No text from Sawney. One voice mail from Penny, asking me to apartment-stay in her apartment for a week. I deleted it and texted her back, ‘Why me?’ before locking my phone to tend outside.
The bicycle bumped. My head spun. I tore open a bag of crisps and it fell all over the street. I picked a broom up and swept them like a pile of leaves. A neighbour sneezed as she walked past me. Glaring at me with blurry eyes, she kindly told me to watch where I sweep my leaves. ‘I’m allergic to them,’ she said. When I told her they weren’t leaves, but potato crisps, she said, ‘Exactly.’
Two weeks before the sail, Sawney asked me whether I wanted to come over to his dorm. It had been some time since he swept me as one of his ‘best buddies’. I arrived early. Sawney told me to come in. I chose to stare at the window whenever he wasn’t bothering me. Men and women walked together. This was the time I had time for myself despite an extravert in this room. But you couldn’t call him an extravert–though he was the one responsible for parties and conversations, he remains reserved whenever the occasion. He speaks only when necessary, and though we chatter quite often we would both become drained after ten minutes. Then we would find something else to do entirely. I poured cold tea into a beer glass. Schmidt and Sevrin bursted in, laughing. They didn’t need to drink to get drunk. I repeated information to myself: Sevrin Peyton was one of the four Scotsmen of the generation; Schmidt was my stupid roomate; I was the group’s priest. ‘Does the sweater make your dick bigger?’ asked Sevrin. ‘Let’s ask Schmidt.’
I pretended no one was there.
‘Look, we’re a year away from college!’ said Schmidt. ‘Marwin’s studying religion because his mum said so!’
‘Nowhere to go, aye?’ said Sawney.
I stood up and went to the bathroom. Sawney followed and gave me a pat on the back. ‘You just kept taking it,’ said Sawney. ‘What’s up?’
I told him what was up was a stick up my arse named Sawney Deis. He stared at me for a moment before going back. I heard him say, ‘Something’s wrong with Marwin. He’s tryna be funny.’
The moment I reentered the dorm, Schmidt took hold of me as if he was the pope. ‘Come clean before Lord God Grey Goose,’ he declared. Everyone made crosses with their shot glasses. I knew they wouldn’t let me go even if I rushed out—not with two drunk Scotsmen and a surrendered ally.
I dropped on my knees and bowed with mock supplication. ‘I confess: I have no friends.’
‘Only us wankers,’ shouted Sawney.
Schmidt sprinkled some vodka and said, ‘Amen.’
A week before the sail, Sawney called me again while I was packing my things for Germany. He was too lazy to talk face to face despite being my dorm neighbour, he informed, before apologising for that pope event. I told him his punishment would be his true accent now being with me. I tried to be funny about it. The other end died down before telling me to forget about it, or at least try to. Again I insisted that the drunk Sawney isn’t the true Sawney. The Sawney I know is the Scotsman I’m talking to, not the one who humiliated me. ‘What if the drunk me is the real me, and not the one I am now?’ he said. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but my impression was that neither of the Sawneys were his true nature—or the drunk Sawney was the true Sawney, but I refused to believe it. Since then, I had been thinking about who the real people were, whether alcohol masks or reveals a person’s true nature, and whether a man’s intelligence or instinct is true to his heart. On Sunday I received a text from Penny who invited me to a trip to Innsmouth this November, but with these questions I’ve become even more frustrated because I could no longer assure myself that the Penny who invited me was the real Penny, and that her opinion of me lay somewhere deep in her subconscious. Then I proceeded to ponder the same with Pierre, Silvia, Schmidt, Sawney, Lucius, Sevrin, and Neilan, and at some point, Utterson too. And on Monday I threw books into my luggage, on Tuesday I broke the handle of the sink, on Wednesday I crushed all the chalk in the classroom, on Thursday I hit the windows with a broom, and on Friday I made a Jesus mannequin out of bed sheets, blankets, and pillows, before making a cross and praying to God for forgiveness. At the same time, I heard Sawney next door, shouting in his true Scottish accent. ‘It’s shite being a Wilmarth!’ I heard him. ‘We’re the most wretched, miserable bloodline that has shat on this Earth! Some people preach forgiveness—I don’t—they’re just pathetic! We, on the other hand, are forced to not be pathetic!’ A small pause, a couple of gulps, then, ‘Can’t even find a decent parent to live with.’ I tried not to think about it, even though the word ‘think’ has ingrained into my brain. Whenever I think about Sawney, I think about those words he spouted, wondering whether that Sawney was the real Sawney, and not the poised man with straight A’s. And his reaction to Papa’s death only leant my suspicions towards the truth.
That might be why Utterson killed Sawney: he was hiding something from us. But believing in blind intuition told by an episode of questions wouldn’t be wise, would it? He had approached me first because he wanted to be my friend. By then, he had already known how to greet, word by word, without having to silently speak it out in restroom stalls, with all concentration into his soul, eyes conjuring an image of Marwin Preis in front of him. He knew to speak the right thing to the wrong people, as if this indestructible knowledge had become one with his consciousness.