50 Shades of Blue and Gray, Part I
By the Voice Staff
September 13, 2012
Here at the Voice, we’re all about following trends, so in this moment of crowdsourced news and steamy literature we’ve decided to combine the two. Behold the ﬁrst installment of 50 Shades of Blue and Grey, the new romance novel set right here on the Hilltop. This one’s courtesy of a ﬁ ctional member of the Voice staff, but where it goes from here is all up to you. Send your 500- to 1500-word continuation, and we’ll pick one and put it on the next week’s back page. So pour yourself a glass of wine and release your inner E.L. James (or maybe Junot Díaz), and send your submissions — under your real name or your fake one — to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Voice reserves the right to edit any and all submissions.
You know the situation. It’s almost the same no matter who you’re after. But for me it was a girl. That girl you see everywhere around campus but you don’t know her name. She always catches you looking as you pass (or do you catch her?) and gives you that shy little smile out from under her bangs and freakishly long eyelashes. It’s not the smile like when she’s hanging with her girls on the lawn smoking cigarettes and laughing and looking like the queen of campus without even trying. And it’s not the bleary-eyed grin you saw her give the sucio preppy boys crowding her on Prospect last Friday. No, it’s the same smile you feel yourself giving her in that second and a half, like a string’s pulling one corner of your mouth up into that suggestive little hello before your eyes break and you look down at your shoes, half embarrassed she caught you and half disappointed you didn’t stop and ask her out to coffee right then and there on your way back from Walsh. It’s that smile that keeps her in the back of your mind.
So of course I tell my boys about this. I burst through the door one day while Mike’s cooking dinner.
“This girl’s driving me insane,” I say. He’s used to this.
“I don’t know! I see her everywhere though and she’s always giving me this face. This smile. I think she’s Mary’s friend though.” Mike and Mary were getting it for a while, but she wasn’t into a relationship and he’s been pining since. She’s this ﬁ ne New York Italian though, saccharine ever-sweet with a banging body and a penchant for parties and basketball players, so no one ‘cept him was surprised when she wasn’t in the kitchen on Saturday mornings anymore.
“What’s she look like?” he says.
“She’s toeing the line between hippie and hipster. You know, the small girl with the brownish-red hair and bangs? Sometimes has the geek-chic glasses? Always wears those ﬂowy dresses?”
“Corinne,” he says, squishing his burger patty into the pan. “Every man’s on that. Get in line.”
“Corinne!” I yell, not caring. What a name. One I’ve always loved. One that seems to ﬁt her freckles perfectly. “You know this chick?”
“Met her like twice,” he says, and then bitterly, “yeah, she’s Mary’s friend.”
“So, obviously what we need to do,” I say, “is set up a ‘chance’ encounter.”
“I dunno man,” says Mike, “I ain’t really seeing Mary that much anymore.”
And so it dies, and for a few weeks you don’t really think about it that much. Classes are getting busy, and you’re all up in the radio station so you don’t get beyond your main social circles much. Plus, there are some other girls in your orbit. Like Alex, this bomb-ass half-Cuban chick from American U. whose number you got on a bus in Dupont this summer. She is, without doubt, the preppiest, most airheaded girl you’ve ever nailed, and it’s almost too ironic that you’ve found one of them from the hip school in D.C. while there are so many strutting their stuff around the Hilltop.
There’s really no emotion. It’s an honest transaction. She’ll come down to M Street to shop or something and then stop by the Village B for a good shagging before she heads home. You would’ve dropped it long ago if it weren’t so good, but she’s actually pretty ﬂ y and up for whatever. It’s a whole evening affair when she comes over — in bed, on the couch, the bathroom, the desk, the balcony, her thick curly hair dripping with sweat, your back crisscrossed with scars from her ferocious nails. You don’t really comprehend how crazy it’s getting until the one morning you have to explain to the roommate why his belts are still lashed to your bedpost and your wrists and ankles are blue with bruises. This girl’s clearly a lunatic, but she doesn’t ask any more of you than the time it takes to roll a joint and ﬁnish her off, so why not keep her on call?
The only problem with Alex is she’s a total ﬂ ake. It’s not her fault. You do the same to her and there aren’t hard feelings. But you aren’t getting it on anything resembling a regular basis, and all your game with the Hoya chicks seems to have dried up. They get all pissed you don’t have enough time for them — always another meeting, a different party, 20 more pages of reading to go. Obviously if it were Corinne, none of this would be an issue, but if you’re going to start pushing aside other commitments, it ain’t gonna be for just anyone.
It didn’t take long for me to get sick of the chill lifestyle. I was still only hangin’ out with my boys, coming home early for lack of intrigue, and dodging DPS to smoke the weed I should have been selling until I couldn’t see straight. But this one Friday I hear my old roommate’s having a shindig at his place out on S Street and I tell him I’ll stop by. I know it’s not my scene. Ryan lives with some football players and they’re always trying to emulate the atmosphere of a State U. frat bash. But with a little something to put that swagger in my step it might just be amusing.
So I get toasted with the boys over poker and head up to Burleith. The place is live, but the people are goons. The guys are the egotistic, womanizing athletes I love to hate and the chicks are all sloppy drunk, hanging off their muscled arms or riding up their skirts on the front of a pair of salmon pants. So I’m just chillin in the kitchen with Ryan. I look over to the keg to see if the neanderthals have abandoned it and almost fall ﬂat on the ﬂoor. There’s only one person there, and it’s Corinne, toying with her phone. She looks as out of place as I do, and twice as bored. But she’s clearly there to be out, her toned, freckled legs on full display between her hip little canvas sneakers and the unbearingly high hem of her ﬂoral skirt.
“That’s your girl,” Ryan says. It’s obvious by how I’m staring. “Get it.”
So, I summon the ample liquid courage in my gut, grab an empty cup and saunter over to the Natty. I grab the hose like that’s why I’m
there and look her dead in the eye as she glances up. She gives me that same little shy smile. I’m in.
“You know,” I say, “I feel like I see you everywhere.”
“Yeah,” she responds slowly, “and yet I don’t know you.”
“Tony,” I say, offering my hand.
She shakes it tentatively.
“Well Corinne, can I interest you in a smoke?”
We stagger outside past a he-man shoving match and into the yard. I go for the pack in my breast pocket, but she stops me.
“No. Smoke one of these,” she says, producing a green pack from her purse. “Nat Shermans. There’s sugar in the ﬁlter. They make your lips sweet.”
Indeed they do. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but she says she’s there with Mary and motions to the deck where we see Mike’s heartthrob pinned up against the side of the house, lips locked with one of the ‘roid monsters.
We’re just chatting, about to go back inside when those damn yellow lights ﬂash through the alley.
“SNAPs,” she says. “You wanna leave?”
“Good call, but what about Mary?”
“Umm, not worried,” she says, already heading for the street.
So we start walking. She takes my arm and everything’s just so natural. The autumn night’s fresh and dark and we’re in that young lover ﬂow, kicking through the leaf piles, huddling close for warmth even though we’re both too drunk to feel any chill. She wants another smoke so we duck into an alley and I pull her close and kiss her and it’s long and cool and I can feel her thin body collapse into mine.
“Let’s go,” she says, pulling my hand towards campus.
Now, if you’re a guy you know this is the tricky part. You get to that point where Corinne can either turn and go with you to Village B or keep on back to her Copley, and you’ve gotta drop the invitation without seeming crass or insulting. This has never been my strong suit. But we’ve been talking music, so I go with this:
“Wanna come back and listen to some records?”
You don’t expect her to say yes. And at ﬁrst she doesn’t. She just stands there for literally 10 seconds looking up at you, close enough for you to smell her sweet perfume and the tobacco on her breath, eyes darting from yours to the ground and back up again. Then all at once she splits, moves past you and heads for your apartment.
“What’s the number?” she calls back.