I had just come back from table tennis club and my shoes looked all torn up. I couldn't wait to tug them off, watch a movie or something like that. Behind the kitchen door, I heard the snaps and hisses of booze and I knew because my roommate was having his friends visit from Chicago for the night. I wanted to go unnoticed, but I also felt like I should bust the door open. It opened anyway. There was a blue cooler with a white lid tucked under the table. They were all holding tall cans of some caffeine and sugar drink that I'd read could stop your heart. I pretended like I didn't give a damn.
"Hey!" This is ______________, he's my favorite kid on the floor!" my roommate said. "My homie _________, can I call you that, my homie?"
"Nah," I said, "no."
"He's straight edge," my roommate said, twice. I had no idea why, maybe because of the way my face looked all the time. Maybe because all I talked about was how music was going or homework done or not done. They were kind enough to offer the syrup drink but I refused. If I was going to have something, I said I'd rather have a beer. "So you'll come out with us?" he asked.
"Maybe," I replied, "I should."
"C'mon, I'll take you under my wing," he said, or something similar.
"But I don't have a cellphone." I ended up with all their numbers in pink marker on my forearm.
"Just ask anyone. They'll let you borrow their cellphone, call anyone of us if you get lost" he said.
I said this wasn't going to be my first time. My roomate showed me some "drough." I didn't know what that meant, so I joked it must taste like corn but he insisted it was good shit. I didn't have anything to wear either, so he gave me a pair of neon green sunglasses with frames of alien eyes and the same color beanie and T-shirt.
Back in the kitchen I shotgunned two more cans easily, though I couldn't get my thumb under the tabs. Each time my roommate helped me out, tipping the can upwards as I drank through the puncture at the bottom. I had thought the beer would shoot down my esophagus and destroy my stomach, but it was more like squeezing milk from the plastic pouches I drank in elementary school.
"Don't post that shit online," I said dropping the can into the sink, though I thought about crushing it on my forehead.
"Don't worry, it's for personal enjoyment," my roommate said. I posed for a picture with my arms crossed, then I uncrossed them but he insisted I should so I did even though I was going to anyway and realized a beer can that was probably in the background of that picture.
At some point one of the friends had put on a plastic fireman helmet. "I'm actually psyched that this kid is coming out with us," he said. The other two, one who had slipped into a banana suit and the other who I guess had already been wearing a Ninja Turtles shirt, agreed. Someone spilled their drink but it was eleven and the bus was coming. My roommate finished off his friend's cherry drink.
"Wow, he never used to be like this," the Banana said.
"Yah my Mom was always so strict," he replied.
Down in the lobby my roommate stopped some girl that I thought he knew. "Listen up everyone, listen up! I want you all to know about ______! He's the nicest guy I know!" he yelled. It looked as though the air had swept out of her lungs. I stood there and watched through a grey veil. I was hoping for something maybe, sheepish and half waving my hand about. Did I really want something then? No way. I didn't give a damn.
Then the Ninja Turtle shouted, "C'mon let's go, the bus is here!"
"The bus, the bus, we're gonna miss the bus!" my roommate shrieked, forgetting about what just happened. Everyone piled in like garbage bags, and my roommate rubbed noses with a girl. "Just practice socializing," my roommate had said, "talk with girls; it doesn't even matter; walk away if she doesn't want to talk." I thought I was the one who started this conversation because I'd heard it before, but he was just talking about how to have fun, I guess. I wondered how the bus driver would do on the turn off Dubuque Street as Wonder Women and Jason's breathed down his neck, pushing past the yellow line.
Off the bus at the Papajohn building, no one had any idea where to go. A girl passed me and I pretended to be as lifeless as she was. I said "yeah…" to her or something like that, and she said something too, probably the same thing. Though it was hard to believe that my roommate could type "North Dodge Street" and the house number into his phone, he shouted "This way!" and I ran across the street while she went her own way. The crosswalk was the red but I went anyway, more afraid of cars than ever.
"Hey ladies!" my roommate shouted, and one of them lifted up her skirt and mooned us. She shouted something back that I didn't hear. No more than half a block away they all seemed to forget, so I faced forward and did too. I started walking in a dancing kind of way until we reached the house.
About Iowa Writes
Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.
In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.
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Genji Onishi is a student at the University of Iowa studying English and Double Bass. He enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction, playing Bach, and dancing.
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