Chapter 21: Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
John’s long arm got there first and yanked Mike to the ground as Kurt closed the screen and the window. Andy offered a “Holy Shit,” and the group stared at one another, filling voids of emotion, searching for appropriate verbiage.
“What the hell were you thinking about sitting in the fucking window like that?” Kurt asked.
Mike looked about the room, something to do until he could find the words, could vacate the moment. There was a family picture, diplomas, books leaning on each other for support as if the words therein required verification, and finally, by the office door, the picture of the Titanic.
“My roommate asked me that question when they found me,” he admitted.
“And what did you tell him?”
“I didn’t have an answer then, and I’m looking for an answer now.”
The creaking of leather filled a substantial silence as he re-positioned himself on the couch and again looked about at the room’s artifacts. Confessing to a complete stranger would be easier than relying on the confidence of his friends, and the questions drummed in his head, the beat visible on his temples.
“Word, we’ve been all over campus looking for your ass. What the fuck happened last night? Mary wouldn’t even let me in her room. She said something about you being in their room with Carol, something about Carol tearing you up. I could hear Donna crying! Word, what the fuck happened?”
He thought about the answer, and he was thinking about it now, not because he didn’t know the answer; he knew, but to stay hidden in the shade of shame, he raced against the sunlight like he did as a child. It made him sad to see how much faster he had become.
“Were you thinking of ending your life?” He crossed his legs and pushed up his glasses.
“I still had one leg in the room. I was looking at it, you know, looking at it and thinking.”
“Yeah, it was weird. I was kind of like a scale, weighing the crap in my life on the left side, kind of teetering, you know, trying to find some good things to add to the right side, things that would help me and would last.”
“Things like your friends who care and brought you here tonight?”
“They kept that leg in the room for sure.” He focused on the reflections in the eyeglasses, hazy images of what was behind him, the man’s eyeballs distorted, large, as if they could see into him, as if he knew what had happened, but how could he?
“So what happened?” The inevitable question came with company.
“DID SHE ALSO CASTRATE YOU?”
“HOW COULD YOU LET HER DO THIS TO YOU?”
The tears came. He knew they would, uninvited guests, in the neighborhood, just dropping by, and with the tears came the words. Someone else, someone he didn’t know, someone else needed to know. They looked at each other for too long a time before Mike spoke.
“This is going to sound maybe a little stupid,” he took a tissue to his eyes, “but have you ever heard of the words ‘osculum infame’?” I know that’s how they’re pronounced. I’m hearing them in my head, just not sure how they're spelled. She was saying them that night when...” his words drifted off as he thought of what she did to him, what he was forced to do.
He took off his glasses and wiped them, seeming to look away, exhaling deeply, remembering when he first heard them, remembering her.
She had been naked under the sweatsuit, and her hour wasn’t up. He ran his hands over her body, starting with her hair which he freed from the constraints of a ponytail, watching it tumble, right itself, and gently settle past her shoulders. Then there were her lips on his and the wetness of her mouth, her breasts suspended by the gift of youth. He remembered the smell of her skin as he went to his knees, her taste as she opened herself to him, and the homage he paid as she turned around, owning him and laughing at the family picture.
“I’ve heard them before. They’re Latin. Spelled how they’re pronounced,” he looked at Mike. “I suggest you look it up. Not part of my area of expertise, not something I can offer an opinion on.” He fiddled with his watch. “I deal in matters of science.”
So the words were real, and the hope of maybe this didn’t happen was trampled by the return of helplessness. “I couldn’t stop her! I said no! I fought as hard as I could! I begged her to stop! She was too strong! he screamed. “How am I supposed to live with that? You got anything to make the rest of my life smooth sailing?”
By midnight, he was back in his dorm room, an evaluation, an agreement to continue counseling. He looked at his windowsill, the void created by the broken panel, and his gorilla poster. Opinions now mattered.
“Word, did the doctor have any idea what was in that stuff we smoked?” John asked.
“Based on my case and the another three, they think we smoked pot that might have been laced with angel dust.”
“Caveat Emptor,” John evoked his economics class. “That explains a lot of things, Word.”
“What do you mean?”
John looked at Andy and Kurt and asked, “Either of you guys want to tell the story, or should I just go with it?”
John received no offers, so he shared. “Word, we worked up a big bill between Y.A.’s and my credit card over in the study room.”
“You can’t be fucking serious!”
“Just like you, all of us lost our shit and thought everything was funny, so we all showed up at Toots’s door pretty much right after you left the room. No holds barred and a half-hour each alone with her.”
Mike looked at Kurt and Andy who both were wearing grins and seeming to look back on the experience. “I don’t see any dissent here, so how much?”
“It set each of us back $200 apiece.”
“Toots makes $600 for 90-minutes of work?” Mike did the math.
“Word, that sounds like an algebra problem, and I don’t do math well when I’m hungry. I want for all of us to continue this conversation, but let’s get something to eat downstairs.”
Mike’s world had shrunk. Every corner and every door featured moats that housed monsters and demons. The expanse of Beer Pond seemed like an Atlantic crossing when he negotiated it earlier. He couldn’t look at himself in the mirror without seeing Carol’s ghostly image. He couldn’t bear the thought of seeing Donna and watching the hurt turn to hate in her eyes. ”
I’m not going down there.”
“Word, you’ve got to eat,” Kurt encouraged him.
“I can’t go down there.”
“Word, if it’s about Donna,” John said, “I’m sorry to tell you that that won’t be a problem.
“What are you talking about, John?” Mike asked.
“Word, Donna’s left Hillview. She went back home this afternoon, packed her shit and left.