I woke up just as Eric was walking out the door. Gina was long gone and Eric had class so I had the place to myself. I smoked a bowl and tidied up the room. I spent a weird minute with the bathrobe Gina wore the night before. It smelled like her and I found it intoxicating. After a couple deep breaths I threw it in the hamper. Perversion can get you from all kinds of different angles. It’s best to turn away before the strange becomes permanent.
Sitting alone in solitude it occurred to me that I was a high school dropout with nowhere I had to be. I didn’t need to go home. I’d severed myself completely from my past. No one was looking for me. I was a blank sheet of paper, crisp and unsoiled, fresh from the pack. I had no plans or intention to make any but I felt I had unlimited possibilities.
Eric got back from class and I was sitting in a dark quiet room like a robot waiting to be powered on.
“What did you do today?” He asked.
“Jesus. Are you depressed?”
“A little. I’m an illegal. I don’t want to get caught coming and going when you’re not here.”
Eric put one hand on my shoulder and the other on the door handle which he twisted to open and then pushed me out into the hallway right into the hulking body of the future marine who lived across the way.
“Sorry about that, Jimbo.” Eric apologized. “This is my friend Ryan. He lives over in McCarty. His roommate sucks so he’s going to be spending a lot of time over here. Cool?”
“It’s nice to meet you.” I shook his hand and observed from his unnecessarily firm grip and massive hand that if he wanted to Jimbo could end my life without making any serious effort.
“Roommates are hit and miss. Both Chaunce and I are going into the corp but if I had some Navy or Air Force pussy living with me I’d be climbing the walls.” I smiled wide and knowingly as if I understood the varying degrees of meatheadedness.
“What’s your guy’s problem?” he asked.
“Foreigner.” I said. “From Yugoslavia. I don’t even know if he’s supposed to be in this country.”
Jimbo responded with a scowl. Red meat Americans hate foreigners and despise communists.
Eric was loving this exchange and had to join in. “Plus, he smells like a goat. He eats raw garlic and doesn’t bathe. Then he goes on and on about Marshal Tito and Stalin. You can’t talk shit like that.”
“I’m sorry brother. Ryan, you are welcome here.” Jimbo was deeply sincere.
He soon changed his train of thought. “If you guys are interested we are having study group in the commons Tuesday and Thursday nights, eight till whenever. We all get together put in a couple of bucks towards pizza and share notes and best practices. Ryan, you don’t live here but I’ll vouch for you.”
“Anyone taking quantum mechanics?” Eric asked.
“I don’t think so.”
“I’m going to have to pass.” Eric hated group activities.
“What about you, Ryan?”
“Eric and I are study buddies.”
With the awkward encounter concluded we retreated back into the room.
“Now you can come and go as you please. Problem solved.” Eric was pleased.
“I guess.” I said. “Let’s go to the Hub and get some grub.”
“Are you kidding? Why would we buy food when we can have free pizza?”
At 2 a.m. Eric’s alarm went off and the two of us got up and snuck into the kitchenette. There on the counter sat several half eaten Little Caesar’s pies. We took what we thought we could eat and left the rest. We did this every Tuesday and Thursday from then on.
I got comfortable with my new found freedom. It was easy to fit in. I was the right age. I looked the part of a college freshman. No one ever questioned me or asked for student I.D. I always had my back pack with me. It was filled with copies of the Rocket and a notebook to doodle in.
I explored every inch of the campus. I laid out at Drumheller fountain, which was always strangely vacant like a neutron bomb went off and all the people were gone except for me. I plumbed the crooked dark hallways of Suzzallo Library for vacant corners where I could be alone with my thoughts. I wrote a bunch of crap poetry, drew a sketch of my naked foot propped up on a window sill, and dreamt of being in a punk band.
I had to venture to the smoke shop in the U district to get my Egyptian ovals. They were so strong that two cigarettes would last all day and they were also space proof in that if you forgot about them they’d go out by themselves. Their freshness was always suspect in that they had to travel five thousand miles in a rusty container to make it to Seattle but that never seemed to matter.
I was walking down the sidewalk with my nose buried deep in the yellow box taking in all the mustiness when a voice behind me asked if I had any change. It was Gina. She was with a group of friends making the trek from downtown to the U panhandling along the way. Rachel and Sandy were thrift store punk girls with an abundance of ear rings and pretty blouses covering concert tees. Billy on the other hand was the realest deal around. He sported a big blond Mohawk, leather jacket, thigh high Doc’s, and was menacing as hell if you didn’t know him.
“My God, you look like one of them.” Gina sized me up, taking note of my outward preppiness.
“I’m trying to blend in. I’m undercover.”
“Is that a Member’s Only jacket? No thanks.”
“I borrowed it from Eric. His mother bought it for him but he never wears it.”
“When the revolution comes I will be hung as a spy.”
“I hope so.” She punched me in the shoulder to accentuate the point.
“When are you coming around again?” I didn’t want to sound needy but I had to ask.
“Soon.” Gina knew exactly what I meant and her sly smile made me blush even though I didn’t want to. “We’re headed back downtown right now. Sandy’s mom has been taking me in so I don’t want to piss her off by staying out all night or coming home loaded.”
“Sure.” I said even though I wasn’t sure. It’s not that I was jealous or possessive or anything like that but I was suffering a nervous butterfly thing where it’s hard to breathe and you can’t imagine spending any time apart that won’t cause pain and discomfort. Maybe she felt the same way because when everyone had their backs to me as they walked to the bus stop Gina turned around unexpectedly and holding me by my wrists pulled me towards her and kissed me firmly on the mouth.
She left me there paralyzed and slightly delirious as she ran to catch up with her friends. The setting sun was starting to cast shadows amidst golden ribbons of light from the western sun. I lit a cigarette and walked towards the darkness.