Robed Man #1

Are you done yet?

The voice is nasal, making it a lot harder to focus.

“Come on, I have to go.”

“Stop. I can’t concentrate.”

“Don’t concentrate, just finish already.”

I stop.

“Where are you going?

I hate that voice. It’s tone scratches through all the layers of my confidence. Years of this, and I’m never sure of myself. I throw on my hoodie, and grab my bag.

“You said you had to go, well- “I don’t know to say “I gotta go.”

“Go where?”

“Does it matter to you?”

She finally pulls up her leggings and flaps down her jean skirt.

“You haven’t gone to class all month.” She crosses her arms as she says it, her head cocked up, affirming her place above me.  “I know you aren’t going there.”

The gum in her mouth smacks, making me realize she’s been chewing on it the entire time she’s been here.

“You don’t even have any meal swipes left- you won’t use another until tomorrow.”

“Don’t you have to go?” It’s all I can say.

She walks out. I already knew the answer. She’s gotta be in class in a different town. She was in a rush to leave because traffic clogs up around this time, and well, she might not even been on the road until another hour. I follow her out.

“What’s gotta into you?” She asks as I catch up to her.

My classes, my finances, that look you’ve given me since you got here…

“Nothing.”

She parades past the rest of the students on my floor. She’s greeted with mutual indifference. I can’t say it was always like that hear, but after that first week, people just stopped trying to make the effort. People found cliques and stayed in them. I didn’t because I have her. I don’t know what the better decision was.

Outside, it smells like the dorm bathroom after 2am, something I never imagined in my entire life. Not like pads, or shin guards, and even my jock strap smelled better than nights like that (or unfortunately the campus.) I guess knowing how to do laundry has its perks.

We stand outside the door. A few students brush by, mostly because we’re literally in front of it. She looks off into the distance, seeing the traffic from here, and realizing she’s going to be late. She takes a seat on the bench stationed next to the entrance. She pats the wooden bench, giving me permission to join her.

I oblige.

“We have to do this better.”

I get distracted by the noise streets surrounded the University. I look to anything to avoid whatever conversation this is turning into. Is this the end? Is this what break up speech sounds like.

“Jimmy, look at me. “

I looked up, and I’m smushed into her shoulder, her arms wrapping around my back, and my tension melts. I pull her into my chest, and the warmth of her spreads through my torso, in to my arms, and finally into my soul. She shifts her head, and the remainder of her hair brushes into my face. I open my eyes to the neon pink strip of rebellion that she switched the moment she got on her school. I’ll never admit how hot it looks on her.

“This is…hard.” She pulls away and looks at me. She smiles. “I didn’t realize how hard this would be.”

“Maybe it’s supposed to be. Like…like a test or something.”

She shakes her head.

“Oh yeah, is this the only test you’re working on?”

She got me. I haven’t been in class for the last few weeks. I’m not failing, but…I’m not that far off.

“Will you go to class today?”

“Come, Eva…why are we-“

“You’re paying for it, remember?”

“Fine, I’ll go.”

“I want you to be happy.”

“Class won’t make me happy.”

“I know, but it’ll distract you until I come back.” She pecks me on the cheek and stands up. “Come on. Walk me to my car.”

We walk up to her Blue Mazda 3 Mica- a true beater, mostly done on her merit. The sides are all scratched up, and the passenger side mirror it bent downward. You really only can seen the road from it, but she insists that’s where she would put it anyway. The back bumper is dented from all the time she’s backed into my parent’s mail box.

“Thank you, gentleman.”

“You know I didn’t have a choice.”

She smiles.

“I like to pretend you do.”

She shuts the door and puts down her window.

“Call me later.”

“You mean like before bed later?”

“You know what later I mean.”

“Okay. I’ll call in you a half hour.”

“Love you, honey.”

She takes off. I can hear her laughing in her car in my head, crackling at the joke of her dramatic exit. It’s like when friends laugh a bad pun- it’s not good, but the laugh comes anyway. I watch her until I can’t, then walk back into the dorm.

Back into the misery, the suck, the regular old day to day when nothing seems to matter. I wasn’t always like this. I had friends in high school. Even after dating Eva we would get together to play videogames, do stupid shit, pretend like we had football scholarships, running bad routes, and blowing easy coverages while trying not to hard ourselves. I was always the worse tackler.

Maybe you need more time, she would always suggest. Friends are hard to find.

I’m just looking forward to not being surrounded by strangers.

I get to my room and sit on my bed. There’s no bounce as I rest on it- it just sinks. It’s given me back aches for the first few weeks I’ve been here. I’ve adjusted so far, but I don’t thing the adjustment it made to my back is going to be a good one. I look up at the door, and it looks like it should be iron instead of wood. I feel like I’m stuck here, and I wasn’t supposed to up in this cell. I think about the time wasted I’ve spent here, but I guess I should make the best of it.

I take out my Pre-Calc book and stare at the cover. Brand new, with not even a crease in the spine. I spent went too much money on this. I reach in a drawer, pulling out at notebook and pen, and I cracked it up to a blank page.

I start at today’s date, and spin the pen around my thumb. I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting it, but it feels like it’s been too long. Through the window, I look at the dull, dark sky. I hate Newark. It smell, and I feel like the sun has been a luxury. It has a few good spots, but looking at this violet hue makes me wish I chose a school out of state, or at least the part of the state I could stand. I would settle for a place with less smog…

Smog- is smog purple?