Chapter 13: Xanax, Therapy and Cocaine
"To all you first-year fuckers who think you run this place, here's a fucking reminder you don't."
Dom's drunk off his backside and it's only the morning, the unregretful beer addict. He's taken advantage of Mrs Morales being out. He's stood on the coffee table, his right heel on a plate of supremely good cookies, damn it.
I think he gets off on petrifying the first-years, which is primely the reason why I don't have as many friends here as expected. There's lots of first-year jealousy over how I'm a first-year but get the positive Dom treatment. I wouldn't call it 'positive' per se.
I slip out of the main room as he goes on about recommitting the hazing and pledging that lasted prolonged dreadful I-want-my-mommy weeks. Reaching the second level of the frat house, I see Megan with her legs swinging through the railing of the landing.
She's smoking a cigarette, despite the rules, with her white-washed hair inches away from the burning tip. There's a scrunchie on her wrist, the pink cream colored one she only ever wears because it's - shamelessly - my favourite color. She's pining for me.
"You haven't put a lock on your top drawer," she says, blowing out the smoke she's been holding in, not once sparing a glance at me. She digs into her pocket and pulls out a packet of Marlboro, flinging her arm back and offering me a cigarette while still avoiding my eyes.
"Nope," I trash the guilt of dumping her in the mental landfill I've created and take a seat beside her. "You know I don't smoke yet you still try and get me to."
"You should really put a lock on that drawer," she averts, "if it's that important to you."
"You're the only one who knows about it and is stupid enough to go in there."
Taking offence doesn't seem to be her thing. Girls all over the campus like to call her a 'hoe' or say she's 'HIV positive from all the guys she goes around fucking' just from the way she dresses, even when we were together, but it doesn't even leave a faint bruise on her. She is the definition of thick skin and zero feces to give.
Until it involves me, I guess. She gets up and moves away, hiding her face like she has been this whole time. I sigh and say, "I'm sorry..."
"It's cool, Chris. Can't apologize for inheriting the dickhead gene."
Why is she indirectly bringing my parents into this? I get up, praying that my blood boiling is just because of Dom being downstairs and not Megan being an absolute fucking-
"Babe," Brad walks arrogantly up to her, "light me one, will you?" Babe?
She passes him the one she offered me. He's about to disappear downstairs but tracks back to kiss her. Kiss her. "Hey, what are you doing?" I ask.
He looks at me and grins. "Well, she ain't your girl anymore, is she, buddy?" then he leaves, and that...that makes me want to punch the entire campus into his good-for-nothing-but-taking-advantage-of-our-women penis.
Megan finally looks at me. I expect her to be smirking because she wouldn't stop the jealousy game to see Niagara Falls frozen, but her lips are in a straight line. Then I remember why I'm still here.
"If you read my journal, you'll be made aware of the current shitshow that is my life," I inform her, "and the current shitshow that is my life also pertains to Dom who will inevitably make your life a shitshow too. I know you're smart enough to listen to me when I say don't go in there."
She takes a step closer. "How do you know I haven't gone in there already?"
"I know it when you're hiding something. You haven't gone in there because you know if you did, I would know and you'd get rid of any chance you have with me again."
She takes a drag from her cigarette, taps out the excess ash onto an ashtray on the floor, and smiles. "I'm happy to know we're still close enough for you to read me."
Genuinely smiles, because apparently she just wanted to know if some things haven't changed, not if being with me again is a possibility.
Because of Dom, it's not. Because of Tommy...
That guilt that's in my mental landfill site is increasing too much to be contained.
"I only said you should get a lock because some of the guys have been in and out of your room lately with girls from my sorority to screw. Don't worry about me, I'll respect your privacy."
She stubs out her cigarette and throws her hair up in that scrunchie. I don't want to tell her she probably should invest in better quality waterproof makeup. She's crying. I don't think I've ever seen her cry, not even when I did call it off with her.
"Dom's privacy too," she continues, "because I have basic decency, not because I'm afraid of that dickhead."
I want to tell her this was all Dom's fault, but I can't. All I can do is let Brad have his way with her, but the day he walks the great wall of China all over her... I've said enough.
"Be careful, though," she says, "you wear secrecy like it's an aesthetic. Someone's going to start prying."
After she leaves, a pathetic, childish fight breaks out downstairs between Dom and one of the first-years. I pity them. They'll be thrown out like trash tomorrow for charging at Dom, and not just out of the fraternity. He'll probably run them out of college, the state, the border and probably their life.
I head to my room to avoid the barbarous yelling. The first thing I do is check my journal's still in place under old pairs of jeans of mine. I let out air I didn't know I was holding in. Megan was right, I should get a lock, but not just for my drawer, for my entire room. The windows too. The worry is catching up to me. I scribble that down on a post-it note, flop back on my bed and flick through the pages of my journal.
"Absolute shitshow," I mutter, staring at the date that I was forced to take the first scoop of my grave. I've been reluctantly digging ever since. At some point, I'll reach six feet deep and see an array of silicone vaginas all saying one thing to me:
My eyes glimpse at my lapis lazuli childhood clock on the wall. Tommy should be back soon, but instead of me lying about and tracking time that's painfully slow, I grab my wallet, rip off a corner from a sheet of plain paper and on that I scribble, I'll be waiting for you outside the coffee shop at 5pm. Tucking it in my pocket, I head out the frat house, but Dom stops me on the way.
His left cheekbone is bruised and his lip is split and bloody, but the rest of him is perfectly intact. I don't want to know the condition of the first-year he beat up in response.
"You're going to lose the privilege of having your own room if you don't get these first years in order," he says, leaning against the door frame with a bitter look. He's far from a James Dean painting.
I press my lips together in a line. In my mouth, there are bullets made of insults shoved up a gun made of hostility I want to fire at him, but I keep it contained. "Thought that's your job," I tread the outskirts of his ill nature.
He gives a half-assed laugh, approaching me with his hands stuffed in his pockets, then clamps one down on my shoulder tighter than necessary. "Salt should be for food, Chris. What's up with you?"
"Right," I knock his hand off, "let's get one thing straight. The only time we appear somewhat okay is in front of Tommy. Other than that, I can't stand you, yeah? So don't ask me what's up."
My jaw clenches and my fists tighten. I'm a cannon, if not that, a machine gun. I could butcher him on the doorstep, so I should leave, but my bones don't move yet.
"Don't think you got that straight enough," he smirks, trying to lacerate a response from me. He's suspecting I could really be gay, and not just gay for the game he's created that's a concoction of sick and infernal.
That's the one thing I didn't lie to Tommy about. That I actually liked a guy in high school. Loved him. Liked Megan too. Still like her. Like all genders. If that got out - the real I like boys too truth - I'd be the first-year Dom beat to dignity-decaying shame.
I finally leave, my stomach turning at the final look on his face I catch. He's really suspecting it now. I leave one unfortunate situation to another, purchasing a coffee and placing the note in my pocket underneath it outside Tommy's dorm room.
I try to convince myself compromising with Dom was better than sitting there and doing nothing, but I don't know anymore.
It feels unethical to be laying on the grass by patches of daisy flowers feeling so relieved as I watch the sunset, and to be at ease means Dom's plans with Tommy via me has been halted, and I just want to call it quits. This is the kind of thing people use Xanax and therapy for.
Hearing Gemma's voice now is nirvana after suffocating inside the frat house under Dom's control. I don't realize how long we haven't spoken for and how much I actually miss her until she lays beside me.
"Gem, hi," I tackle her in a hug, but she doesn't grip me back the way she always does like there's a wall between us. I don't comment on it.
"Why are you here all alone?" she questions.
"I'm meant to be on a date," I answer truthfully, but I'm feeling unstable knowing lying to her will become a thing the longer my secrets stay under my skin. I used to always share everything with her...
She hums, "with Megan?" but it's way more of a scoff.
"Yeah." There's the first lie.
By now, I'm aware of when the bitchy remarks from her towards Megan tend to take place. Gemma is an angel but will make one cry. Instead of her spitefully critical opinion though, she asks, "thought you two broke up?"
"Why did you break up?" Clearly, over the bit we haven't spoken for she's become a question machine. I hope this is for her psychology homework so I can lie and say I lied to give her better quality content. Repeatedly saying 'yeah' contradicts that, but I'll just lie about contradicting myself too.
I'll just lie and lie and lie until she doesn't know who I am anymore.
I lean my head on her shoulder and answer. "Sporadic moment of stupidity if you could call it that."
"Good, that girl's crazy."
That's not the worst thing I've heard her say about Megan but it's still sort of a bitchy remark. "Not an open invitation for you to insult her, Gem."
She mutters an incoherent insult to me for disallowing her to insult Megan and it's wholesome to see college hasn't changed her one bit. Apart from her lack of asphyxiating hug, but I'm too wrapped in my personal issues to bring it up, so again, I don't comment on it.
"I got ditched," I say, because I know she wants to ask what happened to the date too. It's not a lie, at least.
Gemma rips one of the daisies out from the grass. That's the second indication that she's not okay following our smother-less hug. She never rips flowers from their roots or picks their petals for unneeded confirmation that he loves me, he loves me not.
She raises an eyebrow at me. "Why do you look all pouty? Since when has getting ditched bothered you?"
"That's not why I'm bothered," I help her make the conversation about me, "I'm bothered 'cause I don't know why I'm bothered." Whatever's going on with her, I'm sure she's fine...right?
That guilt that's in my mental landfill site has increased too much to be contained.
"Megan's got you feeling that way? Never thought I'd see the moment," she snorts. Not Megan... "What about Tommy?"
I can't answer that and she notices her mistake. She coughs and gets up. "Why don't you get an early night? Thursdays are long."
Thursdays are jam-packed with philosophy and English lit sessions and every opportunity Tommy won't take to explain why he ditched me.
I knew Tommy would never explain himself. He avoids me at all costs through Thursday. In the evening, I send him a text, but a full day later it still says delivered.
Two days later I decide it's temporarily beneficial that he's ignoring me because I can't add to the hurt he'll feel the day it all comes out in the wash. Four days later I feel the pressure from Dom. Six days later I realize that I feel hurt over being ditched. So a week later I get back with Megan, for lack of better choices to rid some of the guilt and other depressing emotions alike I'm feeling.
Her pink cream colored scrunchie disappears, somewhere on Brad's body, wrist or ankle or penis, and I know she's slept with him during our breakup. That hurts me too, but I guess it evens the playing field.
One month later and it still says delivered. A thunderstorm dampens my mood as I sip a cup of hot cocoa. I haven't touched coffee for a while. It's Christmas Eve and everyone's gone home to their families, but that's a wretched one for me. I'm one of the few people left here.
Dom too. He enters the kitchen and beelines for one of the refrigerators. Out comes the celery, then he sits opposite me at the kitchen island. Pulls out a cigarette and lights it, then takes a drag. Sniffs, chews some celery and drags again. It's quite the combination. I continue making my way through my hot cocoa, gritting my teeth and staring out the window at the pattering rain, coal gray sky and the white flashes of lightning.
His eyes burn wildfires into me. "You..." he begins. Drags. "You've been slacking." I sip. Grit my teeth. "Haven't seen you with him at all," he continues. Chews some celery.
I finally respond. "Can't force him everywhere with me, can I?" Sip. Grit my teeth. This is becoming repetitive. "Free will. Bless America."
He hums in agreement. "I have a question," drag, "why do you care? I mean, this deal - which seems to have you upset - was built on the sole foundation of you giving a fuck, and exactly why do you give a fuck? What's it about Tommy Carpenter?"
I don't know what to say that won't give myself away. I trace my thumb around the rim of my mug and he lets out a guttural laugh, chews some celery, then says, "this could be so much easier for you. C'mon, look at me, bro. Basic decency. You could be free. I'm not blackmailing you, so why do you choose to suffer?"
At the 'suffer' part, I feel nothing but deja vu. I let the silence settle in and let my thoughts swirl before I can bring my eyes directly to his.
I inhale then exhale. "One day, you'll have the epiphany where you realize just how fucked up you are," I say.
Drags. Laughs. "You're deflecting," he calls me out. "Why?"
I'm on thin, bloodstained ice. "No reason."
"No, there's a reason for everything." He finishes the celery, stubs out the cigarette and gets up. "Sometimes people do things for reasons they can't grasp, so when you have the epiphany where you realize why the fuck you've chosen to protect Tommy Carpenter, hopefully, it won't be for reasons I don't allow in this frat house."
Now, more than ever, I wish I could just take everything back. When he gets to the door, I'm still drowning in my choices.
"Either way, he gets hurt," he gives a nauseating, lopsided smile. "It's your decision if you want to be a part of that or not."
I snap. "Either way I'm a part of it! I do nothing, I do something, he still gets hurt!"
Dom only hums, thriving off my misery. "Yeah, cool, and can you dump Megan already? Shit, why'd you even get back with her again? Idiot." Then he leaves in one piece thanks to my self-control.
No, this is the kind of thing people use Xanax, therapy and cocaine for. This is the depressing shit, the feel like dying kind of shit, because you ask yourself how you can live in a world like this and be happy without the narcotics and therapy.