The Boy woke up at around a quarter to noon, and to his deep surprise, he found that he had not awoken where he had planned to the night before. Instead, he found himself in a strange bed, in a strange room, on a strange street, with a strange girl next to him. Of course, the girl was not so strange, as he had met her twice before, and the room, at least, he knew had to be somewhere in Ann Arbor, but that was certainly the extent of what he knew of his situation, basically, pretty much, that’d be what he told people later on, and would believe himself. He looked around, and he was shocked, and he remembered in a flash that this might not be very good boyfriending on his part, and in a fit of guilt, or maybe exhaustion or in forfeit, he leaned his head back once again and fell asleep for a while longer.
When the Boy woke up again, it had turned to one in the afternoon. He woke up this time with a mop sweat, and his hair stuck to his forehead and his eyes burning from the salt water. The Girl was now awake also, and she was brushing her hair quietly, on her roommate’s bed right next to where the Boy was now sitting upright.
“I should go now.” The Boy tried to say, but before he spoke the Girl smiled at him, and crawled over and kissed him softly.
“Good morning.” She said, and rested her head on his lap, looking up.
“Did you sleep well?”
“Very. Thanks you. I hope you did too.”
The Boy touched the girl’s cheek and she touched his, and he knew he wanted to leave, but he was afraid, so instead, he and the Girl lay down together, and watched TV for a while.
I guess I made a mistake, thought the Boy. I guess this isn’t going to look too good. I should probably get back to the house, see Joe, smoke our cigar, think of a story that I can tell Melissa; but I shouldn’t tell a story, should I? It would certainly be safer. I should probably, for my safety. I should probably not for my conscience. Anyway, I’m not sure how to get back to the house. I’m not sure how I got here. I think I took a cab. I think I was at a party. I think it was last night. It may have been yesterday morning; for the football game. I think I got here without protest. I think the game was a good one. I don’t think I got in though. I don’t think we won either. My head should hurt right now. Why do I feel so good, and healthy, and spry, and energetic? This isn’t exactly just punishment for my actions. Her skin is so soft; I’d like to kiss it again. I think I will. Still, I do feel guilty. Melissa’s good to me. That was a good game, from what I can remember. I don’t think we won though. I think we lost. Ohio State won, but I got very drunk, and that was good, and then I danced, and I had fun. Then I ended up here. How did I end up here?
The Boy stroked The Girl’s hair and he kissed her again. In the light from the window she looked happy, and her smile was much whiter than his, and he liked that. She wore an oversized gray sweater, and without any makeup or any of the typical fixings she looked more beautiful than ever. Not surprisingly, this was a dilemma for the Boy, who wanted to leave so he could be done with this episode. Instead he stayed a while longer, didn’t pick up his phone when it rang, kissed the girl some more, talked about what they were going to do that day, forgot about Melissa. He felt guilty only for a moment, but more than anything, he felt proud, and that pride dug into his side and hurt him. Nevertheless, he didn’t want it to go away. It was his pride after all.
The Girl, on the other hand, seemed to feel guiltier than the Boy, but at the same time, she was tender, and welcoming, and she embraced what she had done in a sort of graceful manner that only girls with experience and class can do without seeming too self-confident. She too, had a boy back home, but she had liked the Boy, and that was that, and in the light on the day, to her, he also still seemed good to her.
Of course, what the Girl knew, and the Boy did not, was that as soon as he walked out of her room that day, that was the end of the episode in reality. There would be no more kisses, no more conversations, and when they both went home to see their others, she would stay with her boy because he loved her, and that would be that, and life would go on for the two of them as it had before; business as usual. Still, for the moment, things were as they were, and so she looked at the boy, and let him kiss her, and lay down on his lap, looking up at him and smiling.
“What are you going to tell your girlfriend?”
“I don’t know. Either the truth or a lie, I guess.”
“Don’t lie to her.”
“Won’t she be angry at me?”
“Yeah. But don’t lie to her. Trust me.”
“What are you going to say?”
“I’m going to tell the truth. But I’m going to leave some things out.”
“Isn’t that lying?”
“Not if you can justify it to yourself.”
“I feel like you’re confusing me right now.”
“You should tell your girlfriend the truth. She deserves to know everything, and if you ever want her to forgive you and stop being angry, then that’s what you need to do.”
“I know, but I’m scared.”
“I know. But you’re still here; and that says something.”
The Boy looked at the Girl, and he wanted to respond, but he had nothing. Instead he lay down next to her, and held her.
“I guess you’re right.” He said, and then rolled over with a sigh.
I got in on Saturday, right? No. Friday. Yeah, it was Friday afternoon because I didn’t have class then. I remember now. I got on the wrong bus, and I missed the stop for Ann Arbor, and I ended up near East Lansing, and I had to take a cab back. Why did I forget that? I got so drunk that night, I got lost. I remember that. I got lost and my phone went dead, and I had to have a security guard from the school help me back to Joe’s house so I could sleep again. But that wasn’t last night. That was the night before last night. That was different. That was just prep for that.
Yesterday was when it started, really. I woke up early and had a beer. Joe handed me the beer, and I drank it because, why not, it looked like it tasted good. Then I had nine more. Then I had Jell-o shots and whiskey, and some more beer. It wasn’t even nine yet, in the morning; my camera barely had enough light to expose my pictures, what was I doing? It was a lot of fun. I got really happy. I remember now.
The Boy reached for his shirt, and he pulled it on, over his head. He had to go, and he knew it, and he was taking the initiative to make it known that he intended to. He reached for his pants and he put those on too, but he put them on slowly, in the hopes that the Girl might have stopped him before he did, but she did not. Then he sat back down on the bed and he looked at her.
“Are you going to leave now?” She asked.
“Ok. Do you know where you have to go?”
“I’ll show you.”
The Girl grabbed a map off of her wall, and she took a marker from her desk and drew a line from one dark block to another. These were her building and Joe’s house. She explained to the Boy how to get back where he wanted to go, and she handed him the map.
“I don’t need to take this, what if you need it?”
“I already drew on it.”
“Are you sure?”
The Boy felt almost embarrassed. This girl had been nothing but nice to him, and now he didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay and hang out with her some more, and he wanted to forget about Melissa, and Joe, and his home, and his school. He wanted to stay, but he knew, finally, that he couldn’t. So he put on his jacket and he stood in front of the Girl, only inches away, neither of them touching the other, despite the very minimal distance separating their bodies.
“Thanks for the map then.” The Boy said, and the Girl giggled.
“Don’t worry about it, get out of here!”
“Ok then. Should we let each other know what we do?”
“That sounds like a good idea.”
They exchanged numbers.
“This *****.” The girl said.
“Now I’m going to miss you.” The Boy’s heart broke a little bit. He smiled, but he didn’t dare say the same thing back to her. Instead, he moved his hand up to her face and stroked her cheek a little bit, then gave her a soft kiss on the forehead and opened the door behind him.
“I’ll see you.”
“Let me know what you tell him.”
“I will. You let me know too.”
The boy stood staring at the Girl a bit, and then he left and closed the door behind him. As he waited for the elevator to open up for him, the boy took out his phone and looked through his recent text messages. There was one from Melissa, asking him how he was doing, and if he’d been having fun in Michigan, but he deleted it reluctantly, so that it looked as if his last message had been from Joe. It read: Are you coming back to the house tonight? He answered now, a few hours later: I’m sorry. I’m coming back now.
The morning was pretty crazy. Game day, Ohio State, how could it not have been? But I was good during the morning, and I intended to be good. Didn’t I? Yes I did. I did look around, and I spoke to a few other girls, but I never intended to do anything with them. Only this one. I didn’t even get into the game. I tried to sneak in with a student ticket, and they didn’t let me in because I wasn’t a student. Instead I went back with Joe and we got ****** and watched TV and then I took a nap after we smoked a cigar together. At the parties, people stood on the roofs, and they danced around massive kegs, and I spoke to some people I had just met and flirted and danced, but I was good, and at Joe’s house, after the parties were over, we just got ****** and smoked cigars and watched the game and waited for phase two of Saturday to begin so we could rest.
Phase one was getting wasted. Phase two was rest. We built up our energy so we could go back out at night, for Phase three, and that’s when I met her, at some party Phil got us into. I had seen her before, back home, and we had spoken only a few times. Why had I been so angry at Melissa when I left New York again? Respect issues or something, wasn’t it? She had said something cruel to me while we ate dinner at that jazz club, and the lights made her soft skin glow so that she looked almost translucent. I reacted. I think it started because she had been flirting with a friend of mine. Anyway, I thought she had been. She claims she wasn’t. Then she got angry and she said something cruel to me so I got angry, and then she apologized a lot. She apologized so much, Her lips pouted. I wanted to kiss them. We had great *** that night. And I loved her. But I was still angry when I left for Michigan the next morning, and I was still angry last night, apparently. I guess that’s why I immediately gravitated towards that girl. She looked really beautiful that night also. And I always did have a crush on her. And I was still angry.
The Boy made it to Joe’s house at about a quarter to three in the afternoon that Sunday. He only had a little time left before he had to leave for his plane, but he spent it well. They smoked, and they got ******, and they smoked cigars and they talked about the night. Joe helped the Boy remember some of what had happened, like when the Girl’s friend got sick on the wall, and then the Girl had to leave to go help her, and when the Boy had broken a table by jumping on it too hard after Joe and some friends had challenged him. Joe barely remembered those things, but he remembered them better than the Boy, and the Boy was grateful for Joe then, who also reminded him of another thing:
“You cheated on Melissa, didn’t you?”
“I guess I did. I don’t feel great about it.”
“I thought you two had separated. I would have stopped you.”
“We were. We got back together about a week ago.”
“Are you going to tell her?”
The Boy thought about it. He hadn’t quite made up his mind yet.
“I suppose that would be the honorable thing to do.”
“Not if I’d been honorable at the beginning.”
The two sat thinking for a while, and they both could tell the other had plenty more to say, but they both waited for the other, and so neither of the two spoke a word for a little bit. Finally, the Boy took a pull from his cigar, set it down, and opened his mouth. No words came out the first few tries, but after a while, he got better, and then he spoke.
“I feel like my father.”
I couldn’t help myself I guess. It’s in my genes, this endless tail-chasing. Even though I had always thought I was the noble one, the one with honor, I’m still an animal, like my dad and his dad and his family before him. She looked so good, I don’t know how I held back for so long—she in her tight pants and that green shirt that made her eyes pop, and her long, beautiful, silky brown hair, and the way she moved her hips against me. I could almost hear her name in the music, like it was egging me on, like it was encouraging me to kiss her. I kept getting beers, just kept going to the bar, two more, one more, three more, until I was drunk enough to do it, because I wanted to because it’s in my blood. Then I kissed her, or she kissed me. I can’t remember how, but it happened, and not for a second did I feel remorseful. Not until this morning. I was too busy having fun. In a way, I kept telling myself a kiss was nothing, at least nothing to worry about.
Then I went home with her. That’s probably the part I’ll leave out in my story. Her bed was really comfortable, much better than the couch or the floor, which is where I spent the night before, and where my sides had picked up bruises from the beer cans all around me. She smiled at me funny then. She hadn’t smiled at me that way before. Her teeth were really white, and her lips were really soft.
I had seen her before, and we had always flirted before, so she made a joke about it being almost like fate that we ran into each other. I remember thinking that that was probably true, or at least that it would be my excuse for not stopping myself. Her skin was too soft, and her body was blessed with perfect curves and I couldn’t resist myself. In many ways, she felt like Melissa. I almost felt at home, like there was a comfort to it.
I, on the other hand; well I’m not sure how I got so lucky. I just had to be myself—even as goofy and as hairy and as drunk as I was, she still liked me for the night. And she didn’t make me feel like I had to earn her respect either.
But I’m being cruel. Neither does Melissa. Not often anyway; and I’m sure if I spent enough time with the Girl, she may have made me feel that way also. It may even be a girl thing, but at the moment, it felt like it was a Melissa thing, and this girl liked me very much, and I wasn’t even trying.
Now it was time for the Boy to go home. Even if he wanted to stay, even if he wanted to go back to the Girl, and spend the rest of the day with her, between her legs and in her arms, and smoke cigars with Joe whenever he wanted and get drunk Saturday mornings, and just forget about telling Melissa anything, it was time for him to go back to New York where he belonged. So he packed his bags and walked to the bus stop, and he put his hat on, and he got ****** with Joe one more time, and they both walked together, without saying a word, because they didn’t even have to.
At the bus stop, Joe turned to the Boy and said:
“Did you make a decision yet?”
“You know, you stooge!”
“Well let me know then.”
The Boy nodded. The two had a hug by the bus as it arrived, and then the Boy got on the bus and fell asleep on the way to DTW. The flight was short, and it was easy. Still, the Boy kept thinking about what he would do when he got to New York. Once back at Newark, he took the train, and on the way back to Penn station he sat next to a large man with hairy arms, a mustache and a trucker hat. The man wore very thick-rimmed glasses, and spoke to anyone that listened, with a heavy drawl from some unidentifiable location.
“What’s your name?” He asked the Boy.
“Johnson.” He replied, having decided not to give his real name.
“Well Johnson, let me tell you. Don’t ever travel without alcohol.”
The man reached into his jacket, and he pulled a 24-ounce can of beer out in a plastic bag. He opened it up and took a swig from it, and then proceeded to lecture the Boy about the struggles and pains of traveling and marriage. He had lost his wife only a year ago, after he’d
An original short story by Andoni Elias Nava 2010