He was looking over the menu and knew what he wanted so he put it down. His hands were tired and his eyes felt a little heavy and he yawned.
“You guys know what you want?” Andrew said.
“Still deciding,” was the reply.
He rubbed his shoulder with a knuckle to massage a muscle deep within. He pounded his back with a fist and he thought it might have loosened the knot a little, but he couldn’t tell. He sipped his water and ate a tortilla chip.
Jae, who was sitting across from him, took a chip and dipped it in salsa. He took so much that the chip broke from the weight so he dipped again and piled the salsa so that it was dripping off as he brought it to his mouth.
“Got some salsa there,” said Andrew, pointing at the table. Jae wiped it up with a napkin and crumpled it up and left it by the salt and pepper on the end of the table by the wall. Jae put his menu down and was looking up and around at the restaurant. He had his elbows up on the table and his arms were crossed and he rubbed his eyes, yawning.
Nick was still deciding what to order, and Jae told him “Just get the fucking fajitas.”
“No, but look,” said Nick, “I’m trying to order something that the coupon works for.”
“I thought the fajitas counted,” said Andrew.
“Well,” said Jae, “Then get the fucking tacos.”
“Fine,” said Nick. And he put down the menu.
“Are we ready?” said Jae.
“Yeah,” said Nick.
And they waited for the waitress and she came and said “Ready?” in a Spanish accent and they told her they were. She asked what she could get for them and Nick said he’d have the tacos. Andrew ordered enchiladas and Jae wanted a chicken burrito.
The waitress said she’d have the order right out and added “I’ll get you guys more salsa.” Jae thanked her as he scooped up the last of it from the bottom of the mortar. He leaned his neck over the table and held his head sideways to catch the salsa before it fell off the chip. He sat back against the booth-couch and nodded approvingly and said “Pretty good stuff. Not too spicy though.” Andrew and Nick watched him opened the small bottle of hot sauce and hold it upside-down to pour it on a chip. When the chip was doused he set it in his mouth with a crunchy smack and grinned at them with his mouth closed.
Nick turned to Andrew.
“Tired?” said Nick.
Andrew nodded. “I’m so out of shape.”
“It was fun though,” said Andrew.
“That was a good catch,” said Nick.
“You know the one when you like jumped over Dylan…”
Andrew squinted, then nodded and said “Oh yeah. Yeah,” he laughed, “I don’t know how I did that. I have so much trouble catching when I’m running. Like, it’s so easy when I’m standing still but those fast throws are hard to catch.”
Jae said “You can’t think of it as a ball. You have to pretend that it’s a baby. Reach out with your hands,” he demonstrated with his palms up and fingers curled, “decelerate the ball into your body,” he brought them to his chest, “cradle it.”
“Yeah,” said Andrew, “I guess I’ll have to do that. I’ve never really played football.”
“Really?” asked Nick, “What did you play?”
“I played baseball, mostly.” Andrew took a sip of water. The other two saw him and sipped at theirs. “But now I’m out of shape. Super busy with school, you know.”
“You should do intramurals,” said Jae.
“I could,” said Andrew.
The waitress set two stone mortars full of salsa on Jae’s side of the table without a word. Jae dug in.
“Andrew, you want a margarita?” said Nick.
“I don’t know,” said Andrew, “Isn’t it like eight bucks a glass?”
“Yeah, but when I come here with Samuel we always get a margarita.”
“I’m alright. You can have one.”
“Are you sure? They’re really good.” said Nick. He was looking through the drinks menu.
“I’m fine,” said Andrew.
“I’ll pay for your drink,” said Nick.
“Is Jae gunna have one?” asked Andrew. Jae was not paying attention.
“He can’t,” said Nick.
“Oh, yeah, I forgot. Not twenty-one.”
“Well,” said Andrew, “Which drinks are good? Which margaritas, I mean.”
“The mango’s good.”
“Alright, I’ll get that.”
“Alright, we’ll try to grab the waitress when she comes around again,” said Nick. Andrew snacked on a couple chips. The basket was finished and another one of the mortars was empty and Jae pushed them to the end of the table by the dirty napkin.
“Jesus Christ, Jae,” Andrew said as he ate a chip with a moderate amount of salsa on it, “Fan of salsa?”
Jae shrugged with his hands.
A few minutes had passed and the waitress hadn’t come by. Andrew got up.
“Where are you going?” said Nick.
“Alright, well,” said Nick, looking around for the waitress, “Alright.”
The restaurant wasn’t very busy and the mumbling of the guests was faint. Andrew noticed that there was music playing on the speakers in the ceiling: bright trumpets in harmonic unison between bouts of grace-note singing by a Mexican man. It was set to one of those predictable waltz rhythms and Andrew wondered if this is what Mexicans listened to back home. He ducked beneath the colored streamers as he passed the hostess. At first he didn’t see the bathrooms, just the dim bar and an artificial sculpture of an Aztec jaguar. He turned and in the corner was tucked away a hall with a “banos” sign above it.
The bathroom tiles were white and clean. The music echoed thinly and the air smelled of bleach. Andrew took a leak and washed his hands to get the dirt off and splashed his face to get the salt off. He dried his hands and face with a paper towel.
Through the windows it was cloudy and the sun was setting darkly. The lights were dim orange and there was a Diego Rivera print in a frame by the booth. Nick stood up so Andrew could take his seat.
When Andrew was settled, Nick said “You just missed the waitress.”
“She’ll be back, I’m sure.”
“Right when you left she got here,” Nick laughed, “and right when you got here she left.”
Andrew rubbed his shoulder with his hand and Jae looked absent.
The waitress appeared and asked for Andrew’s license and he showed it to her. She said “You look seventeen.”
“I know,” said Andrew, smiling and putting his I.D. back in his wallet, “I look like a kid.”
“So you wanted the mango? Blended or on the rocks?”
Andrew asked for it blended and she didn’t have to jot it down and she disappeared.
A table-server came with the food and said “Tacos” and Nick said that was his and the table-server set the plate down in front of him. Jae got his burrito and Andrew got his enchiladas.
They started eating and Andrew enjoyed it very much. These restaurant chains weren’t authentic, he knew, but he loved the food—should that make him guilty? But maybe there was nothing wrong with liking Americanized food. One of his enchiladas had chicken, another had carnitas, and there was a bonus one that came with carne asada. And he quickly switched between the enchiladas and the beans and rice, as though he wanted to taste them separately and simultaneously.
The waitress set his margarita in front of him and he gulped at it through a straw. Shit, he thought, this must be a girl drink. It tasted like a smoothie with no tequila at all. Nick’s margarita was served in a straight old fashioned glass on the rocks with a lime. It was a golden hue and Nick dumped a shot of something red and the color bled toward the bottom but left a gradual spectrum from gold to red.
“Wait,” said Andrew, “What did you get?”
“I got a mango margarita,” said Nick.
“You got a blended fruit margarita,” he said.
“What’s that red?”
“Grand Marnier. It’s a French liqueur.”
Andrew looked at his smoothie. Oh well, he thought, it tasted good. He had three large sips that cooled his stomach before he piled on more enchiladas.
Jae had grown bored of his burrito and left the last quarter of it on his plate with the unfinished rice and beans. He was busy finishing a second basket of chips and stopped a waiter to ask for a box for his leftovers, and asked if he couldn’t have more chips and salsa. The waiter chuckled to himself and went to do the task.
“So,” said Nick, “Are you coming to the party tonight?”
“I don’t think so,” said Andrew, “I have too much stuff to do.”
“I know, I’m really busy.”
“So you don’t want to try the beer we got today?”
“I do,” said Andrew drinking his margarita, “I just can’t.”
“You should go,” said Jae, “we can share that Mead we got. I really want to try it.”
Andrew had told his girlfriend he wouldn’t go. But he couldn’t tell them that because they would ask why and he wouldn’t have a good answer. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it was because she didn’t want him drinking irresponsibly, or she was scared he’d get drunk and not be taken care of by his friends. They would tell him that he needed to man up and that he was pussy-whipped.
Andrew told himself that she wouldn’t mind, because he knew how to drink and he wasn’t planning to drink much anyways. And why shouldn’t he go if he wanted to?
“How late does the party go?” asked Andrew.
“Til whenever,” said Nick.
“Alright, I guess I’ll go.”
“Sweet,” said Jae.
“It’ll be fun,” said Nick.
Andrew nodded and slurped the last of his margarita.
When everyone was finished they waited for the check. Jae was listless and he stared at something with a bored curiosity. Andrew was impressed that he could remain upon the margin of sleep with such constancy. Andrew yawned and rubbed his eyes and stretched. Nick turned his head to find the waitress.
She came eventually, and they split the price and moved along.
The hostess said goodbye and they walked outside and the wind was ferocious.
“Damn,” said Jae. They were not expecting it to be this cold.
It was dark and cars were passing loudly on the street. They got inside the car and Nick started up the engine and drove out of the plaza.
Andrew said, “I can’t wait for this quarter to end.”
“I know,” said Nick, “It’s been forever.”
“Any plans for spring break?”
Nick checked his rearview. A Ford pickup truck was tailing way to close. Jae was sleeping and his head was wobbling on the back of the seat.
“No,” said Nick as he changed lanes, “Just going home. You?”
Nick told Andrew about his job, talked about his friends who Andrew didn’t know, shared ideas about spring rush. Andrew asked a question about fees for coming late to meeting, and Nick pointed out the constitution because he knew it very well.
Andrew kept up the conversation so he wouldn’t fall asleep; he didn’t want to be rude. Nick pulled off the freeway and stopped at a red light.
Andrew said “Samantha Street,” and gave a chuckle.
“It’s a funny name for a street.”
“Oh,” said Nick. He turned left onto Samantha Street.
“I guess I’m still used to home.”
Nick gave him a quizzical glance.
“I mean like,” said Andrew, “Where I come from we don’t have street names.”
“Well then what do you have?”
“Letters and numbers.”
“Like first, second, third street.”
“Yeah, basically,” said Andrew. He saw a new Dodge Challenger that was painted black and had a red pattern on the side. It looked good, speeding on ahead of Nick’s four-cylinder Toyota.
Nick said “Ehan and I were in this city in Colorado where the streets were named alphabetically, and the cross streets.”
“Oh, that’s like where I live except, yeah, they’re just letters. It’s sort of dumb to have streets with names ordered alphabetically. Like, what’s the point in giving them names them?”
“I don’t know,” said Nick, pulling into the neighborhood, “but we didn’t even notice until we were like walking around. We said ‘Hey, is there something going on here?’ because we saw Kappern, then Littleton, then Miramar, then Naples,” he laughed, feeling that he’d gotten his point across.
They were quiet as they came to the street that was lined with cars on either side. Nick searched for a space on the curb and had to park on the next street over. Jae woke up and yawned and they got out of the car and walked to the Kappa Pi Tau house.
There were lights on in the garage, door closed, and the people inside it were cheering and shouting as they played beer pong. All the other houses were dark, even though it wasn’t late, waiting for the morning. Andrew had heard that they’d had noise complaints and would be fined if they had another within the month. No one seemed to give a shit.
It required three volleys of pounding on the door before someone opened it for them.
“Heeeeeyyy!” said Steven, patting them on the back as they walked in and closing the door behind them. It smelled like piss, partly because the bathroom was right next to the door and partly because of all the beer. Andrew saw a couple girls looking at him with indignant frowns as though his presence was an insult. He didn’t recognize them.
“Steven!” said Jae, taking Steven’s cup and drinking what was left, then handing it back, “You missed a great game!”
“I know…” said Steven, “I had an essay due today at six.”
“Oh, that sucks,” said Nick.
“I know I know, but I heard we won!” he hollered. He tipped his cup back to drink and was surprised to find that it was empty. The atmosphere was loud and celebratory and far from drunk. Andrew expected it would dissolve into sleepiness and incoherent praise in a few hours.
“Forty-three to twenty-six,” said Andrew, “We were behind in the first half, but started the second with an interception and a two-point conversion and took it home.”
“Wow!” said Steven, “that’s great!”
Once they were through the entryway they entered the mass of the party. A game of king’s cup was being played harmlessly in the corner and the DDs were playing poker at a table. There was a square table in the middle around which people crowded and poured drinks, and from here Andrew could not see the bar. So far it seemed like a relatively motionless party; people were standing in one place and holding lengthy conversations growing stale, occasionally returning to the bar or the table for a refill.
Arnold slapped Andrew on the back and shouted, “Great fucking catch, bro.”
“Thanks, man,” said Andrew.
“Yo,” said Arnold, stealing him and breaking his way into a cluster of people, “remember Mohammed, Mike Chun, and Cory.”
“What’s up,” said Andrew. He recognized them from the game. Mohammed was a wide receiver and had knocked him with an elbow. Andrew’s cheek was sore and he wasn’t done being pissed about it. Chun and Cory had played whatever positions but Andrew had forgotten their names.
“Good game,” said Mohammed.
“Good game,” said Chun and Cory.
“Yeah,” said Andrew, “You guys tackled me pretty fucking good.”
Mohammed laughed and said, “You’re too fast, man. Gotta keep you down somehow.”
“Too much QB sneaks,” said Chun.
“Yeah,” said Andrew.
“Where’s your drink, man?” said Arnold.
“I just got here—“
“Well, come on then,” said Arnold. Taking Andrew from the group and moving through the crowd toward the bar. He’d lost track of Jae and Nick.
There was a ring of people pressed against the bar. Everyone had a full shotglass in their hand and a guy with dark hair, bright eyes, and a Cheshire smile lifted his glass and shouted “Suck my dick, LA!” and everyone cheered and took the shot. It was Ramin, their chapter president. When he slammed the glass down he released a massive smile to show his slightly stained teeth and nodded his head. He was not the tallest man at the party, stopping short of six feet, but he had a large belly and was stronger than he looked. The sleeves of his black button-up were rolled up to show his brown skin and his body seemed loose, as though he’d only just shrugged the globe off his shoulders.
He seemed to gather the entire party toward him. It belonged to him. All the drinks and all the guests. Andrew knew this about him; Ramin was like this at every occasion. When Ramin’s girlfriend had broken up with him, he threw a huge party and got drunk out of his mind and when he stood upon the table the whole place went quiet and he said “I am ok” before slipping and falling into a crowd of people. They cheered and caught him and partied on and after puking in the sink Ramin found a girl and fucked her on that very table in front of everyone. (From then on it was tradition never to eat off that table; it was reserved for drinking and screwing.)
When Ramin saw Andrew he cried “Andrew, come here!” reaching out to him and giving a brief and aggressive hug.
“Where’s Nick?” said Ramin.
Andrew shrugged, but Ramin had already lost interest in the answer.
“Get me a couple shots!” Ramin shouted to Ehan, who was tending.
“Whaduya want?” said Ehan.
Before Andrew could say anything Ramin said “Whisky.”
“Great job tonight,” he told Andrew, “Always great to have a reliable pair of hands out there.”
“Yeah, no problem.”
Ramin looked him in the eye with what Andrew interpreted to be anger and said “You gunna play with us this Fall?”
“Oh,” said Andrew, relieved, “Probably not. I mean, Dylan couldn’t make it today so—”
The drinks appeared. Arnold had gone to fetch them from the bar, holding two glasses in his right hand and one in his left. Ramin stole the one on his left and thrust it upon Andrew and took one for himself.
“Fuck Dylan,” said Ramin, “he’s ok but he’s never around. You’re way more reliable. Cheers.”
They lifted their glasses and Andrew tossed it back. Ramin gargled it in the back of his throat, swalled with a loud gulp, and cleared his throat with an “aahhh.”
Arnold said to Andrew “Yeah, you should play with us. We’re gunna like practice this summer so we can finally beat Sigma Chi.”
“I don’t know, I’m always busy in the fall.”
“Busy? With what?” said Ramin.
“School and shit.”
“School? Aren’t you like a sociology major?”
“Whatever, dude, I’m sure you’re not that busy.”
“Just do it, man,” said Arnold.
“I’m gunna ask you about it all summer until you do it,” threatened Ramin.
“Another shot?” Ramin suggested to everyone.
“No, I’m good,” said Andrew.
Ramin sniffed. “Do you guys smell something?” he looked around. Those near enough to hear him listened and smelled. “Do I smell oysters?”
Arnold smiled and said “I think I do. I think it’s oysters.”
“I think it is,” said Ramin. And those who listened were perceptibly abuzz with entertainment.
“Shut up,” said Andrew. He felt the urge to punch Ramin in the face and imagined leaving him with a bloody nose in front of everybody, but knowing Ramin this would only elicit a hearty laugh (from himself and onlookers). It would make Andrew feel good, nonetheless.
“Come on, bro,” said Ramin, slapping Andrew’s shoulder with joviality, though it was unsettling for Andrew. He was sharply aware of the small group that was listening, mostly Brothers, and for him it was a serious accusation poorly masked by Ramin’s frothy tone.
“No, dude,” said Andrew.
Andrew looked at Arnold, who’d lost the firmness of the ground and pinned an arm to the bar to right himself as he belched like a rock star.
“I don’t want to drink too much tonight,” said Andrew.
“Alright, man, it’s cool it’s cool,” Ramin said earnestly, “just do your thing.”
“Just pour me a little,” said Andrew.
Ramin held back a grin and said “There he is. There’s my man,” putting one arm on Andrew and the other on Arnold.
Andrew stayed at the bar but felt that he should leave. He thought that the insult might blow over if he acted like it didn’t matter.
Bataar and Huey were talking to some UCLA Brothers and Andrew joined them. When he entered the circle, Bataar said that he was hungry. Andrew noticed a group of five or six Delta Gamma girls packed tightly near the bar and said “Plenty of legs and thighs.”
He added “Nah, I’m just kidding. I don’t eat girls.”
Huey said “Just Allie?”
They laughed harder and Andrew ground his teeth and his face went red. Damnit, he said to himself, what an idiot you are. You knew that was coming but you said it anyways. It was a failed attempt at a cannibal joke, but crudeness is always quick and deadly.
After a while Andrew drifted away from that group and squeezed his way toward the living room.
Out of the corner of his eye, Andrew saw an AXO girl he recognized. He’d seen her at Starbucks just the other day with her cake-face makeup, the mascara collecting in clods on her eyelashes and the eye shadow masking her face, her bleached hair and orange skin, sweatpants with the word “juicy” on the ass, a bedazzled phone, and a huge pink bag with her sorority’s letters on it. Her boobs were popping out of her too-tight strapless dress as she flirted with one of the UCLA guys.
“Here you go,” said Nick.
Andrew blinked. “Huh?”
Nick handed him a plastic cup. “It’s Mead. Honey beer.”
“It’s good,” said Jae.
Andrew sipped and said “It’s strong.” It had a very sweet taste from start to finish and felt smooth.
Andrew plopped himself on the couch and there was no room so Nick sat on the arm rest with his left leg crossed over his right. Nick held the plastic cup with delicacy and peered under his glasses at his drink, swirling it and smelling it thoughtfully. Jae, who sat on the couch on the other end of the room, finished chugging his drink and groped a girl’s covered breast as one might stroke a gerbil; his fingers were spread out, squeezing and scraping at the same time. She had an adorably soft Korean face and Andrew had no clue who she was.
He looked away and remembered that he was at the Kappa Pi Tau house. Dim lights illuminated the wan carpet and made the crowded space feel stuffy. The coffee table was strewn with half-drunk bottles of beer, a box of take-out, a plate with an In-N-Out burger on it, a pile of napkins soaking something spilled, and various food wrappers. There were shoes on the ground and crushed chips and chip-bags, and the place had not been vacuumed in at least a year. The couch and carpet were multi-colored from spill stains, vomit stains, blood spatters, and probably sperm and drool.
His girlfriend, Allie, was at her apartment studying and writing essays right now. He had a few hundred pages to read and a paper to write for next week, and the thought of it made him nervous. But he’d rather be with Allie right now. Yeah right, she’d say. I guess so, he thought.
He opened his phone and a text from her said “How is studying?”
“It’s good,” he texted back, “How bout you?”
He put the phone on his lap and it buzzed again. It read “Fine.”
Andrew concentrated in order to move his fingers over his phone to text “That’s good.”
He hoped she couldn’t tell that he was getting buzzed as he finished off the glass of Mead. Nick had gone to fetch another drink already.
He wanted to text “I miss you” but was afraid that it would start a conversation in which he would have to maintain his lies while getting drunk.
Nick returned with a bottle of Three Philosophers and poured it into Andrew’s cup. He poured some into Jae’s and then his own.
The crowd by the bar was getting rowdy and Andrew got up and moved closer. He knew what was coming. The brothers started jumping and spilling their drinks and Ramin bashed his way through them and got up on the table and tottered, falling to the floor. He got back on the table holding a freshly poured cup of beer and said “Alright, alright. Let’s go!” and began the cheer with a shout that gradually increased in pitch. Then everyone joined in: “We are Kappa Pi Taus, we’re riders of the night. We’re rowdy motherfuckers, but we’d rather fuck than fight. So Hidey-Tidy Christ Almighty who the fuck are we? God damn sons of bitches AEKDB.”
The whole house cheered and jeered and drank together. Andrew drank and was approached by a girl named Maela. Most of the guys considered her to be ugly, but she did not seem to know. She looked positively slutty in her short, tight leopard-print dress that didn’t flatter her hanging belly fat and her black pumps into which her tortured feet were mashed.
“Andrew,” she said, tossing her hair back.
“Where’s your girlfriend?” asked Maela.
“Studying,” he said.
“She doesn’t like parties?” she shifted her weight from her left to her right foot. He could only imagine the pointless pain it must be…
“That’s too bad,” she pouted.
“Yeah,” said Andrew, providing disinterested body language by looking away from her.
“So like how’ve you been?”
“Good,” he said.
She suddenly sneezed and Andrew winced as he felt a spray on his face.
“Sorry,” she said, embarrassed.
Andrew wiped his face.
“Nick,” said Andrew, grabbing Nick’s arm, “Uhm, pour me some more?”
“Sure,” said Nick, doing so.
“You remember Maela, right Nick?”
Nick and Maela looked at one another. She surveyed him distastefully (she was too good for him).
Nick, who was also thick in the belly, said “I do. Hey there.” Andrew could tell that he was nervous because he was hesitant to speak.
“Hi,” said Maela.
“Great,” said Andrew “uhm, I’m gunna go play beer pong. So, yeah.”
He moved quickly away and went to the garage where the guys had two tables setup for beer pong. The lighting was poor but it worked well enough. The two-car garage was messy, with bikes and tools pressed up against the wall, and about twenty people were playing and watching and mingling. Ping pong balls clacked upon the tables and the black, oil-stained garage floor and occasionally plopped into a plastic cup to the sound of cheering. Andrew announced that he wanted to play a game.
Once his turn came up, he and another brother, Simon, opened a couple cans of Coors and assembled their end of the table.
“You guys want to play LA versus Irvine?” said a voice on the other side of the table.
Andrew looked up and saw Mohammed and Cory pouring beer in their cups.
“Sure,” said Andrew and Simon.
Andrew placed the cups in the triangle formation, and took a ping pong ball from the water cup.
“Why don’t we let them go first,” said Simon.
Andrew remembered to be respectful to the guests. He said “Alright” and bounced the ball to across the table.
Mohammed took the ball and stepped back, lining up his shot. He lobbed it and missed. Cory took his shot and got the top apex and Andrew drank it. It was shitty beer and he could taste the dirtiness of the ball.
Simon was fairly skilled at beer pong and he sunk one of the cups touching the top apex. Andrew took the ball and lined it up.
“Elbow rule,” said Simon. Andrew looked at the table. He took a step back so that his elbow was behind the edge. He moved his arm in practice and Cory waved his arms over the table and made faces. Andrew’s shot landed in the top apex of their triangle. He and Simon cheered and clasped hands.
Mohammed and Cory drank. When they were done, Simon took his second shot and made it in one of the far apexes. Andrew’s shot missed.
“How many re-racks?” Andrew asked as Mohammed cleaned a ball and prepared his shot.
“Two,” said Simon.
Mohammed sunk the center cup. Cory’s shot bounced off the rim of one of the back row cups. Simon drank.
Simon sank his ball, Andrew missed, and they asked for a re-rack. Mohammed arranged a six-cup triangle.
Four rounds later, Andrew and Simon had one cup left and the other guys had five. After two rounds they were unable to sink it, and after another two they were one to one. Simon lobbed a great shot that swirled around the cup. Mohammed plucked it out before it hit the beer.
“What the fuck?” said Andrew, “Is that allowed?”
“It’s allowed,” said everyone.
“Shit,” said Andrew.
Then Mohammed tossed it into the last cup and won. Andrew got the urge to leap across the table and sock him in the jaw.
“Good game guys,” said Mohammed. He put his hand out and Andrew exchanged the secret handshake. Andrew slapped him on the back and smiled, “Yeah.”
He went to the kitchen and had a shot of tequila. He sat down at the dining table with a can of Coors Lite, mulling it around his mouth. Sweat dripped from his head to his hands.
There were some LA guys sitting across from him, rippling in their tiny shirts, whom he didn’t recognize. They eyed him and he acknowledged them with a nod, but he didn’t want to speak.
Andrew closed his eyes. You shouldn’t have come here, he told himself. Damnit, Allie was right. She’ll be so pissed at me. Whenever I do this shit I always tell her what I did, so what’s the point in lying in the first place? But she never lets me be with friends.
Three weeks ago, his friends went out to a bar and Allie had said “Fine, go. It’s not like you want to spend time with me anyways,” or something along those lines.
“But I spent all day with you,” he said. And this detail must have been irrelevant.
Andrew ended up going with them and she was pissed. “You hate me,” she said.
“No I don’t,” he said, and he was going to tell her that he just wanted to have fun. But he knew she would be offended and say “Am I not fun?”
He’d been with her for a year and a half and she was the hottest girl he’d ever seen. Her hair was light brown and short (down to her shoulders usually), and she had athletic legs. Her breasts were not the largest but they were perfectly formed, and they weren’t so important to him, anyways. She was part German and part Argentinean, giving her what Andrew thought to be an unusual face, for she had wide, pronounced cheeks and almond-shaped eyes.
Allie was the third girl he’d had sex with, and she was very flexible. She told him she enjoyed doing doggy and so they did that a lot but he suspected her favorite was spooning. When in bed their relationship seemed perfect and song-worthy.
She worked hard in school, doing international studies, and had nice full dreams of the future. His ideals occasionally intersected with hers: he was skeptical of the effectiveness of policy and diplomacy and consequently she thought he was naïve.
She partied sometimes but not with him. She never liked to drink with him. Allie loved to grab a few friends and some wine and chat about life and their mean, rude, crude boyfriends. The topic had sparked a few arguments and he was ragingly jealous whenever she did this.
Presently he opened his phone and read three messages reading “I miss you,” “Going to bed soon?” and “Goodnight.”
He closed his phone.
“Where’s Allie?” said Ramin, who was sitting next to Andrew at the table.
“Where do you think.”
Ramin smiled and drank from his bottle, then burped in Andrew’s face. It smelled like rosemary and piss.
“You invite her?”
“Yes,” said Andrew.
“Didn’t want to come?” Ramin put an arm on the back of Andrew’s chair.
“She’s studying for a test.”
“She wants to do well on it.”
“She’s smart, right? She doesn’t have to study that hard, does she?”
“You really want her to come to these parties? I mean, look at this place.”
“What about it?” said Ramin heatedly. There was deep throated yelling and laughing and it was hard to breathe. You couldn’t see the floor anywhere. The kitchen, the bar, or the television were not visible from here because of all the bodies. The little women slinking within the group were looking for compliments and horny advances, and if they were looking for action they’d find it wherever they looked.
Andrew wanted to explain that he didn’t want his girlfriend to be raped. He wasn’t sure how Ramin would take that. He said “She doesn’t party.”
“Dude,” said Ramin, “teach her to. Be the leader, be the man. Buy a whip and put the pussy in the purse.”
“Maybe next time.”
“I learned in life that,” he burped, “I learned in life that the man comes first,” he stopped, “know what I mean?”
Ramin sighed, “I mean that, like, you can’t let a woman run your life. The whole world is open to you. You can do anything, all you have to do…is get out there, and like, do it.”
“I’m here, aren’t I?”
Ramin touched his shoulder, “That’s really good man. Proud of you bro.”
A Delta Gamma walked past the table and glanced at Ramin. He winked at her and smiled. She disappeared blushing.
“Allie’s hot,” said Ramin, “I understand why you’re sitting here alone and texting her. She must be great stuff.”
Andrew drank his beer and squirmed, “You shouldn’t say it like that.”
“Sorry bro. Didn’t mean to cross the line. It’s true though. For a steady girl, it’s probably the best you could get. The other guys, like Huey, been with that ugly idiot for over two years. It’s hard to get a hot one go steady.”
“Bring her out on Thursday. It’ll be fun. Just a casual kickback, you know?”
“Why,” said Andrew, “So you can hit on her?”
“Yeah,” he said. Andrew’s face went red and he glared at the table, “Kidding! Dude, that was a fucking joke! Have a beer or something, Jesus Christ.”
“Go party,” said Andrew.
“Yep,” said Ramin, “Lots of partying to do,” he finished his bottle of beer, slammed it down, and knocked it off the table with a sudden swing of his arm. Then he licked Andrew’s cheek and said “Cheer up,” Ramin grabbed the Delta Gamma by the ass—with both hands—and led her giggling to the bathroom.
Andrew stayed where he was. His mind was dense with thought but he couldn’t seem to pick any one of them out and make sense of it. He sipped his beer and got chilly, watching the hairs on his arm prickle and shiver. He felt the blood draining from his face and his armpits and neck were sweating as though a valve had been released. He breathed slowly and tried to think of something else.
Nick came and asked if he was alright.
“I feel sick,” said Andrew.
“Like, puke sick or cold sick?”
Andrew couldn’t speak again. He controlled his breathing and nodded his head. Then Nick walked away.
Andrew fought the sensation for several minutes. Then a surge of warmth went to his belly and he puked on the table and the floor. He spread his legs and puked directly onto the floor. The second and third retches were as large as the first, and he felt and tasted enchilada’s and margarita and Coors Lite from the back of his throat to his teeth. The guys at the table dodged and got up. Everyone around him was looking at him and the mess with disgusted faces. It was the first puke of the night.
He washed his mouth with water and spit it in the sink. He took a roll of paper towels and tried to mop everything up himself, but the paper got soaked and didn’t work well.
He’d seen people puke at parties before, but had never done so himself. At one party he’d been to a guy looked half-dead with eyes almost closed, leaning back on the couch as though it was rocketing skyward with gread speed. He sipped at his beer and immediately purged into the cup, which overflowed onto himself. He didn’t seem to notice and returned to his rocket experience. The people beside him juped out of the way. They picked him up and supported him under each shoulder while a girl took the cup and dumped it in the sink. The guy was stumbling and had a smile like a grimace going on and off. He seemed heavier than human, and Andrew wondered how conscious he was. He wondered how black and dull the mind had been, what it was like to see through his eyes.
The stench of the puke was stinging Andrew’s nose. He was on hands and knees patting the floor with the towels, watching them soak, then picking them up and putting them in the overflowing trash. He tried to ignore everyone who noticed what was going on. He felt them watching him and thinking he was stupid and gross and not a man.
He saw Mohammed, straight-faced and observing with a beer. Mohammed turned away.
When the paper towels were gone, the carpet was still moist and the smell was strong. He found Nick and told him they had to leave.
“Well, don’t you want to try this beer?” asked Nick, holding some bottle from a craft brewery. Andrew thought he might smash the bottle on his head.
“No, lets go,” said Andrew, “It’s late.”
“Well, let me ask Jae,” said Nick.
Andrew waited by the door and watched Nick talking to Jae, who was sitting on the couch with a girl.
Andrew locked his eyes on the floor so that no one would notice him.
“Andrew!” said Bataar. Bataar fell into him and Andrew struggled to keep him up, “You are sooo amaz—football. I loved.”
“Woah, Bataar,” said Andrew, “let’s sit on the stairs.” Andrew took him to the stairs and they sat on the steps. Then Bataar got up and shouted “No!” and nearly fell down.
“Dude!” said Andrew, holding him, “Take it easy.”
“You take it easy!” Bataar laughed.
“Come on man.”
“Do I smell? Are you puke?”
“No, man,” said Andrew, “Nobody puked.”
“I think I’m gunna puke,” said Bataar laughing again.
“You look fine to me.”
“I know when I’m fine, and right now, I am definitely not fine.”
“You’d better not get another drink,” said Andrew.
“Watch me I drank,” said Bataar, stumbling away.
“Ready?” said Nick. Jae was with him.
“Let’s go,” said Andrew.
They left the party quietly and got in Nick’s car.
Andrew sat in the passenger seat feeling like an idiot. Everyone saw me, he thought. Nick must have known, too.
Andrew didn’t talk to Nick during the ride. He looked out the window and at his feet, feeling angry and ashamed. He closed his eyes and listened to the streaking road and watched lights flicker behind his eyelids. He was dreary and drunk and wasn’t sure if he could say a single sensible thing. He opened his cellphone and read Allie’s messages. He closed it with a snap, thinking of how Allie had laughed at it, saying “only girls use that kind of phone.”
The ride was grueling. He clutched the door handle and was prepared to leave the minute they’d reached his apartment. He couldn’t believe he’d puked. He’d thought he had control of his drinking and wasn’t like the other guys. He hated people who drank to be drunk; they made him sick. But everyone saw that he was like them.
Nick stopped the car and Andrew got out without the chatty goodbye. He walked quickly to his room and it was dark and quiet. His apartment-mates must be out still.
He plucked out his contacts and brushed his teeth and changed his clothes and dropped his body into bed. His sheets felt cool and welcoming. He was tired as hell but couldn’t sleep and he tossed around, moving from back to side to back. He was angry and confused with himself.
Andrew opened his phone and texted “I’m sorry Allie.”