S&R Fiction

S&R Fiction: "My First Week of College," by Jessica Dainty Johns

I still can’t believe I got a dude with a harelip for a roommate. And his name is Roger. Fucking Roger. I walk in and he’s already claimed the top bunk, his computer the only thing up and running besides my blood.

He introduces himself as Roger F. McAlister the Third, son of douche bag blah blah blah blah. I stop listening.

I throw my bags on the bottom bunk – an old hockey bag with a faded Whalers team logo on the side, and my backpack, at this moment, full of flip flops and extra guitar strings. I prop my guitar case up against the side of the bunk.

The room’s not as claustrophobic as I expect. I thought it’d be a cinder block. The walls are white and no doubt concrete, but the beds take up only one corner, the built in wall-length desks only one side of the room. The rest is open, and the closets aren’t too bad.

After setting up, the only thing wrong with the picture is my roommate, standing there in his pleated khaki shorts and an annoying shirt with too many numbers on it to be normal. He’s even wearing a belt, braided nonetheless. He’s not even passable for average. He fits every stereotype of the dweeb right down to the ugly glasses and skinny neck and chicken legs.

His voice cracks when he asks me what classes I’m taking. I ask him how old he is, twelve? Sixteen, he says. Graduated early.



I wake up at six in the evening. A four hour nap. It’s still light out, though I’ve noticed the days getting shorter. I look over and Roger is doing something with highlighters and books thick enough to make me not take any of the classes connected to them. At least he is quiet. That’s one thing I’ll give him.

I grab my towel and little hand-held shower caddy. Roger’s sits on the counter next to mine. His is light purple, with a flower on the side. I can only hope his mother picked it out for him.

In the shower, I wash haphazardly. I barely feel my hands on my body. When I wash my junk, the touch makes me think of Alison. I don’t miss her. I remind myself I wanted to leave everything behind. I can only imagine the college chicks I’ll get into my bed, ones that won’t look up at me every four seconds to ask if they’re doing okay, if it feels good. But she’s in my mind anyway, and I jack off thinking about her clumsy mouth and the way her fingernails would always dig in because of her awkward grip.

I rinse the mucousy white down the drain and let the water hit me until the tenseness in my legs releases and turns to that mixed feeling between goodness and sadness that always seems to come to me after sex. Only this time I’m alone, so the goodness part never quite makes it, and I turn the water off anyway and head back to my room.

Roger is still at the desk, leaning over his books, his thin neck at a weird angle so that he looks prehistoric. The way he sits in his seat doesn’t help get rid of the image. He’s almost perched, both his feet flat on the seat of the chair, his frail body folded into a compact squat.

“Doesn’t that start to hurt after awhile?” I ask him. I squeeze the last of my hair gel out as he answers, and the spurting noise covers his words. “What?” I ask again.

“Nah. I feel more comfortable like this. I’ve never been one to stretch out. I like to be on a higher plane than what I’m working on. Makes me feel like I have better control, am more aware.” He glances at me. I can see him in the mirror. “Where you going?” he follows up.

“Dude, it’s the first night of college. Classes don’t start until Monday. I’m going out.” I slap some deodorant on. “Plus, rush starts tomorrow, and I want to go check out some of the houses.” I almost add Get out of here as soon as possible, but I don’t know if he’s really listening and I find there’s no reason to hurt the guy’s feelings, even though I don’t really care if I do.

“Cool,” he finally says, so delayed that I’ve actually forgotten what we were talking about or that we were talking at all. “Have fun.  Be careful. A lot of people get crazy their first week of college, go overboard.”

I want to say I thought I left my mother at home, but that reminds me that she’s not there, and I think of Alison again. I brush it off and look back at Roger. He’s too sincere, and, plus, I’m relieved he didn’t ask if he could join me. That would be just what I need as I introduce myself around – a facially deformed loser by my side. So I just say I’ll be back late and head out. Even from the other side of the door, I can hear the half-squeak, half-friction sound of a highlighter moving across a page, and I think, wittily, how those fluorescent stripes will be the only highlights he’ll see.


The air is cooler than I expect, though I’m not sure I would have worn a hat or jacket anyway. My building sits on the edge of a commons area surrounded by dorms on all sides. The commons has a few trees planted into the cement and, for the next two nights only, a stage set up in the middle of the space. Right now, the student body president is clucking across the stage like a chicken. The clusters of freshmen standing around don’t seem interested, and I scan the crowd for faces. Faces I know, faces I’d like to know.

No one seems interested in branching out from the pre-formed groups so I head over to the meeting spot for the Fraternity Row walk. Most of the guys seem cool, dressed in casual clothes but looking put together. A few stand around in tailored shirts and ties, their necks as skinny as Roger’s and I’m sure they’re heading for the far end of Frat Row to Beta Theta Pi or the academic fraternity buildings located behind the main row of frat houses.

Some guy named Roscoe is directing the walk. He’s a Sigma Phi. He says he’ll take us around to all the houses and then we’re free to go back to any of them to start “networking.”

“Tonight is not a rush night,” he says, “but a party night. However, first impressions carry over, so don’t go overboard.”

Overboard. I wonder if Roger is still highlighting pages, and don’t even notice that the group has started walking.


The frat houses all seem the same, but the Tau Kappa Epsilon lawn has the most pretty girls. I head back to that one after the tour. Besides, I assume these are my type of guys, what with their national party reputation, and by the looks of their Walk of Shame wall – a scattering of Polaroids of girls in their bras, the hair tangled at the top of their heads – my assumption is confirmed. This is the place for me.

None of the girls here looks like Alison. They’re all miles more aware of their appearance and that guys are looking at them. The only time Alison planned anything about how she looked was at my mother’s funeral. She wore bright pink heels so that people would look at her instead of me, so that nobody would see me if I happened to breakdown, so that the whispers would be harsh and directed at her, instead of pitying at me.

The music is too loud, and I look around the room.

I notice a girl over by the keg, her hair a dirty brown, twisted into the start of dreadlocks. She wears a very short, very thin halter dress, and I like the size of her breasts, the hint of nipple that shows through the cloth. She wears brown cowboy boots and sips from a red plastic cup as she sways her hips.

I go over to the keg, pour myself a beer, and smile until I catch her eye.


Her name is Jill. She’s a freshman, too, and even though I imagined my conquests as older women, I fuck her anyway, on the bottom bunk in my dorm room, with Roger sleeping above us. I felt to see if he was there when we came in, even flashed the lights on to check. He slept soundly, complete with earplugs and one of those eye shield things.

Jill doesn’t ask me if it feels good the way Alison did. She writhes too fiercely, and I find my focus waning from the alcohol and her dissipating attractiveness. She takes her verbal cues from bad porn with too many oohs and oh babys, and when we are done, I go to the bathroom and stay there, hoping she will leave, neither the goodness nor the sadness working its way through my body. I wake up on the bathroom floor, the sunlight filtering in, the shadow of a urinal on my face.

When I go back to the room, Jill is gone, and Roger sits, perched, highlighter in hand.


Roger’s computer screen is always left open to emails from his parents. We miss you. Make us proud. We love you. My father has barely spoken since my mother’s death, wasn’t around the day I left for school, his bedroom door closed, the sound of some TV show murmuring from behind the door. I can’t help but be struck by the absurdity of grief, how we all deal with it differently. My father collapsing both inside and out, and me – I turn off Roger’s monitor while he is at the library so I don’t have to see the glaring white of the screen.

Rush starts tonight, and I hope I do not run into Jill, though I assume she’ll be at sororities on the other side of campus. Roger comes in as I finish tucking my shirt into my jeans.

He rushes to his computer, his run awkward, like a teetering bird on new legs.

“What happened to my computer?” He taps on his keys, puts his hands on either side of the screen as though it’s a face he’s trying to look into.

I let him panic for a few more seconds while I spritz myself with cologne before telling him I just turned the monitor off. He collapses against the desk as though he’s just spent two exhausting hours resuscitating someone who lives.

He turns the monitor back on and it comes on with a pop and then a fizzle of static as the screen lights back up. Make us proud. Dr. Roger 2018. Apparently they don’t think he can get through college and med school as quickly as he did high school.

I grab my jacket, black leather. Roger is already perched with his yellow and green arsenal of highlighters. I leave the books to fend for themselves.

It’s warmer tonight, and there’s not as much of a breeze. I leave the jacket on though because I notice at least three hot girls follow me with their eyes as I walk past. Not hot enough to sleep with, but hot enough to know I look good.

Tau Kappa Epsilon has no girls in it tonight. The house is clean of any hints that last night beer and vomit were the primary smells bouncing around to the music. A red banner with the frat’s emblem drapes over the Wall of Shame and all its photos.

I mingle. I talk. I drop here and there my All-State ranking in football, my MVP award in soccer. I avoid questions about my parents, about what they do, or in my case don’t do anymore. To those with less status, the ones not wearing pins on their shirt collars, I mention my luck with the ladies, my ability to get them where I want them. Though at this point, Jill only makes two, and I can’t help think of how much calmer my first time with Alison was. How we were clumsy and nervous, and how cute it was that she was embarrassed to orgasm first.

I up my number to five at the party. I give a lot of high fives and fewer handshakes. By the end of the night, I am only giving high fives, and they tell me to come back tomorrow if I want to pledge.

I stop at the campus coffee shop on my way home. A cute girl named Renee works behind the counter. When she asks me if I want whipped cream, I answer, and before I know it, I’m untying her apron in the storage room and fucking her against the shelves of Styrofoam cups.

I remind myself this makes six, not three. I can only imagine the high fives I’d get.


A few more days before classes start, and I agree to go to the bookstore and library with Roger so he can help me find my books. He tells me how he’s joined the Excavation Society on campus and he’s really hoping to become an officer so that he has better references by the time he’s ready to apply to grad school for Archeology, even though his parents are pushing for med school. I only remember what he says because he has a line of spit stuck to his deformed lip that I can’t stop staring at. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have been bored even before he started talking.

After we buy my books, we split up in the library. I ask the librarian, one of those hot young librarian types, if she can help me find a book. While we look through the stacks, she asks me who Roger is. I almost bash him, but then remember that girls often like the dorky types. Not in the I want to fuck him way, but in the aww how cute way that could earn me points. I decide to play it safe until I know if she’s one of the dweeb “aww”-ers.

“He’s my roommate. Not a bad guy. You know.” I finger the books on the shelf as I talk, keep it casual to appear more sincere.

“Are you friends?”

I pick a book, and even though it’s not the one we’re looking for (I wasn’t really looking for one anyway), I pull it off the shelf. “Here’s the book.” I flip through it as though I’m interested.

“So? Are you?”

“We just met two days ago. I barely know the guy.” I shrug as I put the book back.

“Well, I think it’s cool that you hang out with him. Give him an edge on the social circle. He’s probably feeling pretty lucky he got paired up with you.”

I pull her toward me because this feels like a window, playing the hero card to the weaker roommate. “Well you know. I do what I can.”

I’m about to kiss her when Roger comes around the corner. “Sean, I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” His voice is especially nasally when he’s flustered, and he’s still holding his hands in front of him in that finally position.

“Oh, hey Sarah,” he says, pushing up his glasses and breathing heavy.

“You know each other?” I ask.

“She helped me on Monday when I came to get my authorized pass to the archives. She knows how the system works, this girl.” He laughs and snorts. Sarah laughs, too.

“Oh, Roger, you’re too funny.” She turns to me. “Well, Sean, was it? It was nice to meet you.” Her hand lingers on mine as she pulls away, and I have a feeling I’ll be back to the library at least one more time during my college career.


After grilling Roger about Sarah (he doesn’t really know much about her other than that she’s a junior in library science and a member of Kappa Kappa Kappa – I had no idea library chicks could even get into sororities), I get ready for pledge night.

I show up, state my intent to pledge, and then they turn me out. Say they’ll be in touch if they decide to choose me.

Later that night, I dream of Sarah pressed up against the stacks, her glasses fogging up, her arms gripping the shelf above her head, so asleep that at first I don’t know what is happening. I feel hands, hands that at first blend in to my dream, and I think how awesome this is, how I’m going to remember this in the morning. But then the hands get rougher and there’s pulling and I feel my shirt tear, which is weird because in the dream, I’m already shirtless, and then I feel my body falling, and I wake up, and I’m on the floor and there are dark shadows all around me. Briefly I think I’m in one of the nightmares I had right after my mother died, that they are coming after me, knowing I was supposed to be in the car not her, that I had refused to go and forced her to. That they’re dragging me away.

“Welcome to Tau Kappa Epsilon douche.”

I’m pulled to my feet and out the door. I look over my shoulder, and Roger sleeps, like a rock, above my bunk.


I’ve heard about hazing before. The name-calling, the possible bra-wearing, the cleaning with a toothbrush. I am ready not to take it personally. They tell us pledge week can be the best or worst week of our lives. They give us an option. We can take it ourselves or we can pass it along. There’s going to be a party, Friday night, the official start of pledge week. We can come to suffer the humiliation ourselves, or we can bring someone, anyone, to put in our place.


I get back to the dorm at four in the morning. Roger is awake, surprisingly, and he is typing on his keyboard. He wears wrist guards.

“Where have you been?” he asks without even looking over from his screen.

“I got picked to pledge Tau Kappa Epsilon.”

“Lucky you.” His voice is flat and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be sarcastic or congratulatory.

I plan to go to bed, to rest up for the week to come, but I can’t help but glance at Roger’s screen as I pass by. From mad4roger: Make us proud. Make us proud. Make us proud.

I don’t know why, but I ask him. I ask him, quietly at first, and then louder when he says he can’t hear me. I ask him, “Do you want to go to a party Friday night?”


I go to see Sarah at the library, and she takes her lunch break in my dorm room. I tell her I wrote a song for her. I play some chords on my guitar and sing a few lines, but my E string breaks, and I end up doing her on the floor instead, which is actually better because I never got to writing a second verse or a chorus really, and I had to fill in too many blanks with saying her name too many times since I didn’t really know anything else about her.

She’s more calm than Jill and less kinky than the coffeehouse girl, but I finish before her and I hate that because then I know what’s expected of me and it always ruins the high, that combination of things running through my veins, both the goodness and the sadness hitting me finally for the first time since Alison.

Conveniently, Roger’s keys jingle outside the door, and even though I’ve put the deadbolt on so that he can’t open it from the other side, his presence gives me an excuse to hand Sarah her underpants and tell her we’ll have to pick this up another time.

If Roger is surprised to see Sarah, he doesn’t act that way. They exchange hellos and then she leaves, closing the door behind her.

Roger and I stand in silence for a few moments, and I’m not sure whether it is awkward or not because I don’t really care that we’re not talking. Finally, he asks me what he should wear to the party tomorrow night, and I almost feel bad for the guy, almost tell him there is no party, retract the invitation, but then I think of Sarah and feel the good and sad in my arms and legs, in my groin, and the feeling overwhelms the previous feeling, the feeling that I might care what could happen at the party, and I tell him he should dress casual, just be himself, which I know is a mistake, the being himself part, but my mind has already moved on, and he seems to sense this because when I look over again he is already sitting at his desk, his computer screen on – make us proud – highlighter in hand.


Roger wears a pair of khaki pants and a green t-shirt that says, “Dig me?” on the front and “Excavate this!” on the back. I give the guy props for trying even though it’s not the type of humor that will earn him laughs at a frat party. At least his pants don’t have pleats and he’s not wearing a belt. We’re both ready early and agree to go grab some food before heading over to the frat house. I try to talk him into ordering in, but he wants to go out, to make it feel like a real “party” night, and even though I don’t really know what he means, I agree, and when he chooses the campus cafeteria, I decide not to tell him this isn’t really a party night type place.

We eat in silence for the first five or ten minutes or so. I watch Roger eat, wondering if food will fall out of his mouth more often because of the triangular gape of his cleft.

“So what’s with your parents?” I finally ask. “With the emails and all that. They like super clingy or something?”

“My parents? Nah, they’re just overprotective, you know, with me being so young and with so much promise, or whatever. They just don’t want me to waste my intelligence. That’s all. I told them I’m pulling an all-nighter in the library tonight. I know they’ll call, and they’d probably freak out if they knew I was going to a party, even if it is with my roommate.”

He licks his lips, tongues the grotesque absence of fleshy pink, and I think of saying I don’t feel well, but that would keep me from the party as well, and I re-read his nerdy t-shirt and see how hard he’s trying with the overpowering smell of aftershave, and tell him we better be going. We don’t want to be late.


The doorbell sounds loud from outside, but no one comes to the door for what seems like an eternity.

“Thanks again, man, for, you know, inviting me out and all. It’s really cool of you. Especially since I’m sure I’m not the type you normally hang out with.”

I manage a “no problem,” think of punching him out, letting him pass the night passed out in the bushes, not knowing the difference.

But the door opens, and we’re ushered inside, and I’m greeted with slaps on the back, winks, and “Big Sean”s, and before I know it I’m drinking beer with the boys and figure Roger’s having a good enough time since I can’t see him anyway and don’t hear any commotion.

The pledges who didn’t bring a “replacement” work the room, serving beer in plastic champagne flutes, wearing French maid outfits and high heels. I figure it could have been worse and think of going to ask Phil, the frat president, if Roger can just hang out, if I can put an outfit on, too, if we could just ignore him for the night, let him feel like he’s part of the evening, but then I hear the chanting, the inevitable chug chug chug chug of a frat party and I go into the other room to see not a frat boy being held upside down above the keg, but Roger, his scrawny arms shaking, even with four others supporting him.

When his feet touch the floor, everyone cheers. There are girls at this party, and two of them kiss his cheek, raise his arms up in the air in that triumph pose. He’s directed to the couch, and handed another beer, this time in a red plastic cup. He drinks it, chugs it faster than I expect him to be able to, and crushes the cup in his hand, only one side really denting in, before he throws it to the ground.

I stay on the perimeters, hear Roger talking about his parents, about the pressures that come with being so smart and so young and with so much promise.

One of the brothers comes up to me, Avery, is his name I think, and he hands me a drink. “You know you’re the only one who brought a replacement,” he looks at me over the edge of his cup as he takes a drink. He seems to be giving me time to respond, but I can’t think of anything to say. “Shows some balls man, whether they’re cold heartless balls, or just bitchin’ balls, I don’t know. Guess we’ll see.” He takes another sip and gestures at a couple of guys around the room who, now that I look at them, seem to have been watching us. “You ready for the show?”

I ask, “What show?” but Avery is already gone. He huddles in the corner, a few of the guys glancing out every few seconds or so toward the couch where Roger sits. They grab one of the pledges, but after some whispering, the pledge shakes his head. There’s some pushing, some words, but eventually things calm down, and a brother named John seems to step in instead.

The couch has pretty much cleared. Roger’s head leans against the back of it. He’s pretty wasted, I can tell, by how he doesn’t lift his head up to talk and sort of just rolls it side to side. I notice some drool on his chin and make the decision to go get him, to leave, but then some guy Mark comes up to him, and Avery is behind him with a video camera, and Mark sits next to him, and asks him if he’s having fun, and Roger tries to sit up but can’t, and I’m not sure where to stand, as though it matters, my body all of a sudden feeling out of place and unimportant to what’s going on. And I wonder if this is how my mother’s body felt, when she was waiting for help to come, to get her out of the car. How my father’s body felt when he stood with the phone in his hand, not talking.

“You having fun Roger? Can we get you anything?” Mark asks, his voice actually smooth, and I know that means no good, and when John comes up behind him in a French maid outfit, I wish I had just punched him out on the front stoop like I’d thought about doing, just hit him right in that already busted lip of his and left him there in the bushes until the night was over.

“Lots of pretty girls here, huh? You like any of them?”

Roger raises his head enough to smile and say something slurred.

“Well,” Mark continues, “we saved the prettiest one just for you. Do you wanna meet her?”

Roger nods his head, his eyes closed. He’s a lightweight and past drunk.

This is when John comes from behind Avery and stands in front of Roger. Roger squints at him, and I can see his mind trying to work, to figure out what is wrong with the situation, but he gives up and lets his head fall back against the couch.

“What? Not pretty enough for you?” Mark asks. He grabs Roger by the hair and props up his head.

“No, she’s fine,” Roger isn’t even looking at her, I mean him, at him, the man in front of him wearing a dress.

“Well, why don’t you kiss her then.”

Mark pulls Roger to his feet, and Roger leans forward. John slaps him across the face, but Mark holds him steady.

“Not there, douche bag,” John says, shaking his finger at him. “Here.” And he takes Roger’s head and pushes him back down into the couch. The room is quiet now, but just as full, although everyone is clumped together on the outskirts watching, as though they don’t want to get too close, but can’t stand to miss anything.

“Go ahead, Roger. Open it,” Avery says from behind the camera. “It’s a present for you.”

John has his jeans on under the black and white skirt, and when Roger makes no move toward him, he lifts the dress himself and unzips his pants. My body lurches forward, I can feel it, but when I look down, my feet haven’t moved and my hand still rests on the bookshelf next to me.

“Go ahead, kiss it. Isn’t she pretty enough now?”

Roger’s eyes are open now, and he puts his hands up to try to block the guys. But then it’s like something on the discovery channel, like a pack of wild animals descending upon something weaker and not as fast. Mark holds Roger’s head still and John, with his jeans around his ankles, pushes his penis in Roger’s face. Roger tries to move his head around, and it almost looks like he’s having a seizure, like Mark is trying to do him a favor by not letting him move.

“Open that cunt-looking mouth of yours,” someone yells from the back, and with that the night is over, I am at home in my bed, watching from somewhere very far away as John forces his penis into Roger’s mouth, how Avery pivots around the back of them for a better angle, how Phil, the president, comes from nowhere and grips Roger’s hand around John’s dick. How, though no one does anything, I imagine that there must be someone in the room who will step forward, who is not so far away as I am, who can make it there before – no it’s too late – after Roger vomits and it drips down his arm and off his elbow along with his spit, that mouth, that poor deformed mouth, finally holding an appropriate expression, the constant sneer the raised lip gives him, finally, finally.


I do not know how I get back to the dorms, but I am there and I stand in the shower for at least an hour, until the water runs cold, and then I stand there at least a half hour more and walk down the hall naked and crawl in to my bed. Roger’s email is up. I leave the screen on and all the lights and lie awake until morning.


I find Sarah in the library. She hasn’t seen Roger, and when she asks why I ask, I cannot answer and I lead her up into the part of the stacks no one ever comes to, at least that’s what Roger said, where he goes when he wants to study alone, and I undress her against the back of an empty cubicle. Roger hasn’t come back to the dorm, he hasn’t called, he’s not at the frat house. I haven’t seen Roger since I left him there, since I couldn’t watch anymore and most of the crowd had cleared and they’d left him on the couch with jiz on his face. I tell myself I tried to wake him, that my puny shake would have been enough to get him up and going, and instead of trying harder, instead of carrying his 110 pounds back to the dorm, I’d gone outside to the bushes, the bushes I should have left him in in the first place, and puked, puked in a way where I could feel it in my chest, in my toes, before going home alone.

I can’t hold an erection so I keep kissing Sarah’s neck hoping she won’t notice we’re not screwing yet. She knows way more than Alison did, but almost too much so that it’s obvious she’s been here before with other guys, so that now the mood is really shot, and I ask her if she wants to get some pizza instead, and I walk in front of her so that she can’t see how close I am to crying.


The entire walkway leading to my dorm room is lined with flyers. On the flyer there is a boy, a skinny, bird-like boy, with a penis in his mouth.


When we get to the door, I knock, even with my key in hand, I knock, because I feel I do not deserve to enter, do not deserve to intrude upon a shared space that I can’t see myself in. But no one answers, and I use my key, and we enter, and Roger is there. He’s not perched on his chair, highlighter in hand. He’s not sleeping on his top bunk, eyes and ears closed to the world.

He’s lying on my bed, the boy who doesn’t like to stretch out, legs down the length of the bed, one hand on his stomach, the other caught in one of the ladder rungs, his eyes open and still, his face not flushed and hot like last night but drained and with a hint of purple. I hear a splash in the background and I look down to see that Sarah has thrown up on my shoes, a sort of clear but viscous substance, and I find myself trying to remember if she ate anything, if she ate at the pizza place before we came to find Roger lying on my bed, my – what is it, what did he use – my E string around his neck and tied to the ladder rung, what that one hand must have been reaching for.

I wish she were Alison right now, that Alison were here and not this absent vomiting girl who can do nothing but say I’m sorry oh I’m sorry about the puke and cover her mouth with her hand and shake her head and say nothing and who I can’t remember if she ate anything. Alison always ate.

Roger’s email screen is up, a response from his parents about an email from Tau Kappa Epsilon, the picture from the flyers plastered on his screen instead of words. How’d they get their email address I wonder, and I panic for a minute that it was me, that I used mad4roger as a punchline last night between drinks, between one too few and one too many, between Roger thanking me for inviting him and a penis being forced into his mouth. That I know I cracked a few jokes at his expense, that I did that and mentioned the email, to Phil or John or someone, before standing in the background and doing nothing.

My eyes follow the tied ends of my guitar string, the string I meant to change, to throw away, at the tendrils that point down at Roger’s purple lips oddly looking normal for the first time, both of them thin and flat against one another, at his open eyes, at the vomit covered t-shirt he hasn’t changed out of, at the lit computer screen. Like an arrow it points, at all these things, at the guitar my mother gave me, and that Alison taught me to play, at the substance-lacking vomit on my shoes, at the glaring obviousness of it all.