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Alternate University

Alternate University

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Alternate University

Lunghezza:
752 pagine
12 ore
Pubblicato:
Jan 17, 2020
ISBN:
9780463355473
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Relationships, psychedelics, sex, and philosophy all revealed through the college experience of Porter Bloom. Alternate University follows Porter as he navigates the private university environment in this seven-semester epic; an open, honest, hilarious depiction of modern college life. Ian Gabriel Mitchell's debut novel shies away from nothing.

Pubblicato:
Jan 17, 2020
ISBN:
9780463355473
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Ian Gabriel Mitchell is a musician, producer, author and philosopher. Aside from his debut novel, Alternate University, he has released four albums under the alias, River Runner, which were tracked, mixed, and mastered by himself. He currently lives in Nashville, TN.

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Alternate University - Ian Gabriel Mitchell

Table of Contents

Freshman Year, Fall Semester

Freshman Year, Spring Semester

Sophomore Year, Fall Semester

Sophomore Year, Spring Semester

Junior Year, Fall Semester

Junior Year, Spring Semester

The Final Semester

About the Author

Alternate University

Ian Gabriel Mitchell

Copyright © 2020 Ian Gabriel Mitchell

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 9781661234850

I encourage readers to share this work with whomever they please.

Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Names, characters, and places are products of the author’s imagination.

Front cover illustration by Shari M. Wolf

www.sharimwolf.com

Freshman Year, Fall Semester

I’m sitting quietly at the back of Mrs. Denoit’s classroom, staring not at whatever’s projected onto the wall in front of me, but at the copious amounts of acne riddled across her face. Before me is an ocean of computer screens, students scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, what have you; so effectively, Denoit is talking to herself. But I guess that’s just the way things are, and maybe it can’t be helped.

As the class is dismissed, I follow the procession of students through double-doors. I check my phone and scold myself for doing so, briefly fantasizing about what it was like before these little computers occupied all of our pockets.

I run through a list of things I have to get done over the weekend, which really only includes the homework and readings I have to do, along with practicing guitar. No matter how unimportant and peripheral, the busywork still manages to cause me a certain amount of stress. Plus, I never really wanted to come to college. I’m just here because what the fuck else was I gonna do?

Yep, I’m in music school, but don’t worry, it’s still a sham. You might think, Oh, wow, music school? That’s different. He’s probably like, totally in a really cool, artsy place! But no, it’s a sham. Just like all universities. Pay them all of your money so that everything you’ve learned in school can be validated and further imprinted into your brain by the higher education system. But who am I to question?

I’m Porter Bloom, pleased to make your acquaintance.

I take a deep breath, and this gives me a beautiful reminder that I’m breathing to begin with. Humid, pseudo-fresh air moves in and out of my lungs, my muscle tissue expanding and contracting as I look up at the blue sky extending infinitely. But apparently no amount of deep breathing is enough to pull me out of the sadness that’s been gripping my bones since I got to college. It comes and goes though, this sadness. I can usually distract myself enough to keep it at bay, but sometimes I’m engulfed in utter despair, and my brain feels like it’s malfunctioning. Speaking of distractions…

Shit. I’m gonna get some Chipotle.

Fuck, that is a long-ass line.

Bitch. Looks like I’m still getting Chipotle.

I hold open the door for this girl with long brown hair wearing a Keep Calm _______ _______ shirt. She neglects to acknowledge my existence and I mutter bitch under my breath. But apparently it wasn’t under enough.

Excuse me? she sneers.

What?

What did you just say to me? she says.

Nothing, I -

Where the hell do you get off by -

Look, I say, I’m not really trying to deal with this right now, honestly.

Well you’re dealing with it now! Why don’t you repeat what you said to my face and see what happens?

People around us are starting to look in our direction and I’m really, really just not trying to deal with this right now. Really. So I ignore her and I face forward. But she won’t let up.

You can’t just walk around saying whatever you want to people.

Well, I say, maybe you should say thank you when someone holds the door open for you instead of just walking past them without giving a fuck.

Oh, you did not just say that to me. You did no - But she’s out of earshot as the door closes behind me. Looks like I’m getting fucking Qdoba. Sometimes you have to settle.

So I get this Qdoba, which takes me twenty minutes because the people there obviously hate their jobs. It’s such an obvious kind of job-hater that makes you wonder why they haven’t just killed themselves already. Why are you working this job you hate so much just to pay bills for shit you don’t even want? Eh, pays the bills. Eh.

I get back to my dorm and walk into the main lobby, where I see my friend Scottie Grimace talking to someone at the front desk. Scottie’s also in the music school; we met on our first day at college. His face is round, devoid of facial hair, and he’s growing out his blond locks. A pink t-shirt much too large on him dangles over floral-patterned joggers.

Yo, Scottie, I say to him as the door closes behind me. The cool air encompasses me as I sigh off the heat.

He holds up an index finger to = Wait a goddamn second.

As I approach him, I hear the girl behind the desk explaining something to Scottie, …must refer to people by their preferred gender pronouns. This type of behavior is unacceptable and I’m going to have to write you up for this.

Are you kidding me? Scotties sneers. "This bitch was in the MEN’S bathroom. You think I want some girl sitting down next to me while I’m blowing chunks outta my ass?"

Girl looks at Scottie with a face that = something between terror and utter disgust. I think she might actually yack. I cover my increasing need to burst out in laughter.

Look, continues Scottie, I’m gonna go back upstairs and you’re gonna act like this didn’t happen. There’s no law saying I have to call people what they want to be called. There’s no law telling me that I have to continue talking to you about this bullshit. If you need me, I’ll be in the handicapped stall on the fifth floor resuming my shit that was so rudely interrupted. With that, Scottie turns to walk away, and I follow. At this point, I’m holding back tears of hilarity.

Scottie, what the hell man? Why’d you go ape shit on that poor girl?

Because I’m sick of all this manzy panzy garb about having to respect people’s (and he does air-quotes here) ‘preferred genders.’ It just makes no sense to me, like what kind of time are we living in?

"A time where you have to leave Chipotle because you don’t want to deal with some ungrateful bitch yelling at you at the back of the line where you’re just finishing your shitty day and all you want is some delicious Chipotle that you can dip your sometimes-good chips into it and then wrap it up once there’s a small enough amount of food in there so you can eat it as a burrito and not have to worry about anything else going on in your shitty day because you’re eating Chipotle, but that bitch is there."

We’re getting in the elevator at this point, along with the three other people that have been standing next to us waiting for the elevator since I got to the part about the chips.

"She’s there and she won’t go away and she’s yelling and you’re not able to get Chipotle because she’s too offended at you having muttered ‘bitch’ under your breath because she didn’t say jack garb to you when you held the door open for her and you walk right back out the door."

Scottie is smiling and I can feel the twisted energy of the saps standing next to us in the elevator, so I do a Horizontal and Scottie follows suit. It’s not really horizontal, but more of a 45˚ angle, where you put your head on the side of the elevator and then align the rest of your body at said 45˚ angle. No one in the elevator says anything, but we know they’re all quite uncomfortable. It’s known because people usually act like nothing weird is happening—when a Horizontal is engaged—while we all know something weird is happening, on top of my going on about the Chipotle girl.

…and also a time where liberal institutions like this one have to attempt to accommodate all different types of sensitive people so they don’t exclude anyone from overpaying for their education.

By the time I’m finished saying this, I can literally feel the tension in the elevator. I reach out to grab it, but the elevator beeps and they all get off on the fourth floor.

Scottie says to me, Man, they really were not happy with you.

Yeah, well I’m really not happy about having to settle for Qdoba.

I enter my dorm room and the fluorescent ceiling light bathes my skin. Mass-produced dorm furniture lines both sides of the room, except we made our beds into bunk beds so we’d have more room for activities. I bought this rug from the rug company that sells rugs to college students that want rugs, so there’s a large brown rug covering most of the floor. It really ties the room together.

The dorm hallways make it hard to feel like you’re not walking through a maximum-security prison, except for the bulletin boards covered in cliché aphorisms of encouragement. And advertisements for HBO Go, although I guess they’re not really advertisements, but more so reminders that all students living on campus have access to this completely necessary amenity. Everyone needs HBO Go. It’s important that our tuition dollars go toward important things like HBO Go so we, as individuals looking to individuate and become scholars in our respective fields can distract ourselves with Big Little Lies. Important. Im. Por. Tant.

My roommate, JP Stein, lives with his girlfriend over in Jannen Residential College (JRC), so he really only comes around to take showers and to change his clothes. Which that’s incredible because I get the room to myself every night and so I can walk around naked as much as I want to. Which is great. Everyone knows that’s a great thing. To be able to walk around your dwelling naked.

I take my flip-flops off and lie down on my extra-long twin bed—the bottom bunk—and turn on some music to drown my thoughts. As if on cue, there’s a knock at the door.

I open the door to find Lara Likten staring at me and expecting me to let her in. So I do. And she smells like cigarettes. She smokes a lot of cigarettes, Lara.

I met Lara at the beginning of the semester because JP smokes cigarettes as well, so he introduced us. A lot of kids that smoke cigarettes bond easily, a notion similar to marijuana smokers. Lara wears glasses that are way too big for her pallid face; as a result, they always slide down to the tip of her nose. Her hair is straight and mid-back length, and bangs cover her forehead.

What the fuck is up? she asks as she walks into my room.

Not a whole lot, just got back from class, what’s goin’ on?

Ashley keeps bringing guys back to our room late at night and fucking them while I’m sleeping. Well, I’ve been waking up, so I’m not sleeping anymore at that point, but you get what I’m saying. It’s really fucking annoying and I don’t know what to do.

Why don’t you just tell her not to bring guys back and fuck them while you’re sleeping?

Because, it’s Ashley. Like, you can’t just tell Ashley to stop bringing guys back to the room just because you’re sleeping. She would call me selfish.

Well, it seems you have yourself quite the predicament here. And it seems that you have three options. You can (1) tell her to stop, you can (2) not tell her to stop, or you can (3) murder her. My advice is to murder her. Because she’s terrible.

Oh my god shut up. Whatever, I guess I’ll just deal with it for now.

We look at each other silently for a moment and then she continues.

We’ve been talking about death in my philosophy class and like, how different cultures deal with death and it’s actually really cool. You should read this article that we just read.

I’d be happy to. But it’s been a pretty long day and I was about to go for a run, so I think that’s what I’m gonna do.

Whatever, be boring, I’m gonna go bum a cig from someone in the parking lot. Wanna drink tonight?

I’m down, I say, I’ll let Scottie and JP know what the plan is.

The cigarette smell fades in her absence.

I tie my shoes, take my shirt off, and connect my Bluetooth headphones. The journey downstairs is always amusing, as I’ve found it contextually taboo to walk around the dorms without a shirt on. That said, this is my home now, and I’m going to treat it that way.

Exiting the dorm, I turn on some Eidola and start up my running watch. The evening sun is beginning to set, and a gentle breeze gives me goosebumps on my bear torso. The dorms tower far above my head as I embark. As I turn the corner onto Red—the main road on the southwestern border of campus—my body starts to feel like its floating, and I’m simply a passenger being led past office buildings and apartments. Running in the late-summer Florida heat is no joke, but endorphins flow through my blood and drive me onward. Before I know it, I’m back on campus, running past students who are questioning (or not questioning) their reasons for going to class. As I finish, sweat is streaming down my face and I’m engulfed in a state of euphoria.

I head back up to my floor to stretch and meditate on the fire escape, where the breeze is much stronger.

Sitting cross-legged, the door opens and I’m suddenly ripped out of my calmness; out comes Joe Wallace, Anahn Muktah, and Ben Belton. They frequently smoke weed in the stairwell, and so I frequently get interrupted by them on their way to get high. Which obviously I don’t have a problem with smoking weed, it just gets annoying being barged in on like this. Which I can’t really complain about too much, considering I’m on the fire escape.

Anyway. Oh shit, sorry, bro, Belton says to me when the door hits my leg.

I say, It’s all good.

So you like, meditate out here? Belton asks. What does that like, do for you?

Uhm, it’s just a good way to take a step back from yourself and focus on your breathing.

Oh, right on. Sorry, we’ll just squeeze past you. And so they do, and the smell of reefer begins to flood the stairwell behind the door.

I decide to be finished with my affairs and head inside to take a shower.

I jack off in the communal bathrooms. They’re not open showers, they’re stalls. Relax. I realize it’s disrespectful to a certain extent, but at least I don’t whack in in the study room like some other kids do. The study room is where students go to feel like they’re doing work but to actually talk about fucking girls and getting into fraternities, in no particular order, although they seem to think it happens that way. It is a well-known statistic that ninety nine percent of college boys rushing fraternities are doing so in order to slay as much pussy as humanly possible. The remaining one percent are (aside from purchasing friendship [that’s right, friendship is a commodity now, too!], as the former ninety-nine percent are also doing) searching for networking opportunities.

It’s definitely something to get used to though, sharing a bathroom with forty other guys. There’s no telling when you’ll offend someone by passing them dis notes under the stalls about how their families don’t actually love them and they’re really just forking over all of this tuition money to get [insert dis victim’s name here] as far across the country as possible. The dis notes don’t only have to be about their family’s lack of love for them though. They can be about anything, really. You can use your imagination here.

I have class at 8:00 a.m. three days a week, and so I run into the same kids that have an 8:00 a.m. on those same three days. This is generally what happens at said time:

I wake up and head to the bathroom to put my contacts in and this kid Braxton walks in the bathroom just as I’m having my first thoughts of suicide for the day. Sup.

Sup, I respond, as I generally do in this catatonic state.

And then we go about our own business, casually preparing our minds for the day while we silently argue vainly about who has a better body and we both know that it’s me even though he’s a soon-to-be-frat star.

But so Braxton leaves eventually and I can stop having my mental battle with him while I finish brushing my teeth and not killing myself. I head back to the dorm room, burn my eyes as I turn on the overhead, and put some clothes on. I pop some headphones in, grab my stolen penny board off my towel rack, and head downstairs for breakfast. But more on the dining hall later.

I enjoy getting drunk. I also enjoy getting cross-faded. The problem with the latter, though, is that if you don’t find the right balance, you’ll most likely yack. And that shit gets old. I yacked plenty of times in high school from getting too crossed. And so I decided I wouldn’t throw up from drugs in college.

Later that night, it’s decided that we’ll all meet up at Lara’s room to drink. The cheapest, and probably one of the grossest ways to get drunk is our regular fixer—Early Times Whiskey. It’s this nasty shit that comes in a plastic bottle and you can get it for like $20/handle.

Once everyone arrives, we circle up.

Okay, everyone ready? I say, cringing at the thought of the first shot.

Yeah.

Yup.

I guess so…

Well, then let’s toast this one to the general shittiness of life, I propose.

To the general shittiness of life! all exclaim as we laugh and pour the poison down our underaged throats.

God, that shit is disgusting, JP says, grimacing.

Yeah, but the more you drink it, the more you get used to it, Lara says. It’s like getting beaten by your dad.

Your dad beats you, Lara? Scottie asks seriously.

Nah, but I watch a lot of movies. Lots of Netflix, ya know.

I chime in with, Lara, just pour us another shot.

I get a glare thrown at me.

At least I asked nicely, I say. At the end of that sentence, I burp and blow it in her face.

Uch, you’re fucking disgusting, she scowls. Scottie and JP laugh with me.

Man, I could use a female in my life, I say. Why don’t you have any hot friends, Lara?

I’m just not good at being friends with girls okay. They suck. Guys are just easier, no drama, no bitchiness, except from you, you bitch, she says, pointing at me.

You know, Bloom, Scottie begins, maybe it’s time you start actually trying to get some pussy by yourself instead of asking your friends to set you up all the goddamn time.

Yeah dude, did your mom get you laid in high school? Or were you able to meet people without her? JP says, cracking up.

Fuck off, you guys. I’m just horny. I grab the plastic liquor bottle to fill our shot glasses once again.

Whatever you say. Lara says, Halloween is coming up, maybe you can get some at a party or something.

I don’t know, I say, I’ve done the random sex thing and it usually isn’t all that fulfilling.

Well then, Scottie says, raising his shot glass, to our lack of fulfillment, in all our days to come.

To our lack of fulfillment, in all our days to come! Everyone grunts in some shape or form as the whiskey slides down our gullets.

I say, Maybe I’ll try, but I won’t feel good about it afterward.

Maybe not, but you’ll feel good during. And that’s alllll that matters, JP says with a creepy grin.

What about you, JP? How’s that new bitch been treating your smartass? says Scottie.

I’ve really been enjoying hanging out with Tamarea. It’s also nice sleeping with her every night, although we’re sharing her twin bed.

Doesn’t that make her roommate feel weird? Lara asks.

I guess not, JP says. Or she’s just too shy to say something about it.

"Doesn’t it make you feel weird that she’s black?" Scottie says to JP.

Yo, I say, chill Scottie. At least he’s not a virgin.

Man, shut the fuck up. He grabs the handle and pours himself another shot, then shares with the rest of us.

Despite the alcohol, I arise at 8:30 a.m. to head out for a run, and afterward to the gym to get a lift in before my stretching/meditation/shower routine. No one is up this early in the morning because they were out drinking at the Cove until who knows when. The Cove is where many of the freshman spend their Wednesday through Sunday nights. It’s a strip of bars a few miles away, which means that you have to Uber there, unless you’re lucky enough to know someone older with a car. On your way to the gentrified Cove, you get to take a tour of Splendid Avenue, which is unfortunately not splendid at all, as it’s the straight-up hood.

After I finish showering, I come to the most beautiful time of the week. It’s Saturday and all the motherfuckers have gone to the football game, which is downtown because there’s no stadium on campus. They’re probably still drunk from last night. Which meaaaaaans that they won’t be back here throwing up until like 7:00 p.m., giving me some peace and quiet in and out of the dorms.

One of my favorite things to do is to bring one of the dorm chairs out onto the fire escape—which, yes, that’s obviously a fire hazard; like if there was a fire and people were trying to get out through the fire escape, they would literally have to climb over me in order to evade death—and read for as long as I feel like I need to. I’ve been reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. This is some serious shit.

And no I don’t go to the football games. And no I have not been to one yet. And no I do not plan on going to one. And no I don’t respond well when someone says to me, "You should at least go to one." And yes, maybe I should, but the opportunity cost is so high. How could I miss out on the miraculous almost-silence that is left behind while everyone’s gone? My desire to go tailgate three hours before the football game starts so that I can be hammered by kick-off and throwing up on the bus on the way home at half-time because no one really actually gives a fuck about the game they just go there to get drunk and hang out with their frat bros is really quite low, my desire to do that. And at the end of every Saturday I spend relaxing on campus, the hordes return bringing with them extreme sunburns and alcohol poisoning. So I haven’t really been given the impetus to show my school spirit at the off-campus football games. Maybe next week, though.

My phone starts buzzing while I’m practicing guitar later in the afternoon, so I do what most people would do and I answer the buzzing phone.

I say, Yeah?

Yo dude, I got ahold of some acid, says JP. I know you said you wouldn’t really be up for it, but Scottie said he wants to try it. So we’re thinking of doing it tonight. It’d be cool if you’d still hang out with us, though. We can still get drunk or whatever.

Yeah, okay, that sounds like not a bad time. Plus it’ll probably be good to have someone in the group that’s not tripping, so I guess I’ll be that guy.

Okay, awesome. Then we’ll see you tonight.

I return to practicing, but my thoughts are taking over, my fingers unwilling to cooperate with my brain. Practicing guitar in an academic setting has been a real bitch. Guitar has always been a loving hobby of mine that I’ve used for pure creativity and crafting my feelings into something tangible. This is not that. And my guitar professor, The Stern Man, has on this hard-ass mentality that he’s pushing onto me and the other guitar players. And now I’m being graded on my playing and my whole relationship with my instrument is getting really misconstrued. Not only that, but I get some severe anxiety whenever I have to go spend my weekly hour with The Stern Man, and I know the other players do also. It really doesn’t seem healthy.

So now I find myself in my dorm room by myself, my thoughts spiraling, questioning my will to continue on this path that I told myself for so long I wouldn’t go down. But now I’m here, and it looks like I just have to work on accepting the fact that I’m gonna finish college. Because it’s easier this way right? My dad is paying for the entirety of my education, so it’s not like I’m going to have student loans when I get out of here. I might as well just get my degree. But am I gonna feel like this for the rest of my college career? Because I feel pretty terrible, honestly. I don’t even know where I am, man.

I’m overwhelmed with these thoughts and tears are beginning to roll down my face; I move to the floor, where at least I can feel some sort of ground. Time seems to have slipped away from me, along with all of my friends from home that I love so much. Not that I haven’t met some great people here, it’s more that I just don’t understand why the fuck things have to be this way. I mean what is this shit? How is it that we’re taught no other alternatives to college while growing up? Or rather, even if we are, these alternatives are made out to be such alien endeavors that most of us wouldn’t dare venture into such uncharted territory. There’s no encouragement to do anything besides get fucked by society. And it makes me angry. And it has made me angry for a long time now. I can feel the anger in my bones.

I’m on the toilet writing this dis note to the kid in the next stall when I get a call from Scottie.

I say, Yo.

Hey, we’re coming up to your room to drop these tabs.

Alright, I say, I’m just finishing up this poo and I’ll be back in the room.

I slide the dis note to the anonymous fellow to my right and wipe my ass.

Scottie and JP are already in my room when I get back, a handle of Early Times sitting quietly on my desk.

I say, We’re drinking this garbage? You guys really wanna be drunk while you’re tripping?

Why not? JP says.

Whatever, I say. I’m not gonna try to convince you otherwise. I’m down to take some shots though.

JP pulls the tabs out of his backpack and unfolds the foil encapsulating them. He hands one to Scottie.

Wellp, down the hatch, Scottie says, placing the tab on his tongue.

My discomfort starts itching during this process, but it fades away once the first couple shots go down. We listen to music and discuss the ails of people we find dumber than ourselves, which includes most.

Soon, JP and Scottie begin to enter the world of LSD. We’ve taken quite a few shots at this point; maybe eight? Not sure, lost count. Regardless, I’m pretty intoxicated as we make our way out of the dorms.

It’s been dark out for a while, which means we’re staying up all night—acid lasts for quite a while. We make our way up to the second floor of our student center, where there’s a terrace that overlooks the lake. Surveying campus, lights twinkling, my friends start to describe what they see, and I feel as though I understand what they’re saying. JP has done a lot of acid, like ten times or so, and he talks about the possibility of me picking up on their energy. I’m still quite drunk as we leave the student center to venture around the rest of campus. Eventually we find ourselves back in the dorms, heading up to my room.

Once on my floor, we run into my RA, Rob. I invite him to drink some wine with us, which is pretty ballsy considering I have no clue what his response will be and my two companions are on LSD. But he takes me up on the offer and we all head into my room. Rob is a gay man with a bit of plumpness hanging in his stomach and a scraggly neck-beard; he’s proven to be a pretty nice dude overall.

So how are you guys liking college? Rob asks. He takes a big gulp of wine. I know that’s like, super cliché to ask, but I’m curious, so.

It’s been alright, JP begins, definitely a pretty big change. But I’ve met some good people here, so I can’t complain really.

Yeah, I mean, I went to Catholic school, so pretty much anything is better than that, Scottie says, chuckling.

Meanwhile, I’m a little less drunk at this point and consistently holding back laughter. These are the moments where I ask myself how the hell I got to this point in my reality: half-drunk in my dorm room talking with my RA while my friends are mid-way through their acid trip.

…but yeah that’s kinda funny, I hear Rob say as I check back into the conversation.

Just like nine-eleven, I say.

Laughter emerges from both JP and Scottie, but not from Rob.

Why did you say that? Rob asks.

I say, Just a joke.

My uncle died on nine-eleven, Rob says.

Shit, I say, I didn’t mean anything by it.

That’s alright, Rob says, and sighs deeply, collecting himself. I try to practice forgiveness, even for those terrorists. You should just be more careful about what you say.

I start to respond, but it seems that Scottie isn’t going to let that happen.

"You forgive them? What do you mean you forgive them? Those people are fucking crazy! They killed your family! Your family died! How can you forgive them? Your family. Died." As he grows louder and louder, he moves closer and closer to Rob’s face. His eyes are wide open and he’s breathing heavily.

Scottie does this type of shit though, only it’s amplified right now because he’s on drugs. This catches me by surprise though, JP too. Rob looks astounded; he looks at Scottie with an open mouth.

Woah, woah! Rob says, holding up both hands. "You need to calm down."

JP decides to step in here: Sorry, sorry, we took some acid earlier and I think it’s making Scottie a bit more affected.

Oh. I can see the gears turning in his head, deciding how to respond in this situation, as an authority figure consuming alcohol with underaged students. Well, I guess I can understand that; acid can do some weird shit. But I really don’t like being approached that way. Honestly, that was kind of scary, so, uh, I’m gonna go back to my room; I’ll see you guys later, he says, moving toward the door, quite unhappy. Before he closes the door behind him, he turns around and says, None of this leaves this room, and the door clicks shut.

What the fuck. I say, baffled. Yep, still drunk.

Maybe let’s go back outside, get some fresh air, JP suggests.

Yeah, I say.

Yeah, Scottie agrees.

We walk for hours, eventually finding ourselves sitting in a parking garage stairwell. The air is thick and sticky with humidity; petrichor looms in the particles all around. Suddenly lightning strikes and rain begins to pour, creating a bubble around us; we’re alone, but we have each other. Our conversations move between the overall reasons for experiencing our current realities all the way through our spiritual/religious tendencies.

When the rain finally lets up, we ascend to the top of the parking garage as the first signs of light permeate the sky. We watch the sunrise and feel humbled. The clouds, draped in color, give us hope. Maybe even some meaning. But these things are fleeting, aren’t they?

I want my hair to just be extremely long, says Scottie.

Like, for what reason exactly? I ask.

It’s Friday, ten minutes before our weekly forum for the contemporary music program. I have a freshly rolled joint behind my right ear and Scottie and I have just crossed the street into the off-campus residential neighborhood. Some may say that smoking a joint in broad daylight in the middle of the suburbs is a bad idea. But their opinion is irrelevant because we’re about to do it anyway.

Scottie says, I don’t have a specific reason, I guess. You said you had long hair in high school, so you know what I’m talking about.

Yeah, I just wanted to see if you had a specific reason is all.

Why’d you cut your hair, anyway? he asks.

I realized I was going bald. I grab the joint and pull a lighter out of my pocket.

You don’t look that much like you’re going bald.

Yeah, not as much with short hair, but I grew my hair out for a year and finally I could put it in a ponytail and you could just see the shit out of my scalp.

Rough.

Yeah.

I burn the twisted tip off the joint, watching the orange flame singe away the paper. I put the joint in my mouth with my thumb and index finger, bring the lighter up to it with my left hand as I make a wind shield with my right. As the flame meets the joint, it catches and the orange glow returns as a burning circle. Smoke fills my lungs and I inhale deeply.

God, fucking kush man, I say. Shit gets me so high, like instantly.

Yeah, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you.

Nothing, man, it’s just the kush. I pass the j over to Scottie, exhaling a cloud.

Scottie inhales, But definitely a plus of having long hair is being able to head bang properly, exhales.

"That’s true, and it’s prime for some good ole Midwestern shoegaze. No one, and I mean no one will be able to see your face."

Heh.

Did you have a girlfriend in high school? I ask on a tangent. Scottie hands the joint back to me as we pass a little concrete house with a garden gnome staring at us from the lawn. I stare back as I take my puffs.

Well, I had this girlfriend for like a year, but as I’ve told you, I went to Catholic school, so it’s not like we really did much. Like, sexually speaking.

Uh huh.

But so there was this girl that I was like, totally crazy about that I -

Not your girlfriend?

Not my girlfriend.

Kay.

So this girl, Mindy, I like, totally always had feelings for, but she was kind of a close friend, so I never really did anything about it. But one day we were chilling after school just like, on a walk or something, and we ended up in this sort of secluded park a mile or so away from school, and so she was asking me about my current girlfriend, Jill, and somehow, we got to talking about our feelings for each other, and eventually started kissing and shit, but nothing serious. And -

Sorry I keep interrupting, but I’m just curious about the feelings that you had for, uh, Jill. Like were you not crazy about her, too? Or were you just lusting for both?

Well, Scottie says, sucking on the roach, flicking it into the street, it was complicated, you know, because yeah I did really like my girlfriend, but I’d kind of had feelings for Mindy for some time also. But so Mindy and I hooked up and that made shit even more complicated; it was a mess, honestly. So but Mindy had a bunch of baggage that she carried around with her all the time and a couple weeks after this happened, she killed herself.

Woah, what?

Yeah. It was extremely fucked up. But it had nothing to do with that situation.

How do you know?

She left a note.

Oh, shit.

She hanged herself in her bedroom. Her sister found her.

God.

Yeah. I haven’t really talked about this in a long time, so.

Well, we can talk about it whenever you want. I mean, obviously you don’t want to talk about it all the time, but I’m saying like, if you ever need to talk about it.

I’m talking about it now.

True, sorry. Very high.

It’s all good, we should probably get over to forum.

I look at my watch, Shit, yeah, we’re gonna be late.

Sorry for crushing the mood like that, Scottie says. We can be happy again now, He smiles and does a weird little dance.

You’re a fucking nutcase, I say. I dance back at him.

The mood lightens as we walk back toward campus. It’s beautiful outside, the foliage vibrant, verdant, and the smell of flowers hangs in the air. I’m not usually a smoking-during-the-day type of guy, but it’s definitely a quality thing to do on a relaxing Friday before forum.

Forum. Forum. Forum. Held in the smaller of our recital halls—Brink Recital Hall, that is—everyone from our program meets to have an open mic and discuss weekly announcements. The thing is, and believe you me, I was just as surprised as the next guy, and I don’t really know who the next guy is, but I was just as surprised as him. Am just as surprised. Every time. Surprised at the real lack of talent that actually flows through this music school. Sure, there are a couple gems, but a lot of the musicians, if that’s what you want to call them, seem like they were let into the program simply because of their voices. Now let me clarify this as quickly as possible. The songwriting program consists of songwriters, naturally. I fall simply into the contemporary program, which just implies that I am specifically an instrumentalist, whereas the songwriters are, well, songwriters. Not that I don’t write music myself, but the kids in the songwriting program are mostly singer-songwriters – i.e. they generally accompany themselves with an instrument, but few of them are even remotely competent with their instruments, hence my consternation. But so generally, this is how a Friday forum works out from the perspective of high Scottie and high Porter.

We file in and take our seats, always in the eighth row up, a row with only seven seats, where all other rows have fifteen. And you know how it is when you’re stoned in a room with a bunch of other people that you can generally infer are, well, not stoned. Scottie and I are hanging out on a different level, intoxicated at an institutional function. What’s more fun, I ask? Some things. But like I said, this is a quality thing to do.

Bro, do you see The Stern Man right now? I say to Scottie, leaning to my right, still looking forward so as to be slightly inconspicuous but most likely failing to be. "He’s looking super fucking…stern."

Holy shit. That is one stern man, man.

And check out Missy over there, what the fuck is that outfit?

Oh, my.

Missy is a TA for the songwriting program, so she generally runs Friday forums, and most of the contemporary faculty show up, as they’re supposed to. So The Stern Man is hanging out over there on stage right with drumming instructor Jim Jack Jones—who we just call Triple J—probably also talking about Missy’s disgusting outfit.

What is the outfit, you might ask? I will tell you. Top to bottom. First off, a simply unnecessary fedora, large silver hoop earrings, just way too much makeup for hopefully anyone’s taste, a purple sequin dress with a green cardigan on top, this dress just really accentuating the terrible curves that Missy yields as a late-twenties female. She usually has visibly hairy legs, so I’m just gonna go ahead and say hairy legs under the dress leading down to a pair of green pumps.

Dude, missy looks like fucking Barney, says Scottie.

She looks straight up like a fucking eggplant.

We both chuckle.

Juan Ricardo is sitting up in the back on stage left with Angry Dave, who’s a pretty angry guy, Dave is. Not really outwardly, but you can tell that he’s just kind of pissed off a lot of the time about being middle-aged and overweight and working at a college instead of being a successful piano player. Which like, this dude is a fucking monster piano player, I’ll certainly admit. Perfect pitch and all that. But I’ve heard that he one time had a few too many at a student gig and kinda opened up to a couple kids about his problems, which it’s kind of unfortunate if you’re going to college kids about your middle-aged issues and especially college kids at this college because what the fuck do any of us know? He’s bitching about his weight and alcoholism to the top one percent.

Juan Ricardo has an absurdly thick salt and pepper mustache hanging out there on his upper lip, obviously, because where else would a mustache hang out. It really looks more like a sewer rat though, if we’re being completely open and honest here. He wears the same tan corduroy sport coat every day over a different colored polo tucked into his jeans, but I’ll give him the fact that he alternates between loafers and flip-flops. Today we have a white polo and, what are those? Yeah, flip-flops. Mustache. Also these elliptical Nietzschean glasses that don’t really look good on anyone at this point in history, if I do say so myself.

It’s 2:30 p.m. and Missy promptly makes her way to the front of the stage, taps on the mic to make sure it’s working. It is.

Hey everyone! she begins. It’s so good to see all of you! I had a great week, I don’t know about you, but I sure did.

Blow it out your ass, Missy, Scottie says, leaning toward me, whispering.

Would you fuck her for ten thousand dollars? I ask.

Uh. I’ll have to get back to you on that one, kid.

The clock is ticking.

Well, would you let Ricardo blow you for ten big ones? Scottie asks.

Shit, probably not. His mustache probably feels like steel wool. He’d tear my cock to shreds.

Missy is making her announcements. And this week Liz Gold will be playing up on the veranda on Wednesday at…

Good point, Scottie says, I probably wouldn’t either. I’m going for a yes on the Missy front though. I feel like I could suffer through that for ten K. That’s a pretty hefty sum of money. You could buy a bunch of pretty nice guitars with that, or just like splurge on one outrageously expensive one.

Yeah, I’d probably do it too. You don’t wanna lose your virginity to her though, eh?

Fuck off.

Aaaaaaand, Missy continues, who wants to go first?

A few kids raise their hands, but it’s Marjorie Steinberg that gets called on. Fucking Marjorie. She’s got this short blond hair that curls up just before her shoulders and these unrealistically rosy cheeks that look like they were drawn in with a sharpie. Also, her breasts are very small. Like an A cup if we’re being generous. But see, the thing is, is that they’re proportionally small compared to the rest of her body, which is really just an unfortunate thing for her. Plus she wears these glasses of which I heard don’t even have prescription lenses in them and they’re I swear to god shaped like hearts.

So Marjorie gets all excited at getting picked first and you can hear her say, Yes! as she closes her right fist like she just scored a soccer goal.

What about Marjorie? Scottie asks. Ten thousand?

Is she gonna take me out to dinner first?

Does it really matter?

Hell fuck it does. If I have to go to dinner with her first there’s not a fucking chance in hell I’d take that deal. Put me in bed with her for ten big ones and that’s fine, but no way I’m having any type of conversation with that. No way.

Okay, no dinner then, Scottie says.

Done.

Heh.

Steinberg plugs in her acoustic guitar and sits down on a stool, pulls her phone out and puts it on a music stand so that she can read her lyrics that she hasn’t memorized.

Okay, so like, I wrote this a few days ago, so cut me some slack, but here goes! And Marjorie begins playing. As expected, a poppy love song, just like many of the rest.

Dude, says Scottie.

Yeah, fuck, I say.

Doesn’t this just make you feel so dumb? Like I literally think I’m becoming more stupid every second I hear this.

And Marjorie is singing her chorus: But he didn’t call me back/I thought I’d have a heart attack over a I, IV, V progression. Her guitar playing is seriously amateur—leaving strings open that should be muted, not getting sound out of all of the strings in the basic chords, etc.

I just don’t get it, I say. Do we belong in the same room? I feel like we don’t. There’s no way we do. Being stoned makes her music worse, I must admit.

My muscles hurt.

My dick hurts.

Look at Sterny over there, Scottie says, he’s literally just on his phone.

Wow, yeah, that’s bad.

And do you see Missy? I say. She’s eating this shit up. She loves it.

She actually looks turned on.

I bet Dave up there is pretty Angry about this.

Yeah, well put a beer in his hands, I’m sure he’d tell you all about it.

How much pot do you think The Stern Man smokes, really? I ask.

Gotta be a lot, I’d say. During lessons he forgets what he’s talking about like, most of the time.

I know right? But he says that’s because of some medication that he’s taking.

Yeah, pot, says Scottie, chuckling.

Hmm.

Why must we be punished this way? Can’t she just not be terrible?

Nah, this is god getting you back for being an asshole, I say.

"Yeah, and what’s he getting you back for, then?"

Probably for all the retard jokes.

Makes sense.

Yeah.

Marjorie finishes her song and everyone in the room claps but Scottie and I and The Stern Man who’s still on his phone, completely oblivious to his surroundings. Standard procedure allows for a few comments on the performance by other students.

Jeannette Flowers raises her hand and says, I really, really liked that! That was super cool. I was just thinking that you could maybe do the chorus one less time? I think it would keep the listener more engaged if the song was just a bit shorter.

Oh, yeah, I’ll definitely look into that, thanks, Marjorie responds disingenuously.

The fuck is the point of this? says Scottie.

I don’t know, man. It’s pretty much just a joke at this point. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh I loved your song it was so good I could never say that it was bad because criticism isn’t good for you, only here are my criticisms put lightly just to be overly nice.’

Sounds about right.

Do you think it’s bad that we’re such assholes? I ask.

I mean, we wouldn’t have to be if people didn’t suck so much.

Touché, I say.

Shit, I’m hungry.

Wanna get Chipotle?

Oh, fuck yeah I do, Scottie says.

Fuck yessssss, gonna smash that shit.

Hopefully your friend won’t be there.

What friend?

Oh, that ungrateful bitch, you mean?

Yeah, Scottie confirms, I don’t want to have to witness that encounter, not one bit.

At this point the comments are finished and the next performer makes his way up to the stage.

I’m really not trying to endure this any longer, Scottie says to me. Exit strategy?

"Okay, okay. I’ll get up right now like I’m going to the bathroom, then you get up thirty seconds after and act like you’re going to the bathroom. It’s a foolproof plan, then we’ll be the hell outta here. Cool?"

Execute and achieve, he says.

What?

Kay. I get up and slide my way out of the auditorium attempting to be unobtrusive. How unobtrusive I am is really unknown to me, nor do I actually care that much once I’m out of the room. I head outside and lean against the railing that leads down the stairs, waiting for Scottie.

Thirty seconds later, Let’s fuckin’ go, bitch! as Scottie walks out the doors.

You think it would be bad, I say, if I wore a shirt around that says, ‘FUCK QDOBA’?

Do you really hate it that much that you would wear a shirt?

Probably not, I guess. It’s really not that bad, it’s just that the employees are so depressed that it’s contagious.

Yeah, well the help here isn’t too much better, Scottie says, holding the door open for my entry into the Americanized Mexican food establishment.

I guess not, I say, but they usually give me extra shit without complaining, so that’s good enough for me.

We’ve been in line for five minutes or so. The employees here don’t really care too much about churn, so they take their time, which is a nuisance, but you gotta get your Chipotle fix, so. The line is getting longer behind us.

Oh my god, I say, looking back, "that girl is actually fucking here."

Holy shit, you serious?

That’s some real-life foreshadowing right there, if I’ve ever seen it.

I take another glance back. Bad idea. Our eyes meet for a split second and her face instantly morphs into kill mode. I turn around and try to act like nothing’s wrong. The problem, though, is that the line zig-zags, so she’ll be right behind us soon.

Bro, we locked eyes. She knows, I say.

Oh, Jesus. Can’t we go anywhere without you having mental battles?

I have a feeling that this isn’t going to be mental. Just prepare yourself.

We move forward in line, slowly.

Hey, you! says Girl, once close enough to poke me on the shoulder. Her glare is fierce and her jaw muscles are visible as she grinds her teeth.

Look, can we just not, please? I begin. How are you even sti -

You fucking asshole. You can’t just run away from this! I want an apology or I’ll -

Scottie chimes in here. Hey, bitch. Yeah, I said it. Why don’t you mind your own business and shut the fuck up. No one here wants to hear you complaining about bullshit.

Girl is absolutely stunned. It’s also possible that she doesn’t know Scottie and I are here together, so it may seem that a stranger is just telling her to fuck off.

We’re all just trying to get some food here, is all, I say to her.

No more words come out of Girl’s mouth, probably for the rest of the day if she knows what’s good for her.

Good shit, good shit, I say to Scottie, smiling.

Sometimes you just gotta out-bitch the bitch, right bitch?

Oh yeah, bitch.

Hey, man, what do you wanna order? asks Burrito Pressing guy, with a face tattoo of a shuriken under his left eye.

Yeah, can I get a tortilla in a bowl to-go?

Presses burrito and puts it in the bowl.

Yeah, can I get white rice, black beans, fajitas, and chicken.

Fills my order, passes it down the assembly line.

Thanks.

Not even looking at me, but at Scottie now.

Hey, sweetie, what kinda salsa you want? says Salsa woman, middle-aged, black, comforting.

Yeah, can I get mild, a little medium, two scoops of corn, sour cream, and cheese, please.

Sure, baby.

Thank you, I say, with a no-teeth smile.

Sure, baby. And she passes it to the register.

Chips or anything to drink? asks Register girl, a cute, white, college girl that I haven’t seen working here before.

Uhh, yeah, can I just get a bag of chips and a water cup, please?

Sure. That’ll be $8.80.

I give her my card and watch her as she scans it. Blond hair, blue eyes, smooth skin, figure looking good even in her uniform.

Receipt? she asks.

Nah, thanks.

Have a good day, she says.

Thanks, you too.

I go to fill my water cup, toss a fork in my bag and grab some smoked Tabasco, sit down at a table and wait for Scottie to join me.

How ‘bout that cashier chick? says Scottie, sitting down across from me.

I know, I say, caught me by surprise. We take our non-taxed to-go Chipotle out of our bags and dig in.

Hey, Odds Are you ask her out after we eat.

Ten.

Alright.

In unison, Three, two, one…six!

Fuck! I say, slapping the table.

Hahaa! Let’s go! Well, at least you have some time to stew over it while you shovel all that down your gullet.

God dammit, Scottie.

Hey, maybe I’m doing you a favor.

Whatever, I say, dipping a chip into my bowl, pouring a few drops of Tabasco on top.

When’s the last time you got laid anyway?

Sooner than you, virgin boy.

Hey chill, I was just asking.

I was sleeping with this girl over the summer. Couple years younger than me.

Like still in high school?

Yeah, but I had just graduated, so it wasn’t that weird.

True.

She was a strange girl. Had some issues, too. Depression, that kinda stuff.

Honestly, who’s not fucking depressed nowadays. I mean really, how many people do you think are taking depression medication in this country?

A lot. Too many. Way too many.

Yeah, man, it’s like, ‘Oh, I feel sad, maybe this will make it all better.’

Yeah, I don’t know, I say. It’s kinda hard to tell. I mean, personally, I would never take it. It does help some people, though.

Maybe, he says.

Maybe. But also yeah, there’s certainly an epidemic in this country involving running away from your problems. And the excuse is a ‘chemical imbalance in the brain,’ but where does that come from? It’s just like, there? And nothing can be done about it other than taking pills? I don’t buy it, you know.

Yeah, I know. But, can’t do too much about it with a mouth full of sour cream, thinking about having to ask that babe out over there while she’s working, Scottie says.

Whatever, I say, I’ve done worse.

Oh yeah? Like what? Talking with his mouth full.

You know I’ve killed a few people. I start to roll my tortilla up into a burrito. "Why don’t you go ask this chick out? I ask. You need it more than I do, let’s be honest here."

I didn’t lose Odds, bitch.

Fair, but I’m still offering it up to you. You know, like an optional transfer of the Odds Sentence.

What the hell is that? No one ever does that. No one ever wants to do what they Odds someone to do, that’s why they do it.

Yeah, but in this case, although the Odds do instill some fear, I really have nothing to lose. If she says no, she says no, but if she says yes…

Well, no. Your Odds, your Sentence, bitch.

Suit yourself. I finish the last bites of my burrito, wipe my hands and mouth with a brown napkin, take a sip of water, and stand up.

I’m walking toward the girl at the cash register and my mind slows down. I focus on my breathing as it slackens and my awareness is amplified, as if I’m meditating. The fear is still there somewhere, but I’m bypassing it as I find myself at the counter. She looks up as I approach.

Hey, can I help you with something? she asks professionally.

Hi, uhm, I was wondering if you’d like to go on a date with me.

She looks around, her cheeks turning the color of roses. Uhm, wow, she says, obviously caught off guard. I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend, but nice of you to ask, really.

Okay, no worries, just figured I’d ask, I say, trying to pinpoint my place in reality.

Gotta get back to work, she says, grinning as she shifts her attention, a customer approaching the register.

I let out a deep breath and head back to where Scottie sits finishing the last of his burrito. Damn, you’re a slow eater.

You were gone for like eight seconds, bro, he says, chewing.

Oh.

What’d she say?

Boyfriend, I sigh, sliding back into my seat.

Think she was lying?

Nah, she actually seemed really flattered. Almost like she didn’t want to decline.

Bitch, you think anyone actually wants to go on a date with this? he says, motioning at the whole of my identity.

Look, I’m a wizard in bed, okay. You’ll find out someday if you behave yourself.

Eating here, man.

Heh.

If you’re such a sex genius, he says, why don’t you fuck off?

Nice, did your mom teach you that one?

Yeah.

Nice.

It’s 7:00 a.m., my alarm is ringing.

Fuck, I think to myself, again?

I’ve been feeling consistently terrible every morning. There’s nothing for me to look forward to, only more of this clenching energy, tightening my body in this indefinite phase of melancholy.

I put some shorts on and head into the bathroom.

Sup, I say to Braxton.

Sup.

I put in my contact lenses and the world comes to life. If only I could appreciate it. I look into my eyes in the mirror while I brush my teeth, wondering how long I can stare at myself in the face without going bat-shit. Braxton and I have a quick mental battle and he leaves to go shower; I finish my staring contest with myself and head back to my room to get dressed.

As usual, I pop in some headphones and grab my penny board. Some of the kids on the elevator look even more sad than I feel, which really says something. Why does everyone submit to this path? We’re born into this world by parents that, yes, do their very best, and yes, certainly love us very much (most of the time, I think), but they themselves were never taught another path either.

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