Guest post – Robert James Russell

All copyright, all everything rights Robert James Russell, whom you can find hanging out on twitter as Robhollywood

Make Moves, Chickie

“Holy shit, can you believe he came?” you hear her say and you can’t believe this is your life, that Jen got back together with Todd again, that here she is whining about some guy she let fondle her in the bathroom of a very similar-looking party about two weeks ago at a very similar-looking frat house, although you’re not really sure which one, and you’re not entirely sure why she even cares, considering Todd isn’t even here.

“Was he supposed to not come?” you say drinking your beer from the little red cup.  You tease your hair after you say this as the words drift between the two of you, and you try your best to look available, ready.

“Well, I dunno, but it’s not cool.”

“Why is it not cool, Jen?”

“Do you think I’m being dramatic or something?” she says looking at you now, swallowing a large gulp of beer from a cup just like yours.  The curls of her hair look like little evil tendrils, but you’ve already told her she looks beautiful because you know she gets pissy if you don’t pass out compliments like candy.  It’s a ritual that even you aren’t entirely aware of, except during moments like this when she’s blatantly inviting you to partake.

“No, you’re not being dramatic.  You’re a peach.  Anyway, don’t let him ruin your night.  Besides, Todd’s like a ten, he’s like a…four.”

“Yeah, inches,” she says and you laugh partially because it reminds you of all the unqualified lovers that have come and gone in your previous three years at university, but mostly because you feel bad for the guy, knowing what you know about Jen, that she probably led him on and treated him like dirt for the sake of…whatever.  Poor sucker never saw it coming.

“Nice,” you say and the two of you touch your plastic cups and make a noise that sounds like TNK to emulate expensive wine glasses clinking, something you’ve done since you were seventeen but you’re not sure why.  You’re just standing here, like a lump, next to a worn-orange couch that has three frat boys on it and three girls sitting on their laps, hands up skirts and up shirts, lots of giggles floating around, the boys with their hats on frontways and sideways, all with the same looks in their eyes.  The hungry look, Jen refers to it as, the look a boy gets when they know they’re going to get some action.  And it’s always there in the same way, in every boy, no matter their make or model.  They just sort of gloss over and stop listening to what you’re going to say because you’ve already given away the surprise ending, anyway, the way you’ve been all over them and the way you’ve given them the bedroom eyes while they talk about their major or whatever.  So you can’t really blame them, you figure, because it is kinda your fault to begin with.

You’re almost done with your beer when you hear “Galvanize” by the Chemical Brothers start playing, a song you really like, so much so that you went out and bought the single the second it dropped, and you find yourself starting to hum along to the lyrics “Cause you woke up in the mornin, with initiative to move, so why make it harder /
don’t hold back
” then Jen sees you and smirks and says, “What the fuck are you doing?”

“I like this song,” you say, unabashedly honest, probably in part to the three beers you’ve slammed since you’ve been here.

This song?” she says and you just sorta smile and nod.  “Why?”

“I mean, it’s alright.”

“It’s pretty stupid” she says and you just keep nodding and finish your beer.  “I don’t…get it.”

“I’m out,” you say referring to your now empty plastic cup, trying hard to avoid one of her mood swings.  “Wanna go with me?”

“Sure.  Wait, are you getting blotto tonight?”

“Dunno, why?”

“Because I really want to.”

So?”

“Well, aren’t you driving?”

“We can take a cab or—”

“No, don’t even think it.  We’re not going to call Bill.  We’re done with that shit.”

“It’s a free ride, Jen.”

“I don’t get how you can just leave your car someplace like here, just in the street like that.”

“I’ll get it in the morning.”

“Well, I don’t want to see Bill, anyway.”

“Then we’ll take a cab.”

“Do you have to get drunk, Chickie?”

“Well, I’ve had a long week.”

“So have I.”

“Okay, then we both get drunk,” you say, annoyed, but smiling and biting on the rim of your cup, a nervous habit you acquired Freshman year, you’re pretty sure.  “Okay?”

“Fine, whatever,” she says and you snake your way through a crowd of sweaty boys who are probably Sophomores, their hair in little spikes, all wearing polo-type shirts with the colors popped.  They look at us as we pass, snarl and make little comments like that’s going to get you to stop and talk to you, right?  One guy even says, “Hey, come here babydoll I want you to come upstairs with me,” which just makes you laugh, so you turn and look at Jen and hope she heard it so you can make fun of the douche together, but she hasn’t and looks like she might be on the verge of passing out.  So you keep trekking.  Past the little clusters of make-you-sick model-types, the jocks, more youngins who think they run the school already, which is just hilarious, and you see a guy you hooked up with last year, named Tom, who’s with a new girl and you can tell as you pass and the two of you lock eyes that he’s desperately hoping you don’t go over and talk about your little fling because, well, this chica’s probably been his girlfriend for years, you being the other girl.  So you smile at him and keep walking and keep the little secret buried for now, and emerge into the kitchen which is pretty dead and you walk over to the keg which is by the far wall, next to the fridge.  Then you see there’s a boy at the keg, just standing there with the pump in his hand, probably his way of getting to talk to girls.  You stop just short and turn to Jen and you say to her, “There’s a creeper at the keg.”

“Oh yeah?” she says and looks past you with a bit of attitude now.

“Are you okay? You seem on edge,” you say and try to really show her the night’s about her, even though it really isn’t.

“Well, I don’t like walking through a goddamn crowd to get more beer.  I got felt up like the whole way,” she says whining.

“So did I, Jen.  It’s just…how it is.”

“Plus I think I saw Greg in the living room which just makes me really uncomfortable,” she says, and I think to myself, well, then you shouldn’t have done a striptease for him in his dorm room after knowing him for like ten minutes.  Oh, and in front of his roommates. Then, “Ugh, why is this happening to me, huh?”

“Sorry, babes,” you say to calm her but she looks like a wild animal right now, like she might rip the dick off the next guy who tries to talk to her.  “Just try not to think about it and…it’ll all be okay.”

“I wish Todd was here.”

“Well, let’s get some beer,” you say carefully sidestepping toward the keg.  “Is that…cool?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“Great,” you say and you turn and you’ve already managed to shuffle your way to the keg, and the boy holding the pump who’s actually pretty cute, wearing a teeshirt that has a robot on it drinking beer, says, “Hey, need some beer?”

“No, we like the view,” Jen says and smirks, then turns and looks out into the living room.

“Yeah, some beer.  Are you the official party pumper or something?” you say and feel only marginally embarrassed that the words came from your mouth, and blame, again, the three beers already in your system.

‘You know, I am, actually,” the boy says.  “It’s a good way to meet chicks.”

“Right,” you say.  “Good point.”

“I mean, they have to come through me, you know?” he says and Jen, only half-listening to the conversation, groans in disgust at this little exchange and then bumps you with her elbow, handing you her cup.

“Two, uh…please.”

“Coming right up,” he says and you look at him and you study his face.  It’s long, and he has big lightbrown eyes and short brown hair, and he has some stubble like he couldn’t be bothered to shave for a few days, and you are already chastising yourself because you know how this will end, the damn brown eyes do it to you every time.  So he’s pouring the beers and looking up at you all shyly, and no one is really talking, so you start listening to the song in the other room but you can’t make it out, except the baseline.  Then, and it’s like a bolt of lightening, you hear him clear his throat and you know he’s going to ask you something, he’s going to try to flirt because you just already goddamn know where this is going to go.

“Is your name Rebecca?” he says.  “Rebecca…something French.  Molineux?  Is that your name?”

“No.”

“Oh…shit.  Sorry,” he says and Jen snorts, laughs.  “What’s your friend’s name there?”

Her?”

“Yeah, she looks familiar too, I think.”

“Jen,” you say and Jen gives you this look like she wants to murder you, but you just smile at her and pat her on the shoulder which calms her down.

“Jen…what?”

“Wolfish, okay?” Jen says turning toward the boy now.

“Jen Wolfish?  Shit, do you know…Pete Hesse?” he says.

“Yeah, I know Pete.”

“Yeah, I heard about you, actually.  From him and…uh, Nick.”

“Nick who and what did you hear?” she says.

“Nick Constantakis.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, he told me you guys had a good time,” he says smiling and looking at her, checking her out and pretending to be sly about it, and you’re pretty sure you know exactly what story he’s talking about but you don’t really care because it got hella awkward in here, like bad, so you clear your throat.

“What’s your name, anyway, Mister I’m In Everyone’s Business? Jesus,” Jen says trying to be difficult, the game she loves to play.

“James,” the boy says and looks at you now just to make sure you got it.  Big brown eyes.  Crap.

“Nice to meet you,” you say and he finally hands the beers back.  “Do you live here?”

“No, but my buddy does.  Do you know Kyle Fritsch?”

“No,” Jen says taking the beer from you and drinking it, and you know that after this one, maybe the next, she’s going to be a blubbering mess but, c’est la vie, right?

“Actually, I think we had a film class together,” you say, drinking, unsure whether what you just said is true or not.

“You’re a film major?” he says and smiles right at you, Jen a figment of a long forgotten conversation now.  “So cool.”

“Well, was,” you say sheepishly, smiling at him then looking away.  Your game.

“Yeah, she’s in communications now,” Jen says leaning forward, interrupting.

“Yeah?” James says.

“Yeah,” you say back.

“Well, that’s cool, right? I mean, you could get a job in film or in, like, journalism.  It’s…got everything, you know?”

“Right.  Exactly,” you say and you’re blushing you think, but it could be from the beer.

“Hey, I want to go see if that was Greg in the living room,” Jen says tugging on your sleeve.

“Okay.”

“And duh, I want you to come with me,” she says smiling at you, her cup almost all the way gone now, and she’s just giving you this look that you know you can’t say no to or, you know, there will be hell to pay.  So you look over at James and he’s smiling with his hand on the pump, and you take a drink and you can hear Jen just start to get real antsy, and just as you’re about to say something witty and clever to him, Jen goes, “Don’t worry, bro, I’ll have her back before midnight and you two can flirt or make out or…whatever” and grabs your arm.  You smile at James as you leave and for a moment he looks really sad, like he really saw something in you, so you mouth to him you’re sorry and he nods, but as you walk into the living room you see two other girls, younger and cuter and thinner, approach him at the keg and you know it’s over now.  You know how it’s going to end.  But you trudge along anyway because you have to.  Because you’ve done this song and dance before.  Because it’s just the same merry-go-round and you can’t seem to get off.  So now you’re back in the living room and some of the boys are looking at you and Jen, but not all of them, there are enough Freshmen wearing tubetops with perky breasts to draw attention away from you.  Sigh.

Now Jen’s dragging you toward a group of three guys in the corner, the type of show Jen loves best, and you’re trying to salvage your beer but it’s sloshing around and spilling on your shoes, which is just irritating on a whole other level.

“Hey, Greg,” Jen says and you wish, at this moment, that maybe you would’ve said no to her back at your place, about going out.

You take the opportunity to look at the three boys.  The one, Greg, he’s short and has short black hair and is kinda cute, he has a lot of scruff which totally works for him, and he’s wearing the usual clothes, a button down and some jeans which really don’t fit him that well, but all-in-all he’s not bad.  Then there’s a tallish friend, who really just looks like a bigger version of Greg, but less attractive, which is confusing, and then there’s a redheaded kid who’s got a gut on him and he keeps looking at you while you sip your beer.  Actually, he’s staring at your boobs, but whatever.  Still attention, right?

“Oh, hey,” Greg says to Jen, smirking.

“Yeah, whatever.  What are you doing?”

“Tonight or…generally?” he says and looks me up and down then immediately back to Jen.

“Generally, I guess.  I know what you’re doing tonight.  You’re here.”

“Sure.”

“Anyway, have you been talking to Tom?”

“Tom? No, not really, why?” Greg says and you take this opportunity to start wandering around the living room.  You’re drinking the beer, a bit faster now, and you finally start to feel a buzz, which is confirmed because your toes start to feel numb like they always do when you’re getting drunk.  Anyway.  Now you’re over in a corner, by yourself, scanning around to see if there’s anyone you know, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California” comes on, and you realize you’re trying to make yourself look taller than you actually are, because of what Diana told you the other day, about some statistic she heard about guys going for taller girls more often.  You’re being more conscious of your body than you even realize standing there, drinking in intervals, shooting looks at people who you think you know, until you realize you absolutely do not and that you’re clearly not drunk enough to be alone at a party.

You realize at this point, looking around the room, that you’re starting to space out, observing, studying all their little faces, their little highlights and their little bodies, their little hopes and dreams and all the little boys that say they’ll make come true, then you look back to Jen and the three boys on the couch and she’s lying across them now, across their laps, smoking a cigarette.  She looks at you, offers you a smoke, but you say no and cross your arms carefully so you don’t spill any more beer, and she takes another large puff.  Her head’s in Greg’s lap and he leans down and they kiss, passionately, and the other two boys whisper something to each other and touch her legs, her feet, and they laugh and giggle and scheme, and now, you realize, at this exact moment, you’ve had enough, so you move toward the door, unnoticed.

You’re outside now and it’s cold, colder than it should be in May, you think, but it feels nice anyway.  There’s a girl to your right, near the side of the house, arguing with her boyfriend, but you tune them mostly out.  She’s pushing him, punching him in the chest and shoulders, and he looks indifferent.  She’s pissed.  It’s the same conversation, you realize, the conversation everyone has, with the details changed here and there to fit their needs.  It’s an endless loop and you wish you would’ve paid more attention in high school physics because you’re pretty sure at one point your teacher talked about the universe being on a loop or something, and this, this whole diorama set up before you, seems to happen in waves just like that. You look across the street and see the rows of houses, the parties going on in each of them, the smokers on the porch puffing away, beer-pong tables set up in lawns and decorated with plastic cups of varying colors, abandoned now, the houses themselves in various states of disarray and you wonder where it’s all going.  You wonder where any of it goes, where the last three years went.  How you ended up here and why you are prone to making the same mistakes and not learn from them, time and time again.  You look back to the couple and they’re kissing now, feverishly, and you realize they’re not right for each other, they never probably were, and eventually it will end, for good, with tears and name-calling, but now, now they can’t stomach the thought.  He cheats, she cheats, yet here they are, together, but why?  And now you’re walking, you’re walking down the little walkway from the house to the sidewalk and you’re drinking your beer and you feel strangely good, like you’ve realized something epic but you just can’t quite make out the details yet, and you really don’t know where you’re going, but here you are, going.  Then, out of nowhere, you hear someone say “Hey” and you turn, instinctively, and see James running out of the house with two cups in his hands.  He’s smiling, eyes wide, and he’s coming right for you, which startles you.  You stop and turn toward him, smirking.

“Hey there,” you say back.

“Are you…leaving?”

“Uh, not sure,” you say.

“You don’t know if you’re leaving?” he says.  “You’re an odd one, aren’t you?”

“Sometimes, I think.”

“I’m teasing.  But seriously, were you taking off? Where’s—”

“Jen? Inside talking to some…boys, I think.  I was just…walking.”

“I like walking,” he says, smiling, looking at your face now for the first time, staring into your eyes, shaking you.  “Walking’s…nice.  Oh, and I…uh, brought you a beer.”

“Thanks,” you say awkwardly taking the cup from him with your free hand.

“So, where we going?”

“Um, not really sure, actually,” you say and you’re both walking now, side-by-side, shuffling ahead slowly.

“Works for me,” he says and the air feels warm now, a warm breeze, and you feel your face flush a bit and the sky, it’s strikingly clear, even this late at night, and you can see the sliver of the moon set up in the sky and strangely enough the cries and hoots and hollers from the parties dotting the street seem to be gone now, drowned out, and even though neither of you are saying a thing, even though you’re moving toward a destination you’re not sure of, you seem to be okay and, you know, maybe it’s just time to make moves.  So you look down at your feet then at James and you smile and drink from one of the cups and realize that it’ll probably be okay.

~ by yearzerowriters on May 28, 2010.

7 Responses to “Guest post – Robert James Russell”

  1. This is one of the best opening sentences I’ve come across in a long while. I wanted to post it yesterday on twitter when we discusing opening sentences but it’s not exactly 140 characters.
    Dan

  2. Really enjoyed this. Thanks for posting, Robert.
    Tricia

  3. Welcome aboard. From a guy on the move, literally.

  4. Thanks, everyone. Glad you liked. I’m a big fan of catchy opening sentences, ones that really set the scene. I’m quite fond of this one myself (if I’m allowed to be).🙂

  5. This is one of my favorites, Rob. Congratulations!

  6. […] it out here, and make sure you scroll through the rest of the site…they got some good stuff on […]

  7. […] Robert James Russell You’ve seen a couple of incredible pieces from Robert James Russell, whose slacker style has already knocked a few socks […]

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