” he asks.




          DAN, JIM, AND BRIAN ARE ALREADY IN THE COMMON ROOM WHEN I ENTER. THEY

ARE WATCHING FOOTBALL ON THE FLAT-PANEL TV WITH SOME SHOW CALLED “DANIEL

TOSH” ON THE
SMALLER TV IN THE CORNER. ALL THREE OF THEM ALSO HAVE THEIR LAPTOPS OUT.             I WALK UP

BEHIND THE COUCHES AND CHECK THE SCORE ON THE GAME.           LOOKING DOWN, I SEE DAN HAS

PORNOGRAPHY AND SOME SORT OF SPREADSHEET DISPLAYED SIMULTANEOUSLY ON HIS LAPTOP.

HE IS TYPING FURIOUSLY WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCREEN, ADDING DATA TO THE

SPREADSHEET.    LOW MOANS COME FROM THE SPEAKERS BUT NOBODY SEEMS TO NOTICE.

        Jim is writing an essay on Dutch imperialism while watching a music video on

YouTube. Brian is lying down on the other couch and I watch as he sorts through the online

coverage of the football game while reviewing “e-flashcards” with Chinese vocabulary on

them. Rap music filters from his laptop's speakers too loudly. While I watch he closes the

sports website and brings up Facebook, then some sort of essay.

        “What's up?” I say.

        “WHAT'S UP,” JIM MURMURS. THE OTHER TWO DON'T RESPOND, BUT AFTER

MAYBE A MINUTE BRIAN TURNS AROUND AND SAYS, “HEY, MAN.”

        “ARE YOU GOING OUT TONIGHT?” JIM ASKS.

        “I don't know,” I say, sitting down in an empty chair. “Is something happening?”

        Nobody answers for awhile. I cross my legs and watch TV, check my BlackBerry.

I have twenty-one new messages and two missed calls.

        AFTER AWHILE, JIM TELLS ME THAT IT'S “DRINK FOR DUNHAM” NIGHT AND THAT A LOT

OF BARS ARE HAVING DRINK SPECIALS FOR STUDENTS.        HE SAYS EVERYBODY IS GOING. I TELL

HIM I MIGHT GO. I SIT BACK THEN AND TRY TO WATCH MORE OF THE GAME BUT CAN'T

CONCENTRATE.     I KEEP SEEING BRIAN AND DAN OUT OF THE CORNER OF MY EYE, PLUGGED INTO

THEIR COMPUTERS, FINGERS RATTLING ON THEIR KEYBOARDS. THE NOISE IS DISTRACTING. JIM

PICKS UP HIS PHONE AND CALLS SOMEONE NAMED “MCGEE,” AND I LOOK OVER AT DAN AND

WATCH AS HIS EYES LITERALLY BEGIN TWITCHING
SPASTICALLY WHILE HE STARES AT HIS LAPTOP SCREEN.           I REMEMBER HOW SOMEBODY ONCE

TOLD ME THAT DAN WAS DIAGNOSED WITH ADHD DURING HIS FRESHMAN YEAR AND ENDED UP

BEING PRESCRIBED SIXTY MILLIGRAMS OF ADDERALL PER DAY AND I START TO FEEL VERY

COLD AND VERY EMPTY.      JIM SAYS “ALL RIGHT, BRO,” INTO THE PHONE AND THEN HANGS UP

AND WHEN HE ASKS ME AGAIN IF I WANT TO GO OUT I TELL HIM NO AND LEAVE THE ROOM,

SHAKEN.




        I GO TO MY CLASSES. I SEE MATT SOME NIGHTS. WE GO OUT FOR DRINKS AT THE

WASHINGTON INN. SOMETIMES HE IS GONE AND THEN I MEET UP WITH JESSICA AND ALLEN AND

WE SIT BY THE POOL AT THE APARTMENT AND READ BOOKS AND TALK ABOUT THE SUMMER BUT

NEVER

ABOUT ALL OF THAT.     I GO FOR RUNS AT THE GYM OR IN THE DUNHAM FOREST. LISA COMES

TO THE LIBRARY WITH ME TO DO HOMEWORK. WE SIT BY EACH OTHER, FACING THE TWO

EMPTY CHAIRS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE. WE TAKE NOTES ON OUR PHILOSOPHY

READING.

        One day I eat lunch with Lisa who has just had a meeting with her thesis advisor and is

depressed. I tell her not to worry about it. She asks for a cigarette and I give her one and she

lights it skillfully. “What's the big deal anyway?” I ask her.

        “I just want to do well on it,” she says. “How's your thesis going?” “I'm

        not sure.”

        “Well science theses are different, aren't they?”

        “I NEVER WORK ON MINE. MY ADVISOR DOESN'T REALLY CARE.”

        She takes a drag from the cigarette and exhales. She squints. “I just need to do a lot

more writing before next week. Dr. Harris wants fifty new pages.”

        “Jesus. I've never written fifty pages on anything in my life.”
        SHE SMILES, TILTS HER HEAD. “WELL, IT'S JUST ME TALKING ABOUT HENRY JAMES OUT
        OF MY


ASS.”

        I LAUGH QUIETLY. “SOUNDS OKAY TO ME. I'D PAY TO SEE

        THAT.” “YOU CAN READ IT.”

        “I'd like that,” I say.

        We are sitting outside at one of the small eateries on the main campus. It is late

morning and cloudy outside but warm. We are both wearing black North Face jackets. I have to

do two chemistry labs tonight but probably won't. Lisa looks very pretty and very pale, her

brown eyes searching the flagstone paths for people she knows, people who look interesting.

        I WANT TO TELL HER NOT TO CARE ABOUT HER THESIS, TO BLOW IT OFF, BUT

SOMETHING ABOUT HER TOPIC, THE WAY SHE TALKS ABOUT IT, MAKES ME THINK IT'S NOT A

WASTE OF TIME LIKE ALL THE CLASSES I'VE BEEN TAKING.

        “I've never read any Henry James,” I tell her.

        SHE RAISES HER EYEBROWS. “REALLY? HE'S PRETTY GOOD. YOU SHOULD READ SOME
        OF

HIS SHORTER STUFF.     MAYBE THE TURN OF THE SCREW. THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY IS A GOOD

PLACE TO START, TOO.”

        I nod. She passes the cigarette to me and I smoke it. We sit and watch the people

wandering by. Then a cold wind picks up and it starts to rain and I have to go to class

AND WE SAY GOODBYE.




        A few nights later I call Lisa to see if she wants to watch a movie with me, or go get

food, or do anything at all sober, but she doesn't pick up and her roommate tells me
SHE IS ON A DATE WHICH MAKES ME SORT OF DEPRESSED.          I END UP GETTING DRINKS AT THE

WASHINGTON INN WITH MELANIE AND REBECCA. THEY GET PRETTY DRUNK BUT I FEEL MOSTLY

SOBER BECAUSE I STAND UP MAYBE SEVEN TIMES WHILE WE ARE AT THE BAR TO GO OUTSIDE

AND SMOKE.

        Later I am driving them to McDonald's in my father's Chevy Range Rover. They make

me pick up Sarah who, Rebecca tells me, spent all summer studying abroad in Paris. She is

drunk when we pick her up and she spends most of the ride talking about how there are no

McDonald's in France (there are, I know that from experience, but she doesn't stop talking long

enough for me to tell her) and how, even if there were, “the French people” don't feel the need to

drive fifty miles in an SUV to wait in line for cheeseburgers and milkshakes. Apparently in

France you could “walk to anywhere or

TAKE LA MÉTRO” AND THE       “FRENCH LIFESTYLE” WAS REALLY MUCH HEALTHIER AND MORE

NATURAL THAN THE “AMERICAN LIFESTYLE” AND THE LANGUAGE WAS SO BEAUTIFUL, SO MUCH

MORE INTELLIGENT AND SENSITIVE THAN ENGLISH.

        MELANIE AGREES WITH EVERYTHING SARAH SAYS, TELLING HER HOW MUCH SHE

WANTS TO GO TO     FRANCE. IN THE DRIVE-THROUGH LINE AT MCDONALD'S BEHIND TWO BIG

HUMMERS AND A LAND CRUISER, SARAH STARTS TALKING ABOUT THE “QUIET PEACEFULNESS”

OF   PARIS AT SUNSET AND I FINALLY LOSE IT, TURNING AROUND IN MY SEAT AND ALMOST

YELLING.

        “I was there too,” I say. “I was in Rome all summer. I was studying abroad in

FUCKING ROME.”

        “Oh really?” Sarah asks. “How was it?” “It

        was fine,” I say.

        “WHY DIDN'T YOU PUT ANY PICTURES ON FACEBOOK?” SHE ASKS ME. “ARE YOU SURE

YOU WENT TO ROME?”
        “Yeah, why didn't you put any pictures on Facebook?” Melanie inquires. I

        don't say anything, just stare at them.

        “Did you write an article for The Gazette?” Sarah asks. “Wasn't Mac on the Rome

program? He wrote that lovely series of articles for The Gazette about how life- changing

Rome was, about how the study abroad experience was so great for him.”

        “NO...” I SAY. “I JUST WENT TO ROME, AND IT WAS NICE, AND THEN I CAME BACK. AND I

didn't...feel the need to share everything with everyone.”

        NOW THE THREE GIRLS ARE QUIET. THEY LOOK AT ME, A LITTLE OFFENDED. CARS

BEHIND US HAVE STARTED TO HONK.          I TURN AROUND AND PULL FORWARD. WHILE I PAY AT

THE WINDOW    SARAH LEANS FORWARD AND, HER BREATH THICK AND SOUR WITH ALCOHOL,

TELLS ME, “IT'S OKAY, WALT.     I'M SURE YOU'LL GET TO SEE PARIS SOMEDAY.”

        “I DID SEE PARIS,” I SAY, BUT SHE DOESN'T HEAR ME AND THEN I HAVE TO TAKE

ALL OUR BURGERS AND FRIES FROM THE ATTENDANT AND                 I SPILL KETCHUP ON MY NEW

JEANS AND I REALLY, HONESTLY, JUST WANT TO GO HOME.




        Matt gets to the dining hall last that Monday. We are all eating dinner. The rest of us have

our food already. Gordon is sitting across from me. He shovels forkfuls of mashed sweet

potatoes and honey-roasted chicken into his mouth. I pick at my food, drinking my Coke while

Patrick talks endlessly about the new consulting internship he

JUST GOT FOR NEXT SUMMER.       HE IS STILL WEARING A DARK SUIT. PROBABLY FROM

ANOTHER INTERVIEW HE HAD EARLIER.         PATRICK HAS LOTS OF INTERVIEWS.

        “WHAT EXACTLY DOES THIS INTERNSHIP INVOLVE?” TOM IS ASKING.
        “MICHAELS AND COMPANY FOCUSES PRIMARILY ON BRANDING AND MARKET-SHARE

REINVENTION,” PATRICK SAYS, SMILING HAPPILY.        “IT'S A VERY PRESTIGIOUS FIRM. I CAN'T

SAY SPECIFICALLY WHAT I'LL BE DOING BECAUSE I WON'T KNOW WHAT CLIENTS OR CASES I'LL

BE ASSIGNED TO UNTIL I GET THERE.     BUT THEY OFTEN HAVE A NUMBER OF INTERNATIONAL

PROJECTS GOING ON.    I KNOW THAT.”

        “OKAY,” SAYS TOM. “AND WHEN DO YOU LEAVE?”

        PATRICK NODS, CHEWING. HE HOLDS UP A FINGER, SIGNALING TOM TO WAIT.

HE SWALLOWS. “PROBABLY RIGHT AFTER FINALS,” HE SAYS FINALLY.

        “And you'll be there all summer?”

        “YES. UNLESS I HAVE TO TRAVEL FOR BUSINESS, WHICH IS QUITE LIKELY. THE

INTERN LAST YEAR...ERIC WALLACE, DO YOU KNOW HIM?”

        “Yeah.”

        “He apparently got to go to London for two weeks to help set up a client's new

advertising campaign. It was a big deal.”

        “SOUNDS LIKE IT,” TOM SAYS.

        Matt is sitting to my left. He sat down without any food. His eyes are red,

bloodshot. “That sounds fucking excruciating, Patrick,” he says slowly.

        Patrick turns to look at him, takes a drink from a plastic bottle of Diet Coke. “It won't

be excruciating when I get paid. Or when I get a job offer with Michaels and Company right

out of college. Eighty-five thousand a year, plus bonus.”

        “HOLY FUCK,” MATT SAYS. “NOBODY CARES.”

        “Are you high again? Or drunk?” Patrick asks. “Don't you do anything? Ever?”
        “HEY,” MATT SAYS. “I'M NOT JUST HIGH. AND I'D RATHER BE HIGH THAN A BULLSHIT

FUCKING CONSULTANT AND HAVE TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE LIKE YOU ALL DAY FOR THE REST OF

MY LIFE.”

        Patrick turns red. “What?”

        “YOU'RE SUCH A FUCKING PRICK, PATRICK,” MATT SAYS, HIS WORDS SLURRED.

“YOU'RE GODDAMN INSUFFERABLE AND YOU HAVE NO PERSONALITY AND THE VERY FACT

THAT MICHAELS AND COMPANY OFFERED SOMEBODY LIKE YOU A SUMMER INTERNSHIP

MEANS I WOULD NEVER EVER WANT TO WORK THERE, NOT FOR ONE DAY.”                HE COUGHS AND

IT THICK AND MUCKY. A SMOKER'S COUGH.        “ASS.”

        PATRICK TENSES, STILL RED IN THE FACE. “I HAVE NO PERSONALITY? I'M SORRY I

DON'T HAVE THE PRIVILEGE OF DRINKING AND BAKING ALL MY SCHOLARSHIP MONEY AWAY.”

        “Fuck you, Patrick. Why are you wearing a suit to the dining hall?”

        PATRICK LOOKS DOWN AT HIMSELF, AS IF NOTICING THE SUIT FOR THE FIRST TIME.
        “BECAUSE I

just had my...Dunham Student Government meeting.”

        MATT LAUGHS. “WHAT? YOU WEAR SUITS TO STUDENT

        GOVERNMENT?” “YES,” SAYS PATRICK.        “THE OFFICERS DO.”

        “I just had my Dunham Student Government meeting,” Matt mimics in a high, whiny

voice. Tom laughs and I have to stifle my own laughter. “You bore the shit out of me, Patrick,”

Matt says. “You really do.”

        “WELL YOU'RE AN ALCOHOLIC,” PATRICK SAYS. “YOU REALLY ARE.”

        MATT STANDS UP FROM THE TABLE THEN. “FUCK OFF, PATRICK. YOU MAKE ME

WANT TO GOUGE MY EYEBALLS OUT.”        HE KNOCKS PATRICK'S DIET COKE BOTTLE ONTO

THE FLOOR WHERE IT FIZZES ONTO THE MARBLE STONES.         “I'M OUT, NIGGERS,” HE SAYS TO

THE REST OF US. THEN, STUMBLING, HE WALKS AWAY.
        For a moment the table is silent. Gordon laughs but it sounds fake. “I

        thought you guys were friends,” Tom says.

        Patrick shakes his head. “I think he's just upset that he didn't get his research grant

renewed for the summer.”

        “MAYBE,” TOM SAYS. “I DON'T KNOW.”

        “WHATEVER,” SAYS PATRICK. “HIS LOSS.” HE PULLS OUT HIS IPHONE AND STARTS

TAPPING THE SCREEN.     “GUYS, HEY GUYS, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS NEW YOUTUBE VIDEO. IT. IS.

HILARIOUS. THIS FAT GIRL TRIES TO SING ALONG TO MILEY CYRUS AND THEN HER CHAIR

BREAKS AND...OH MY GOD, JUST WATCH IT.        FORGET MATT.”

        PATRICK TURNS THE SCREEN OF HIS IPHONE AROUND FOR US TO SEE, AND EVERYBODY

SITS AND WATCHES THE VIDEO, LAUGHING NOW UNTIL TEARS START TO RUN DOWN THEIR FACES

WHILE BEYOND THE DINING HALL'S HIGH, GOTHIC WINDOWS THE SUN BEGINS TO SET AND THE

CLOUDS IGNITE THEN FADE FROM RED-GOLD TO DEEP PURPLE.             SOMEHOW I THINK I AM THE

ONLY ONE WHO NOTICES.




        Thursday night in late October and I'm standing at my window again, watching the sky

darken and slowly cloud over while the lamps in the quadrangle come alive. Big fat drops of

acidic rain (they warned us about it on the news) begin to splatter against the high windows of

my dorm room.

        I think about lakes in Indiana and about happier evenings with Lindsey. I think about

studying for the SATs and applying to colleges, applying to Dunham, about the ultimate

wastage of all things good and how rotten people are when their pride is on the line and

standing there watching the rain falling it feels, for a fleeting moment, very profound and

significant. But then my BlackBerry buzzes and it is Allen telling me to
COME TO HIS FRAT'S PARTY AN HOUR EARLY BECAUSE THEY'RE DOING A POWER HOUR PRE-GAME
WITH

Jager-Bombs. Then I realize nobody cares and why should I? It's not cool to give a shit.

        I get to the party too late to pre-game. At Allen's frat I wade through the herds of human

cattle to a back room where Allen has his arm around Jessica. He has his shirt off and Jessica

is kissing him lightly on his chest. A few other guys are there, drinking and taking turns smoking

a joint. I have a hit and stand back, talk idly with Allen and Jessica. He's been back from Brown

for a week or two now and I know better than to make any sort of real eye contact with Jessica.

Allen hands me a beer.

        WE STAND AROUND AND TALK ABOUT NOTHING. JESSICA LOOKS

        BORED. “WHAT'S WRONG?” ALLEN ASKS ME.           “DRINK THE FUCK

        UP.”

        “OKAY,” I SAY. I CHUG MY BEER AND ONE OF THE FRAT GUYS CHEERS AND HANDS

ME ANOTHER.

        In another room I find Brian, who tells me he is pissed off because Matt drives a

2008 LINCOLN NAVIGATOR, WHILE BRIAN STILL HAS THE 2003 MODEL HIS FATHER GAVE HIM. I

TELL HIM TO SHUT UP.     BRIAN LOOKS AT ME WEIRDLY THEN LAUGHS AND DOESN'T SAY

ANYTHING. WE GO UPSTAIRS WHERE IT'S QUIET AND WATCH SPORTSCENTER ON ESPN FOR TWO

HOURS, DRINKING FROM A FIFTH OF WHISKEY BRIAN TOOK FROM DOWNSTAIRS.

        Brian asks if I want to go out to some bars because he is “horny” and wants to “find

some townie ass.” I say fine but Brian makes no move to get up and halfway through

SportsCenter's Top 10 he throws up. Staring at the pile of his vomit, I realize I have learned

nothing in three years at this college even though U.S. News and World Report ranked it as the

fifth best school in the nation the year I applied, and anyone can
TELL YOU THAT THE U.S. NEWS' TOP COLLEGES RANKING SYSTEM IS BY FAR THE MOST

ACCURATE, PRESTIGIOUS, AND UNBIASED RANKING SYSTEM OUT THERE.

         “GOD DAMMIT,” BRIAN SAYS. “I'M GOING DOWNSTAIRS. YOU

         COMING?” “THAT'S OKAY,” I SAY.

         I PASS OUT ON THE COUCH AND WHEN I WAKE UP IT IS DARK AND THE HOUSE IS QUIET
         AND I

drive home without checking the time.




         LINDSEY IN THE MORNING, AT MY PARENTS' HOUSE ON A WEEKEND THAT THEY'RE OUT OF

TOWN.    MY SISTER HAS A TRACK MEET. THE SUN IS POURING THROUGH THE BIG WINDOWS IN MY

ROOM AND DOWNSTAIRS MY DOG IS BARKING TO BE LET OUTSIDE.    I CHECK THE TIME ON MY CELL

PHONE AND IT IS NINE-THIRTY IN THE MORNING.   LINDSEY STIRS, YAWNING. SHE SNUGGLES CLOSE

TO ME.   HER SKIN IS WARM AND SOFT AGAINST MINE. I LIE ON MY BACK AND LOOK UP AT THE

CEILING. MY DOG BARKS AGAIN.

         “GOOD MORNING,” LINDSEY SAYS, HER EYES OPENING. SHE RAISES UP ON ONE ELBOW

AND LOOKS AT ME.   SHE KISSES ME LONG AND SLOW.

         “HEY, YOU,” I SAY. I KISS HER BACK. SHE WRAPS HER ARMS AROUND ME AND SQUEEZES.

         “THIS IS SO AMAZING,” SHE SAYS. “MY PARENTS WOULD KILL ME IF THEY FOUND OUT.”

         “MINE TOO,” I SAY.

         WE LIE THERE IN SILENCE FOR AWHILE. LINDSEY'S HAND CREEPS DOWN, UNDER THE

COVERS. TOUCHES ME.    I AM ALREADY HARD, BUT I LAUGH AND PUSH HER AWAY. “TOO SLEEPY,” I

SAY.

         LINDSEY SMILES AND KISSES ME AGAIN. “DO YOU WANT TO GO GET BREAKFAST?” SHE

ASKS.

         I NOD. “OR WE COULD COOK FOOD HERE.”
        “LET'S GO OUT,” SHE SAYS.

        My dog barks again so I groan and get out of bed. Lindsey watches me dress with wide

eyes. “I love you,” she says.

        “I love you too,” I say.

        We are both seventeen.




        David asks me if I hooked up with Samantha last night and if I “splooged in her face.”

I do not know who Samantha is, and when I don't reply he starts telling me about this “fucking

hilarious College Humor video” where a man drinks five beers and four shots of vodka in thirty

seconds, then snorts a tablespoon of cinnamon and starts throwing up all over the camera.

“You can literally see the barf splattering on the lens,” David tells me, and the level of actual,

genuine excitement in his voice is enough that I tell him I need to go to the bathroom, then leave

the dorm and walk to the parking lot where I sit in my car for an hour listening to Top 40 songs

on Sirius-XM. I kept my Sirius-XM subscription because Patrick told me that it is vastly

preferable to analog radio. Satellite has a wide variety of music and often features

lesser-known artists. It also has no commercials.




        Allen has a party at his apartment and I am invited. A lot of athletes are there, a lot of

guys from the football team. Most of Jessica's sorority comes too. By the time I get to the

apartment it is loud and packed and when I find Allen he tells me the police

have already stopped by once but he can't do anything about the crowd so fuck it, right? I

NOD AND HE HANDS ME A GLASS OF PUNCH AND TELLS ME THERE'S COCAINE AND POT IN THE
BACK
room. I react to this news on a visceral, deeply atavistic level, and in spite of myself I feel my

mood lifting. An excited tension fills me and it's no longer a question whether I will get drunk

and do drugs tonight but when I will get drunk and how many drugs will be consumed. I see

Tom and Chris and Dan and I also see Tiffany and Sarah and Victoria. Pot smoke fills the room.

Wiz Khalifa's “Say Yeah” is playing on Allen's big stereo.

Bass notes throb. The flat-panel TV is dark, switched off for the party.

        I WANDER SEDATELY THROUGH THE CROWD. I SEE MITCH AND BRIAN HANGING OUT

ON THE PORCH BY A KEG.     WE TALK FOR AWHILE, DRINK BEER. CIGARETTES ARE SMOKED.

BRIAN HAS BIG DARK CIRCLES UNDER HIS EYES AND MITCH LOOKS NOTICEABLY THINNER SINCE

I LAST SAW HIM.

                                                                                                   A

S I'M THINKING THIS, THOUGH, MITCH SAYS “YOU LOOK PALE, WALT,” AND I FEEL SCARED SO I

STOP LOOKING DIRECTLY AT EITHER OF THEM.         I DRINK MY BEER QUICKLY AND GET ANOTHER

ONE. AFTER AWHILE TIFFANY COMES OUT, LOOKING GOOD IN A SHORT SKIRT. WE TALK.                 SHE

ASKS ABOUT MY CLASSES AND I ASK HER ABOUT HERS.           SHE ASKS ME WHAT I DID FOR FALL

BREAK. I TELL HER I WENT TO NEW YORK. SHE TELLS ME SHE WAS THERE TOO.

        THE FOUR OF US MOVE INTO THE KITCHEN WHERE BOTTLES ARE OUT ON THE COUNTER.

WE DO SEVERAL SHOTS OF VODKA, ONE OF GIN. I FEEL LIKE THROWING UP BUT IT PASSES AND

THEN   I START TO FEEL GOOD. I FOLLOW BRIAN INTO THE BACK ROOM. A FEW FOOTBALL

PLAYERS ARE HUDDLED AROUND A TABLE WITH THE COKE AND MIRRORS ON IT.                      JESSICA IS

THERE TOO. A FOOTBALL PLAYER HAS HIS ARM AROUND HER.

        I feel nervous because I haven't done cocaine in awhile, maybe three weeks. Mitch

says he doesn't want any. Tiffany says she has never tried it. We do some and when I lift my

head up from the mirror I feel the familiar rush, knowing this is good, knowing I am good,

feeling the drip starting. My nose goes numb.
        TIFFANY DOES A BIG LINE. SNIFFS. “SHIT,” SHE SAYS.

        ONE OF THE FOOTBALL PLAYERS LAUGHS, SMACKS HER ASS. SHE GIGGLES SO HE

PUTS HIS HAND BACK, MASSAGING HER BUTTOCKS SLOWLY.             SHE SITS DOWN ON HIS LAP.

        I CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE ROOM. MITCH IS STANDING AWKWARDLY BY THE

DOOR AND THIS IRRITATES ME.       BRIAN IS DOING MORE OF THE COCAINE. JESSICA LOOKS

LIKE SHE IS ABOUT TO START KISSING THE FOOTBALL PLAYER.          I WONDER WHERE ALLEN IS.

        I do a little more of the cocaine but don't want to draw attention to myself and I leave

after one more line. I feel alert, clear. Back in the main room there are more people now. I

see Allen drinking beer on the porch. I have another shot in the kitchen with someone I don't

know and then sit down on one of the couches facing the TV. Someone has switched it on to the

basketball game and I sit and watch. A girl I might have a class with sits down next to me, puts

her hand on my thigh. I talk to her about Lindsey and what happened to her. This sort of freaks

her out but she doesn't leave. We start talking about the basketball game instead.

        I LOOK UP WHEN ALLEN COMES INSIDE. HE GOES TO THE BACK BEDROOM WITH

SOMEONE ELSE, MAYBE TED.       I FORGET HIS NAME BUT HE LOOKS FAMILIAR. ALLEN LOOKS

REALLY OUT OF IT. THEY WALK INSIDE AND CLOSE THE DOOR BEHIND THEM.              I CAN'T HEAR

ANYTHING OVER THE ROAR OF THE PARTY SO I TURN MY ATTENTION BACK TO THE

BASKETBALL GAME.

        “I said, do you like Dunham?” the girl is asking me.

        “Like it?” I say.

        “DO YOU LIKE IT?”

        “I don't not like it,” I tell her. Then I laugh. She laughs too, but awkwardly.

        “What do you like about it?”
        I MAKE A FACE. “I LIKE EVERYTHING. MOSTLY I LIKE THE PEOPLE.”

        “THAT'S SO SWEET,” SHE SAYS. “I LIKE THE PUBLIC POLICY DEPARTMENT. THERE ARE

A LOT OF REALLY GOOD FACULTY. THEY ARE SO INTERESTED IN HELPING UNDERGRADUATES.”

        “Oh really?” I ask. “How so?”

        SHE PAUSES, THINKING. “I DON'T KNOW. INTERNSHIPS. GRANT APPLICATIONS.

GRADUATE SCHOOL.”

        “Sounds helpful,” I say.

        “WHAT?” SHE SAYS, LEANING CLOSER.

        “Sounds terrific!” I say. I put down my drink and give her two thumbs up. “Okay!”

        she says. “I'm going to go back to my friends! Do you want to come?” “No thanks,” I

        tell her.

        “You're cute.” She gives me a peck on the cheek then stands up and walks away,

swaying a little.

        Now I'm alone on the couch, the party a blur around me. I check my Blackberry. It is

past midnight. I see Jessica come out of the room with Allen, their arms around each other.

They go into the kitchen and start making out with each other. I watch this for awhile, morbidly

curious, then get up and go back out to the porch.

        Mitch is out there with a couple girls and they seem pretty cute. We start talking and

Mitch asks me how I'm feeling and I give him the finger. He smiles. I light a cigarette and I

remember how good a cigarette goes with cocaine. Mitch introduces the girls as Christine and

Madison. Peter comes out to the porch too and starts talking to the girls.
        I lean back against the railing and look out at the night sky and the dark parking lot. I

exhale gray smoke and watch it curl into the air. Christine asks me about my classes and

wants to know what year I am. I tell her but don't ask her anything.

        “DOES ANYBODY HAVE ANY DRUGS?” PETER

        ASKS. I SHAKE MY HEAD.

        “I have some pot,” Madison says. She pats her back pocket. “Do

        you have papers?” Peter asks.

        SHE NODS. PETER SITS DOWN ON A CHAIR AND SHE HANDS HIM A PLASTIC BAG AND

SOME PAPERS.    “THANKS,” HE SAYS, AND STARTS ROLLING TWO JOINTS. MITCH STARTS

MAKING OUT WITH CHRISTINE. ALL OF THIS HAPPENS WHILE I'M STILL SMOKING THE CIGARETTE,

LEANING AGAINST THE RAILING. THEN THE GIRL FROM THE COUCH COMES OUTSIDE AND SHE

PUTS HER ARMS AROUND ME AND BEFORE I KNOW IT I HAVE THROWN AWAY THE CIGARETTE AND

THE TWO OF US ARE KISSING.

        LATER WE ALL SHARE THE JOINTS THEN GO INSIDE AND HAVE MORE SHOTS AND THE

PARTY IS SOMETHING ALIVE AND SEPARATE FROM ITSELF AND THE GIRL FROM THE COUCH TAKES

ME INTO ANOTHER BEDROOM AND LOCKS THE DOOR. THE NIGHT FADES TO BLACK.




        Sunday night in the middle of November and it's almost like I am alone on campus.

Everyone is either asleep or doing homework because midterms are coming up. I should be

doing some studying for my Faust midterm but I am coming off alcohol and cannot stop my

hands from shaking or my mind from racing into bizarre, paranoid thoughts about Lindsey, Lisa,

and Jessica. I have been drunk every night for almost a week for no reason with Allen and it is

all I can do to sit at my desk and take small sips
FROM A BOTTLE OF CUTTY SARK I BOUGHT YESTERDAY, ANTICIPATING WITHDRAWAL

SYMPTOMS AND KNOWING I WOULD NEED SOMETHING TO STOP THE SHAKES.

        Jessica is still with Allen and I do not think she will be leaving him, but I keep thinking

of her straddling me on her couch murmuring, “I want you, Walt,” and although my heart is

racing and the shadows on the wall are beginning to fill me with horrible dread, to the point that

I want to scream, I don't think I can name a single thing I regret save for the fact that there,

tonight, alone, every feeling left in my body has gone utterly numb. And then I realize I regret

everything.

        The phone rings, mercifully, and it is Allen asking if I want to come over and hang out

with him and Jessica. I can't help but say sure, as long as he picks me up. He says okay.

        I STAND UP AND DROP MY OVERCOAT TWICE BEFORE PUTTING IT ON, MY ENTIRE

ARM SHAKING.     I WONDER IF THIS IS ROCK-BOTTOM.




        Today in the common room we are high and watching a mournful news update filled

with oil spills and plane crashes and war clips. A video of a soldier dressed in desert fatigues and

wearing large, bulbous goggles that make him look like an alien is firing his weapon into a

crowd. The video is shown on repeat while two bald men explain from a studio in New York that

what appear to be women and children are in fact “embedded insurgents.” Later there are

images of bloody, charred corpses being stacked on as sidewalk while a gasoline truck, ruptured

and smoldering, lies on its side in the background.
       “Man, fuck those sand niggers,” Matt says. “They can't do anything right.” He takes

a hit from his new bong and winces, then exhales. “Shit.”

       DAN LAUGHS AND SAYS, “RIGHT ON. NIGGERS.”

       “WHY ARE WE EVEN WASTING OUR TIME OVER THERE?” TOM ASKS. “I JUST DO

NOT UNDERSTAND.”

       “NOBODY DOES, MAN,” DAN SAYS WISELY. “NOBODY DOES.”

       I THINK ABOUT FALLING ASLEEP ON THE COUCH AND, AIDED BY THE WEED, EVENTUALLY
       DO.




       THE NEXT DAY I AM LYING ON MY BED, STARING AT MY POSTER OF ROY

LICHTENSTEIN'S WHAM! ON THE WALL, WHICH I BOUGHT WHILE IN OXFORD, TRYING TO

DECIDE IF I SHOULD CALL JESSICA. ALLEN IS OUT OF TOWN AGAIN.

       SHE PICKS UP ON THE THIRD RING AND SAYS, “HEY,

       WALT.” “HEY, JESSICA,” I SAY.

       “HOW ARE YOU?”

       “I'm good. What, um, are you doing?”

       “JUST DOING SOME HOMEWORK.” JESSICA SOUNDS OUT OF IT BUT I THINK THAT IS JUST

HOW SHE IS. THERE IS ALSO A GOOD CHANCE THAT SHE IS VERY HUNGOVER.

       WE ARE SILENT ON THE LINE FOR AWHILE. I CHECK MY FINGERNAILS SAND NOTICE

THAT THEY ARE TOO LONG AND A COUPLE OF THEM BITTEN OFF.       NICOTINE STAINS.

       “DO YOU WANT TO...GET DINNER TONIGHT?” I ASK TOO

       SUDDENLY. SILENCE, THEN JESSICA SAYS, “UMMM.”

       I WAIT.

       “Okay,” she says.
            “NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING,” I SAY, FEELING AWKWARD.

            “No, I want to,” Jessica says. “I'm totally bored.” She says it like she is

ACCEPTING AN APOLOGY FROM ME, OR DOING ME A FAVOR, AND A WAVE OF HOT RESENTMENT

RISES IN ME.

            “Listen, forget it,” I tell her. “I'm sorry I asked.”

            “Umm...okay,” she says. “But I'd go if you wanted.”

            I groan and take the phone away from my hear, rub my hand over my face.

“Okay, fine,” I say, returning the phone to my ear. “Where do you want to go?”

            “I DON'T CARE, YOU

            PICK.” “WATTS?”

            “Okay, sounds good. Come pick me up at seven.”

            “Seven-thirty?”

            “SEVEN IS BETTER.”

            “FINE.”

            I HANG UP THE PHONE AND AM LEFT ALONE IN MY ROOM, WONDERING.




            At dinner we sit in a dark booth near the kitchen, a candle on the table between us. Its

flickering flame illuminates in stark relief the framed black-and-white photos on the wall.

Jessica is subdued. I order a bottle of wine and wave the waiter away when he waits for me to

taste it.

            I WANT TO TALK TO JESSICA BUT HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW. SHE COMPLAINS ABOUT HER

MOLECULAR BIOLOGY CLASS AND WE TRADE GOSSIP POINTLESSLY WHILE PICKING AT OUR

APPETIZERS. I START TO GET DEPRESSED.            I THINK ABOUT ALLEN, ABOUT THE SUMMER.
          I want to talk about the last time we were together, to acknowledge it, to attach

something to it. But by the time I finish my first glass of the wine, listening to Jessica go on

about her new summer internship, that urge has faded and I'm willing to wait to see if she brings

up whatever lies between us. I keep seeing her, wrecked out of her mind on alcohol and dope,

riding me to a screaming orgasm while telling me she loves me. That was a long time ago now.

September. Before that, twice in August.

          By the time I finish my third glass the whole thing, the very fact that I have asked her out

to dinner at all, seems stupidly naïve and clingy and, even worse, completely irrelevant.

          We sit and finish dinner, still talking about nothing but doing it skillfully, with the

practiced ease of two Dunham upperclassmen used to talking about nothing all day, every day,

with everyone. I know enough about the way these things go to mostly keep my mouth shut

when she starts talking about Allen. I pay the check and we leave and I drive us drunk back to

campus. Jessica says goodnight and goes inside while I smoke a cigarette. Then I drive home and

do not see Jessica for a month.




          Brian takes me to Shooters for their weekly “Sex and Beer Pong” night and we wade

through a mob made up mostly of freshman, frat boys, and townies to the back where Patrick

and Jack are hanging out in a booth.

          “FUCK. THIS. PLACE,” BRIAN SAYS, SLIDING INTO THE BOOTH. I CAN BARELY HEAR HIM

OVER THE MUSIC AND THE INSANE SCREAMING OF THE CROWD.                 STROBE LIGHTS FLASH AND SPIN

MULTICOLORED AROUND US.           SOMEONE NAMED “L'IL WAYNE” IS SINGING ABOUT LOLLIPOPS.

JACK IS
smoking a cigarette and I gesture for one. He hands me the pack and his lighter. I take one,

light it, inhale, feel better.

          “WHY ARE WE HERE?” BRIAN CONTINUES.

          “To get laid,” Patrick says. He is wearing a navy blazer with brass buttons and

charcoal slacks. “Don't you want to get laid?” he asks Brian.

          “Not by any of these girls,” Brian says. “And not if I have to compete with these frat

stars.”

          PATRICK LEERS AT HIM. “THEN WHY ARE YOU

          HERE?” “UH, BECAUSE THERE'S NOTHING ELSE TO

          DO?”

          “Except watch Gladiator for the fiftieth time and get high,” Jack says.

          “Yeah,” Brian says. “I am so sick of doing that.”

          “You need to man the fuck up and get laid,” Patrick tells Brian, acting confident for

once, but I can tell he is really drunk and is not going to be doing anything tonight except

maybe throwing up in his bed and calling his ex-girlfriend.

          The song changes to something faster, newer, and I sit back and watch as the crowd

absolutely loses it. A guy on the dance floor, pretty clearly gay, literally shrieks, waving his

arms in the air. I finish my cigarette and just stare.

          JACK TAPS ME ON THE SHOULDER. “IS THAT LISA OVER THERE?” HE ASKS.

          I FOLLOW HIS GAZE AND IT IS LISA, LOOKING VERY GOOD IN A SHORT BLACK DRESS,

HER FACE GLISTENING A LITTLE WITH SWEAT, JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF HAIR STUCK

DAMPLY TO HER FOREHEAD. SHE IS DANCING WITH SOME GUY I DON'T RECOGNIZE. TALL AND

BLOND. AS I WATCH THE GUY BENDS TOWARD HER A LITTLE AND THEY START MAKING OUT

HEAVILY, HIS HANDS GRIPPING HER BUTT.

          “I think that is Lisa,” Jack says.
        “WHAT A SLUT,” PATRICK SAYS, GIGGLING.

        “Don't say slut,” Brian says, in a high, effeminate voice. “It's so

HETERONORMATIVE.”

        I stand up. “I'm getting drunk,” I announce. “Does anybody want anything?” They

        all order something elaborate and I go to the bar and order eight shots of

VODKA AND HAVE THEM BROUGHT TO THE BOOTH AND THAT'S HOW THURSDAY EVENING STARTS.




        I DECIDE TO ACTUALLY TRY TO STUDY ONE NIGHT, WHICH THIS TIME JUST INVOLVES

GOING OVER THE NOTES FOR MY CHEMISTRY CLASS AND ANSWERING SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT

REACTION RATES.

Still, I find it impossible to concentrate. My notes are on my computer and so I keep checking

Facebook and MySpace and my e-mail and the news and CollegeHumor for no reason at all

until, three hours later, I give up. Outside the library it is cold and I smoke three cigarettes then

walk back to the dorm, feeling dumb and hazy and very useless.

        I SPEND ALL NIGHT PLAYING VIDEO GAMES WITH JACK AND CHRIS AND TAKE MY

CHEMISTRY QUIZ THE NEXT DAY AND DO OKAY ON IT.            ON THE WAY BACK ACROSS THE QUAD

FROM THE CHEMISTRY DEPARTMENT I LOOK UP AT THE CHAPEL AND WONDER BRIEFLY WHAT I

CAME TO DUNHAM FOR. AND THEN I REMEMBER THAT I DON'T EVEN CARE.




        Because there is nothing better to do I go to the gym to work out with Paul, who I

USUALLY NEVER HANG OUT WITH.         PAUL SPENDS THE WALK OVER TO THE GYM TALKING ON HIS
PHONE

to someone about how he has recently gotten into something called “free bouldering” and how he

ordered new equipment for a climbing trip to Asheville, but it didn't come so he
and his “climbing buddies” from Yale who came down had to rent some “gnarly stuff”

which really was a bummer.

        HE HANGS UP THE PHONE AND APOLOGIZES.

        “It's fine,” I say. “Sounds like a bad time.”

        “IT WAS, DUDE,” PAUL SAYS. “BUT WE FOUND SOME REALLY SICK ROUTES ON A CLIFF IN

PISGAH. YOU KNOW PISGAH?”

        I SHAKE MY HEAD. “IT'S A FOREST, I THINK?”

        “Oh, it's so beautiful, man. It's so beautiful. It's like another world. I get up there with

my climbing buddies, in the fresh air, and just let go, man. It's great. You should come with us

sometime man. Sometimes we just meditate.”

        “Sorry,” I say, realizing too late that it doesn't make any sense to say that.

        PAUL LOOKS AT ME STRANGELY AND THEN WE GET TO THE GYM. HE NODS TO THE

WOMAN WORKING AT THE FRONT DESK.           SHE WAVES TO HIM.




        AT THE JUICE BAR PAUL GETS SOMETHING CALLED A “PRE-WORKOUT ENERGY MIXER”

AND SIPS FROM IT WHILE WE STRETCH.        PAUL TELLS ME ABOUT THE ABDOMINAL EXERCISES HE

HAS BEEN DOING.

        “IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE CUTS, YOU'RE NOTHING,” HE TELLS ME. “IT'S ALL ABOUT

THE CUTS, MAN.”

        “The cuts?” I ask. “What are...the cuts?”

        “Are you serious?” Paul says. “The cuts. Dude, you gotta know about the cuts.” He

lifts up his Nike workout shirt, exposing well-tanned abs and their complementary obliques,

which rise in twin ridges from his Jockey boxer-briefs. Paul points at them
WITH HIS FREE HAND.     “THE CUTS, MAN. I WORK ON THEM, LIKE, EVERY OTHER DAY.

CHICKS DIG THEM. HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW ABOUT THE CUTS?”

        “I'm, um, a chemistry major,” I tell him, unable to think of any other explanation.

        “Whatever,” Paul says. “So you take the medicine ball and hold it over your

HEAD, KEEP YOUR FEET LOCKED ON THE BAR, AND JUST BEND BACK AND FORTH AS FAR AS YOU

CAN.   IT'S EASY.”

        “And it gives you good cuts?” I ask him.

        Paul nods enthusiastically. “Oh yeah. It will completely shock your cuts. Like,

juice them.”

        “Nice,” I say. I look around the gym at everyone on the machines—mostly frat guys and

sorority girls. All the guys are the same height with the same haircut and all the girls are really

skinny and blond. I finish stretching and head over to a bicep-curling machine—a

Nautilus—and turn on my MP3 player and start working out. I see myself in the mirror, skinny,

bags under my eyes, dark hair.

        I wonder if I should stop smoking or something. I wonder about why I stopped playing

basketball. There is a small rip in my shirt that I can barely see at first. But as I look closer it

seems to get bigger and I find myself getting upset because this is a nice workout shirt. It says

Dunham University on it and I bought it at the student store at the beginning of this year. It is

white, too, which I like and is a color that looks good on me. As I'm thinking this I also see a

stain from tomato sauce or maybe blood on the collar of the shirt and this depresses me. I look

up, back to my face and try to see if my hairline is receding, which I think it might be. But the

lighting is bad and I haven't showered today,
which can make your hair look thin. Tendrils of panic start to grip me. I cannot stop staring at

my reflection. The song on my MP3 player starts to skip but I don't notice..

        SOMEONE TAPS ME ON THE SHOULDER. I LOOK UP AT THE FACE OF A FRAT GUY,

DARK-HARIED, BLUE-EYED.       “HEY, YOU GONNA USE THAT MACHINE OR JUST STARE AT

YOURSELF?”

        “Sorry,” I say. “Just finishing.” I stand up. He grunts and sits down and

immediately starts going into a set of reps.

        FEELING BAD, WORSE THAN I HAVE FELT IN AWHILE, I TELL PAUL I'M GOING TO GO RUN

ON THE TREADMILL.     “BUT IT'S NOT A CARDIO DAY,” HE SAYS. I IGNORE HIM AND LEAVE THE

WORKOUT ROOM, THEN THE GYM.




        Tom tells me he is being “ironic” one night and takes me to go drink at The Cheesecake

Factory. We end up getting drunk on bad Long Island Iced Teas and have to take a cab home.

The cab driver is foreign and he runs a redlight. We get pulled over and Tom throws up right in

front of the cop but it turns out it's only the campus security so we get off easy and drive home but

don't pay the cab driver.




        IN MY DREAM I AM SITTING BY THE POOL WITH JESSICA. IT IS LATE SUMMER IN NORTH

CAROLINA AND HOT. SHE IS TELLING ME ABOUT HER SUMMER SESSION CLASSES, ABOUT HOW HARD

THE LABORATORY IS. WE ARE READING BAD NOVELS WE GOT FROM THE CAMPUS LIBRARY.             I CLOSE

MY EYES AND WHEN I OPEN THEM JESSICA HAS TURNED INTO LISA.         SHE IS STANDING BY THE POOL,

HER HAIR LIT UP BY THE LOWERING SUN.      SHE IS WEARING A PALE PINK SWIMSUIT AND SHE IS

LOOKING AT ME IN A WAY I HAVE NEVER SEEN HER LOOK AT ME.        SHE IS BEAUTIFUL AND I WANT HER.

I WANT HER
BECAUSE SHE TURNS ME ON AND BECAUSE SHE MAKES ME HAPPY LIKE NOBODY HAS MADE ME

HAPPY SINCE LINDSEY.

        “Walt,” she says.

        I take off my sunglasses and look at her.

        “Walt.”

        “I love you,” I tell her.

        She shakes her head, smiling, the same year as me but much wiser. “No you don't.

You don't love anybody.”

        I lean forward and make to get up but suddenly the sun goes behind a cloud and the

pool goes eclipse-dark. A shadow moves across Lisa's face and suddenly she is Lindsey,

standing there by the pool, no longer smiling. I shout but it is too late, and Lindsey jumps into

the pool and is gone.




        Jack comes into my room with his backpack on. “I got more shit,” he tells me. I perk

        up, turn away from my laptop where I've spent the last hour staring at

FACEBOOK INSTEAD OF WORKING ON MY PHILOSOPHY PAPER. “YEAH?” I SAY.

        “HELL YEAH,” HE SAYS. “I GOT SOME GOOD SHIT.” HE PUTS DOWN HIS BACKPACK

AND STARTS RUMMAGING THROUGH IT.          JACK IS WEARING BLUE JEANS AND A FLANNEL SHIRT,

BRIGHTLY COLORED.       HIS HAIR IS SLICKED BACK, SUNGLASSES ON HIS FOREHEAD. HE PULLS

OUT A BIG PLASTIC BAG WITH A LOT OF GREEN BUDS IN IT.        “JIM TRIED A LITTLE LAST NIGHT.

HE SAID IT'S PRETTY AMAZING.”

        I stand up and walk over, take the bag. “How much is mine?”
        JACK SHRUGS. “I DON'T EVEN CARE, DUDE. JUST PAY ME LIKE A HUNDRED AND TAKE

HALF. I'M JUST GLAD WE GOT A HOLD OF IT.”

        “Sure thing,” I say, reaching for my wallet. I give him five twenties. There are still

six twenties left in my wallet.

        “THANKS,” SAYS JACK, POCKETING THE MONEY.

        WE MOVE TO MY DESK AND JACK TAKES OUT ANOTHER PLASTIC BAG AND DIVIDES THE

WEED PRETTY EVENLY.       I WATCH HIM WORK, MY ARMS CROSSED.

        “I've got some other stuff, too,” Jack says.

        “Yeah?'

        HE NODS AND, TURNING HIS ATTENTION FROM THE BAGS OF POTS, UNZIPS HIS

BACKPACK AND TAKES OUT A SMALL BAGGIE FILLED WITH WHITE POWDER.              “IT'S GOOD,” HE

TELLS ME.

        I nod.

        “DO YOU WANT SOME?”

        “MAYBE.”

        “You never buy that much cocaine,” Jack says. “I

        guess not,” I tell him.

        “Why?”

        I shake my head. “I don't know. It's a little scary.”

        “Yeah, but you like it.”

        “I DO.”

        Jack opens the bag and holds it open. He nods. I lick my finger and rub it around in the

coke, then rub my finger on my gums. They go numb fast.

        “Nice,” I say.
        “SO YOU WANT SOME?” JACK

        ASKS. “NOT NOW,” I TELL HIM.

        “It's cool,” he says. He puts away the small bag and seals up the two bags of pot. He

hands one to me, puts the other in his backpack. Zips it up. I thank him.

        “ALL RIGHT, CATCH YOU LATER,” JACK SAYS.

        “Later,” I say. When he leaves I take the bag and put it in the top drawer of my desk,

then go back to checking Facebook.




        I knock on Jim's door sometime the next week, looking for Adderall, and I have to knock

for a few minutes before he answers. When he does I stare at him and my mouth falls open a little

because he is very pale and sweating and even though it has only been five days since I last saw

him he looks thiner. There are dark bags under his eyes.

Behind him his dorm room is dark—he has the blinds pulled and some sort of blanket pinned

up over the blinds.

        “JIM?” I SAY.

        “What's up?” he says. “I'm sort of...busy.”

        “Can I come in?” I ask.

        JIM LOOKS AT ME, HIS EYES BLANK.

        “WHAT?” “CAN I COME IN?”

        Jim sighs. “Fine,” he says.

        HE BACKS AWAY AND I COME INTO THE ROOM AND HE COLLAPSES ONTO A COUCH

NEAR THE DOOR AFTER CLOSING IT.       “I'M SO FUCKING SORRY.”

        “What?”
        “I'M SO FUCKING SORRY. I DIDN'T MEAN FOR IT TO BE LIKE THIS AND I'M SO FUCKING

        SORRY.” “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” I ASK HIM.

        He mumbles something but trails off, not looking at me. I am still standing and I don't

move to sit down. I don't say anything else. Reaching down, I turn on a desk lamp. Jim winces.

        “Do you have any Adderall?”

        Jim doesn't answer.

        I GRAB HIM BY THE SHOULDER. “WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?” I ASK.

        “I guess I'm really...a bad person,” Jim says. And then he starts crying.

        I haven't been in Jim's room in awhile and now I look around, wondering what to say to

him. Trying to buy time. All of the dorm rooms are messes, but Jim's is something else. Jim's is

apocalyptic. There are books and papers strewn everywhere and his flat- panel TV is crooked on

the wall with something splattered al over it. Empty beer and wine bottles litter the floor and the

bookshelves and there are a few half-full bottles of scotch—Dewar's and J&B—one his

nightstand. The whole room reeks of marijuana and cigarettes. His sheets, mostly pulled off the

bed, the bare mattress exposed in places, are stained with what looks like blood or ketchup. I see

one open bag of cocaine. Maybe

two.

        Jim stops crying then and just gasps raggedly, choking, trying not to start crying again.

        “What did you do?” I ask him.

        JIM LOOKS UP AT ME, HIS EYES WIDE AND SCARED. “I GUESS...I GUESS I

        DID...” “WHAT?”
        “I guess I did a lot of drugs,” Jim says. He moans again. “I guess I did a lot of bad

drugs. I tried to smoke them but that didn't work after awhile for some reason so I put it in

the needle like Brad said to do.”

        “GOD,” I SAY, AND NOW I'M SEEING FOR THE FIRST TIME THE MATCHES AND THE SPOONS

ON JIM'S DESK BY HIS CALCULUS TEXTBOOKS, AND              I'M SEEING THE RUBBER TUBING NEXT TO

HIM ON THE COUCH.     “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT SHIT? DO PEOPLE DO THAT SHIT?”

        “Of course they do that,” Jim says, sounding like he is going to cry again.   “I'm so

fucking sorry, Walt. I can't do this anymore.”

        “I think you're in withdrawal,” I say stupidly.

        “NO SHIT I'M IN WITHDRAWAL,” JIM TELLS ME. “NO SHIT. WHERE THE FUCK IS BRAD?”

        A GREAT SHUDDERING SOB WRACKS HIS BODY AND THEN HE IS SILENT AND I DON'T

WANT TO SAY ANYTHING, CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING TO SAY.

        “I'm trying to come off it,” he says. “It takes awhile.”

        “I think you need to get help.” I back away from him, frightened for the first time. As I

turn to go Jim moves forward, very quickly, and grabs my wrist. The blanket falls away from his

arm and, spinning back toward him, I see the holes and track marks and something cold grips my

stomach. Jim looks up at me and his jaw is clenched and in the light of the lamp his face is

drawn and tired.

        “Why didn't you help me?” he asks. “Why didn't you take care of me?”

        I TRY TO PULL AWAY BUT HE IS HOLDING ME TIGHTLY. “WHY DIDN'T YOU TAKE CARE OF
        ME?”

he asks again.

        “I...DIDN'T THINK...IT WAS THIS BAD,” I MANAGE TO TELL HIM, LOST, FLAILING. “I

DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE GETTING UP TO STUFF LIKE THIS.”
         “Well what did you think I was doing? Eating tic-tacs?”

         “I just thought you were doing cocaine. Maybe some Adderall.”

         “Fuck, Walt. That was so freshman year.” He sobs again.

         “Well, I'm sorry.”

         “Melissa is a fucking bitch,” he says. “She has no soul and I love her but she has no

soul.”

         “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” I ASK

         “I'm in love with Melissa,” Jim moans. “I'm in love with her. But she has no

soul.”

         “Who the fuck is Melissa?”

         I manage to pull my wrist from Jim's grasp and I step back, massaging it with my other

hand. I am suddenly not thinking very straight and the room is too dark and it of stinks of piss

and smoke and stale beer and Jim's face is skeletal and slicked with sweat and I hear myself say,

“You're fucking insane, man.”

         Jim shudders and looks through me. “If I'm insane then you're definitely insane,

Walter. You fucking faggot.”

         Now I have backed up to the door, one hand on the handle. “I think you need to get

some help,” I tell him.

         “WHAT?”

         “I'm going now.”

         “WHY DIDN'T YOU CARE ABOUT ME WALT? WHY DIDN'T YOU LOOK OUT FOR ME?”
       I LOOK AT HIM, HUDDLED IN HIS DIRTY BLANKETS, PROBABLY DRUNK OR SOMETHING,

CLEARLY FUCKED OUT OF HIS MIND.     “BECAUSE IT'S TOO HARD TO CARE,” I SAY, LESS TO HIM

THAN TO MYSELF. “IT'S TOO FUCKING HARD TO CARE ABOUT ANYONE.”




       THOUGHTS OF LINDSEY COME UNBIDDEN TO MY MIND, SEEMINGLY AT RANDOM. SOME

DAYS ARE WORSE THAN OTHERS.   I MISS WHAT IT FELT LIKE TO BE IN LOVE WITH SOMEONE WHO

LOVED YOU BACK.   I MISS WHAT IT FELT LIKE TO BE COMPLETE IN THAT WAY. I MISS BEING ABLE TO

SEE HER, ALWAYS, TO KNOW I COULD ALWAYS FIND HER THAT SUMMER, ASLEEP IN THE HAMMOCK OR

SWIMMING IN THE LAKE OR AT HER PARENTS' HOUSE WHERE WE WOULD HAVE TO SNEAK DOWN TO

THE BASEMENT TO KISS AND HOLD EACH OTHER AND MAYBE GO TOO FAR.      I MISS TALKING TO HER

ABOUT THE WORLD. AND THIS THOUGHT MAKES ME REALIZE I MISS BEING AROUND PEOPLE I COULD

TALK TO AT ALL, INSTEAD OF JUST DRIFTING FROM PARTY TO PARTY, FROM STILL-DRUNK MORNINGS

TO HUNGOVER AFTERNOONS, FROM CLASSES TO SUMMER INTERNSHIPS, FROM GRANT APPLICATIONS

TO RESEARCH PRESENTATIONS.    THE ONLY THING WORTH TALKING ABOUT IS BASKETBALL OR HOW

POLITICALLY INCORRECT IT IS TO USE THE TERM “FAGGOT” AND THE ONLY TIME YOU TALK ABOUT

ANYTHING MORE IS WHEN YOU'RE DRUNK AND NOBODY LISTENS OR CARES ANYWAY.      WATCHING THE

DAYS DRIFT INTO WEEKS IN A GOTHIC WONDERLAND WHERE THE TREES TOUCH THE HIGH ARCHES

ON THE QUADRANGLES AND SLOWLY GO FROM GREEN TO GOLD TO DEAD AND THE RAINS COME

EARLY AND STAY ALL WINTER.




       JIM LEAVES FOR HOME HALFWAY THROUGH NOVEMBER. I FIND THIS OUT FROM DAN

WHILE WE'RE EATING PIZZA IN THE COMMON ROOM AND DRINKING BUSCH LITE WHILE

WATCHING SPORTSCENTER ON ESPN. WE ARE BOTH HUNGOVER BUT NOT TOO BADLY

BECAUSE WE DRANK 4- LOKO LAST NIGHT AND THE CAFFEINE HELPS CUT THE EFFECT OF THE

ALCOHOL.   I DON'T FEEL SAD OR
EVEN GUILTY. ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT FOR SOME REASON IS JESSICA HAVING SEX WITH ALLEN

ALL LAST SUMMER WHILE I THOUGHT THAT JESSICA WAS IN LOVE WITH ME AND HOW JESSICA

WOULD COME DOWN TO WHERE I WAS SITTING BY THE POOL, THE NORTH CAROLINA SUN STILL

HOT AND BRIGHT IN THE LATE AFTERNOON.          HOW JESSICA AND I WOULD SIT AND TALK AND KISS

AND SMOKE ENDLESS

CIGARETTES AND STARE INTO THE SHIMMERING ULTRAMARINE OF THE POOL. AND HOW AT THE

END OF ALL THAT JESSICA WENT BACK TO ALLEN AND SUMMER FADED, I GUESS, AND THE END

OF SOMETHING GOOD ALWAYS FEELS THE SAME.




        That night Carly is moaning and gasping on top of me in the throes of what I'm pretty

sure is her second orgasm in thirty minutes. She's telling me she loves me and she wants me and

she needs me but there is this cold blackness still clawing around inside of me and although I

haven't had sex with Carly in nearly six months and I am drunk and high on cocaine I can't stop

thinking about Lisa and Jim and Jessica. I realize something is horribly wrong, broken in my

life and that I cannot remember the last time I was happy or even just content. I want to scream,

to cry out, to tell everyone how fake and lonely it all is and how empty I am. Life isn't worth

living without love, even a fucked up junkie undergraduate knows that apparently. If I can't

have love I don't want anything at all but even as I'm thinking this and believing it I know it is

impossibly naïve and we're all fucked and we've come too far to go back and as I'm thinking this

I start coming, my entire groin spasming suddenly and throbbing in a massive, inexorable orgasm

that grips my entire body and lances down my cock and through my balls and up my spine. As

my entire world blows apart I hear Carly's gasp from the raw force of my ejaculation and

THEN EVERYTHING STARTS DRAINING AWAY IN A FLOOD OF ENDORPHINS.                BUT BEFORE I PASS
OUT I
LOOK UP BEYOND CARLY'S SWEAT-SHEENED FOREHEAD TO THE CEILING AND I UNDERSTAND

FINALLY THAT GOD HAS DIED.




         It is a brisk November morning and I'm walking to the coffee shop with Dan. We've

just pulled an all-nighter, fucked up on Adderall, trying to cram for a chemistry midterm that

I don't care if I fail.

         “You see Katie over there?” Dan asks me. “Jack's girlfriend?”

         I try to follow Dan's pointing finger but the quad is crowded today and I can't see who

he is talking about. I shake my head.

         “Come on, man,” Dan says, grabbing me, spinning me a little. “Katie Zhang. Jack's

girlfriend.”

         “JACK'S GIRLFRIEND?” I ASK LAMELY, ALTHOUGH NOW I DO SEE A SMALL ASIAN GIRL

ALONG DAN'S LINE OF SIGHT.      SHE IS WEARING A PINK POLO SHIRT AND AVIATORS, HOLDING

A VINEYARD VINES TOTE AND TALKING ON HER PHONE.

         “Yeah,” Dan says. “I was at this party one weekend, off East, and she was

getting, like, gangbanged in a room upstairs.”

         I look at him.

         He nods. “I went up to the bathroom and heard all these noises coming from this other

room. So after I pissed I went in and she was naked on the bed. There were these dudes around

her, two of them. Taylor was in the corner filming it and jerking himself off.”

         “SERIOUSLY? ARE YOU SURE IT WAS HER?”

         “Completely. She has this weird mole on her face. Trust me.”
        “I DO TRUST YOU,” I SAY, UNSURE.

        “Anyway, one of the guys was totally naked, doing her, really thrusting. The other

had his boxers pulled down and was kneeling on the bed. Katie had her mouth around his

dick and he wasn't totally hard but he was getting there.

        “Taylor saw me and I could tell he was totally, totally out of it. He asked me if I wanted

to join in. I said fuck no and got out. But, I have to be honest, I sort of wanted to stay.”

        “TOO MUCH FOR YOU?” I ASK HIM.

        “I JUST HATE ASIANS,” DAN SAYS, STRAIGHT-FACED. “EVER SINCE GRACE CHEATED ON
        ME I

CAN'T EVEN LOOK AT THOSE SQUINTY-EYED BITCHES.              I REALLY DON'T THINK THEY HAVE

SOULS. THEY'RE JUST...INCREDIBLY HORNY. AND MATERIALISTIC.”             DAN LAUGHS AND

LIGHTS A CIGARETTE. “FUCKING SLOPES, MAN,” HE SAYS.

        I don't say anything, just look across the quad at the girl in the pink polo shirt. I think

about Jack sitting in the booth at Shooters, smoking a cigarette and pointing out Lisa to me.. I

wonder if he knows.




        THERE IS NOTHING TO DO ON WEEKENDS IN THE LATE FALL BECAUSE IT GETS COLD AND

RAINS CONSTANTLY. THE GROUND SLOWLY TURNS TO CURDLED MUD, SO THICK IT RIPS PEOPLE'S

BOOTS OFF. CARS GET STUCK IN IT.      PEOPLE STAY INSIDE AND DRINK, SMOKE POT, FUCK. THE

UNCOOL KIDS PLAY VIDEO GAMES OR WATCH MOVIES. ALMOST NOBODY STUDIES.                   STUDYING IS

AN AFTERTHOUGHT AT DUNHAM, A PUNCTUATION MARK, A NECESSARY EVIL BEST DONE

QUICKLY OR NOT AT ALL, PREFERABLY AFTER INSUFLATING A LARGE AMOUNT OF ADDERALL OR

COCAINE.
        I am in Patrick's room, zoned out but technically sober. I have not been able to sleep

for nearly forty-eight hours now, except for yesterday when I passed out for the entirety of my

Logic class.

        “WHAT A WASTE,” PATRICK IS SAYING. WE ARE STANDING BY THE WINDOW

WATCHING PEOPLE PLAYING AN AFTERNOON GAME OF BEER PONG.

        “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” I ASK HIM.

        “Just...all of this,” Patrick says, gesturing with the red plastic cup he is holding. “I

don't know.”

        “THE WEATHER SUCKS,” I SAY BY WAY OF AN ANSWER.

        ZACH IS DRUNK ALREADY AND HE KNOCKS OVER A FULL PITCHER OF BEER WITH HIS

ELBOW WHILE WE WATCH.

        “FUCK THIS,” PATRICK SAYS. I START TO WONDER HOW DRUNK HE IS BUT BEFORE CAN I

ASK HIM HE WALKS OVER TO WHERE ZACH IS STANDING.              ZACH IS LAUGHING WITH SOME

FRESHMAN GIRLS WHO HAVE COME OVER, THE SPILLED BEER FORGOTTEN.

        PATRICK PICKS UP THE PITCHER AND SETS IT ON THE TABLE. “YOU SPILLED MY BEER,

ZACH,” HE SAYS QUIETLY. ZACH DOESN'T HEAR HIM, DOESN'T EVEN TURN HIM AROUND. THEN

PATRICK GRABS ZACH BY THE SHOULDERS AND SPINS HIM AROUND. “I SAID YOU SPILLED MY

FUCKING BEER,” HE SAYS LOUDLY. THE FRESHMAN GIRLS STOP LAUGHING AND LOOK AT

PATRICK. ONE OF THEM GIGGLES, THEN THEY ARE SILENT.

        “Hey, man, mellow out,” Zach says, looking glassy. “What's the big deal?” And

        then Patrick punches Zach in the face. From across the room I hear the

CRUNCH AS HIS FIST BUSTS THROUGH ZACH'S NOSE AND SOME BLOOD SPRAYS OUT AND

ZACH GOES DOWN. HE SMASHES INTO A BOOKSHELF AND THEN SLUMPS, SITTING, TO THE

GROUND.
          “I'm so fucking sick of watching you waste everything,” Patrick says. By now his face is

red and everyone in the room is watching. Nobody is talking anymore. Timbaland's “The Way I

Are” is coming from the stereo.

          “I AM SO TIRED,” PATRICK CONTINUES, “OF WATCHING ALL OF YOU WASTE

YOURSELVES AWAY.”        HE SLAMS THE PITCHER ON THE TABLE THEN, SO HARD IT SENDS

EMPTY PLASTIC CUPS AND BEER CANS CRASHING TO THE FLOOR.             “I'M OUT.”

          He starts going for the door and nobody gets in his way. A girl starts crying. “Fuck

          all of you,” Patrick says. Then he leaves the room, slamming the door. For a second

          the room is quiet but then the noise picks back up. People start

talking again. A guy bends down to check on Zach. Blood is pouring from his nose and his

eyes are glassy but he waves off the guy and tries to stand up. Finally he grabs the guy's arm

and gets to his feet. He wipes an arm across his nose. “Will someone turn up the damn

music?” he says.

          PEOPLE ARE MILLING ABOUT NOW, STUMBLING INTO EACH OTHER. MURMURING. A

COUPLE PEOPLE LEAVE.        SOMEONE ELSE TRIES TO GET TO THE DOOR BUT BUMPS INTO THE

BEER PONG TABLE AND KNOCKS IT OVER. MORE BEER CANS AND CUPS FALL ON THE FLOOR.

          “Will somebody please turn up the fucking music?” Zach yells. “Walt, turn up the

music!”

          I LOOK AT HIM, AT THE REST OF THE PEOPLE IN THE ROOM, AT THE KIDS STILL WAITING

TO PLAY ANOTHER GAME OF           BEER PONG. THEN I REACH FOR THE STEREO AND TURN THE

VOLUME UP TO ELEVEN, BECAUSE THAT'S THE EASIEST THING TO DO.
       Lisa calls me late at night and asks if I'm awake. I tell her I am and she asks if I want

to come to her room and watch a movie. I say okay. “Bring a blanket,” she tells me.

       LATER WE ARE ALONE IN HER ROOM SITTING UNDER A BLANKET ON HER COUCH. WE

ARE WATCHING LOST IN TRANSLATION AND LISA'S LEGS ARE TOUCHING MINE. THEY ARE WARM

AND SOFT AND WHEN I PUT MY HAND ON HER LEG SHE DOESN'T MOVE IT AWAY. A FEW MINUTES

LATER SHE YAWNS AND LEANS HER HEAD AGAINST MY SHOULDER. WE DON'T SAY ANYTHING.

BOTH OF US FALL ASLEEP BEFORE THE MOVIE ENDS AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME I

SLEEP DREAMLESSLY. THROUGH THE NIGHT.




       THE LAST THING I REALLY REMEMBER FROM WEDNESDAY NIGHT WAS JAMES

SCREAMING AT GORDON TO GET OFF THE TABLE, GET OFF THE FUCKING TABLE YOU FUCKER!

AND THEN LAUGHING MANIACALLY WITH EVERYBODY ELSE WHEN HE SLIPPED ON A PUDDLE OF

BEER AND WENT FACE FIRST INTO THE FLOOR. HE STAYED DOWN AND I SAW SOME BLOOD

COMING FROM HIS NOSE AND THAT JUST MADE IT FUNNIER. AT SOME POINT I LOOKED OVER AT

LISA AND SAW HER STANDING IN THE CORNER, MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN EVER, JUST SORT OF

STARING AT EVERYBODY AND EVERYTHING THAT WAS GOING ON AND THEN MY LAUGHTER

TURNED INTO THIS WEIRD FITFUL SOBBING AND I WENT OUT INTO THE HALL AND VOMITED

MASSIVELY ONTO THE WALL.      I RETCHED UNTIL NOTHING BUT GREEN-YELLOW BILE CAME UP

AND THEN JUST SORT OF STOOD THERE, BRACING MYSELF AGAINST THE WALL WITH ONE ARM,

WATCHING THE SLIPPERY, PUNGENT CONTENTS OF MY STOMACH DRIPPING TO THE FLOOR.                 I

LOOKED AT MY BLACKBERRY AND SAW THAT IT WAS 2:38 IN THE MORNING.               I WANDERED

DOWNSTAIRS TO MY ROOM AND PASSED OUT BECAUSE I HAVE A BIG INTERVIEW IN THE

MORNING.

       THAT IS WEDNESDAY NIGHT, NOVEMBER TWENTY-FOURTH.
        In a class called “Science, Technology, and Society” I listen to some sophomore give a

presentation on the value of technological innovation in the field of social entrepreneuring. It

starts out okay but halfway through he goes into a show-and-tell about his summer internship at

an NGO in Washington, D.C., which is more or less a list of names of the famous, powerful

people he met, accompanied by pictures of him shaking hands with them. I check my

Blackberry, read my messages. Most of them are drunk texts and e-mails sent to me from the

previous night. I am wearing blue chinos

FROM J. CREW AND A GRAY T-SHIRT FROM BANANA REPUBLIC.             MY BLACK NORTH FACE

JACKET IS ON THE FLOOR, NEXT TO A JACKET THAT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE IT WHOSE OWNER IS

SITTING IN FRONT OF ME.

        “THE BEST PART ABOUT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY,” THE SOPHOMORE IS SAYING, “IS

THAT IT IS AN EXCELLENT GLOBAL EQUALIZER.        IF WE CAN ALLOW PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE

WORLD, REGARDLESS OF THEIR INCOME LEVELS, TO ACCESS GLOBAL DATABANKS OF

INFORMATION, THEN THE IMPLICATIONS ARE INCREDIBLE. AGAIN, I REFER TO MY INITIAL

ALGORITHM: INITIATIVE,

INFRASTRUCTURE, IMPLEMENTATION. I PROVED IN WASHINGTON WITH THE GHANA PROJECT

THAT BASIC CONCEPTS TRULY CAN BECOME TECHNOLOGICAL REALITIES.”

        WITH THAT THE PRESENTATION ENDS. PEOPLE APPLAUD POLITELY. THE GIRL NEXT TO

ME IS ASLEEP.   OUR PROFESSOR ASKS IF THERE ARE ANY QUESTIONS. NOBODY HAS ANY.

THEN A GUY IN A BACKWARD BASEBALL CAP RAISES HIS HAND.

        “UH, WHAT IF THE INTERNET IS, LIKE, A BAD THING?” HE ASKS.

        People laugh nervously. The professor dismisses us and I stand up slowly, joining the

crowd headed to the exits.
        In Matt's room I see orange prescription bottles lining his desk and ask him if they're

new. He nods and says he was prescribed Prozac a couple weeks ago by his psychiatrist at

the Student Counseling Services.

        “I DIDN'T KNOW YOU WERE DEPRESSED,” I TELL HIM.

        “I didn't know either,” he says. “My parents made me go.” “Do

        they work?” I ask him.

        “I GUESS,” HE SAYS. “THEY MAKE ME GET DRUNK A LOT QUICKER. WHICH IS

        COOL.” “YEAH,” I SAY.    “COOL.”

        “Jim wants me to try to get them to prescribe me some Adderall IR.”

        “Okay,” I say, sitting down on his bed.

        MATT IS PLAYING CALL OF DUTY ON HIS FLAT-PANEL TV. HE LOOKS PALE, A LITTLE

THIN, HAS A BLANKET OVER HIS SHOULDERS.        I TAKE ANOTHER BLANKET AND THROW IT OVER

MINE. THE LIGHTS ARE OFF. WE BOTH STARE AT THE SCREEN.            SCREAMS AND AUTOMATIC

GUNFIRE ECHO OFF THE WALLS OF THE SMALL ROOM.

        “Don't tell anybody about the Prozac,” Matt says after awhile. “I

        won't,” I tell him.

        “Lots of people take antidepressants,” he informs me. I

        nod.

        On the screen, Matt's character gets blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade. He curses

and hands me the controller. I hate video games for some reason but it's better than being alone

tonight and I press a few buttons and pick up a machine gun and move around, gunning down

terrorists. The video game has a lot of blood in it. When my
CHARACTER GETS SHOT IT SPLATTERS ON THE SCREEN, DRIPPING DOWN TO THE BOTTOM.

MATT LAUGHS WHEN I STAB SOMEONE IN THE BACK.




        In the darkness of the last July night before my sophomore year of high school I drove

to her house in the rain. The lights on the dashboard of my dad’s blue Chevy Tahoe were pale

green except for the radio’s which were red. The wipers swished on the windshield but did not

do any good because it was raining so hard.

        The roads were empty and I accelerated through her neighborhood. It was one long

street and the homes were far apart, each with a lantern and a mailbox at the end of the long

driveways.

        I pulled in to her driveway and shut off the headlights. I let the car idle. I took out

my phone and called her. She picked up halfway through the first ring.

        “Hey,” she whispered.

        “Hey,” I said. “Should I ring the doorbell?”

        “No, no. I’ll come through the garage. Meet me there?”

        “Okay, see you.”

        Dashboard had finished singing and the commercials had come on. I shut off the car

and stepped out into the rain. I had not brought an umbrella. Her house had four garage

doors, and then a small door. I walked toward it and it opened as I came. She was standing

there and looking, I thought, very beautiful.

        “Hey, Lindsey,” I said, stepping inside the garage.

        “Hey, Walt.”

        We hugged but lightly because my jacket was slick with rain.
         “You have to be quiet because my dad’s asleep and he’s on call.”

         “Okay.”

         SHE GRINNED AND SORT OF SKIPPED THROUGH THE GARAGE. THE LIGHTS WERE ON AND IT

SMELLED WARM AND MUSTY.      LIKE CUT GRASS AND GASOLINE. A LOT LIKE MY GARAGE. LIKE

EVERY SUBURBAN GARAGE IN THE CITY.

         SHE TURNED OFF THE GARAGE LIGHTS AND I FOLLOWED HER INTO THE KITCHEN. SHE

CLOSED THE DOOR CAREFULLY AND I TOOK OFF MY SHOES.        I HUNG MY JACKET ON A PEG WITH

AS LITTLE RUSTLING AS I COULD.   IT WAS VERY WARM AND WELL-LIT AND QUIET INSIDE.

         “YOU SURE YOUR DAD’S ASLEEP?”

         “YEAH,” SHE SAID.

         IN THE BASEMENT WAS THE BIG HOME THEATER AND ANOTHER, SMALLER KITCHEN WITH A

BAR. THERE WAS A POOL TABLE AND A LOT OF OAK SHELVES AND THINGS FILLED WITH BOOKS.        SOME

TRAVEL POSTERS AND PICTURES AND DIPLOMAS.       IT WAS VERY COZY. I GUESS IT HAD GOTTEN

EMPTIER SINCE HER MOTHER HAD MOVED OUT.        MAYBE A LITTLE. I GUESS MOST OF THE BOOKS

WERE HER FATHER’S.

         I SAT DOWN ON ONE OF THE BIG LEATHER COUCHES. SHE GOT A COKE AND SAT DOWN NEXT

TO ME.

         I FOUND THE REMOTE AND TURNED THE TV

         ON. “I’M SORRY ABOUT THE OTHER NIGHT,” I

         SAID.

         SHE LOOKED AT ME AND TOOK A SIP OF HER DRINK. SHE TUCKED A STRAND OF DARK

HAIR BEHIND HER LEFT EAR.    “WHY?”

         I LOOKED AT THE TV. SOME INFOMERCIAL WAS ON SO I SWITCHED IT TO TNT WHERE THE

LAKERS GAME WAS ENDING. “I’M JUST…I DON’T KNOW,” I SAID.

         “DO YOU THINK IT WAS A MISTAKE?” SHE ASKED.
        “I DON'T KNOW.”

        Then she put down her drink and looked up at me and she smiled at me and said she

wasn't sorry at all and then I bent toward her a bit and she raised her head up and we were

kissing. And that was the beginning.




        Chris keeps texting me and asking me if I want to buy Adderall from him. Chris is

technically Mina's friend but I have been seeing a lot of him at party's. I don't think Mina

knows how into drugs he is. They went to the same high school together in Cleveland. I text

him back in the middle of my philosophy class and tell him I will meet him by the student union

at five. He texts back okay.

        After class I pull my coat tight around me and walk quickly because it is very cold.

The light is going quickly. Chris is waiting outside the student union. He is wearing khaki

pants and fur-lined boots and a Burberry trench coat. We shake hands.

        “How've you been?” Jim asks.

        “SAME OLD,” I SAY. I DO NOT FEEL LIKE MAKING SMALL

        TALK. “HOW'S MINA?”

        “She's fine.”

        “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BUY?”

        “SOMETHING. I GUESS SOME

        ADDERALL.” “IR OR XR?”

        “IR.”

        Jim takes out some pills and gives me five and I give him fifty dollars.

        “Sweet, dude,” he says.
        “SWEET,” I SAY.

        “See you tonight at the party?”

        “Maybe,” I say.

        “SAY HI TO MINA FOR ME.”

        “SURE.”

        With that Chris nods to me and walks away, going around the student union toward

the parking lot. I turn the other way and go back to the dormitory. I feel better, more

confident. I think about when and how to do the Adderall.




        I WAKE UP AT NINE WITH A WEIRD HANGOVER—HEADACHE, DEPRESSION,

LETHARGIC—AND LOOKED UP AT THE CEILING.           I HAVE AN INTERVIEW WITH A BETHESDA

RESEARCH COMPANY AT TEN.       I TOOK THE ADDERALL AT AROUND TEN WITH THE INTENTION OF

REVIEWING THE INTERVIEW MATERIAL BUT THEN STARTED DRINKING AND BLACKED OUT.

        “Fucking goddamn,” I say to nobody in particular. I roll out of bed and go to the closet

and see that I somehow had the foresight to lay out my suit the night before. I grab my shower

stuff and go to the bathroom down the hall. Nobody is up yet and the

MORNING LIGHT IS POURING THROUGH THE WINDOWS BY THE STUDY ALCOVE.

        IN THE SHOWER IT TAKES THE WATER A LONG TIME TO HEAT UP. I TRY TO RUN

THROUGH THE DAY'S PLANS BUT CAN'T FOCUS.         THE THOUGHT OF THE COMING DAY MOVES

ME TO NAUSEA AND      I WORRY THAT I MIGHT THROW UP AGAIN. BUT THE NAUSEA FADES

AND I STEP INTO THE NOW HOT

water. I have to do this interview and then I have to go to my chemistry class. After that, lunch

with my academic advisor. I told Paul I would go to the gym with him again.
        WHEN I STEP OUT OF THE SHOWER I SEE BRIAN AT THE COUNTER TAKING HIS MORNING

DOSE OF LEXAPRO.    JACK HARPER IS AT ANOTHER SINK BRUSHING HIS TEETH. HE LOOKS GOOD,

BUT I KNOW HE SHAVES HIS CHEST.

        “What’s up, Walter,” he says. “Good night last night.”

        “Sure.”

        “I THINK TIFFANY FUCKED MATT,” HE CONCLUDES AS THE DOOR CLOSES. THEN I AM IN

THE HALL AND WALKING BACK TO MY ROOM. TIFFANY PROBABLY DID FUCK MATT, I REALIZE

ABSENTLY, VACANTLY.      I BRIEFLY ENVISION HER STRADDLING HIM, SWEAT GLISTENING

BETWEEN HER BREASTS IN THE MOONLIGHT, MATT’S FACE BELOW HER, FLUSHED WITH

ALCOHOL AND COCAINE, PUMPING STRENUOUSLY.           I SEE TIFFANY’S BACK ARCHING AS SHE

COMES AND I SEE THE WET SLICKNESS OF HER LABIA, SEE IT COVERING MATT’S COCK AND FOR

A SECOND I FORGET WHERE I AM AND WHAT I AM DOING.

        In my room I dry my hair completely and run my hand through it, swiping the bangs

sideways across my forehead. I turn on my TV and watch the news while I dress. There’s

some story on about a lacrosse player from a rival university who murdered his girlfriend,

slamming her head into the wall repeatedly until she hemorrhaged and died.

        I LOOK GOOD IN MY SUIT—CHARCOAL PINSTRIPE ITALIAN WOOL BY J. CREW, WITH A

DARK BLUE-AND-WHITE POLO TIE—AND BECAUSE IT’S ONLY 9:30 I DECIDE TO GET SOME

BREAKFAST.    I GRAB A PEN AND MY NOTEBOOK AND LEAVE THE DORM. IT IS VERY COLD

OUTSIDE AND THE SKY ABOVE THE CAMPUS’S GOTHIC SPIRES IS DARK WITH CLOUDS.             I WANT A

CIGARETTE BUT DECIDE THAT I SHOULDN'T HAVE ONE YET. THE INTERVIEWER MIGHT BE A

HEALTH FREAK AND SMELL THE SMOKE ON ME AND BE PREJUDICED.
        I walk up the stairs from Langham Quad to the main campus. The trees are dead,

leafless. Other students, some in suits like me, others just wearing hoodies and jeans, stream by.

There is no contrast between the dark sky and the gothic buildings and the bare trees. It is

depressing. I breathe deep from the chilly air and feel its coldness on my nose, on my eyes.

        OUTSIDE THE CONFERENCE ROOM IN THE STUDENT UNION. I HAVE A FEW MINUTES TO

SIT AND WORRY IDLY AND THEN A MAN WITH SLICKED-BACK BLOND HAIR AND MOVIE-STAR

BLUE EYES COMES OUT AND CALLS MY NAME.          I STAND UP, SMILING, SHAKE HIS HAND.

        “James McCormick. How are you, Walter?” he asks.

        “I’m great,” I say. “You?”

        “Can’t complain,” he says, grinning wryly.

        In the conference room—stark lighting, big empty table—he gestures to a chair and as

I sit down I realize that as much as everybody tells me how good a BioTechnika internship

could be and how happy it would make my father, I do not care.

        Outside, done with the interview, I realize that the only thing I want in the entire world

is to go back to sleep.




        EVERYBODY BACK AT THE DORM IS HUDDLED AROUND THE TELEVISION WATCHING

CAN YOU DO THE MATH? AND I STARE BLANKLY AT THE TELEVISION WHERE A LARGE BLACK

WOMAN IS SCREAMING IN ECSTASY WHILE THE HOST PRESENTS HER WITH A BRIEFCASE

APPARENTLY FULL OF

$25,000. I STARE AT HER JIGGLING, STRETCH-MARKED BICEPS FOR A MOMENT BEFORE THE

WHOLE SITUATION, THE FAT LADY AND THE CASE OF MONEY AND THE MEMORY OF THE

INTERVIEWER'S PERFECT HAIR, MAKES ME BLACKLY DEPRESSED AND I GO TO MY ROOM.
        I CLOSE THE DOOR AND SIT ON MY BED AND STARE AT THE WALL, FIGHTING BACK

THE TEARS COMING UNBIDDEN TO MY EYES.

        I open the refrigerator and pull out a bottle of Stella Artois and drink from it, trying to

chase back the hangover. I drink two-thirds of the bottle in one long pull and then set it

down and wipe my mouth.

        I TRY TO CALM DOWN, FEELING THE BEER COURSE ITS WAY THROUGH ME, RELAXING

MY MUSCLES AND MY MIND.        I TRY TO THINK ABOUT LINDSEY BUT NOTHING COMES AND SO I

GO BACK OUTSIDE TO THE COMMON AREA AND SIT DOWN BETWEEN JACK AND TOM AND

WATCH THE REST OF CAN YOU DO THE MATH?

        “Jack,” Tom is saying.

        “What?”

        “I can’t fucking stand this show.”

        “SO WHY ARE YOU WATCHING IT?” JACK

        ASKS. TOM DOESN'T ANSWER. WE KEEP

        WATCHING.

        “JACK,” TOM SAYS AGAIN. “I CAN’T FUCKING STAND THIS

        SHOW.” “SO WHY ARE YOU WATCHING IT?           SHUT THE FUCK UP,

        TOM.”

        Tom does, and then the room erupts in cheers as a balding man, also fat, picks the

million-dollar case.

        By the time the show ends it’s time for lunch and I make my way to Richards Hall where

the faculty dining club is. I’ve changed out of my suit and having had some coffee and a

multivitamin I’m beginning to feel almost normal. Richards is located in Grave Quad just

behind the chapel. I pass a group of Asian tourists gawking at the chapel,

TAKING PICTURES OF IT.
        INSIDE THE DINING CLUB I’M SITTING WITH MY ADVISOR, A TALL LESBIAN NAMED DR.

CELINE HANOVER, AT A TABLE THAT IS TOO BIG FOR US. DR. HANOVER IS TALKING ABOUT THE

“LONG-AWAITED FEMINIST REVISIONISM OF W.H. AUDEN” AND SOMEHOW INTERMINGLING

THAT WITH COMMENTS ABOUT THE STUDENT GOVERNMENT’S RECENT EFFORTS TO DO

SOMETHING CALLED “CAMPUS CULTURE REVITALIZATION.”

        I drink three Diet Cokes with lunch and when it’s over we stand and Dr. Hanover gives

me an awkward, overly intimate hug which makes her small breasts press into my ribcage. She

tells me she’s looking forward to reading the next draft of my thesis and I promise her I’m hard

at work on it.

        It’s started to rain outside and as I notice this I also realize that I don't have my

umbrella with me.




        Later that same day I fall asleep for two hours in my dorm room, still in my clothes. I

have a dream. In it there is a big bonfire I am watching all my friends, Jack and Chris and Matt

and Jim and everyone else, throwing things into the flames. They have big stacks of books and

papers and broken televisions and iPods and video games. Liquor bottles and packs of cigarettes

and there is even a big car, an Acura MDX, which everyone gathers around and tips over into the

fire. Soon there is nothing left to burn and we all stand back and watch the sparking flames fly

up into the starry night sky. Ashes and embers whirl in the hot, flame-fanned wind.

        THEN JACK TURNS TOWARD ME. HIS FACE IS CAKED IN SOOT, HIS HAIR LIMP AND

SWEAT- SOAKED, BUT AS HE LOOKS AT ME HE BREAKS INTO A SMILE.

I WAKE UP SWEATY AND HOLLOW-FEELING.
        I am warming up again in the gym with Paul. We make small talk about college

basketball and investment banking and how to write a good resume. I ask Paul if he knows

anything about antidepressants and he looks at me weirdly. Then he says his sister is on Prozac.

I ask him to get me some and he tells me his sister is at UCLA. Paul has amazing hair but I

recently found out from Erica, his ex-girlfriend, that he’s been taking Propecia since he was

eighteen and when I found out this simple fact it filled me with

such complete emptiness that I didn’t leave my dorm room for three days. I’m worried about

developing a receding hairline because it runs in my family, but my parents refuse to pay for

medication, claiming I’m “too young” and it’s all just a symptom of “generalized anxiety”

which I need to take care of.

        I THINK ABOUT PREMATURE HAIR LOSS AND ALL OF ITS LONG-REACHING

IMPLICATIONS WHILE GOING THROUGH A 5K RUN AROUND THE TRACK.




        NOVEMBER BLEEDS INTO DECEMBER. IT’S NEARLY MIDNIGHT AND I’M STUCK IN

WALL-TO- WALL HUMAN TRAFFIC IN THE FOYER OF 221 WILSON AVENUE, A MASSIVE SIG NU

FRATERNITY HOUSE WITH A MOOSE HEAD OVER THE DOOR AND I’M SIX DRINKS IN—FOUR BEERS

BACK AT THE DORM WITH CRAIG AND MATT AND TWO SCOTCHES AT THE HARD BAR ON THE

WAY HERE (WE MADE THE TAXI STOP AND WAIT FOR US WHILE WE DRANK).               I’M STARTING TO

FEEL GOOD.

        I see Tiffany, tall and blonde, standing by the fireplace in the next room, looking bored

and talking to a lacrosse player in a practice jersey, sunglasses, and Nantucket reds. I hold my

beer over my head and try to make my way over. Fragments of conversation
reach my ears as I push aside girls in tight dresses and boys dressed in Vineyard Vines shirts.

        “…still drunk this morning…”

        “SHE LET HIM COME ON HER FACE, SERIOUSLY, WHAT

        DOES…” “…BACK FROM CABO WITH MY FAMILY…”

        “James was being a massive douchebag….”

        FINALLY I’M WITHIN SHOUTING DISTANCE OF THE MANTELPIECE—A BIG PICTURE OF

SOME PREPPED-OUT ALUM OVER IT, LOTS OF WEIRD MEMORABILIA ON THE OAK

CASEMENT—AND TIFFANY SEES ME.          SHE WAVES. “WALT!” SHE SCREAMS. “WALT!”

        “HEY!” I SHOUT BACK. I GET CLOSER. WHEN I'M NEXT TO HER WE HUG. TIFFANY ASKS

ME SOMETHING BUT SHE'S A LOT SHORTER THAN ME AND IT'S HARD TO HEAR.

        “WHAT?” I SAY.

        She stands on her tiptoes. “Never mind! You’re so tall. How tall are you,

anyway?”

        “What? Oh. Six-four.”

        TIFFANY GRABS MY COLLAR. “LEAN THE FUCK

        DOWN!” “OKAY!”

        NOW I’M STANDING AWKWARDLY, MY ARM RESTING ON THE MANTEL, MY HEAD

TURNED AND MY EAR ALMOST SHOVED INTO TIFFANY’S MOUTH.               IT’S STILL HARD TO HEAR HER

OVER THE ROAR OF THE CROWD AND THE SPEAKERS BOOMING OUT JAY-Z’S BIG PIMPIN’.

        “Who’d you come with?” Tiffany screams.

        “Fucking Craig and Matt.”

        “Jesus! Why? They’re so lame!”
         “They're...okay.

         “Craig is a faggot! Okay! See you!”

         SHE TURNS BACK TO THE JOCK, WHO IS LOOKING SORT OF IRATE AND I REALIZE THAT

ALTHOUGH HE’S JACKED HE’S SEVERAL INCHES SHORTER THAN ME AND MAYBE TO HIM I AM

THE INTIMIDATING MALE FIGURE.       MAYBE HE’S NOT EVEN ON THE LACROSSE TEAM.

         I TAP TIFFANY ON THE SHOULDER. SHE TURNS AROUND. “WHO'S THIS?” I

         ASK. “HEY, ASSHOLE, GET OUT OF HERE,” THE LACROSSE GUY YELLS,

         SLURRING.

         I look at him. “Why?”

Tiffany looks at me, suddenly uncertain.

         “I said fuck off, you fucking faggot.” He moves a little closer and, for emphasis,

throws his beer cup on the floor where it splatters all over my pants and rolls away through the

crowd.

         The guy looks like he’s going to fight me but then Tiffany grabs him and slaps him.

“You're being a fucking asshole,” she says. “Do you want me to fuck you or not?”

         THE GUY LAUGHS, TURNING HIS GAZE DOWN TO TIFFANY. “I WANT YOU TO FUCK

ME,” HE SAYS DRUNKENLY.

         TIFFANY LOOKS AT ME, PLEADING. “I'LL SEE YOU AROUND, WALT. SORRY

         ABOUT HIM.” I NOD.    SHE TURNS BACK TO THE LACROSSE GUY AND THEY START

         MAKING OUT.

         I look around and see a group of people lighting up on a big leather couch, although

it’s pretty clear they’re smoking pot. What I really want, for some reason, is a cigarette. I push

my way into the kitchen where it’s quieter and pull out my pack, take a cigarette, and light up.
        Some Jewish-looking kid, short, big nose, a little ugly, asks me for one and I hold the

pack out then light his for him. We lean against the refrigerator and make small talk. He turns out

to be a junior like me, from Pittsburgh. Chemistry major, pre-med. His obvious passion for his

studies—he launches, uninvited, into a discussion of his summer activities doing research at

NIH—makes me hate him a little, but I hold it in check because he’s smoking with me and

otherwise seems reasonable.

        MY ATTENTION WANDERS AS HE ELABORATES ON THE “VERSATILE NATURE OF

TOPOISOMERASE” AND I SPY A BOTTLE OF BOMBAY SAPPHIRE ON THE COUNTER, OPENED BUT

PRETTY FULL.    I TAKE A SOLO CUP FROM A STACK ON THE STOVE AND FILL IT HALFWAY WITH

THE GIN.   I NOD AND GESTURE FOR THE JEW TO CONTINUE TALKING WHILE I RUMMAGE IN THE

FRIDGE FOR A MIXER. THERE’S NOTHING BUT SOME LIME JUICE SO I SQUIRT THAT IN.              FEELING

GOOD, I MAKE ANOTHER DRINK AND HAND IT TO HIM.

        I TAKE A SIP OF THE DRINK AND IT'S VERY STRONG. I SHIVER A LITTLE FROM THE RAW

PUNCH OF THE ALCOHOL, THEN TAKE A DEEP DRAG ON THE CIGARETTE.

        “I HAVE SOME GOOD CONNECTIONS AT BIOTECHNIKA?” THE JEWISH GUY SAYS, HOLDING

HIS GIN BUT NOT DRINKING FROM IT.      “WE CAN NETWORK. LET ME GIVE YOU MY PHONE

NUMBER.”

        “I need to go,” I tell him, and wander off through the kitchen. There’s a group of Indian

girls near the kitchen’s other door, all in black dresses and looking horny and erotic but I ignore

them. I feel tired and bored and depressed.

        I finish the cigarette and flick it to the hardwood floor in the hallway, then crush it with

my foot. I go upstairs.

        I WONDER WHERE MATT AND CRAIG ARE AND THEN REALIZE I DON’T CARE. I DRINK

MORE OF THE GIN AND TRY TO RELAX.
        I finish my drink too soon and set the cup on the banister at the top of the stairs, where

there is another milling throng of undergraduates, all screaming at each other. There are more

speakers up here. I can hear Eminem’s Superman blending with the downstairs music, which

has changed to a rap song I don't recognize.

        The entire world starts to seem eminently manageable. I ease myself fully into the

slipstream of the party and almost glide, pushed from behind, drawn from the front, into the

closest room where a big Dunham Class of 2010 banner is hung from the rafters and all the

lamps have been covered in red tissue paper. Someone grabs my ass but I don’t turn around to

see who it is. I’m not even looking for people to talk to anymore, enjoying being alone in the

crowd, listening to the inane, slurred conversations around me and trying to find something

more to drink.

        There’s a makeshift bar in the room and a sweaty frat guy is handing out cups of warm

beer and I grab one and head over to the window.

        It’s only a few minutes—the song changes once—before a tall, skinny girl in trendy

glasses comes up to me. She says her name is Jenny and I tell her my name is Walt and ten

minutes later she is locking the door behind us in an empty bedroom down the hall. I draw her

toward me and kiss her fully. She responds, her hands running up inside my shirt and when

she opens her lips our tongues touch and she draws me down onto the bed.

        AN HOUR LATER AND I’M IN JUST MY CALVIN KLEIN BOXER BRIEFS, SMOKING A

CIGARETTE AND LOOKING UP AT THE HIGH CEILING, SWEAT GLISTENING ON MY CHEST WHICH

I’VE RECENTLY STOPPED SHAVING BECAUSE I’M TRYING TO ACCEPT MYSELF FULLY AND BE

INDIVIDUALLY BEAUTIFUL. JENNY IS CURLED UP NEXT TO ME, HER HEAD ON MY SHOULDER,

ONE LEG OVER MINE.     I OFFER HER
the cigarette and she takes a drag, the whole action feeling incredibly scripted, dictated by ten

thousand movies and cheap novels published before my birth, but also very natural.

        “CHRIST, WALT,” SHE SAYS. “YOU WENT A LONG TIME. AFTER YOU GOT IT

        UP.” I LAUGH.   “IT'S THE BOOZE.”

        WE LIE IN SILENCE AND LISTEN TO THE BASS THROBBING UP THROUGH THE

FLOORBOARDS AND THE MUFFLED CHAOS IN THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE.                 PEOPLE PERIODICALLY

TRY THE DOORKNOB OR KNOCK ON THE DOOR, BUT THEY ALWAYS GIVE UP.

        “I WONDER WHOSE ROOM THIS IS,” I SAY.

        Jenny looks up at me, rubbing a hand on my chest. “It’s my boyfriend's room,

cutie,” she says, laughing. “Calm down.”

        I LAUGH TOO. “OH, OKAY, THEN.”

        WE LIE IN SILENCE FOR AWHILE AND THEN I STAND UP AND PULL ON MY CLOTHES. I

LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND RUN A HAND THROUGH MY HAIR AND MOP A LITTLE OF THE SWEAT

OFF MY CHEST WITH MY SHIRT BEFORE THROWING IT ON.           JENNY IS STILL LYING ON THE BED,

NAKED, BREASTS BARE, MORE OR LESS DRUNK, LOOKING UP AT ME EXPECTANTLY.                 I DON’T

KNOW WHAT SHE WANTS ME TO SAY AND I

consider getting back in bed and holding her close and telling her I don’t give a shit about

anything else I just want to spend the night here and then, maybe, be together in the morning and

turn all this insanity around and make something real in my life for once.

BUT THEN SHE SAYS, “SEE YOU, WALT,” AND IT’S CLEAR WE BOTH UNDERSTAND AND I DON’T

HAVE TO WORRY.     I NOD AND SMILE AND THEN OPEN THE DOOR AND WALK OUT INTO THE ROAR

OF THE PARTY.

        I check my BlackBerry. It’s 2:25. I’m not nearly as drunk as I need to be and a

tingling, post-coital sadness is settling on me, pushing me closer to exhaustion. I’m also feeling

paranoid that people know what I just did, although that’s completely unfounded
AND   I CHALK IT UP TO INHALING SOME OF THE POT SMOKE THAT’S NOW UBIQUITOUS EVEN

UPSTAIRS.   I HAVE CLASS IN THE MORNING AND, FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, IT’S TIME TO GO

HOME. THERE’S A ROW OF TAXIS OUTSIDE AND I GET IN ONE WITH SOME STRANGERS AND I’M THE

LAST ONE TO BE DROPPED

OFF BUT THEY GIVE ME MONEY TO PAY FOR THE TAXI, BUT I POCKET THE CASH AND USE MY
PARENTS’

credit card so it’s okay.




         I’m up at ten and drinking orange juice in bed, washing down three aspirin I took upon

waking. The sunlight is coming throw the big bay windows and Matt is asleep on my futon for

some reason. I have a good dorm—it’s big and spacious with hardwood floors, an old fireplace

that nobody uses but looks cool, and a bookshelf. There are only

a few books besides my textbooks. I’ve been reading American Psycho which Allen told me

was “restorative and affirming.” The battered copy he lent me is splayed on my nightstsand.




         Class is Shakespeare at 11:15.

         “What we’re looking at here,” the professor says, pointing at his inane scribbling on the

blackboard, “is a decidedly secular re-envisioning of the battle scenes in Henry V. Why is this so

novel? Why is this so important?”

         IT’S NOT IMPORTANT, ANYBODY CAN SEE THAT, AND I KEPT SPACING OUT AND THINKING

ABOUT TIFFANY HAVING SEX WITH MATT.          I DON’T KNOW WHY I'M THINKING ABOUT THIS

BECAUSE IT HAPPENED SEVERAL WEEKS AGO.          I WONDER IF SHE HAD SEX WITH THE LACROSSE

PLAYER AT THE

PARTY.
         THE PROFESSOR STOPS LECTURING FIFTEEN MINUTES EARLY TO FOCUS ON “COURSE

LOGISTICS.” STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE USING THE ONLINE

APPLICATION WHITEBOARD TO “EFFECTIVELY INTEGRATE OUR COLLECTIVE LEARNING

EXPERIENCES,” BUT I HAVE FORGOTTEN THE PASSWORD TO THE WEBSITE AND THE PROFESSOR

INFORMS ME AFTER CLASS THAT I AM LOSING PARTICIPATION POINTS FOR NOT UPLOADING

“BLOG POSTS” EVERY WEEK.

         When he takes off his glasses and asks me if everything is okay I tell him my dog just

died. But everyone is staring at me and when I touch my cheeks my hands come away wet with

tears.




         I GET BRIAN'S BEER AND GO TO THE TABLE. I TRY NOT TO LOOK AT JACK AND KATIE

WHO ARE TALKING AT THE FAR END OF THE TABLE.          SHE FLASHES ME A SMILE AND I GRIN

BACK.

         “Hi, Katie.”

         “Hey, you.”

         “MUCH HOMEWORK

         TONIGHT?” “NAH.”

         “Me neither.” I take a big gulp of beer. Brian sips his. He told me that he can't

drink as much since he started taking antidepressants. Around us, the other students in the

bar murmur and laugh and gesture. Glasses clink. Nick strikes a match and lights a clove

cigarette. Fragrant smoke curls toward the ceiling.

         “I WISH YOU WOULDN’T DO THAT,” SAYS A GIRL BEHIND

         US. “I'M SORRY,” NICK SAYS.   “AND YOU ARE?”

         “Melissa Ethridge. And you're Nick Jeffries. What's it to you? Can you please put

that out?”
        NICK GRINS SARDONICALLY. “I’LL JUST HAVE THIS ONE.”

        I THINK I AM ACTUALLY GOING TO FAIL ORGANIC CHEMISTRY THIS SEMESTER. I DRINK

MORE OF MY BEER.

        “REMEMBER WHEN THAT ASIAN KID KILLED HIMSELF?” BRIAN

        SAYS. “WHAT ABOUT IT?” JACK ASKS.

        Brian's face is blank. He looks confused for a second, then blinks. “I don't

know,” he says. “I don't know.”

        “I KNEW HIM A LITTLE,” KATIE SAYS. “HE WAS SO WEIRD. HE JUST STAYED IN HIS

ROOM ALL THE TIME.     SMELLED FUNNY. I THINK HE WAS, LIKE, ACTUALLY FROM CHINA.”

        Brian laughs. “China,” he says.

        IMAGES OF KATIE BEING FUCKED BY TWO GUYS COME UNBIDDEN TO MY MIND. TAYLOR

IN THE CORNER WITH A VIDEO CAMERA.        I WONDER IF THE VIDEO EXISTS.

        I EXCUSE MYSELF AND GO OUTSIDE INTO THE DRIZZLE. I TAKE OUT A PACK OF

CIGARETTES AND LIGHT ONE. THE NICOTINE RUSHES INTO ME, CALMING AND CLARIFYING.

        IT IS SILENT OUTSIDE FOR A LONG WHILE EXCEPT FOR THE TELLTALE DRIBBLE OF

RAIN ON THE BAR’S ROOF.     ACROSS THE STREET THE BUILDINGS ARE EMPTY AND DARK. AN

OLD CAR WITH THREE

black guys in it splashes by in the street. It makes a lonely sound. I toss the cigarette into a

puddle and go back inside the steamy bar.




        SOMETIME IN LATE NOVEMBER MITCH TELLS ME ABOUT A BUNCH OF GUYS ON THE

SWIM TEAM WHO WERE ARRESTED FOR UNDERAGE DRINKING AFTER THEY HAD A PARTY

OFF-CAMPUS THAT GOT BUSTED BY THE POLICE.          MITCH SAYS ONE OF THE STRIPPERS CALLED

THE POLICE AFTER SOME OF THE SWIMMERS GOT VIOLENT.             HE TELLS ME THE STRIPPER WAS

BLACK, A “STRAIGHT NIGGER,” AND HER
“stripper name” was Diamond Sparklez. Nobody knows if she is going to press assault

charges. Mitch tells me people are saying that nothing has changed since the lacrosse case a

few years ago.

        A FEW DAYS LATER THE CASE GETS DISCUSSED ON THE LOCAL NEWS WHICH COMES ON

AFTER THE BASKETBALL GAME AND I WATCH WHILE THEY SHOW FOOTAGE OF PROTESTORS

LINING THE SIDEWALKS JUST OUTSIDE THE DUNHAM CAMPUS.            IT'S FAMILIAR AND DEPRESSING

FOR EVERYONE AND BRIAN TURNS OFF THE TV.

        “Fucking townies,” Brian says.

        “FUCKING TOWNIES,” DAN AGREES. “THEY SHOULD HAVE SHOVED A POLE UP THAT

BITCH'S ASS LIKE THE LACROSSE TEAM DID. THAT WOULD TEACH HER A LESSON.”

        “I FORGOT ABOUT THAT,” BRIAN SAYS, HIS FACE LIGHTING UP. “THAT WAS

FUCKING HILARIOUS.”

        “Well, there goes our shot at winning any swimming titles this year,” Patrick says. Brian

        groans. “Who gives a shit about swimming titles?”

        “Seriously, Patrick,” Dan says.

        “I don't know,” Patrick says. “Have a little pride in your university, guys.”

        Dan laughs at this, loudly. He keeps laughing and Dan joins in. When they don't stop

Patrick stands up and leaves the room.




        MY FAMILY GOES AWAY TO FIJI FOR THE LAST WEEK OF NOVEMBER. I COULD HAVE

GONE BUT I DO NOT KNOW IF I CAN MISS ANY MORE CHEMISTRY CLASSES AND STILL PASS. THE

FACT THAT I STILL CARE ABOUT PASSING CLASSES SURPRISES ME.          I ALSO REALIZE, WITH ONLY

A LITTLE BIT OF DISCONCERTMENT, THAT MOSTLY I AM JUST TOO TIRED AND BORED TO GO TO

FIJI. IT IS ALSO DIFFICULT-
to-impossible to smoke cigarettes around my mother, and I am smoking enough now that I

would probably have to deal with some serious withdrawal symptoms if I cut it out completely.

So I do not go to Fiji. I pass the time skipping my chemistry classes and chain-smoking in my

bed with the door locked.

        For fun, I tell Matt and Lisa that I actually am going to Fiji and then spend two weeks

avoiding them and sneaking into the tanning salons on Eight Street. Toward the end of this period

I crash my BMW 3-series into a tree while driving home drunk from McDonald’s. It’s not a bad

crash though and I pull off the bumper and leave it by the side of the road then drive home.




        MY FATHER TOOK ME TO INDIA ON ONE OF HIS MEDICAL MISSIONS, ONCE IN HIGH

SCHOOL.   HE SAID I WAS SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME PLAYING VIDEO GAMES AND WATCHING TV

AND THAT I WAS GETTING DEPRESSED AND TOO SKINNY.

        INDIA WAS HOT AND LOUD AND CROWDED, EXCEPT FOR THE SMALL VILLAGE WE TRAVELED

TO WHICH WAS HOT BUT QUIET AND PEACEFUL AND SURROUNDED ON ALL SIDES BY HIGH FORESTED

HILLS. THERE I WATCHED, SEATING IN SECONDHAND SCRUBS IN A GRIMY OR, WHILE MY FATHER

OPERATED ON CLEF LIPS AND HIS COLLEAGUES WORKED ON RETINAL DETACHMENTS OR CATARACTS.

AND I WATCHED AS THE CHILDREN CROWDED AROUND ONE DOCTOR'S SHINY GREEN PEUGEOT

SEDAN WHICH E DROVE IN FROM THE CITY AND I WATCHED HOW THEY GREEDILY DEVOURED THE

MCDONALD'S HE HAD BROUGHT FOR THEM FROM MUMBAI AND, AFTERWARD, HOW REVERENTLY

THEY RAN THEIR HANDS OVER

THE CAR'S WAXED EXTERIOR, ALTHOUGH IT WAS ALREADY DUSTY AND NOT REALLY THAT NEW.               I

WATCHED HOW DELIGHTED THEY WERE WHEN HE TURNED ON THE RADIO AND THEY HEARD THE

POUNDING BASS

OF THE LATEST RAP SONGS FROM AMERICA COMING IN FROM A RADIO STATION.
        SOME OF THE DOCTORS HAD EVEN BROUGHT COMPUTERS WITH SATELLITE INTERNET

CONNECTIONS AND THEY STOOD BACK PROUDLY AS THE CHILDREN ACCESSED THE INTERNET

FOR THE

first time in their lives. By the end of the week they were Googling all sorts of things and I

would stop by the main mission tent and watch the people, young and old, staring fixedly at the

computers, eyes bright and intelligent.

        Toward the end of the trip one teenage girl came up to me, holding a laptop stretched

to the end of its power cable. On the screen was a model for Gucci, tall and eerily blond

and very thin and the teenage girl told me, “I'm not pretty like her.”

Back in my room at the village's only hotel I found my cigarettes at the bottom of my

suitcase and although I had gone nearly the entire trip without smoking I lit one and

inhaled deeply, then lay back on the bed as the world swam before me.




        I am watching leaves fall in the college gardens with nobody around. The torrential rains

have stopped but everybody is still inside. The dormitory is steamy and foul-smelling. Most

everybody is drunk or becoming drunk. I wonder what Lisa is doing. I think about calling her

but decide not to. Eventually I stand up and walk slowly down one of the garden paths. Most

of the flowers are dead or dying. The leaves still on the trees look rotten and too dark, their color

fading. The South has great weather, I remember Mike’s mom telling me before I left. You’ll

love it. But now there is only this rain and mud everywhere and as I walk deeper into the

gardens I see a dead squirrel next

to the path, its head nearly ripped off, black eyeballs bulging from their sockets. I stare at it for

awhile but it fails to move me.
        “Give me some Adderall,” I'm saying. Justin is sitting at his desk, staring blankly at his

laptop. “Higher Than The Stars” by The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is playing on his speakers.

It didn’t look like he is doing anything. He is spacing out.

        “I don’t have any,” he says without looking at me.

        I LAUGH. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I HAVE A HUGE ORGANIC CHEMISTRY TEST

TOMORROW. IT’S LIKE HALF MY GRADE.         GIVE ME SOME ADDERALL.”

        Justin still doesn't look at me. He clicks his mouse once and keeps staring at the

screen. He shakes his head. “Don’t have any.”

        I LOOK AT HIM. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN? HOW DO YOU NOT HAVE ANY?” I TAKE

OUT MY WALLET AND PULL OUT A BUNCH OF TWENTIES.            I THROW THEM ON HIS DESK. “I’LL

PAY YOU.   I ALWAYS PAY YOU. I NEED THEM. GIVE ME YOUR FUCKING ADDERALL, JUSTIN.”

        JUSTIN TURNS TOWARD ME FOR THE FIRST TIME. “THERE ISN’T ANY. I HAVEN’T

REFILLED MY PRESCRIPTION AND THE PHARMACY IS CLOSED.            I THINK I NEED TO GO TO THE

DOCTOR TO GET IT RENEWED, ANYWAY.          I DON’T HAVE ANY RIGHT NOW. LEAVE ME ALONE.”

        That is when I began to feel the first real pangs of panic. I feel vertiginous, staring

into the gulf of the night ahead, a night of studying without any amphetamines. “What the

fuck…” I say. “Do you have anything? Anything I can buy?” It is a stupid question. I know

he doesn't. Justin is a library rat with mild ADHD, overmedicated by overprotective parents.

        “No.” Justin goes back to staring at his computer screen. He is playing some game

with penguins and balloons. “Quit bothering me,” he says.

        I PICK UP THE BILLS ON HIS DESK AND STUFF THEM IN MY POCKET, THEN BACK SLOWLY
        OUT

of the room. The anxiety is full-blown now, coming at me hard and fast. There is a sharp
pain in the bottom of my chest and I suddenly feel like I can't breathe. I lean against the wall

and rub my hands over my face, pulling at the skin, compressing my eyeballs.

         “SHIT, SHIT, SHIT,” I SAY. “I CANNOT NOT STUDY IF I DO NOT HAVE THAT

         ADDERALL.” JUSTIN LOOKS AT ME AND ROLLS HIS EYES. “GET OVER IT,

         WALT.”

         I STUMBLE DOWN THE DORMITORY HALLWAY AND THEN DOWNSTAIRS AND OUTSIDE. IT

IS COLD AND GRAY. THE TREES NEAR THE QUAD ARCHWAY STILL HAVE A FEW BROWN LEAVES

ON THEM FOR SOME REASON.       I LIGHT A CIGARETTE AND STARED BACK AT KETTLER HALL. I

FEEL SICK.

         I LIGHT ANOTHER CIGARETTE WITH THE BURNING STUB OF THE FIRST ONE AND THEN

TOSS THE SMOLDERING BUTT TO THE GROUND.          IT HISSES AND GOES OUT IN THE WET

MULCH.

         THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO DO BUT GO BACK INSIDE AND START STUDYING. ALONE IN

MY ROOM IT IS EASIER TO FOCUS.     SOMEONE KNOCKS AT MY DOOR BUT IT IS LOCKED AND I

DON'T ANSWER. THEY KNOCK AGAIN THEN GO AWAY.            FOR MAYBE AN HOUR I STUDY WITH

FOCUS AND CLARITY.     IT FEELS MANAGEABLE. I FEEL CONFIDENT. THEN ALLEN CALLS.




         I END UP SPENDING THE WHOLE NIGHT JUST VOMITING IN THE BATHROOM BECAUSE I

HAD CONSUMED SO MUCH VODKA AND SCOTCH WHILE WATCHING TELEVISION WITH ALLEN AND

PETER AND JAMES. I WANT TO BLAME THE VOMITING ON FOOD POISONING BUT I HADN’T BEEN

EATING VERY MUCH LATELY. THE RICE KRISPIE TREATS I DEVOURED AT 4 AM LAST NIGHT (THE

ONLY THING I’D EATEN IN ALMOST TWENTY-FOUR HOURS) DID NOT GIVE ME A STOMACH VIRUS.

I HUG THE TOILET AND JUST SORT OF STARE AT THE TILE WALL BEHIND THE FLUSHING

MECHANISM, FUCKED OUT OF MY MIND

ON BAD WEED AND BAD ALCOHOL AND TOO MANY CIGARETTES AND WONDERING WHAT THE

HELL IS HAPPENING TO ME WHEN DID I GET SO MESSED UP AND THEN I JUST START LAUGHING,

LAUGHING THROUGH THE VOMIT WHICH WAS STILL COMING AT INTERVALS AND SPLASHING
WETLY INTO THE TOILET.
I laugh until the tears come and I have to wipe my eyes on my shirt sleeve which then gets

smeared with vomit and I keep laughing until I pass out. When I wake up it is morning and I

feel reasonably sober.




I shower and shave and try to put some s order to my thoughts. There is a half-empty bottle of gin

next to my bed, which points toward an alcohol blackout last night. I do not remember doing

any drugs besides chain-smoking a pack of Marlboro Reds, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I

didn’t do any. My chemistry books is open on my desk. I feel sort of hazy and more panicky

than usual, more paranoid about the blackout, which could mean cocaine was used but I doubt it.

My hangovers have been getting worse and worse lately, becoming day-long bouts with malaise

and depression and anxiety, and if I really drank all that gin on top of everything else I had at the

bars, then I’m probably just

feeling that.

        I FUMBLE FOR MY CLOTHES AND THROW ON JEANS AND A FLANNEL SHIRT AND STARE AT

MYSELF IN THE MIRROR LONG ENOUGH TO FIX MY HAIR AND THEN I GO OUTSIDE INTO THE

HALLWAY.        IT IS QUIET AND IT IS SORT OF EARLY. I REALIZE VAGUELY THAT I’M STILL DRUNK.

THE HARDWOOD FLOOR IS COLD AND CHILLY GRAY AUTUMN LIGHT IS COMING THROUGH THE

WINDOWS AT THE END OF THE HALL.

        On a whim I peek into Matt's room and he is sprawled naked on his bed on his chest,

arms wrapped around his pillow. Two girls flank him, one naked and lying face up with a blanket

curling around her abdomen, not covering anything. The girl has only her bra on and is lying on

her stomach. Her ass looks nice.      I realize the hangover has made me very horny and I have to

suppress an urge to enter the room and run my hands over their bodies, their labia, their asses. I

briefly fantasize about waking them up and having
SOME SORT OF BIZARRE HUNG-OVER, SLEEP-HAZED ORGY WITH THEM. THE THOUGHT AT ONCE

TERRIFIES ME AND EXCITES ME AND AT ONCE A DEBILITATINGLY MASSIVE ERECTION IS

THROBBING AGAINST THE THIN CLOTH OF MY J. CREW BOXERS.




        I SOMEHOW OBTAIN MORE ADDERALL FROM BEN. NOW, AS THE THIN NOVEMBER

SUN BEGINS TO PEER THROUGH MY WINDOW, I TAKE TWO 15 MG PILLS AND OPEN UP MY

ORGANIC CHEMISTRY TEXTBOOK. THE EXAM IS IN TWO HOURS. THE WORDS ARE SORT OF A

BLUR BEFORE ME BUT WITH EFFORT I FOCUS AND BEGIN TO READ.

        I think about medical school applications. The application deadline for the MCAT

prep course has long since passed but I have not told my father. He would be upset, as

would my mother. I think about my own need for validation, for acceptance. The void in my

life that medical school is supposed to fill.

        I THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS AS I STUDY ORGANIC CHEMISTRY IN MY ROOM. WHEN I

LOOK UP FROM THE TEXTBOOK IT IS ALREADY NOON AND I HAVE TO HURRY TO THE CHEMISTRY

DEPARTMENT, WHERE I SIT DOWN IN THE LECTURE HALL FIVE MINUTES LATE. THE PROFESSOR

LOOKS AT ME AND ASKS MY NAME. THEN, RELUCTANTLY, HE HANDS ME A TEST.                I TAKE IT AND

FINISH TOO QUICKLY BUT WHEN THE GRADES COME OUT A WEEK LATER I GET A B-MINUS AND

FEEL OKAY.




        I call Mina while drinking my second bottle of beer of the evening and I think of her hot,

tight body while I wait for her to pick up her phone. We’ve been having a lot of sex with each

other lately but I never seem to find time to see her during the daylight. It’s sort of annoying and

obnoxious because I think that on some level we could be good together, as an actual couple

maybe, and that maybe some part of me needs that stability,
craves it like I crave the stability of medical school matriculation, and that she can give me

something I need emotionally.

         THESE FEELINGS SUBSIDE AS I TAKE BIG SIPS FROM MY BEER. THEN SHE PICKS UP

THE PHONE.




         Much later and we are in Mina's room with just the desk lamp on. She smiles at me

and moves to the bed, her back to it. I’m still drunk but rapidly sobering and I go to her. I

slide my hands up her shirt, feeling the soft curves of her, and then she tugs at my shirt and I lift

my hands over my head and she pulls it off.

         We fall into bed and by now she has on only her thong and I’m naked, our clothes on the

floor except for her black bra which is slung over one of the bed posts. She kisses me long and

slow. “I want you,” she slurs.

         I kiss her back and then roll over, my mouth on her breasts, her stomach, moving slowly

downward. I pull off her thong and spread her legs and then she is moaning, hands clamped on

my hair, and I’m inside her with my tongue. Warm wetness slides down my chin and drips on the

sheets. After awhile I raise my head up and inhale deeply and then, moving up, slide into her

fully.

         She locks her legs around me and moves with me, her breath coming in hoarse gasps, her

forehead sweaty in the lamplight. She comes all at once, moaning and twisting beneath me.

When she goes limp I pull out of her and, very sober now, collapse into bed next to her. I stare

up at the ceiling while Sarah tries to give me a blowjob.
        Mina is really not good at it and nothing happens. I start thinking about the other week

and all the Nyquil we drank together tonight and I feel vaguely ill. I remember Patrick talking

about Mina giving him head one night after they studied together.

        I'M GOING LIMP AS I THINK THIS. MINA LOOKS UP AND ASKS ME IF SHE IS DOING

ANYTHING WRONG.

        “Patrick is a fucking asshole,” I say. “And I’m not going to get hard.”

        SO THEN SHE STOPS TRYING AND I GET UP AND PULL MY PANTS ON AND LEAVE. IT IS

4:31 IN THE MORNING.




        I BEGIN TO HAVE VIVID DREAMS ABOUT LINDSEY, ABOUT THE SUMMER AFTER HIGH

SCHOOL ENDED WHEN WE SPENT ALMOST EVERY DAY TOGETHER.               USUALLY IN THESE DREAMS I

AM STANDING ON THE DOCK OF OUR LAKE HOUSE.         IT IS SUNSET. LINDSEY IS BESIDE ME AND

WE’RE BOTH WRAPPED IN OUR TOWELS, HAIR STILL DAMP FROM THE LAKE. WE STAND TOGETHER

AND WATCH THE SUN BURN ITSELF INTO THE HORIZON BEYOND THE TALL PINES AND

SYCAMORES.    IN THESE DREAMS I CAN SMELL THE AIR, THE SWEET SCENT OF THE PURE WATER

AND THE SUMMER AND ALL THE HAPPINESS I STILL HAD BACK THEN.

        In these dreams I turn to Lindsey and I see fear in her eyes and I open my mouth to say

something but then she is gone. And I am alone then, on a rickety dock in the middle of black

water, in the darkness beyond the sunset and before the moonrise.

        I wake up and my heart is pounding and I can feel trickles of sweat on my back and

forehead. I can almost feel the chill of the water and the warmth of the sun and the gentle wind

that would dry you if you lay long enough on the wooden planks of the dock.
LINDSEY'S LAUGHTER ECHOES IN MY EARS. ON THOSE DAYS IT IS VERY HARD TO TURN

BACK THE COVERS AND GET OUT OF BED.




        The next day, in the afternoon, I am in bed with Ashley who is tall and blonde and

beyond boring. She wants to have sex but I’m not into it and we end up smoking cigarettes and

talking about all the stuff we hate about Dunham. The process is oddly cathartic and although I

sense her annoyance at my lack of sexual interest, I realize we might have been able to be friends

if we had met at a different time and place. This thought is heartening and I leave her room two

hours later feeling less hollow than

BEFORE. THE FEELING LASTS FOR MAYBE TWO HOURS.




        ON WEDNESDAY HOLLY SENDS ME A LONG E-MAIL TELLING ME SHE IS “SO SORRY

ABOUT THE OTHER NIGHT” AND HOW SHE FEELS BAD FOR “FORCING ME” TO “GO FARTHER THAN

I WANTED.” SHE SAYS SHE WANTS TO MAKE IT UP TO ME. SHE SAYS SHE HAS BEEN FEELING

REALLY AWFUL SINCE SHE BROKE UP WITH HER BOYFRIEND FROM STATE AND THAT SHE HAS

BEEN MAKING A LOT OF BAD DECISIONS ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS.

        I READ THE E-MAIL TWICE BUT I CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT SHE IS TALKING ABOUT. I

DON'T EVEN REMEMBER SEEING HOLLY SINCE SEPTEMBER, OR MAYBE BEFORE THAT.                I CLOSE

THE E-MAIL AND I THINK I'M GOING TO CRY. THERE IS AN EMPTY BOTTLE OF JACK DANIEL'S IN

MY TRASH THAT I'M JUST SEEING NOW AND THAT I DON'T REMEMBER FINISHING.             THERE ARE

OTHER E-MAILS IN MY INBOX, MOST FROM PROFESSORS ABOUT LATE HOMEWORK AND ONE FROM

MY THESIS ADVISOR TITLED “PLEASE REDO.”        I CLOSE MY LAPTOP AND GO OUTSIDE INTO THE

HALLWAY.    IT IS DAMP AND CHILLY INSIDE

the dormitory. Some Indian kids down the hall are getting drunk and listening to
Bollywood music. Other than that, all the doors are closed. One of the ceiling lights is off.

Another one, farther down, is flickering. Something smells of old vomit but I don't see any

stains on the floor or the walls.

        I FIND LISA'S ROOM AND KNOCK ON THE DOOR BUT THERE IS NO ANSWER. I OPEN IT

SLOWLY AND SEE HER SLEEPING IN HER BED.           SHE YAWNS AND LOOKS UP, EYES BLEARY.

“WALT?” SHE ASKS DROWSILY.

        “HEY,” I SAY.

        I slip off my shoes and come in. She doesn't say anything when I crawl into bed with

her, slide my arm around her. I push my face into her hair and breathe deep.

        “YOU CAN SLEEP HERE IF YOU WANT,” SHE SAYS,

        HALF-ASLEEP. “OKAY,” I SAY. AND I DO.




        I AM KNOCKING ON LISA'S DOOR LATE THE NEXT DAY. I DON'T KNOW

        WHY. “COME IN,” SHE CALLS FROM BEHIND THE DOOR.

        I open the door and look in. “Hey, Walt,” she says.

        “Hey, Lisa. What's up?”

        “Just doing some homework. It's boring.” She is wearing a pale yellow Polo shirt and

white capris. She has her glasses on.

        “DO YOU WANT TO WATCH A MOVIE OR SOMETHING?” I ASK HER.

        Lisa looks up from her homework for the first time. “Why?” she asks. “Uh,

        I don't know.”

        “I shouldn't, Walt,” she says.

        “What? Why not?”
        “I have a boyfriend,” Lisa tells me.

        “You have a...boyfriend.”

        “I MET HIM THIS SUMMER IN PARIS. HE GOES TO PRINCETON. HE'S A SOPHOMORE

AND HE'S VERY SWEET.”

        I LOOK AT HER, THEN PAST HER TOWARD THE POSTERS ON THE WALL, TO THE BIG X

POSTER.   IT LOOKS BIGGER THAN NORMAL, MORE CONTRASTIVE TO THE REST OF THE ROOM.

“SINCE WHEN?” I ASK.

        “SINCE AWHILE AGO,” LISA SAYS.

        “WHAT? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL

        ME?”

        Lisa rolls her eyes. “I don't know,” she says. “I didn't think it was that important. I

never thought you'd be interested in something like that.”

        “So you don't want to watch a movie with me? We watch movies all the time.” I say

this smoothly enough but my heart is suddenly beating very fast and I know where this is going

because, somehow, I have already been here.

        “It's not a good idea, Walt,” Lisa says.

        “Is it...because of the other night?” I ask.

        “I don't know,” Lisa says. She chews her lower lip. “Maybe.” I

        just stare at her. “Oh, come on.”

        “I NEED TO GO TO THE GYM NOW, WALT. I NEED TO

        CHANGE.” “LISA, IT'S ELEVEN AT NIGHT.”

        “I NEED TO GO, WALT,” SHE SAYS. “I'M SORRY.”

        “FINE,” I SAY. “WHATEVER. I'M SORRY TOO. YOU WERE RIGHT THOUGH. WE DON'T

HANG OUT ENOUGH.”

        She gives me a look. “I guess. I don't know. You're sort of a mess, Walt.”
        I BLINK. “I'M A WHAT?”

        “You're, like, with a different girl every night. I don't know what I mean to you at all.

This isn't going anywhere. I'm sorry about the other night.”

        “You said that already,” I say.

        “Goodbye, Walt,” she says.

        “Okay. Goodbye.”

        I BACK AWAY, STILL WATCHING HER, AND THEN SHE CLOSES THE DOOR.




        Lisa calls me two days later and tells me she is going to be leaving early for winter

break, that her family is going to Europe on a cruise and she has to miss the last week of classes.

She says she feels bad and that we should meet up before she leaves. I say okay. After she

hangs up I go across the hallway and knock on her door but she doesn't answer, is not there.

Emily walks out of her room while I am still in the hallway.

        “Looking for Lisa?” she asks me. “I

        guess,” I say.

        “I think she went to the library,” Emily says. “She has a big history final coming up.”

        “Thanks,” I say.

        “No problem!” Emily says, emptily cheerful. She jogs off down the hallway. I

WONDER IF SHE IS ON ANY SORT OF MEDICATION.         BESIDES XANAX.

        I WALK OUTSIDE AND LOOK AT THE LEAFLESS TREES AND THE TALL GOTHIC

BUILDINGS, THE FLAGSTONE PATHS.       I LIGHT A CIGARETTE AND SMOKE IT DOWN TO THE BUTT,

THEN LIGHT ANOTHER ONE. I SORT OF WANT A DRINK BUT THE FEELING, THE URGE, SCARES ME

AND I DECIDE TO START WALKING.
Other students pass by me, most looking like they're on their way to class or a meeting. Some

athletes in practice gear jog by me. A few of them were doing drugs at a party I went to the other

night. One of them nods to me. He is tall and dark and looks sort of like Allen but less skinny.

I wonder if they are tennis players, decide not. Decide I don't care.




        ALONE WITH JESSICA AT AN OVERPRICED OFF-CAMPUS RESTAURANT. IT IS RAINING

AGAIN AND MY WOOL COAT IS SOAKED ON THE WALK FROM THE CAR TO THE RESTAURANT.

JESSICA INVITED ME HERE. WHEN I SEE HER SITTING ALONE AT A SMALL TABLE NEAR THE

FRONT, I WONDER WHY I CAME.       I SIT DOWN. SHE IS DRINKING HOT TEA. THE WAITER DOES

NOT COME BACK TO SEE WHAT I WANT.

        “I BROKE UP WITH ALLEN,” JESSICA TELLS ME.

        I take off my coat and lean back in my chair. “Why?” I ask. I don't really care though.

I am, in fact, completely uninterested. A bad hangover is clawing at me, making me jittery.

        “HE WAS CHEATING ON ME,” JESSICA SAYS. “I FOUND OUT FROM TED.”

        I SHAKE MY HEAD. NOW THE WAITER ARRIVES AND I ORDER COFFEE, SOME TOAST. I'M

VERY TIRED SUDDENLY.      NAUSEATED.

        “DID YOU KNOW HE WAS CHEATING ON ME?” JESSICA ASKS. SHE SIPS HER TEA. HER

EYES ARE DAMP, HER CHEEKS RED.       I CAN'T TELL IF IT'S FROM THE RAIN.

        “No,” I tell her. “I didn't know.”

        JESSICA WIPES HER EYES WITH A NAPKIN. “WHAT SHOULD I DO?” SHE

        ASKS. “DON'T DO...ANYTHING,” I SAY.
        The coffee and toast arrive quickly. The coffee smells good and I want to drink it but it's

too hot and it burns my tongue. I put down the mug and look at the toast, not wanting it.

        JESSICA IS CRYING NOW. A COUPLE WAITERS LOOK OVER AT HER. “CAN YOU COME

BACK TO MY PLACE WITH ME?” JESSICA ASKS.        “JUST FOR A LITTLE?”

        “No, Jessica,” I say.

        NOW SHE LOOKS UP AT ME, REAL SURPRISE ON HER FACE.

        “WHAT?” “I DON'T WANT TO.”

        “Fine,” she says, sobbing now. “Fine. What is your problem?” “I

        don't know,” I say. “I guess I have...anxiety issues.”

        “PLEASE COME BACK WITH ME?” SHE ASKS AGAIN.

        “WHAT ABOUT ALLEN? IS HE GOING TO COME

        OVER?” “I DON'T THINK SO.”

        “Fine.”

        I LEAVE A TWENTY ON THE TABLE, NOT CARING IF IT'S TOO MUCH, AND WE STAND UP

AND GO OUT TO HER BLACK AUDI.




        IT IS WEDNESDAY AND THE APARTMENT IS A MESS FROM A PARTY LAST NIGHT THAT

ALLEN INVITED ME TO. I DIDN'T ATTEND BECAUSE I NEEDED TO CATCH UP ON MY LAB REPORTS

FOR CHEMISTRY.    I DIDN'T ACTUALLY DO ANY OF THEM, THOUGH—JUST SCRIBBLED NUMBERS

AND SENTENCE FRAGMENTS OVER THE GRIDDED LAB PAPER. THEN I WATCHED HOUSE RERUNS

UNTIL FOUR IN THE MORNING WITH PRIYA, WHO WAS IN TOWN FOR SOME REASON AND WANTED

TO SEE ME. WE MADE
out a little but she didn't want to do anything else, which I was okay with, so we fell asleep

and when I woke up she was gone.

        “I'M SORRY IT'S SUCH A MESS,” JESSICA SAYS. SHE TAKES ME INTO THE BACK

BEDROOM WHERE THERE IS AN ELABORATE-LOOKING BONG ON THE NIGHTSTAND, NEXT TO A

LIBRARY BOOK AND A HALF-FULL BOTTLE OF VODKA.            ALLEN'S TV IS GONE, I NOTICE. SO

ARE HIS ECONOMICS TEXTBOOKS.

        Jessica, a bored look on her face, pulls me toward the bed. She takes off my shirt and I

take off my pants. She unzips her jeans and I pull them down. I take off her shirt but leave her

bra on. Her stomach is toned and tight. It looks like she has been going to

A TANNING SALON BECAUSE THERE'S NO OTHER WAY SHE COULD BE THIS BRONZED IN LATE
NOVEMBER.

        I KISS HER BUT SHE'S NOT INTO IT SO I SLIDE MY HAND DOWN AND FIND THAT SHE'S

ALREADY VERY WET. WE START HAVING SEX AND SHE COMES QUICKLY, LOUDLY.                  SHE ASKS IF I

NEED TO COME AND I TELL HER NO.       SHE SAGS ONTO THE PILLOWS, LIGHTS A CIGARETTE. I LIE

NEXT TO HER AND WATCH THE SMOKE DRIFT UPWARD UNTIL IT IS DISPERSED BY THE

SLOW-SPINNING CEILING FAN.      BY THE TIME SHE FINISHES HER CIGARETTE AND TURNS AWAY

FROM ME, STILL NAKED EXCEPT FOR HER BRA, I HAVE FALLEN INTO A FITFUL SLEEP.




        IN MY DREAM I AM DRIVING ALONE IN MY FATHER'S 1967 MINI COOPER DOWN A

DESERTED INDIANA COUNTRY ROAD.          HIGH FRONDS OF GOLDEN CORN STALKS SWAY ON EACH

SIDE OF THE ROAD, THE SUNLIGHT GLINTING OFF THEM. THE SKY IS HIGH AND AZURE AND THE

DAY IS WARM BUT NOT HOT. IT SMELLS LIKE INDIANA, LIKE FRESH-MOWN GRASS AND CLEAN

DIRT AND COOL WIND COMING IN OFF THE GREAT PLAINS.            I SHIFT INTO FIFTH AND SPEED UP.

THE CORN BLURS AROUND ME. THE RADIO IS TURNED ON BUT NO SOUND IS COMING OUT. ALL I

CAN HEAR IS THE WIND IN MY EARS AND THE GROWL OF THE ENGINE AND THE SLOW STEADY

MURMUR OF THE TIRES ON THE PAVEMENT.
        I pass a red barn next to a small white house. Horses are grazing out front and a dog

barks as I drive by. I am headed north, I know, to Michigan and the lake house. I am headed

north although I know nobody is there. I drive through an abandoned pastoral land, a Midwest I

deserted for no real reason, fleeing toward a flat black horizon which never fully materializes..




        I stand at the window, naked except for my J. Crew boxer shorts, and watch the light

fade and the lamps that line the quadrangle begin to glow. It is another Wednesday night and

already my email and my Blackberry are filling with messages about the evening's plans. For a

fleeting moment I am filled with a cataclysmic melancholy, a depression so hard and inexorable

that my legs start to shake and I have to sit down on

THE FUTON.    I REACH HURRIEDLY INTO THE TOP DRAWER OF MY DESK AND FIND MY

CIGARETTES.     I LOOK AROUND FOR THE LIGHTER, CAN'T FIND IT, GRAB THE BOOK OF MATCHES

BY THE CANDLES.      LIGHT A CIGARETTE AND INHALE. I SQUINT MY EYES SHUT AND MASSAGE

THEM WITH MY FREE HAND.         I THINK ABOUT JESSICA FOR A MOMENT AND HOW SHE IS NOTHING

LIKE LINDSEY BUT UNDENIABLY

gorgeous. I think about last summer when the two of us would lie by the pool waiting for Allen

to get back from practice and we would get high in the changing room and how her body looked

when she got out of the bright water.      I think about sex and romance and the difference, if there

is any, between the two.

        It starts to rain outside and thick drops splatter on the window, streaking it and blurring

the lamplight. I look at myself in the mirror, and for a moment my hairline looks concerning but

I realize it's just the lighting and a wave of pure, almost spiritual relief
WASHES OVER ME. I DRESS HURRIEDLY IN KHAKIS, TOM'S, AND A GINGHAM SHIRT THEN THROW

ON MY WOOL OVERCOAT AND THEN I LEAVE.         THERE IS A PARTY AT MITCH'S FRATERNITY.




        A WEEK LATER AND I’M STARING AT MYSELF IN THE MIRROR, EVALUATING MY

APPEARANCE. THE SHINED SHOES AND KHAKIS ARE OKAY-LOOKING, AND MY POLO

SHIRT—WHITE, BLUE HORSE—IS CRISP, WITH THE TOP TWO BUTTONS UNDONE.               SUITABLY

CASUAL. THE NAVY BLAZER IS RALPH

LAUREN AND HAS A FEW PERMISSIBLE WRINKLES IN IT. MY FACE, JUST SHAVED, IS SMOOTH

AND I GUESS PASSABLE.    MY HAIR IS CUT SHORT FOR ONCE AND I DON'T HATE IT. I THINK MY

HAIRLINE HAS CHANGED SLIGHTLY, PROBABLY DUE MORE TO GENETICS THAN TO THE AMOUNT

OF ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES I’VE CONSUMED IN THE PAST FEW YEARS.             I COULD ALSO BE

IMAGINING IT. THE ANXIETY HAS BEEN BAD LATELY AND THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH XANAX

GOING AROUND THE CAMPUS.

        WE’RE ALL GOING OUT TO THE WINTER FORMAL AND MY DATE, KELLY, IS SITTING ON

THE FUTON TALKING ON HER IPHONE.       SHE’S TALL AND BLONDE AND I DON’T GIVE A SHIT

ABOUT HER.   SHE’S BORING TO TALK TO AND MISERABLE, I FOUND OUT LAST SEMESTER, IN BED.

        “Are you ready, baby?” I ask her.

        “HOLD THE FUCK ON,” SHE SAYS, PUTTING A HAND ON THE IPHONE'S SPEAKER.

“SERIOUSLY.” THEN SHE TURNS BACK TO THE PHONE. “ONE SECOND,” SHE SAYS. BACK TO ME.

“YOU'RE TAKING LIKE NINE YEARS TO GET READY, WALT. AREN'T THEY SUPPOSED TO BE

PICKING US UP, LIKE, NOW?”

        “I'm done,” I say. “Let's go.” I run a final hand through my hair and grab my wallet

and phone off the shelf and tell her to put away the phone. She pouts but does it. She gets up

and gives me a kiss and I grab her ass. She giggles. I want to throw up.

        EVERYBODY IS OUT IN THE HALL AND THEY ALL LOOK STUPID AND AWKWARD IN

THEIR DRESS CLOTHES.    MOST OF THE GUYS ARE WEARING DARK SUITS. THE GIRLS ALL LOOK

GOOD THOUGH.     MOST
of them have on strapless dresses and I can see most of their tits. Beth is here, which is

awkward, because I've been trying to get with her and she keeps refusing. She is going to the

dance with Nick.

        We’re pounding beers and bad wine in someone's dorm and someone is passing around a

fifth of vodka, but by the time we walk out the door I’m still feeling sober. I smoke a cigarette

on the way to the gardens, which is where the formal is, and Kelly says she wishes I wouldn’t do

that. I tell her to go fuck herself and she laughs.

        “Shit, how far is this place?” I hear Nick ask Jack.

        JACK IS TOO DRUNK TO ANSWER. HE JUST LAUGHS AND SLAPS NICK ON THE BACK

AND STUMBLES AHEAD, TREADING ON HIS PANTS THAT ARE TOO LONG FOR HIM.               I CHECK

THE TIME.   IT’S ONLY 11:00. I WON'T BE ABLE TO LEAVE WITHOUT MAKING A SCENE UNTIL

AT LEAST TWO.      MAYBE THREE.

        Chris comes up behind me. “Walt,” he says. “Walt!”

        “What?”

           “DUDE I’M GOING TO FUCK ERICA IN THE ASS TONIGHT. SHE WANTS IT. IT’S GOING TO

happen.”

        “YEAH? WHERE IS SHE NOW?”

        “SHE'S GOING TO THE DANCE WITH JEFF. BUT AFTER WE GET THERE, ANYTHING

        GOES.” “YOU THINK?”

        “Shut up,” he tells me. “It's going to happen.” Then he gives me a glazed look and

meanders on. Kelly is babbling something in my ear and I’m making the necessary affirmative

grunts and appreciative snorts to keep her happy. We’re coming up on the gardens, and I see

Matt making out with someone at the gates.
        ONCE WE GET TO THE PAVILION IN THE GARDENS, I FIND THE BAR AND QUICKLY DRINK

TWO SHOTS OF VODKA INTO ME.       I START TO FEEL BETTER. GORDON SIDLES UP TO ME. HE’S

SHORTER THAN ME.

        “What’s up?” he asks.

        “Nothing,” I say. “You?” But he doesn’t hear me over the drunken laughter and

shouts and the pounding rap music. He just smiles. “I just fucked Kristy in the bathroom!” he

screams.

        “BUT...IT'S ONLY ELEVEN,” I TELL HIM.

        “Okay!” he says. He holds his hand up for a high five and I give him one. He slaps

my palm so hard it hurts, then wanders off into the writhing pit of people on the dance floor.

        KELLY IS TALKING TO HER FRIENDS BUT NOW SHE TURNS TO ME. SHE GIVES ME A KISS

ON THE CHEEK.

        “Let’s dance,” she says. Before I can protest she grabs my hand and forces her way

onto the dance floor with me in tow. We dance to a few songs. Kelly seems to be getting more

drunk, but I’m sweaty and venting all the alcohol out of my body. I tell her I need to go to the

bathroom and head back to the bar. I take a double gin and tonic outside and light a cigarette.

It’s cool and dark outside and the lights and sounds of the dance come to me in mute, impotent

waves. I take a drag and the world blurs pleasantly.

        I have done this enough that I see the entire night playing out before me. I drink until I

black out and perhaps vomit or pass out completely. Somehow I get home with Kelly and

manage to awkwardly finger her, then tell her I am too drunk to fuck and fall asleep. Then I

leave early in the morning before she wakes up.
       FINISHING THE CIGARETTE, I REFLECT ON THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE. IT'S DEPRESSING

BUT SOMEHOW STILL ALLURING.      BEHIND ME, BACK INSIDE, I HEAR THE SONG CHANGE OVER.

PEOPLE ARE SHOUTING AND SCREAMING. SOMEONE LAUGHS. FOR NOW, NOBODY ELSE IS

OUTSIDE.   IT IS SILENT AND COLD. I BUTTON MY BLAZER AND SPIT ON THE GROUND.

       Then I go back inside and for the next three hours the world descends into a red- tinted

blur. Then it goes black.




       THE SUMMER AFTER HIGH SCHOOL ENDED WAS LONG AND SUN-DRENCHED AND DRUNK AND

ETERNAL.   TOWARD THE END, AS LATE JULY BURNED OUT INTO EARLY AND THEN MIDDLE AUGUST,

THE FOUR OF US WERE SPENDING ALMOST EVERY DAY UP AT THE LAKE.        I WOULD WAKE UP LATE

MOST DAYS AND STUMBLE DOWN THE OLD OAK STAIRS AND THROUGH THE LIVING ROOM WITH ITS

GREAT FIREPLACE

TO THE KITCHEN, WHERE THERE WOULD ALWAYS BE LEFTOVERS FROM WHATEVER KELSEY AND MIKE

HAD MADE FOR BREAKFAST.     THEN I WOULD STAND AT THE WINDOW AND LOOK OUT PAST THE

PORCH AND

THE TREES AND THE LONG, SLOPING GREEN GRASS TO WHERE THE DOCK SHOT OUT INTO THE

BRILLIANT SPARKLING SAPPHIRE WATER.    I WOULD STAND THERE AND DRINK ORANGE JUICE, WATCH

LINDSEY READING ON THE DOCK, HER HAIR DARK AND BRIGHT IN THE SUNLIGHT, DROPS OF WATER

STILL ON HER SWIMSUIT AND TAN STOMACH.     THERE WOULD BE RAY-BANS SLUNG HIGH ON HER

FOREHEAD, AND I WOULD KNOW THEN THAT I WAS HAPPY AND IN LOVE.         THEN I WOULD GO

OUTSIDE WHERE MIKE AND KELSEY WERE LYING IN THE HAMMOCK OR PLAYING CROQUET AND WE

WOULD JUST DO NOTHING ALL DAY LONG, EVERY DAY. A LAKE IN UPPER INDIANA IN THE SUMMER.
        I COME OUT OF THE BLACK AND WE’RE IN CHRIS CARLIN’S ROOM AND FROM THE

FEELING IN THE BACK OF MY NOSE AND THE WHITE ON THE TABLE I KNOW I JUST DID A FAIRLY

SUBSTANTIAL LINE OF COCAINE. THE FIRST FEW TENDRILS OF DAWN ARE COMING THROUGH THE

WINDOW AND THERE ARE FIVE GUYS AND THREE GIRLS GATHERED IN A CIRCLE.                 ONE OF THE

GIRLS IS BENDING OVER THE TABLE AND TAKING A LINE.           I LEAN BACK IN MY CHAIR AND LET

THE COCAINE GO TO WORK.       I FUMBLE FOR MY PHONE AND FLIP IT OPEN. FOUR MISSED CALLS

AND FIVE TEXT MESSAGES AND IT SAYS IT’S 5:55 IN

the morning. Jesus God.

        I tune out the idiot giggles and chatter and take stock of the situation. I pat my pockets.

I still have my keys and wallet. My blazer is still on, but it’s covered in what looks like a liter of

dried Bloody Mary. My tie is wadded up and stuffed in the breast pocket and my shirt is

completely open. I follow the lipstick smears on my chest down to my waistband, where I find

my belt undone, my pants unbuttoned, and my fly half- zipped. I make a flailing attempt to fix

the damage but only manage to collapse back

ONTO THE COUCH.

         The hall is empty and silent, save for the muted murmurings still coming from behind

Chris’ closed door. I walk to the stairs and, on a whim, sniff the index and middle fingers of my

right hand. They smell pungent and vaguely sweet. I have clearly outdone myself tonight.

Somehow I manage to return to my room. I sleep for twelve hours.

I wake up in my own bed the next morning and feel like hell. Everything is silent and empty

for a brief instant, and then memories begin to trickle into my mind. I definitely threw up—the

stains on my Van Heusen tell me that much. I seem to remember giving Karen the finger and

licking Beth’s face and telling Krista that she had nice breasts. I may have made Greg mad, as

well. There was a high-five with Joe somewhere after the
FLIPPING-OFF-OF-THE-GIRLFRIEND AND BEFORE THE PUKING IN THE BUSHES. THAT IS ALL I

REMEMBER. IT IS TIME TO SHOWER AND GET MY CLOTHES AND SOBER UP.




         “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU MEAN TO ME,” SHE SAID, DRINKING A BEER WHILE I PUT

THE COVER ON THE BOAT FOR THE NIGHT.      THE AIR SMELLED LIKE RAIN AND DARK CLOUDS WERE

BILLOWING OVER THE HIGH PINES ACROSS THE LAKE.

         I WAS PERCHED ON THE BOAT'S ENGINE CASING AND NOT LOOKING AT HER. “I DO KNOW,” I

SAID.   “YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE I COULD POSSIBLY

         WANT.” “I LOVE YOU,” SHE SAID.

         “I LOVE YOU TOO.”

         SHE WAS SILENT THEN FOR AWHILE. THE ONLY SOUNDS WERE THE WATER LAPPING

AGAINST THE BOAT, DULL AND INSISTENT, AND THE FAINT SOUND OF WIND WHIPPING UP OVER THE

PINES, PUSHING THE DARK CLOUDS FARTHER OVER THE LAKE.

         WHEN SHE SPOKE HER VOICE WAS LOW, PLAINTIVE. “THEN WHY DON'T YOU COME

TO SCHOOL WITH ME?”

         I BUTTONED ANOTHER PART OF THE BOAT COVER DOWN. “I CAN'T,” I SAID.

         “WHY?” SHE ASKED. I LOOKED BACK AT HER, HEARD THE CRACKING IN HER VOICE. I

FINISHED BUTTONING THE COVER AND JUMPED DOWN TO THE

         DOCK. “WE TALKED ABOUT THIS,” I SAID.

         “I KNOW. I WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT AGAIN.” SHE FINISHED HER BEER AND LOOKED

AROUN FOR SOMEWHERE TO PUT IT.        FINALLY SHE BENT DOWN AND SET IT ON THE DOCK.

THUNDER GROWLED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE DISTANCE. THE LIGHT WAS GOING FAST.
        “WHY ARE YOU RUNNING AWAY FROM ME?” LINDSEY SAID. “WHY CAN'T WE BE

TOGETHER?”




        Matt is laughing but it is a laugh I have never heard before. His laugh is high- pitched,

cackling. A cocaine laugh. He is outside in the student parking lot kicking in the sideview

mirrors of his BMW X5. We are standing around, some of us smoking cigarettes. Matt's

booted foot connects with one of the mirrors, a solid hit. It makes a resounding crack and shards

of glass and plastic go flying off across the parking lot, bouncing on the asphalt and the hoods of

the other luxury cars sitting around.

        “Fuck you, niggers!” Matt screams. “Fuck the police!” He laughs again.

        Brian is doubled up next to me, almost in tears he is laughing so hard. Matt runs

        over to the other side. He jumps and kicks but misses and goes

SPRAWLING ON THE PAVEMENT.         HE BELLOWS AND THEN TAKES HIS FIST AND SMASHES IT INTO

THE OTHER SIDEVIEW MIRROR. THE MIRROR ACTUALLY BREAKS OFF AND HANGS LIMPLY

AGAINST THE CAR, SCRATCHING THE PAINT.        IT DANGLES FROM A FEW FRAYED WIRES. “FUCK

MY CAR!” MATT SCREAMS TO NOBODY.

        TOM DRAINS THE LAST OF A FIFTH OF JIM BEAM AND TOSSES IT TO MATT. MATT

GRABS IT BY THE NECK AND SHATTERS IT ON THE HOOD OF THE SUV.            JIM TOLD ME, ON THE

WAY TO THE PARKING LOT, THAT MATT'S PARENTS TOLD HIM AHEAD OF TIME THAT HE WAS

GETTING A NEW CAR FOR CHRISTMAS, MAYBE A MASERATI, BECAUSE THE INTERNATIONAL

MEDICAL INSURANCE COMPANY HIS FATHER OWNS JUST BOUGHT ITS BIGGEST COMPETITOR.

        “THEY TOLD HIM HE COULD JUST SELL THE OLD CAR OR GIVE IT TO A FRIEND,” JIM

TELLS ME. “MAYBE WE'LL JUST DEMOLISH IT AT TAILGATE TOMORROW.”
        NOW MATT AND ANOTHER GUY ARE CLIMBING ONTO THE HOOD OF THE CAR, STOMPING

ON IT. MATT MAKES HIS WAY TO THE ROOF AND JUMPS UP AND DOWN. THE METAL CAVES IN.

SOMEONE WHO LOOKS LIKE DAN BUT ISN'T CRAWLS THROUGH THE SIDE WINDSHIELD AND

STARTS HONKING THE HORN.

        “GET SOME!” MATT SCREAMS TO THE NIGHT SKY. “GET SOME!”

        It is Friday night and tomorrow is Saturday and it will be the last tailgate of the season.

Jim tells me that nobody has ever trashed a car this expensive at a Dunham tailgate. Usually it

is old Saabs and beat-up Volvos. This fact crushes me and I have to step back, light another

cigarette, avert my eyes.

        The sky is beginning to get light. A few other kids, fresh off their Friday binges, still

drunk and high, come stumbling into the tailgate parking lot dressed in tights and hunting vests

and pirate hats. One kid has a boombox with him, blasting rap music. They set down their

cases of beer and watch the destruction of Matt's car. Already, as I

watch, another group of undergraduates is coming down the wooded hill on the other side of the

parking lot.

        THE HORN KEEPS GOING OFF AND I WATCH WHILE BRIAN STARTS TRYING TO KICK IN THE

WINDSHIELD, JUST STOMPING ON IT AND GIGGLING. THE SKY STARTS TO GROW LIGHT IN THE

EAST.   I LIGHT ANOTHER CIGARETTE AND SMOKE IT TOO QUICKLY. DAN TAKES SOMETHING

FROM HIS COAT POCKET, A SMALL VIAL, AND STARTS TAPPING OUT LINES OF WHITE POWDER ON

THE HOOD OF THE X5. THEN HE TAPS ANOTHER GUY ON THE SHOULDER AND THE TWO OF THEM

BEND DOWN, FINGERS TO THEIR NOSES, DO THE LINES.          BRIAN FINALLY SMASHES IN THE

WINDSHIELD AND IT FALLS INTO THE FRONT SEAT IN A SOLID, HALF-SPLINTERED MASS. A REAR

TAILLIGHT IS SHATTERED.
          “IS THIS FOR REAL?” A KID NEXT TO ME, SKINNY AND RED-HAIRED, PROBABLY A
          FRESHMAN,


asks.

          I nod and tell him that it's real.




          I WENT OVER TO HER THEN AND PUT MY HANDS ON HER HIPS, HER BODY WARM AND ALIVE

AND FAMILIAR.     SO WONDERFULLY, PERFECTLY FAMILIAR. LINDSEY LOOKED UP AT ME, HER EYES

WET.

          “I'M NOT RUNNING AWAY,” I SAID. “I JUST NEED TO...GO SOMEWHERE. DUNHAM IS A

GOOD SCHOOL.       THEIR PRE-MED PROGRAM IS...”

          “I KNOW,” LINDSEY SAID. SHE MOVED CLOSER, RESTING HER HEAD ON MY CHEST. “IS

THAT SO IMPORTANT THOUGH?           I KNOW IT'S A GOOD SCHOOL. IU IS A GOOD SCHOOL TOO.”

          “I DON'T WANT TO GO TO IU,” I SAID. “I MEAN...I WANT TO BECAUSE YOU'RE THERE.”

          “I KNOW IT'S BETTER THAN IU. I KNOW IT'S A LOT BETTER. I DON'T CARE.”

          “WE CAN VISIT ALL THE TIME. IT'S ONE PLANE RIDE AWAY.”

          “AND A TWO-HOUR DRIVE TO THE AIRPORT,” LINDSEY SAYS. SHE TAKES A DEEP

BREATH, HER CHEST RISING IN THE WIND.          “I JUST WANT YOU. I JUST WANT US. THAT'S MORE

IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE, ISN'T IT?”          SHE PUT HER ARMS AROUND ME AND STARTED

CRYING.

          “I KNOW IT IS.”

          “THEN COME BE WITH ME. I DON'T WANT TO FLY AND DRIVE TO SEE YOU EVERY

FEW MONTHS.”

          “THAT'S NOTHING.”

          “I'M SORRY I...DIDN'T GET INTO DUNHAM,” LINDSEY SOBBED.
        “NO,” I SAY. THUNDER BOOMED AGAIN, VERY LOUD THIS TIME, AND IT STARTED TO RAIN.

THE SKY WAS BLACK, THE ONLY LIGHT NOW COMING FROM THE LAKEHOUSE. LINDSEY HELD ME

TIGHTER.    “I NEED TO GO,” SHE SAID.

        “You what?”

                                        th
        “I need to go. It's August 12 and I need to go.” I

        looked down at her. “It's August 12th?”

        Now Lindsey was really crying and although the rain was picking up and the thunder
                                                                              th
coming louder I could hear everything she said. “Yes, Walt. It's August 10 and I have to

drive down to school tomorrow and I'm sorry if you haven't noticed. I don't think any of us have

noticed. You've been...drinking a lot.” She turned her head into my chest and started crying

again, crying and kissing my chest.

        “I haven't been drinking that much,” I said, knowing she was right, that it had gotten

sort of bad with Mike in the past couple of weeks because I didn't want to look at the calendar.

        “I love you so much, Walt,” Lindsey said. “We're perfect together and you make me so

happy and I'm so lonely without you. I don't think anything is more important than us, the two of

us together, but I know a lot of people don't think that way and maybe you don't either. That's

okay though.”

        “I don't think anything else is more important. We're going to be together. It's just

college.”

        “We had three amazing years together and now it's time for me to go. I love you so

much. I love you so much.”
        “Shit, Lindsey,” I said. I pushed wet hair back from her forehead. “It's not going to be

like this, it's not going to be that bad.”

        “I CAN'T DO THIS, I CAN'T LOVE YOU AND ONLY SEE YOU ONCE A MONTH. IT'S GOING TO

KILL ME.”

        “YOU DON'T KNOW THAT.”

        NOT NOW, I KEPT THINKING. NOT NOW, NOT LIKE THIS. BUT LINDSEY WAS CRYING AND

THE STORM WAS LASHING THE DOCK, THE RAINDROPS PAINFUL NOW AND THE LIGHTNING TOO LOUD

AND CLOSE TO BE IGNORED AND LINDSEY STOOD ON HER TIPTOES AND PULLED ME DOWN TO HER

AND WE WERE KISSING IN THE RAIN ON THE DOCK, HER LIPS WARM AND EVERYTHING THERE WAS IN

THE ENTIRE WORLD.     I FELT VERY FULL AND VERY HOLLOW AT THE SAME TIME. THEN SHE BROKE

AWAY.

“GOODBYE, WALT,” SHE SAID.

        AND THEN I KNEW THAT HER CAR WAS ALL PACKED, AND THAT SHE JUST NEEDED TO GO

INSIDE AND DRY OFF, CHANGE CLOTHES AND SHE WAS READY TO GO.       I KNEW MIKE AND KELSEY

WERE STANDING AT THE KITCHEN WINDOW PRETENDING NOT TO WATCH US AND THAT SOMEWHERE

BETWEEN THE FOURTH AND FIFTH GIN AND TONIC I HAD DRANK TODAY I HAD MISSED ALL THE SIGNS,

ALL THE PREPARATIONS.      SO I STOOD ON THAT DOCK, DRUNK AND STUPID, AND WATCHED HER

LEAVE THROUGH

A CURTAIN OF SUMMER RAIN.       THERE WASN'T ANYTHING TO SAY.

        I ALWAYS THOUGHT SHE WOULD CALL.




        TAILGATE BEFORE THE LAST HOME FOOTBALL GAME OF MY JUNIOR YEAR AND I'M

LEANING AGAINST      ALLEN'S BMW X5 WATCHING HIM AND DAN RAIL MASSIVE LINES OF
ADDERALL OFF THE POLISHED HOOD WHICH RELFECTS IN IT THE HIGH, BLUE AUTUMN SKY

AND THE BIG CAROLINA PINES
WHICH LINE THE PARKING LOT. TI'S “WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT” IS ROARING FROM FOUR

ENORMOUS SPEAKERS SOME LACROSSE PLAYESR HAVE SET UP NEXT TO US. THE SONG BLENDS

WITH THE MUSIC COMING FROM OTHER SPEAKERS SET UP BY OTHER GROUPS ACROSS THE

PARKING LOT, AND ALL OF THAT NOISE RUSHES INTO THE ROAR OF THE CROWD, THE SHOUTS

AND SCREAMS OF DRUNK STUEDENTS AND THE SOUND OF BEER CANGS BEING RIPPED OPEN AND

THROWN, STOMPED ON, TO THE PAVEMENT.

        We've had a lot to drink since waking up at eight this morning and I'm starting to forget

who I am or what I'm doing it here and it feels very good.

        “Have some drugs, man,” allen says.

        “I'M OKAY,” I SAY, SMILING, DRUNK, AND ALLEN SLAPS ME ON THE BACK AND CALLS

ME A PUSSY BUT I KNOW IT'S JUST HIS WAY OF TELLING ME HE LOVES ME.

        Dunham is playing State today. We are the favorites to win it and while I was

drinking with Steve last night he told me that, if we won, we will be conference champions.

I feel heartened by this notion.

        I FOLLOW ALLEN AND DAN TO ANOTHER PART OF THE LOT WHERE SOME VERY CUTE

SORORITY GIRLS CHALLENGE US TO BEER PONG.          I STAND BACK AND LET ALLEN AND DAN

HAVE THE FIRST GAME. ALLEN PLAYS WELL BUT DAN IS INCREDIBLY HIGH ON THE BROWNIES HE

ATE UPON WAKING, AND AS I LAUGH WITH EVERYONE AT HIS FLAILING THROWS MY GAZE LIFTS

UP BEYOND THE PRETTY FACES, UP ABOVE THE TREES, AND I SEE BEYOND THEM THE HIGH

GOTHIC SPIRES OF DUNHAM UNIVERSITY ETCHED PROUDLY AGAINST THE WINDLESS BLUE SKY.

        And I'm suddenly adrift, detached from the party whirling around me, thinking about the

center of all things and the nameless future and how really it's all for nothing this way, how there

will always be some sort of final emptiness for me, for everyone, and
THAT IT TRULY IS TOO FUCKING HARD TO CARE.         JIM IS GONE AND BRAD, WHO I NEVER EVEN

MET, IS GONE, AND LINDSEY IS GONE.       I FEEL STRANGELY EUPHORIC, TRIUMPHANTLY DRUNK,

AND I KNOW I WILL COMPLETE MY MAJOR AND FINISH MY INTERNSHIP THIS SUMMER, AND THAT

MY PROFESSORS WILL WRITE ME THE RECOMMENDATIONS I NEED AND THAT LATER, MUCH

LATER, I WILL GET A DIPLOMA, MAYBE MAGNA CUM LAUDE, MAYBE NOT, AND ALL THE WORLD

WILL BE OPEN AND THE POINT IS NOT TO THINK ABOUT IT. THE POINT IS NOT TO THINK ABOUT IT.

        ALLEN HITS THE WINNING BEER PONG CUP AND THE GIRLS ERUPT WITH CHEERS. I TAKE

A FINAL DRAG FROM MY CIGARETTE AND STOMP IT OUT.            SOMEBODY, PROBABLY MATT, GRABS

MY HEAD,

tilting it back and I see the beer pitcher and then he is pouring the beer down my throat. It is

cold and fresh and good and I know finally, completely, that this is not just a party but a

baptism and that I am one of them.




        The wind was howling and ripping leaves and twigs from the sycamores by the time I

stumbled soaking wet into the house. I was wearing only my bathing suit and I walked past Mike

and Kesley who were eating pizza in front of the TV and I went upstairs and took a very long,

very hot shower and thought about crying but was too drunk and numb so I just masturbated,

violently, but couldn't come so I got out of the shower and dried off and lay in bed.




        I went downstairs and ate pizza and watched TV with Mike and Kelsey. They talked

to me and I felt better. We all thought it wasn't over, that Lindsey would call. Things would

get back on track. Sitting there watching Jeopardy and drinking Coke I believed them.
        “It's really coming down outside,” Mike said.




        IT IS THE LAST FRIDAY OF THE SEMESTER AND MATT AND BRIAN AND DAN AND MYSELF

ARE ON OUR WAY TO THE LAST BIG PARTY OF THE SEMESTER.           IT'S A FREEZING EARLY

DECEMBER NIGHT. A FEW SNOW FLURRIES, RARE FOR THIS TIME OF YEAR, ARE WHIRLING IN THE

ICY BREEZE. THE FOUR OF US ARE WEARING DARK WOOL COATS, THE COLLARS UPTURNED, AND

SCARVES.   I AM SMOKING A CIGARETTE AND SO IS BRIAN. DAN TELLS US THEY'RE BAD FOR US

BUT HE'S FUCKED UP ON CODEINE AND NYQUIL AND STUMBLING.            MORE THAN ONCE MATT HAS

TO GRAB HIM BY THE COLLAR TO HOLD HIM UPRIGHT.

        We have just gotten off the campus bus and are making our way to Broad Street where

the party is being held in the biggest fraternity house at Dunham—Delta Sig. Almost every guy

in Delta Sig is an athlete and they are legends around campus for having more ex-lacrosse

players and expelled athletes than any other fraternity at Dunham. All of the indicted lacrosse

players from 2006 were in Delta Sig.

        As we walk I tilt my head back, exhaling smoke and frosty breath. I stare up at the

gnarled, bare tree branches and beyond them to the crystal-clear winter sky, pitch black and

cloudy. There is no moon.

        “Where the fuck is this house?” Matt is asking. “I thought you said you'd been here

before, Brian.”

        “I have, Matt. Shut the fuck up.”

        WE TURN A CORNER AND THEN WE START TO HEAR THE NOISE. I CHECK MY

BLACKBERRY AND SEE THAT IT'S ONLY 10:30. BASS NOTES REVERBERATE THROUGH THE STILL

AIR AND OUR FOOTSTEPS QUICKEN. WE SEE PEOPLE SPILLING OUT ONTO THE STREET, SOME

ALREADY STUMBLING. A CAR BACKS OUT OF A DRIVEWAY UP AHEAD, TURNS AROUND IN THE

STREET AND PEELS OFF INTO THE NIGHT.
        “That's it,” Brian says.

        I flick my cigarette to the curb as we turn into the house. There are big colored lights

strung up over the broad lawn and maybe five black SUVs parked in the circle driveway. A

fountain, drained, is covered in red paint sits in front of the main walkway.

A guy has climbed it and is trying to push away the other two guys trying to reach its top.

Beyond the walkway is a sprawling Gothic mansion. Arched windows, two cylindrical towers,

dark-shingled roof. Above the double-doors is a big banner that reads “Welcome to the Nine

Circles of Hell Party 2K9.”

        “I HAVEN'T BEEN TO THIS PLACE IN, LIKE, A YEAR,” MATT

        SAYS. “ME NEITHER,” SAYS DAN.

        “You're missing out,” Brian tells them. He throws his cigarette onto the lawn and steps

on it, already taking out another one.

        Allen is already there and I see him standing on the porch smoking a joint. He waves

to me and I raise my hand and start walking over. A guy I recognize, I think his name is

Richard, is standing next to him sharing the joint. “Absolute Power” by Tech Nine (spelled

N9ne on his albums) is blasting from speakers I can't see. Strobelights flare from a third

floor window.

        I make my way through a lawn covered in crushed beer cans. I step over a football

player making out with two Asian girls on the staircase and then get up to the porch. Allen

shakes my hand and hands me the joint. I take a hit. It is strong.

        “How's it going?” Allen says without exhaling. A little smoke rolls off his tongue. “Fine,”

        I tell him. “When are you going home for break?”

        “DAY AFTER TOMORROW,” ALLEN TELLS ME. “YOU?”
         “Next week. Late final.”

         “Sucks.”

         WE FINISH THE JOINT.

         “YOU SHOULD SEE THIS FUCKING PLACE,” ALLEN SAYS. “THEY HAVE SO MUCH

FUCKING BLOW.       IT'S LIKE A SNOWSTORM IN THERE.”

         THE DOORS OPEN WHILE ALLEN IS SAYING THAT AND A GUY AND A GIRL, THE GUY

SHIRTLESS AND THE GIRL WITH ONE OF HER BREASTS EXPOSED UNDER A RIPPED TANKTOP,

COME LAUGHING OUT AND RUN DOWN THE STEPS. THE BIG DOORS STAYS OPEN AND INSIDE I

SEE A CRUSH OF PEOPLE WRITHING TOGETHER. A DJ STAND BY THE FIREPLACE.            SOMEONE IS

DOING A BEER BONG.

         “Cool,” I say.

         “SO WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU?” ALLEN SAYS.

         “Nothing. Lisa went home for winter break early.”

         “Yeah?” Allen says.

         “Said she was going on some big trip with her family.”

         Allen shakes his head. He puts his hands in his pockets. “You need to fuck that chick,

Walt.”

         “What?”

         “YOU NEED TO FUCK LISA. YOU'RE SO GAY AROUND HER. YOU NEED TO MAKE A

         MOVE.” “I GUESS SO.”

         “YEAH YOU GUESS SO,” ALLEN SAYS. HE SURVEYS THE PEOPLE ON THE LAWN IDLY. THE

GUY ON TOP OF THE FOUNTAIN YELLS AS HE GETS PUSHED OFF.           HE FALLS ONTO THE GRASS,

HARD.    “YOU NEED TO JUST GET HER DRUNK AND FUCK THE SHIT OUT OF HER.”

         “I guess I should,” I say, uncertain.
       “SERIOUSLY, WALT. YOU ARE GAY IF YOU DON'T FUCK

       HER.” “MAYBE IN THE SPRING,” I TELL HIM.

       “DO IT OR I'LL KILL YOU,” ALLEN SAYS. “NOW ARE WE GOING TO GET FUCKED UP OR

       WHAT?” “LEAD THE WAY.”

       I LOOK AROUND FOR MATT, BRIAN, AND DAN. THEY'RE TALKING TO SOME GIRLS ON THE

LAWN. I CAN'T CATCH THEIR EYES. THE SONG INSIDE CHANGES TO “PSYCHOSOCIAL” BY

SLIPKNOT. I DO NOT THINK I HAVE EVER HEARD SOMEONE PLAY SLIPKNOT AT A FRATERNITY

PARTY. ALLEN OPENS THE DOOR AND HIS COAT OPENS EXPOSING A DARK SUIT WITH A RED TIE

THAT I'VE NEVER SEEN HIM WEAR.   HE BECKONS ME ONWARD. THEN I WALK INSIDE AND HE

CLOSES THE DOOR.




       WE GOT THE CALL AT NINE AND WHEN WE STEP OUT OF MIKE'S EXPLORER HER CAR WAS

STILL BURNING, THE FLAMES LICKING UP AGAINST THE DRIVING RAIN.   THE CAR IS TWISTED

AROUND AND COLLAPSED ACROSS THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD.     NOT FAR FROM IT IS A HUMMER H2,

BLACK, OFF THE ROAD AND ROLLED ONTO ITS ROOF AT THE BOTTOM OF A LOW HILL.

       I GET OUT OF MIKE'S CAR FIRST AND STARTED WALKING TOWARD THE FLASHING LIGHTS. IT

WAS POURING RAIN SO HARD THAT THE DROPLETS STRUNG BUT I DID NOT NOTICE AND I REMEMBER

WALKING VERY SLOWLY.   I KNEW SHE WAS DEAD BY THE UNHURRIED WAY THE PARAMEDICS WERE

WAITING BESIDE THE CAR, WATCHING TWO FIREMEN AS THEY PRIED OPEN THE CRUSHED DOOR.

DOWN THE HILL THEY WERE BRINGING UP A STRETCHER WITH A BLANKET-SHROUDED BODY ON IT.

THE BLANKET WAS SOAKED THROUGH WITH RAIN AND DARK BLOOD.

       I DIDN'T KNOW HOW LONG I JUST STOOD THERE, A SKINNY KIND IN RAINBOW SANDALS,

KHAKI SHORTS AND A FLORAL-PATTERNED SHIRT MY MOTHER HAD BOUGHT FOR ME IN HAWAII.
         THE RAIN WAS LESSENING WHEN THEY FINALLY PULLED LINDSEY FROM HER CAR. LATER I

WAS TOLD THAT SHE HAD PROBABLY “DIED ON IMPACT” WHEN HER FACE WENT THROUGH THE

WINDSHIELD, SHATTERING IT. A POLICEMAN TOLD ME SHE WAS DEAD AND HE PUT HIS HAND ON MY

SHOULDER BUT

I didn't notice it or try to push him away.

         At some point I registered Kelsey sobbing and Mike on his knees, staring and muttering

“Oh my God oh my God oh my God” and a paramedic nearby on the phone with what had to be

Lindsey's mother judging by the faint screaming I could hear coming out of the earpiece even

through the rain.

         Later there was talk of an unworn seatbelt and “post-mortem blood alcohol

content testing” but nobody really cared. It simply did not matter.

         Nothing mattered.




         Inside and the main room is impossibly loud. A girl, sweaty and almost naked,

brushes past me. I look at the crowd dancing in air thick with pot and cigarette smoke. There

is another smell, another smoke, more acrid.

         “LET'S LOSE THESE COATS,” ALLEN SAYS. HE TAKES HIS OFF AND TOSSES IT ONTO A

COUCH.    I HESITATE THEN DO THE SAME. A GUY COMES UP TO ALLEN AND BUMPS FISTS WITH

HIM.   HE IS BIG, TALLER THAN ME, AND WELL-MUSCLED. HE IS WEARING A LACROSSE JERSEY

THAT IS TOO SHORT AND A BACKWARD BASEBALL HAT.           “YOU WANT TO SMOKE?” HE ASKS

ALLEN.

         “FUCK YES,” ALLEN SAYS. “YOU WANT TO SMOKE, WALT?” HE ASKS

         ME. “SMOKE WHAT?”

         “CRACK.”

         “UH,” I SAY.
        Allen smiles wryly. “Pussy. We'll be upstairs if you need any more babysitting.” The

other guy laughs too. “Remember,” Allen says. “Get them drunk and fuck them. It's that easy.

They fucking want it, nigger.”

        “OKAY,” I SAY. I WATCH THEM LEAVE. A GIRL I KNOW COMES UP TO ME AND STARTS

TALKING TO ME.    SHE HAS JUST BEEN DANCING AND HER HAIR IS PLASTERED TO HER

FOREHEAD.    HER SHIRT IS DRENCHED AND THROUGH THE WET CLOTH I CAN SEE HER

BREASTS, TAUT.

        “Dance with me, Walt,” she slurs. “Fucking. Dance with me.”

        I let her lead me onto the dance floor and she turns around and puts her hands around my

neck and starts grinding her crotch into mine. People bump into me and someone belches in my

face and I see two girls making out with each other and a couple, a black guy and an Asian girl,

having sex on a couch by the DJ. The black guy is on his back and the Asian girl, almost

completely naked, is on top of him. Her breasts bounce up and down as she rides him.

        THE GIRL I'M DANCING WITH CLOSES HER EYES AND THRASHES HER HEAD AROUND

TO THE MUSIC.    I REALIZE ABSENTLY THAT I AM NOT DRUNK ENOUGH FOR ANY OF THIS.

        THE GIRL STARTS YANKING AT MY HAIR AND PULLS MY FACE TOWARD HERS AND

STICKS HER TONGUE IN MY MOUTH. WHEN I TRY TO CLOSE MY MOUTH SHE STARTS LICKING MY

FACE.   SHE REACHES DOWN WITH ONE HAND AND STARTS MASSAGING MY COCK THROUGH MY

JEANS. THE SONG CHANGES TO SOMETHING BY RAMMSTEIN.

        “You wanna fuck?” she whispers up to me.

        “Hold on,” I say. I pull her off of me and she says. “Hey!” and I shoulder my way off of

the dance floor. There are other rooms on the first floor but I decide to go upstairs. Another

banner is hung above the stairs, proclaiming “This Way To The Second Circle.”
        I WONDER WHO ELSE IS HERE WHO I KNOW AND WHILE I'M THINKING THIS I SEE

CHRIS STUMBLING DOWN THE STAIRCASE, VOMIT ALL OVER HIS SHIRT. IT LOOKS LIKE HE IS

CRYING BUT IT MIGHT JUST BE SWEAT.      IT IS VERY, VERY HOT IN THE HOUSE. CHRIS LOOKS

AT ME BUT DOESN'T RECOGNIZE ME AND KEEPS BARRELING DOWN THE STAIRS. AT THE TOP

OF THE STAIRS IS A LONG HALLWAY AND A FEW DOORS. THE FIRST DOOR SAYS “THIRD

CIRCLE” ON IT AND INSIDE IS ANOTHER BAR AND MORE SPEAKERS PLAYING A DIFFERENT

SONG AND A TON OF PEOPLE.

        I see Kelly and Carly on the couch with two guys. One of the guys has his left hand

up Carly's skirt and her eyes are closed in pleasure. I watch as she contorts, her torso bending

forward then backward, her mouth open in a moan. Kelly is making out with the guy next to

her. The guy is wearing only his boxers and I can see a massive hardon outlined against the

plaid fabric.

        Matt is at the bar with Tom and a couple girls. I see them doing shots. I walk

over to them. The marijuana is very strong and everything is moving slowly. I wonder if I

should do some cocaine to take the edge off. I wonder where all the cocaine is that Allen

mentioned.

        Derek, who I just now notice, is also at the bar and he hands me two shots of something

clear. I drink them both and Derek smiles at me. “Jesus,” he says. “Nice one, Walt.”

        “THANKS?” I ASK HIM.

        “IT'S EVERCLEAR,” HE TELLS ME. “IT'S 190

        PROOF.” “SWEET.”

        I stumble out of the room and down the hallway. Red light spills out from another door

labeled “The Seven Deadly Sins” and it is here that I find Allen and Tiffany and
Gordon, who I have not seen in weeks, bent over the cocaine. I don't see the guy Allen talked

to downstairs.

         ALLEN LIFTS HIS HEAD AND RAISES HIS EYEBROWS. I RAISE MINE BACK. I SIT DOWN

NEXT TO A GIRL I DON'T KNOW AND DO TWO LINES RAPIDLY.           IT IS VERY GOOD COCAINE AND

THE FACT THAT I KNOW THIS WORRIES ME BUT NOT ENOUGH TO STOP ME FROM DOING A THIRD

LINE.   GORDON IS SAYING SOMETHING TO ME BUT I CAN'T HEAR HIM OVER THE MUSIC AND

WHEN I LOOK AT HIM HIS FACE IS IMPOSSIBLY SWEATY, HIS PUPILS PINPRICKS IN HIS BRIGHT

GREEN EYES.      BLACK HAIR IS STUCK WETLY TO HIS GLISTENING FOREHEAD.

         “I said you look fucked up Walt,” Gordon screams into my ear.

         “Thanks,” I tell him. “You too.”

         “Have you been up to the roof?” Gordon screams. “I

         shake my head.”

         “YOU GOTTA GO UP TO THE FUCKING ROOF!”

         Allen stands up then and he has loosened his dark red tie. His jacket is still but

somehow he doesn't look very sweaty. There is a large tear down his white shirt, visible when

he raises his arms to hug me. I hug him back awkwardly.

         “Senior year, motherfucker,” he tells me. “Come on.”

         WE LEAVE THE ROOM AND TIFFANY FOLLOWS SILENTLY. ALLEN LEADS US PAST A

COUPLE OTHER DOORS TO A BACK STAIRCASE.          IT IS NARROW AND DARK. SOMEONE HAS

VOMITED ON THE FIRST STEP AND ALLEN STEPS DIRECTLY INTO THE VOMIT, SPLATTERING IT ON

THE WALLS AND HIS SHOE AND HIS PANTS.        PEOPLE HAVE SCRAWLED THINGS ON THE WALLS BUT

WE TAKE THE STAIRS TWO AT A TIME AND THE ONLY WRITING I CAN READ IS IN BLACK

PERMANENT MARKER AND IT SAYS “I DRANK ERICA'S
blood. All of it.” and then we are beyond the stairwell and entering a small hallway on the

third floor.

          There is only one door and Allen leads us into it. A bunch of people are sitting around

on couches beneath a hanging light, passed out beneath shelves of athletic

trophies and posters of naked women. One girl has some rubber tubing around her elbow and a

needle in her lap, the syringe etched with blood. She has vomited on herself. She looks me in

the eye and I cannot hold her gaze. A guy, naked, is lying on the floor.

          “Eat my pussy,” a girl on the far couch says. “I love it when you eat my pussy.” I think

she is saying this to me but then I see a girl crouched before her, shrouded in darkness. The girl

laps at the other girl's crotch, moaning. Tiffany laughs nervously behind me.

          Allen opens another door and now he's going up a smaller set of stairs and I feel the

cold night air rushing down. I follow him, my vision blurry, and then I see the starry night sky

and the spires of the house's two towers and then we are out on the roof, surrounded by other

people.

          TIFFANY CLOSES THE DOOR BEHIND US. I LIGHT A CIGARETTE. THERE ARE MAYBE

TWENTY PEOPLE ON THE ROOF.         EVERYONE IS CLUSTERED AROUND A CENTRAL OBJECT, A HUGE

INFLATABLE POOL. WE GET CLOSER AND A BURLY GUY STEPS AWAY AND I SEE IT IS FILLED

WITH JELLY, MAYBE KY. A GUY AND A GIRL ARE WRESTLING IN THE POOL, BOTH NAKED.                 THE

GIRL'S BREASTS ARE COATED IN THE JELLY AND THEY BOUNCE UP AND DOWN WITH EACH OF

HER STEPS. THE GUY'S COCK SWINGS, LONG AND HEAVY, BETWEEN HIS LEGS. THE CROWD

ROARS.
        Allen passes me a bottle of Jack Daniel's, its label half-ripped off, the neck slippery

with KY. I put it to my mouth anyway and drink deeply. I watch while Allen straightens

his tie and steps closer to the pool.

        The guy has the girl on her back now and she is raking his shoulders with her

fingernails, drawing blood.

        “Fuck that bitch up!” someone screams. “Fuck her up!”

        PEOPLE LAUGH AND SOMEONE THROWS A BEER CAN INTO THE POOL. THE GUY AND THE

GIRL IN THE POOL BOTH SUBMERGE FOR A SECOND, THEN COME UP. THE GIRL CHOKES. THE GUY

LAUGHS.

        “RAPE THAT SLUT!” THE GUY NEXT TO ME YELLS. “RAPE HER, JACKSON!”

        The girl keeps choking and so the guy grabs her by the neck and forces her head under

the KY. She kicks her legs, bucking wildly, but he holds on. He keeps laughing. People

cheer. The girl comes up once more, gagging, and the guy pushes her down.

        Another girl, naked except for her panties, small breasts, stumbles into the pool. She

has a bottle of vodka in her other hand and she starts kicking the guy in the head. “Get off,

asshole!” she yells. “You're gonna kill her!”

        “FUCK OFF, BITCH!” SOMEONE YELLS.

        “Fuck you, Ben,” the other girl screams. She keeps kicking the guy in the KY in the

head but he doesn't move, just keeps laughing.

        Now I'm watching the pinned girl's legs slowing down. She kicks a few times more

and then her legs go limp. People keep cheering. More beer cans are thrown.

        “YOU'RE KILLING HER,” THE GIRL WITH THE VODKA SHRIEKS.

        A guy wades into the pool now, fully clothed. “Yo, yo Jackson. Get off.”

        Laughter.
        “JACKSON. GET THE FUCK OFF HER.” HE GRABS THE NAKED GUY AND, PULLING

HARD, THROWS HIM OFF THE GIRL. THE GIRL DOESN'T MOVE.

        “OH SHIT,” THE OTHER GIRL SAYS, LOOKING DOWN. “OH SHIT. OH SHIT. OH SHIT.”

        The guy he's calling Jackson is lying on his back, his head resting on the lip of the pool,

panting. People start to cluster around. Some of the cheering stops. Allen pushes closer. I

stand up on my tiptoes.

        “Oh fuck,” the guy in the pool says. He pulls the girl out of the KY and starts slapping

her face. He pushes his fingers into her mouth and starts yanking out big wads of lubricant.

        Next to me Tiffany is crying.

        I SEE ALLEN STEPPING FORWARD, PUSHING PEOPLE AWAY. “LET ME SEE,” HE SAYS.

“LET ME FUCKING SEE!”

        THE WIND PICKS UP AND I LOOK AT MY BLACKBERRY AND IT IS SOMEHOW PAST TWO IN

THE MORNING. THE STARS IN THE SKY SEEM BRIGHTER, HARDER THAN EARLIER.               I'M JACKED ON

THE COCAINE BUT ALSO INCREDIBLY DRUNK AND AS I STAGGER BACKWARD I HEAR SOMEONE

YELL, “WE GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE.        LET'S GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE.” THAT IS ALL I NEED

TO HEAR AND I TURN AROUND AND FIND THE DOOR AND STAGGER DOWN THE STAIRS, ALMOST

FALLING INTO THE ROOM BELOW AND THEN SOMEHOW I MAKE MY WAY DOWN AND THROUGH

THE MOB ON THE SECOND FLOOR THEN DOWN THE BIG STAIRCASE AND OUT THE DOUBLE DOORS

AND WHEN I GET OUT PAST THE FOUNTAIN, PAST THE BLACK SUVS AND THE EMPTY BEER CASES

AND CIGARETTE BUTTS, I GET ON BROAD STREET AND START RUNNING.
        AFTER LINDSEY DIED I JUST SORT OF WANDERED AROUND MY PARENTS' BIG SUBURBAN

HOUSE FOR A COUPLE WEEKS.        I DIDN'T EVEN FEEL LIKE GETTING DRUNK, ALTHOUGH I COULD

HAVE BECAUSE MY FATHER KEPT A WELL-STOCKED WINE CELLAR IN A BASEMENT ROOM.             FRESHMAN

ORIENTATION AT DUNHAM WAS STARTING SOON BUT I HADN'T EVEN PACKED A BAG.           I WENT TO THE

FUNERAL WITH MY FAMILY AND WE SAW MIKE AND KELSEY THERE.          I HAD NEVER FELT GUILTY

BEFORE IN MY LIFE AND I DIDN'T FEEL GUILTY THEN, NOT REALLY.      I MOSTLY FELT HOLLOW.

        I don't remember Lindsey's parents coming up to me, hugging me, telling me how sorry

they were. I don't remember my mother crying on my father's shoulder. I don't remember

getting high with Mike afterward behind the church. These were all things I heard about later,

from my sister or from Kelsey.

        These were all things I heard about later.




        The next day I sleep in until three in the afternoon. Classes have finished for the

semester. I lie in my bed and stare at the ceiling. I wonder what happened to Matt, to Brian,

to Allen. I scroll through the list of contacts on my Blackberry. It tells me I have

537 now. I recognize some names and don't recognize most. I think about calling Matt, or

maybe even Lisa, but it doesn't seem worth the effort right now. I take out a frozen pizza from

my refrigerator and heat it up in the microwave I have in my room, taking pulls from a bottle of

Minervois I find in the back of my closet.

        I GO TO MY LAPTOP AND HALFHEARTEDLY PERUSE FACEBOOK AND GMAIL. ALL OF MY

FRIENDS HAVE UPDATED THEIR STATUSES WITH THINGS LIKE “CAN'T WAIT TO GO TO TAHITI

WITH THE FAMILY!” OR “PACKING UP TO LEAVE DUNHAM!” AND THIS COMPELS ME TO TYPE OUT

“EXCITED FOR WINTER VACATION!” ON FACEBOOK. THE VERY ACT OF DOING THIS MAKES ME SO

VISCERALLY
depressed about everything that I drink the rest of the wine too quickly, taking big gulps and not

caring that it is spilling down my chin, splattering the counter and my shirt.

        Finally sign off of Facebook and go to the futon. I prop the laptop up and rent a movie

from NetFlix and watch it but fall asleep after ten minutes and my pizza gets cold so I throw it

out when I wake up.




        I WENT UP TO THE LAKE HOUSE ONCE MORE THAT SUMMER. IT WAS THE DAY BEFORE MY

PLANE TO DUNHAM.      MIKE AND KELSEY WERE GONE. I WENT UP BECAUSE SUDDENLY, SOMEHOW I

HAD FINISHED ALL MY PACKING AND MY PARENTS TOLD ME THEY WERE NOT GOING TO GO UP TO

THE LAKE ANYMORE THIS YEAR.     THEY WANTED ME TO CLOSE IT FOR THE FALL, FOR THE WINTER.

SO I WENT UP AND IT WAS RAINING ON THE HIGHWAY AND IT WAS RAINING WHEN I PULLED INTO THE

DRIVEWAY AND SHUT OFF THE CAR AND WENT IN BY THE SIDE DOOR.

        I WASN'T EXPECTING TO FIND LINDSEY'S SWIMMING SUIT LAID OUT ON ONE OF THE LOUNGES

IN THE SCREENED-IN PORCH.     WHEN I PICKED IT UP SOMETHING WENT OUT OF ME, ALL AT ONCE,

AND AFTER THAT EVERYTHING WAS DARK.        IT WAS SUNSET ON THE LAKE AND I COULD HEAR THE

WAVES LAPPING AGAINST THE DOCK, AS THEY HAD DONE SINCE I WAS A CHILD, BUT THERE WAS NO

JOY IN THE SOUND OR THE SUNSET ANYMORE.        THERE WAS NO JOY WHEN I PUT THE WINTER TARPS

OVER THE SPEEDBOAT.     COBWEBS WERE COLLECTING IN THE BOATHOUSE BUT I DIDN'T CLEAR THEM

OUT WITH A BROOM LIKE MY MOTHER HAD SHOWED ME THAT FIRST SUMMER SO LONG AGO.

        I FINISHED WORKING ON THE BOAT AND I CLOSED ALL THE WINDOWS AND LOCKED THE

DOORS AND DIDN'T REALLY GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ANY OF IT BECAUSE MY PARENTS COULD ALWAYS

COME BACK AND CHECK ON THE LAKE HOUSE IF THEY WANTED TO.            IF SOMETHING WENT WRONG.
        WHEN I PULLED OUT OF THE DRIVEWAY IN MY FATHER'S BMW 5-SERIES OUR LAKE

HOUSE HAD JUST BECOME A BUILDING, AN ABSTRACT CONSTRUCT, SOMETHING APART FROM

MYSELF. LINDSEY'S SWIMSUIT LAY ON THE DOCK WHERE I DROPPED IT, UNABLE TO THINK ABOUT

HER ANYMORE.

        After that everything sped up. I watched the film spin and tear and wash out and

I couldn't get it into focus anymore.




        Later I go out in the rain and start my Range Rover. I want to go out to the grocery

store to buy some shampoo and toothpaste to take on break with me. For awhile

I IDLE IN THE STUDENT PARKING LOT, FLICKING THROUGH THE RADIO STATIONS WHILE I WAIT

FOR THE CAR TO WARM UP.       THERE IS NOTHING GOOD ON ANY OF MY TWELVE SIRIUS-XM

PRESETS SO I TURN IT

off. I drive slowly out of the parking lot and off campus because it has begun to rain very hard.

The clouds are dark, ominous, and it is thundering. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees

and campus looks empty, desolate. A lot of students have already left for winter vacation.

        I drive by the chapel, by my freshman year dormitory, then through the forest that

surrounds campus. I drive by the apartments where I stayed last summer with Allen and Jessica.

For no reason I slow down. I find myself pulling into the apartments. The security gate is closed

but I lower my window, rain spattering inside the car. The

KEYCODE FROM LAST SUMMER STILL WORKS AND THE GATE SLIDES OPEN.               I DRIVE IN AND PARK

BY THE POOL.    I THINK ABOUT SUMMERS HERE, WHEN THE TREES ARE IN BLOOM AND THE GRASS

IS GREEN AND THE SUN SETS AT NINE-THIRTY EVERY NIGHT.
         The pool has been drained and I realize it has been a long time since I sat by the pool

with Allen and Jessica. Something sad rises up in me. I push it down and turn on the radio

and drive out of the apartment complex.

         “FUCK YOU,” I SAY TO NOBODY. “FUCK YOU, FUCKER.” I PUNCH THE STEERING WHEEL

AND THE HORN BLOWS.      THE RAIN STILL COMES DOWN. NOBODY IS ON THE ROAD TO BE

STARTLED BY THE HORN.

         I DRIVE TO THE GROCERY AND WANDER THROUGH THE AISLES WITH A BASKET. WHEN I

GO TO CHECKOUT THE GIRL BEHIND THE COUNTER LOOKS AT ME FUNNY AND I REALIZE THAT I

HAVE TRIED TO LEAVE WITHOUT BUYING ANYTHING.




         The few remaining people in the dorm have a party in the common room that night.

Steve and Allen and Chris and Dan and Tom have all left for break. There are a few guys I

know hanging out, a few people I don't know. I don't bother introducing myself to them. We

play Beer Pong, play Kings. We get drunk. I get more drunk than others.

         “I'm so alone,” I find myself telling Matt sometime after midnight. We are both drunk.

There is nothing to take the edge off except cigarettes. I am drinking Grey Goose mixed with

Snapple from the vending machines. Matt is drinking straight gin.

         “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ALONE?” MATT ASKS ME, LOOKING BLACKED-OUT.

         “Just...alone. There is no continuity.” I wonder how much of this conversation the

two of us are going to remember in the morning. Then I realize I don't care. I am slurring my

words.
       “Continuity,” Matt repeats somberly. He swirls the gin in his glass, staring

gauzily ahead toward the blank flat-panel TV.

       “BETWEEN PEOPLE. THERE IS NO CONTINUITY

       BETWEEN...PEOPLE.” “I SEE.”

       "I CRAVE COMMUNICATION," I TELL HIM, LAUGHING.

       “We could...Skype each other?” Matt asks, uncertain.

       “I'm going skiing with my family, then I have to be home with my sister.”

       Matt nods. “Oh," he says. "Does that make you... sad?" He takes another drink. “I

       don't know.”

       “WELL, I'LL SEE YOU IN THE

       SPRING?” “UH HUH.”

       MATT TAKES ANOTHER DRINK. I DO TOO. “THEN THAT'S

       COOL." “YEAH.    WHATEVER. I'M SURE I'LL SEE YOU."

       People have started to leave the party.

       “I'm not going to see Jessica ever again,” I blurt out.

       “So?”

       “SO WHAT IF I WANT TO SEE HER? WHAT IF I'M IN LOVE WITH HER? WHAT ABOUT

       THAT?” “YOU COULD SKYPE WITH HER. BUT ISN'T SHE STILL WITH ALLEN ANYWAY?”

       I sit back in my chair, suddenly bored by the whole conversation. “Skype is not the

same. Skype is almost worse. And yes, she is dating Allen.”

       “Look,” Matt says, finishing his drink and putting it down. His eyes are red and bleary.

Then he shakes his head and looks directly at me. “Fucking forget about it. Why would you be

in love with Jessica anyway? She's a bitch, Walt. She's addicted to drugs."
        “I just don't want to miss anybody,” I tell him, regretting it almost immediately but

barreling onward anyway. “I hate missing anybody."

        Matt looks at me strangely. “But nobody's worth missing."

        "Lindsey is," I tell him.

        "Lindsey goes to Yale," Matt says. "God, you're so weird sometimes, Walt. I

can't deal with you, sometimes. I can't...deal."

        And then he passes out.

        I SIT BACK AND WATCH THE REST OF THE PEOPLE FILTER OUT OF THE ROOM UNTIL I AM

ALONE AND DRUNK IN THE COMMON ROOM.           I CHECK THE TIME ON MY BLACKBERRY. I NEED

TO BE AT THE AIRPORT IN FOUR HOURS.

        Don't think about it. Don't think about the people you miss. It's

        too hard to care about anybody.




        I meet my parents and sister in Jackson Hole for the first week of winter break that year.

I get off the plane exhausted, a wreck, needing a cigarette but stubbornly refusing to take out my

pack and light one. I still can't smoke around my family. I breathe in the chilly mountain air

instead. Snow is everywhere. My family is waiting for me at baggage claim and my father puts

my suitcase into the rented Suburban and we drive to our condo at the mountain base. My sister

tells me about how her tennis team won the city championship and how our high school is being

renovated so she has to take some of her classes in the middle school across the road.

        MY STEP-MOTHER ASKS ME ABOUT COLLEGE. I TELL HER IT'S OKAY. MY FATHER ASKS

ABOUT MY CLASSES AND I TRY TO SOUND EXCITED ABOUT THEM AND THEY START ASKING ME

ABOUT WHEN I'LL
be applying to medical school and we talk about that while my sister looks out the window and

the Suburban purrs up the steepening road. The headlights illuminate whirling snow flurries and

the dark pines beyond them at the edge of the road. The first day of five weeks of vacation.




        MOST OF THE WEEK AT JACKSON HOLE I SPEND IN A STUPOR, NOT EVEN SKIING MUCH. I

GET ON THE GONDOLA IN THE MORNING WITH MY FAMILY, THEN TELL THEM I WILL MEET THEM

FOR LUNCH BUT JUST SKI BACK DOWN TO THE CONDO.            I SIT IN THE HOT TUB FOR HOURS AT A

TIME, STARING UP AT THE MOUNTAINS AND LETTING THE SNOW SETTLE ON MY HAIR AND

WATCHING STEAM RISE SLOWLY IN SLOW CURLING WISPS FROM THE WATER SURFACE.                   I HAVE

SOME BOOKS WITH ME AND AT NIGHT I SIT AND READ BY THE BIG FIREPLACE, THE REST OF MY

FAMILY ASLEEP, HAPPILY EXHAUSTED FROM A DAY OF SKIING.            I GET HALFWAY THROUGH SOME

BORING BESTSELLER THAT MATT TOLD ME TO READ BUT FIND IT SO DULL AND EARNEST AND

HAPPY THAT I HAVE TO THROW IT OUT, LITERALLY STANDING UP ONE NIGHT AND TOSSING IT

INTO THE TRASHCAN.      EVENTUALLY I TAKE OUT MY BATTERED COPY OF ISLANDS IN THE STREAM

AND START TO READ IT FOR THE FIFTH TIME, SAVORINGLY.

        Halfway through the week I drive into town, find a liquor store and buy a fifth of Bombay

Sapphire which for some reason I can't quite explain reminds me of freshman year. I also buy a

bunch of lime juice. I drink most of it in the hot tub while my family is asleep or skiing. One

night I pass out in the hot tub for nearly an hour. When I come to it takes every last reserve of will

power in my body to stumble out of the water, vomit in

THE SNOW, COVER THE VOMIT WITH MORE SNOW, THEN CRAWL INTO BED. I HIDE THE FIFTH

AND MY EMPTY GLASS UNDER THE COVERS.
        ONE NIGHT MY FATHER TAKES ME OUT TO DINNER AT ONE OF THE MORE EXPENSIVE

RESTAURANTS NEAR THE MAIN LODGE. WE DRINK WATER WITH DINNER AND AS I PICK AT MY

STEAK HE ASKS ME HOW IT'S GOING WITH THE PSYCHIATRIST I'VE STARTED SEEING TOWARD THE

END OF THE SEMESTER.     I TELL HIM IT'S GOING WELL AND THAT DR. FOSTER WANTS ME TO TRY

GOING ON SOME SORT OF SSRI AND MY FATHER, A SURGEON, KNOWS THE TERM AND NODS

SAGELY AND I REALIZE THAT ALTHOUGH LOVE MAY EXIST BETWEEN US IN SOME ABSTRACT

WAY, WE KNOW NOTHING ABOUT EACH OTHER.          THE THOUGHT FILLS ME WITH A PANICKY,

ASPHYXIATING FEELING AND I GRAB FOR MY WATER GLASS, CHUGGING THE ICY WATER UNTIL

THE FEELING SUBSIDES.

        I chew my steak and my father eats his salmon with wild rice and the conversation

wanders, unforced, to other topics. My father mentions a new ski run he found, a black

diamond called Spitfire. He talks about the moguls and the fresh powder and how great it is,

how I should try it. I want to cry.

        ON THE LAST NIGHT BEFORE WE LEAVE, I AM LYING AWAKE IN MY ROOM, FINISHING

ISLANDS IN THE STREAM AND I OVERHEAR MY PARENTS TALKING. MY MOM IS SAYING

SOMETHING ABOUT MY SISTER, ABOUT HOW SHE THINKS SHE IS ANOREXIC, OR MAYBE EVEN

BULIMIC.   I HEAR SOMETHING ABOUT MISSED PERIODS AND OBSESSIVE TENDENCIES AND

PERFECTIONISM.    MY FATHER REPLIES BUT HIS VOICE IS LOW AND SONOROUS, SORT OF BLITHE,

BUT I CAN'T MAKE OUT THE ACTUAL WORDS. WHEN MY STEP-MOTHER STARTS TO SPEAK AGAIN,

HER VOICE MORE ANXIOUS NOW, I THINK I CAN HEAR MY OWN NAME SPOKEN AND THEN I PUT

THE BOOK DOWN AND REACH FOR MY EAR PLUGS.         I ROLL OVER AND PULL THE COVERS UP.

DEPRESSION SETTLES ON ME, WARM AND FAMILIAR. I TRY TO SLEEP BUT IT DOESN'T COME.

       AT THE END OF THE WEEK MY PARENTS LEAVE FOR A MEDICAL CONFERENCE IN
                                      SAN

 FRANCISCO. I TAKE MY SISTER HOME TO INDIANA BECAUSE MY PARENTS WANT SOME TIME
                                     ALONE.
My sister and I don't speak much on the plane ride. A chilliness settles on me from the moment

the 737 breaks through the gray clouds above Indianapolis and I can see the entire city

stretching out before me looking flat and bleak and snowbound. It takes too long to find our

Ford Expedition in the long-term parking lot and my sister starts complaining about the cold.

When I turn to look at her she looks thin and fragile in the harsh yellow glare of the parking lot

lamps, her nose already red and running.

        THE CAR STARTS ON THE SECOND TRY BUT IT TAKES WHILE BEFORE THE HEATER WARMS

UP. OUR BREATH FROSTS AGAINST THE WINDOWS. WHEN I PULL OUT OF THE AIRPORT PARKING

LOT, THE HIGHWAYS ARE EMPTY BUT CLEARED OF SNOW.             A SLOW WIND BLOWS FLURRIES

ACROSS THE PAVEMENT IN THIN, TWISTING SHAPES.

        THE STREETS OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD ARE SILENT AND OUR HOUSE LOOKS VERY BIG

AND VERY ARK, SET FAR BACK FROM THE ROAD IN A COPSE OF PINE TREES.             ONLY ONE LIGHT IS

ON IN AN UPSTAIRS BATHROOM. THE ROOF IS CAKED WITH SNOW, THE DRIVEWAY UNSHOVELED.

        Inside it is warm but dark and more empty than I remember it being in August, the last

time I saw my home. My sister, unspeaking, leaves her bags in the coat room and goes upstairs

to her room. I hear her close her door and lock it. I think about not being home in four months.

I think about what that means.

        I WANDER THROUGH THE BIG KITCHEN AND LOOK INTO THE SUNKEN LIVING ROOM IT TS

GIANT FLAT-PANEL TV AND TALL PICTURE WINDOWS. THE DECK OUTSIDE IS EMPTY, THE

HOTTUBE COVERED UP AND PROBABLY DRAINED.            MY PARENTS NEVER USE IT. I STAND AT THE

WINDOW FOR AWHILE LOOKING OUT AT THE SLOPING, WOODED YARD, THEN TURN ON SOME

LAMPS AND LUG MY SUITCASE UP THE STAIRS TO MY ROOM.
         INSIDE I CLOSE THE DOOR AND TURN ON ALL THE LIGHTS AND THE TV, PUT IT ON ESPN.

MY ROOM HAS A BALCONY AND ALTHOUGH ITS FREEZING OUTSIDE I OPEN THE GLASS DOOR AND

GO OUT AND SMOKE A CIGARETTE, QUICKLY, THEN COME BACK INSIDE.            I LIE SIDEWAYS ON MY

BED AND STARE EMPTILY AT THE TV BUT THERE ARE ONLY COMMERCIALS ON.

         Night falls fast in the winter. There is no sunset because the sun is hidden by the snow

clouds. Soon it is pitch-black outside and I have to draw all the blinds in my room and turn the

volume on the TV way up to keep from getting too scared.

         I LIE ON MY BED AND LOOK AT THE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN POSTER ON THE WALL THAT

MY PARENTS GOT ME FOR CHRISTMAS A LONG TIME AGO.           I TAKE OUT MY PHONE AND THINK

ABOUT TEXTING MIKE, BUT THEN I REMEMBER HE TOLD ME HE WAS SPENDING CHRISTMAS IN

NEW YORK WITH KELSEY. I FEEL JEALOUS A LITTLE, ENVIOUS. MOSTLY SAD.

         My parents aren't returning from San Francisco until Christmas Eve. My sister knocks

on my door and tells me she is going to go see “Shrek 2” with her friends. I hear her clump

down the stairs. I hear the door slam. The garage door opens and her car—my father's old BMW

3-series—starts and backs out. Then the garage door closes and everything is silent and I am

alone.

				
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