We’re at this club called Mercedes and I see this douchebag American guy wearing a San Diego Padres baseball hat at the far end of the bar, teeshirt tight on his fat gut, his arms hairy, a watch on his right wrist, silver, bracelet on his left, a beard, hair messy and shooting out the back of the hat, holding a pint of dark beer up in the air, screaming, “Pour some sugar on me!” along with the remixed version of the song then he looks over at a really ugly-looking girl, short, dyke hair, rounded at the back, tan-colored tanktop, flower skirt almost dragging on the floor with sandals, and she’s loving his show. His friend is standing next to him, this guy with a horseshoe-sculpted goatee, broad nose and long sideburns, wearing this little train conductor hat that’s black with white stripes, and he’s talking to an equally bland-looking girl, chubby with blonde hair shoved under what looks like the exact same conductor hat but this one’s gray, and I wonder if this was planned, their little matching hats. She’s wearing a black hoodie with some chubby cleavage bubbling out and I get grossed out and take a drink of my beer. I push my way through a gaggle of freshman guys, these wannabes with fauxhawks and buttondowns and tight jeans, back to the booth against the far wall that Toby and I commandeered. I slide in at one end, sipping my beer.
“Hey, who sings this song?” I say to everyone, interrupting a story Toby was telling about making out with some slag at a friend’s birthday party years ago.
“What song?” Toby asks.
“The uh…pour some sugar on me song, the one that just played,” I say.
Toby laughs, then says, “Fuckin geezer…it’s British rock at it’s finest. Def Leppard, mate.”
Everyone laughs, except me, I’m smiling, staring at the tits of the four girls sitting with us, all eight tits, all different sizes and shapes, all pressed and squeezed into tight clothes, pushed up and rounded out by the miracle that is the bra, these girls just copies of one another except that some have accents and some don’t, just these nameless chicks with bangs of differing cuts and textures and colors always clouding their mediocre faces. I yawn and look around the room, trying to act like I’m not checking them out. There’s two levels to the place, a dance floor on both, the one upstairs smaller, and it’s crowded and hot. People are here in droves, in throngs, sweating and dancing and drinking and kissing, dry-humping to the rhythm of whatever song happens to be playing, hair gelled and hairsprayed and teased, shots passing back and forth.
“How many people have you slept with, Richard?” the girl closest to me says, flirting. Her name is Bethany, I think, possibly Christina, but I think Beth or Bethany, definitely American, and she adds, “God, I know that’s such a creeper question, but I’m so curious. We were talking about it earlier.”
“Yes, how many?” the brunette says, French I’m pretty sure, named Claudia, breasts small and her nipples hard and visible through her blouse.
“I don’t talk about that,” I say, drinking my beer and smiling.
“Please?” the girl closest to Toby says from across the table, red hair and pasty skin, drinking a martini.
“Oh, come on,” one of them says.
“It’s not like I have anything to hide, but from my experience, it’s never a good thing to discuss. I don’t want to know people’s numbers, so I don’t ask. And I never tell.”
“What’s the big deal,” the last girl says, American also. “Is it a jealousy thing or something?”
I sit back, drinking. Most of the girls have given up on the topic, they just don’t care, but this girl, she sits up close to the table, sitting almost directly across from me, a black tubetop around her thin torso, her dark hair past her shoulders in an unexciting style, her lips thin and wicked-looking, her eyes large and venomous.
“Just a principle I have that I never break,” I say to her, drinking faster, the beer stinging my throat as I swallow, the taste of hops overwhelming. Beth/Bethany/Christina, whatever her name is, whispers to the French chick and they both giggle and drink and look at me, watching…studying. I look back to this bitch sitting across from me, she’s stirring her finger in her gin and tonic now, swirling it around and navigating through cubes of ice, just staring at me, so I say, “I guess partially about the jealousy, yeah. Mostly, people think they want to know…but they don’t. They really don’t. Even if it’s like three people you’ve had sex with, no one wants to know. So…I don’t tell and I don’t ask.”
“I really couldn’t give two shits what your number is. I’m just curious.
Not going to judge you or anything,” she says.
“Seems like you kinda do care,” I say and Toby laughs and leans his head back on the verge of passing out. I bet this girl’s name is Samantha or Meredith or something equally as bitchy-sounding. Colleen, maybe.
“Wow, that’s arrogant,” she says.
“Arrogant? Why, because you keep talking about me? Because you have to know my deepest darkest secrets?”
“That, right there, that’s arrogant, thinking you’re the shining fucking light of this table.”
“If it seems that way,” I say, drinking and looking to the other girls who seem not very interested in me or what I have to offer any more, then continue, “It’s because you keep talking about me.”
“Where’re you from?” she asks deadpan, drinking.
“See, you want to know all about me, don’t you?”
“Jesus, you’re a prick,” she says, still swirling her drink and I laugh.
“Why are you laughing?”
“I’m not…whatever. Don’t worry,” I say, then, “How many guys have you fucked?”
“None of your fucking business.”
“Ah, I see. So what, like two? Three? Don’t worry, things’ll pick up,” I say laughing, smiling.
“I want to know where you’re from?”
“Where are you from?”
“Ah, big mountain girl, huh?”
“Is that supposed to mean something?” she says, sitting back. The pasty redhaired girl leans in and whispers in her ear, the bitch’s ear, and the bitch smiles with her tongue skimming the surface of her teeth, looking at me in earnest.
“Ohio? Columbus, maybe?”
“Definitely Midwest, though.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Your voice is nasally.”
“Don’t get hostile, little Midwest boy.”
“Oh, I’m not.”
“So you lot go to Ayers, then?” the redhead says in a smarmy tone, drinking the rest of her martini in one swallow.
“Yessir, we do,” I say.
“It’s almost the real Oxford, isn’t it?” she says, smirking.
“Ayers is a good school and, anyway, I could’ve gotten into Oxford proper if I would’ve applied,” I say, probably too defensively, giving them fuel to add to their growing fires.
“Why didn’t you, then?” she says.
“Didn’t think about it, really,” I say, looking away for a second then back to the
table. I take a large drink and notice Toby waking up, mumbling to himself, unaware that he had fallen asleep. He rubs his eyes and looks around then smiles at the girls around the table like he’s lost time or something.
“Jesus, I need a fuckin drink,” he says getting up and patting me on the shoulder as he leaves.
“What about you?” I say, accusing the bitchy girl.
“What about me what?” she says.
“We’re at Polycarp,” she says pointing to the redhead, then, pointing to the others, “They’re at Jericho.”
“Ah,” I say extending the h-sound.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing at all. What do you study?”
“Guess,” she says then exchanges some more whispers with the redhead.
“Jesus, why is it when you see a pretty girl you assume they pick the simplest majors. I’m not a fucking sorority idiot, you know.”
“Actually, I don’t know, you could be,” I say finishing my beer, deciding how long I’ll stay before I go meet Toby at the bar, leave, grab some streetfood, some chips with cheese and mayo and ketchup, jerk off to porn in my room then sleep. I set the beer down and the girls next to me are lost in a conversation involving a boy named Henry so I lose interest and meet eyes with the bitchy girl who’s just staring at me, the redhead texting into her phone now.
“I’m studying probability theory,” she says, chewing on her straw now.
“How wonderful for you,” I say.
“The study of random phenomena.”
“Yes, I got it, thanks.”
“So you’re familiar?”
“With probability? Only what I learned in high school math.”
“That’s a shame.”
“I think I’ll be just fine. Anyway, I should get—”
“You study English or literature or something, I bet.”
“Why do you think that?”
“You have the look of a…writer, or something. Something grandiloquent like that.”
“Do you know what that word means?”
“Alright, I’m going to jet—”
“Don’t be a fucking baby,” she says laughing then sets her straw down on the table and picks an ice cube out of her glass, sucking on it. “Just teasing you.”
“It’s very funny.”
“I bet you’re used to the type of girl who just eats your shit up, huh? The kind you just feed your little lines to and they just come back for more?”
“Yup, you got me.”
“I figured. Just feed those little fish the worm and tell em you got a whole bunch more at your place, right?”
“God, it’s like you’re spying on my life. Got me pegged, sweetheart.”
“How long does it take you to fuck them, usually?” she says almost sneering now, staring right through me, me being the accidental sunnuvabitch that all of her guilt and ire and rage is targeted on. Wrong place, wrong time, it would seem.
I sit there for a minute, smiling, looking over at her, fidgeting the empty beer bottle in my hand, noticing she has no piercings in either ear which, for some reason, I find extremely odd. I smile at her which she mistakes as an unconditional surrender to her relentless scab-picking, a retreat, she probably thinks, but really I’ve just figured out how I can make her hurt, how I can pick her scabs, how her mind works and why it works the way it does, and I piece together what I assume are the events in her life that have lead her to this point in time. I quick look over to the bar and see Toby talking to the guy with the train conductor hat, then turn back to the bitch and say very casually, “I’m guessing you’re what…eighteen, nineteen? Probably live a pretty goddamned sheltered life back home, I bet, had a boyfriend in high school who you thought you’d marry until he got real drunk and tried to rape you…am I close?” I say laying the beer bottle on the table and spinning it, cough twice, then, “Couldn’t go to your mom about it, about what he did to you, you don’t have that type of relationship, I’m sure, and your dad is just always gone, never a part of your life. So, here you are, attending a school half-way around the world, the furthest thing away from your life where you don’t know anyone, where you can reinvent yourself the way you see fit. And I’m assuming you’ve had a string of men come and go since, and you fucked each and every one to get back at your ex-boyfriend, even though he won’t know, to show him you aren’t the prude he always called you, that you secretly love being a slut and you love feeling a man pressed up against you and pumping away, and that this, all of this, is just a way for you to put men in ‘their place’,” I say, air-quoting, pausing to take it all in, then, “and you really feel like the biggest piece of shit inside most of the time. Like, all the time. Like, close your eyes when you look into a mirror and you really hate your life, how alone you really are, so you’re here, at this…this bar or whatever, with this toughshit attitude that no one’s really buying, and you’ll probably go home and masturbate and cry while you think about me being happy fucking one of those sorority idiots you claim to hate. Anyway,” I yawn, noticing that every girl at the table is now staring at me in a sort of frustrated horror, the bitchy girl especially just sitting there, forming words which I’m sure I could predict if I really wanted to, then I add, “Gotta get going. Pleasure meeting you all.”
I stand and leave, smiling as I walk away. I can hear them talking the moment I get up, their words a clusterfuck as the noise of the place seems to rise like a fever, all of them indistinguishable to me now. I part my way through the crowd on the dance floor and really want to drink some liquor so I stop by Toby at the bar, pat him on the shoulder, tell him the table’s a dead-end and to order me a gin and tonic, that I’m going to the bathroom. I glare at the guy in the conductor hat who’s now singing along to a remix of Nirvana’s “Lithium”, a techno beat nearly drowning out Cobain singing: “I like it I’m not gonna crack / I miss you I’m not gonna crack / I love you I’m not gonna crack
I killed you I’m not gonna crack” then peel my way through more freshmen and fauxhawks and chubs in clothes two sizes too tight. My mind goes blank. I think of Jen. I think of fucking her…the way we’d just lie there with each other and watch television, the way her periods were so heavy…the way her mom treated her as a child and how it fucked her up bad…the emotional scarring…my body sweaty and my mind just blank…my father slapping my mother once when I was eight…and I stop myself to watch two girls on the dance floor wearing short skirts, their asses almost hanging out, freaking each other, their faces so-so, their bodies fantastic, and I suddenly get the urge to have anal sex.
Outside of the bathroom I see that bitch girl from the booth leaning against the wall, a full shot of her now, tight dark jeans, stiletto heels, her arms behind her back so her tits stick out just so, smirking. She straightens up when she sees me, brushes the hair out of her face and I want to turn her around right then and make her face the wall and rip her fucking clothes off and just fuck her so hard from behind, choke her while I pump her, pull her shirt down and grab her tits. I stand there for like half a second and nod to her and she approaches. She smells like sweat and perfume, something lavender, a smell I didn’t pick up at the booth. She touches my arm with her hand and leans in and kisses me gently on the lips, her tongue poking into my mouth just a bit, her eyes and my eyes open the entire time. She smiles as she pulls back, drops a folded bit of paper in my hand, relaxed and in control.
“You’re a fucking prick,” she says walking away, still smiling.
I look at the piece of paper and in sloppy cursive it say, MANDY with a British cell number underneath it. I watch the bitch walk away, her ass shifting leftright as she moves, disappearing back into the thick of the crowd, bass resonating, the lyrics of the song repeating: “I like it I’m not gonna crack / I miss you I’m not gonna crack / I love you I’m not gonna crack / I killed you I’m not gonna crack” and she never looks back at me but I just stand there until I know she’s out of sight, standing there, smiling devilishly, everyone looking at me, sucking in my cheeks and clenching my jaw, everyone wanting me, they all want me, always.