It’s nighttime. Clara sits in the stairwell on the top floor of her dorm. Clara looks at the city skyline. She pinches herself. “Am I alive,” she says. She feels embarrassed. She takes a hard drag of her cigarette. She blows out smoke. The smoke erupts into rings that wobble in the air. The rings rip. The smoke disappears. The buildings, solid against the vaporous mountains, shoot beams in all directions, illuminating something, not the air, not the sky; there aren’t any clouds or banks of mist anywhere. Maybe the lights fuse directly to Clara’s retinas, severing her connection to the stars. Clara looks at the sky. Clara looks for stars but doesn’t see any. “Nothing, but a blue-orange abyss,” she thinks. Clara inhales another stream of toxicity and her mind excites. Clara shudders. She blushes. Twenty minutes ago she almost had sex for the first time with James. She had been so close. So unsure of what was happening, could happen, would happen. Clara stopped his advances just enough to discourage more, and by proxy, gave in to abstinence, again. “Again,” Clara thinks. “I might change my major again. Economics maybe. English? I don’t know.” Clara shudders. It’s cold. Clara’s thoughts seem clear, but keep getting interrupted by sprinting bursts of the desert’s cold wind. The wind attacks her insecurities and fuels them simultaneously. “Again,” she thinks.
Down the stairwell, a door opens. Clara looks down. James’s head ascends the stairs. James looks up. James smiles. Clara looks at James. Clara kind of smiles. “Why does he like me,” she thinks. “What the fuck is this?” James reaches the top floor and walks to Clara. James takes long, exaggerated strides, like how that tool that navigators use to measure distance on a map moves. Clara watches him. She smiles over her shoulder. She’s nervous. She takes a drag of her cigarette. “Can I bum one,” says James. “Sure,” says Clara. James sits next to Clara. Clara puts her hand in her pocket. Clara moves her hand around inside her pocket. Clara’s hand jerks out of her pocket. Clara reveals a pack of American Spirit cigarettes. Clara opens the pack. Clara pinches at some cigarettes. Clara shivers. Clara keeps pinching. James puts his hand on Clara’s hand. Clara looks at James. Clara feels her face look worried. “I look worried,” Clara thinks. She tries to look neutral. James makes a face. James takes the pack of American Spirit cigarettes from Clara. James removes a cigarette. James puts the pack down on the stairs. James lights the cigarette. James blows out smoke really hard. He doesn’t say anything. James puts his arm around Clara. Clara curls up as small as she can. Clara’s knees are above her head. James looks at Los Angeles. This is the first time James has seen it. Clara feels confused about whether or not she is James. “What the fuck is this,” James thinks.
At around this same time, there are people—everywhere there is the concept of “where” and specific “places”—taking advantage of resources. These people are substantial, important, success-driven. People who acknowledge that they won’t live very long, that they need to accomplish things and “be somebody.” They think in idioms and clichés and feel fine with their choices. They look at their partners and children and pets and think, yes, this is it, this is okay, and move forward. No. Just kidding. They think, no, never mind, and murder insects out of maniacal, out-of-control rage. They binge eat and binge drink and binge cheat on each other with no regard for consequence. Just kidding. There is serious regard for consequence. They lie, and feel shitty for lying. They wear condoms and feel shitty for wearing condoms, and use diaphragms. “Who uses diaphragms,” some of them think. Some of them abuse resources because of addiction and perceived necessity. There are wives without sturdy, muscular arms wrapped around their naked bodies. There are soldiers lying awake in the freezing dead of night asking themselves why they enlisted, why their were drafted, why they allowed themselves to be brainwashed, and converting, ready to dissert. Not realizing that they will never be able to answer “why” ever, about anything. There are fights; explosions; masturbators and advocates for extreme types of celibacy. There are pregnant women selling themselves and children losing their virginity. There are animals that people have never seen. So many animals that people have never and will never see. And people that have never seen any other type of animal besides a human. There is extinction, though imperceptible. There is decomposition, also imperceptible, though there seem to be clear signs of it. There is flight and submersion and contact with “God’s green earth.” There is death, and destruction, and maybe an alien: the first alien. The first of many aliens, traveling from the place within which people with vast sums of money claim that alien belongs to, but which the alien must travel away from, travel to somewhere that is not that place. What is a place? A place is a point in time, that will never, ever be there again, due to the unidirectional, kinetic, non sequitur that is “now.” There are children, with endorphins in their brains, yelling, running, not thinking, even remotely about what will happen on the comedown. So engrossed by the joy that is “now” that speculation and fear are non-concepts. There are people breathing for the very last time. There are people writing novels about themselves and their experiences and
A year later, it’s October in South Central Los Angeles. The air seems abnormal, tepid. Emaciated gusts of summer wind push against various objects, then immediately stop; apologize, because they know that most things, especially medium-large things, have a propensity to ignore wind, in general, during early October, and prefer to compare their size to other large things and small things and inappropriately positioned pronouns and not the attention-starved, fluid Santa Ana currents of the Los Angeles Basin. James feels sexual. He thinks, I don’t know what, and swoons a little. A wisp of dry air comes through James’s window and hits his face; it apologizes. James, he is a human (see Part Five). “It’s okay,” says James.
James looks at his laptop. Facebook is on James’s laptop. James looks at pictures on Facebook. In the pictures James stands in a field with a Canon miniDV camera. James holds down the left arrow key on his laptop. He plays through the pictures like frames in a movie. James watches himself recording his friends dance in a field and run around his house. Youtube is on James’s laptop. James watches a movie on Youtube of his friends dancing in a field and running around his house. James watches a movie of his dog run in the snow at his parents’ house. James watches a movie of himself pretend to be a vampire and his friends pretend to be werewolves. James looks at a catalogue of film courses for non-majors. James opens the Word document containing his novel. James’s novel is about a synesthete who becomes a famous composer, and after creating the three greatest sound-compositions known to mankind, commits suicide by playing an electronic stereo wavelength that slows brain function, until he loses the capacity for all sensory reception except sound and sight. Then, in his mind, the synesthete composes his own requiem, with a twelve octave tange, which James describes at length in the book.
James writes a chapter. Eight hours later, James writes half a chapter. It’s early afternoon. James feels sexual. James looks at his cell phone. James masturbates in the first floor bathroom. James poops while watching the remaining eight minutes of “hardcore porn” on his laptop. James washes his hands. James drinks water from the sink. James runs to class.
James’s class is “Originating Ideas for Film.” The professor is an old short man with white hair and a full beard. James googles the professor. James looks at Youtube. James looks at Wikipedia. Class hasn’t started. James finds an article about the professor’s father on a website. The professor’s father was a famous potter in the fifties. James can’t find anything about the professor on the Internet. James thinks, “I feel negative emotions about ‘the film industry’ and the credibility of my education as ‘a film student’.” The old short professor with white hair and a full beard tells the class that he bought an island in Nova Scotia with his friend in the seventies, built a house there a few years before his first son was born. The professor runs his fingers through his white hair and adjusts his glasses. The professor puts his palms on his corresponding thighs. James nods and says “damn.”
Three minutes later, the professor says something. James lays down while some other students sit in chairs or on the floor with their legs crossed. James lays very close to Agnes, who also lays down. The professor says, “Imagine a string attached to the base of your spine that pulls up through the crown of your head, and be sure to maintain steady breathing.” James kind of touches Agnes’s hand with his hand. Agnes doesn’t move. James touches Agnes’s hand some more then stops and puts both of his hands by his sides. Agnes fidgets, sexually, a little. James decides to resist eye contact with Agnes for the rest of the day. Later James and Agnes go to a party that they both RSVP’d “attending” to on Facebook. James doesn’t make eye contact with Agnes at the party.
The professor takes some celluloid tape out of a canister. He puts it on a machine. The professor says something. He presses a button. A light comes on. Some colors are on a screen. The professor says “This director avoided photography and painted and scratched blank 16mm film prints. He did this during the sixties.” The professor plays two more films by the same director. The professor tells the class to write three paragraphs about the stories in the films. James writes, “The rapid color changes evoke different emotions and could correspond with a hidden message or series of emotional shifts abstractly representing the filmmaker’s reaction to some events, but it’s probably all kind of arbitrary.” The professor says the director’s inspiration was closing his eyes and moving around in strange color lights while tripping on LSD and remembering the colors he saw and making the memories of the color sequences into abstract films. The professor collects the assignment and tells the class to write movie ideas for a while.
James stands up. James walks. James opens a door. James holds the door while a girl walks through. James smiles. James walks. James looks at Patricia. Patricia wears Ray Ban Wayfarers. Patricia smiles. James sits next to Patricia. James puts a cigarette in his mouth. James lights the cigarette. James looks at Patricia.
“Do you remember how we met” says James.
“I don’t think so” says Patricia.
“You kissed me on the lips.”
“No way” Patricia says. Patricia takes a drag of her cigarette.
“We were at a party at Ericka’s and I had just met Karen and saw that she had cigarettes. Then I met you outside and you asked me for a cigarette and I said I didn’t have one. But would find one for you.”
“Oh, damn. I remember. You were littler then. I like your hair now.”
“I got two from Karen. I lit my cigarette on the wrong side and secretly removed the filter and pretended like nothing happened. I think I had a crush on you.”
James makes a cup of noodles with carrots, corn, beef, and chives. James walks to his room. James looks in a box. James has four cups of noodles. James looks in the refrigerator. James doesn’t see any food on his shelf. James asks his housemate, Yanik, who the brandy on the top of the spice shelf belongs to.
“That’s been there since I moved here two years ago,” says Yanik.
“Damn, I’m taking this and drinking all of it,” says James.
“Be my guest,” says Yanik. Yanik make tres leches cake for everyone in the house.
James walks to the library. Rollins is at the library. Rollins reads a book and smokes a cigarette. James locks his bike. James walks to Rollins. Rollins bounces around. “Rollins seems old,” James thinks. “Rollins seems way cooler than me.”
“Jimmay,” says Rollins. “Jim-jim-James-jimbo-james-a-doodle! What’s up brother?”
Rollins gives James dap like a gang member. The dap comically decays into a careless series of slaps and pounds that becomes a wrestling match in front of the library.
“How are you,” James says.
“Tasty. Do you want a ciggy? A little cigar. One with a filter and finer grain tobacco in the little sucker?”
“I have my own.”
“Oh, whatcha smokin’ there, bro?”
“Wow! Nice selection. I commend you on your cigarette selection.” Rollins lights his cigarette. “Let’s make a movie my little bohemian prince!”
James feels tired.
Clair walks out of the library. “Clair is lives with and dating Lee, who is Catholic and seems extremely neurotic,” thinks James. Rollins hugs Clair. Clair hugs James. Rollins and Clair talk. Clair laughs. Rollins bounces around a little. Rollins gesticulates and adjusts his skinny jeans. “They seem genuine and not flirtatious,” thinks James. James feels uncomfortable. James sees freshmen smoking hookah at a table near the quad. James walks toward the quad. James talks to the freshmen.
The freshman, Nailah and Li look at James. James looks at Nailah. Simbad says something. James looks at Chester. James says something about the Coen Brothers. Simbad says something about Daniel Day-Lewis. James says “Wes Anderson.” Chester says “Who is that.” James smokes hookah. James blows smoke rings. Nailah says something about “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.” James says “I have it on my computer. You should come over and watch it.” Nailah, Li and Simbad say they can’t. Chester says “Okay, but I have to pleasure my woman first.” Chester gets a text message. Chester points to the fourth floor of Birnkrant Tower. James looks at a girl sitting in a window.
James rides his bike around campus a couple of times. “Chester is having sex,” he thinks. He bikes to Ground Zero Cafe. James sees a sign that says the cafe closes at midnight. James bikes to the gas station across the street. James buys a pack of New Blend Camel Filter cigarettes. James’s phone rings. James picks up his phone. Chester says he is heading towards James’s house. James tells Chester the address. James bikes to his house by crossing the campus and taking Hoover to 30th Street, even though it’s longer than biking down Figueroa. James looks at Starbuck. Starbucks is closed. James remembers the brandy.
James pours brandy into a lowball glass. James pours brandy into another lowball glass. James carries the glasses and bottle of brandy to the living room. James hands Chester one of the glasses. James attaches wires to the television. James restarts his computer. James opens iTunes and selects “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.” James presses the full screen icon on iTunes. Later, James and Chester go outside to smoke.
“This movie is great” says James.
“I don’t know” says Chester. “I guess it’s okay.”
“I like that it has seemingly real things meshed coherently with obviously fake things.”
“I kind of like that too.”
“I need to take a piss” says James. James positions his cigarette at the edge of his mouth. James walks to the side of the porch. James urinates on a palm tree. James feels powerful or something strongly associated with masculinity and destruction. Smoke from James’s cigarette irritates his nose and eyes and he begins to cry a little. “The price I pay” thinks James.
It’s December in Hyattsville, Maryland. James answers his phone. Nicolas says “Do you want to go to a New Years Eve party in College Park?” James says “maybe,” then says he wants to get fucked the fuck up.
“You would have to be designated driver,” says Nicolas.
“That sounds terrible” says James. “No way.”
“Okay, never mind. We’ll pick up my friend Dominic in Bowie and he can drive.”
“Goddammit. But that means I have to leave my parents’ car in Bowie overnight. Jesus Christ.”
“Bro. Stop complaining. Imagine losing your virginity on New Years. Imagine that.”
James drives to Bowie with Nicolas, Mitch and Clark. Nicolas answers his phone. “Can you help us get some beers” says someone. “Okay” says Nicolas. Nicolas’s phone rings. Nicolas answers his phone. Dominic says he has his mother’s SUV and doesn’t need a ride. James feels confused. Dominic says he will follow James in the SUV and drive home later. James drives his car behind a muscle car through a residential area. James drives his car behind a muscle car into a forest with no streetlights. James drives his car behind a muscle car to the parking lot of a liquor store. James parks his car. Dominic parks his mother’s SUV. James and Nicolas walk into the liquor store. An Asian woman stands behind the counter. A small Asian girl plays with a doll and speaks loudly to it in Korean.
James and Nicolas pick up two thirty-packs and one twenty-four-pack of Natural Ice and a twenty-four-pack of Budweiser. James and Nicolas walk to the front of the store. James hands the Asian woman a California identification card. The Asian woman looks at James. The Asian woman hand James the identification card. James hands the Asian woman some money. The Asian woman hands James some money. James and Nicolas walk out of the store. James hands the person that drives the muscle car some money. Nicolas hands the person that drives the muscle car the twenty-four pack of Natural Ice and the twenty-four pack of Budweiser. James drives behind Dominic’s mom’s SUV on the highway. James turns right after a Laundromat on Route 1 onto Guilford Road. James goes right on Wake Forest Drive. James goes left on Drexel.
Three girls walk down Drexel. Nicolas lowers his window.
“Marissa” says Nicolas.
“Who is that” says Marissa. A tall girl stands on Marissa’s right. A girl as tall as Marissa stands on her left.
“It’s Nicolas” says Nicolas. “Where’s the party.”
“Right down this street.”
They drive past the girls and park and go into the house Marissa pointed to, carrying the beers. There are people wearing fraternity paraphernalia and sorority letters mostly. Some people watch TV in the living room, some people play beer pong in the dining room, and some people smoke cigarettes in the backyard.
“This doesn’t seem like fun,” James says.
“Yeah,” says Dominic. “Let’s find another party.”
They walk outside and the girls who were walking down Drexel walk up to them. Nicolas hugs Marissa. The tall girl says, “Wow, you look warm and snazzy,” to James.
“I’m from California,” says James. “We dress for form, not function there. I am actually really cold.”
“Come inside then,” says the tall girl. They all go back inside.
James and Dominic play beer pong against a fraternity brother and his girlfriend and lose. Nicolas talks to Marissa until Philip comes in, then she and Philip go upstairs for a while. James does shots with the tall girl and her friend who is Marissa’s height, then goes outside with them for a cigarette. There is a man with one arm smoking a cigarette and pissing at the same time. James says hi to him.
“I was in the marine corps until I hurt my goddamned arm,” says the one-armed man.
“Damn,” says James. “That seems bad.”
“My wife left me and everything, and all my life went to shit after that. Can you believe that,” says the one-armed man, taking a drag from his cigarette.
“Yes. But I’m having trouble imagining it happening to me,” says James.
“Well you better praise the Lord that it hasn’t,” says the one-armed man.
“I’m atheist, I think,” says James. James walks over to the tall girl and sits on a picket fence across from her. He looks at her eyes for a long time without saying anything. “Your eyes are the bluest eyes I have ever seen,” says James.
“I’m not a natural brunette,” says the tall girl.
“You carry it well, I guess,” says James.
“What do you do, James,” asks the tall girl.
“I am an novelist and a filmmaker,” says James.
“That’s really cool.”
Dominic and Nicolas each put a handle of alcohol from the kitchen under their coats. Everyone inside counts backwards loudly from twenty. Everyone outside goes inside and gathers in the living room. The tall girl grabs James and says he is going to be her New Years’ kiss. Bile in James’s stomach moves slowly up his esophagus.
“Three, two, one, zero,” Everyone chants, except James, who says nothing. The tall girl turns and kisses his lips and their teeth bumped a little. The tall girl has a tongue ring. They kiss for about one minute.
“Say cheese,” yells Marissa. James and the tall girl turn away from each other as the flash goes off on Marissa’s camera. James gets a text message. He doesn’t read it. He holds the tall girl a little with one arm and looks at her eyes while she talks to Marissa. The friend who is Marissa’s height comes into the living room and says she, the tall girl, and Marissa had to leave.
James, Nicolas, Clark, Mitch and Dominic leave an hour later and drink the stolen handles behind James’s house until Dominic says he is going to drive everyone else home. James stays awake on the internet through the night and at 4 a.m. sees that the tall girl sent him a friend request on Facebook. Marissa posts the picture of him and the tall girl on Facebook. James sees that the tall girl is tagged in the picture and tags himself. James goes outside and smokes a cigarette. He blows smoke up and into the air and suddenly feels the amount of desperation each molecule of the each chemical he is exhaling experiences simply to exist, and is afraid and completely validated in everything he has ever done.
It’s mid-February. James walks down Childs Way on the University of Southern California University Park campus and sees Anne walking toward him.
“Hey Anne,” says James.
“Hey James. Where are you going?”
“Nowhere. Just walking.” James hugs Anne.
“Do you want to walk with me to my car? It’s in PSA. I need to move it before I get another ticket.”
James walks with Anne to Parking Structure A and she says they should smoke marijuana together some time. James says he agrees with that idea and walks over to the cafe at Tutor Hall, where Jack, Arielle, and Delphine sit, eating cookies. James sits with them and it starts to rain. Arielle gets a phone call from Tracy and says they are waiting for Rafael to get the alcohol for the party. James asks what party they are talking about and Jack says Anne’s surprise birthday party.
“I just left Anne,” says James.
“You know Anne,” asks Delphine.
“Well then you have to come to the party tonight,” says Arielle.
“Okay,” says James.
Ten minutes later, Tracy comes, then Jack rides his fixed gear bicycle around Tutor Hall, then talks to Arielle and Tracy briefly, then leaves. At Anne’s party James sits on a couch next to a girl with sunglasses on.
“Hi,” says James.
“It’s no use, I’m a lesbian,” says the girl with sunglasses.
“Seems okay. I still want to talk to you.”
“Oh. My name is Dawn.”
James says his name and talks to Dawn and drinks beer until Anne gets there, everyone sings “Happy Birthday” and signs a massive card, with pictures from the past semester on it, and plays beer pong until they are all drunk. James goes outside multiple times and smokes cigarettes and mostly stands next to Anne. James walks into the bathroom and Nicolette walks out and pats him on the head, then Harry walks out, puts up his hand and says, “sup James?”
James says, “sup Harry,” and closes the bathroom door.
Harry puts his hand down.
Anne packs a pipe with marijuana. Anne smokes it and passes it to James. James smokes it and passes it to Dawn. Dawn smokes it and passes it to Gerald. Gerald smokes it and passes it to Tracy. Tracy smokes it and passes it to Arielle. Arielle smokes it and passes it to Jack. “This is cashed,” says Jack. Jack packs the pipe with marijuana. Jack smokes it and passes it to Anne. “Hey,” says Nicolette, “I didn’t get any.”
“It’s Anne’s birthday,” yells Dawn.
It’s an uncharacteristically hot winter day. James feels bored and uninspired. The grass on his lawn is too wet to take a nap on. He walks around the block. He sees Pete sitting on the porch of his fraternity house, drinking a forty-ounce malt liquor and smoking a cigarette. James approaches him cautiously.
“Sup Pete,” says James.
“Bro,” says Pete, who immediately feels shocked and severely confused about his plans for the weekend. “We’re going over to Fiji in a minute. Coming with?”
“Definitely. What’s going on?”
“We have to get a new bong. Our bong broke. We’re going to Venice Beach.”
“Jesus,” says James. “Seems good, I guess.”
Sam comes out from inside the fraternity house and pats James on the head. They walk a block, to Fiji. Pete puts in the password to unlock the front door. Music plays loudly and a group of ornery frat guys drink canned beer and smile and yell lyrics and obscenities at each other. Pete, Sam and James walk upstairs into Louis’s room.
“Are you ready,” says Sam. “Are you ready to hit the beach?”
Louis is sitting at his desk on his computer. America and Floyd are on the couch taking turns smoking out of a bong.
“I’m mixing this fucking music, man,” says Louis. “I’m fucking mixing it on my computer, in ProTools. Mixing fucking sweet music with ‘professional tools,’” he says and then laughs. Everyone laughs. James feels confused and walks to Ken’s room and knocks on the door. Ken opens the door.
“Are you going to the beach,” asks James.
“Yeah. Do you want to hit this?” Ken hands James a pipe packed with marijuana. James walks into the room and smokes it. Tricia comes upstairs yelling Pete’s name. Pete comes out of Louis’s room and stares at Tricia for two minutes without either of them saying anything. Tricia maintains an embarrassed facial expression.
At the beach, they find parking and walk along the boardwalk. There is a Jimi Hendrix look-a-like avidly playing blues guitar with a little amplifier in the sand bank on his left. Floyd laughs for five minutes about the Jimi Hendrix look-a-like. There is a man selling paintings of understated but complex sexual scenarios and is painting a new one. James says, “what are you, some type of perv,” sarcastically and says, “just kidding, these are tasteful and understated. I like them a lot.”
“Then fucking buy one,” says the vendor.
“No thank you,” says James.
There is a store that just sells sunglasses. They all spend ten minutes trying on sunglasses. James finds three pairs that he likes and asks the proprietor if he can get a deal for buying three pairs of sunglasses at one time.
“No deal. You buy. Nine dollar each,” she says. James buys the sunglasses.
They walk into a head shop. A very muscular person wearing mostly white accentuated with baby blue approaches them.
“Can I help you with anything,” he asks.
“We’re looking for a bong,” says Sam.
“Yeah,” says Pete.
James, Floyd and America walk around and look at various pipes. One of them looks like five different shades of semen merging in a transparent, alternate universe. Floyd says “ejaculate.” James laughs.
“We have three types of fucking professional bongs available, depending on your price range, that are made for smokers, by smokers. This one has a triple percolator system that, if you put ice in this baby, feels like you’re smoking cool, fresh air. Instant high!”
“Damn,” says Pete. “How much?”
“Normally it would be two-fifty. But for you, I’ll make it one hundred and eighty-seven dollars.”
“Make it one-sixty and I’ll take it.”
They walk to the beach and smoke a marijuana cigarette and play Frisbee. Someone drowns in the ocean. A fleet of emergency vehicles with massive tires careen along the beach and stop near where the person drowned. Floyd takes pictures. Pete plays music on his acoustic guitar.
Walking back to the car, Floyd purchases a miniature saxophone and tries to play it the way the vendor did. The reed is too dry. They drive back to Fiji. At Fiji they play Street Fighter II and America kills everyone. They listen to the “fucking sweet music” Louis mixed. It is a series of songs played using children’s toy instruments with lyrics about getting really drunk and having sex and various science fiction topics. They smoke out of the bong Pete bought. James loses existential coherency for roughly fifty-nine hours.
Shane picks up his phone.
“Sup bro,” says James.
“Are you home right now?”
“Yeah. Come over.”
James goes the wrong way on 27th Street, and then the wrong way on Adams Boulevard, then walks too far down Monmouth Avenue. James makes a fist and taps on the Shane’s door with it. Shane opens the door and James walks in. Hawk isn’t there. James and Shane smoke a joint and watch a DVD, while maintaining neutral facial expressions, of Michel Gondry’s short films and music videos. Colin comes. Shane says that he is DJing a party on April 19th. James says he’ll be there and leaves.
James thinks, I would rather die than be a twenty-year-old virgin, and feels severely depressed. James walks to the party an hour early and steals a bottle of champagne. He sits against the wall near the DJ booth with Carry and Mark and dances a little. James stands up and dances a lot. James drinks champagne while dancing. All of James’s friends come to the party. He sees them but doesn’t stop dancing. Karen is there and grabs James and dances with him until “We Are Your Friends” by Justice plays and everyone jumps and screams and Karen walks away. James is really drunk. It’s midnight. Someone yells “Happy 4-20.” James stops dancing. James is tired. James walks around and says hi to everyone. James says hi to Andrew and Claire and Petra and Lester and Michael and Simon and Natalia and Anne and Leslie and Jack and Jessica. Everyone is there. James sees a bunch of people in a circle and sits down with them.
“Happy 4-20, bro,” someone says, and hands James a pipe with marijuana in it.
“Thanks bros,” says James.
James starts dancing with girls. He dances with various girls and still sometimes by himself. James dances with Natalia and touches her everywhere. Natalia touches James everywhere. James grabs Natalia everywhere. Natalia starts kissing James. James kisses back. James kisses Natalia’s neck and she squirms and moans audibly over the music into James’s ear. She stops dancing and pulls James close to her mouth and says “let’s get out of here,” sensually and grabs James’s hand and takes him to her apartment.
James licks Natalia’s vagina extensively. Natalia squirms and kicks James’s face while laughing. James laughs and kisses Natalia’s vagina and then her breasts and her face. James tries to put a condom on. Natalia says, “do you have any STDs.” James says no and throws the condom on the floor and puts his fingers in Natalia’s vagina then takes them out and puts his penis in her vagina and Natalia moans and says “harder” repeatedly until she stops saying anything and just makes noises that get louder, until she stops making noises and her whole body tenses and then she stops moving and shakes a little then grabs James and touches him everywhere. Champagne-induced virginity displacement and subsequent skyscraper-like super construction using ego as the primary medium, via girl who orgasms easily, thinks James.
“Are you going to come soon,” asks Natalia.
“Yes,” says James.
“Okay, keep going.”
James’s penis becomes flaccid while inside Natalia’s vagina. Natalia performs fellatio on James. He gets a little hard and they have sex again with Natalia on top until Natalia says to put it in her ass. James says okay but his penis is too soft so he puts his finger in her ass and two fingers from his other hand in her vagina and starts rubbing rhythmically until Natalia makes very loud noises and shakes again. Anal penetration, thinks James. Natalia lays down and breathes loudly. James lays down next to Natalia and they cuddle for a few minutes. James and Natalia get up and wash themselves a little with towels and soap and get into Natalia’s bed. James wakes as the sun is coming up. There is a shit stain on the pillow he is sleeping on. James turns the pillow over. Natalia wakes up and says to let her know if he ever wants to do this again. James smiles and kisses her and puts his clothes on and goes the wrong way repeatedly before reaching the co-op.
Marco works at the university-owned coffee shop on the East side of campus. He walks with a limp and talks incessantly about his daughter. Lots of girls on campus have crushes on him because he is a musician and has hazel eyes and a bit of a ghetto Hispanic accent. He also smokes marijuana by the reflecting pool on campus and sometimes gives James some on his break. Later James calls Marco and asks to pick up a gram of weed from him.
The same day of their transaction, Marco’s friend from San Diego comes to take Marco to the desert to eat shrooms. James meets Marco and Marco’s friend in the parking lot across from the coffee shop and they walk to Marco’s friend’s car which is full of plastic boxes that are full of various drugs. James gives Marco twenty dollars. James, Marco and Marco’s friend talk about the art of stilt-walking. Marco’s friend gives James a quarter of an ounce of shrooms. James has never eaten shrooms before.
James sits on a couch adjacent to Yanik. They are watching Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation.”
“Do you want to try shrooms,” asks James.
“Sure,” says Yanik.
Five hours later Yanik is pretending to be Silent Bob and James is pretending to be Jay, but is incapable of staying in character. Shoes, cell phones, laptops and bottles of beer are strewn everywhere on the front porch and lawn. Yanik does a silent cartwheel and rips his pants, making a Chaplin-like “oh my god” facial expression. The sprinklers turn on. James and Yanik hurriedly collect all of their things and run inside. Yanik’s phone rings. It is Masie. James answers.
“Yanik is on shrooms and is being Silent Bob. He can’t speak unless it is sincerely profound.”
“Do you two want to go to a club in Hollywood tonight?”
“Damn. I don’t know. We’re on shrooms. Sure.”
Masie comes over and is frustrated because Yanik will not talk and repeatedly solicits James to interpret what he is saying.
“He wants to know what is wrong with his outfit,” says James.
“There is a hole in your pants at the crack of you ass,” says Masie. “They won’t let you in the club with a hole in the crack of your ass.”
“Well then what should I wear,” interprets James.
“Put on some corduroys and a sports jacket, asshole,” says Masie.
“How am I dressed,” asks James, not interpreting Yanik.
“Fucking amazing. Meet me in the car. We are going to dance like crazy.”
Three months later James sits on the porch at the co-op and smokes an Old Blend Camel Filter cigarette. James has not been to any classes in the past two months. He sits on the porch writing a novel entitled Fuck Plus on his Apple Powerbook G4 and is ninety-five percent finished writing it. Samantha, James’s housemate and financial administrator of the co-op comes outside and stands over him. She waves cigarette smoke out her face.
“Where is your rent money,” says Samantha. “You owe the house a lot of money.”
“I don’t have any money,” says James
“When will you have the money,” asks Samantha.
“I don’t know.”
“Are you sure you don’t have any money”’
“I have enough to buy one more pack of cigarettes and a twelve ounce soda.”
“Why don’t you have a job?”
“I don’t know.”
“Get a job,” Samantha says and walks inside.
James calls Pete. Pete’s phone goes to voicemail. James feels depressed and a little anxious. Just as James hangs up, his phone it rings. The screen on the front of the phone says that it is Barton. James answers the phone.
“Duuuude,” James says.
“What up homie,” says Barton.
“I am writing my screenplay and smoking a cigarette.”
“What are you doing?”
“I am getting a blowjob from a bitch right now. Want to come to my house and smoke some herb? We are hot boxing the whole house and it’s pretty sweet.”
“Damn. Who else is there?”
“A few broads, a dame, some bitches, Terry, Ari, and Leon.”
“Damn. Nice. Yes, come pick me up.”
“Okay. Later homie.”
James writes a few lines of dialogue in his novel between a character based on Barton and another character based on no one in particular. James smiles. James thinks, I am going to get laid tonight. James closes his computer and walks inside.
James is at the bottom of the deep end of the pool at Barton’s house. He swims to the surface and sees Emmanuel staring down at him from the patio.
“Duuude,” James says, gurgling.
“What up man,” says Emmanuel.
“I don’t know what I am doing or how I got here.”
“Damn. You look wasted, man.”
“Damn. I’m wasted. Where is Barton?”
“With some bitches in his room,” says Emmanuel. “He’s blazed as fuck. Where is the alcohol?”
“I don’t know. Look in the fridge.”
James goes back underwater and watches Emmanuel’s feet as he walks to the house. Emmanuel’s legs warble in and out of the darkness, pushing through separate versions of reality in phases. James’s eyes go out of focus and he decides to drown himself and then immediately decides not to do this. James closes his eyes and swims around underwater. James thinks, orange peals, repeatedly.
Later, James is upstairs inside Barton’s room smoking hash with Ari, Barton, Emmanuel, a bitch and her kid sister. Ari has a Marijuana Club card because he has leukemia and is the designated drug dealer because he was prescribed “assloads of marijuana” by his doctor. He refers to himself as Cancer Boy sarcastically and does not drink alcohol, but boils a bowl of hash every half hour.
“Barton, you are a dick,” says Emmanuel.
“What,” says Barton.
“You are a dick.”
“Damn. You’re right. Want some of this Jack and Coke?”
Emmanuel takes a beanie from his pocket and puts it on his head.
“This Jack and Coke is in a low ball glass,” says Barton mostly to himself, “because I am a classy motherfucker.”
“Damn,” says Ari with deep leukemic sarcasm.
“Nice beanie,” says the bitch’s kid sister.
“Pass the piece,” James says to Barton.
“What,” Barton says blankly.
“You are a dick,” says Ari. “Stop bogarting the goddamn hash.”
“Oh, damn. Sorry,” Barton says and knocks over his Jack and Coke while trying to hand the pipe to Emmanuel. Barton says a hyper-extended version of “Fuck.”
Everyone except for the bitch’s kid sister laughs.
James and the bitch’s kid sister are visibly bored.
“Do you want to go swimming?” James asks the bitch’s kid sister.
“No,” says the bitch’s kid sister
“I am writing a novel,” says James.
“Sweet, says the bitch’s kid sister. “What is it about?”
“Me,” says Barton.
“Are you guys gay,” asks the bitch’s kid sister.
“We just double-teamed your sister,” Barton says.
“Really,” asks the bitch’s kid sister
“Yes,” Barton says. He dabs the Jack and coke stain on his blanket with another part of his blanket. “I am high as fuck.”
“They are lying,” says the bitch. “They didn’t double-team me. I remain unpenetrated,” she says with what seems vaguely like resentment.
A moose opens the door and walks into the room. Everyone stares at the moose with neutral facial expressions.
“Where is the bathroom,” asks the moose.
“At the end of the hall,” says James.
“It smells like marijuana in here,” says the moose and walks out of the room.
“Dude, close the door,” says Barton. James is closest to the door. “You are letting the smoke out.”
James closes the door.
“That was a hot moose,” James says to nobody. “Damn. That moose was really sexy. Whose moose is that?”
“Terry’s,” Barton says.
“Damn,” James says and suddenly feels deeply embarrassed. He stands up, opens the door, walks out of the room and closes the door behind him. Damn, he thinks repetitively as he walks down the stairs and to the patio.
Barton drives south on the 405 Freeway with James in the passenger seat. James smokes a cigarette with the window down and thinks about the freckles on Barton’s sister’s face.
“Did you get laid last night,” asks Barton.
“Damn. No,” says James. “I almost hooked up with that dame though.”
“Jesus Christ,” says Barton. “She was hot as fuck.”
“Yeah. I think that Emmanuel ended up hooking up with her.”
“Damn. Can you hand me a stoag?”
James reaches into the cup holder between the seats and takes a Kamel Red cigarette out of the pack. James hands it to Barton and turns up the volume on the radio. The song “All My Friends Say” by Luke Bryan is playing. Barton lights the cigarette and rolls down his window. “I am going to go back to college,” says Barton. “What are you going to do with your life?”
“Damn,” says James. “I don’t know.” He looks out of the window. An antelope with a patch on its left eye driving an old Toyota Tercel is parallel to them. “Are antelope allowed to drive if they have no left periphery?” James asks.
“Damn. I think that’s illegal,” says Barton and looks quickly at the antelope. “Seems like that should be illegal. He probably can’t see us right now.” He takes a drag from his cigarette. “I have fucked eighty-one women.”
“I think that that antelope is a she,” says James.
“Eighty-one women,” says Barton.
“Jesus,” James takes a drag from his cigarette and throws it out the window. “I think I’ve fucked like seven or something.”
James feels paradoxically satisfied with his life and thinks, Astell’s freckles remind me of orange peals or something. James doesn’t say anything to Barton about this.
A week later, James lays on the mezzanine in his room at the co-op with the curtains pulled so his roommate can’t see him. He slowly strokes his penis while a video of a Japanese girl getting fingered by a Japanese man plays on his Apple Powerbook G4 with the volume on mute.
“We paid three-hundred dollars for a plane ticket, James,” says James’s mom over the phone. “You are coming home.”
“Okay Mom,” says James. “I wrote a novel.”
“Wow. I am proud of you.”
“I will be a famous writer one day, I think.”
“You give up on everything.”
“Damn. That’s a heavy thing to say.” James stops masturbating.
“Don’t curse,” says James’s mom.
“I guess,” says James.
“What are you doing? Have you eaten? How is Tom? Have you paid your rent?”
“I think that I will make an album of music now. That is my next project.”
“Do you want to talk to your father?”
“It will have ten songs. Damn. ‘Ten songs.’”
“Your sister is playing LaCrosse this summer and is the only goalie. She is overextended. I think she is sad or something.”
James imagines a LaCrosse field with antelope infinitely stampeding toward his sister as she looks worried and focused and frantic in her goalie’s uniform and he chuckles a little.
“What’s funny,” asks James’s mom.
“I’m tired, Mom. I think I am going to sleep.”
“When does my plane leave?”
“A white-tailed deer is renting out the spare room.”
“When does my plane leave?”
“That’s a week from now.”
“I love you, Mom.”
James hangs up his phone.
“You’re leaving,” asks Tom, James’s roommate, from his mezzanine on the diagonal corner of the room.
“What happened,” asks Yanik as he violently opens the door to James and Tom’s room. Yanik is from the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States to get a bachelor’s degree in music. Yanik just graduated from the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in violin performance but has not moved out of the co-op due to the organization’s six-month post-graduate housing assurance clause. Yanik is the person who introduced James to Barton. He has never smoked marijuana. Maybe. Only once, or something.
“I’m going back to DC,’ says James.
“Did you feel that,” asks Yanik.
An earthquake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale happens in Santa Monica, California.
“Stop shaking my mezzanine,” James says to Yanik.
“Fuck,” says Tom loudly and with a vowel sound that extends for three seconds.
Yanik, Barton and James sit on a scaffold outside of the co-op drinking beers from a thirty-pack of Miller Genuine Draft. It’s nighttime. When it’s daytime, the house is painted by a group of Mexicans so the scaffolding that the painters use is assembled in the back parking lot. The band MGMT is at a fraternity house a block away and plays “Electric Feel.”
“Duuuude,” says Yanik.
“Duude,” says Barton.
“Duuuuuuuuude,” says James.
“Dude,” says Barton.
“Dude,” yells Yanik.
“Duuuuuude,” says James.
“Duuuude,” says Barton.
“Duuude,” says James.
“Dude,” says Yanik.
James reveals a marijuana cigarette and lights it. It catches fire. James puts it out and takes a series of small sips from it.
“Where did you get that,” asks Barton.
“My pocket,” says James.
“Can I have some,” asks Yanik.
“No,” says Barton.
James gives the joint to Yanik. Yanik takes a long sip and holds his breath for two minutes.
James says, “Are you doing anything interesting with your car?”
Barton replies, “I am working on welding the crankshaft because I ran out of...”
“How is your novel coming along?”
“Damn. Rough day tomorrow.”
“Damn. Yeah. Can I get a ride to LAX?”
“I have to do shit for my mom in the morning.”
“You’re a dick.”
Yanik breathes out quickly and starts to cough. “¡No e’ y es que quien!” he says while coughing.
“What?” says Barton.
“He said ‘no e’ y es que quien,’” says James.
“Oh. What does that mean?”
“In Spanish it means, ‘no is and are what who.’”
“Damn. What does that mean?”
“I said ‘the weed is kicking in,’” says Yanik.
“Oh,” says James.
“Damn,” says Barton.
“Will you drive me to LAX tomorrow morning,” asks James.
“I am going to be fucking Sheryl Crowe in the ass all night long. I will be too tired to drive you places,” says Yanik.
“Damn,” says James.
MGMT starts to play “The Youth.”
The next morning, the left antler falls off of the caribou sitting in the back seat of Pete’s Jeep Wrangler and onto the floor of the truck.
“Balls,” says the caribou. No one hears him.
Pete drives his Jeep Wrangler one hundred thirty miles an hour south on the 405 Freeway while attempting to light a cigarette. There is no cover on the Jeep Wrangler and there are billions of sub atomic particles from nebular explosions that happened billions of years ago coursing through his body at thousands of meters per second and he is pissed off because of nothing in particular. James tries to say things to him but they don’t matter. They are mostly conversational formalities like “hi” and “nice to meet you” and “is that your girlfriend? Because if not, I’m going to fuck her.” Pete is failing at lighting the cigarette. The caribou in the back seat grabs the cigarette from Pete with its hoof and uses its detached antler as a shield against the wind to light it.
“Here,” yells the caribou.
“Thanks,” Pete yells back.
“It put it in its mouth,” James yells at Pete.
“It put the cigarette in its mouth.”
“I can’t hear you.”
The wind blows all of Pete’s facial hair off and his face stretches back and melts to his seat. The whole world does this, except James.
James sits up straight and calm and says “temporary” repeatedly to himself. He loses track of time completely and the sky melts to the city behind him and his seat melts to all the cars along the freeway and there is no such thing as motion and everything is perfect. For the first time since April, James thinks a concrete idea about Maria. James thinks, Maria is a bitch.
As the plane lands at Dulles International Airport, James has an acute anxiety attack because he is a dendrophobiac and the Washington DC Metropolitan Area attracts endless trees. They flock to it. Like birds to goddamn trees they flock.
“I love you buddy,” says James’s dad. “I have loved you since the day you were conceived, and I will keep loving you until forever. We are going to live in Heaven together some day, you know.”
“Is Starbucks open,” asks James. “I want coffee. I think that I need coffee right now in order to feel ‘OK.’”
James’s dad drives his Volkswagen Jetta along the Capitol Beltway and there are trees on either side of the road and for as far as James can see. James is afraid.
“All you need is Jesus Christ,” says James’s dad.
James thinks about the historical figure of Jesus Christ and imagines a scenario involving “walking on water.” He establishes in his mind a metaphysical context for an instance necessitating the action of “walking on water” involving transportation and life-skills training and imagines a Middle Eastern man in long robes performing this action, during a torrential downpour, on the surface of a massive lake. James imagines these things with the intention of relating to his father and relating to his, from James’s perspective, bizarre and unnecessarily conclusive assumption that ‘all you need is Jesus Christ’, which is partly dependent on concretely believing that a male human being, using the faculties inherent inside him, via direct genetic relationship to a metaphysical composite of everything, was able to physically “walk on water” out of necessity and in a non-sarcastic manner. James immediately feels existentially trapped inside of the car and under-caffeinated and all associative thoughts and images break down. James thinks “this place is bullshit” aloud and then feels lethargic and unattractive.
James sends the tall girl from New Years a Facebook message. She sends him her phone number. He text messages her. She replies. He text messages her again. She says “come over and hang out. I don’t have work until five.” It’s 3:30. James sits, drinking a glass of boxed wine. There is a coffee table between him and the tall girl. They talk about everything. Literally everything is addressed in their conversation. The tall girl feels appreciated and like she “gets” James because of how forthright he is. She says he has to go because she needs to get ready for work. James says he had fun, gives her a hug, and leaves.
James decides not to call or text the tall girl for forty-eight hours and instead draws various things on fifteen blank pages in his sketchbook while intentionally not thinking about anything relating to the tall girl. After forty-eight hours James gets a call from the tall girl asking if he is available to hang out on the third day. James says he will be available after what is actually an arbitrarily designated time that he blurts out to seem like he is busy. The girl says she has lunch with her mom late in the morning, but wants to see him. James says okay.
James gets to the tall girl’s apartment on time and calls her but she doesn’t pick up. He sits on her porch. He gets a text message from her saying she is not back from lunch yet. Eleven minutes later the tall girl walks up to her porch and James doesn’t recognize her because she is wearing nice capris, a blue shirt, a lot of jewelry and a wool hat that she takes off and her hair is blond and she is visibly crying.
“What’s wrong,” asks James.
“Nothing,” says the tall girl, sniffing profusely.
They walk inside the apartment.
“Is it okay if I take a shower here,” asks James. “I didn’t have time before the bus came.”
“Sure,” says the tall girl. “Don’t tell my mom. She is coming inside.”
James puts his backpack on her bed and sees that the TV is turned on to Bravo. The mother comes inside. “This place looks awful,” says the mother.
James walks up behind the tall girl shyly and she introduces him to her mother saying that he is her neighbor and his water is out so he is taking a shower and the mother says “oh, how nice of you,” to her. James takes a thirty-minute shower and does not stop rinsing until the mother is gone, then dries off and sits on the couch. They talk again, but only a little. The tall girl goes into the kitchen to refill her cup. She admonishes her roommate’s cat. James laughs then walks into the tall girl’s room and sits on her bed and watches TV. She comes in and sits next to him. She talks for five minutes before James says, “you fucking talk too much” and kisses her. They kiss for ten minutes then James takes off her shirt and necklaces and bra and touches her breasts and bites tenderly around the piercing in her left nipple and tries to take off her pants and she says no.
She takes off James’s pants and starts performing fellatio and she has a tongue ring. James says he has never climaxed during fellatio and says to stop after ten minutes and tries to pull off her pants and she says no.
“I just want to return the favor,” says James.
“I am afraid of where that will lead,” says the tall girl, “I’m not a slut.”
“Okay,” says James. They make out for fifteen minutes. They sit and talk. They talk for a long time and then the tall girl says she has to go to work.
Later that week James and the tall girl have sex. She has blonde pubes.
James walks down Farragut Street and calls the girl with blonde pubes on his cell phone.
“Hey, what’s up,” says Blonde Pube Girl.
“Hey, I was curious, because, see, I made a bet with my friend that which ever one of us got a girlfriend, the other had to quit smoking. And he just got a girlfriend, so I need payback, and so, I was wondering if you’d be my girlfriend.”
Blonde Pube Girl laughs. “I will vouch for you if you say that I’m your girlfriend,” she says.
“Okay, but don’t be surprised if I take you seriously a little bit.”
Blonde Pube Girl laughs. “Happy birthday, by the way.”
“Thanks.” says James. “I’m on my way to your place,”
“Okay, see you soon.”
James takes a bus over the Anacostia River to the College Park Metro station. He smokes three Marlboro Blend Number 27 cigarettes while walking to her apartment. He calls her. She says the door is open. He walks in. She stands naked in her living room, flat-ironing her hair in front of the mirror. James closes the door and kisses her. He tells her she is stunning and she says she knows. She straightens her hair, stops for a moment, walks to him and kisses his mouth lightly, then five more times. James smiles.
“Today is going to be really fun,” she says.
They both take four shots of vodka and make out all over the house.
They walk to the College Park Metro station. Camille is standing on the platform, waiting for a train. Blonde Pube Girl introduces James to Camille and Camille says something sarcastic about sex and being French because her name is pronounced “cummy” and not “cam meal” and they all laugh. They all get on the same train to Washington, DC and sit together. On the train they talk loudly about art and film and music and a woman approaches Camille, saying that she is a filmmaker and is looking for actresses. James and Blonde Pube Girl listen quietly while they talk, then make out a little when no one is looking. They arrive at their stop and say goodbye to Camille and get off the train.
James and Blonde Pube Girl walk down U Street and Blonde Pube Girl buys James incense and a pack of cigarettes and a cupcake for his birthday. James’s mother calls him while they are at the bakery and Blonde Pube Girl yells “hi” into the phone. James says that he is having a good birthday and the baker says he can have a free cupcake because it’s his birthday and he eats the free cupcake immediately. James walks with Blonde Pube Girl to her job and kisses her and takes the train back to College Park.
James decides to write another novel. He has had the idea for this novel since he was eight-years-old. The plot takes place a thousand years in the future, but only in Earth’s solar system. No one has done this before. No one has been able to rein in their predictions to make them realistic and non-sarcastic while ignoring the dead-pan, utopia/dystopia gimmick. James feels really good about the idea for the novel. It will combine 2001 A Space Odyssey, Heart of Darkness, and Pokemon Red/Blue. He decides it will be a present for Blonde Pube Girl.
James and Blonde Pube Girl are in a relationship on Facebook. James thinks that Blonde Pube girl is angry at him and feels afraid. Blonde Pube Girl works nights at a bar near The University of Maryland College Park campus. James watches the movie “Wall-E” alone on a plasma screen television. James feels the desire for his Facebook girlfriend to empathize with how intensely he feels he loves her and for her to not be angry. James feels naive and inconsequential compared to Facebook Relationship Girl’s emotions. James decides to apologize about not being sure what made Facebook Relationship Girl angry at him. James calls Facebook Relationship Girl. She picks up and sounds winded. “Hey,” she says. “I’m at work. What’s up?”
“Do you want to hang out tonight,” asks James.
“I’ll meet you at the bar after work, kay?”
“I love you,” says James
“Bye,” says Facebook Relationship Girl
Facebook Relationship Girl works for three more hours and makes fifty-four dollars in tips. That actually happens in the future and Facebook Relationship Girl tells James about it, extensively. James writes one-and-a-half chapters in his science fiction novel. James stands at the bus stop and smokes a cigarette. A homeless person asks James for change. James gives the homeless person a cigarette. The homeless person is angry because the cigarette is not a menthol cigarette. James catches the last bus that goes over the river. James gets off the bus and smokes another cigarette. James walks towards the bar. Facebook Relationship Girl does not get off work for an hour. James is cold. James decides to spend his last five dollars on beer. James looks for his wallet. James does not find his wallet.
James finds his iPod. James walks around campus and plays the album Visiter by The Dodos on his iPod. James is bored. James walks to Facebook Relationship Girl’s apartment. Facebook Relationship Girl apartment is locked. James walks around the block. James feels tired. James stands under a street lamp and listens to “Jodi” by The Dodos. “Jodi” is six minutes and fourteen seconds long. “Jodi” ends. Three police cars move rapidly in James’s direction with lights flashing brightly. James has a neutral facial expression. A police officer gets out of one of the cars.
“Hi,” says the police officer.
“Hi,” says James.
“What are you doing,” asks the police officer.
“Trying to be ‘romantic’, I guess,” says James.
“Why are you standing here?”
“I’m waiting for my girlfriend to get off work.”
“Where does she work.”
“A bar on Route 1,” James says and points in the direction of the bar.
“Where does she live,” asks the police officer.
“Right there,” James says, and points at her apartment building.
“Do you have any proof of this?”
“No. She is at work and I don’t have a key.”
“Loitering is a crime.”
“I know. I am tired. It’s cold. I was walking. I stopped walking because I was tired. I’m listening to my favorite album.”
“Do you have any drugs, weapons, or dead midgets on your person?”
“Do you have any drugs, weapons, or dead midgets on your person?”
“Do you have any identification?”
“Please take off your coat.”
“Is this legal.”
“Please take off or I will be put you in jail for twenty-four hours.”
The police officer frisks James and pulls everything out of his pockets and coat pockets. The police officer pulls James’s wallet out of a large pocket in his coat.
James says “fuck” audibly.
“Sir, are you aware that there are two identification cards in here, sir,” asks the police officer.
“Yes,” says James.
“Are you aware that one says your birthday is in the year 1986 and the other says your birthday is in the year 1988?”
“Why do you have a fictitious license on your person, sir?”
“Because I was recently in college and everyone in college under twenty-one has fictitious licenses.”
“This is a pretty good fake,” says the police officer.
“Thank you,” says James.
There are four other police officers. One stands next to the police officer that asks questions. The other three are behind James laughing about something that happened at the police station earlier that day. James feels anxious but not worried and very cold. The police officer standing next to the police officer that asks questions whispers something. The police officer that asks questions looks sad and whispers something back. The other police officer next to him scrunches his face inward and whispers something else. James feels kind of anxious and very worried.
“Sir, i am going to write you up on a fictitious license charge,” says the police officer that asks questions.
“Really,” asks James.
Facebook Relationship Girl gets off work. She calls James. James does not pick up. She calls James again. Facebook Relationship Girl gets angrier with James than she was before. James calls her back.
“Hey, where are you.” asks James.
“On Knox Road,” says Facebook Relationship Girl.
“Damn. So am I.”
Inside Facebook Relationship Girl’s apartment, James sits drinking wine and smoking a cigarette. There is a cat on his lap. Facebook Relationship Girl is furiously cleaning her apartment.
“I’m sorry,” says James.
“For not knowing why I should be sorry.”
Facebook Relationship Girl laughs a little.
“You are ridiculous,” she says.
“I love you,” says James.
“I know you do. You say it all of the time.”
A couple weeks later, James hasn’t had any cigarettes for two days. He is standing outside in the dark, talking to Facebook Relationship Girl on the phone. The moon is full.
He says, “This is fucking hard to say. This is impossible to say. What should I do? Do you think we should take a break?”
“Yes,” she says, “I have thought that for a while now.”
“Then why the fuck didn’t you say anything to me? You need to talk to people if you are thinking about wanting to drastically alter your relationship with them, otherwise they feel betrayed and angry when you do it suddenly and without an explanation. I feel betrayed and angry.”
Facebook Relationship Girl starts crying a little, “I didn’t want to cry.”
“I’m sorry. But we’re done.” James hangs up his phone and then immediately feels like complete shit.
A few days later James is at a Halloween party with Nicolas and is incoherently drunk. He makes out with a girl and suddenly loses interest and walks away. He steals a bottle of vodka and drinks as much as he can in one swig . He goes for a walk around the block with someone and talks about life and other fucked things. Facebook Relationship Girl calls James on his cell phone.
“Hi James,” she says.
“Hey, sup,” he says.
“Nothing, what are you doing?”
“I am at a party at a mansion in DC and was wondering if you want to get back together because I can’t stop thinking about you, seriously.”
“Oh, James. I thought we could be friends, like you and your last ex.”
“I don’t think so. I am in love with you. This sucks pretty bad.”
James presses “end” on his cell phone and throws it across the street, making sure not to hit any people. It lands directly in the sewer. James drinks vodka, bourbon and beer until he is asleep and then awake and by then the sun is up and he has no idea where he is. Nicolas is not there. James gets home late in the evening and sees that he is in a Facebook relationship with no one.
Three days later it’s the tall girl’s birthday. James has no phone. James tries to write a chapter in his novel. He can’t. He begins writing a new chapter but before he has written two-hundred words of narrative, starts writing about self-deprecation and breaks the fourth wall constantly. Every paragraph or so he writes something vaguely related to the story then cries then writes more about alienation and defeat.
James makes a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with whole milk and eats it instantly. He downloads five movies from torrent sites and watches them all. It’s 4:27a.m. James searches for music on the internet and finds an album that he heard about a year before but never reviewed properly. He listens to it three times and decides that he hates it. He walks a mile to 7-Eleven with only pajama pants, a t-shirt and a scarf on. He buys a pack of cigarettes. He smokes five of them. He tries to write a song. He can only play minor chords for some reason. James looks at the tall girl’s facebook profile. He decides to write her a love letter. He decides to writer her a love letter every day for month.
A week later James meets Camille at Barnes & Noble in Georgetown. They get coffee and walk to a wooded bank of the Potomac river and smoke two marijuana cigarettes while looking at the Alexandria skyline.
“What do you want to do with your life,” asks James.
“Oh, you know, generally be the center of attention everywhere, but without the nasty, nervous breakdown paparazzi gossip blog coverage drawback,” says Camille. “The usual.”
“I want to be the world’s greatest narc,” says James.
“Oh, wow. Yours was funnier than mine,” says Camille.
“Do you want to be an actress? We can co-write movies together and then make them and it’ll be awesome.”
“Totally dude! Yeah! That’s just my cup of tea.”
James is cold. James wants to kiss Camille. James is too cold and preoccupied with not being over the tall girl to kiss Camille. They walk into Urban Outfitters. Everything is funny. They laugh at literally everything they see. They walk along the C&O canal. They stop by a used bookstore but don’t buy anything. They walk to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station and ride the metro to the transfer line. James gets off the train to hug Camille. It’s awkward, but comfortably awkward. We’ll be friends, James thinks. Good. He gets back on the train and goes home.
Two weeks later, James is sitting in the passenger seat of a rental van. His dad is driving. They are going to Boston. A police officer pulls them over and signals for James to roll down his window. James thinks, this is unusual. Why is this happening?
“You folks from California,” asks the police officer.
“No, Hyattsville, Maryland,” says James’s dad.
“This a rental car then? ‘Cause your plates say California, clear as day.”
“Yes sir, it is a rental.”
“Where you headed?”
“Boston, to pick up my son. He is at conservatory up there.”
“That would explain all the empty space in the back of the vehicle then.”
“Can I see your license, just so I can check you out,” he says to James’s dad.
James thinks this was directed at him and feels really good about not having a fictitious license anymore. He reaches for his wallet, but sees the police officer look at him with a neutral facial expression, without any inkling of expectation, and assumes that he was not being addressed. He settles in his seat. The police officer walks away for ten minutes, comes back and says, “sir, you were going forty-seven in a thirty-mile-an-hour zone. I’m going to give you a warning.”
“Thank you, officer.”
“You’re welcome. You have a nice day now.”
James feels like he is starting to hate police officers.
James walks around Boston Proper with his brother, Daniel. They don’t say anything to each other. James drops Daniel off at a Jamaican barbershop and walks to Starbucks, where his dad is. James orders a triple-shot grande mocha. James and his dad drive to Harvard Square and walk around.
“Isn’t college great,” says James’s dad, rhetorically. “This is so great! Do you think you’ll go back to college soon?”
“Probably not,” says James. He is smiling and in complete awe of the dignified brick huts dotted, mathematically around the campus. Simplicity governs things, James thinks, college doesn’t change that. James lights a cigarette. Nothing matters. He and his dad walk around St. Peter’s cathedral and stare up at it in silence. They walk to Out of Town newsstand and go inside. Barack Obama’s face is everywhere. They walk into the Harvard Book Exchange. James uses the bathroom and carves the word “solidarity” into the wall. James walks downstairs. His dad is skimming over a book by Glenn Beck.
“Let’s get coffee,” says James’s dad.
It’s Christmas. James’s parents have no money. No one has money. The entire world is broke somehow. James receives candy in his Christmas stocking. He eats all of it. There are Skittles and Snickers and little Hershey bars. James opens a present from his grandfather and step-grandmother. His grandfather and his grandfather’s wife, Lois. His grandfather and Lois. Lois and her husband, his maternal grandfather. Inside there is a DVD of Black people reading the Bible.
James goes to Japan. No he doesn’t.
James starts writing his science fiction novel again. He and Floyd become writing buddies through the internet. They share poems and short stories through Google Docs and start a blog called Romantic Rhetoric. James searches “hipster” on Google and finds Hipster Runoff and starts looking at it on a daily basis. He hates it. James becomes sarcastic one-hundred percent of the time.
It’s February. James is in a complicated Facebook relationship with the tall girl. She had sex with someone while they were split up and James sees a photograph of them together at a party on Facebook and asks her if she had had sex with him and she says, “yeah. Did you fuck anybody?” James tells her he made out with a girl on Halloween but doesn’t care about anything and has no problem being a delusional, possibly psychotic, overly attached human because he likes the tall girl and would rather be with her than anyone at the moment. She says she feels really bad about having had sex with someone else. He asks her if she read his love letters. She says she read some of them. She says she really liked them. James makes her a music album for Valentines Day. He calls her one night after she gets off work and asks her if she has listened to the music. She says she is playing her favorite song on loop and dozing off to it. James feels stupid and really happy and like he is completely irrational most of the time and feels sarcastic and mostly okay about this. James is content.
It’s March. James spends the weekend at the tall girl’s house. She seems depressed the whole time. James is afraid that he is suffocating her sluttiness. They try to have sex. They are both really dehydrated. The sex is bad. The tall girl avoids James all day. James goes to Fred’s apartment, which is adjacent to the tall girl’s apartment. He drinks vodka and laughs about things with Fred, Eric and Evan. The tall girl comes over. She is wearing a short black dress heels, making her almost two inches taller than James. She asks James to come outside. They go outside.
“Don’t you have work tonight,” asks James.
“I’m not going. Is that a waxing gibbous or a waning gibbous,” she asks pointing to the moon.
“I think it’s waxing. It will be full next week.”
The tall girl kisses James. “I’m going to the bars,” she says. “But I’ll see you when I get back, right?”
“Sure. I’m going to a Star Wars party or something with some nerds. Might be fun. I’ll talk to you soon.” They kiss again. The tall girl is into astrology and horoscopes. It’s part of what James likes about her. He thinks it makes her seem consistently inconsistent, like life or something.
At the Star Wars party James and Fred get really drunk playing beer pong and start breaking things. James tells one of the nerds, whose girlfriend seems unusually cute to be dating a nerd, the entire plot to his science fiction novel, for validation or topical credibility. The nerd says it sound more than plausible and wants to read it once it is published. James breaks some more shit. He breaks a window and a toy laser gun and crushes all of the beer cans he can find with his hands and head and feet. Nerds just want to have fun, James thinks. He and Fred go outside for a cigarette.
James sees the tall girl on the phone across the street and runs to her. She says goodbye to the person on the phone and they kiss. They make out. They touch each other extensively. They walk back to the nerd party and James introduces her to Fred and Eric and some nerds. She says let’s get out of here, and takes James’s hand and they walk quickly back to her apartment. Immediately upon entering she checks to see if her roommates are there, turns off all non-mood lighting, locks the door and lays down, beckoning on her futon. The sex is amazing. They are drunk. What is going on, James thinks. I love this woman; she is insane. They fall asleep naked on her bed.
The next morning they go to church together. The tall girl claps and sways and sings the words to the songs she knows and seems very enthused. James introduces her as his “friend” and eventually takes her down to the basement where they can be kind of alone. In an empty office the tall girl sits on James’s lap and they talk and she giggles and James thinks about having sex with her, but someone walks in. James introduces them to his “friend” and they smile and nod and more church things happen.
A week later, James is eighty-two percent done with his novel. He decides to make the ending happy, or complacent at least. He gets a call from his “friend” asking to meet her at the house where she dogsits. James takes the bus over the river and walks a mile from the Metro Station, to the house where his “friend” dogsits and calls her cell phone. She comes out and sits on the porch and seems depressed.
“I’m apathetic,” she says.
“About what,” asks James. “Us? Me?”
“I think this is over.”
“What do you think,” she asks.
“I think I am still in love with you and that I already broke up with you once and will not repeat that mistake because I won’t feel any closure, ever, if I do that.”
James’s “friend” looks straight ahead with a neutral facial expression.
“Why do you want to break up?”
“Because I’m apathetic.”
“That’s not a reason. Just tell me something concrete. A lie. Tell me a lie that is worth me breaking up with you over.”
“I’m apathetic about everything.”
“I’m not breaking up with you because you’re apathetic. Are you bi-polar? Why are you being like this?”
“I think we’ve lost our sexual chemistry. We aren’t sexually compatible anymore.”
“That just seems silly. That seems really silly. We’ve only had sex three times since we’ve been back together. One was bad, one was amazing, and one was really emotionally charged. Multiple fucking orgasms. I don’t think that is something you break up with a person over.”
“I can’t deal with you right now. That’s all I wanted to say. Goodbye.”
James’s “friend” walks back inside the house. James goes home and rolls up into a two-foot diameter ball and cries and looks at the internet and sees he is in a complicated Facebook relationship with everyone except his “friend.” He decides never to write anything or intentionally get close to another human being ever again, and feels this is an objectively good decision on his part.
Through March and April James sits in his basement on the internet, downloading movies and music, reading blogs, researching science fiction things for his novel in case he ever starts writing it again, and reading Hipster Runoff. James cannot stop reading Hipster Runoff. He leaves the Hipster Runoff tab open in his internet browser and periodically refreshes the page throughout the day. He is shocked and amazed at how alienated and yet knowledgeably connected the persona, Carles seems. He becomes jealous. Insanely jealous. He tries to be sarcastic and say things blankly, with a neutral facial expression. He stops laughing altogether and feels afraid. He thinks of his life in third person. He imagines being an autistic savant. He clicks on all of the links on Hipster Runoff’s blogroll and listens to the music and becomes engrossed in the seedy underbelly of the blogosphere. He starts a Twitter and a Tumblr and friends everyone he sees on Facebook and Myspace. He develops aspirations to become an anonymous blogger. He indulges fear and loathing regarding his own ability to maintain a realistic or insightful or popular stream of gimmicks. He becomes deeply afraid and disturbed. He, Floyd and Camille collaborate loosely on Romantic Rhetoric. Camille posts pictures of herself in lingerie. The blog gets hits. James writes editorial bullshit and posts “poems” on the blog. Camille keeps bringing in hits. Everything seems good, except that this is not James’s vision, it is corrupted by Hipster Runoff’s influence, Camille’s narcissism and James’s inability to conceive the notion of being taken seriously and applying it somehow. James develops a deep antipathy for his actions and inability to grow, until he realizes that he is twenty and stupid and everyone is influenced by everything and a meme is a meme and all he has to do is work for years to make his own set of memeable creations and everything will be okay. James discovers Jonathan.
It’s May. Barton’s sister, Astell visits DC. She originally wanted to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival but had scheduling problems and decided it would be bad to waste the opportunity altogether. James offers to give her a tour of the Smithsonian. She thinks the Smithsonian is one building. There are a lot of Smithsonian buildings. They meet at the base of the Washington monument. It’s ninety-eight degrees Fahrenheit outside: the hottest day of the year. Orange peals, James thinks, regarding her freckles. She shows them off. “I’m tanning. I’m getting tan and you can see my freckles,” she says. They walk to the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Louise Bourgeois’s sculptures are on exhibit. Astell saw them already in California. James and Astell go downstairs and look at the depressed obese naked giant statue. Astell uploads a picture of it on Facebook with her iPhone. She tags James as the depressed obese naked giant statue.
They go to the Museum of Natural History and walk through the dinosaur section. Astell seems scared of the Tyrannosaurus-Rex. She takes pictures. They walk through the underwater section. There is a giant squid carcass among various other large, inconceivable real things. They walk through the precious stones and gems exhibit, which they both enjoy a lot. James plays the Rostam Batmanglij demo of “Campus” on his iPod for Astell. She listens to it and smiles. They walk through an exhibit that will be removed that night, with every known species of orchid in it. It smells really good and makes James nostalgic for a rural springtime. They go to the gift shop to get souvenirs.
James and Astell go to a Mexican tapas restaurant between the National Mall and Chinatown. They order tacos with chicken. Astell is allergic to everything. James gets a lot of guacamole on his tacos. Astell tries some, then puts a lot on hers too, then says “I’m really allergic to avocado. And corn. And chicken. And dairy. I really shouldn’t be eating this.” James thinks that this is very entertaining, and even more so, endearing. James has fucked up risk-assessment centers in his brain. They want margaritas. They are both twenty-years-old. They get pineapple juice instead. “I’m allergic to pineapples,” says Astell.
They walk around Chinatown and talk for a long time. They walk and talk until the sun goes down. After its dark James walks with Astell to Union Station so she can go back to New York, where she goes to school. They sit and talk about what they want to do with their lives, especially in the next three years. Astell says she’s crazy. James says he believes her and thinks maybe he is crazier for being okay with her being crazy and maybe liking her a bit. James actually likes her a lot. They walk inside the station. They say goodbye and hug. Astell goes to the Amtrak rail and James goes to the Metro rail. James immediately texts Astell and says, “goddamn, I should have kissed you, right?”
“It’s okay,” she says.
“It just completely slipped my mind. I wanted to, forgot, and then missed my chance. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Astell replies.
Camille introduces James to Lauren, her roommate, and Lauren’s friend Alyssa. They are “fashionistas.” They remind James of people he liked in California. Camille introduces James to Anna, her marijuana dealer. They like each other and hang out frequently. James very rarely buys marijuana from her, but stays at her house for days at a time, updating his blog, watching “Planet Earth” and dancing. Camille introduces James to Keith, another marijuana dealer. Keith has two pet piranhas that have to remain separated by a fence in the same tank or they will eat each other. Keith wants the piranhas to mate but, feels that is unlikely. Camille introduces James to Zach, a male ballet dancer. Zach throws a party.
James, Eric and Fred go to the party at Zach’s apartment. The girl that James made out with on Halloween calls James and says she was in Bulgaria but is back and wants to hang out. James gives her directions to the party. James drinks beer at the party. James uses the bathroom. Everyone is there. Everyone James knows and likes in College Park is attending this party. Camille introduces James to Michaella. James swoons. James gets really drunk. The girl from Halloween calls James and says she is at the Metro Station. James walks to the Metro Station and hugs and makes out with the girl from Halloween. He holds her hand and they walk back to the party. James introduces the girl to everyone. James meets Yuri, Jacob and Rosh and introduces the girl from Halloween to them. There is music playing upstairs. James goes upstairs and dances with the girl from Halloween and makes out with her. They go outside for a cigarette. They go into the backyard and make out. The police come and tell everyone to leave. James and the girl from Halloween stay in the backyard and make out. The police leave. James and the girl from Halloween drink more beer inside.
The party starts again. James, the girl from Halloween, Eric and Fred go back to Eric and Fred’s house. Evan is there. They drink vodka and watch “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” On Demand. Evan falls asleep on the wrap-around couch. Fred and Eric go to their rooms and fall asleep. James and the girl from Halloween cuddle on the other side of the wrap-around couch. James whispers in her ear. She giggles. They make out. They start touching each other everywhere. James puts his hands inside of her pants and rubs her vagina. She makes noises in a wild, high-pitched tone. James covers her mouth and kisses her and feels like a pedophile. He stops rubbing her vagina. She takes his hand and puts it back on her vagina. James rubs her vagina until she orgasms. James asks if she wants to have sex. She says no with a whimpery voice. James feels bad. James goes to sleep.
It’s morning. James wakes up by himself on the couch. He gets up and looks for the girl from Halloween. She’s in the bathroom. She comes out. Fred’s cat rubs James’s leg with its body. James picks up the cat and pets it. The girl pets the cat and makes cute noises. James puts down the cat. They go outside for cigarettes. The girl from Halloween says she had a good time at the party and with James in general. They say goodbye to each other without kissing. The girl from Halloween walks by herself to the Metro Station. James goes back inside and goes to sleep.
Later, Fred makes omelets and everyone eats them. They take shots of vodka. Evan says he is dead. He feels dead. James feels okay. James walks to Anna’s apartment. She isn’t home. He walks to Zach’ apartment. No one is home. It’s early evening. James walks home instead of taking the bus. He walks to the Metro station and keeps walking past it and down a road that curves and passes the University of Maryland Physics Institute. He takes a path through some grass past a pond. There is an egret there. It stares at James as he passes. It’s kind of dark. A female police officer in a cruiser shines a spotlight on James.
“You know you could get mugged out here, right,” asks the police officer.
“I don’t care,” says James. James walks down a path through a park and along the Anacostia River until he gets to Riverdale. He walks down Riverdale Road and over a bridge. James decides to go back to College Park. He turns around and walks down Riverdale Road to the Amtrak rail. He walks to Route 1. He starts walking toward College Park and gets a call from Zach on his cell phone.
“Do you want to go to Franklins for beers,” asks Zach.
“Sure,” says James.
Zach is with Kate. Kate picks up James in her car on the corner of Route 1 and East-West Highway. They go to Franklins. No one asks for James’s identification. James drinks some of Franklins’ homemade microbrew. There are a bunch of Black guys watching the Lakers play the Nicks. The beer is really good. James sees the owner, Mike Franklin and says hi. Zach and Kate flirt voraciously. James finishes his second beer and goes outside for a cigarette. There are a bunch of people outside smoking cigarettes and eating cupcakes. James asks for a cupcake. A girl hands him one. It’s really good. Kate and Zach come outside and smoke cigarettes. Kate drives James home.
There is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting somewhere south of Los Angeles. Most of the drunks are there legitimately looking for solace and solidarity concerning their “addiction” and are sincerely interested in communicating to other people that they need and are happy to receive help. The minority of the attendees are stupid teenagers who got caught by the police driving erratically why inebriated. They have all dropped out of school and smoke cigarettes frequently and with little thought about life or philosophy, just problems. They think about problems and how to fix them and how it is impossible to fix them. One of the actual alcoholics stands up and says things about his life.
“I’ve been sober for eighteen years. My wife loves me now. She used to hate me. I used to be in a marriage full of hate and resentment, but now I am in a marriage that is happy and involves frequent sex and large amounts of joy, generally. I’m going to a motor cycle rally later this week and I am not going to drink at it. I have a problem. But I am not engaging in the activity that fuels that problem. I am an addict. I’m actually addicted to a lot of things. Alcohol is one of those things. I am eighteen years sober. Thank you.”
He sits down and people clap for him. They clap because there is nothing else to do in that situation. One person, a Hispanic, feels the impulse to walk up the man and punch his face, but doesn’t indulge it. Outside, everyone smokes cigarettes and hates each other. I need to call my girlfriend, thinks one of the stupid teenagers. No, my mom. I have to call her, he thinks.
James hallucinates vividly, that there are other people with him in the basement, reading his latest novel aloud and laughing wildly. This is love, he thinks. This is really dangerous. James just wants to talk to someone with a good rationale for staying alive. What keeps people alive, he thinks. This is a disaster. Why am I like this. The hangover is never worth it, is it? It always is. Jesus fuck.
Everyone gets angry at James for various reasons and conspire to kill him or perhaps maim him permanently. He sees their conspiracy and ignores it and hopes it succeeds. He wakes up covered in his own urine and vomit and feels curious about how dilated his eyes are. What is the measurement, he thinks. Who can measure this for me? He finds a pill on the dining room table and eats it. After eighteen minutes he begins hallucinating very small things and gestures and sounds that are actually happening. What was that, he asks himself after a small meteor evaporates right in front of him. I just decided to break the forth wall. Unsure why. Might admit to doing something pretty bad. I killed a man. He was homosexual. I did it out of revenge. He finger-banged my sister. She has a boyfriend now. My sister’s boyfriend is very similar to me. I didn’t really kill anyone. I was kidding. I wrote that to be funny, but then it didn’t seem funny but I still left it there. My balls hurt a little.
Clairvoyance is an illusion.
James is at party at Hawk’s house. James doesn’t know Hawk or how he came to be at Hawk’s house. Lauren introduces James to her boyfriend, Chad. James tries to impress Chad, saying he’s heard all about him and his skateboard crew and that he’s a good man. James doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Chad seems confused too. James is drunk and wants to dance. He stops, mid sentence and goes to the kitchen and hears music coming from somewhere. There is a door to his right. He opens it and sees stairs. He goes downstairs and twenty people crowd the basement, playing instruments noisily and dancing by jumping in circles, like a tribe of white, Asian and Indian pagans. James joins them.
In his drunken state of constant nausea and bemusement, he sees a pale girl with a wide smile and high cheekbones standing beneath the primary light source and deems her an angel. He approaches and solicits her to dance. They dance. The light bouncing around her dark hair and hipster garb is overwhelming to James. He spins a couple of times and realizes he wants to talk to this girl, but due to the noise and feeling that he could throw up at any moment, decides to leave. He takes the girl’s face in his hands and says “you’re too beautiful, I can’t take this. You’re beautiful, I have to go.” She smiles. James catches a glimpse of a person directly behind her with a scowl on his face. The person mouths ‘what the fuck.’ He is Hawk. James darts out of the crowd and up the stairs and into the nearest bathroom before feeling a lot less nauseous and like he wants a cigarette.
James walks back downstairs and to the left and sees a light on outside the living room window. He walks outside into a sunroom covered in horizontal, glass tiles and sees Lauren, Chad, Yuri and Mary, among other people, smoking cigarettes and talking loudly. He finds a chair and sits, then asks Lauren for a cigarette which she begrudgingly bestows on him. He lights it and immediately the pale girl and Hawk walk out. Introductions are made, awkwardly. James sees an unopened beer in front of him, chugs it and blacks out.
The next morning James is in his basement watching cable television when his mother comes down and asks how he’s feeling. James wants to say “like shit,” but knows what response that will draw and decides on “fine, just a little nauseous.” His mother offers to make breakfast and he accepts. At breakfast his parents debate the possibility of seeing the film “Star Trek” at some point in the early afternoon, which James feels excited about. He insists they go. His parents seem ambivalent about the idea, in general, and stop talking for about three hours. James goes to them and begs to go to the movie and, despite the severity of his hangover, runs around the house making an enthusiastic argument about why “Star Trek” could be the best blockbuster of the year. His parents are convinced.
They drive to the theater across town, near Prince Georges Plaza, the local ghetto shopping mall. During the entire car ride James makes an attempt at recounting the events of the previous night, remembering the pale girl with the dark hair and wondering if he will ever see her again. Probably, he thinks to himself. They arrive at the theater and the film is okay, James thinks, but lacks substance, which is what films should have. James walks down the row and out of the theater and notices that the person directly in front of him is the pale girl. He feels overwhelmed and confused. The film was overwhelming and confusing too, so James feels doubly so. He and his sister walk out of the building and James lights a cigarette. The pale girl and her family, who seem to have gone to the bathroom before leaving, walk out discussing the merits of the Star Trek franchise, when the girl turns, sees James and waves. James loses control of his face and hands and shakes his pointer finger at her or something, waves enthusiastically, then feels extremely confused. Her name is Andrea.
Alyssa has orange hair. She calls James on his cell phone. He is on Fred’s couch watching John Woo movies and recounting the vast number of insecurities he has accrued over the past decade. I might have breast cancer, he thinks, in both breasts no doubt. Testicular cancer. Fidgets and winks and rotten teeth. My heart will give out before anyone else’s does, and that’s just sad. Every morning I wake up with a cough or some sense that I somehow asphyxiated myself the previous night. I need to be with people. I am dependent. “Hello,” he says into his cell phone.
“James, sup,” says Alyssa.
“Nothing. Chilling,” says James.
“I have something very important I need to tell you. It’s super important.”
“Damn. Okay. You trust me that much? You feel like you can tell me these things?”
“Yes. Where are you. Let’s hang out.”
“I’m on Knox Road. Where are you?”
“At work, on campus. Meet me at three.”
“Okay,” says James. James feels excited. This is only the second Ginger he’s befriended. There aren’t many of them in the world, he thinks. And they have no souls. Sweet. He goes outside for a cigarette and contemplates the things he feels good and confident about. There is no God, he thinks. Time is unidirectional in nature. Humans are like monkeys but scarier and no more or less arbitrary. Galaxies are imperceptible since they are composed of more than just light, which is all of them that we can see using telescopes and x-ray scanning. I like pizza. It’s my favorite food. Pizza is fucking awesome. Orange is James’s favorite color.
James runs to campus at two-fifty, using high levels of precision for each stride. Each placement he chooses is exact and he can feel the heal-arch-ball-toe successive placement as it occurs over the course of a millisecond. He lifts his legs, extends, connects, and repeats, rhythmically until he sees Alyssa in front of him. He stops abruptly and hugs her, panting loudly. Alyssa is afraid for her life.
“I left something at the house on Berwyn,” says Alyssa. “My purse. My purse is at the house on Berwyn. Walk with me to go get it.”
“That’s three miles from here,” says James.
“It’s not that far. Three miles is close.”
“Okay. Let’s walk. Can I have a cigarette?”
“Just kidding, I have some.”
They start walking through campus and across Route 1, then down it. It’s insanely hot outside and the sun is super-heating all of the metal everywhere. Whoa, thinks James. I’m burning. Like fire.
“I have something important to tell you,” says Alyssa.
“I’m on fire,” says James. “Your hair is on fire.”
“What do you want to tell me?”
“What happens when women get pregnant?”
“Their boobs get big and hurt a lot, like during puberty, but with lactation. Their period stops usually. They walk around being bitches and getting fat. They get cankles. Cankles are part of pregnancy. Their feet get enormous and they feel bloated and nauseated all of the time. They pretend everything is fine as their stomach gets enormous. Bulbous, actually. Bulbous and stretched abnormally. A baby is formed in their uterus and it kicks and moves and develops a personality. It kicks organs indiscriminately, causing internal bruising and severe pain. It gets choked by its own umbilical cord and turns around multiple times while the women sleep. It is born prematurely or dead or breach and everything is fucked for the rest of their lives.”
“I don’t want to get pregnant,” says Alyssa.
“Me either,” says James.
“Me either,” says an innocent bystander.
“Pregnancy is not an option for me,” says James. “I have never walked this far on Route 1 I don’t think.”
“Do you want to see our new house,” asks Alyssa.
“Sure, where is it?”
“Down the next street.”
“Is it on the way to Berwyn house?”
“It’s near there. It’s like a block from there.”
They walk to a house. The house is called Cunt Castle, the Cunt Capital of College Park.
“Lauren, Camille, me, and Rory are going to live here next semester,” says Alyssa. “It’s going to be sweet.”
“Who is Rory,” asks James.
“The lesbian princess,” says Alyssa. “She’s a lesbian. She has a girlfriend named Sandra. She’s cool.”
“I remember her. I met her,” says James. “Want to see me do a cartwheel?”
“No,” says another bystander.
“There is a bamboo forest in the back,” says Alyssa. “We’re going to smoke so much weed in that bamboo forest.”
“I bet,” says James. James does a cartwheel and lands on his ass. “This is uncomfortable,” he says from the ground.
They walk to Berwyn house and knock on the door. No one answers. They open the door. It’s open. They walk in. Alyssa walks around the house and eventually finds her purse under a pile of dirty clothes.
“My purse smells like ass,” says Alyssa.
“My ass smells like ass,” says James.
“My ass smells like rosemary,” says Alyssa.
“I’m not smelling your ass,” says James. “Although it does sound like fun now. Where are we going?”
“We’re walking back the way we came,” says Alyssa.
“But it’s so goddamned hot. It’s too hot to walk places anymore. I’m done with all of this fucking walking. Fuck walking, fuck it raw in the ass, please.”
They walk. Lauren calls Alyssa and says she is getting off work in five minutes and asks where Alyssa is. Alyssa says she is with James and that they are walking. Lauren asks where. “On Route 1,” says Alyssa.
Lauren picks up Alyssa and James at McDonalds, where Alyssa bought James orange soda. Orange like your hair, James thinks he says to Alyssa but doesn’t actually say. They drive to CVS and Lauren buys cigarettes and they drive around campus smoking the cigarettes and singing Kelly Clarkson. At the climax of “Since U Been Gone” James’s voice cracks and he feels so embarrassed that he sits back in his seat and falls into it and gets absorbed by the leather and becomes a part of the upholstery and Alyssa and Lauren wonder what happened to him. “I’m right here,” thinks the seat.
Michael Jackson is murdered brutally with a steak knife and nobody gives a shit.
James reads a story by Lark on the internet. Lark is somehow associated with Jonathan. James reads a Gmail chat Jonathan published about how Jonathan and Lewis chose to publish Lark’s story. James laughs while reading it. James sees a link to Lark’s blog on Jonathan’s Twitter. He sees that she is from Baltimore. James looks up Lark on Facebook and solicits her friendship. Facebook is evil. The internet might be evil. James comments on various blogs. One of them is Lewis’s blog. Lewis seems interested in James based on how he replies to his comments on the blog. Lewis friends James on Facebook. Facebook is definitely evil. Lewis and James chat on Facebook. Lewis and James chat on Gmail. James and Jonathan chat on Gmail. Gmail seems okay.
James likes these people. James likes how they communicate with the internet. James likes their observations about the universe. Lewis invites James to his book release party in New York City in July. James wants to go. James is a slacker couch-surfing hobo and has no transportation. James looks at who RSVP’d “attending” on the Facebook event. Lark RSVP’d “attending.” Two other people from Maryland RSVP’d “attending.” One of them is Liam. James sends private Facebook messages to the three people from Maryland asking if they want to carpool. Lark and Liam reply and seem very excited about going to New York. James starts to feel excited about going to New York. They agree to meet at the College Park Metro Station. James sits at a bus stop and reads his horoscope. Liam walks out of the Metro Station. James shakes Liam’s hand.
Lark drives up in her car. It’s an old Volvo. James likes old Volvos. Lark gets out of the car and shakes James and Liam’s hands. They get in the car and drive to New York. On the way to New York they talk about everything. James is good at covering all conversational “bases” when put into a close, interpersonal situation. They stop at a rest-stop in New Jersey. Lark has vegan snacks in her car that she shares with James and Liam. James wants a cigarette. He asks if anyone smokes cigarettes. James and Lark both say they “just quit.” They have a discussion about cigarettes. Lark says she has a leftover pack of cloves in her car. She gets them and James smokes one. Cloves taste weird, James thinks. They drive some more. James falls asleep. He wakes up as they are coming off the Lincoln tunnel into New York City. Lark gets confused multiple times about where they should go to get to the book release party. New York is like that, everyone knows where they are going and is lost. That was a sweeping generalization.
They find a place to park near the gallery where the book release party will be. Lark parallel parks the old Volvo. It’s close as fuck. A fucking tight fit. They walk in the wrong direction. They correct themselves. They find the gallery and enter. Jonathan is there. Lewis walks in. There are introductions. People drink beer and look nervously at each other. Lewis decides to give the newly-released poetry books away for free. Lewis accidentally writes “June 2009” in James’s autographed copy. “Seems okay,” says James. Someone opens a beer near Jonathan’s face. He screams. His girlfriend cleans up the beer. Jonathan and Lewis seem really happy that Lark is there. James fraternizes with everyone who will talk to him. He drinks beer and smokes Lark’s cloves. Tommy reads some poems about Jay-Z. Chelsea reads some silly poems she wrote. They are very well-written and everyone laughs. Lark reads a story about everyone she’s had sex with. Lewis reads poems form his newly-released poetry book. One of the poems is about outer space and giant monsters and becoming a giant monster. James smiles profusely. Everyone drinks beer and talks about the art in the gallery. Malcolm reluctantly says “party at my house.”
Everyone sits and talks about literature. Everyone either has a new book or lit magazine or writing they like or dislike that they want to talk about. Everything is sarcastic. No matter what anyone says, it is always said with a tinge of sarcasm. James isn’t good at sarcasm. He shuts the hell up. I’m too young or stupid or something for this, he thinks. He drinks the last beer. He sits down next to Lark and Chelsea and Kendra who are talking about love or something. He doesn’t know. He isn’t sure he cares. He likes sitting next to Lark. Liam sits down too. What is Liam doing here, thinks James. Someone says something that seems genuine, maybe Kendra, “Sweety, I really really liked your story,” she says. Reagan locks up the gallery and everyone leaves.
James’s guitar is in a hard case in the back seat of Lark’s car. Liam had to sit with it in his lap the entire drive up. Jonathan asks Lark if he and his girlfriend can have a ride to Taco Chulo. “Oh hell yeah,” says Lark. They walk out of the gallery, some of them with drinks in their hands, down about two blocks. Lark, James, Liam, Jonathan and Victoria, his girlfriend, break off and walk to the car. Jonathan and Victoria are on pharmaceuticals or something. Everyone piles into the car. James’s guitar sits on the laps of the people in the back. They all seem confused and drunk. Drunk confusion. Lark asks Jonathan where she should go. He tries to yell directions, but his voice is muffled by New York City. Victoria compensates. They make lane changes and turns and eventually get to a bridge that goes to Williamsburg. James is in awe. New York is like that, causing awe and muffling voices.
They get on the bridge. There is traffic kind of. Eventually they get into Williamsburg and James thinks, damn, we’re in Williamsburg. James feels like he is in a zoo or something. Everything peaks his interest. They drive through the ghetto for a little, until they get to Taco Chulo. Lark parks outside. They get out and stand around and in five minutes or so everyone else comes on bikes or walking. James is amazed at their speed; their efficiency. They move so fast. Did they come on the L or something, he thinks. They go into Taco Chulo. Taco Chulo is about to close. Reagan convinces them to set up a table. “We ate here yesterday,” says Jonathan.
“And the day before that,” says Victoria. James is penniless. He asks Liam to buy him food. That’s so cool, he thinks, he’s buying me food, wow. James remembers that Liam gave him a couple of Percocet at some point earlier. Oh, he thinks, euphoria. Yeah. They eat nachos and vegan nachos and burritos and tacos and other Mexican food. It tastes really good. James feels like going to the bathroom. He walks to the back of the restaurant and sees Lewis standing, waiting.
“Damn. There’s a line,” says James.
“A two-person line,” says Lewis.
“You’re right,” says James.
“How are you,” asks Lewis.
“I’m good. I took drugs. I feel really good.”
The bathroom door opens.
Kendra and Lewis leave to get cigarettes. James goes with them. There is a bodega up the street and they walk there talking about silly things. James feels really embarrassed. Why do I feel really embarrassed, he thinks. Kendra calls him “Sweety” a lot and he likes it. Each time he hears her say “Sweety” he feels really good. It’s a non-condescending “Sweety.” A term of endearment. They arrive at the bodega and James thinks about buying cigarettes, then realizes that he has no money and feels more embarrassed. He looks up and sees that cigarettes are ten dollars. He exclaims loudly, “what the fuck!” Kendra says, “Sweety, that’s just the way things are here,” and pats his shoulder. James looks at Kendra and changes his facial expression to calm. Kendra looks at Lewis with a very strange facial expression. I am the cock-block of the century, James thinks and feels really embarrassed. “I don’t have any money, can I bum cigarettes from you guys,” he asks. “Sure Sweety,” says Kendra.
They go back to the restaurant. Everyone is pretty much done eating and ready to pay the bill. Lark puts out her hand for James to give her money. “Liam is paying for me,” James says.
“What,” says Jonathan.
“Liam is paying for me.”
At Malcolm's apartment people sit in a circle around a coffee table. Lark and Kendra sit near the kitchen counter, Lewis and Chelsea, on the couch, Jonathan and Victoria on the floor in front of the bookshelf, and Malcolm, to Victoria’s left in a chair. James feels out of place. I have nowhere to sit, he thinks. He sits on the couch next to Lewis. Lewis keeps looking at him. James thinks it’s funny that he and Lewis can talk regularly under other circumstances, but that, drunk and with a lot of people, it seems impossible.
Malcolm passes out free copies of his new lit magazine. James reads some of it while everyone else casually does nothing. Liam sits in an armchair in the corner. He eats another Percocet. More beers get drunk. Lewis, Jonathan, Victoria and James throw a plastic ball around the room and laugh. Kendra’s boyfriend comes in. He is tall and French. He and James go out on the balcony and smoke cigarettes and talk about America. Kendra’s boyfriend seems nice and confused. James is glad that Kendra has a nice, tall, confused French boyfriend. He feels it suits her and her “sweetness.” More people come over and it gets too crowded. James goes into Malcolm's room and plays acoustic guitar by himself. Malcolm's friend Angie comes over. She says she works at an auto body shop and has worked a hundred places before that, including a bakery, a bookstore and as a veterinary assistant. James thinks maybe Angie is a pathological liar.
Eventually everyone leaves and go in different directions. Malcolm, Angie, Liam, James, Lark and Chelsea go to a bar that is completely crowded with highly varied Williamsburg zoo animals. There is fifties music playing and a very strange film being projected on the back wall with midgets fighting or something. James sits next to Lewis at a booth. We are all here together, he thinks. Lewis gets up and sits by himself at the bar. James sees Lark walk up to Lewis and they start to talk and maybe kiss. Damn, he thinks. Where is Chelsea? He goes outside and finds Chelsea sitting, looking depressed towards the back of the building.
“Everything alright,” he asks.
“I’m on the phone,” she says. “I’m making a phone call.”
“Okay,” says James. He goes back inside and decides to dance erratically. Other people start dancing too. There is a fifties dance party on the main floor of the bar. The song ends. Everyone disperses. James has one more of Lark’s cloves left. He goes outside and smokes it. It tastes awful. Lewis and Chelsea leave the bar. James, Liam and Lark go back to Malcolm's and sleep on the floor. Angie stays for a while, then says she has to pack because she has to move tomorrow and leaves.
The next morning Malcolm suggests getting bagels. It’s Independence Day. There are bagels that are red, white and blue. No one buys the Independence Day bagels. James orders a cinnamon bagel with butter and cream cheese. They get his order wrong and are rude and New Yorkery about him complaining about getting the wrong order. They all go outside and there is a vendor on the corner of the street. They debate purchasing something. Lark tries on a bandana. “Is this too hipsterish,” she asks. James says, “maybe.” James feels proud of his use of sarcasm. They walk around the block and find a curb to sit on and eat their bagels there. James thinks, Malcolm is tremendous. A tremendous individual.
“Thanks bro,” James says to Malcolm.
“Not a problem,” says Malcolm.
James wants to go to the park, but makes no attempt at expressing this to the group. They get their things from Malcolm's, say goodbye, and start wandering around Williamsburg. There is a festival thing happening on 7th Street. It doesn’t seem even remotely “patriotic,” but more “generally celebratory.” They go to a small, independent bookstore and spend forty minutes looking at different books. James sees a copy of Jonathan’s “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” and shows it to Lark as if to say, “hey I know this asshole.” She smiles over-enthusiastically and gestures similarly without saying anything. James sees a book full of insane architecture that reminds him of how he wanted to be rich and famous and design an insane house that was perfect when he grew up. He looks a the buildings and mostly thinks, “dumbasses.” Every book in the store seems interesting. There is a vagina coloring book. James wants the vagina coloring book, but is still broke.
They leave and walk really far and get lost and Lark uses Google on her phone to find a private taxi company. She calls them and in two minutes they are in a car driven by a Turkish man moving towards a barbeque in Bushwick. They get to the barbeque and there are two men sitting on the front porch of the building smoking cigarettes. One is sort of thin and wearing slightly oversized clothing and the other is burly with tattoos. James, Lark and Liam say “excuse me” and walk in. Jonathan, Victoria, Lewis, Reagan, Tommy, Chelsea and Margaret are there. James recognizes Margaret from a Nylon Magazine photoshoot where she “posed” as Ellen Kennedy. James wonders if Ellen Kennedy is there. Jonathan says she isn’t.
At the barbeque, there is egg salad, lettuce salad, watermelon and lemonade, in addition to hamburgers and hot dogs being available. James tries the lemonade. It’s awful. Someone asks how the lemonade is. “Good,” says James. There are beers in a giant trashcan. James takes a beer. He chugs it and takes another one. James meets Margaret and she introduces him to her boyfriend who seems funny. There is a reading. Margaret reads first, a story about her brother Ansel. Then Tommy, then Lewis and Jonathan. They read a Gmail chat they published in a piece of non-fiction about getting Lewis’s poetry brook published. It’s funny and they both laugh while trying to maintain professional composure. James drinks another beer.
After the reading everyone goes outside and talks about various thing. Someone passes James a marijuana cigarette. He smokes it. He makes himself a plate and devours it immediately. A police car pulls up. Two police officers get out and ask to see the identification of everyone drinking. They get cited for public drinking. The people on the porch are exempt. James is not on the porch. One of the police officers asks for his identification. He says it’s inside. He goes inside. There is a big window and the door is left open. He lays down on the couch and does not move. Tommy walks over to James.
“I’m not twenty-one yet,” says James.
“Me neither,” says Tommy. “I just walked away from them. Want to play some connect four?”
James and Tommy play connect four. James loses. They play again, two more times. James is constantly defeated. Reagan comes over.
“I got a drinking citation,” says Reagan.
“Sucks for you,” says Tommy. Tommy and Reagan are dating. She slaps him on the shoulder and he responds by over-enthusiastically flinching and feigning intimidation before returning to a state of drunken nonchalance. James remembers Rollins and Clair. Tommy plays Reagan in connect four. Reagan wins. He let her win, James thinks, or maybe I am too drunk to play connect four. I don’t know.
This is really strange; life
That night, there is a warehouse party to celebrate Independence Day. There are loud bands playing and people dancing and there are at least one hundred fifty people between the main floor, balcony and roof. The beer is covertly stashed. James finds the beer and takes three. James sees the drummer for a band he saw live once. He walks up to her and introduces himself. She seems unimpressed. She is looking for beer. James gives her one. She remains unimpressed. James walks onto the balcony and sees Liam talking to people. James kind of ignores Liam and looks at the people on the balcony. They all look mildly interesting, but not approachable. James goes back inside and dances. The music gets really intense. There is a mosh pit. James has a religious experience. He decides to let the sound waves consume his brain. People smashing into James’s face frequently interrupt his religious experience. The music ends. James goes upstairs.
Phallic ornaments are pushed rather deeply into the vaginas of various women as this happens. The women feel good. It feels painful but good, they think. They do this repeatedly and until orgasm. The female orgasm is a mystery, even to them.
Some people are watching the bands play through the skylight. Other people are sitting or standing on the roof, smoking, eating, drinking, and doing hard drugs. James has trouble differentiating between people. Am I looking for something, he thinks. He sees Lewis and Lark on the far side of the building and debates talking to them but doesn’t. He walks to the edge of the roof and thinks, what if I were the bro who died from jumping off the roof at a Brooklyn warehouse party on Independence Day. Not a bad way to go. He walks back downstairs and sees Chelsea sitting by herself against a wall. He sits down next to her.
“Hi,” says James.
“Hi,” says Chelsea.
“Are you having a fun weekend,” asks James.
“Not particularly. It kind of sucks.”
“Damn. That’s fucked,” says James, confused. “Do you want to dance?”
“I’d rather not.”
“Okay,” says James. He feels like he wants to ask again, or just be really charming, but is intimidated by Chelsea in multiple ways. She knows I like her, he thinks. Everyone knows now. Fuck. There is a loud boom and a flash of light.
James goes up to the roof and watches the fireworks. He thinks, I wish I were on shrooms, then feels okay with not being on shrooms. In every direction there are fireworks. New York City. Brooklyn. New Jersey. There are lights and explosions everywhere. James feels like a spark that is quickly fizzling out. He can feel his heartbeat. It’s constantly being interrupted by explosions in the sky. James thinks, I’m on top of the world, sarcastically, then walks slowly back downstairs. A Black Sabbath cover band is playing. People are dancing really erratically. James chugs his second beer and runs into the mosh. James completely loses himself.
Reagan invites Lark, James and Liam to sleep at her, Tommy and Jonathan’s apartment. Lewis and Chelsea are there. Miles comes over. They talk about hip-hop music and happiness and Chelsea lets people have some chocolate from San Francisco. It tastes really good. Lark and Lewis sit on the futon and quietly flirt with each other. James jumps on the futon next to them and says something, then feels bad and leaves. He goes outside and smokes a cigarette. Tommy comes outside and they talk about food. Tommy says there is pasta with nitroglycerin sauce inside if James wants. James likes that Tommy eats when he feels sad. Lewis and Tommy start talking about how awesome Miles is. Miles blushes and smiles nervously. They won’t stop. They keep talking about how cool he is.
“Miles is the man,” yells Tommy and dances around a little. Lewis keeps worshiping Miles in a near-monotone, saying things like, “Miles is a cool motherfucker,” in a lengthy drone with a neutral facial expression. James eats some pasta with nitroglycerin sauce and goes back outside. He stands as tall as he can and looks at Brooklyn and feels sad. James feels really good but sad. Not in an “I don’t want to leave” way, in a “what the fuck is going on here” way. James decides to sleep outside on a beach chair. Reagan insists that he come inside. He says he’s fine outside. He realizes that to get inside he would have to go through Reagan and Tommy’s room. He decides to sleep in the kitchen. Chelsea, Lark and Lewis cuddle on the futon. Liam leaves to visit his god sister in Manhattan. Jonathan and Victoria are in Jonathan’s room with the door closed. James sees a copy of Jonathan’s novel on the bookshelf. He starts to read it. He doesn’t stop reading it. It just keeps on getting read.
Debbie is seventeen years old. James feels like he has liked Debbie for his entire life and maybe before. Daniel used to be “in a complicated relationship with Debbie” in real life when he was in high school. Daniel is still a virgin. Daniel and Debbie are friends now. Debbie used to be James’s sister’s best friend, until James’s sister started attending private school. Debbie comes downstairs and sits on the futon and taps James’s back a little. He doesn’t wake up. She sits on him.
“Hello,” says James. He’s curious who is on his back.
“It’s me, your Debbiebell,” says Debbie.
“Nuthin. I’s jus wonderin if you wanted to hang out with me since you ain’t seen me in like two years.”
“Damn. Okay. I’ll get up.” James’s penis is erect. “Go upstairs,” he says. “I have a boner. I’ll be up in a minute.”
Debbie has a camera. She takes pictures of her niece who is three years old but who is already untrustworthy and false and also impeccably cute. Debbie’s niece is named Abby.
“I told my mom I would watch Abby while my mom took a nap,” says Debbie.
“Is she supposed to be out of the house,” asks James.
“My mom is asleep,” says Debbie and takes a picture of Abby.
They go outside and walk around to the backyard. Abby plays with James’s dog. Debbie takes pictures and laughs and tells James that her boyfriend broke up with her and he is talking to some other bitch now and she is lonely and depressed among other things. James takes a deep breath. James walks with Debbie and Abby to their house. They sit on the swing on Debbie’s porch and laugh and James looks at Debbie and Debbie looks back sometimes but mostly looks away. They sit on the porch and Abby says cute baby things and is afraid then happy then afraid again and starts to cry. James decides to leave and asks Abby in a baby voice if he can have a hug. She hugs him. James leaves.
It’s nighttime. Debbie text messages James. James text messages her back, puts on his shoes and walks to her house. They walk for a mile talking about people and objects and God sometimes. James holds Debbie’s hand when they walk where there aren’t any streetlamps. James has a knife in his pocket and tells Debbie this. Debbie says she feels safe. James says something and Debbie laughs. Debbie says something and James laughs loudly into the night and it resounds off all the houses and sleepy cars and the eardrums of the unconscious or something. James does this with Debbie every night for a week. Debbie text messages James that she is really upset. James puts on shoes and walks to her house. They walk longer than normal. They walk all the way up a hill and down the other side and to a park where they sit and talk in quiet voices. James kisses Debbie’s neck. Debbie says she thinks she is broken. She says she doesn’t enjoy sex and that her ex-boyfriend was one of the few people she would have it with, to make him happy or something.
James tells her he isn’t interested in sex, which he feels has suddenly become true. The moon is full. James walks Debbie back to her house and she tells him she took The Pill and that her period’s all fucked up now thanks to her ex-boyfriend and that she is so pissed that her ex-boyfriend would let that happen and still break up with her and everything is fucked and terribly depressing and not to tell anyone and James holds her and that doesn’t do anything. They sit on the swing at her house and James puts his arm around her and says a lot of weird things about relationships that he has no concept of and then kisses her forehead and says goodnight and walks home and looks at pictures of his “friend” on Facebook and sees that she is “in a relationship with” the guy she fucked while they were separated.
The next day, Debbie comes over with her camera while James and his sister are watching the movie “Speed Racer” and takes a bunch of pictures of herself sitting next to James and he takes some pictures with his sister’s laptop of them sitting next to each other smiling and they record a video and post it to YouTube and Debbie’s cousin comes and takes her to see another movie just before the climax of “Speed Racer.” Debbie doesn’t say goodbye before she leaves.
James gets a text message from Yuri.
“Yo, what up homie,” says Yuri.
“I’m at home, eating Lucky Charms. What’s up?”
“You want to hang? I just got back from Barcelona. I have stories. Mad stories.”
“Barbeque tonight, at my new place. Be there.”
James gets a text message from Romoy.
“Hey, man! What you up to tonight,” asks Romoy.
“Barbeque in College Park. Want to come?”
“Food? Always down my man.”
James meets Romoy at College Park Metro Station. They walk down Dartmouth and then Rhode Island Avenue to the bike path. They walk down the bike path through the forest and into the residential area near Berwyn Heights. A police officer on a bicycle rides up to them.
“Excuse me,” says James.
“Yes,” says the police officer.
“We’re lost and looking for Rhode Island Avenue. Where is that? Further down the bike trail?”
“Probably so,” says the police officer. “There are a lot of streets around here that just turn into cul-de-sacs and dead ends. It’s really confusing. I’d just keep going down this path to the next neighborhood if I were you, and hope it turns up.”
“Thanks sir,” says James.
“No problem. Have a nice evening fellas.”
Zach and Ben are at Yuri’s new house. Yuri isn’t. They are heating up the grill. James and Romoy stand around drinking beers. Ben sits on the grass and lights a cigarette. James and Romoy sit on the ground. Esh and Thaddeus come. Esh talks about how his landlord is a cunt and says he fucked with the wrong Jews. James smiles wildly and chugs his beer. Yuri comes. Yuri is excited and tells James he has to come and see his new bedroom. Yuri calls it “the VIP area.” He has designated it as the place where people sit, smoke blunts, and hotbox their brains. James likes this. James eats a hot dog and a veggie burger. Hawk comes over. Hawk, Yuri, James and Romoy smoke a blunt in “the VIP area” and talk about women and their properties. Esh comes in. Yuri says shut to the fucking door, and stop opening the box. Esh leaves. Yuri drives Romoy home. James falls asleep on the couch. Hawk falls asleep in a chair. Zach and Ben wake up early and go to New York.
Hawk takes the bus home. Rabbit, Nero and Vance come. Everyone drinks beers and smokes marijuana. Rabbit, Nero and Vance leave. James and Yuri drive to Pikesville with Mary. They go to Yuri’s uncle’s house. Yuri’s uncle is an antiques collector. There is old shit everywhere. Yuri borrows his uncle’s van. They drive to Mary’s grandmother’s house. Yuri and James carry a sofa from the attic, downstairs. They break a wall ornament. Mary says don’t worry about it. They put the sofa in the van. They drive to Mary’s mother’s boyfriend’s house. James, Yuri and Mary’s mother’s boyfriend carry a reclinable sofa from the den into the van. Then they carry a table from the basement to the van. James almost steps on Mary’s mother’s boyfriend’s toy poodle multiple times. Yuri, Mary and James drive back to College Park. Mary’s roommates are watching ESPN. They come outside and move the furniture inside. James takes a beer from their fridge.
Yuri and James drive to Pikesville to return the van. They come back to Yuri’s house and smoke a blunt. Yuri invites some people over. They drink and smoke marijuana. The people leave. James falls asleep on Zach’s bed. James gets up and smokes marijuana with Yuri. Jacob comes. Jacob’s band comes. They practice in the basement. James and Yuri smoke marijuana and drink forty-ounce malt liquor in “the VIP area.” James falls asleep on some pillows. James wakes up and uses the bathroom. James opens Gmail. Floyd is online. Floyd tells James he might come to College Park in a month. James says Floyd can stay at James’s house. Yuri wakes up. They smoke marijuana. James, Yuri and Mary go to a birthday party at a house in DC. Marie, a girl Yuri had sex with, is there. Mary runs to James and tells him this. Mary is freaking out. Mary introduces herself to Marie. Marie ignores her. Mary is freaking out. The keg is empty.
Yuri and Mary go home. James goes with the person whose birthday it is and someone else to a house two blocks away. “Someone else” says he has a fifth of absinthe. He and James take shots of absinthe. The person whose birthday it is goes home. James and “someone else” walk down the block to get cigarettes. They meet three Black teenagers. “Someone else” discusses disenfranchisement with them. The Black teenagers walk with them to the store. At the store the Black teenagers try to take James’s credit card. James runs away kind of, then comes back. One of the Black teenagers has a bike. James asks if he can ride the bike. The Black teenager says sure. James rides too fast and falls. His elbow is bleeding profusely. James gives the bike back. One of the Black teenagers is a girl. She walks next to James and says some sexual things. James tries to walk away. James thinks the Black girl stole something from him. He doesn’t know where “someone else” went. He gets angry at the Black girl. The Black boys get angry at James and jump on him. James fights back. After a while he gets tired of fighting and hands a Black boy his debit card.
James walks back to the person whose birthday it was’ house as the person whose birthday it was walks out. James asks if he can sleep on the person whose birthday it was’ couch. The person whose birthday it was walks away saying “nope” repeatedly, gets in his car and drives away. The sun is coming up. It’s Sunday. James decides to go to church. James looks for where the sky is brightest. He sees the sky is brightest in front of him. James thinks, that’s East. James walks East until he recognizes where he is. He finds Route 1 and walks out of Washington DC. Cars start driving by. James sticks out his thumb. James isn’t walking in a straight line. Eight cars pass, ignoring him. An old lady in a sedan stops. There are children’s toys in her car. James tells her he needs to go two miles down Route 1. He gets into her car. She drives. James makes small talk. He asks about her grandchildren. The old lady’s grandchildren go to the elementary school James’s dad attended. James and the old lady arrive at James’s church. James says thank you and gets out. The woman rolls down her window and says “God bless you.”
James walks into church. His elbow is still bleeding. He realizes that his knee is too. James acts like everything is fine. He goes down to the audio-visual control room and says he wants to help film the sermon. The director says that she is disinclined to acquiesce to James’s request. James feels really good. He walks to the editing room and goes on the computer. He checks Facebook. He updates his blog. He writes a chapter in his novel. The sermon ends. James goes upstairs and says hi to his parents. They drive him home. He tells them he got mugged but is okay. At James’s house, here are leftovers from breakfast. James eats them. James checks the balance on his debit card. There is seventeen dollars. There were three attempted withdrawals for sixty dollars but there is only seventeen dollars on the card. James cancels the debit card. Yuri calls. James tells Yuri to pick him up.
Yuri, Zach, Jacob, Rosh and Lawrence live together. They have a house-warming barbeque. Rosh invites Reese and Sonja. There is an apron-wearing theme for the party. James doesn’t wear an apron. Rosh brings Reese and Sonja over early to paint their aprons. Yuri brings paper and tempura paint. Everyone paints. Everyone makes collaborative paintings. James meets Reese and Sonja while making collaborative paintings. James likes Sonja. Sonja seems irresponsive. Reese has heard of James through is blog. She has a crush on Camille. Reese keeps leaving the room while everyone is painting. Carmen, Dave, and Alexander come. Carmen cannot be restrained. Carmen jumps and moves swiftly between people and yells and drinks a lot of beer. Pam comes. Then Lauren, Camille and Alyssa come. Then Hawk, Andrea, Ryan, Ethan, George and Patrick come. Everybody gets shitfaced.
Reese sends James a friend request on Facebook. He doesn’t recognize her. They talk on Facebook Chat. James finds an apron at Yuri’s house and remembers Reese wearing it. James tells Rosh he will give it back to her. James asks Reese if she wants to hang out. She says her ex-boyfriend moved to Florida. James says they don’t have to hang out. Reese says she wants to. James invites her to come to Yuri’s. Yuri, Ken, Hawk, James and Reese smoke marijuana and drink beer in “the VIP area.” Yuri leads an impromptu guided meditation. Ken falls asleep. Yuri goes to sleep. Hawk goes home. Reese goes to the bathroom. James is uncomfortable on the pillows in “the VIP area” and moves to Jacob’s bed. Reese comes out of the bathroom. James asks if she wants to cuddle. They have sex. James asks Reese if she wants to see a movie later that week. She says yes. He says he has a copy of the new Hayao Miyazaki movie that hasn’t come out yet on his computer. She gets really excited. Reese goes home. James falls asleep.
Reese comes to James’s house to watch “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.” He brings her inside though the basement. The movie starts. James’s mother comes downstairs. James stops the movie. James’s father and sister come downstairs. James’s family talks to Reese about how much they enjoyed “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” and Hayao Miyazaki’s other films. Reese agrees with them and says she thinks she will like this film too. James’s mother, father and sister leave. James starts the movie again. James and Reese start making out. James starts to finger her and Reese becomes aroused and uncomfortable. James asks if she wants to have sex. Reese says no. They cuddle and watch the movie. James’s brother comes downstairs and jumps on James’s futon. He says hi to Reese and then leaves. The movie ends. James gives Reese her apron. Reese leaves.
Floyd takes a bus from Canada to New York, then another bus from New York to Union Station, then takes the train from Union Station to College Park. Yuri drives James to meet Floyd at College Park Metro Station. They drive to Anna’s to pick up marijuana and end up staying there for hours, watching television and talking shit about each other. Laura, Craig, Richard and Buffalo are there. Buffalo sits in the corner facing a big screen TV and plays videogames without talking to anyone for the most part. Floyd sits with Buffalo and plays videogames for a little bit before Yuri suggests they leave. Anna tells Floyd that she and Laura are planning to go to Rosewood, an abandoned and supposedly haunted asylum in Owings Mills, the next day, and that he and James should come. Floyd is very enthusiastic about saying yes to this. He says he will bring his SLR camera and they will take pictures of wildly insane ghosts haunting things. Floyd has a crush on Anna.
James, Yuri and Floyd drive to Yuri’s house and start pregaming. They drink a couple beers and listen to music. Floyd seems inconsolably bored. He came to visit Camille, initially, but she told him when he was in New York that she was dating someone and had no interest in seeing him. Also, Floyd’s pet dog had died recently and the culmination of uncontrollable negative emotions makes him seem bored and disparagingly redundant, James thinks. Yuri leaves to do something and Floyd and James leave to walk to get cigarettes and alcohol. They get to the liquor store and buy a six-pack of beer, then start walking up Route 1 to Cherokee Avenue, a street they are unfamiliar with. They find a Cherokee avenue on the left and turn down it and see that it T-bones into a quiet, residential street. They decide to go right. The street leads back to Route 1, so they assume there is another Cherokee Avenue, or some derivative street, road, way or something further down. They walk past multiple streets named after Indian tribes and decide they are lost and call Yuri for directions.
Yuri’s directions are more confusing than getting lost was. Eventually he says to walk back down Route 1 and go left at the Ramada Inn. “That is Cherokee Avenue,” says Yuri. Twenty minutes later they walk down Cherokee Avenue and eventually arrive at a house that a substantial amount of commotion is emanating from. James sees Nero talking on his cell phone and decides introducing Nero to Floyd is a bad idea. Nero waves and gestures to the door. James and Floyd go inside of it. Electro music plays in the living room and various people dance and emote positively and James recognizes seventy percent of the people. Most are already drunk. Yuri is sitting with Rabbit and Vance, drinking Natty Boh. James introduces Floyd to everyone then realizes he is in the resident haven for the gay and lesbian community and laughs. Ken is there. It’s Ken’s house.
James and Floyd meet some people playing “slap the bag,” where a person takes a bag of boxed wine and is expected to chug it for the duration of a drinking song, then, if they do, have to enthusiastically slap the bag and pass it to the next person. James and Floyd play. James stays for another round. Floyd wanders into the smoking room. Rabbit is extremely drunk and relentlessly hitting on a girl everyone thinks is a lesbian. James meets an environmental consultant and relays to him the plot of his newest book, which is about a futuristic environmental consultant, working freelance for corporations that are trying to rejuvenate Earth’s ecosystems, centuries after the apocalypse and the subsequent mass-immigration to Mars. The environmental consultant seems intrigued by this story. James, Floyd and Yuri dance to the electro music.
Rabbit and the supposed lesbian girl disappear then Rabbit drunkenly stumbles inside, shirtless, sees a bowl on a table filled with condoms, takes one, then another one, then drunkenly stumbles back outside. James feels amused. Nero, Vance, James, Yuri and Floyd go to the smoking room, where there is a lesbian sitting under a rainbow flag. Nero and the lesbian get into an intense political discussion. Floyd joins in. Vance seems uncomfortable and leaves. Lois comes into the smoking room. Lois is sixteen. She joins the discussion. James tries to stay drunk and quiet. People’s voices get really loud. James can tell that no one agrees enough to agree to disagree and that all of their temperaments are fiery, insane and overtly political and decides to find that bag of wine.
Yuri drives James, Nero and Floyd back to his house. Yuri walks to “the VIP area” and goes to sleep. Floyd, James and Nero watch “Mad Max” and eventually fall asleep. The next morning, James and Floyd walk to the College Park Metro Station and take the bus over the river to James’s house. They drop off Floyd’s shit, shower, eat pizza and Anna calls James. She says she is near his house. Floyd and James walk down the street James’s house is on and make a left onto Farragut. They walk down Farragut for two blocks and then see Anna’s car coming toward them. She stops and they get in. She makes a U-turn and they drive to Anna’s house in Owings Mills.
Anna has a dog and a cockatoo. The dog is miserly and friendly and only vaguely likes to be pet. He mostly peruses the house in search of scraps. Floyd, Laura, Anna and James sit at the table in the dining room awkwardly, waiting for Anna’s mother and brother to come, so she can acknowledge them briefly and go to Rosewood. The cockatoo shits on Floyd’s pants. Anna’s mother and brother come and politely greet everyone and offer snacks. James eats some crackers and gives some to the cockatoo. Anna is wearing a sundress with very low cut neck and despite her being shorter than five feet has d-sized breasts that are more than thirty-percent exposed. Anna’s mother is pissed about this and they get into an argument that ends with everyone leaving and Anna forgetting to say goodbye to her brother.
They drive to Taco Bell, Anna’s favorite novelty restaurant, and she buys a vegetarian meal while everyone else eats grade-F beef or chicken and drinks raspberry iced tea. James feels bloated and full when finished. They drive to Rosewood and Anna gives an in-depth combination commentary and tour of the facilities based on her past experiences breaking into the old asylum buildings and seeing ghosts and just generally weird shit happening. They find a place to park and get out of the car. Immediately a security car pulls up and the female security guard says they aren’t allowed to walk or take pictures on the premises. Anna shows her cleavage and the security guard decides to let them walk around as long as they leave before the other guard on her shift makes his rounds. The security guard constantly insists that she is the coolest guard at Rosewood and likes getting into trouble because it’s what she does.
They walk around the decaying buildings in relative silence. There is substantial overgrowth and all of the windows are broken and the copper is oxidized and the artifacts left behind are misshapen and disconcerting. There is a gurney outside of the primary facility that still has the leather straps attached to it. Vines and tall grass make up the main demographic of the asylum’s population. The security guard walks with them and tells them the reason why the asylum was shut down and has yet to be demolished is that there is asbestos everywhere, embedded in each wall, and that all of the people in Owings Mills would get lung cancer if they weren’t careful. The demolition is set for that weekend. Anna has names for all of the buildings and seems very emotional about their destruction. This is her last goodbye or something. The decadence and insanity of her childhood is over.
They drive back to College Park blasting music to dissuade any intense feelings of negativity. Floyd tries, vaguely to flirt with Anna, but mostly makes James uncomfortable. Laura does the same to James with a similar response from Anna. Anna drops James and Floyd off at James’s house. He and Floyd discuss the arbitrary nature of the universe and their individual subjective means of coping with and believing in things. It’s all really depressing. Floyd decides to go back to New York in the morning.
Debbie gets back together with her ex-boyfriend via Facebook.
Garfield drives to Yuri’s house from New York City. Later, Calvin and Cheverly drive down from Upstate New York. Garfield, Yuri and James each eat a half-eighth of shrooms. Calvin and Cheverly make theirs into tea. Mary eats a stem. It’s raining. They stay inside for twenty minutes. The rain stops. They walk down the bicycle path. James feels good. He becomes very intrigued with the bark on a tree. Part of the path splits and there is a median made of grass dividing the two lanes of the path. James walks on the right and everyone else walks on the left. James feels sad that they are separated. The sky is like a series of upside-down mountains covered in snow. They walk through the woods. Leaves make noises. A train passes on a hill near the path. James is afraid and in awe. It is a giant metal animal carrying little animals places. They walk under a tunnel beneath the train tracks. Sound stops making sense for a while. There’s so much green. Where did all of this fucking green come from, thinks James. There’s a lake. Millions of invisible things are in the lake. James runs. A fox runs next to him in the brush. There are insects everywhere. There are beetles having sex on a leaf. A praying mantis catches a moth. Berries grow on plants. Berries are little edible uteri.
There is a gazebo. Everyone sits in the gazebo. James plays guitar. Calvin sings and dances. Garfield, Yuri, Cheverly and Mary lay down in the grass around the gazebo and start removing their clothes. Garfield plays “Because” by the Beatles. James sees a hornet’s nest in the ceiling of the gazebo. Those are beautiful, thinks James. The gazebo is old and a little rotted. Trees are animals made of rocks. James rolls around in the grass. He stands up and takes a step. A hundred little insects jump out of the way of his foot. He keeps stepping around. They jump and jump and jump. James feels bad for crushing the grass. He apologizes. There is a rainbow. “There’s a fucking rainbow,” says James.
They walk around the lake. There are trees planted in specific places and constrained by wires. James feels bad for the trees. There is floating fishing dock. James and Garfield stand on it and make it sway. James is afraid. James jumps on the outside of the metal barrier and dangles over the lake. He sees fish and algae and lily pads just below the surface. They walk to an enormous gazebo that is over the center of the lake. Calvin has chocolate candy. Chocolate tastes like sex. It starts to drizzle. The raindrops die when they hit the lake. James spits into the water. Large fish investigate. Mating egrets dance feet above the water. Mary does ballet. She leaps and pivots and pliés. An Asian man and his son watch his granddaughter waddle around. A new human mind.
They sit and dangle their feet over the water, staring at it. It is the ubiquitous fluid. Humans go nowhere without it. Yuri runs around the lake. Four miles. Mary is proud. James goes to a dark place in his mind. He thinks about loneliness and alienation and how he is separate from everyone; how no one can be with him. He feels incapable of thinking of depression sarcastically. A police officer rides up to them on a bicycle.
“There’s a rabid dog on the loose around here, folks. I think it’d be in your best interest if you left.”
Hawk solicits James for marijuana. James refers him to Anna. Hawk, his roommates George, Ryan, and Ethan drive with James to Anna’s apartment and park outside. They go in and have a couple drinks, buy four grams of marijuana and take hits from Anna’s enormous bong. They say they have to go shortly after and James walks to the door to inspect the car. A tow truck is there, and the driver is standing near the car writing something on a clipboard. James announces that George’s car is being towed and runs out of the house. “One more minute and you would have been fucked,” says the tow truck driver.
“Yeah, sorry man, we were just leaving,” says James.
“You can’t park here without a permit,” says the tow truck driver.
“Oh, damn, really? Didn’t know that. Won’t happen again.”
They pile into the car and drive away. At Hawk’s house they roll a marijuana cigarette and play “Super Smash Bros.” on Nintendo 64. James wins every time. Eventually they start drinking and have an impromptu party, inviting Steve, Alvin, Khan, and the bedfellows. It’s a sausage fest. Andrea comes over and disappears somewhere with Hawk. Everyone drinks and yells and James falls asleep on the couch. Yuri wakes him up and they go back to his house and James falls asleep on the couch.
The next day, James and Yuri wait for a package by making vegetarian pizza and drinking Coke and vodkas. Yuri and James smoke two pipes of marijuana due to Yuri’s anxiety about the package arriving.
“Those UPS fucks should have been here by noon,” says Yuri.
“The road is wet,” says James. “There’s probably traffic.”
“Fuck traffic,” says Yuri. James goes outside for a cigarette. Yuri follows him.
“So what’s in this package,” asks James.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you guess?”
“My birthday present.”
“That’s pretty vague, broseph,” says Yuri.
“Broseph, father of Jesus,” says James.
“His son died for my broken soul.”
“In spite of that one flaw, I acknowledge that you’re still a bromo sapien. Also, if this package doesn’t come, will you give me a ride brome?”
“If it does come, it’s contents will give you an instant broner.”
“That just sounded bromosexual.”
“Well, you could leave it to me, or you could beat your meat abrone.”
“I think I’d rather do it with a brone-cold-brober woman than some bromo who’s broned out of his mind.”
“Touche. Can I get a drag of that brobacco?”
“Bro, I bron’t think bro.”
“Okay, now you just sound retarded,” says Yuri.
“Brokay, whatever you say, bro.” James hands Yuri the cigarette.
“You know what? We have to go, I have to turn in this application to work at the bar.”
“You’re going to be a bartender?”
“Yeah.” They walk to Yuri’s car.
“I always saw you as more of a brocial worker or a community brorganizer.”
“You mean like brobama?”
“Do you think I could ever make my way up to the broval office?”
“Weren’t you brorn in the broviet union?”
“Bro what? Being a fucking broreigner didn’t stop brobama. I’ve got big dreams.”
They drive to the local bar. Yuri gets out. James stays in the car. A girl in a sundress and heals walks by. James feels good about assuming that she is a huge bitch. James feels masculine complacency or complacent masculinity or something and smiles at the windshield.
Back at Yuri’s house, the package still isn’t there. They walk inside and James hears an engine behind him. It’s a UPS truck. He taps Yuri, who goes back outside. James hears them talking.
“Sorry man, I just looked,” says the UPS guy. “Your package isn’t on here.”
“Are you fucking kidding me,” yells Yuri. “Did you check the back? You’re sure?”
“Yeah man. I’m going back to the depot. I’ll check there. If it’s there I’ll be right back.”
Yuri comes inside. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” says Yuri, exacerbating his mind. “The audacity of these people to be inefficient fucking baffles me. I’m fucking baffled.”
“What a Jew,” says James. He pours himself a glass of vodka and chugs half of it.
“Do you want to pack another bowl,” asks Yuri.
“Sure,” says James. His face is scrunched because of vodka. They go down to “the VIP area” and close the doors and windows and smoke the rest of Yuri’s marijuana. They have a competition in which both of them tries to find the next band that will become internet famous in the shortest amount of time. It’s an absurd exercise but it makes James feel good. Sometimes he finds a band that just doesn’t stop getting listened to on his iPod and he knows all the words to songs people haven’t found out they are in love with yet. It feels similar to being the first of your friends to find a girl you really like and start dating her, thinks James. You feel happy for yourself and kind of superior, but then you just feel bad because all of your friends miss you and are alone apart from bromantic companionship, so you introduce them to your girlfriend’s girlfriends.
Forty-five minutes pass. James gets a call from Alyssa. She has work in an hour and wants to hang out. James and Yuri go upstairs and walk outside. There is a package in the mailbox. Yuri makes a very surprised facial expression, grabs the package and they both go back inside, leaving the door ajar. “Open it,” says Yuri, handing James the package. James sits on the couch and opens the envelope, which conceals another envelope, which conceals another envelope. Inside the third envelope are two tickets that say “The Flaming Lips @ Merriweather Post Pavilion” in Courier. James feels confused. He only maybe likes two songs by The Flaming Lips. He is aware that Yuri considers them his “favorite band,” but thinks the lead singer’s voice is shitty.
“Did Mary break up with you,” asks James. “Why are you giving me these?”
“Have you ever seen The Flaming Lips live,” asks Yuri.
“No, I haven’t.”
“It’s insane. You’re going to love it. It’s tomorrow. Happy birthday.”
James feels a little excited but mostly confused. He saw Ben Folds with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Merriweather Post Pavilion when he was seventeen and thought it was kind of shitty. A shitty band at a shitty venue, James thinks.
“Yeah,” says Yuri. “Me and Mary did break up.”
The next day, James and Yuri drive to the liquor store and James buys two bottles of vodka, a big one and a little one. They drive to Merriweather Post Pavilion and smoke marijuana in Yuri’s car. James puts the bottles of vodka in his book bag and they walk from the parking lot to the entrance. They wait in line for fifteen minutes and then Yuri hands the bouncer his ticket and identification card and walks in. James walks up to the bouncer, who immediately says, “You can’t bring your backpack in here.”
“Are you fucking serious,” says James. The bouncer doesn’t say anything, just shrugs and waves for the person behind James to come toward him. James yells at Yuri that he is going back to the car. Yuri has a flabbergasted expression on his face. He sighs and walks past the bouncer and he and James walk to the car. On the way to the car they see Naomi.
“Hey bros,” says Naomi. “Wanna smoke a jay? We’re about to.”
“We just did,” says James. “Did you know you can’t take your book bag inside the venue?”
“Damn, yeah. Why do you need a book bag?”
“To hide this.” James shows Naomi the vodka.
“Oh. Just wrap that little shit up,” she says.
“I have a poncho in the car, bro,” says Yuri. “Let’s hurry up. I want to see Stardeath.” They jog to the car and James finds the poncho. Sweet, he thinks. It’s cloudy and my excuses have the potential to be perfect. This is sweet. No one will suspect anything. They walk back to the venue and James holds the folded poncho, casually in his hand. He gets in. They go to their seats. Yuri got his tickets through a press agent. They have a perfect view and no one else is sitting in their row. They missed Stardeath. Yuri is pissed. Explosions in the Sky start to play. The music is ambient and weird. James and Yuri smoke some marijuana. James feels unaffected. They decide to walk to the grass in the back of the venue where a bunch of people are gathered, smoking marijuana, drinking, and doing hard drugs. James sees Keith. Naomi is with Keith. They walk over to Keith and hug him. James smokes a cigarette and drinks vodka and he and Yuri smoke more weed. Explosions in the Sky are sounding better, James thinks, and starts to move rhythmically to the music. He is enjoying this.
Keith and Naomi are sitting with an old obese man in a tie-dye shirt. He is smoking a marijuana cigarette by himself. He turns back to James and nods. James nods too. James was nodding before he saw the man. He was nodding to the rhythm of the beat. James looks around. No one else who he knows is there. Yuri tells James he got a text from Alyssa saying she is in the pit. He asks if James wants to go to the pit. James looks at the pit. It’s completely full of people dancing and acting weird. James says he doesn’t think so. He stands up and begins to sway rhythmically while standing. The song ends. It’s the last song, I think, thinks James. He is unsure but time has passed very rapidly. He is anxious for The Flaming Lips. James and Yuri walk back to their seats.
The set up crew walks out. They are all in neon orange jumpsuits or vests. Yuri packs his pipe with marijuana again, They smoke it. Ten minutes later, the set up crew is still not done. James suggests they get drinks to put vodka in so they can get really shitty drunk. Yuri likes this idea. They walk to a vendor. Smoothies are eight dollars. James and Yuri lament over having to pay eight dollars. They go to the bathroom first. They come back to the vendor and buy strawberry smoothies because the girl working the counter suggested it. The girl at the smoothie stand is cute. She seems potentially younger than eighteen. James and Yuri decide not to flirt with her. They walk back to their seats. They pour the remaining vodka into their cups. Ten minutes later, the set up crew seems finished. The lights dim. A massive screen in the center of the stage begins to light up. There are crazy noises and a woman’s voice saying something. There is a naked woman on the screen, dancing to the crazy noises. She walks up to the screen and lies down on her back. Bizarre, psychedelic lights start to emit from her vagina. James is freaking out. The crazy noises get louder. The light gets brighter. The woman on the screen gets bigger and bigger until only her psychedelic vagina is on the screen. Everyone in the crowd goes apeshit. A door in the middle of the screen opens. James is losing his shit. He drinks compulsively. The band walks out of the psychedelic vagina and confetti shoots everywhere from the stage. Everyone goes fucking apeshit. Yuri drops his marijuana pipe and it shatters and he ignores this.
Hawk and James are looking for parties. Classes just started and fraternities are throwing rush parties all around campus. They hear about one near Andrea’s house and walk there, but stop at Anna’s on the way. They pregame a little and smoke a blunt rolled half-and-half with Hawk and Anna’s marijuana. James feels like sleeping. He ignores his wanting to sleep and says to Hawk that they should go to the party. They go outside for cigarettes and talk and dance like maniacs. They are maniacs. They know this. Or at least they say this and feel it to be possible. They see the party at the bottom of the hill and decide to run wildly toward it.
James and Hawk run into the party, aggressively introducing themselves to fraternity brothers as Hugh and Sebastian, freshman looking for a good time. They take cups and start drinking from the keg like mad men, spiraling into near incoherence and start to scour the lawn for women to grope. There are black girls and underage sorostitutes everywhere, playing beer pong and grinding against guys with necks the size of sequoia trunks. James sees a girl he feels extremely attracted to and approaches her.
“What’s your name,” he asks loudly.
“Stacy,” she says.
“You’re the first Stacy I’ve met here, and by far the prettiest.”
She swoons a little, then makes a very sensual gesture. “Why thank you,” she says.
“I’m James and that’s my friend, Hawk,” says James, feeling honest and unabashed. Stacy points to a blonde belligerently yelling at someone with a wide grin on her face, and seemingly no potential for intimidation and says, “That’s my friend Mercedes. I’ll introduce you.”
Stacy walks away, takes Mercedes, reluctant to drop her argument, by the arm and brings her to them. They are introduced. Mercedes looks at James for nearly a minute before saying anything. “I’m going to remember you, James,” she says. “If there is one thing I remember tonight, and there will probably only be one, it will be you.”
James feels flattered and like his attraction to Stacy has just been usurped by a stronger and more out-of-control force. Hawk gets a call from Andrea and escapes to her apartment. James, Stacy and Mercedes stay together, laughing and crying and screaming at each other, using words yet to be invented. They walk together back to Mercedes’s car. Mercedes hugs James and gets into the driver’s seat. He feels concerned. His concern flowers into distinct fear that these two pieces of ass will get themselves killed, or worse, get a DUI. He goes to stop them from driving away as they drive away, into the deepest night. James is afraid. He hasn’t felt so paralyzed and afraid about anyone in a long time. He remembers that he got Stacy’s number and calls her.
“Hello Jamiekins,” she says. “What’s up?”
“Is Mercedes okay to drive,” he says. “Should she be driving?”
“Oh, she’s fine. I’m far drunker than she, and this is her thing. She drives. We’re fine. Was the little Jamiekins afraid for our safety,” she asks, like how you might ask a baby a rhetorical question to get it to smile. James smiles.
“No,” he says, embarrassed.
Hawk comes out from Andrea’s apartment and sees his friend, Ralph. They talk about music and Ralph abruptly asks Hawk if he wants to go to his house and smoke out of his new bong. Hawk calls James and tells him to come back to the party.
They walk to Ralph’s house and into his room. The walls are covered in music posters and psychedelic paraphernalia. James is drunk and doesn’t want to smoke marijuana. Ralph goes to his dresser and pulls out an ounce of marijuana.
“This is that high-grade, California medical shit,” he says and tosses it to James. James opens the bag and sniffs hard. It smells sweet and sour and like a precious gem would smell if edible or could be smoked. Ralph reveals his new bong. It’s a small glass structure with a round chamber that forms into a diagonal double-helix.
“What the fuck is this,” says James.
“The bong of God,” says Ralph. “It forms a tornado in your mouth, and both of your lungs fill to capacity immediately.
James is stunned by the beauty of the thing, smokes from it and immediately goes into a coughing fit before blacking out.
A few days later, Stacy calls James and asks him what he’s doing that night. He says, with no foreknowledge whatsoever, that he and Yuri are partying. Stacy says she and Mercedes will join them and that becomes the plan. James calls Yuri and tells him some hot bitches want to hang out that night. Yuri says he’s down and the plan is finalized.
That night, they go to the same house where the fraternity party was. The girls aren’t there. James calls Stacy and she says they are walking down the street towards Route 1. James and Yuri walk briskly after them and find Stacy supporting Mercedes, who is clearly completely blacked out and can’t stand up. Yuri seems disappointed. They walk with the girls back to the house and find a chair and put Mercedes in it. They eventually drive to Yuri’s for ten minutes before Mercedes decides to drive home. No one gets laid.
Later that week Yuri and James buy a handle of UV vodka and invite the girls over. They mix the vodka with lemonade. They drink all of the vodka. Mercedes types text messages on her blackberry all night. Yuri flirts with Stacy. James feels alienated and goes outside for a cigarette. Stacy and Mercedes follow. They decide to leave. No one gets laid.
After flirting with Stacy via text message for a week, Yuri calls James at his house and tells him “the ladheads” are coming to his house that night. “What are ladheads,” asks James. Yuri says that is what Stacy and Mercedes call themselves collectively. James tells Yuri to pick him up. Yuri picks up James and they go to Hawk’s house. They smoke marijuana and eat pasta and Hawk, Yuri, Zach and James walk to a party at the same fraternity house. This place is fucking cursed, says James. The girls are there drinking and Stacy is blackout. Andrea comes out of her apartment and meets the ladheads. Stacy insists on keeping a crazy straw she found on the ground. Everyone protests because she is mysophobic when sober. James tries to help her conceal it, but Mercedes takes it out of Stacy’s purse and throws it into some bushes. No one gets laid.
James, Hawk, and George decide to start a band. They practice infrequently over the course of a week and invite Jacob to play drums. They “jam” pretty hard one night and feel awe-inspired by their own musical prowess and start practicing more regularly. Jacob is already in a band and can’t commit to come to practice frequently. George calls Pat, who agrees to audition as the drummer. He comes to Hawk’s house and they write a song called “Suicidal Dancer,” about a girl who dances out-of-control at an electro warehouse party in Brooklyn, and everyone there thinks she is going to break her neck. Pat likes the song. He is a good drummer. He joins the band. They stop practicing as frequently because Pat is a biology major and is constantly unavailable. Everyone gets disheartened. George and James start fighting about nothing. Hawk starts doing crack and heroin on a regular basis. Ryan gets pissed off and decides to throw a huge funk theme party at their house.
Mercedes calls James and says she misses him. She says she misses hanging out with him and wants to know what happened and what he is doing that night. He tells her about the party. She tells him she’s smiling and that she will be there. James feels anxious. At the party, everyone is there. Everyone James knows and likes from College Park is there. There is a keg and everyone drinks profusely from it, and eventually everyone is blackout drunk. Yuri comes with Yesenia. They are together. The walk into the sun room and immediately pass out on top of each other in one chair. Everyone takes pictures and James points and laughs in the pictures. Stacy and Mercedes arrive. Mercedes hugs James, he holds her for a while. They go inside and sit down on the couch. James falls asleep. No one gets laid. Except maybe Yuri gets laid. Yuri definitely gets laid.
Two weeks later, Yuri and Yesenia go to New York to attend CMJ Music Marathon. Lawrence decides to throw a party while Yuri isn’t home. James and Mercedes haven’t talked except briefly on Facebook since he fell asleep at the funk party. James sees that she is “attending” Lawrence’s party on Facebook and feels really excited. He arrives and there are already more than fifty people there. Everyone is drunk. James wants to be drunk. He chugs five beers from the keg. Mercedes and Stacy arrive. James hugs Mercedes for roughly eighty seconds. More than minute. He feels good. He and Mercedes stay on the porch and hug each other while Stacy goes inside and drinks. James goes with Mercedes downstairs to “the VIP area,” and sees that twelve people have congregated over a fucking blunt. James takes a hit. James and Mercedes go back upstairs and destroy everything in sight. Everything is destroyed. Mercedes calls Stacy’s step-mother and bitches her out for abusing Stacy as a child, then throws up on Yuri’s bed. Mercedes has no memory of this and permanently stops talking to James out of embarrassment and fear that they had sex. No one gets laid.
It’s October. James feels confused. He doesn’t remember the two previous years at all. He decides to investigate what “the fuck” happened.
James puts himself on a nutrition drip and sleeps for an entire month and has an elaborate dream about impending nuclear holocaust.
Garfield picks James and Hawk up from Hawk’s house and they drive to DC. They park two blocks from The Velvet Lounge, then walk there, meeting Yuri and Yesenia on the way. There are hipsters sitting outside smoking and looking altogether disaffected and lovely. Yuri decides he wants to try to get into another bar. They walk to DC9, where Peter, Bjorn, and John are playing. Yuri doesn’t turn twenty-one until Tuesday. Garfield passes back his identification card. Yuri gets in. The show is really lame. No one enjoys themselves. They try, but it is impossible. They walk back to the Velvet Lounge and go upstairs where there is an electro house party. The music has a positive correlation between the dynamic and James’s desire to dance. James and Hawk dance. There are two girls on the dance floor. They look young and virginal. James has no idea what to do with nymphomaniacs and similarly has no idea what to do with to do with virgins. He keeps dancing.
Other people come in to the party. James has a handle of brandy he and Hawk picked up on the way to DC. He takes a swig. Hawk takes a swig. More people come. Yuri and Yesenia venture upstairs. They dance. Garfield dances. Everyone dances. Hawk and James go backstage to drink brandy and use the band’s grape soda as a chaser. They drink half of the brandy. James feels good. He wants a woman to hold. Phil comes to DJ. The music gets berserk. Wendy comes and starts touching Phil. She buys Phil a shot. “I’m completely hammered,” says Phil to James and Hawk. Phil is on the brink of incoherence, but the music is somehow still fluid and engaging, every selection poignant. The lights come on. James makes good eye contact with girls as he leaves. Outside everyone stands smoking cigarettes. James talks to Phil. Phil says he and Wendy and some other people are going to Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street. James convinces some of the good eye contact girls to come with them. They walk a few blocks.
“What’s your name,” James asks Bekah.
“Bekah,” says Bekah. “What’s yours?”
“Is that your real name?”
“Damn,” says James. He feels confused. “I don’t know.”
They all get to Ben’s Chili Bowl and immediately turn around. The line is going out the door and around the block at 2a.m. They walk back to The Velvet Lounge. James feels tired. Garfield says he feels tired. Hawk agrees. James asks Bekah for her phone number, puts it in his cell phone and Garfield drives them to Yuri’s.
“Are you going back to Baltimore tonight,” James asks Garfield.
“Yeah,” says Garfield. “Why?”
“I need to get away from all these people. I have been drunk for four days straight. I don’t get how this happens. I need a vacation. Take me with you to Baltimore.”
“James, I’m a grad student. I just sit around watching lectures online, all day, with complete disregard for the rest of the world. We can’t hang out or do anything fun.”
“That’s fine,” says James. “I’ll work on my novel. Perfect tradeoff.”
Garfield drives James to Pikesville, near Baltimore. Garfield has two shorthaired cats named Allie and Flo. Garfield inflates a blow-up mattress and takes a blanket from the closet and a pack of rolling tobacco from his room and says, “there you go,” to James. James lies down and begins to write a new novel. The next few days, James eats bagels and pizza, periodically, realizes he is allergic to shorthaired cats, and repeatedly drinks all of Garfield’s milk.
Somewhere in Australia, the first of a new species of wallaby is being born. It has a slight genetic mutation that allows a high sensitivity to the chemical output of the bodies of humans; it can read minds. There is a telepathic wallaby being born. It’s pooped out of it’s mother’s vagina slowly, and with intense pain. The mother screams and is insecure and tries not to think about how devastatingly awkward she feels. I’m farting out a baby, she thinks. Her tail contorts, out of control, periodically, due to spasms triggered by the nerves along her wallaby vaginal wall. This isn’t happening, she thinks repeatedly. What is this. Do humans go through this. When will my vagina feel normal again. Her husband, a small kangaroo, watches her doing this and drinks a forty ounce of malt liquor with ambivalence on his face. What was I thinking, he thinks. Why did I allow this to happen. I am terrible at making life-decisions. This is going to haunt me for a long time. Maybe forever. He takes a swig of the malt liquor and immediately vomits.
Shortly after this, the universe folds in on itself, creating a double universe full of people who are unprepared to deal with real life and who use various forms of escapism to ignore the problems that prevent them from being happy. This double universe is then predicted to fold again every seven years for the rest of human existence. There is a meteor shower and all of the meteors look like electric guitars. James’s neighbor, Carl
After a few days at Garfield’s apartment, James calls Lark and tells her he is close to Baltimore and wants to hang out with her. She responds by saying she is having boy trouble and is depressed, drinking wine with her mother, and doesn’t want to hang out. James tells Lark that he just got a call on his cell phone from his grandmother saying that his mother is dying and could be dead later that week. Lark feels bad and apologizes and says she will come to James in forty minutes. James tries to convey nonchalance and an attitude of ambivalence toward whatever Lark wants to do, but is happy that she is coming and lets her do that. When picks up James she walks around Garfield’s apartment complex appearing really confused and calls James frequently, trying to coordinate somehow and find each other. James calls Garfield and asks him what he should tell Lark to do to get to where he is. Garfield seems confused. “I have homework. I have to go,” says Garfield. James walks down a street and get a call on his cell phone from Lark. “Hey,” she says. James hears her somewhere, in the actual space around him and not just o his cell phone. He looks around. He doesn’t see her. He looks towards places that seem like places he wouldn’t normally look. Lark describes where she is. He sees her. He walks up to her and they hug tightly.
They drive to downtown Baltimore. Lark tells James he is the DJ, and to play something good. First he plays “Deadbeat Summer” by Neon Indian, but feels silly and plays “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death from Above” by CSS, which Lark reacts very positively to. She says she used to be “really into” Death from Above 1979, which surprises James. They talk about taste in the vein of music being good, not good, nostalgic and emotional, and James expresses that he prefers music in major keys and that use pentatonic scales. James is surprised it took him this long to realize this. James puts on Paris Hilton’s “Stars Are Blind” and he and Lark rock out a little. They arrive in the city and Lark parks at her apartment building. They get out and she asks James if he wants beer as opposed to coffee, which was their original plan. He says beer sounds good. Lark offers three options, “mainstreamer sports bar,” “old people hanging out bar,” or “hipster bar that isn’t too hipster.” James decides “hipster bar that isn’t too hipster.”
James and Lark walk through an alleyway and down a major street, then make a right onto a street that seems to have a lot of bars and small businesses along it. Lark asks James if he has ever been to downtown Baltimore. He says no, but then recognizes the deli on the corner and exclaims “I was here with my ex-girlfriend!” He recounts the experience to Lark and says his ex hadn’t seen any of her friends or family in a long time and decided she and James should spend the night at her best friend from high school’s house in Baltimore. They went and watched zombie movies and chain-smoked and talked about art and philosophy until everyone was really tired, then James tried to have sex with his ex, but she seemed to react negatively to it, so they slept. “There was a black cat,” James recalls to Lark.
They walk into a bar and Terminator II plays on the big screen at the far end of the building. Lark orders them two glasses of Yuengling and they sit in personal couches near each other talking. Eventually Lark says they seems too far apart and they decide to sit beneath the television in chairs that are facing each other. James likes this. Everything Lark says is said with a fluid expulsion of sarcasm. James is entertained. James feels good. He says things he thinks are funny and Lark responds well. She laughs sometimes. More laughing, the more drunk Lark is. Eventually James has to use the bathroom and adventures in, where there is a chalkboard surrounding the perimeter of the room. James writes an advertisement for his blog in the Google colors, and tells Lark. Next time she uses the bathroom she draws something on the near side of the wall and tells James to look. He looks. It’s a picture of a severely depressed amoeba. James thinks it’s really funny. James and Lark laugh loudly and talk about literary things and gossip kinds of things and someone comes up and stares at Lark, mouth agape, and it’s Ashley.
Ashley is moving to Croatia to study abroad, which Lark already told James about. Ashley and Lark hug for a long time and compliment each other and yell about how good it is to see each other, except Lark doesn’t yell, her voice, no matter how loudly she is trying to be, stays within a very comfortable range of sounds. James sort of listens and tries to concentrate on other things, since he cannot engage in the banter properly, he feels. Ashley invites James to her going away party that weekend. James accepts, saying he will be there. Both he and Lark are already planning to attend that party and another party in the city on the same night, but tell Ashley this, to which she replies, y’all best be party hopin’ to my spot first. Everyone laughs.
James and Lark get very drunk then walk back to Lark’s house. James notices that Lark is substantially drunker than he is. Lark give James a thorough tour of her apartment and is an amazing hostess. She tells him what he can, cannot, should, and shouldn’t do, but neglects to mention whether smoking inside is okay. She sets up the couch for him in the manner she has deemed most comfortable and puts him there, saying goodnight, but lingering a little. James looks back at her and smiles. James wants to go to her room. He can’t bring himself to. He is inexplicably afraid. He wants to, but can’t. James is confused by these feelings with respect to the actual actions he takes. This seems bad, thinks James. He tries to sleep. He has a lucid dream about a safari in Africa, then wakes up before the sun comes up. Lark has two cats. Longhaired ones. They are up and restless. They run around the house, chasing each other and attacking James periodically. One sees James’s kneecap breeching his blanket and sticks its claws into it. James almost screams, but bears no antipathy for the thing.
Later that day James and Lark go to On The Hill, a café restaurant dealie, and order Pumpkin spice coffee and breakfast. Lark gets a very sensible sandwich that looks good to James, but James insists on the breakfast burrito. It is revealed to be enormous and unmanageable. James spends nearly a half hour biting, breaking, and reconstructing the thing before it is completely eaten and traveling, via James’s esophagus, where the fuck it was built to go. Lark drives James back to Garfield’s apartment and they hug and agree to go to the parties that weekend. James feels elated. He goes into the apartment and makes himself a bagel and a glass of milk. He writes a lot of his novel that day.
Two days later, Lark emails James saying she feels too depressed and unsociable to go to the parties that weekend, and that she won’t be able to drive him there. James says he “understands” in his reply. James feels bad about convincing Lark to go out, but unchanged about how much fun he had, or that he wants to have fun with Lark again. James realizes that it is getting cold out and people are feeling domestic and alone. Lark is human, she can’t be treated like a thing, she is a person. People are things that like to be warm and domestic in the winter. James feels cold and domestic. James wishes he had tried to approach Lark in some way that night. I could have just touched her a little, thinks James. I’m so fucking stupid. Fucking stupid, James thinks.
Garfield, Max and James drive from Pikesville to College Park for Yuri’s birthday party. Max gets a call from Clayton saying he wants to come to the party. Max asks how many other people he wants to bring. He says two, making six people together in one vehicle. There are only five seats in Garfield’s car. Garfield and Max are keeping their conversation topics strictly to intricate descriptions of technological piracy and various ways to make an iPhone into a wi-fi router. James feels bored. He offers to get out of the car near the University of Maryland football stadium and walk to Yuri’s. Garfield and Max drive to Panda Express and order insane quantities of lo mein, putting that branch of the restaurant out of business.
James walks up Pontiac Street, a steep and foreboding slope, bathed in complete darkness, and sees a bright light ahead of him. James fears for his life. He moves three meters to his right just as a man in a windbreaker, driving a gas-powered scooter careens down the hill, just missing James. James feels okay. He walks another quarter-mile to Yuri’s and opens the door with a sense of being agitated and extreme alienation and throws his book bag on a nearby chair. There are nine people in the kitchen, eating sushi and taking shots of vodka. James looks at them and scowls. They all yell James’s name enthusiastically. James walks up to them briskly and hugs each one in sequence, patting some on the head and shoulder as he does this. He feels angry. He eats three rolls of sushi without noticing. He pours vodka and a generic brand of cola into a cup and repeats “I haven’t had alcohol in so long,” for minutes at a time between gulps. He sees Yuri and says happy birthday. Yuri looks back with a neutral facial expression, takes Yesenia’s hand and walks to “the VIP area” without saying anything.
James looks at Steve’s face. He looks happy. James slaps Steve’s face. Steve still looks happy. James tells Steve various lies about the current state of the economy and his ability to decrease unemployment and taxes and give all the citizens of the United States of America efficient healthcare they don’t have to pay for. Steve seems to feel okay about James doing this. James asks Steve for a cigarette. Steve says he only has two left and is about to smoke one and can’t spare his last cigarette. James hugs Steve and thanks him for being a truly sincere and understanding individual. They go outside where there is a bonfire billowing black smoke into the night. Steve asks if James is gay.
George tumbles down the stairs into the backyard squinting and flailing his hands and legs wildly. He stands in front of Steve and says, “I lost my glasses at the Peaches concert last night, then I made out with Alyssa.” He goes to high-five Steve, but then tackles him with extreme prejudice screaming “you motherfucker” and laughing boisterously. James thinks it’s clear that George has lost his mind. Steve still seems really happy. Alvin asks if he is a character in James’s new novel about human vulnerability and complete lack of self-control. James says, “yes, briefly.” Alvin says James does not need to change Alvin’s character’s name, then requests that his character’s name be Biff, the Punk King. James laughs. They go inside and sit on the wrap-around couch, each of them with their respective laptops looking at graphs and statistics concerning the plots of various movies and what plot turns resulted in horrible mutilation and death. James can’t stop laughing. He laughs as he walks to the bathroom and tries to piss but can’t. He looks at himself in the mirror and feels really awkward. I’m not getting laid until next summer, he thinks, looking at himself. There is acne everywhere on his body. He starts compulsively bursting pimples and exclaiming “victory” upon their demise. James wants to vomit.
Hawk tells James that he intends to blackout at some point that night. James tells him that he will be in charge; that Hawk doesn’t need to be afraid or concerned about his wellbeing because James will handle it. James and Hawk take shots of vodka and chase them with orange soda. George drives everyone to his and Hawk’s house because they’re all bored and Yuri is fucking Yesenia somewhere. Yesenia moans loudly and tells Yuri she is going to cum and sniffs amyl nitrite and orgasms with loud, stunted moans and with no regard for the thinness of the walls or their resonant quality or the populace of the densely packed residential area located just outside of the alley they’re fucking in. James uses the word “odyssey” in an ironic context and then chuckles, ruining the effect. Everyone goes off to his respective bed except James who sleeps on the couch. He wraps himself in a Baltimore Orioles blanket and produces hushed screams and gargling sounds throughout the night.
The next morning, George’s mother drives from Baltimore to pick him up and take him to the optometrist to purchase new glasses. James looks at his phone; the battery is dead. James goes into the kitchen and makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, using toast and crunchy peanut butter. He opens the refrigerator to get milk. There is no milk. James sighs loudly and chugs water while thinking, I am so fucking hung-over, and, what’s that sound, oh, it’s a leaf blower. James walks aimlessly around the house asking various inanimate objects what James considers important questions about the nature of being and what it means to survive deadly illnesses despite making no attempts to recover or inquire a physician about proper treatment. He receives no responses. James sees a finger puppet on George’s desk. He gives it a menacing look then walks away out of fear and self-loathing.
James realizes his memory of last night is completely faulty, and decides to reconstruct it, comprehensibly, and deduces that there was far more party, and that on numerous occasions, he asked women he had just met to marry him, a high percentage of which said yes. James does not remember any of their names and probably wouldn’t recognize them if he saw them again. “I thwart myself,” he says aloud. He remembers Naomi driving him places and calls her cell phone to thank her. She insists that she only drove chimpanzees and not actual humans places last night. James concedes.
James reminisces on his childhood. He sits alone in the living room, pretending to be a sea gull and squawks into a plastic cup, then decides to play some music. He walks downstairs and Hawk is sitting on the piano bench with his laptop, recording a melody for a new song he wrote. “Could you go upstairs,” he says. “Sure,” says James. James walks past Hawk into the bathroom, tries to masturbate, but can’t climax. He goes upstairs to the second-floor bathroom and stands by himself in the shower with all of his clothes on, singing “Benny and the Jets” by Elton John. The water isn’t running. James leaps over a tall building in a single bound then says “I’m Batman, no, The Green Lantern,” and makes a series of noises similar to a laser pistol in a science fiction film, then says “wildcat” quietly and with a clear sense of remorse. He looks to his left and sees an empty glass, then notices it isn’t empty but contains disgustingly tinted water, cigarette butts, and a cashew. James loses coherence for a while.
Later, Khan comes over. He and Patrick leave immediately to get alcohol. Oh, thinks James, today is Yuri’s birthday. Yesterday wasn’t Yuri’s birthday, then remembers that it was exactly midnight when he said happy birthday to Yuri and feels okay about their friendship’s sustainability. He takes a piss then talks shit to his penis, calling it enormous and uncontroversial. He feels proud about having taught his pet dog, Wolfgang, to roll over. Khan and Patrick return with a handle of whiskey and a handle of cherry vodka. Everyone starts drinking. George starts drinking in conjunction with everyone even though he is in Towson, and calls Hawk to let him know he left the oven on. “I know,” says Hawk. “The house burned down.”
They play eleven rounds of “Super Smash Brothers” on Nintendo 64, and James comes in last place every time, vocally blaming his controller, even though his loses could also be attributed to a definite lack of skill and lapsing periods of being able to focus his eyes. Everyone takes shots of whiskey, then take shots of cherry vodka. It’s twelve-o’three a.m. James yells at everyone, saying they will miss the last bus if no one starts moving towards the door. He stops yelling and decides to roll a cigarette. Three guys and two girls come over. They seem chill, laughing and insisting that James’s name is original, despite it being Christian. James takes a drag of his cigarette and thanks them repeatedly with a neutral facial expression while nodding. Hawk and James decide to walk to the bus stop.
They walk through the forest discussing the possibility of starting an internet start-up business and Hawk begins to cry. The forest is dark and the path to campus is nearly invisible. James’s phone is still dead, so he can’t use it as a flashlight. James feels excited. Hawk and James arrive at the bus stop and see a bunch of people standings, shivering, and appearing generally confused about what city they are in. “What town is this,” a girl asks James. “I don’t know,” says James. In his periphery at around two-thirty, James sees three people, two guys and a girl, standing around each other, maybe waiting for the bus. The bus never comes. Patrick calls Hawk and asks how Yuri’s birthday party is. “We haven’t left yet,” Hawk says then makes an unsure facial expression.
“Are those things hipsters,” asks James, “or just weird, sad, confused humans?”
“They just look weird to me,” says Hawk.
“They look like drunk obese things with bad fashion sense,” says James. “Are they real?”
“I’m not even close to being as drunk as I want to be,” asks Hawk.
“Seems okay,” says James. James runs across the street to Anna’s apartment, opens the door and hears Lubin talking and uses an enormous and disturbingly ethnic voice to ask where Anna is. Lubin says she is in Florida. James curses a curse that resounds throughout the Knox Box residential community and the local tow truck drivers cringe at its brilliance. James walks back to Hawk. “Fuck this bus. Let’s walk down the street and get away from these Guidos,” he says.
James and Hawk walk down the street to the next bus stop and see Lonny on the way. They gesture and yell for him to come with them to the party. Lonny walks the other way. At the bus stop they press a little button that turns on a light showing how far away the next bus is. It registers at four minutes. Everybody is getting onto the Blue bus. The Orange and Purple buses come first. A man in an orange Polo shirt runs frantically to catch the Orange bus. James laughs hysterically and everyone looks at him judging his assessment of this image’s general funniness. “That was funny,” says James. “That was funny right?” Hawk shakes his head with a distant look for disappointment.
“The bus is here,” says Hawk.
James and Hawk get on the bus and walk straight to the back of it. There is a crying girl sitting near them.
“What’s the deal with ugly people,” says James, ignoring that a large percentage of ugly people are listening. “The world is fucking packed to the brim with ugly people.”
“Ugly people like sex,” says Hawk. “That’s why there’s so many of them. They procreate frequently.”
“What about ugly animals. Why do relatively ugly animals not repulse me as much as ugly people. The ugliest okapi in the world is probably cuter to me than Rodney Dangerfield. Why is that.”
“Animals don’t have faces. They have sort of faces. And they eat healthy instinctively. Rodney Dangerfield was a fat ass.”
The crying girl laughs. She’s been laughing for a while.
“I like your boots,” says James.
“Thanks,” says the crying girl. “They’re vintage.”
“Where’d you get them?”
“They were my mom’s in the seventies.”
“Rough night,” asks Hawk.
“It’s been a long fucking day,” the crying girl says. It seems like she wants empathy.
“This is our stop,” says James.
“No, it’s the next one,” says Hawk.
“Oh, damn,” says James. Everyone looks at each other in silent confusion while the bus makes a series of mechanical noises reminiscent of some sort of giant, rectangular horse with a flatulence problem and a bad cough.
Hawk and James disembark and smoke a marijuana cigarette while walking the bike path to Yuri’s. “That’s the police car I tried to demolish,” says James, pointing to a police cruiser. They arrive at the party and go immediately to the backyard, where a bunch of people are making s’mores. Everyone says James’s name loudly and insists on hugging him. He goes inside an takes a beer out of the fridge. He looks around and sees that everything is exactly how it should be. He walks back outside and realizes that there are a bunch of girls sitting in close proximity to Pat and Alex, who don’t typically seem to get laid. James feels proud. He immediately starts hitting on everyone indiscriminately, making everyone at the party either uncomfortable or relaxed to the point to sleeping. Yesenia tells James to eat some cake.
“I made it,” says Yesenia. “It’s fucking good.” James reluctantly puts a slice of cake in his bare hand and escorts it to his mouth, where a series of electrical and chemical reactions cause James to feel very euphoric and like he wants more cake. Rosh arrives with five hipsters, all yelling and mucking about. He yells happy birthday at Yuri, who lifts his cup about a foot vertically, while pursing his lips together. “Rosh,” he says. Pat, Alex, and their women leave. Then Yuri and Yesenia go inside. Everything seems substantially more bland. James and Hawk agree to blackout to combat feelings of inadequacy. James chugs two beers and decides he dislikes the music playing out of Zach’s bedroom window and attempts to change it. The iPod freezes. James feels good. He walks outside and introduces himself to the five, three male, two female, hipsters Rosh brought. They all seem nice but like they have dark secrets in their immediate future.
James talks extensively with the hipster Carrigan, who is from Scotland. He tries to hit on her but feels too drunk and like she might be “with” one of the hipster bros. He talks to her in a Scottish accent and she seems to like the attention. He gives her more of it. She seems pleased. Everyone walks around the house like true degenerates, drinking more and saying things loudly an into the night, that deep, unfathomable night. Lawrence brings drums outside. They make a drum circle and then immediately stop playing out of collective fear of a noise citation. Everyone apologizes profusely to each other, saying, “I’ll take a bullet for you bro,” and things like that. James tries to sit near Carrigan, but this somehow seems impossible. He continues to look her in the face and think very positive clauses, most of which Carrigan is the subject.
Ethan, Khan, Patrick, and Ryan arrive to an approximate sausagefest, if you round down, and seem very disappointed. James bros out. The five hipsters say that they are going to walk to their car, which is at Plato’s Diner, a restaurant James recently applied to work at, and has since heard no reply from. He decides to walk with them. Rosh too. Everyone else drinks more and goes to sleep on various surfaces including the kitchen counter, Jacob’s bed, and the wrap around couch, which is supposedly covered in twelve different flavors of cum. James sees a squirrel and a raccoon congregating in a field and decides to engage in conversation with them.
“We’re discussing Kant’s theories on utilitarianism,” says the squirrel.
“Oh,” says James. “Well then I’m not interested.”
“Fucking niggers,” says the raccoon.
James walks over to Rosh. “I take back what I said about Rodney Dangerfield earlier,” he says.
“What did you say about Rodney Dangerfield,” asks Rosh.
“Oh, damn, you weren’t there were you? Were you there? Never mind.”
They walk to Plato’s Diner with the five hipsters, yelling at various Ethiopians about faulty notions of Orthodoxy in their culture, and how it’s ruining the American dream, but no one listens. Plato’s Diner is three miles away. When they arrive, James cannot decide if he feels genuine success or failure regarding the repercussions of walking three miles will have on his legs. He decides he doesn’t care, and orders falafel with hummus, which Carrigan pays for. James thinks, if there weren’t four other people here, this would be a fucking date.
Owens sits a few tables down from them. James walks past him and winks as he enters the bathroom. He pisses for what seems like twenty minutes then looks at the tile on the floor and thinks, diners and checkers have a positive correlation in my mind, I think, then goes to talk to Owens. They say things about Black people and Black disenfranchisement and Black pussy and agree to disagree on all counts. Owens calls James “distinctly racist” and walks out of the diner without paying, but leaves a fifty-dollar tip on the table. James takes the tip since he plans to apply to work there again. James thinks about Rick Astley’s hair and screams “orange peals” and everybody laughs hysterically. James sits back down, remembering his falafel and hummus and devours all of it. Carrigan asks James a question. He tells her he is going deaf in his right ear and that she will have to come closer if she wants to relay her question to him properly. She comes close to James and begins to say something. James turns abruptly, trying to kiss her. Their foreheads collide, jolting them both back into their seats. They stop talking to each other for the rest of the night. James discusses the weather and various types of bread with Rosh.
Everyone walks out of the diner. Rosh and the five hipsters get into an SUV in the diner parking lot. James says he is walking to Hawk’s house and “goodbye” and begins to walk down Guilford Road. James arrives at Hawk’s house and no one is there. Everyone is still at Yuri’s party lying in alcohol, vomit, and cum. The door is locked. James goes to the backyard and finds some stairs to sit on. James falls asleep. James wakes up and the sun is out and he walks casually to the front yard. On the front porch is a take-out bowl of rice, a wallet, keys, and a pack of Marlboro Red cigarettes. The front window is shattered. James opens the door by reaching in through the window, takes all the items on the porch, and walks to the sunroom where he proceeds to chain smoke all of the cigarettes. He feels really shitty after and goes to sleep watching reruns of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Later in the morning, despite the cold, vast numbers of starlings, not yet ready for the flight south, make disturbing noises in the trees and on the leaf-covered forest floor. They flutter and chirp in an almost mechanical manner, and sporadically quickly flock about twenty feet, then land abruptly, pecking each other’s heads and ripping out feathers to remember their friends and lovers by. James feels incredibly shitty and hung-over all day, and can’t bring himself to say more than three words to any specific person. George comes home and James says, “can I see,” referring to his new glasses. George doesn’t understand and says, “what,” to which James puts a blanket over his head and groans for a minute straight. James doesn’t feel dramatic enough, like he doesn’t exhibit enough attention-getting qualities and curls up into a two-foot-by-two-foot ball for eighty-three hours, never really achieving sleep.
James feels shitty and unfulfilled. He gets a call on his cell phone from his dad’s friend Randall. “What’s up man,” says Randall. “Let’s get brunch. Where are you?” Randall is a police officer and ex-marine. Things seem bleak. Bleak things are happening when an ex-marine solicits you for brunch, thinks James. James smokes half a pack of Parliament Ultra Lights and feels nothing. He begins to pace. Hawk and Andrea come downstairs. James walks past them, avoiding eye-contact.
“What’s up bros,” says James. He walks into the kitchen.
“Nothing much,” says Andrea.
“What are y’all doing today.”
“Class,” says Hawk. “Then paying bills, returning a video to the library, more class, homework. It’s all the fucking same.”
“Damn,” says James. He takes a shot of whiskey, then another one. “Pretty bleak.”
“Yes,” exclaims Andrea. “Bleak! It’s all fucking bleak.”
They walk through the forest and up a hill. Hawk rides away on his bike. Andrea offers to walk with James. They walk to Anna’s apartment. Anna’s car isn’t there. “Fuck,” says James.
“Do you want coffee,” asks Andrea. “I have coffee at my apartment.”
“Okay,” says James. They walk to Andrea’s apartment. James feels nervous. What is this, he thinks. He can’t stop fidgeting. Friends’ girlfriends are off-limits, he thinks repeatedly. “It’s really nice out today,” he says.
“Yeah, this is how fall should be. Warm but not too warm, and cool enough to just wear a sweater.”
“And feel the cotton against your skin,” says James.
“Yeah,” says Andrea.
“Fucking Julie. What the fuck.”
“My roommate left coffee out. It’s all cold in the mug. What a silly thing to do.”
“That’s silly. I’ll drink it.”
“No, it’s okay, I’m going to make more coffee. There will be a hot pot.”
“Hotty potty,” says James. He takes a sip of the cold coffee. “It tastes fine. Just cold. Actually it’s pretty good.”
“I’ll drink it,” says Andrea.
“No, you have hot coffee. Hot coffee for the hostess.”
“I’m a bad hostess if I let you drink the cold coffee.”
“It is my preference.”
Randall calls James’s cell phone, saying he got really confused but is at Applebee’s in the parking lot.
“Okay, I’ll be there in two minutes,” says James. “Have you ever seen ‘Little Nemo,’” he asks Andrea.
“No. What is that?”
“A movie. It’s animated. I’ll show you the trailer.” James takes out his laptop and finds the trailer for “Little Nemo,” which is preceded by an advertisement. “Fuck ads,” he says. They watch the trailer, which is silly and almost four minutes long. James stops it in the middle and says he has to go. He leaves.
James walks down the block to the Applebee’s parking lot. He expects a police cruiser, but sees no police cruisers. He calls Randall. Randall says he sees James. James sees a Nissan Murano approaching him. He hangs up his cell phone. The car stops and James gets in. They drive down Route 1 and get onto I-495 toward Rockville and discuss fucked up topics of happiness and vague euphemisms describing degenerate behavior in a way that allows for a sense of normalcy and neutrality. James tells Randall that he is never going back to school and that college is fucked and that education can suck his cock. Randall accepts this outburst and says when he was James’s age, then remembers that he is more than twice James’s age and goes on a tangent about being old and forgetting things and needing to take naps frequently, then forgets what he was going to say initially. James says “college,” to which Randall replies, “when I was your age, I wanted to go to college, but couldn’t afford it. I worked until two in the morning, didn’t have a ride, so I caught the train and bus and a taxi home, got there around three, slept for maybe four hours, then had a chemistry class at eight.”
“That seems very taxing on your brain,” says James.
“It was impossible,” says Randall.
They drive to Rockville Pike, then away from Rockville to Chevy Chase. Randall pulls the car up to a Nissan dealership and they get out. They walk into the Nissan dealership and Randall immediately starts harassing the employees, making demands and acting extraordinarily demeaning to the women. The representative who helps him is a broad with the name Ashly, like it’s an adverb or something. She seems impervious to bullshit. She services him promptly and then Randall, seeming a little defeated, leads James on a jaywalking excursion across Rockville Pike.
James and Randall walk into The Pancake House and a thin Ethiopian woman looks sensually at James, composes herself and offers them both seats. “Two,” she asks, then leads them to the back of the restaurant. James and Randall sit and look around warily. There are different people packed into different corners of the restaurant: a family, a couple, some old guys arguing, waitresses on break, and some businesswomen types. James and Randall start talking about the success of James’s nosedive into homelessness and celibacy. James says things like, “I would like a spinach omelet, no wait, yes, just give me milk, for now,” while Randall says things like, “do you have any tea? What kinds? Name them. Keep going, keep going, keep going. I’ll have that with oranges instead of lemons. You don’t have oranges? Don’t lie to me. What’s your name? Vanessa, don’t lie to me, Vanessa. Do you see me raising my eyebrows at you? This means something Vanessa. Come here. Come closer. I would like oranges instead of lemons with my tea,” while also looking distinctly like an asshole. I wonder if being a police officer or being a marine is what does this to a person, James thinks. Or maybe just being an asshole.
As James and Randall wait for their food, James addresses the topic of stupid adults and their out-dated expectations. Randall seems receptive to this idea, but defends his position as a stupid adult pretty avidly, on principle or something. James argues back, loudly, and to the point where most of the clientele seem uncomfortable and prepared to leave. James’s voice gets so loud at one point, the cheese in the omelet two tables over melted, burning the tongue of the patron who ordered it. James apologizes and his volume descends slowly until it becomes acceptably audible, then he levels off and starts to discuss the state of The Union and the lives of those noble men and women in the United States Marine Corps. James’s omelet arrives. James eats half of it and feels morbidly obese. James and Randall leave and go to Enterprise Rent A Car, rent a 2009 Nissan Sentra and drive off into the sunset.
James is alone in Hawk, George, Patrick, Ethan and Ryan’s house. They are at class. He steals some of Patrick’s bread and jelly and peanut butter out of the cupboard and makes a sandwich. James feels anorexic and flat. He hears his house call him. “James,” she says, in Maya’s voice. “Hatcha.” James’s soul breaks. He debates giving up cigarettes, only asking for one more from his part-time housemates. Ethan hands him a Maverick cigarette. It’s painful to smoke and causes a general lull in his nerves. They start to jitter and ask insincere questions. Is this homesickness, James thinks. Is this what it’s like to miss California? To miss my mother’s home? Here, in Maryland? Should I go there or wander and look for something. Hawk and George come home briefly, then leave again for more classes. James says he is walking with them. Walking home, together and alone.
They walk the forest and through the back parking lot of the University Catholic Center. James searches for things. Hawk and George want to walk around the front of the building and see the progress of the bridge building. There are Hispanics debating and shoveling things.
“What happened to the bridge,” asks James. “I feel bad for the people standing on it when it fell.”
“Some wild fit of rain came down with wind and malevolent cruxes and cursed the thing and it washed downstream,” says Hawk. “No one was hurt but the bridge.”
“No one was hurt but our legs,” says George. “So much more walking,” he says.
They cross the street and enter campus. Hawk sees Lindsay and yells hi. She says hi back, but with fear or something. She seems really scared.
“Last time I talked to her,” says Hawk. “She asked me how Andrea and I were doing, and I told her that I hadn’t seen Andrea for four months and was wandering everywhere, fucking things wildly and completely losing myself in that. ‘I’ve gotten into the habit of destroying vaginas,’ I told her. ‘In bed, I get stricken with bizarre fits of energy and ram my cock into things most women don’t know vaginas house, and they cum seizing and begging loudly for sleep.’
“I just lose myself,” says George, mockingly. “I’ve lost myself in fuck.”
A girl, dressed remarkably similar to how the tall girl dressed when James didn’t recognize her on the first day they were lovers, walks by. James, Hawk, and George are silent and in awe. She crosses their path and immediately embraces an equally beautiful girl.
“It’s like,” James says.
“A goddamn dream,” says Hawk. But Hawk doesn’t say goddamn. He’s protestant.
They walk up the hill, past the radio station, around a bend, and there is a tall, studious-looking building.
“How do I get to the bus depot from here,” asks James.
“Walk down those stairs,” says Hawk. “Make a left and cross the mall.”
“Oh. The mall’s right there,” asks James.
“Yeah,” says George.
“Okay, then I know where I’m going,” says James.
“Then you’re going to want to keep walking a little,” says Hawk.
“I know where I’m going,” says James and laughs.
“It will be just past the building parallel to this one, on the other side,” says Hawk.
“I know. I know where it is,” says James
He walks across the mall and sees a man with a red hoodie and some sort of instruments on his person. James assumes he is a construction worker and continues towards the bus depot, spotting redheads and late students running and ghetto sneaker freaks all over the place. The construction worker runs past James and pulls a Nerf gun from his tool belt. A bunch of kids in white bandanas run after him. He turns and shoots at them, but misses. “What the fuck are you guys doing,” James asks the bandana’d people.
“Oh, okay. Seems really lame,” says James and arrives at the bus depot. I’m going to ask the first cute girl I see which bus I should take, thinks James. I wish I knew which bus to take and wasn’t confused, he thinks. A bus driven by a cute girl stops in front of James. He walks towards it, then away from it, and tries to smile at the driver, then looks away before she responds, and moves forward a little. The bus driver goes around James and parks in the depot. Fuck, thinks James. I would rather be walking home not confused than riding a bus confused as shit. He walks across campus to Route 1, panicking that he might see the tall girl and immediately assumes every blonde in sight is probably her, and maybe some of the brunettes, and the redheads. She had ginger hair once, James thinks. James reaches an intersection and immediately crosses the road, ignoring the on-coming traffic and screams coming from concerned on-lookers. He smiles an insane smile while running down the street. He puts on his headphones and plays The Dodos’ album Visiter, while now walking cautiously. He makes a right and sees a police car making a left down the same street. He acts casual. He thinks, there are no illegal substances on me. Even if I get pulled over, there is nothing I have done or could even get remotely into trouble over. The police car comes to an abrupt stop across the street from James. James adjusts his headphones and puts on sunglasses because the sun is shining in his eyes.
James is at the College Park Metro Station. He has to piss badly. He walks to the bus stop. There is a thin Asian lady grinning at him and working on a Sudoku problem on a newspaper. She nods to James. He nods back. Crazy A-Z-N, thinks James. He looks at the bus schedule next to the enclosed stop. The bus won’t come for forty minutes at least. James has to piss badly. He walks around thinking, I’m going to quit smoking, I’m going to quit smoking, I’m going to quit smoking, then sees a whole Salem cigarette on the ground, completely unsmushed and set between a crevasse in the concrete. Damn, James thinks, and picks it up. I’ll smoke it later. James calls his dad’s cell phone. It goes to voicemail. James tries again. His dad picks up and there are insane noises and whooshing sounds and his dad yells “what?”
“Hey,” says James. “Can you pick me up from the Metro Station? I have to use the bathroom, bro.”
“I can’t hear you,” says James’s dad.
“Can you pick me up,” yells James.
“I’m on my motorcycle,” says James’s dad.
“Oh,” says James. “Not an emergency. Sorry,” and hangs up. The bus still will not come for at least thirty-five minutes. James starts walking home. He plays a poetry collection by Jack Kerouac on his iPod and looks at the sky. It’s late autumn. The trees are dotted with crisp fire, begging to be seen. Each step is a relative millennium. Imagine the life of a protozoa. The sky goes on for ages and even though he can’t see it, there are meteors crashing and smashing into the atmosphere and into each other, burning brilliantly where no one can see them, like everything in space at the peak of noon. Only the sun is seen, screaming for attention, but so loudly maybe that no one answers. It’s a too-loud bomb of self-awareness and attention deficient light. James sees two negro adolescence walking toward him. He is wearing sunglasses and decides to make covert eye-contact. The first seems hoodlumish and brash, but with fear at his core. His hair is braided in corn-rows, an older style, down his back, and he wears a cap over his bushy eyebrows. He struts like he has something to prove, to James, specifically. James stares with a neutral facial expression. The second negro seems to inject rather than project. He seems within himself, walking in a manner that conveys disinterest with everything other than his own thoughts. So much so that James does not take note of his outward appearance, only the look in his eyes: confusion, beauty, and sadness. James looks at the clouds and lights his last cigarette.
James reaches the next bus stop and sees that he now has thirty minutes until the bus arrives. He contemplates walking behind the American Physics Institute building to take a piss, and begins waddling casually and inconspicuously onto the premises. He walks near the dumpsters on the southern side of the main building and hears birds chirping. He walks into the forest on his right and into a clearing and a disjointed flock of catbirds flutter around the ground and low maple branches and twitter, softly at first, then wildly in defense of James’s approach. It’s winter, thinks James. Fucking winter already.
James walks back toward the dumpsters and sees a gold Mercedes driving up in the parking lot. James waits for it to park. It doesn’t park. It sits. James looks at it and thinks, maybe it’s parked there. That could be a parking spot. James walks behind a dumpster and undoes his belt. James stops. He looks up and doesn’t see any security cameras anywhere. He looks at the gold Mercedes. It’s moved. It’s coming toward him. He redoes his belt. He walks toward the forest and then toward the parking lot and looks at the gold Mercedes. It is slowly approaching. James walks up to it. There is an old Black man in the driver’s seat, wearing sunglasses. There is a police officer’s uniform on a coat hanger in the back window. The old Black man rolls down the passenger-side window.
“You waiting for someone,” he asks James.
“Yes,” says James. “No. The bus.”
“What,” says the old Black man.
“I’m waiting for the goddamned bus,” says James. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, the bus,” says the old Black man.
James walks away without looking back. He gets to the bus stop and sits next to an African woman. James takes out his laptop and types, “I can’t read the faces of Africans. All of their faces seem to anticipate, with dread, some impending doom. I am sure they have a complex range of emotions, and that their bodies perform actions and the same intricate functions as us all, but their faces convey ‘doom is on it’s way, and I am angry as fuck about that,’ nearly perpetually. My aunt married into a West African culture, and though I perhaps resent her for the action itself, I resent her all the more for subjecting me to those faces. Those faces with eyes that open, wide and lazy, but nonetheless fierce, with large mouths surrounded by equally large lips that scream phrases and probably obscenities in a language so ancient and foreign that gesticulation and expression convey the opposite of their American, East Asian and Indian equivalents. All they say, even in laughter, is ‘doom, destruction, humanity is simple and humanity is fucked’. What do Africans think?” The African woman gets on the F6 bus.
The R12 bus comes shortly after, and the insane Asian woman is on it. She grins and waves at James despite the overall depressing demeanor of all the other riders. She says hi, how are you, loudly as he boards and he says fine and thanks for asking, then walks to the middle of the bus and sits. He looks around at the people on the bus and besides the insane Asian everyone looks severely depressed and otherwise non-descript. James feels okay that his new friend, the Asian woman, is insane. Better inward insanity an outward joviality than inward insanity and outward depression, he thinks, and watches the Anacostia River do things he’s never seen a river do before.
James is the first person off of the bus, followed by a Hispanic couple, carrying a baby, and a Black girl. They look across the street and cars are coming rapidly, not stopping. There is no stopping these big metal things flying on rubber and air and James feels afraid for the girls and baby. Why do we not walk to a crosswalk, he thinks, then dashes across the street. They all dash with him. They reach the median. More cars are coming the other way, even faster; there is a longer distance from the nearest light on this side, and there are cars turning right and making U-turns and moving three-times the speed limit and James watches, carefully, seeing a five second gap between cars, looks back at the family and girl and sees they anticipate to follow him. He dashes. The oncoming mass does not slow down. James steps on the curb, then the girl, then the man, who looks back at his wife with his child. He grabs her hand and pulls her onto the sidewalk swiftly and with milliseconds to spare. They all adopt neutral facial expressions, avoid eye contact and move at a moderate pace in the varied directions of their respective homes, in absolute silence. The husband and wife do not live together.
James remembers getting pulled over by the police about two months ago for walking through the path behind the apartments on Hamilton Street as opposed to walking up the Edmonston Road, where cars drive forty miles-per-hour, and there are no sidewalks, just a thin shoulder, packed with pick-up trucks and vans, leaving maybe two feet of walking space between James and the car. James decides to avoid the police and flirt with death. He walks up Edmonston Street to Farragut, barely dodging any of the oncoming traffic. James makes a left at the house on the corner where the half-dachshund, half-pit-bull dogs live, expecting to be assaulted at any moment. James feels surprised when a pit-bull puppy, not a cross-breed, runs up and barks at him as he walks along side of the fence. He maintains eye-contact with the dog while keeping his facial expression neutral. He passes the perimeter of the house and the dog stops barking immediately. He walks two more blocks to the house that has equally annoying, but slightly less aggressive dogs. James assumes they are inside and walks past the house. James is surprised and jumps when he sees one of the dogs, outside, at the corner of the fence. It doesn’t bark, but makes eye-contact with James, then goes to sleep.
James goes inside his house. The alarm is one. He enters a code and a woman’s voice that sounds either British or like she has a speech impediment says “disarmed” and the alarm beeps once. James gets a call on his cell phone from his mom. He picks up and immediately says “why yes, I would like pizza for dinner. I believe you read my mind.”
“There is pizza in the fridge,” says James’s mom. “Is your sister home?”
“No,” says James. “Her car isn’t here and her bedroom is closed.”
“Has your aunt come by with food,” asks James’s mom. “She is supposed to come by and bring food.”
“I just got here,” says James. “I don’t know.”
“I think your father is organizing with your aunt,” says James’s mom. “Your aunt, my sister, Cara,” she says.
“Okay,” says James. “Are you coming home soon?”
“I am very far from home,” says James’s mom. “I probably won’t be there until it’s really dark. Goodbye.”
“Later, bro,” says James.
James takes a comforter from out of the closet, wraps himself in it, and lies down on the living room couch for fifty minutes, then gets up, puts pizza in the microwave and waits two minutes for it to cook, then fifteen minutes for it to cool off, then eats it rapidly, then cooks another slice, then lies back down and goes to sleep. James’s dad walks up to James while he’s sleeping and kisses his forehead. James feels this happen and wakes up, but does not stir at all. James has a dream where he works in storage at a warehouse, and is promoted up to middle management, then suddenly, by some, clearly, unfair means, probably blackmail or unwanted pregnancy, becomes the vice-president of the company, then wakes up.
It’s dark outside. James updates his version of iTunes on his MacBook, plugs his cell phone charger into the wall, and makes four shots of espresso using the last of his dad’s expensive Starbucks brand beans, then goes downstairs to murder the antelope, only using a dull butter knife. The antelope is depressed and doesn’t fight back much. James cleans up the blood in the spare room, gets out his father’s hunting knife set, skins the antelope, cures the edible meat on the bed it used to sleep on with sea salt, and looks up the nearest taxidermist on Google. The taxidermists’ names are Fredrick and Donald Barthelme and are lovers who work, illegally, out of Rockville. James throws the organs in a trash bag and puts the bag in the dumpster out back. James feels absolutely disgusted with himself and swears off meat. Just kidding. Maybe. Probably not. James heats up another slice of pizza with pepperonis on it and cries quietly while eating it. The cheese burns his mouth.
Later, James is at Anna’s. Hippopotamus, Anna, and James sit on a couch. Guy, in a chair near the TV on his MacBook Pro. Anna, the most distant from Guy, is also on her MacBook Pro. Guy’s is slightly smaller. Hippopotamus looks at a screen on the floor. He is playing Final Fantasy XII. He hasn’t played in a while and just remembered that FFXII was yet undefeated. He is leisurely playing through the entire game while “Ghostbusters” is showing via AMC on the television. Craig comes in to grab his wallet which he is pissed he left because he wanted a hamburger from Five Guys. He finds it, leaves, and comes back just as the climax of the movie occurs. There is a fucking commercial break. Craig is clean. Guy is distributing a grab bag of California headies for personal bowls and everyone but Craig is stoned. James needs to leave. James leaves.
He walks up Rossburg, the street Randall missed, on and off the frat property, and suddenly felt like he looked like a ninja assassin. He felt good about looking like a ninja assassin, but felt concerned about the opinions of the surrounding students. I’m hunting foreigners, you’re safe, go home, James thinks. He goes the wrong way behind the station and gets really confused about the way to the front of the station, since he is coming around from back. James goes right. James realizes he wanted to go left. There is a large male behind James. James will feel embarrassed if he switches now. “Dedication,” James says to himself. He ascends the concrete stairs.
James enters the radio station. The kid from the last show is there with a confused expression on his face. James says, “I’m here, go home. No wait, take your time.” The kid is playing some of his own shit, recorded in his friend’s basement. James lets it play and tells him it’s good. Going to play some of my own shit then, thinks James. The kid leaves. James puts on a song he mixed earlier that day. It sounds like fucking space music. Music aliens would enjoy. James feels like an alien. When the song ends, he plays The Dodos’ “Fable” and it seems chiller. James likes The Dodos. Eventually Yuri, George, Andrea and Hawk come. They wander in and start making demands about what genre of music should be playing. Then they immediately get on their own laptops and ignore each other for the next hour and a half. Yuri looks at the radio show’s website and sees that they have five listeners online. “We have five online listeners,” says Yuri.
They decide to let an album play for the last hour and leave the station to hear Ian MacKaye speak at a lecture room in the business school building. Hawk and Andrea stay behind, then go home. Yesenia walks into the studio as James, George, and Yuri are leaving. She’s flabbergasted. She yells, “I just got here and you’re all leaving?” They walk downstairs and outside and James sees Vance walking parallel to them and yells his name. Vance turns and approaches them, almost warily, and they walk down and down and down until they’ve crossed a parking lot and there it is.
James walks into the lecture hall with everyone and almost one hundred people are in the room. So many faces, think James’s eyes. His brain thinks almost nothing. It is overloaded. Find seat, thinks James. He follows Yuri and Yesenia, who sit by Vance, but leave no room, so George and James sit a row above them. James sees Nancy for maybe the first time in real life and feels very attracted to her, like he wants to run to the front of the auditorium and take her hands in his hands and raise them to her cheeks, pressing the backs of his hands to her face while she closes her eyes and he kisses her lips, but James feels way too high for that kind of behavior. Ian MacKaye gets up to talk, and talks about his life and punk rock music and things like that. He turns the lecture into an open forum and someone asks where he got the idea for the song “Straight Edge,” his take on the cultural implications of the idea that developed from it, and what Straight Edge person or group of people make him feel most ashamed. “I don’t feel ashamed,” says Ian MacKaye.
Then a herd of elephants peruse the local shopping mall, looking for high-top dance boots to wear at the party Babar, the King of the Elephants is throwing that night. No one knows what store to go to or what their individual price ranges are, so there is an air of disconcertion amidst the herd. One of them, a female Indian with a scar on the arch of her back, thinks what am I doing in this novel? Is there a sandwich shop in the food court? I don’t want cheese. I’m lactose-intolerant. There is a bright neon sign over the adult video outlet, that’s blinking rhythmically. She looks at it and succumbs to seizure. The rest of the herd go through the normal processes associated with attending to an epileptic, involving a spoon on the tongue, licking her fingers, and calling 9-1-1. After eight minutes an ambulance arrives, but the medical staff at the mall have already properly treated the elephant’s symptoms and have her resting in a back room. The EMTs kick each other and blame the traffic for their uselessness and eventually all go out for cinnamon buns and ice cream (not at the same time) then have an orgy in the back of the ambulance.
Ian MacKaye talks for a long time about understanding that the internet and file-sharing and Google exist, but that he is an antiestablishment punk. He hates things. He calls iPods “PLDs,” via “Personal Listening Devices,” which is retarded, thinks James. This guy watches too much TV, James thinks. I doubt his music is any good. What is punk rock. I don’t understand. Ian MacKaye keeps talking like he is a person stuck, and happy to be stuck, in a world where humans are not cyborgs, but strange animals that are existentially aware and do not need drugs for transcendence and cannot reach transcendence but need things to gather around, like music, and that some things are positive and other things are fucked, like McDonalds. “Don’t commune around commercial food establishments,” says Ian MacKaye. He tells weird stories about being a celebrity, like how his proctologist admitted to being a fan after having already put his finger up Ian MacKaye’s ass. After someone asks what Ian MacKaye thinks about the advent of in-house recording and digital means of distribution, James and George decide to leave.
They walk to George’s car as George tells James he thinks Ian MacKaye is awesome and a respectable man. James thinks about George’s character in his novel and how he should embellish him more, but that it’s moments like this that that seems nearly impossible, since he can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic anymore. They get in the car and drive to George’s house. Hawk and Andrea sit on the couch doing homework and drinking beers. James feels really tired and walks to another couch and puts his head on a cushion while conversing with George, Hawk, and Andrea. James stops using phrases that make sense, and soon, is asleep. Lawrence wakes James up. James jumps up and starts talking coherently immediately and without being prompted. He suggests that he and Lawrence go outside and discuss some business proposal they made three weeks prior. Lawrence brought James a cinnamon roll from McDonalds. James devours it as he tells Lawrence that he is Lawrence’s friend, but a lousy employee, and that he will work on the project, but will probably give up before the week is out. “Just warning you,” says James with cinnamon bun in every corner of his mouth.
They make an agreement, go to shake hands, but then change their minds. Lawrence drives home and James goes to sleep. James wakes up before the sunrise and looks for cigarettes. There are none. James thinks, I’ll have one eventually or something. He goes online and looks at blogs and sees that a person he met on the internet posted some pretty good poems and solicited James to comment on them. James leaves comments like “favorite post so far(?)” and “sweet poem, bro,” then starts talking to Bebe on Gmail Chat.
“Bebe, why do you stay up so late,” asks James. “Are you on Neopets?”
Bebe laughs and takes a screenshot of this and posts James’s question on her Tumblr.
“I’m listening to ‘Lust for Life’ on repeat,” says James. “I love this song.”
“I’m listening to it on repeat too,” exclaims Bebe.
“The lyrics define me so well, it’s mind blowing.”
“I am writing a novel. It’s really hard. I’ve gotten to the point where I just fill quotas and say ‘I have to write a thousand-million-hundred words, then I’ll be done’ to myself and cry a lot.”
Bebe doesn’t answer for a while.
“Sun tan, pizza, a bottle of wine,” says James. “I wish I had a beach house.”
“That’s kind of how I play Neopets,” says Bebe. “I have to make ‘fill in the blank’ points before I can stop playing this game,” she says. “Yup, father, loving man, I’m effed in the head. I want pizza.”
“I understand,” says James. “I don’t know if I have ever met a woman who loved me. That seems like a mean thing to say in the context of me knowing my mother, but I guess I ‘don’t feel loved,’ via female affection or attention or something,” he says. “Unsure.”
“I’m totally with you,” says Bebe. “Male validation defines every course of action for me. ‘I want him to want me.’”
They talk a while about “mommy and daddy issues,” then Bebe goes offline.
“Do you not say ‘goodnight’ or other formal things like that,” James asks Bebe in an email. “Seems good.”
“I like to keep people hanging,” replies Bebe.
James turns off iTunes on his laptop and checks to see if all the beers have been drunk. He finds a half-full one on a table and sips it. James hears creaking. Footsteps. Something moving. He wanders the house looking for the source of the sounds. The walls. James thinks “paranormal activity” sarcastically, then stares at the parts of the wall that creak. Why do old houses do this, he thinks. Why are they haunted by, like, unfunny things. Most things are funny in life, why would unfunny things want to stay around. A ghost appears in front of James and scares him. Gonna call Ghostbusters, thinks James, then recalls the concept of fiction and decides the ghost is fictional and doesn’t want to look at it anymore. He sits back down at his computer and mopes for the first time in his life. I’ve never ever moped before, thinks James.
James scratches his crotch, then becomes increasingly aware of the stench of his shoes. He rubs his crotch a little. The ghost keeps spooking around for no reason. James thinks he hears someone at the top of the stairs. No one is there. Fucking poltergeists, he thinks, then debates brushing his teeth. The sun comes up, but it’s overcast. The sky is a murky violet. James rubs his crotch again. What is this, he asks himself. Oh yeah, he thinks, I want to put my penis in something. Seems bad, given the circumstances.
“Is the boss going to fire me,” asks James.
Larry walks up to the boss, saying “let’s see. Hi Carl, I hate it here, and so does my friend James. In fact, he’s been unemployed forever. He needs help. Medical attention. He has a concussion. Larry acts like a total queen and runs around crying, begging people to help James. James imagines having sex in missionary position, with a girl that has small outer lips and big, swollen inner lips on her vagina. He feels really good thinking this, then feels really tired and like a lot of things were there.
“I was a member of the Ecuadorian tradition of wandering mothers,” says Yuri.
“How did you gain membership,” asks James.
“It was pretty easy. I mean, it took me a while, but happened really quickly once I got hooked up. I pulled some strings. Have you ever had sex with an Asian?”
“Damn. No,” says James. “I want to really badly now.”
“It’s crazy. Amazing pussy construction. Their pussies are all amazing”
“Do they have little outer lips and big inner lips?”
“What? I don’t know. Seems weird. I meant in application, not visually.”
“Oh, damn. Asian broads. Jesus. I’m suddenly insanely jealous of you.”
“It’s your birthday and you’re going to Thailand. I’m jealous. I don’t know.”
“Will you be at Thanksgiving dinner at Hawk’s?”
“If I can get food or don’t feel too embarrassed eating everyone else’s.” James thinks “else” a few times, then says goodbye to Yuri and signs off, out of the dream.
“Oh, that wasn’t real,” says James out loud. The birds start chirping.
James takes a shot of whiskey and plays “Super Smash Brothers” on Nintendo 64, controlling Pikachu in single player mode on “very hard” and doesn’t get “Game Over” until the second to last level, where there are thirty characters on a small, generic platform pitted against the one character first player controls. James feels defeated, completely. He rubs his face uncontrollably and makes angry facial contortions and wonders what his ex-girlfriend is doing. Sleeping, probably, thinks James. James is hungry. James doesn’t eat for four hours. He refreshes Gmail repeatedly over the course of this time, then succumbs to the shakes due to having not smoked a cigarette in almost twenty hours. He gives up and begs George for a cigarette. James feels emasculated by boredom. I’m going to make an effort to not be bored in the future, he thinks.
James, Hawk and Zach sit day-drinking at Hawk’s house. Knocking sounds come from the door. James answers it. An old obese woman in a pink sweater stands outside.
“Hello,” says James.
“Hi,” says the woman. “Are you aware that there is a God and that he inspired forty-eight people to write a huge book about how people should live and things like that? It’s a good read.”
“Damn. No. I didn’t know that.”
“Well allow me to tell you about that.”
“What’s up,” says Hawk. Zach comes.
“This lady is going to tell us about God,” says James.
“Damn. Sweet. Sounds sweet,” says Hawk.
“I am Jehovah’s witness,” says the woman.
“Are you the only one,” asks James.
“No, there are many of us,” says the woman.
“Do you believe in Hell,” asks Zach.
“No. There is no Hell.”
“Wow,” they all say together.
“There is this book, see?” She shows them the book.
“What is this,” says James.
“The Bible. It’s important.”
“Wow,” says Hawk. “I don’t agree with your guys’s ideas of reality. I’m not convinced there is a God, and if there is, why would he favor one way of thinking over another. It seems ridiculous, and if not, still completely arbitrary. I don’t have any qualms with you, or religion in general, I just don’t see the need for it.”
“Yes, well, in the Bible,” says the woman. “There are things written, truths, about life and humanity among other things. Facts. Reality. Um. History.”
“Damn, history,” says James. He walks down the stairs past the woman to Olivia, the cat. “Olivia, my love,” he says and chases her around the yard.
“The end is coming, boys. The apocalypse is eminent. We should be prepared.”
“Fuck yeah preparation,” says Zach.
“I disagree with everything you’re saying,” says James. “Sounds distinctly like falseness. I like false things.”
“When is the apocalypse going to be here,” asks Hawk.
“We’ve been living in the last days since nineteen-fourteen. It’s coming really soon.”
“How do you feel about bestiality,” says James, fondling Olivia. “If I become Jehovah’s witness, can I fuck cats?”
“I don’t think so,” says Hawk.
“God mad humans in his image,” says the woman.
“So what’s he look like,” asks James, standing and approaching the woman rapidly. He takes a pamphlet out of her hand and points to it. “Is this him? Does he look like this guy? Is this God?”
“He is everything and everywhere. He is the embodiment of perfection.”
“Jesus,” says Zach, scowling. “That sounds awful.”
“Yes,” says the woman. “Jesus is his son.”
“Get the fuck out of here,” exclaims Zach, surprised. “That’s amazing.”
A few hours later there is a massive Thanksgiving feast at Hawk’s house. James says grace. “Dear Jesus, fuck everything,” he says. Everyone is there. Everyone that James likes and appreciates in College Park is there, except Jacob, for some reason. They make a huge turkey and buy a lot of alcohol and everyone eats and is drunk around a huge, composite dinner table. James feels really lonely. This maybe the loneliest I’ve ever felt, he thinks. He drinks quickly and more than anyone else and makes a plate of turkey, potatoes, lasagna and green beans. He devours all of it while talking loudly with his mouth open. It hurts to think. James thinks he is in excruciatingly painful well of loneliness. He is immobilized by it. He drinks more. The loneliness doesn’t go away. This isn’t working, he thinks. He wanders the house in search of truths. I’m thankful for this, he thinks, looking at various objects. This sofa makes me thankful, this person makes me thankful, this mantle ornament makes me thankful. I feel domestic and thankful. I am alone, and can’t stop being alone, he thinks. James drinks more and starts telling people they are awesome and that he loves them. He feels these things imperatively. If there were a physical manifestation of how I feel about everyone and everything it would be and enormous glucose molecule with enormous atoms and enormous subatomic particles, jittering and spinning wildly in a very controlled space. Fuck this, thinks James. This is annoying. No it isn’t. This is fun. “Seems fun,”’ he says to Alvin. “What,” says Alvin. “This is fun,” says James. “Yeah,” says Alvin sarcastically.
James walks to a corner and says a lot of confusing things to various imaginary people. James appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic or something. Music plays. After the food is all eaten, Ryan makes a soup with the leftover turkey. It takes all day to cook. Mercedes and Stacy come over and Mercedes seems really excited to see James. James is blackout drunk. He tries to say things coherently and be nice and maybe flirtatious or something, but isn’t. He is only depressed and angry because he doesn’t feel loved and can’t bring himself to love anyone wildly. He wakes up the next morning having forgotten everything and is covered in his own piss. I hate this, he thinks. This is awful. No. It’s okay. He feels terribly hung-over, like there is an enormous hole in his torso that just pushed all of his organs out of the way instead of annihilating them. James takes his clothes off and puts them into the washer machine. He takes an hour-long shower, mostly staring at the tiles on the wall and wondering where his childhood went. He remembers the last time he pissed himself. He was in sixth grade standing in line at school. He asked to go to the bathroom and the teacher kept saying “no” repeatedly and more loudly with each subsequent “no.” James pissed himself. He felt worse then. He feels pretty shitty now, but like physically shitty and not embarrassed beyond all shitty reason shitty. The water gets cold. James goes to the basement and sleeps naked on the couch.
James watches Jews say funny things on television and in real life. Woody Allen, Larry David, and Lawrence: all Jews; all hilarious. James feels sad and beautiful. I’m a giant monster that is related to everything. I’m from Earth and made of earth and won’t ever leave this place, I don’t think, he thinks. I want to go to Mars, but my heart couldn’t take the trip. This is a monologue in my brain, James thinks. James sits in a living room with various couples and writes a chapter in his new novel about angels who slowly transform into demons and become rash and say things bluntly and without offering apologies or exhibiting any other social niceties. His finger slips and he types “d” repeatedly in the middle of words where “d” doesn’t belong at all, like in “annihilation” and “flatulence.” He rubs his face frequently and to the point of bruising. He considers strangling tigers recreationally and maybe professionally. I could have saved Roy’s neck, he thinks.
James has a persistent twitch in his left eyelid. Sometimes the upper part of the arch of his nose also twitches. When he blinks the curve of his left nostril involuntarily jolts inward. His eyes are brown and have thick, black lashes. He has a single strong eyebrow that thins noticeably at the center. There are numerous zits that develop all over his face, just below the surface of the skin, on his cheeks and forehead and beneath his ears. James’s lips are soft and wide and his mouth turns up a little at the ends. Inside of his mouth are thirty-two teeth. They are naturally aligned. There is a slight gap between the front two on the top. His gums are all slightly rotted at the base of each tooth, especially the six on the bottom front. His wisdom teeth are crooked but set definitely in his mouth. There are cavities in nearly all his molars.
James’s facial hair grows in patches on both cheeks and vaguely along the base of his jaw. His moustache curves around his mouth on the right, but not the left, forming an uppercase “g” around his lips. He has sideburns that stop where his mandible begins. His eyes squint naturally, with the right eyelid drooping slightly lower than the left. His hair is matted and comes down in dark bangs over his eyes and down to the base of his neck on the sides, but only to the middle of his neck in the back. There are small, black hairs that grow abnormally on his nose, and each pore fills with small strings of puss, which he sometimes compulsively squeezes and then, embarrassed, wipes from his face. His right sinus is usually more swollen than the left. There is nothing very interesting to say about the shape or form of his nose. It is a generic nose.
James bites down hard periodically out of nervousness, wearing away his teeth. He rubs his left temple with his left hand sometimes. The lymph nodes in his face are constantly swollen. His tonsils are worn out and sporadically fill with puss that he self-consciously dabs at with his tongue, which is covered in a thin film and white spikes that rise up over his taste buds. There are arteries on his temples that he touches frequently to feel that his heart is still beating.
Hairs that grow wild and out of control dot James’s neck, but don’t cover it. His Adam’s apple protrudes slightly. Above the curve of his trachea are two small lymph nodes that can be seen when he arches his neck backward. His shoulders are somewhat broad and his right clavicle is larger and more prominent than the left, even at the shoulder. He has an amorphous birthmark on his right shoulder blade, and his entire back and chest are covered in acne scars. Fatty globules and lymph nodes make up his breasts and the prominence of the build up on the left breast is sometimes taught and a little painful. His right nipple is smaller and less sensitive than the left. His armpits hold copious amounts of hair that is unlike all other hair on his body. There is a clear mole between his chest and bellybutton.
James’s arms are thin, but defined, and his forearm extends five inches more than seems normal, bursting at the wrists into large, veiny hands. His fingers are long and each have a tuft of hair just after the knuckle. His arms are somewhat hairy, but not like Robin Williams. Each cuticle is healthy and curves parabolically into little pink cups at the end of each finger. The knuckles of the second bones on his fingers wrinkle like raisins. His stomach is flat but somehow flabby. His bellybutton is neither an inny nor an outie but a burrow housing an odd and very shy animal. The hair on his torso forms a strange pattern of thin hair, culminating in a cross-like shape. His pubic hair is thick and unmanageable. There is an island of hair just above the crack of his ass.
James’s ass is covered in hair, and shaped oddly. It isn’t very voluptuous and when tense, seems altogether unattractive. There are large pimples and scars from previous ones at the base of it. His asshole is slightly misshapen and forms a star with a far more prominent ray on the top right. The field of hair on his legs begins at the crotch and becomes more and more prominent as it approaches his ankles, then stops abruptly. His legs are long and muscular. His genitals are very dark and pronounced. When flaccid, his penis, which is circumcised, is curved and favors the right. When erect it extends horizontally and has two very prominent veins on the top and bottom that are parallel. The head is slightly larger than the shaft and forms an equilateral triangle covered in exposed nerves from the circumcision. His right testicle is larger and bean-shaped compared to his left, which is egg-shaped and smaller, but somehow more prominent. The state of his scrotum changes constantly.
James’s knees are weak and jostle around when he walks. His calves are thin and lead to very wide ankles. His feet are large and awkward, with defined arches and leathery skin on their soles. The entireties of both feet are covered in calluses from not wearing socks. The big toe on his left foot has nerve damage. There is a bruise beneath the nail. The small toe has a deformed, brittle nail due to a previous fungal infestation. The three toes in between are normal. The same can be said for the other foot entirely. There is a mole on the arch of the second toe on his right foot.
There is a tree located on Independence Avenue, overlooking the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. It is a thinking tree. It is capable of independent thought despite its lack of a central nervous system. The tree thinks, humanity is a pretty fucked thing. If humanity were any less fucked and disaffected it might have a chance, but it gets more of that way on a nanosecondary basis. Every nanosecond humanity gets more bored and blows other things up. How can people be so fucking bored. There is an infinite space to explore. It’s fucking infinite. If I could explore it, I would explore it. I’m stuck here though. Not humanity. Humanity is autonomous and mobile. They should walk around the world and say nice things to each other. Otherwise that movie “The Happening” will come to pass. Like an apocalypse. All the way to France, that’ll happen. Like Jumanji. Like at the end of that movie, not the book. Not the children’s book. Children’s books are fucked. Maurice Sendak frightens little children. Children are easily intimidated because of their size. Children are small. Children are still fucked. They lie and do little sexual things that people ignore. What is the matter with humanity? Why can’t humanity be like trees? Trees just sit. If humanity were inanimate and just sat, ruminating on itself, it would do much more good than what it is doing now. Wow, look at that other tree over there. Damn. Am I hermaphroditic? I feel attracted to that other tree. Does it see me? How long has it been there. Oh, wow, a long time I guess. Hey tree. Oh, I’m not talking. I can’t talk to the tree because I cannot talk. I am going to keep growing. There is no reason for me to stop growing prematurely. I will keep doing it, slowly, over the course of months and years. It’s been five decades. I’ve been here for five decades. My branches are out of control. They go everywhere. Stretching. I think I’m stretching. Once I’ve stretched a little I will grow cells to fill in the stretch marks and I will have grown. What is that music? Oh, it’s a jogger. A jogger is jogging past me, listening to music loudly. Her back is arched upright. She has good posture. It’s rare that you see a human with posture that good. She is wearing a blue, one-piece running suit and a fanny pack. I fucking love fanny packs. If there is one thing a tree can appreciate about a species of homicidal monkeys it’s that they invented the fanny pack, which is fucking brilliant. Sneakers. What a funny thing. Trainers. Sneakers, tennis shoes, loafers, flip-flops, socks. What funny things. I just have roots. Roots are sufficient. I will stay rooted to the ground and keep digging my roots down and diagonally until I hit fucking bedrock, man. That will take a long time though, because Washington DC is a swamp, and I’m on the fucking Tidal Basin. Bedrock isn’t for miles down. There isn’t bedrock anywhere near here. How are all of these buildings around here standing. Oh, damn, the Jefferson Memorial. Sup Jeff? Thomas Jefferson is dead, but he really existed. Maybe he really existed. American history could all be made up. That could easily be true. What if, before television, everything was just made up. Before photographs. Photographs can be changed. And William Adolphe Bouguereau painted photorealistic, larger than life pieces. He could easily have conspired to change everything and not told anybody. Only insane things question the validity of history. If you are constantly questioning history, then you’re fucked, because you can’t believe in your own existence. History up until now has made humanity look redundant. Humanity is old. Hey, Jeff! You’re dead Jeff! Hahaha. Oh! Fish. Fish in the Tidal Basin. I like fish. How am I related to fish on the food chain? Insects and birds. I house insects and birds and they are somehow related to fish. Yes. Fish eat insects and birds eat fish. Bald Eagles. Bald Eagles are iconographic and American. How can you say a species of animal is the mascot for a country? There are so many species in America. Why a bird? Why an eagle? I am uncomfortable with how arbitrary and non-poetic that reality seems. Eagle equals America. Abstraction. I am definitely a tree, but I don’t represent anything. I am just one tree that is similar to but definitely different from other trees. I am original. I am a thinking tree. I wonder how many other thinking trees there are. Maybe all trees are thinking trees and it’s just impossible to communicate with them. What about tree telepathy? I should invent that. Tree telepathy, damn. Based on my placement in a concrete reality on a plane that wraps around a planet, I am parallel to the White House in relation to the perpendicular lines formed by the mall, the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Jefferson Memorial. Displace me equidistantly north of the Washington Monument and I will be on the east side of the Ellipse, and I will be part of the scenery associated with the President of the United States of America. I don’t want to be here. I want to be somewhere else. I can’t move. I can’t move. I can’t move. Could a human please transpose me somewhere that doesn’t get cold in the winter? It’s winter. It’s cold. I don’t like the cold. It makes me go through strange cycles. I kind of die in the cold. It’s freezing. I feel my thoughts slowing down. This is fucked. I feel trapped in my slowing down state. When will this stop.
Why is it warm outside? Did a year go by? Has it been six months or whatever? I want to talk about politics. The government works like this: fucked with a capital ‘F.’
James wakes up after a two-hour nap. He feels good. I’ve been hung-over for two days, thinks James, the hangover of all hangovers. Finally vanquished. George, Hawk, Biff, Ryan, and James gather in the dining room to smoke a marijuana cigarette. It’s raining and everyone is drowsy in different respects. Biff was a member of Hawk, George, and Steve’s band, Pigeon, before he went away to school in Ithaca. Biff and Steve plan to see Steely Dan that evening. Steve is in the living room on George’s computer.
“Everything is everything,” says James. “So what’s good?”
“I heard the Springsteen show was pretty chill,” says Biff.
“The Bruce show is always good,” says Hawk. “It was a very American album,”
“Born in the U.S.A.” says George. “So good.”
“What’s Conan O’Brien like in real life,” says Biff.
“What’s Conan like in real life,” asks Hawk, mockingly.
“He’s boisterous and Irish,” says Biff.
“I think we’ve smoked forty joints this week,” says Ryan. “This is unprecedented.”
“I need a girlfriend,” says James
“I miss Mary,” says George.
“That kid is always blackout,” says Biff. “It’s an instant decline from sober to blackout.”
“That’s really dark,” says Steve. He walks in from the living room.
“She used to blackout in her car on the way to work,” says Biff.
“That’s really dark,” says James. “I’m going to go get a girlfriend.”
James calls Jera on her cell phone. Jera doesn’t pick up. She texts James.
“I’m in class. Do you have money to go see ‘New Moon’ with me today?”
“I want to go to the movies with you,” says James. “But I have neither money nor any resemblance of a desire to see ‘New Moon.’”
“Where are you,” asks Jera.
“Hawk's house,” says James.
“Hmm,” says Jera.
James and Steve go outside and split a cigarette.
“So you like women,” says Steve. “You do like women.”
“Yes,” says James. “Vagina is one of my favorite flavors of things ever. In the world. I like putting my penis in them.”
“Damn,” says Steve. “Yeah. Me too. I have a girlfriend.”
“I know,” says James. “Her name is Danielle. She is awesome.”
“I know,” says Steve. “She’s a bro.”
“Broooooo,” says James. “Can I get a drag?”
“Yes.” A car honks.
“Damn,” says James. “That’s Jera. That’s my ex-girlfriend. She’s fucking here already.”
James gets a text message from Jera. “The movie is at two o’clock. It’s one nineteen. Hurry.”
“Hurry what,” says James.
“Danielle and I saw ‘Pirate Radio,’” says Steve. “She said it meant a lot to her that I saw it with her.” Steve shakes his head and rolls his eyes and makes an ‘I don’t know’ with his shoulders.
“Hurry the fuck up,” says Jera.
“We are five minutes from the movie theater,” says James. “Calm down. Don’t tell me to hurry the fuck up.”
“I have to get my shit,” says James. “It’s all over the house.”
“Damn,” says Steve. “Want some of this whiskey? For the road?”
“Fuck yes,” says James. He drinks some. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
“Damn. Yes,” says Steve. “So, you aren’t gay?”
“No,” says James, in-between sips of whiskey. “Why do you ask?”
“Because you made out with Bobby,” says Steve. “And Bobby’s definitely gay. Why did you make out with him?”
“I don’t know,” says James. “For the mother-fucking hell of it.”
James goes around the house looking for his shit. It isn’t everywhere. He was mistaken. There is shit in the living room, but nowhere else. James picks up his book bag and puts his laptop and socks and iPod inside of it. Ryan cleans the cans up. He puts them in a bag labeled ‘Recycling’ with a triangle made of three arrows on it.
“Goodbye, Ryan,” says James. “I’m going home for Thanksgiving.”
“Bye,” says Ryan. “See you soon, I guess.”
“Tell everyone else I said goodbye,” says James.
“Can you hand me that can,” asks Ryan.
James looks around frantically making sure he didn’t leave anything. He sees the couch he pissed on last week and feels nostalgic and awkward, but mostly good. He leaves Hawk’s house and closes the door. Jera is parked on the opposite side of the street. James runs to her car and gets inside. He kisses her. “Hi Jera,” he says.
“Hi,” says Jera. “You smell like something. Like I don’t know what.”
“Like alcohol maybe,” says James. “Or men.”
“Ah yes,” says Jera. “Look, there’s our high school.”
“High school sucks ass,” says James. “Seems sad that it’s like, necessary for like, intelligence or something.”
“You’re making a bad argument,” says Jera.
This woman typos all of the time, thinks James. We would still be together if she didn’t typo all of the time. Typoed Facebook updates. Typoed text messages. Instant messenger conversations where every line is typoed. She doesn’t know arguments. This is an argument: “I love you,” says James. “Let’s make love.”
“What,” says Jera. A non-descript Lykke Li song plays on Jera’s iPod. James recognizes Lykke Li’s voice, but not the song. “No. Who are you dating? Or who are you not dating?”
“‘No one’ is the answer to your first question,” says James. “‘Everyone’ is the answer to your second question. There is a girl that I like, but she seems very young or something.”
“Damn,” says Jera. “Young girls are for making good impressions. You can make her love you by making a good impression. Is she a virgin?”
“I don’t know,” says James. “Who are you dating?”
“No one,” says Jera. “My vagina is becoming closed up. It needs to be stretched.”
“I’ll do that,” says James. “I’ll do that for free and with no negative repercussions.”
“I kind of want a baby too,” says Jera.
“One negative repercussion,” says James. They laugh. About babies.
Jera has trouble parking in the parking lot. “Am I too close to the line,” she asks. “How close to the line am I?”
“You’re on the line,” says James.
“It’s the person next to me’s fault,” says Jera. “He parked too close. Now everyone suffers.”
“I’m not suffering,” says James. “Except maybe from dry-cock syndrome.”
“I’m not going to fuck you,” says Jera. “By the way, what’s with everyone telling me that you said that I am your girlfriend and shit?”
“You are the closest thing to a girlfriend I have,” says James. “And I need labels to feel comfortable with things. Why? Do you not like being my girlfriend?”
“Clearly not,” says Jera. “I was the one who broke up with you.”
“Yeah,” says James. “But only because I was just about to break up with you, and you knew it, because I told you.”
“Two for ‘New Moon’ please,” says Jera.
“The two o’clock show or two fifteen show,” says the proprietor.
“Two o’clock,” says James.
“And validate my goddamn parking,” says Jera.
“You get a free popcorn with this purchase,” says the proprietor.
“Damn,” says Jera.
“Sweet,” says James.
“Thanks,” says Jera. James and Jera walk to the snack bar. “Gimme a popcorn,” says Jera.
“Can I,” asks the snack bar girl. “Oh, okay.”
“Can I get another one,” says Jera. “With a discount?”
“Do you want a large one,” says the snack bar girl.
“No,” says Jera. “I mean, never mind. Just the free one. Fuck.”
“What,” says James.
“I need to piss,” says Jera.
“Fuck your bladder,” says James. “I mean, your uterus. Uterus? Ew, gross.”
“Yeah, gross,” says Jera. “Don’t drop a single kernel of popcorn or I’ll kill you.”
“It was free,” says James.
“Irregardless,” says Jera. Jera runs into the bathroom. James stands, eating popcorn and staring at things without focussing. A trailer for Tron is playing on the ceiling. James looks at the popcorn. It’s yellow. He sees a little Black boy in winter clothes running toward him. He drops a kernel of popcorn. James looks down. There is a lot of popcorn on the floor. He picks up the kernel he dropped. James looks around. A toilet flushes. James throws the kernel away in a nearby trashcan and thinks “what?” Jera comes out of the bathroom. James is confused and maybe angry a little.
The ticket checker is a handicapped girl in an automated wheelchair. She takes the tickets, rips them, and says something that ends in “theater nine.”
“Thanks,” says James.
“What else is showing,” says Jera. She looks at all of the posters on the way to the auditorium, and then all the ones down the other hallways, and around the corner. James keeps walking to “theater nine” and looks back at Jera feeling a little agitated.
“What is ‘Planet Fifty-One,” asks James.
“That animated movie with the astronaut,” says Jera.
“Oh,” says James. “Hot damn.”
Inside the auditorium, there is one person seated.
Commercials are showing on the screen. “Where do you want to sit,” asks Jera.
Commercials are showing on the screen. “Where do you want to sit,” asks Jera.
“You choose,” says James.
“Last time we sat in the back because of Ruthie,” says Jera.
“This time we will sit up front. I want see all!”
“We can see better from the back,” says James.
“What,” says Jera.
“Never mind,” says James. The movie trailers play. “What movie trailers are there? Are there good ones,” James asks.
“They’re all romantic comedies,” says Jera. Jera laughs. “You have to watch all the romantic comedy trailers. You hate romantic comedies.”
“Damn,” says James.
“You hate them,” says Jera.
There is a trailer for a movie starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. “How do you feel about Alec Baldwin now,” asks James.
“I am still in love with that man,” says Jera. “He can still sire all of my offspring,” she says with a serious facial expression. “All of them.”
“Okay,” says James.
The movie starts. There is a scene that seems like a dream sequence. The main heroine is running through a crowd of people in red robes with a scared facial expression. There is a person with glimmering skin. The main heroine pushes through the crowd and is suddenly in a forest running. She still seems scared. She pushes herself through the trees into a clearing. The scene changes are very frantic and hard to keep up with. The main heroine sees a woman on the other side of a field with lilacs and daisies in it. The woman is old. She has white hair and a flowery button-down shirt on. She smiles. Her eyes are a different color from the main heroine’s. The person with glimmering skin walks into the clearing from the trees on the main heroine’s left. She seems surprised to see him. Her face stretches. He walks over to her and takes her hand. They walk together to the middle of the clearing. The old woman walks toward them. “Gram,” says the main heroine. “Gram, I’d like you to meet,” then she stops. She looks at the old woman and her mouth is moving similarly to hers. They make a gesture at the same time, then touch each other’s pointer fingers. The main heroine looks at the person with the glimmering skin. He smiles. She looks back and has become the old woman. She is old now. She thought it was her grandmother, but it is her, she is old, thinks James. The person with the glimmering skin takes the main heroine’s hand and says “Happy birthday, Bella,” and kisses her hand. The main heroine is in her bed and young again, waking up violently and is sweaty. What am I supposed to infer from this, thinks James. This is a movie.
Later, James tries to touch Jera a little. She doesn’t move. He keeps touching her, but mostly focusing on the movie. Jera pulls away from James. James fidgets, sexually, then puts his left fist on his chin and focuses hard on the movie. The person with glimmering skin breaks up with the main heroine and moves to Rio de Janeiro. The main heroine sits still for three months straight, and then her dad tells her to move to Florida. She says no, and that she will be normal, and that she is going shopping. Instead of going shopping she goes to see a zombie movie with her girlfriend, who is horny for sexy men. Her horny friend is disappointed by the lack of sexy men in the zombie movie and says this loudly. The main heroine sees some guys on motorcycles. The person with glimmering skin appears magically and says “turn around, Bella” and then disappears. She’s crazy, thinks James. She’s going insane in the movie. The main heroine walks towards the guys on motorcycles. The person with glimmering skin keeps appearing magically. The main heroine gets onto a motorcycle with a guy who looks like a creepy-looking version of Barry Baradat. He has an earring and has an eerily sexual face, thinks James. He drives the motorcycle fast and the main heroine sees the person with glimmering skin multiple times. She yells, “stop,” to the creepy-looking version of Barry Baradat. She walks back to her friend and says, “I just wanted to see something.” Later, there are Native Americans who turn into giant wolves, and Italian vampires, and Dakota Fanning, and a lot of scenes of people almost kissing but then not kissing. James feels like almost kissing but then not kissing Jera, but then keeps watching the movie. James goes leaves and goes to the bathroom. He looks at his penis and wonders what microscopic things are on it. Then he looks all over his skin and thinks, “damn.” James washes presses the knob on the sink that says “hot,” but it does nothing. He moves to anther faucet and presses the “hot” knob. It sprays water for two seconds, then stops. James holds down puts soap in his hands and holds down the knob while the water rinses the soap bubbles off his hand. Then he trades hands. He sees a blow dryer attached to the wall, and a canister with brown paper napkins right beside it. He uses the brown paper napkins to dry his hands. He comes back and nothing has happened in the plot. At the end the person with glimmering skin almost gets into a fight with a werewolf, but then the werewolf looks very emotional and runs away. The main heroine yells “Jake,” and reaches into the air. Then the person with glimmering skin asks the main heroine to marry him and the movie credits play.
“Dakota Fanning was in that,” says James.
“She was kind of a bad guy,” says Jera. Jera walks past James to the stairs. Two Black girls walk in between Jera and James. James doesn’t remember seeing the Black girls before. They have enormous asses. James tries to pass them then doesn’t try anymore. Jera waits for James. The Black girls pass Jera. James throws the popcorn bag into the trash. He puts his arm around Jera and they walk to the exit. “What did you think,” asks Jera.
“I have no opinion,” says James.
“How can you not have an opinion,” asks Jera. “You are the most opinionated person I have ever met.”
“I don’t have one,” says James. “I went into the auditorium deciding to be ‘decidedly objective’ and now that I am outside of the auditorium, I have no opinion.”
“What did you think of my favorite scene,” says Jera.
“Which scene was that,” asks James.
“The one with the redhead vampire,” says Jera. “And the heart attack, and the cliff-diving, where the werewolf rescues Bella.”
“I think that it’s good that you have a favorite scene,” says James. “Everyone should have a favorite scene if they like a movie.”
“See,” says Jera. “You even have an opinion about having a favorite scene. You must have an opinion about the movie overall.”
“My overall opinion is that it was,” says James. “Um. It was the biggest conglomeration of people selling out in history. It was a very expensive and lucrative collective selling-out.”
“Who sold out,” asks Jera.
“Everyone,” says James. “The writer, the actors, the musicians in the sound track, the effects people, the make-up people, you, me, everybody.”
“Jesus,” says Jera, but doesn’t actually. Jera is Catholic. James holds Jera and kisses her forehead. He does this twice. She lifts his shirt and touches his stomach. Her hands are cold. James does not flinch. Jera seems surprised. James writhes in pain suddenly. A minute later James says, “it still hurts. The cold lingers.” Jera drives James home. He kisses her and says goodbye. Then he kisses her again, longer. Then he waves at her and walks inside of his house. The dogs bark at him. James preheats the oven to four hundred degrees Fahrenheit and walks downstairs. He puts his book bag on the futon and walks into the laundry room. He opens the freezer and takes out a square pepperoni pizza, then looks at it, and puts it back. James walks upstairs, to the main level and smells his dogs. They smell gross. He tries to make a chicken microwaveable potpie and fails. The fuse in the kitchen keeps shorting out and the chicken microwaveable potpie keeps getting cooked and then not cooked and then cooked and then not cooked, and eventually James gives up resetting the fuse and falls deep into depression and self-loathing. I’m a hipster, think James repeatedly. Look at this fucking hipster that is me. Look at him. He sucks on cock and dildos and licks ass secretly. It’s so secret. He is a faggot. A bit fat douche-faggot. What am I saying, he thinks. Stop it.
James goes crazy.
Later, Jamie, James’s sister, Isabel’s boyfriend comes to the house and walks in without knocking. “What’s up man,” says James.
“Tragedy, mostly,” says Jamie. “My aunt died, my mom lost her job, and my new car got broken into.”
“Damn,” says James. “At least your iPhone still works.”
“Don’t jinx that, man,” says Jamie. “Is Isabel home?”
“No,” says James. “She is at basketball practice supposedly.” James imagines an infinite mass of white-tailed deer frolicking toward Isabel, in her basketball uniform, dribbling and trying to keep her mouth guard on. Her face looks serious and she is thinking, I’m going to score on these beasts! Two points!
“Damn,” says Jamie. “I want her to be here.”
“Yeah,” says James. “I know.”
“Want to go downstairs and make music,” asks Jamie.
“No,” says James. “I want to go to sleep. I am tired.”
“What are you doing,” asks Jamie.
“Writing a short about a bunch of hermaphroditic scenesters having an orgy,” says James.
“Seems good,” says Jamie. “I have an auto-tune app on my iPhone.”
“Damn,” says James. His dad walks into the already open door. The dogs bark. “The dogs didn’t bark at Jamie,” says James. “They probably hate you, Dad.”
“Well, Jesus loves them unconditionally,” says James’s dad.
“What,” says James. “Seems unlikely. That seems like a highly conditional love.”
“Jesus sent his only begotten son to earth,” says James’s dad.
“That’s right,” says Jamie.
“How do you make this new Godiva espresso you bought,” James asks his dad. “It’s pre-ground. Pre-ground beans are bullshit.”
“Grind them more,” says James’s dad. “The grains need to be finer. They aren’t fine enough.”
“Okay,” says James. He makes espresso. It’s dark outside. The pizza is ready. Actually it’s burnt. Jamie sings into the auto-tune app and plays it back and makes James do it too. James doesn’t like it. Jamie and James’s dad go downstairs and watch football things. James goes on the internet and checks his email. He has no new messages. James looks at his blog. He has eight drafted blog posts he hasn’t published. He deletes all of them. He looks at Facebook and sees that Sandra has posted a link on her wall to a YouTube video. James watches it. It is a YouTube video of the Muppets singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. James laughs. He notices that Kermit and Scooter aren’t in the video. They are at the end. That’s the punch line, James thinks. He laughs again. Jamie leaves and tells James not to tell Isabel that he plans to come back in an hour after she is home and has eaten and feels good. James agrees to this.
James watches a pirated version of “Star Trek” on his computer. James text messages Kayleigh a series of questions. She text messages back the answer. James feels anxious after reading the answer. His dad comes upstairs and looks at what he’s doing on the computer. “What are you doing,” asks James’s dad. “Want to see something cool I found on JesusTube today?” “No,” says James. Isabel and James’s mother walk inside the house. The dogs both bark loudly. “Do you want to go to the secondhand store tonight,” James’s mother yells over the dogs, “no never mind, we’ll go tomorrow.” Isabel looks tired. “You look beat,” says James, then immediately regrets saying this. The dogs bark louder. James’s dad put his hand on James’s shoulder. Isabel walks over to James and smiles and hugs him. “I want to go to the secondhand store,” says James. Captain Kirk is dangling off a ledge. James remembers Kayleigh and wants to cry. “I need water,” he yells. Everyone is quiet. I just had an anxiety attack, James thinks. Or maybe a nervous breakdown. I may be having a nervous breakdown. James pours a glass of water and chugs it.
Jamie comes back to the house. Isabel is surprised and calls him a dummy and they hug for maybe twenty seconds. James has never seen a hug like that. He feels jealous and a little trepidatious about Kayleigh. He makes a grunting sound, then coughs to cover it up. Jamie and Isabel sit down at the dining room table and talk about different church events and friendship problems they are having. They talk forever, for eternity. James puts on headphones and watches “Star Trek” and texts “Okay” to Kayleigh. He looks at his hands and wonders about sand dollars. They were like sea urchins, he thinks. Then massive starfish monsters ate them and only left a monetary bone; a single monetary bone with five sutures. What is it with the bottom of the ocean and five, and eight, and ten. Those numbers are at the bottom of the ocean. He gets another slice of pizza. James thinks about the pigs that were slain for the pepperoni on his slice of pizza. It disgusts him momentarily, then he thinks about vagina, which is not disgusting to him, because he feels horny. James realizes he feels horny in front of his sister and her boyfriend and feels embarrassed, but not less horny.
James contemplates methods for masturbating without Jamie and Isabel knowing. I could take my laptop to the bathroom, he thinks, and leave “Star Trek” playing while I watch porn. This is a good idea, he thinks. Winona Ryder is on the screen. What a hottie, James thinks. She was in “A Scanner Darkly” directed by Richard Linklater. And “Girl Interrupted” with Angelina Jolie. But she was hotter than Jolie. Winona Rider is my favorite. She is the hottest actress in Hollywood in my opinion. Is that really my opinion? Jesus. Jera was right. I think I just pissed myself a little. I should use the bathroom. This is the perfect opportunity for my masturbation plan. I’m really tired. I’m going to take a piss and go to bed, thinks James.
Jamie and Isabel are outside, on the porch, talking about things. James opens the door and says, “hey, Isabel, you have to go to bed in ten minutes.”
“What are you talking about,” says Isabel.
“Mom and Dad said,” says James.
“No they didn’t,” says Isabel. “And I don’t have school tomorrow. Thanksgiving break. Duh.”
“I don’t make the rules,” says James. “I don’t follow the rules either. And I rarely enforce them. I acknowledge them even less frequently. So ten minutes, assholes. Goodnight Isabel. Goodbye Jamie.”
James closes the door and walks downstairs. He unfolds his futon, puts a sheet over it, a comforter, and adds a pillow. James removes his shoes and lays down. James opens his laptop and searches “orgy” on Pornhub. There is a video entitled “Birthday Orgy.” James clicks on it and there are a bunch of White people in a Gym having unprotected sex with each other. James masturbates and ejaculates prematurely into some tissues. There are no trashcans in the basement. James crumples up the tissues and throws them away upstairs. Jamie and Isabel are still outside. James goes downstairs and falls asleep watching a bootlegged version of “Where the Wild Things Are.” This is really fucking shitty, thinks James before he loses consciousness.
James makes a chicken microwaveable potpie for breakfast. He puts the package into the microwaves and stands in front of it, counting all the way down from six minutes, thirty seconds to zero. The Eskimo Spitz stands behind him the entire time. James smells gas, or the smell that they add to gas to give it a stench. He sees that the oven is on four hundred degrees Fahrenheit. James remembers preheating the oven to cook a pizza and seeing that he ate all of the last pizza the day before and deciding to eat a chicken potpie. The other dog, a mutt, farts inaudibly. The entire house fills with the smell. The mutt fart smell. James gets a Capri Sun from the refrigerator and waits for the chicken potpie to cool off. It begins raining abruptly. James feels really good. James’s sister wakes up and starts doing her hair. She watches “Defiance” on her laptop while she does her hair. James plays Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective on his dad’s Bose home stereo system and dances all over the house. James sits down, out of breath. The mutt comes over and licks his toes. “Stinky feet,” says James. The mutt looks at him blankly then goes back to licking. The chicken potpie is still too hot. James decides to take a shower in complete and fantasize about his future with Kayleigh. He reminisces and projects things that his brain imagines can happen in the future, despite the unidirectional nature of time.
James thinks, what do I want? Do I want this girl, Kayleigh? She seems nice. She is interested in literature; an English major. That’s adorable. I want her to like me. I like her I think. I want to have sex with her. Is that bad? How old is she. Her birthday is in June. Was her eighteenth birthday this past June or next June? Does it matter if I think about her? Is that statutory rape of the mind? I like her. Her eyes are blue. Blue eyes. I like blue eyes. And she’s little. A little woman. I have liked little women before. The girl I made out with last Halloween was little. She made weird sexual noises. Very weird. Maybe I violated her. Why do girls sometimes let violation happen? There was a trailer where Alec Baldwin hugs Meryl Streep and then kisses her and she pushes away. That’s really the worst that can happen with me. Why not say “stop” and prevent mutual guilt? I don’t know. Seems weird. I want to think about Kayleigh some more. She has a cute smile. She has cute teeth, and a cute face, and cute ears. She is like an actually attractive version of my roommate in college. She had a cute personality, but wasn’t actually cute. I like Kayleigh. Do I want to compare her to other people? Other girls? Seems bad. I feel like if she’s thinking about me at all that she’s probably doing the same. This boy, that boy, but James this, but James that. I don’t know. Are all of my feelings positive? Andrew used the phrase “can’t bring her home to Mama-hot” meaning not cute enough to show off. Is Kayleigh cute enough to show off? That’s a silly question. She’s more than that cute. Am I thinking too much about her? This is what happens when a person starts liking another person. They think a lot about them. She seemed very alt and receptive to me. Was that a show? She wasn’t as enthusiastic about me keeping my promise as I expected, but it was fun. We had fun. Zach didn’t try to steal her. Zach doesn’t really try to steal any girls. He doesn’t give a fuck. He’s a “bros before hoes” kind of guy. I like that. Zach’s cool. I like Kayleigh’s hair and overall fashion sensibility. I don’t know if she likes Lady Gaga actually or ironically, which is disconcerting, but okay, I think. She likes the “Where the Wild Things Are” movie. That was a good movie. Maybe she wants to be a kid forever. She went to Catholic school. Catholics scare me. And she’s Italian. Italians are scary too. They care a lot about family, and even when they seem alt, they actually care about family. How alt could she possibly be? Does it matter? Do I care if she cares about family? What else to I care about. What if I can’t fit in her? What if I get to the point of being about to have sex with her, and she’s just too small? I want to hug her. What if she’s a virgin? What if she only lets me kiss her? What if she’s not a virgin and has an STD? Should I care? Am I going “too far” with this? Is it creepy that I am taking a shower, in the dark, thinking these things, or normal? What is normal? Is Kayleigh normal? What if she is crazy. Crazier than I am. She said that there is “a boy” in Iowa. What if she is just obsessed with him? That would be sweet? What if I just had to break her of an obsession? What if they’ve dated since junior high school? What if I pursue this and end up breaking up a good thing? She is autonomous. She can make her own decisions. Why am I always so concerned about “breaking things up?” Maybe because I’ve cheated and been cheated on and don’t like it. I just don’t, and have principles about it. Fuck principles. I want Kayleigh. I want her so badly. I want to experiment with her. I want to do drugs with her and find out that we are two sides of a triangle, that we’re two entities being reunited after centuries of separation. I want to see what she looks like when she’s yearning for me, I want to see what she looks like when she hates me, and I want to see what she looks like when this is “over.” I want that. I want to find out what will happen. There are so many possibilities. Infinite, really. War could break out. We could end up all that each other have. This could become nothing. I could have her and then immediately think “this is over, this was fucked. I’m stupid for having wanted this.” I don’t think that will happen. I like her voice. I like how she sounds when she talks. I don’t want to compare her voice to anyone else’s but her own. I want to hear her whisper to me and moan and say something secret and impossible. All of these pent up feelings. I can’t let her know they exist. If she knew, she wouldn’t want this. She wouldn’t want all of this. I like her too much too early. What am I talking about? I don’t know her. Do I want her at all? When did this happen? We met when I was drunk. I had seen her earlier that night and said nothing, then she started to leave with her friends and I drunkenly approached and made flirty small talk. She seemed so excited about me talking to her. I liked that energy. I want to feel that again. She seems so engaged; engaging. She won’t be that way forever. She only be like that for a month, tops, and that’s if I stretch out how frequently I see her to like, twice a week. I hate this. I hate feeling this way. This is awful. I don’t like her. I hate her. I never want to see her again. I’m going to go on Facebook and scroll through her profile pictures. No. Fight this. Why fight this? I’m a hedonist. Do what you want, James. I’m talking to myself now. She is cute. Kayleigh has a little body that I’m attracted to. She has a little personality I am curious about. She has a little persona I want to align myself with. This will be difficult. What sort of plan should I formulate to woo her, seduce her. Both of these concepts seem bad. One is too attached to social stability and the other one is too “downright” selfish. I want something in the middle. I want to befriend her. I want to not creep her out. I want to spend time finding out who she is, and I want to never get tired of her. Is that possible? To never get tired of a person? Is there such a thing as impossibility in the context of a single life? Nothing is “impossible” until death. You just have to “keep going.” I want to hold her. How much longer can I think about this? Can I even extrapolate on this desire more? Do I prefer being unsure to being “sure.” Clearly I don’t believe in “sureness.” I think that I want Kayleigh. It seems that she is at least somewhat attracted to me. “Somewhat.” Her voice is so endearing. I remember when I first heard her say something to me. I forgot her name twice. That’s fine. That happens. I remembered what she looked like, and sounded like, and made a clear effort to make a connection with her. I succeeded. I was drunk. I wish I wasn’t drunk when we met. I wish I was coherent and could recount each detail of what facial expression she made, what thoughts crossed my mind and what seemed to cross hers. I want to make this happen. What do I have to do to make “me and her” happen? Do I need to get a job? Do I need to give her things? Yes. Girls don’t like guys who don’t give them things. I have to give her feelings, and have to keep giving her feelings for as long as I can, or she will say, “this is over.” What about next year? I might move back to California. This is bad. What if we get into a relationship and then I move with Hawk to California? She would hate me. I would be doing the same thing that the other boy did. Why did he go to Iowa? Does he exist? Is that real? What if she is pathological? What if Catholic school fucked her brain up? I can’t worry about this things. I have to be spontaneous. I have to want to want to like her for the person she is and want for her to do what she wants to do. That is the key to a good relationship. That’s it. I don’t know. What if I ruin her life? What if I want her to have what she wants, and help her, but inadvertently fuck up her life? This is what humans do. I have fucked up many lives. People have died because of me. Not directly, I don’t think, but even recently. Death. I don’t want her to die because of me. We all die. It’s okay. I will tell her everything that I know about life. I am her “elder.” And she is more well-read than me. We can have serious and hilarious discussions about the world. The great and insane world. What an enormous planet, and I met her on it. What if this is providence? What if “God” ordained us to meet? I have thought this about every girl. I will continue to think this about every subsequent girl. Has heartbreak turned me into an asshole? Will I break her heart? I’ve never broken anyone’s heart before, I don’t think. Maybe. Maybe I’ve broken hearts. I don’t know. No one has ever told me I broke their heart before. What if I break her heart? I don’t want to scare her or hurt her or break her heart. All of these concepts/feelings seem arbitrary. She enjoys me. She thinks that I am interesting. Interesting transcends fear, pain and romantic dissonance. I like that. That should be written down somewhere. “Romantic dissonance.” Damn — damn. Kayleigh.