Wednesday, July 21, 2010

(The) Friday Night in the City

Combat Baby - Metric

Lee and I spilled out of the car and ran up to the girls. There was two of us and three of them so we stuck out our arms like we were flexing in some kind of weird way and allowed them to slip their arms through and walk on our either side. We were in Hackney’s Tahoe because it was the only thing that all of us could fit into. When we got to it Lee and I bent down and helped the girls into the massive vehicle. We unnecessarily steadied them and cupped our hands under their feet to help lift them up and in.

There were two more of us fellows on the inside; Hackney, the driver, and our friend Devin whom we for no real reason call Marmot and whom hates being called Marmot. They didn’t get out with us because Hackney was driving, which is apparently an excuse not to get out, and Marmot has a girlfriend and he didn’t want it getting out that he exerted any effort to make any part of another female’s, besides his girlfriend’s, life easier. I had to lie and tell him it was going to be a guy’s night to even get him to come with us before we trapped him in the car.

The three girls were Scotty Kate, Brittany, and Jenna. Scotty Kate (frequently shortened to SK) and Jenna were suitemates and Jenna and Brittany were in the same sorority. Small liberal arts schools lend themselves to small degrees of separation, but they were all friends anyway. Lee was my roommate and Hackney (sometimes called Ben) is Marmot’s roommate. We were heading to the city tonight to eat with the girls; which is what young people do, they try to maximize the amount of time that they can arrange places to go and things to do with other young people, such as eating dinner.

There were seven of us, but there were only six actual seats so Scotty Kate sat on Jenna because she was the smallest. For some reason girls don’t seem to mind doing stuff like that. They were structured in the back row along with Lee; Ben and Marmot were in the front, and Brittany was across from me in the middle. We took off like a bronco. Hackney peeled out onto the street. The girls acted like they were terrified, but you could tell they were loving it. Ben was going to be driving like a madman tonight because we had worked him up on the way over by cheering for him to blow through stop signs and chanting for him to turn at inappropriate and unsafe times; stuff like that.

I bent down and sought temperature preference information from the girls as I optimally styled the buttons and knobs for our climate controlled zone. When I sat back up, Brittany reminded me half joking, half serious to buckle my seat belt; for the past two weeks I had kept forgetting to put on my seat belt; it was strange, I was usually good at wearing it.

“You’re going to make a great mom someday Brittany,” I said.

“You never know, I could’ve just saved your life,” was her reply.

“Oh, I appreciate it and so will your kids one day,” she didn’t say anything to that, but laughed so I turned to Lee and said, “Don’t you think Brittany will make a great mom someday?”

“She’ll be the best, I can just see her at half-time of basketball games with a beret, handing out orange slices and Capri sun,” Lee joked; she was wearing a beret.

“Hey,” Brittany put her hands to her hat in a vain attempt to protect it from the cruel verbal abuse of the world.

“Brittany’s going to be the cool mom that all the girls wished they were friends with when she was young,” SK chimed in.

“And you’re going to be the mom heading the PTA,” said Lee back to SK. She gave Lee a look.

“Don’t fight your destiny Scotty Kate,” I said.

“And Jenna will be the chauffeur mom driving everyone around in Hackney’s Tahoe,” said Marmot from the front. There was a running joke among us about Ben and Jenna getting married.

“I care too much about the environment to drive this thing,” Jenna responded and then made a cherubic pose with her hands under her chin. I hated that pose.

“My favorite part of this conversation was that none of you objected to the fact that you’re going to become moms; you only had problems with what kind of moms you’d be,” Hackney said with only his eyes visible in the rear-view mirror.

After that there was a cacophony of us pointing and laughing and making jokes about submission and gender roles while the girls defended their own honor. That lasted for two minutes. The conversation was on the downward turn in its cycle so things quieted down. The music was boring me, so I decided to play DJ.

“Hey Marmy, can I see the iPod? I want to check something.”

“Yeah, just don’t change the song, I love this one. And watch the cord.”

Step Step Step - Belaire

“Yeah definitely,” I replied and immediately switched the song. He made a mild pre-pubescent sounding denouncement as I laughed and started dancing and shoving everyone else within arm’s reach into motion as well. And so we passed on from zip code to zip code and then to new area codes. It was about an hour drive into the city.

“Hey, is everyone still up for Cesco’s?” asked Hackney fulfilling his paternal role from the driver’s seat. There was a blurry response that mostly resembled and tilted towards the yays of an old time town hall meeting. “Dohkay, Cesco’s it is.”

I turned to Scotty Kate and said,

“Hey SK, are you going to help pick out what I’m going to eat tonight at dinner?”

“Yeah,” she shrugged, then asked, “why me and why do you need help?”

“Because restaurant menus confuse me. I’m at a kid’s menu reading level. Plus, you’re going to be a doctor and I need you to prescribe some food for me.”

She laughed at that and said, “Alright, I’ll help you.” Scotty Kate is our year’s rep in student government and her sister was the Student Government president of the university our freshman year and her dad is on the board at school too. Thus, she feels compelled to step up/help out/live up to her family’s legacy even though she acts like she doesn’t. I said that to her because all you have to do is ask and she’ll pretty much try and help in any way she can and plus; I wanted to sit by her at dinner. To tell you the truth I had a bit of a crush on her and in reality on all three girls with us. All of them were pretty cool and above average as far as young adult women go, but in all honesty I’m always a bit in love with any female I hang out with. And when I say I’m in love with them, I mean I want to make the time I spend with them extraordinary and memorable and something special, not like I’m trying to hook up with them or anything like that. It’s a misnomer to call it love, but I can’t find anything better to call it. In fact, I couldn’t see myself dating 99% of these girls that I’m in “love” with for a night.

But, I’m immature like that. Life has yet to turn me upside down to shake the idealism and romanticism from my pockets. I still fall in love with boring girls for hour slots of time. Girls who will go on to marry correspondingly boring guys and who will one day worry about what chain restaurant to eat at after Sunday morning church and who would be thrilled at receiving a blue tooth for Christmas. They’re the ones for me. And while I feel like that for most girls I’m spending time with; these three really were heads and shoulders above the rest. Most people annoy me, but I actually dug Brittany and Scotty Kate and Jenna a lot. I might actually care about their existences after we graduate, who knows?

I had spaced out for a couple minutes. The fleeting environment that was breathlessly sliding past like a film reel between the telephone poles had hypnotized me into amateur collegiate philosophy. No doubt I had come up with some stupid truths to filter my week’s experience through until my next period of pondering hypnosis which would grant me the clarity to see the fallacies of last week’s session. I feel like most people my age do it too. We think we’re thinking about important stuff and all. Every once in a while we even think we hit upon something profound, but it doesn’t usually last long. It’s like how people think they’re photographers if they take close-up pictures of flowers with their digital cameras.

So to come back to reality, I turned around to come off the bench and enter into whatever conversation had started without me.

“…and then Dustin asked me to their winter formal,” Jenna finished her sentence.

“That guy’s a hack!” Lee retorted with his standard dismissal of males who he wasn’t friends with.

“Yeah, that’s guy is seriously an idiot. You’ll see when we play them in basketball. I am seriously going to dominate Dustin Thomason,” I said, not entirely sure of what everyone was talking about. Hackney and Marmot, who were also on our Frat’s team, affirmed my claim. I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I really don’t care too much or have anything against that “hack” Dustin, but I can’t resist making arrogant claims about things. I didn’t even plan on backing up my bragging, but I love to make ridiculous boasts. For instance I first insulted his intelligence then proposed that athletics should be the test to will prove my initial assertion. Ridiculous stuff like that. You just feel like saying stuff sometimes. No one even remembers most of the things you say so I feel like I can say stupid things because it doesn’t really matter too much. Plus we were almost there and everyone forgets everything when you’re almost there.

Don't Deconstruct - Rilo Kiley

The tops of the tallest buildings began to reveal themselves to us. The approach of the budding lights mesmerized us as we slid into a comfortable silence. We were all so enamored that Hackney had to swerve across a lane to make our exit. The city wasn’t even that stunning, but coming from a sub 100,000 population, the stories of the buildings piling up like a bookshelf were impossible not to stare at. We dropped down and started to head west, curving along the hem of the outskirts of the city. Finally, we took the downtown exit and were back to normal streets of lights and signs, starts and stops. The downtown district with all the restaurants and everything was only a couple streets away, but it took us a bit to get over there. We parked at a massive REI store that was three blocks from Cesco’s because it had free parking.

Lee and I once again put on our chivalry act as we ushered the girls to the restaurant. At one red light I ran out and stopped traffic. I directed the group across the street to the tune of constant honking. We lifted them over puddles and then got Hackney and Marmot to help out and form a phalanx around the girls whenever shady-looking people walked by. Then the girls crossed arms with each other and started pulling this Sex in the City, Kelly Clarkson, independent women act and wouldn’t let us do anything for them. This annoyed me. I mean I’m not down on women or anything like that, but I just hate it when things are ruined like that.

When we walked into Cesco’s, I ran up and got us a party of seven going under the name “Marmy.” He was going to hate that. I love putting the name in at restaurants. I used to hate it; I would act all nice and hold doors for everyone else in order to be the last person in. I don’t know what changed. The hostess said it’d be a twenty minute wait, so I leaned up against a wall and stared at a picture of Siena, Italy.

I didn’t talk much during the wait. I was still a little staggered by the girls’ behavior; it was a stupid thing to be thrown off by. We were just trying to have fun, and I know they were too, but it still bothered me. I really am immature, I know. Recently, I had started to try out that whole thing of thinking of the good things about people when you weren’t really enjoying them. So I started thinking about how the girls hadn’t made any stupid requests or demands about which restaurant they had to go to or anyplace that they had to sit. I’ve been with girls before who did do that stuff and who had the stupidest expectations for things. And it would then throw them off if it wasn’t exactly right. We’re all so immature it astounds me.

The hostess called our name, and Marmot gave me the ‘really?’ look, but everyone else thought it was funny. We were walking to our table when we saw Jordan and Carly, some girls we know, sitting at a table by themselves. Greetings were exchanged and Carly proposed the idea that maybe we should all sit together. The hostess was cool with it, so they turned Jordan and Carly’s table and added another onto the end of it.

Social Competence - Peter Moren

“We’re just on appetizers so you guys don’t have too much catching up to do,” Jordan said with a smile. She was in the same sorority as Jenna and Brittany, but all these girls were really friends anyway. Half the time they’re the same person so it doesn’t matter all that much.

“So how long have you and Carly been dating?” I asked Jordan as I sat down. They were far from being lesbians, so Jordan just shook her head at me and said my name. Ben knew Carly from back home so he sat by her and then Jenna sat by Jordan to fill out their table. Scotty Kate sat to Jordan’s left, and Brittany sat across from her to Carly’s left, and I to Brittany’s right across from Lee who was on SK’s left, which left Marmot on the end. He would be content there.

“Sorry we crashed your night,” Brittany said with a polite smirk.

“Oh no, no worries,” Jordan replied. She was playing with the end of her hair. Jordan always did that or touched the place where her nose stud used to be when she was nervous. She was never nervous when she was supposed to be.

“Yeah, I think fate wanted all of us to be together tonight,” Carly added.

“Hey Jordan hey, hey I’m over here,” Lee waved at Jordan from across Scotty Kate.

“Oh hey Lee.” Jordan and Lee went way back and had several semesters’ worth of Lee unabashedly, half-jokingly, half-seriously hitting on her.

“Hey it’s me, remember when we had Emerging European History together?”

I turned away from that conversation and heard Carly explaining,

“Oh we just had to get away from campus. You just have to sometimes, and this was one of those times, wasn’t it Ben?” She gave Ben a look. Carly had this on again off again thing with Ben’s cousin and this was one of those off again times; which meant that Ben’s cousin was picking up his stalker-esque, controlling tendencies once more. The waitress came and got our drink orders.

“So. SK. Help,” I started.

“Well, what do you usually get at Italian places?”

“I usually throw a dart at the menu.”

Eventually, after much discussion we decided on me getting Angel Hair pasta because we couldn’t get past me repeatedly inquiring how it was possible for Scotty Kate’s hair to be pasta. It was great.

We ordered without major incident and immediately launched into a discussion of politics. Because that’s what college students do, we squeeze political discourses into every nook and cranny of free time we find throughout the day.

“Jason Willis will actually get things done though,” Jordan announced.

“This is the Pendleton University Student Government we’re talking about, not the state legislature,” Lee threw back.

“But still we want someone who is going to work to improve campus,” is what she reversed with.

“Any changes that campus truly needs will come about anyway,” I began, “the university doesn’t want to fall behind the times and doesn’t want the quality of student life to drop anywhere near a level where students might leave because of it. So who cares about any of that? I want a screw-off in office who is going to entertain me and make our college days more unique and memorable. That’s what I want in a Student Government President,” I said, ending my comment the way standardized writing tests had taught me to.

“How many times are we going to have the same Student Government President?” Lee added. “Everyone has basically been the same and they’ve done basically the same things and they never do half as much as they promise they’re going to. I see no reason not to try something different, at least for a year.”

Jordan got no help from any of the other girls. I think SK may have felt a touch awkward because her older sister was an SG President and was definitely one of those congruous Student Government Presidents Lee was referring to. I then furthered our argument with,

“The SG President has no real power so they won’t get much done and they won’t mess that much up. Travis won’t be capable of burning the school down in anarchy if elected. Our generation might as well leave our mark on the college with a different personality in office.”

“Jason just wants to add another line to his resume. He wants it too bad. I want a President like George Washington who doesn’t even really want the job, but is almost forced to because everyone knows he’s the best for the job,” contributed Lee.

“I’m still going to vote for Jason,” Jordan replied.

“Of course you are, you’re boring,” I shot back with. “You want to act like you’re thirty when you’re twenty just like you wanted to act like an undergrad when you were in high school. Jason is a bore too and that’s why you want to vote for him.” I was definitely talking about more than her vote.

Our food came out at the end of this, and so we were saved the awkwardness that was beginning to creep in. Plus, most of the table were in their own conversations and could only hear our interaction increasing in volume while not knowing what was causing this. Jordan was used to it from Lee and me. We gave her the treatment a lot. For some reason, I have no qualms about being what some would consider mean to Jordan. She is a bore and she never quits trying to act older. I think she should know about this.

I never thought I’d be having this sort of conversation when I was in college. I didn’t expect to talk condescendingly or to flirt obnoxiously with girls. I don’t remember my older brother interacting like this when I saw him with his friends in college. There’s just something about some of them that I don’t respect and there’s so many girls that I don’t even see as real, individual people. I give them the benefit of the doubt though. I assume the best of them through and through as I get to know them. But, there’s only so many times that they can reveal their true boring nature before you have to start treating them different. Giving them anymore positive reinforcement for the scared, self-conscious way they live their life isn’t helping. It’s ok though, Jordan and I actually like each other so it’s never a big deal. We’ve had many such exchanges before.

Everyone was fine though, when we started eating. I didn’t want everyone to start talking about and comparing their food or anything like that so I was thinking of something to throw out, just to get things going, but thankfully everyone took a step up and began talking about and comparing restaurants here in town. Then made the obvious segue into…

Shoulder to Shoulder - Little Joy

“Are you guys going to Teresa’s lingerie shower on Sunday?” Carly asked as she took a bite of something.

There was a bouquet of ‘uhh…yeah’s, ‘I guess’s, and ‘I don’t know, are you?’s .

“It just feels odd because she’s not even getting married until November,” Brittany proffered.

“Why is she doing it so early?” Marmot asked. He could probably see his girlfriend doing something like that so he wanted to do some market research.

“She’s staying for grad school, and she wants all of her friends who are graduating to be there,” explained SK.

“Yeah, everyone thinks it’s kinda weird. But, I mean, it’s totally something Teresa would do…” Carly began and I began to stop listening because it was killing me. I just get bored because we spend half our time talking about other people and the other half looking at them on Facebook. I don’t mind talking about other people as long as we’re making fun of them and I don’t mind wasting time on Facebook if I’m making fun of the people I’m looking at. That’s the only thing that legitimizes those activities. If I’m making fun of them, I don’t feel like I’m gossiping about them. Lee and I looked at each other and made faces.

I saw a headphone dangling out of Brittany’s purse like a sheet out of a window.

“Hey Brittany can I look at your iPod?” I asked. I needed something. She accurately thought it was a bit strange to ask such a thing at dinner, but didn’t make a big deal out of it. Brittany was always way nice so she handed it to me. I’m such a little kid, I can’t even sit politely and quietly while everyone else is discussing something that interests them. I have to find something to hold me over until I want to talk again. Thankfully, I didn’t care enough to do anything about it.

My thumb jogged laps as I scrolled down the list of artists. And let me say, I was pleasantly surprised. She had The Beatles on there, which meant she was human (everyone has them, and for good reason). She had the Beach Boys, but had Pet Sounds instead of Sounds of Summer which was impressive. She had Death Cab and The Decemberists, which meant that she had at least gone through the initial stages that every college-age kid goes through during the transformation to better music. She had Jack Johnson and Michael Buble which meant part of her was akin to bland collegiate aesthetic and which also meant that I wanted to throw up. She had The Shins, which meant she used Garden State as an introduction into this kind of music, and she had The Strokes, which meant she had a good grasp on modern history. She had the people that people claim when they claim to listen to good music. But, see that wasn’t it. She had Little Joy, and The Dirty Projectors, and The Microphones, and Pavement, and Half-Handed Cloud. This meant that she had real stuff; she had music that you had to go looking for. It wasn’t just the kind of music that found its way to her from commercials and soundtracks, you had to seek this stuff out.

“Brittany, I had no idea you listened to such good things. Half-Handed cloud?” I said.

“Oh yeah, I’m really into music. My brother-in-law sends me all sorts of fantastic playlists. He introduces me to so much good stuff,” which meant that she didn’t really find any of these random bands herself, but I’m just as down with her having a music snob playing ambassador for her musical tastes. Whatever works, right?

“Oh! You’ll appreciate this,” Brittany said and then brought up her leg so her foot in a Converse sneaker rested on the chair with her. There was writing and doodles all over the shoe. It looked like a middle school girl’s earth science notes. She was pointing to a particular bit of tattoo on her shoe. It read ‘In the living room when you kissed my neck & I almost touched your mouth.’ It was a line from a Sufjan Stevens’ song, but she had gotten the last part wrong. It really says “and I almost touched your blouse.’ I liked her mistaken version though. “Every concert I go to, I always write down a lyric that sticks in my head on my shoes. That way it’s like a memento.”

Valentine - Justice

“Kinda like a passport with stamps, huh? I actually like that.” And I did. I like little creative flourishes that people decorate life with. “Where did you see Sufjan at?”

“St. Louis. I took a trip to see him my senior year of high school.”

“I seriously had no idea you were so into music. Like I figured you would enjoy it, but I didn’t think you’d be into some of these random bands.”

“Sometimes I think I’m a little too into music. I used to be in band actually.”

“Wow, I need to hear about this.”

“Yeah, it definitely didn’t go anywhere, but it was all girls…”

“Feminists, girl-power I love it.”

“I was the drummer of all things. “

“So what type of music?”

“We never really got around to playing too much music. Mostly we just sat around and talked about what we wanted our sound to be. I couldn’t take it. What do you expect though, with teenagers impulsively starting a band?”

“So what kind of music did you guys theorize about sounding like?”

“We wanted to sound like everything, so I couldn’t really say. But I got into the whole rock band thing so much that I dyed the tips and underneath part of my hair pink. So because of that, I guess I’d say we were punk. As you can tell I was pretty hardcore.”

I love being pleasantly surprised by someone, I really do. Most of the time people are < what you originally think of them and if you get lucky ≤. Most of the time you have to just suck it up and keep resigning yourself to who these people really are in order to still like them. So when you find someone who is ≥ who you thought them to be it is quite refreshing. I mean, it’s totally unfair to want people to be who you expect them to be, but it’s still quite nice when there’s more than meets the eye. That sounds weird though. It sounds like I think of life is a giant talent show with me as the judge and it’s everyone’s job to impress me. It’s not like that though, but you can still tell when a person has more to offer than what’s shown initially. With Brittany I could tell that she was with it and stuff, but I thought it was like how most people act with it just cause they like the way it looks to look with it. So that was cool.

I came to after talking with Brittany and it seemed like it was about that time that we should go. I challenged Hackney to a game of rock, paper, scissors, with the loser having to ask for the check from the waitress using that stupid signing the air hand gesture. I only asked because I know I can always beat him. 2 out of 3 rock, paper, scissors; I can beat Hackney every time and I’ve gotten countless moments of joy out of wagers based on this capability. I stoned Hackney and then paper-cut him to death quickly and he had to raise his big, stupid arm and do that sign thing and you could tell the waitress hated him for it and it was the funniest thing I had seen. Thankfully no one else really laughed because then the waitress would’ve thought we were making fun of her when I was really only wanting to make fun of Hackney. I would’ve felt terrible if she thought we were one of those groups of kids being idiots for no reason. And what’s strange is I don’t mind being obnoxious to people most of the time. But, if they’re on the job and being paid to do something, I don’t want to do a mean thing to them. I don’t want them to feel bad at all and I have yet to pin down exactly why.

We puffed out of the restaurant a few at a time as some freshened up in the powder room and I personally took a bit because I couldn’t get the toothpick dispenser to work. By the time I got it out and had examined some more pictures on the wall, I ended up being the last outside. What I saw when I walked out was the guys talking to one another and the girls talking to only one another. It reminded me of school growing up when the teacher would give us the chance to sit where we wanted before they made an assigned seating chart and it always inevitably ended up with the guys on one side of the classroom and the girls on the other side. It was the craziest thing. So naturally I went and talked with the girls.

All The Pretty Girls Go To The City - Spoon

The women-folk had no dishes to clean so they wanted to head to this coffeehouse close by and the men having no rumpus room in which to smoke cigars, were restless and wanted to wander around outside a bit and would meet up with the girls in a half-hour or so. First we walked for a spell along the river and saw a few high school kids casting out. They weren’t going to catch anything, but they were out there anyway. Then we turned back towards the buildings and ended up in an alley right off the sidewalk where a lamppost was cutting the air at a 49 degree angle of light that looked orange from the street and yellow to us in the alley. The name of the establishment we were by was fading off the bricks on one of the walls. In my pocket was a blue racquet ball that I carry with me from time to time. I started throwing it against the wall and in no time the four of us were playing this game called Wall Ball. All you do in Wall Ball is throw the racquet ball as hard as you can against the wall and then someone tries to catch it to throw it again. If you try to catch it and miss you have to touch the wall before someone can throw the ball and hit the wall. I’m not a big fan of getting sweaty for no reason, but it was fun and I couldn’t resist. We used to play Wall Ball a bunch on lunch break in middle school. I always wanted to show the kids that played baseball that I had better reflexes with small round objects that were traveling at high velocities than them. It was a worthy cause.

We had been playing for about ten minutes when this side-door on the alley from this bar opened up and a guy came spinning out laughing. It was our friend from school: Bryant. Of all people.

It was a coincidence that we were eating at the same restaurant at the same time as Jordan and Carly tonight and it was a coincidence that Bryant should come spinning out of a random door at the same time and place where we had decided to stop our walk and play Wall Ball. Not that crazy, and yet pretty improbable. Such is life. I put a lot of stock in coincidences. They get to me. World records and stuff seem like they’re starting to plateau and stuff and no one’s ever going to equal some of the stuff John Wooden did as a coach, but I don’t think there will ever be a world record coincidence that won’t be blown out of the water by some other unimaginably crazy and bigger coincidence. They always keep topping each other and in big ways. They keep getting exponentially larger and crazier and they’re going to keep getting that way.

“What are you squares doing here?” Bryant, which was his last name, said and started giggling. That kid laughed every time someone spoke, including himself.

“What are you doing here?” Lee said back and Bryant just laughed.

“Hey come on man, I got a wife and kids to feed,” Bryant finally replied after we waited for him to answer and put his hands in the air. “Naw, we were just looking for something to do and figured we’d head down here for the night.”

“Who’d you come down with?” Hackney asked.

“Morgan, Lewis, Cook, all those guys.”

“Those guys are the worst,” Lee responded.

“He’s right,” I said, “You’re coming with us now.” I didn’t care if he came or not, I just wanted to see what would happen.

“Sure, where are we going?” he inquired.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said and then for some reason we all surrounded Bryant and seized him and carried him with us so he couldn’t get away. He probably wasn’t going to try and get away, but this was much more fun anyways. We continued this for about a block and then I started poking Bryant and tickling him and he had no idea where it was coming from. And then he started twisting and spazzing out because he kept getting poked and tickled and couldn’t do anything about it. Then everyone joined in and we didn’t let up until he was on the ground laughing and gasping for air.

The tomfoolery had taken us a couple of blocks away from the busy part of town. There were only a few parked cars and no sign of movement. As he rolled off the ground, Bryant saw an open window a few floors up on what appeared to be a building that looked abandoned after the ground floor. He challenged us to go up in it and of course we had to do it.

Paper Tiger - Spoon

Marmot then dropped out because he was a girl and didn’t do stuff like this. Hackney then backed off because he says he always finds some way to get hurt. Not true, he’s a girl too. Lee then tapped out because he was scared this would somehow come back to haunt him in his future life. I think it’s a sad statement on our culture when a little something like some climbing and minor trespassing is considered to be too big of a deal for young people to do. Especially when I know all the terrible things that most kids don’t have a problem doing self-destructively to themselves. We had a closing window on being able to do stupid things and not have people hold it against us. And I planned on using that up.

I never suggest to do ridiculous stuff. I don’t want to do more than what I have to. But if anyone wants to do something my inner scientist that wants to prove something kicks in and I’ll do it. I mean I’ll do basically anything crazy as long as it’s not in a car, or on a skateboard or motorcycle or something. That’s cause I don’t trust those things and I don’t want to have to rely on anything but me and my two legs when I’m doing something stupid.

Even though they were being rather pathetic, I told them they could be look-outs. Like it even mattered; if we got caught by the police or something they would see that we had no weapons or drugs or anything and would lose interest. People also overestimate themselves and think other people will make a big deal out of stuff. As long as you’re not doing anything too bad, no one bats an eye. I told them to make bird noises if anyone came.

Bryant hopped up on the fire escape first, but I was going to make sure I was the first one inside. I always force myself to be in the lead when I do stuff like this. I have to. Climbing up all I could think about was if there was any rust on the metal and if it’d get on my clothes. I couldn’t tell in the heat lamp orange light, but I hate messing up my clothes. Now that can ruin a night.

When we got to the first landing Bryant said, “Do you want to go in here, or go up further?”

“Let’s just go in here and see if we can find a way up from the inside.” I put my hands and my upper body through the half opened window and then seal walked my way inside. It wasn’t as dank as what I was expecting. There was really nothing in there except some trash. No furniture, no light bulbs, nothing else. We were quiet. I walked across the floor rolling my feet down on impact from the heel to the ball of my foot. I remembered hearing once that that was an old Indian trick for keeping silent. As long as the Indian tip has nothing to do with herbs and medicines or buffalo, I’m way into hearing about it. Those Native Americans knew how to get stuff down. Heading out of the door into a stairwell, we looked at each other and then started slowly up the stairs. We hadn’t talked since we’d been in there and hadn’t heard so much as a cat. I wondered if there was even a potted plant in this place as a representative of life. I hadn’t even seen any insects; which should’ve been all over the place considering how abandoned it seemed.

As we went up the stairs, I suddenly felt like I was back in my house trying to creep up the stairs to my room without waking my parents after staying out too late. Though it makes pretty much no sense, when I’m walking around my house at night I get the sensation of flying in space. It’s dark and I have only the vaguest idea of where I’m at, but around me I see tiny glowing things. All the little lights from DVD players, and our thermostat and our fridge, digital clocks I didn’t even know were there, and a nightlight that my mom puts out for just such occasions as walking around at night; all these things that stay on all the time look like planets floating in the blackness. I remember looking around once and being so taken back by how many little lights there were.

The stairwell was rather echoey, but we got used to the sounds and started being slightly louder ourselves. Every once in a while we would get a feeling and try one of the doors on one of the floors to see if they opened. Every once in a while one of them opened, but we would just poke our heads in a make sure it looked like the rest and then move on. We got to the top and tried a service door. It opened. Inside it was dark, I stumbled forward unintentionally kicking a box of something that was in my way. There was a ladder that I couldn’t tell how far it went up. I jiggled it and it shook a little. It seemed steady. So we started climbing it, but just like the former ladder, I was unable to tell how rusty this one was and thought of my clothes again.

It Don't Move Me - Peter Bjorn and John

A few lengths up was a window that looked, for some reason that was a cosmic mystery, like milk had been spilt all over it and never cleaned up. It was small, but I got it open and leaned my head out. I could see all three of my friends hanging around the street below. I knew Lee was already bored and probably wanted to leave us. I moved up a few rungs so we could both see out. We really had a pretty good view of the city from up here; nothing spectacular, but anything from high enough up looks cool so we sat on the ladder for a bit staring out. I started making insane bird noises to get their attention. Bryant joined in and I saw them look up. They did nothing, but Marmot started to say something presumably stupid. I looked at Bryant to see if he heard, but he hadn’t so we shrugged and then started up again. Soon we reached the top. There was a hatch that I tried to open, it seemed pretty heavy. I got out my cell phone and kept hitting buttons to keep the light on so I could inspect the contraption. Putting my cell phone back in my pocket, I had seen enough to know how best to attempt to open it. I grabbed a handle and pushed up with my shoulder. The hatch opened and retracted. It was heavy, but the weight was put on the joints and hinges so it was actually easy to open.

I jumped out and down onto the surface of the roof and looked around. Whenever I’m up higher, on top of a building, I usually feel more stable and level than when I’m on the ground. It looked like most roofs, littered with industrial acne and chimneys and metal boxes and things which served all sorts of purposes I’m sure. There were clouds of smoke and stuff that just hung above the parts of the city like stale dreams that people had given up on and breathed out. It didn’t move at all; the smoke.

We walked around to get the view from all sides. The river and bridges and taller skyscrapers looked good from up there; as they should. We ended up on the side above the guys below. I grabbed a handful of rocks from the ground up there and strained it down to the small pieces. Then I threw it off, intending it to land on them, and taking into account the breeze. Nothing. I yelled, “Hiya morons,’ and laughed. I don’t remember the last time I said morons. It probably wasn’t smart to shout from up there. They looked up and I yelled, “get ready,” and pulled my blue racquet ball from my pocket. I showed it out to them like I was a magician exhibiting some random object that he was going to use for a trick to an audience, “I’m dropping it.” I think they got the point so I dropped it and I watched as Hackney and Marmot shuffled around in order to get into position to catch it. When it got within twenty feet of them they scattered and grabbed their heads. It was the funniest thing ever, I’m serious. We were laughing so hard. The ball took a time to get down there and had a couple good bounces till it trailed off down the street. I turned to Bryant,

“I wish I had some water balloons,” I said and Bryant opened up his jacket and pulled out a flask. “That better be water,” I said.

“It is, actually,” he said and laughed. I looked over the chest level ledge at them. One of them was waving around a light, which I believed to be a cell phone. We looked at our phones and both were going off. I told him not to answer it.

“Should we?” Bryant asked as he grinned, tightening up his neck, and held up the flask. I nodded and I stuck my cell phone over the ledge and waved it around like they were as Bryant leaned out and poured some out right over them. They didn’t see what it was at first, but then scattered again. Then they congregated back where they were again and started yelling stuff so Bryant tipped some more out and they dispersed. Bryant started flinging it out to reach them on the various places on the street that they now stood. We seriously would have made the best Greek gods. His flask was empty and we couldn’t tell if any of them had been hit. I surveyed the view one last time and then we headed down.

Just the Past - Peter Bjorn and John

The ground stung my feet upon impact when I hopped down from the fire escape. The fellas weren’t angry at all about the roof stuff, I told them we were only pouring some out for those who couldn’t be with us tonight. They were more annoyed that we took so long. I kept giggling about it as we headed to the coffeehouse to meet the girls. Bryant gave me a piggyback ride. Sometimes I can’t laugh at all when I actually find something humorous. I think I’ve faked laughed through so many stupid things over the years that sincere laughter is no longer my conditioned response when something’s truly funny. But I sure got a kick out of that roof.

Sauntering to the coffeehouse, we got there in about ten minutes. I told everyone before we went in not to make a big deal out of Bryant being with us and to try and act like he had been with us the whole night, just to see if they’d notice. All five girls were seated around a table. They looked happy, which was nice. I felt weird about butting in so I went to get a drink. Hackney and Marmot came with too. Lee and Bryant sat on the wall at these stools and read a bulletin board full of fliers. We got our drinks then went and sat by Lee and Bryant. My heart was being mechanically wrenched by a handout announcing a lost cat. I don’t want to repeat the name of the animal, it’d only make things worse. I didn’t even notice when SK came over and sat by me.

“Thanks for sitting by us,” she said surprising me.

“You did not save me a seat Miss Vaughn.”

“You didn’t ask. I helped you order earlier when you asked, right?”

“I needed the leg room,” and indicated the row of empty stools to my right.

“No, you were just really interested in numerology,” she replied and tore a tooth off the bottom of a numerology flier with a number on it and put it in my pocket. “There.” I fell in love with SK a little bit when she put that thing in my pocket. I’m not even sure why, but this is what I mean about falling in love. When I think about it, I think it has less to do with falling in love with someone and more to do with falling in love with what I imagine I want to fall in love with or who I want to fall in love with. I really don’t know though.

“You caught me. I’m seriously going to call and ask them to analyze their own phone number.”

Scotty Kate started to say something when Lee hailed her. She rolled her eyes and told me not to go anywhere, that she’d be right back. So I of course took off and assumed her spot at the table with the girls.

“So, ladies, who’s looking hottest tonight? Personally I feel like the Marmot really pulled himself together this evening,” I said as I sat down. They just stared at me so I said, “I’m not taking no for an answer.”

“We’re not talking about this,” Jenna shot back. She could be pretty mean sometimes, but we had already set a precedent for tolerating honest hostilities tonight so it was fine with me. Anymore I’d found that Jenna was ten times more fun to be around when she wasn’t in groups.

“Ok, works for me,” I responded. They asked where all we went and I told them that I had seen a poster for a lost pet earlier and so we went looking for it by the river, but had no luck. They knew I was joking and they did not like the joke at all. Bryant came over and sat in Brittany’s seat who had been out on a phone call since right before I came to the table.

“Alright, so Bryant, we’ve been telling our most embarrassing stories. Now, since you’re new, it’s your turn.” I frequently say this when someone new shows up in a group because they have no idea what you’ve been talking about and if they think everyone else has done it, then they feel compelled to do it themselves. You can learn some really personal stuff without giving up any yourself, it’s great.

“Oh no man, I don’t want to bust in on that.” He started to back away from the table.

“Come on Bryant. Stay! Ladies, you want Bryant to stay, right?” and I nodded up and down encouragingly as the girls asked him to stay.

“Can I hear your guys’ then?” he inquired.

“Nope. Not fair. You have to go now,” I said; the girls were really silent during most of this. Bryant recounted an odd anecdote about his mom being his Sex Ed teacher at school. It was pretty weird. None of us really knew how to respond to that. Brittany came in and caught the tail end of the story and was probably even more confused than the rest of us.

“So does Brittany go next or what?” Bryant asked.

“Um, no I think we’re all kinda bored with that one, but oh!” I said, “New question: which celebrity would be most heartbreaking to have die?”

Jenna said Johnny Depp, Jordan said Morgan Freemen, Carly said Jake Gyllenhaal, Brittany said Maggie Gyllenhaul , Bryant said Brad Pitt.

“No, you are all wrong. All those people would be sainted if they died. I’ve thought about this before and the celebrity who would truly be the most heartbreaking to die is Alex Trebek. Seriously. And the reason why is one: he is irreplaceable, I mean he’s pretty one of a kind to me. Two, he’s consistent; you know everyday there’s Trebek doing his thing like no other and not getting into any kind of trouble with hookers or anything off-screen. Lastly, most of the time you forget about him and by forget I mean take him for granted. You probably think about Alex Trebek like once a month when you’re flipping through the channels and happen to catch Jeopardy. So all of that is to say that when he’s not there suddenly a part of your life that you took for granted and could always count on, even if it was only a two minute part of your life once a month between commercials, isn’t there, it’s like someone took a block out from your tower when you weren’t looking and Jenga!”

Brittany agreed, but the rest of them weren’t sure if I was joking or not. Jordan asked if I had rehearsed that speech. Then she supposed that he is a “symbol of our childhood” and that it might be “quite disheartening” to lose him. I said “exactly” though I didn’t mean it and moved on.

“Question to Car Car,” I said and pointed at Carly alternatingly with both index fingers, “what were you guys planning on doing tonight before we came in and salvaged things?”

“Well…we were going to go to Cesco’s and then we were going to head over here. So pretty much nothing different.”

“Interesting,” I said. I felt like I was talking way too much and wanted an out. Lee was still on the wall so I turned to him and said, “Lee! Jordan just confessed that she had a crush on you.” I think he knew I was joking, but he came swaggering over.

“Thanks,” Jordan said and I smiled and offered my seat to Lee.

I walked over to the other colony our group had set up in the stools. Hackney, and Marmot were still over there.

“Hackles, what’s the deal? Why aren’t you’re over there with the big group? You’ve been a bore all night. I know how you love to awkwardly flirt with girls. Marmot I expect to be a downer, but not you,” I said to Hackney. Marmot just listened and didn’t react.

“I don’t know, I’m kinda tired and I think I should’ve just stayed on campus and studied.”

“Nonsense. We’ll think of something to pick you up Hack.”

“Hey, do you guys wanna go to Casey’s?” Lee had turned to us three and was yelling from across the place with his cell phone to his ear.

I looked at Hackney and Marmot and said, “Sure.” We had to get out of this place, it was killing Hackney and Marmot. Perhaps, a change of scenery would help. Casey’s meant Casey Cromwell’s apartment. Casey had been in our frat and was like four or five years older than us. He was a big deal back in the day and was apparently making a lot of money doing something in the medical field. I didn’t even know what it was exactly.

“Jordi Jorde!” I yelled as I ran to catch up to Jordan outside the coffeehouse. “Are you guys going too?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“Do mind if I ride with you?”

“Sure, I mean no I don’t mind,” she said.

We Still Got The Taste Dancin' On Our Tongues - Wild Beasts

I called shotgun and climbed into the passenger seat of Jordan’s car. Carly got into the back with Bryant. I reminded everyone to put on their seatbelts; I had learned my lesson earlier in the evening.

At the first stoplight we reached, I turned to Jordan with the most serious and sincere look in my eye and said, “Is this what love feels like?” and I reached for her hand. She laughed and I then proceeded to turn on her radio, air conditioner, wiper blades, hazard lights, window washer, and I honked her horn too. She was turning them off while I turned them back on and honked whenever I got the chance. She was laughing and pleading with me to stop. I did after about fifteen seconds. I wonder what everyone in Hackney’s car thought was going on. And even though I had stopped, every once in a while I acted like I was going to do it again just to keep her honest. We made fun of Casey most of the way over there and the girls even joined in too. I liked Casey, though Lee was a lot closer and more fond of him than the rest of us. He was still an easy target though just because you could tell he felt like he was awesome. I hadn’t seen him since he was on campus a few months ago.

Jordan followed Hackney past the gate of an apartment complex. There were speed bumps like every fifteen feet, which got annoying real quick. I didn’t know if there was some kind of shindig going on or what exactly was going down at his apartment. I’d like to think that that’s what someone like Casey would do on a Friday night. Plus then I wouldn’t feel so weird about showing up at his place with like a million people.

Lee knocked and Casey said to come in. Casey was walking over to the door and embraced Lee. Then he hugged me, then Hackney, then Marmot. Then he met Jordan, Carly, Brittany, Jenna, and Bryant. He knew Scotty Kate through her older sister. All the girls pretty much knew who he was by reputation anyway. Casey’s roommate, Clay, who had played football at the college, came up and introduced himself. I hadn’t ever met him before. Casey’s girlfriend, Tiffany, was there too, but I already knew her. So we all arranged ourselves all around the room, on the ground and furniture in order to pose for a 360 degree family portrait.

“Well I have to say it’s nice to have so many beautiful people gracing me with their presence tonight. What have you kids been up to?” Casey asked.

“Oh you know, just doing the weekend thing. We went to Cesco’s and then to the Estate Coffeehouse,” Lee answered.

“Tiff? You hear that? Cesco’s?” Casey hollered at Tiffany who was fixing him a drink in the kitchen area. She replied that she heard. Casey leaned in to intimately explain to all of us, “first date.”

“Yeah, it was pretty romantic. I videoed the whole thing,” Clay added and everyone laughed.

“You like to video things a little too much if I remember correctly,” Casey cracked back. They laughed and slapped each other on the arm. I gave Brittany a ‘hmm’ look and she broke into a smile. You have to capitalize on those silent between-comment-reactions with others.

“What have you guys been up to tonight?” Lee asked. Casey lifted to arms to show us that we were seeing it.

“Just living the dream,” he said. I’m not a fan of that phrase either. They were both in sweat pants and the TV was being flipped back and forth between Band of Brothers and The Food Network. Both Casey and Clay held glasses with so much ice that it peaked out above the sea-level rim like mountains.

“So Clay, what do you do exactly? ,” I asked. I really enjoy hearing about what people do. I like trying on other people’s careers mentally for myself. Clay then explained at the same time as I began to forget what he said. I usually listen better than that. From what I recall it actually seemed rather interesting, but it just seemed like too much effort to remain engaged at the time. Tiffany found a perch on the arm of Casey’s chair and Clay finished up his job description by complimenting the blazer that I had put on before coming inside. It had gotten a touch cooler and I enjoy costume changes so I added on the extra layer.

Tiffany got up and asked anyone if they wanted anything to drink, but ended up just talking with the girls as she stood ready to head to the kitchen. Then Casey got going on the old days as us guys listened and Clay added his two cents.

“So I think it was my sophomore year and we were out at the fall frat retreat and we decided it’d be a good idea to see how many guys we could get into this big old oak tree. Then once up there, we decided it’d be an even better idea to see who could stay up in the tree the longest. So like half the guys just drop out at first and then start throwing rocks and cans at the guys in the tree who then start throwing their shoes and stuff back down at the guys on the ground. And they just throw it right back up. So it turns into this fifteen minute debris war with the guys on the ground, me included, handedly winning,” Casey laughed and took a sip.

“I remember Galloway telling me later that he got a concussion from getting hit with a rock during all that,” Clay said and Casey burst out laughing.

“Did he? I wouldn’t be surprised, I hope he did,” Casey laughed some more and took another drink. He was still chuckling as he began again, “So then all of us on the ground get bored and just went back to chilling around the fire. Then for the guys in the tree, it all just turns into one of those radio show endurance contests to like win free concert tickets or something, you know? One by one they keep dropping out until it’s only like Randall and McDonald left. You guys probably don’t know them, but Randall is just this little squirrely guy. You know the type that you just keep around for laughs? But he’s like a weird enough guy that you can tell he’s just as content to be up in that tree as around the campfire. And then you’ve got McDonald who’s just coo-coo for Coco Puffs, you know?”

“McDonald,” Clay adds and then just shakes his head. I think McDonald was on the football team with Clay. I knew most of these older guys or at least knew of them and had heard stories of them.

“This guy’s just flat out insane. So anyway, they’re like up there for hours and we just kinda forget about them and are carrying on with the rest of the night. Then all of a sudden we hear an engine start up and we’re like what in the world is going on and we look and we see Malinsky going at this tree with a chainsaw. And I look up and Randall and McDonald are just staring at each other, trying to see if the other guy is going to climb down. But neither goes down and Malinsky doesn’t stop and then, I swear I’m telling the truth, the tree falls down with both these idiots still in it. So it comes down hard and we all take off over to see if they died or what. McDonald’s out cold and Randall’s laughing like a hyena with a broken arm.” Casey really starts laughing then. “And old Randall still refused to walk out until we carried McDonald off,” he finished and laughed some more. We all laughed too.

The thing about Casey is even though everyone on campus knows who he is still, he was never the one doing anything awesome in any of those stories. The only stories I hear about him are about him working out a lot or being pathetic and creepy with girls. The only slightly cool stuff he ever did has to do with athletics and even then it’s only kinda cool. He just knows about all this stuff. Once again, I like him, but he really doesn’t do anything cool even though there’s loads of people who are under the impression that he does.

Empty Nest - Wild Beasts

“Hey, how do you guys feel about us baking y’all some cookies,” Tiffany threw out as she clapped her hands together expectantly. Casey and Clay just looked at each other and shrugged.

“Knock yourselves out,” Casey said. “That’s what women are supposed to do anyways right?” he added and hit Clay on the arm with laughs.

“’K then. I’m going to start on the frosting, while some of the girls go to the store for more cookie dough,” she said. I thought ‘is this really happening?’ to myself. I really dig cookies, but it seemed random on top of random that we’d spend part of our Friday night baking tons of cookies at Casey Crenshaw’s apartment with his girlfriend and former all-conference safety Clay Horne.

Jenna and Carly were up and readjusting their clothes and hair after sitting on the floor. I got up too to go with them. They were probably just going to be having story time with Casey and I had heard all these stories a million times anyway. I liked hearing them a lot and many times was the one prompting their retelling, but I also liked going on these special assignments to get stuff like cookie dough. I hoped Bryant would hear all the reasons why our frat was the better than his through these stories and that the rest of the guys would be inspired to actually do things that were worthy of being talked about.

“Hey, I’ll come too,” Clay emerged from his easy chair and took a fleece off the coat rack. Clay also volunteered to drive and so we climbed into his Lexus. I got in the front passenger seat without even having to call shotgun.

Clay was wearing glasses though he didn't seem like a glasses kind of person. He wore them in the ways that non-glasses people wear glasses; which is the times when they're either going way casual or way formal. I t's funny, these people for some reason only put on glasses when they're wearing a suit (and I guess they want to look intellectual) or when they're wearing sweatpants (and I guess that they want to look like they didn't have time to put their contacts in). I just think the polarizing circumstances which cause part-time glasses wearers to put on their lenses are kind of odd and funny.

"So Clay, have you been as fortunate as Casey to find some lucky lady to whisk about town?" Jenna asked smiling from the back seat as we pulled out of the apartments. Jenna could ask such a question without it coming off like she was nosy or trying to make romantic hints herself. It had more the air of a talk show host asking a question where the knowledge that the inquiry was getting at was more for the common good and not some personal heart to heart. Carly couldn't say stuff like that. Most things she said came off as overly flirty or desperate; even if it was a ‘hi, how are you?' I think it was because of her eyes, they would either meet you so intensely that you were sure she was flirting or she would send her eyes flinging around the room like a bouncy ball and never meet your eye line and you were sure she was in a bad way and was desperate for something.

Clay laughed and said, "No not yet, but I'm a patient man."

"Well, that's unfortunate. I was hoping you would've set a proper example for our boy up there," Jenna patted me on the shoulder, "on how to date women."

"You living it up stag too?" Clay asked me.

"There's no other way to live as far as I can tell," I replied. "Plus," I continued, "I've been rejected by these two more times than I can count." The girls denied it and called me a liar as they all laughed.

"Alright then ladies, here's a question," Clay started. "How would you react if a guy brought you a flower on a first date? Would that be sweet or would it be cliché?" I looked in the rearview and saw the girls look at each other and confer through their eyes. It was like they were bridge partners trying to figure out what the other held in their hand.

"Yeah, I think it would make things more awkward than what it's worth," Carly finally answered. "If he brought one, then you know he's expecting some sort of reaction and appreciation for it. Then you'd have to worry about taking care of it the rest of the night...and it's not very original or thoughtful which is really what would make you appreciate a gesture like that."

"Yeah, now that I think about it, it’s old fashioned, but old fashioned in a boring way," added Jenna.

"You taking notes on all this," Clay jokingly asked me and I laughed. We were all still in the stage with Clay where we laugh much harder at jokes than what we should. As long as everyone is nice and doesn't abuse it, then I love this stage. It can be quite fun.

"I could've used that information awhile ago. Bringing a flower on the first date has been my go-to move for years. Needless to say, I haven't had a second date in years."

"So are you ladies single?" Clay asked. I hoped beyond hoped that he wasn't going to ask any of them out or hit on them blatantly and unimaginatively in front of me. I did not want to deal with that. The girls looked at each other again, with those faces again.

"No," in unison.

Capturing Moods - Rilo Kiley

"Welp my boy," Clay paternally cupped my shoulder and shook me a few times like a dice. I stared at him. "Word to the wise, if I knew two such young women as we've got in the back seat in my days at school I wouldn't have let them go for the world. I'm being serious; campus has some of the best women on the planet. I'm serious," he repeated. I couldn’t tell if he were being serious or not. "If you're looking for the total package look no further than Sadler or Abbot Hall because you won't find no better out here."

I still couldn't tell if he was serious or just hitting on the girls in his own weird, post-grad way. I know Clay had no idea who these young women in his backseat were enough to make it seem like they were something to hold on to, but I still looked at him and shook my head and believed, at least in a part of myself, his words as if he were reading from The Bible. I didn't glance back in the rearview. I did not want to know the girls’ reaction; be it skeptic or belief. Clay was southern and was southern in more of Clark's Wallabys sort of way than a camo sort of way. This did not help me interpret his last statement any better, but I was thinking about it.

Clay's words reminded me of how anymore, everyone my age will tell you anything. Like I've had girls I've just met just launch into speeches about how they used to cut themselves and stuff like that. It's weird how they just tell you things, the type of things that you would've thought they'd only tell their closest friends after knowing them for five years. But, it's not even a big deal. The kids I know will tell you pretty much anything as if it were the most casual thing in the world. Some of it's truly terrible stuff and I don't really think they're fibbing about it anymore than the usual layer of embellishment that past recollections get coated with. I almost think they're more likely to tell you before they actually do know you. They’ll tell you more when you're still mostly a product of their minds. Clay didn't come out with this huge revelation about himself, but it still made me think of how my peers will just say stuff to you. Anything.

The most bizarre thing about it is even though everyone is ten times more open and revealing about who they are, everyone blends together more than ever before. It's like the more they tell me the more I can't tell them apart. I've said it before, but there are so many people I know who are all pretty much the same person. Sometimes it seems like their different names are nothing more than serial numbers to distinguish one from another for the purpose of filing and keeping them all organized.

And also, everyone hugs more now. One of my friends showed me this article once where a newspaper had profiled how the younger generation hugged much more than any generation previously. I hug like twenty people a day, serious. The hugging stuff really made sense to me. All the people I know around my age really aren't close-minded and they'll always welcome you with arms wide open, and they'll tell you crazy stuff about themselves, but you won't ever really reach any of the depths with them where they become real individual people. There's a poster in our Library on campus that goes through all the reasons why libraries are still necessary despite the internet; as if to reassure itself. But there's this one point they make about the internet and how it's a mile wide, but only an inch deep. And I feel that's a bit like how all of us are. We're always expanding our worldview and opening up to more and more stuff, but we're not sinking our teeth into things and putting our hand as deep down into things as much as we used to. I'm not saying it's better or worse it's just what I've seen lately. But people will say anything to you, even if you're not asking for it. I don't think they're trying to brag about stuff really, even though most of them are attention-starved piranhas. It's just the way they do things.

Clay and Casey lived more in the suburbs than the city so it didn't take long to get to a supermarket. The parking lot was mostly bald save for a few clusters of cars here and there. We walked in following the girls whose instincts had already picked up where the cookie dough was. Clay and I talked sports while we walked; he was a Cardinals fan and I was a Yankees fan. Once we reached the aisle in the back, we began the fraction lesson of trying to figure out how much we should get so everyone could have enough. That took like ten minutes and we kept second guessing ourselves the whole time because the math seemed a little too simple. Three college students and a college grad and it took us ten minutes to decide how much cookie dough to buy for twelve people. The world's in good hands.

Float On - Goldspot

When we got to the front, there were four checkout lanes open and each had a surprising amount of people in them. Then we came up with the idea that we'd have a race and each of us would take a lane and stake it out to see which one reached the checker first. It was the dumbest thing, but we were all giggling about it like we had put a tack on the teacher’s seat and were just waiting for them to sit down. My line was the shortest, but I had a woman in front of me who was apparently either buying supplies for a year long trek into the wilderness or throwing the party of the decade. Clay was on the far right on the end, then Carly, then Jenna, then me on the left. I looked at Jenna across the rack of magazines and gum and said,

"Hey, I think I know you. You're name's Jenna, right?"

She looked at me puzzled and said, "Wait, are you that one boy that we had to call campus security on because he kept camping out outside our window and whispering pick-up lines?"

"No, it's me Jenna. Me. The man you're desperately in love with, don't deny it cause I know it's true."

"No such man exists."

"Hmmm...should we go for a June wedding or an August wedding? I just don't know Jenna. With June we'll get the long hours of daylight, but then the asters will be blooming in August..."

"I will not hesitate to call security again. I remember how they roughed you up last time too..."

"You're exactly right a November wedding will be perfect. The colors will be so breathtaking..."

I could kid around with Jenna all day. I've seriously noticed that she's nicer and has a better sense of humor when she’s talking to just me though. Jenna's not as much of a looker as the other girls in the traditional sense, but the way she gets you is because she's ambroisal. She just does things and I don't know why but they get to you. Sometimes the way the words fall from her mouth or the way she messes with her hair or the way she acts exasperated is just adorable and it makes you either want to punch or hug something because you can't think of a better way to react to it.

"Hey Jenjee," I said.


"Remember that one time I asked if I could sit with you when I saw you studying in the Library?"

"Yes, and you didn't study at all and distracted me the whole time and made me draw you a picture of Missouri to show you where I'm from."

"Yeah, wasn’t that magical?"

"And even after I asked you to leave you kept hanging out in the book stacks and throwing gum wrappers at me?"

"We should do that again sometime. You said you still got a good grade on the test anyway. I think it just goes to show you that you'll do just as well academically by slacking off with me."

"Not true. I just got lucky that one time."

"Everyone's luckier when I'm around," I said. "I really do have luck on my side. For example, while you're waiting around for that man’s produce to be scanned, I'm about to be checked-out," I nodded toward the lady in front of me who was swiping a card. Jenna called out to the others that I had won and then all of a sudden I see a tube of cookie dough hurtling towards me from Clay and then Carly and Jenna threw the rest of the cookie dough they had too over the check-out lanes at me. And through pure instinctual hand-eye reflexes (including robbing Carly of a home run by going over one of the racks dividing the lanes), I caught all of them as my companions laughed at me. I hoped we didn't annoy the workers too much. I saw that Clay's debit card was slipped into the package on one, so I started to tell him, but we waved me off with a wink. That was nice. So I swiped his card and was off with cookie dough for twelve.

Better Things - South

"Wow, I can't tell you how satisfying of a victory that was," I said when I reached everyone else.

"That race was much more intense than any football game I ever played in," said Clay.

"With all the training you did, you really deserved it," Carly added.

"Yeah, I'm thinking about going pro and trying to build up some sort of Lance Armstrong, Roger Feresque dynasty with check-out line races. I really think I found my calling tonight. And Clay did you see Carly? She was busy checking out pics of celebrities and their beach bodies instead of staying focused."

"I thought Carly had that competitive look in her eyes, but I guess I was wrong." He looked at Carly after he said that and I definitely thought they were flirting and I felt like an accomplice.

"Jenna was just as easy to beat. All you have to do with her is start talking to her and she's totally distracted." She punched me on the arm for that.

Then into Clay’s car we went and directed ourselves back to the apartment. We didn’t talk as much on the way back. When we got there, we grabbed the bags and headed inside. On the sidewalk leading up to the stairs, Carly, who was in the rear, stepped on the back of my shoe and so I play-fell in the grass and acted like she had injured me. I rolled around holding my ankle, Clay and Jenna laughed as they headed up. Carly started to walk past, but I called out to her and held out my hand for assistance. When she took my hand I looked up at her and said,

“You know Carly I believe in you. You know that? Seriously, if you were to run for President of the United States I’d vote for you.” She just held my hand and looked at me and I stayed where I was on the ground and looked back. “Seriously, whatever you do I believe it’ll be way awesome. I really do.”

She lifted me up and replied, “You’re too much.”

I put my arm around her, “I mean it. For real I do.”

I wasn’t trying to flirt or anything when I said that. It just came into my head and I was so sincere when I said it. I really was. We went up the stairs and followed Clay and Jenna’s wake as we entered the apartment. Everyone had apparently been playing Wii in our absence and I was doubly glad I wasn’t there. I’m not much for video games. Casey, Scotty Kate, Bryant and Brittany were in the middle of a bowling match and Marmot was leaning up against the back of an easy chair talking with Tiffany. I heard him say something about this scrapbook he had made for his girlfriend before they left for summer vacation freshmen year. Everyone else was hanging about watching them play or talking amongst themselves.

After they had finished the game, the girls started molding the cookie dough as Marmot arranged them on cookie trays. Tiffany was talking to them about her grandma’s or whoever’s recipe for homemade frosting she had. I turned around and saw Casey adjusting some swim shorts as he came out of his room. He looked up and said that he wanted to show us something. So all of us who weren’t baking the cookies slipped out without a word of explanation.

Casey led us to the pool in the middle of all of the apartment buildings. We had to climb a fence surrounding the pool to get in. It was pretty cold but Casey just jumped in. When he came back up, he was smiling. “You guys wanna see if I can hold my breath for four minutes underwater?” We affirmed that this would please us all very much. “Maestro,” Casey said and Clay set his wristwatch to time Casey. He counted himself down and then went under.

In the four minutes and six seconds that Casey was underwater proposals were made to throw objects in at him, to jump in with him in our clothes, and then to jump in with him without our clothes. Someone also inquired about the chances of him getting hypothermia. When Casey broke the surface we all cheered and I was happy that I was seeing what I was seeing. I started laughing and then went and clapped Casey on his back. There was a stray football out there by the pool and we spent the next few minutes throwing it to Casey as he jumped off the diving board. This was hilarious to me too, but it was cold enough that I was ready to go back in when Tiffany called to us that the cookies were done.

“How long have you been practicing to do that?” I asked Casey as we headed back in.

“Since the day I was born my man,” he responded, laughing. I laughed back though I didn’t know exactly what he meant and how serious he was about what he had just said. This is the kind of kinda cool stuff you’d hear about Casey doing. It’s impressive and all, but who really cares how long someone can hold their breath underwater?

Summer Shakedown - Slow Club

All of us filed back in and the girls were sitting in mismatched chairs around Casey and Clay’s small dining room table. There was a plate of cookies and a bowl of white frosting in the middle of the table along with a thing of red hots and a bag of chocolate chips.

“Sorry we’re lacking in the decorations department,” Tiffany said, “but I think it’ll be a lot of fun anyways.”

Us guys slipped in and stood between the girls. I was between Jordan and Tiffany. We all started decorating the plain, round sugar cookies. Our supplies were used to produce cookie depictions of most known-emoticons, fraternity and sorority allegiance, in addition to all sorts of vaguely inappropriate words spelt out ironically on the cookies. I put mounds of frosting on one of mine and sculpted an alpine mountain scene. For another cookie I took a bite out of one to make a Pac-man. While we were decorating, I mostly talked to Tiffany. She told me about her father who was apparently a gubernatorial candidate in Mississippi. Then she began telling me about when her family moved from Mississippi to Houston and how even though Houston is in the South; everyone made fun of her southern accent. I noticed the way she said “I like it” sounded British and since we were on the topic of accents I mentioned it. She laughed and said,

“Oh that’s just because I can’t talk right hunny,” and laughed some more. I laughed too though I wasn’t completely sure what I was laughing at, and then said,

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, well until like the 4th grade I could not say my rs, ws, and ls right.”


“Yeah, and my parents never let me know I wasn’t saying anything right because they thought it was adorable that I talked like that. I had to wait till Chad Horton embarrassed me in front of my entire class in 4th grade to find out.”

“For real?” I didn’t really know what to say.

“Yes sir. We had a substitute teacher one day and so I asked where our regular teacher, Mrs. Willis was, but it came out like “whair is Missus Wiwwus?” And then Chad yells out “it’s Willis, Tiffany, MISS-es WILL-is.” And everyone started to laugh and I started to cry, which made everyone laugh even harder and the harder everyone started to laugh, the harder I started to cry. Hmph,” she sighed deeply and shook her head. “But that day when I got home I told my mom all about it and then she took me to a speech teacher and then I learned how to speak correctly…for the most part,” she added with another laugh.

“Sounds pretty traumatic.”

“Oh, it was. But the thing is, that was before we moved, but then when we did move and people made fun of my accent I didn’t even really get down about it because I knew how much more embarrassed I felt about talking with the first experience. Even so, I still say certain words weird and if I’m ever really tired I begin to sound like I’m my 4th grade self again.”

“That was quite the inspirational tale.”

“If you want to call my most embarrassing moment ‘inspirational,’ then yes. Maybe you should inspire me by telling me your most embarrassing moment.”

I thought it was weird that this was the second time that embarrassing stories had come up tonight. I thought it was what I deserved after making Bryant unfairly tell his earlier. I racked my brain trying to think of something. I never know how to answer that prompt. I don’t have one of those flat out embarrassing moments like Tiffany. My life has been filled with hundreds of vaguely embarrassing/mostly just plain awkward moments. I sometimes answer with one of those, but whenever I do, it just sounds like I’m trying to cover up. Other times I just say that bit about not having any really, really embarrassing moments, just lots of little ones and then people think I’m trying to get out of answering too. Every once in awhile I attempt a more typical answer with the story of this one time in middle school when I tried out for the lead in this musical and I didn’t get it. But that story isn’t really embarrassing; it’s more just slightly depressing. Plus, now I’m glad I didn’t get the part. But, on days when I’m really neurotic, I convince myself that I’ve just repressed my real most embarrassing moment so much that I can’t remember it at all. Sometimes I just lie and make one up or plagiarize another one I’ve heard before. This time I ended up talking about a bad haircut I got when I was a sophomore in high school. It sufficed I guess.

Tiffany then asked Jordan her most embarrassing story which I didn’t really listen to. Jordan asked Tiffany before she began if I had told mine. She said that she wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing the most embarrassing fake-out like we did with Bryant earlier.

I got really down while Jordan was telling her story. I suddenly didn’t want to be there. I couldn’t think of anywhere I wanted to be either though. I started thinking about how I don’t really have anything to say anymore. And then I thought about how even what I do say, I don’t mean much of it. People should have things to say. They should want to say things I think. And those things they say I think they should mean more of it than what I do. The percentage of how much I mean what I say can’t be right. It’s got to be more than that. All I wanted to do all of a sudden was get better. That’s all I could think of, was how I need to improve and be better. I wanted to just be by myself and read a book and try to think about how I could become better than what I was. I was a mess for a bit.

Meridian Sound [Part Three] - Lushlife

I really just checked out for a bit. I slowly ate my mountain range cookie. There was way too much frosting on it and I obviously knew that, but I kept eating it anyway.

“Hey. Wait. Did Bryant meet us down here?” Jenna asked out of the blue.

We all just looked at each other.

“No,” I said trying to act confused by her question. I still wanted to try and convince them Bryant was with us all night.

“He wasn’t here on the ride down.”

“Yeah, he’s been with us the whole night,” I replied.

“I don’t remember him riding down with us.”

“He was there.”

“Where’d he sit in the car?”

“I was hiding down behind the last row of seats. I can’t believe you guys didn’t notice,” Bryant said. The girls glanced around and considered the possibility.

“I don’t know…” Jenna trailed off and eyed Bryant. Just then Casey increased the volume of the stereo and called out, “This is my jam,” as “Ms. Jackson” came on the shuffle. He grabbed Tiffany and swung her into action. They danced around and Casey yelped out the falsetto “I am for real”s. Then Clay grabbed Carly and they started dancing. Then Bryant and Jordan, then the rest of them got up and started dancing around too. I just sat there. Even Marmot who had been a killjoy off and on throughout the night was up and doing all these ridiculous dance moves like the “shopping cart” and the “q-tip.” They were having so much fun. I considered getting up too, but I just couldn’t. It’s not like I’m weird about dancing. I was never one of those guys who was an awkward wall flower at school dances. I was the one who was goofily dancing around in the car on the way down. But, I just couldn’t. I suddenly felt so stiff and uncomfortable and moving in that way seemed so foreign to me in that moment. Hackney went over and turned the light on and off as a makeshift strobe light. They looked like they were all having so much fun. I felt like I might ruin it a little.

Then Jordan noticed me not jumping in yet and motioned for me to join in. Then everyone else saw and shouted at me to come on. I thought maybe I’d ruin their fun even more if I just sat there. So I got up even though I felt so stiff and uncomfortable. I felt so unthawed and out of place. I started moving around doing the goofiest things I could think of, but I felt so weird. We were all just laughing and moving around and everyone was having fun, but I just couldn’t think of anywhere I’d less want to be at. It was weird too because I knew I’d feel nostalgic for this moment in a week and I’d feel guilty for being such a pouty kid in my mind and being down for no real reason while everyone else was just having fun. I don’t know why I can’t just have fun like everyone else. I started thinking about my ability to make even an impromptu dance party complicated in my mind. I couldn’t figure out whether it’s me that makes everything a complicated issue or if as I got older I finally started realizing the truth of how complicated everything is. Everything seems so complicated anymore and yet, I live under such uncomplicated circumstances with no real problems or worries.

I didn’t want to get anyone down just cause I was feeling down so I tried to just keep up with everyone else. Casey kept playing all these songs from his high school years, which was middle school for most of us. My thoughts kept going back to all those middle school dances I went to. I kept thinking about all those wallflowers who felt weird about dancing.

Far Away - Cut Copy

Everyone formed a circle and we all took turns dancing in the middle. For my turn I did this thing I do where I stutter my hands moving back and forth between my head to someone else’s. It kinda looks like I’m trying to transfer some sort of mental energy to them. I did it to Casey, Scotty Kate, and Hackney. I hold really intense eye contact with whomever I do it with just for kicks. It gets some good laughs though. I wish I could’ve just had fun with it like the rest of them. Everyone seemed to be having a real fun time.

At one point I couldn’t take it so I took off to the bathroom. I locked the door and threw water on my face like I always see them do in movies when they want to snap out of something. I sometimes do this thing when I’m feeling off where I get as close to the mirror as I can get without fogging it up. Sometimes I hold my breath so I can get even closer. Then I just stare at myself like it’s not a mirror and I’m just looking at another person. I look at my skin to see the part where I can clearly see that my skin is weird and bumpy and not smooth and immaculate. It makes me seem more real again. This is what I did. I went back out after a few minutes and we stopped dancing like ten minutes later.

“Well, it’s about that time,” Lee said.

“Yeah, we should probably get some shut eye,” said Casey. “But thank you all for coming and visiting Villa Casey. You are all welcome back anytime.”

“Yes, please do return to Clay’s Palace. There’s always fun to be had inside these walls,” Clay added.

I bro hugged Clay and Casey, then hugged Tiffany as we were saying our goodbyes. On the stairs down from their apartment Lee straddled them and walked down on the railings. I thought about running through his legs just to kind of scare him, but I just went down the steps slowly. Both my feet had to be on each step before I went down to the next one.

The girls figured out for sure that Bryant really hadn’t come down with us so he got into Jordan’s car with her and Carly. Brittany went with them too so that no one had to share seats like we did on the way there. I don’t know if they headed right back to campus like us. They were talking about hitting a couple other spots while they were in the city.

Hackney, and Marmot were in the front of the SUV, then Lee and I were in the middle with Jenna and SK in the back. I thought about how I had this one friend who talked about “the itus.” The itus was that sleepy feeling you got sometimes after you ate. For whatever reason people seemed to get some other strain of that whenever we drove back to school from the city. People were always just dozing off and taking naps on the way back. It took it out of you I guess. All of that is to say, that it happened again on our way back. I faded out too. I don’t know if I was ever asleep asleep, but I know that I was getting to the point you get to where thoughts were like fun house mirrors and all of your notions and anxieties both conscious and unconscious from the day were being twisted and distorted so that you no longer knew what was real and what wasn’t.

When I broke the surface of consciousness again, the car was mostly silent except for Hackney and Marmot having a conversation in low voices. I waited for my contacts to settle back on my eyes. Turning around I was surprised to see Scotty Kate still awake. She didn’t see me. She was just looking out the window with this really serious expression. At the exact moment she both looked like a 50 year old mom worrying about a retirement fund and like a 7 year old girl trying to act like an adult. I whispered her name and she looked at me.

“Hey SK, how about we have a slumber party tonight? We can make a fort and give each other make-overs and then we can call cute boys and hang up as soon as they answer…”

I don’t know why, but that set her off and she was laughing much harder than what I expected. She was trying really hard to not laugh too loudly. That made me feel really old and young at the same time too. I felt that I was young because the way she was giggling reminded me of the way kids laugh, and you never really see adults laughing that hard, but I also felt old because I knew the words to say to make a woman laugh. It always seemed like a feat to me growing up to be able to make a woman laugh.

“Hey hey Scotty Kate, did you have fun tonight?”

“I sure did. And did you?”

“I did as well. Hey. Question: if we were having an awards show about our night and you were presenting the award for best moment, what moment would you give the award to? Excluding right now, of course.”

“Probably when you boys left and us girls got to just hang out by ourselves for a little while. We had a really good talk.”


“No, just kidding. It’s usually more fun with you guys around. But, um…I’d say…hmm, let me think about it for a sec…”

“Take your time SK, no pressure. I know this is in important decision to make.”

“I guess I’d say…making cookies.”


“I don’t know. It was just a really cheesy, fun thing to do. No one really does stuff like that anymore.”

“That was fun.”

“What moment would you give the award to?”

“Every part of tonight was a moment that will last a lifetime for me, it’d probably be impossible for me to pick out just one moment.”


“Although there were multiple moments tonight that I wish were captured by cameras so that I could put them in frames on my desk and look back fondly upon them for years to come; if I had to pick just one, I think I’d say cookies too.” I didn’t really think that was my favorite part of the night, but I really couldn’t think what was so I just said making cookies.

Sleep Tonight - Stars

“Wow, we’re such kindred spirits.”

“We really are. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out if we were twins separated at birth.”

“Two peas in a pod are we.”

“That’s hot.”

“What are you even going to do with your life?” Scotty Kate asked me suddenly.

“I for real think I get asked that question once a day, but for whatever reason it doesn’t annoy me when you ask it.”

“It usually annoys you?”

“So much,” I said. “I think it’s because I feel like most people don’t really care when they ask it. To me when people our age ask, it comes off more like they just want to gauge by your answer whether you’re just as unsure about the future as they are or whether they need to be working harder to get ahead of you. Then when adults ask it, they approach it with this annoying hindsight bias where they act like you either need to follow your heart or just suck it up and work harder at something you don’t love. Either way, it’s usually the worst. But, it doesn’t bother me when you ask it.”

“Well, I guess that’s good.”

“For the record though, I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I have no idea.”

Scotty Kate and I proceeding then to have one of those talks you do every once in awhile were you and another person make each other feel better by admitting that neither of you really has any idea what direction you’re heading in, but that’s it’s ok because you’re having fun along the way. We then called anyone who says they know what they want to do with their lives liars or victims of the system. I still haven’t figured out whether these kinds of talks are good or not.

While talking to her with everyone else around us asleep, my thoughts naturally became biased to the other times in my life when I conversed one on one with a female in hushed voices as others slept. These were some of my favorite times because it always seemed like we were telling each other the most intimate of secrets. Even if we were only talking about goofy things, the fact alone that we were whispering made it seem like we were telling each other things no one else in the world would ever hear. It’s weird how your thoughts always call out to the other times in your life that have a common denominator with your current experience.

I really do love whispering to girls when everyone else is asleep though. There was that one time with Gina Poirier when we talked in Kelsey’s parents’ basement when everyone feel asleep during “Rush Hour 2,” and with Brittany, our basketball student trainer, on a long bus ride back from an away game, and when we were camping and I stayed up with Amber talking about first kiss stories; when my sister’s friend Callie slept over and we both coincidentally went to get a drink in the middle of the night at the same time. When I thought about most of the things we were talking about at those times, it was typically pretty stupid, immature stuff, but it seemed so genuine when we said it. I think it was actually some of the most authentic things I ever said, and I think it was because it was the dumb stuff that we felt like we were supposed to say. It was the kind of stuff buried deep within us about how we all hoped and secretly expected life to be like and it was genuine when we said it, but it was actually more important that we just got it out of our system. I think it was necessary to clear some of that stupid stuff out of our hearts and minds; and to do it together. It was the whispering though. That’s what really did it.

Variations on a Theme (Science vs. Romance) - Rilo Kiley

And I was loving talking to SK now. And I loved how we were dancing around an hour ago, even though I was kind of miserable at the time. All in all, I love all the houses and the rooms and the bathrooms and the halls and staircases and chairs and conversations I’ve ended up in. Even if I was bored, even if I couldn’t stand who I was with; when I’m gone I just want to go back. I want to go back and watch everyone, including myself, like it was a movie and just watch in wonder at the things we were doing and just be amazed that this is how we were going about life. Not in a critical way, just almost out of curiosity I’d say.

And I loved all the girl’s I spent the night with. I really did fall in love with all of them; in some way. Even if it was only the thought of them I loved. I loved some part of them and it was some part that I wanted to be a piece in my imaginary future. Some wisp of them that I wanted to bottle and then breathe in at some later time in life. It sounds kinda stupid, but I mean it. At least I think I do.

Canadian Song - Matt Pond PA

I could see myself imperceptibly denting the pavement of some metropolis with Brittany. Arms enclosing one another as I looked back searching for evidence that we, in our bliss, were where we just were. And I could see myself laughing at the expense of a TV show on a couch with Jenna; the two of us squished together so close that we could fit three more fit human bodies comfortably. And I could see myself being bored at the ideal, but stereotypical life with Scotty Kate, but loving it anyway because we were bored together; I could see myself being important with Carly at my side, the two of us trying to be important and posing for important pictures; knowing the importance of being important. I could see myself sitting in thematic furniture at a coffeehouse with Jordan, pretending to know what we were talking about.

But if I married Brittany, I would hate her for never dropping the charade and I don’t even know what charade she has to drop, but she never drops it. And if I married Jenna, I would hate her for her wide hips, and if I married Scotty Kate I would hate her for wanting to live in the South, and if I married Carly, I would hate her for being stupider than me and flirting with other guys, and if I married Jordan I would hate her for never being quite as good as she wants to be. I couldn’t see myself 24/7/365/x-number years until death with them unless I gave up something that I had wanted forever. Does anyone else think like this?

I see my friends giving up things for their partners, but it never seems to be worth it. All that sacrifice and such is all good when seen in books and movies and songs, but all I see is Marmot doing damage control texts to his girlfriend at 3 in the morning while the rest of us are being fools making prank calls and loving it. Anymore people’s roles in love seem to be less romantic adventurer and more emotional maintenance people.

But everyone seems to eventually fall for it as they fall for each other. All’s fair in love and war and once we all become adults it seems like everyone gets drafted and goes with it. Well, I’m consciously objecting. Another adage I hear is that love is all-encompassing. This I agree with. I believe love encompasses all both good and bad. It has a bit of everything in it. It’s got the euphoria of a game winning shot and it’s got the boredom of a talk with a senior citizen who’s preoccupied with recalling the full names of every person in every story they tell and the frustration of an essay deleted before you saved it and the subtle fulfillment of bottled water on a hike and the punch in the stomach of a friend killed in a car crash and the ambiguity of deciding what book to read next and the annoying persistence of involuntarily playing the copy-cat game with a nine year-old. It’s because of this that I feel like love isn’t anything more than what is; it only tips the scale in favor of the good guys. Whatever that means. I think the trick is finding someone who you want to grow old and boring with.

“Oh shoot, I just remembered I forgot to grab some clothes from the dryer,” SK said. Even this, I loved or would love later. We were pulling back onto campus as she said this and people began stirring. We dropped off the girls and then took Lee to his parents’ house because he lived in town and had to get up early in the morning to coach his younger brother’s rec league soccer team. Hackney, Marmot, and I parked in a spot reserved for our dorm mom and tiredly swayed up to our rooms. I slowly entered my room, and just stood for a minute in the silence.

When it’s silent I hear the sounds I don’t want to hear. I hear the sound of the phone ringing from my summer job, I hear the sound of an error on the Windows platform, I hear my cell phone’s special tone saying it’s low on battery, I hear my car not starting, I hear someone stupid saying my name. I only hear the shadow of the sounds, but still in the silence they seem real. I think I hear them, I really do, but at the same time I know I don’t hear them. But, all I’m left with when I focus is the tuneless humming of things with cords, made of plastic and metal; an undercurrent of our day and age that is omnipresent anywhere within ten thousand feet on either side of sea level x-axis and within ten thousand feet of any grouping of people larger than a hundred on the y. You can’t escape our world constantly yawning and it made you tired too. It made you exhausted. And all I want to do now is sleep and all any of us ever wants to do is sleep.
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