You woke up with a sore throat, a growling stomach, and a pounding head. Thump, thump, thump. It was Monday.
You thought that maybe you were still stoned, but you couldn’t tell for sure. It was alright, though, because English class didn’t start until three o’clock and it was only just past noon. You had plenty of time to get your act together. But your mind was all over the place, thinking about Ethiopia, orange juice, looming deadlines, and Taryn. Taryn. You had forgotten all about last night, but as you stepped out of bed, lost your balance, and fell to the floor, you started to piece it all together.
Taryn. Perfect tits Taryn. You’d done well for yourself. It was funny—you always talked about meeting “intelligent” women, who actually knew your Woody Allen references and had read Lolita and liked it, but at the end of the day you still went for the girl whose tits and ass made everything else irrelevant. You knew it, but you felt powerless to behave any differently. It was, you thought, part of being a man.
Jake and Ashley were going out to celebrate their anniversary Sunday night. They asked you to join them. You had work left to do, but you gave it little thought before agreeing to go. It was mid-February and still way too cold to go out without a coat. You had this one coat, this one fantastic piece of quilted corduroy, and you knew you looked good in it. Throwing it on over a long-sleeved thermal—your default look—you headed out, meeting Jake and Ashley on 36th street before heading down the bridge toward McFadden’s. It was probably the grimiest bar in town. It was also a routine shitshow: a safe bet. The bouncer took one look at your ID, said, “This isn’t you,” and decided to let you in anyway. You thought that maybe he was gay and liked your coat.
Inside, you ordered four Miller Lites, tipping the bartender 25 percent and smiling at the blonde girl at the other end of the bar.
Downing the beers quickly as you stood with Jake and Ashley, you waited for the alcohol to kick in.
“Dude,” Jake yelled over the music, “Is that that girl?” His gaze was fixed over your left shoulder, and he told you to turn around. When you did, you saw Taryn. She was in your philosophy class, the one with 200 kids, but every time you showed up, you found her in the crowd and paid attention to her instead of Kantian ethics.
She was dancing wildly with half a dozen girls. They were all good looking, but she was the best of the bunch. She was short and slender, with a dark, rich complexion that drove you nuts. Tonight she wore a form-fitted black v-neck and dark jeans.
“She’s cute,” said Ashley. You had known Ashley for years. She thought everyone was prettier than herself. Without your help she’d still be single.
“Dude, you have to go talk to her,” Jake yelled. He was drunk. “She’s hot, man. You gotta fuck her.”
He was right, but you knew you hadn’t had enough to drink to approach her. You were sick of beer and you were getting pretty full, so you went downstairs and waited at the bar for 15 minutes before ordering a triple-shot of vodka. While waiting, you saw Michelle, whom you’d slept with a few times last year. She said she missed you, that you were never around anymore, and that she was having a great time. She was wasted, but when she pulled you in by the collar of your coat for a kiss, you didn’t fight back. You grabbed her ass. It was fatter than you remembered. She tasted like Jack Daniels.
You got your drink and said goodbye to Michelle. You took the shot halfway up the stairs. You felt like vomiting for a minute but it passed, and when you got upstairs you glanced over at Jake and Ashley. Both of them urged you on toward Taryn, eyes wide and arms flailing.
Boozed and blushed, you approached her. You felt loose and confident.
“What’s up,” you said, eyes glazed. “You’re in my philosophy class.” She wasn’t even looking at you. You waited for a response, but she seemed pretty into whatever she was saying to her girl friends. “Yo,” you said, putting your hand on her shoulder. This time she turned around and smiled.
“Hey, Joey,” she said. You couldn’t believe she knew your name. “I just read your article in the newspaper.”
“No shit?” Nobody read your articles, especially not hot women.
“I’m Taryn.” No shit. “I like your coat,” she said. She moved in closer to you.
“So you liked the article?” you asked. You talked like you were in a hurry.
“Yeah, well, I mean, we had to read it for class.” You weren’t surprised. She wasn’t interested in the origins of post-punk. She looked around at her friends. “I’m going to go get a drink,” she said. “Do you want anything?”
“I’ll come with you,” you said.
“Nah, don’t worry about it, I got it.”
“Alright, just get me whatever you’re getting.”
You weren’t sure if she heard you over the music, but she walked away. You stood alone in the middle of her friends. They were whispering things into each other’s ears and looking at you disapprovingly. Fucking bitches. One of them grabbed your arm and pulled you toward the back of the bar. It was easier to talk there.
“Hi,” she said, faking a smile. She looked good, but her pores were big. She also had too much eye shadow on. “What’s your name?”
“Joey,” you said, looking away. You were confused and sweaty. You hadn’t noticed the sweat until now.
“Okay, Joey, I’m Charlotte. Let’s talk about Taryn.”
“What is there to talk about?” you asked. You wanted to go back into the crowd and find Taryn.
“Well, for one, she’s got a boyfriend.”
“Then why’s she out without him?” you asked.
“Well, her and Tim—her boyfriend—aren’t doing so good right now,” she said, “but you shouldn’t try anything with her tonight, okay?” Fine, whatever. You said you wouldn’t try anything, but you really didn’t give a shit about what she was telling you. If Taryn wanted it, she wanted it. It wasn’t complicated. Just then she stumbled over, handing you a Long Island Iced Tea.
You put your arm around the little ring of fat below her waist. She laughed when she saw you and Charlotte talking. Charlotte did not laugh. She looked at you once more with a “fuck you” stare and walked away. You couldn’t believe what a cunt she was. Taryn grabbed your hand and brought you back into the middle of the bar. You danced for a few songs before the lights came on. She was a good dancer. Her ass was soft, and she was not shy about getting close.
When the lights came on people started clearing out of the bar. You checked your watch for the time. It was getting late. Sometimes girls looked like shit in the light, but not Taryn. As you finished off your drinks, you talked about her favorite films and music and food, because those were important things. Sex appeal and intelligence were mutually exclusive in girls, so you knew she’d give boring answers. But you didn’t care and only thought about her on top of you. You were running your fingers over the muscles on her back as they contracted. You felt her thighs sticking to yours. She was moaning and her hair was in your face.
Suddenly you felt a pinch and you snapped out of it. Jake was next to you, smiling.
“What’s up, man?” he asked.
“This is Taryn.” He pretended he had never seen her before and shook her hand.
“Jake.” He looked back toward you. “I’m going to go over to Ashley’s tonight. She has a little anniversary surprise for me.” He winked, gave you a high-five, and walked away.
“You want to get out of here?” you asked Taryn.
“Yeah, but, where are my friends?” You both looked around. The bar was nearly empty.
“I don’t see them,” you said. There was a long silence with things going on in it. You started to think of the sex again. You imagined a single drop of sweat moving from her chin to her cleavage and dropping down onto your torso. She was always on top in your fantasies.
“Let’s go,” she said. You were doing well.
You stepped outside and the cold made both of you think a little faster.She put her arm around yours. She pretended it was for warmth but you knew it wasn’t. You started to walk, and you saw her friends getting into a cab across the street. You couldn’t tell if they were glaring at you or at Taryn. Charlotte was the last to get into the cab. Taryn didn’t notice them, and you started to walk toward campus.
“Where do you live?” she asked. Her voice was weakened by the cold.
“Right off campus, on Moorehead,” you replied through rattling teeth. You didn’t say much else on the way to the apartment. It was too cold for quick wit. After a minute of struggling at the door, you got your key into the lock, but you knew then that you were probably too drunk to fuck. God, you prayed, don’t let me screw this up. You didn’t believe in God, but you prayed to him anyway on occasion.
As soon as you walked into the apartment, you took off your coat. With it went some of your confidence. But you didn’t need it. Before you could turn back around to face Taryn, she had thrown you down on the couch and gotten on top of you.
You kissed, slowly at first and then more viciously. The lighting in the room was low, but you could still see her clearly. She had an angular face, and her dark eyes and overflowing hair took you to an oasis in the sand. You thought you tasted hummus on her tongue but you were probably imagining it. You kissed until her cell phone vibrated. She opened it and typed something quickly before leaning in to kiss you again. You started to slide your pants off. It was about time. But Taryn sat up and did not seem to agree.
“What’s up?” you said.
“Nothing,” she said.
“Come on,” you said. “Don’t fuck around.” You sat up and met her gaze.
“I … I have a boyfriend.”
“Well what the fuck are you doing here, then?”
“We were thinking about taking a break.” Silence.
“Are you or are you not taking a break?” you asked. Your words were sharp and you emphasized each one.
“Well … not yet.” Goddamn it. “I thought I’d see what it was like, but … I don’t know. I’m sorry.” Women are not good at making decisions. They are not rational.
“Whatever,” you said. You got up and went back to your room. The whole situation was bullshit. It was ridiculous, but it was hard to get mad at her because she was so good looking. Whatever. You got your bong out and walked back into the living room, but Taryn wasn’t there. Fuck, that was it. You sat alone and got high. You hadn’t had sex since Lisa. It was getting to be too much. Why didn’t you go for the easy targets?
You felt yourself drifting to sleep with the bong in your hand until you heard a vibration on the table. The dumb bitch had left her cell phone. You opened it up and saw a new text message, and because you were stoned you didn’t think before reading it. It was from Charlotte and all it said was OK. You needed more information, so you looked to see what had come before it. “I’m going to tell Tim,” she had texted Taryn while you were kissing. What a fucking bitch! You checked for Taryn’s response. “Ugh. Don’t. I’ll be back in ten,” she’d written. Charlotte had ruined it, that piece of shit. You picked up the cell phone and threw it against the wall. It shattered and left a mess but you didn’t care.
You thought about masturbating but you were too hungry, so you microwaved a burrito and ate it before you could taste it. You walked past the bathroom, thought about brushing your teeth, decided against it, went into your room, and passed out.
You woke up with a fiesta in your mouth. After stumbling out of bed, you went to brush your teeth and then looked at yourself in the mirror for ten minutes as you pieced together the night. You were too attractive for this to keep happening. What if you saw Taryn on campus or at the coffee shop? Were you supposed to say hello? And what about the boyfriend? Maybe it wasn’t worth thinking about. Yeah, you told yourself, just don’t think about it. So you showered and got dressed and left your apartment to go to class. As you walked out you saw the broken cell phone, but you decided not to do anything about it. Maybe that was the right call, moving on and letting it fade from memory. But as you walked up to the cobblestone steps to class, you looked at each little rock and knew it wouldn’t be so easy.