I struggled to figure out how to upload this, since it is long and does not really fit the timeline of the previous sections. So, now, this will just be where I stick anything Dex related I wanna write because I have one-billion pieces on my profile anyway and it overwhelms me. If you've read the first two bits of this, this may be jarring. If you've read what I have of Nice Girls, this takes place maybe two years from where I am now. Dex is in college. I came up with this "Duke porn star scandal, but it's gay porn" idea and wrote it as a birthday present to myself. And also to procrastinate from real world duties and other writing such as Nice Girls and the chapbook I'm putting together (which, if there is anyone who wants to read more about Mica and Dex's parents when they were younger and wants to beta, please let me know!) for release this fall.
Okay. I'm author's note crazy lately, sorry.
I've been thinking a lot about how stupid people are, lately, and getting really pissed about it. Like, when the girl in line ahead of me asked the cashier the difference between regular and gluten free bagels, and followed with, "So gluten is, like, carbs?" I thought my heart was going to explode, I got so angry. I was panic attack dizzy and felt my face heating up with hate and I considered walking outside but I really needed that muffin, extra gluten please, if I was going to ever feel okay.
Or, like, whenever my stupid ex-boyfriend tries to contact me and my stomach bubbles like the rage is boiling the acid in it. My hands shake as I delete, dismiss, ignore his attempts to reconcile and remember that it's his stupidity that turned me into this hate machine in the first place, and my stupidity that let me believe this could never ever happen because we were in love and blah, blah, blah. My little sister told me last year love is a lie and I was like, you're fifteen kid, go light—but now I know she was right and I am stupid.
I should have known he'd imitate his hero MLK even down to the philandering. When I'd discussed that very topic and said it's important to recognize heroes as not being noble and heroic in their every action to highlight how incredible their good deeds were and that they're ordinary people, Kwame was adamant that it was all some white supremacist tactic to destroy a great legacy and not worth bringing up. And, maybe, he's right. But probably, what he really meant was cheating is not worth discussing and we should just let it slide.
"Dex, just be cool," he said. He actually said this. The fucking nerve.
My roommate, Pete, has also since told me to be cool. I get the feeling I'm scaring him a little, or at the very least irritating the hell out of him with my stewing and my unsolicited rants about stupid garbage TV, and stupid classmates, and the whole goddamned stupid world. "Ease up, Caulfield," he'll say and I'll wanna snap back that comparing my plight to that of a bratty WASP monster obsessed with phonies is just, well, stupid. But he'd probably tell me to calm down, and I don't wanna be calm.
He keeps saying I should "get back out there," and I know it's because he thinks a rebound will cure this new sour attitude. But honestly, it's like a switch that was flipped and then broken off. I'm stuck on hater. Shit I'd shrugged off before will now forever annoy me.
Pete, for example. We have little in common, but managed to bond freshman year over being biracial, white and Chinese in his case, and the dumb shit we've put up with because of it. He's not homophobic or anything. Not overtly. Sometimes, it's like he's too eager to be the guy who demonstrates how okay he is with my being gay. It feels a little disingenuous, like he's not quite certain I won't one day be overcome with lust for him or something, but is overcompensating for these thoughts because they clash with his belief about how liberal and accepting he truly is. It's similar to the shit I dealt with as the sole, prized black friend to many idiots in high school. I'm not here to affirm anyone's ideological notion of how good and progressive they are.
And it's bullshit, because he'll go and do stuff like conspicuously bounce from the room whenever I've got a gay friend over, like he's afraid some spontaneous sodomy will happen or the universe will tilt if the sexual orientation balance in the room shifts too much. Today, he's doing his homework with a music video playing on his dual monitor set up when my friend Rion comes over. Rion sits on my bed because there is nowhere else to sit, and suddenly Pete is all, "I guess I'll buckle down in the library, later man." I just sneer when he shuts the door.
Rion laughs, having heard me complain about this before. "Oh man, I have to show you something," he says, pulling out his phone. I frown, immediately, because the last time he had to show me something it was screenshots of Kwame's profile on this hookup app that he'd seen pop-up when Kwame visited me one weekend. My stupid ex-boyfriend stupidly forgot to make himself invisible or had been unaware it'd show up on the screens of gay guys I might know while he was in their radius.
"Is this going to ruin my life too?" I ask.
"Dramatic," Rion replies, not looking up from his phone. "Do you know Andrew Webber?"
I shrug. "Sounds familiar, I think. Why?"
"Someone said he's a bio major too, so I thought I'd ask. So like, word is he's the gay porn star."
"Huh? Porn star? He goes here?"
"Yeah, man! You haven't heard about this? You don't use the AnonCampus app?" Rion finally glances at me and snorts at my perplexed face. "Of course you don't. But still, people have been talking about it, and today someone posted his real name."
"Yeah. It's a pretty big deal. He's frat, like one of the top tier. People are scandalized. I hear they're trying to get him kicked out."
"For being gay?"
"Not officially. Yeah, says here he's Sig."
"Is that the rapey one?"
"Aren't they all 'the rapey one'?" Rion jokes. "And the racist one."
I tilt my head to concede like, good point. "What'd you wanna show me?"
Rion gives me a look like, seriously? "One of his videos, of course."
"Ugh, no. I don't wanna see that."
"Why not? It's kinda hot. I know you're not into white boys, but still."
"Not even that, it's like…a violation of privacy or something."
Rion makes an amused, dismissive noise. "He's fucking on camera and it's on the internet. Anyone can see it. There is no expectation of privacy."
"I mean, I assume he uses a stage name. He probably didn't want everyone to know about it."
"Well he's dumb if he didn't think anyone would find out."
I feel myself wanting to make my disagreement verbal, ready to go on a tirade as is my new custom, but I literally bite my tongue, holding it in the side of my mouth between my teeth and letting the faint pain take center stage rather than the seething anger. I don't need to start hating Rion entirely, too. Especially when he's not completely wrong on this. "I guess. Sucks for him," is all I say when I finally let myself speak.
Andrew Webber's name pops up again and again in conversations I'm unfortunate enough to listen in on. People aren't even whispering. "He was in Orgo lab with me last year. I think he was like perpetually hung over," I overhear when getting coffee. "Didn't he date Jess Pasternak, the Tri-Delt? She's gotta be mortified," a girl speculates on the bus I take to West Campus. Some brain trust jokes loudly in the quad that they should start calling his former frat Sigma HIV. All over, people bemoan the fact that our prestigious institution is mired in another scandal sure to make national news.
I expect the gayer and otherwise more marginalized corners of campus to be sympathetic, at least to the forced outing aspect of it, but they mostly tend to think it's just as humorous and exciting as Rion finds it. The topic dominates a group text chat that I have to mute. Some loudly decry the shaming he's experiencing but whisper and laugh amongst themselves and share videos and pictures. I delete several e-mails containing these links. The feminist groups on campus seem torn about having to stand up for the rights of a guy they'd probably written off as a frat boy rapist and the minority organizations feel the same about defending a frat boy racist.
Pete, like everyone else, is enraptured by the topic. He's a BME major and is dying to know if he's had any core science classes with the porn star. "Anjeet swears he was in a bio class we had last year but I can't seem to place a face to the name. He's like scrubbed from the internet other than porn, and I can't look at that."
"Why not?" I ask.
"Because I'm not gay. No offense."
"Why would that offend me?" I snap.
Pete holds his hands up like, gee sorry. He's quiet a moment longer before asking, "So, like…do you know him?"
"I don't know. Don't think so."
"You haven't tried to find out?" He seems genuinely confused by this. I'm trying very hard to project as much disdain as I can toward him, but he's either oblivious or apathetic. "So, honest question. In your opinion, is it weird to look up his porn so I can figure out who he is?"
Pete is disappointed with my answer but he must have known it was coming. "Like, even if it's just a picture?"
My sigh is one of complete exasperation. "Dude, you clearly just want to do it. Just go ahead. It doesn't make you a faggot, okay?"
Pete looks affronted. "Whoa, I wasn't even saying all that."
My eyes are on my Molecular Bio book as Pete clicks and types away. After a very short silence he exclaims, "Whoa! It's that guy?" in such a shocked manner I have to look up. Pete's mouth is gaping and he's scrutinizing the photo on the screen, so caught up he doesn't realize I'm looking over for a bit. He closes the window quickly then, like I'm his mom walking in on him jacking it, and clears his throat while opening some basketball forum to reaffirm his manhood. But he was spaced out long enough that I got a good look. Good enough to see that I do in fact know Andrew Webber, porn name Jayden King.
He's sunglasses guy.
Andrew Webber's the kind of guy who goes to basketball games shirtless and blue-faced, the guy that the TV cameras zoom in on as he's aggressively signaling that our team's number one because even under the paint he's attractive in a drunken, youthful, exuberant way. He's the kind of guy who drives a BMW. He's the guy handing out flyers for stupid frat functions, never to people like me of course. He's the kind of guy girls dismiss as a player while secretly hoping they can make him change his ways. He's the guy who you assume is a legacy admit just by looking at him but eventually begrudgingly accept might actually know thing or two regardless.
And he's the guy in my Drugs, Brain, and Behavior class who always fucking wears his sunglasses inside.
It made me roll my eyes at the beginning of the semester, assuming he was just too hung over to deal with fluorescent lighting or maybe that he'd wake-and-baked and forgotten the eye drops. But he did it with such annoying frequency I began to hate him for it, especially as the wound of my broken heart got infected and oozed stinky pus of loathing all over my life. I imagined he wanted everyone to know just how much he partied and marvel that he still managed to come to class and even give a correct answer when he felt like it.
It's weird reimagining his life in a new context, as floppy haired, smooth bodied, gay porn star Jayden rather than floppy haired, frat tool sunglasses guy. It's weird that he's still sitting here in class with those dumb sunglasses on, acting like nothing is different. Well, maybe not totally. He hasn't said anything out loud, today or the past few lectures now that I think about it. I have to wonder who else in here knows. I was probably the last to figure it out.
"I have a question," a guy behind me calls out. Our professor looks up, confused just like I am because people rarely interrupt her slides unless they're on more detailed neurobiology. "Yeah, it's about abuse versus addiction? I know we've been over it, but I thought you could help with this specific example. Like, I've heard guys who do porn abuse Viagra and stuff so they can keep…you know, hard—" His questioning gets interrupted here by a lot of giggles. "But like, if you use it all the time like that are you addicted to it?"
The professor starts explaining the difference between abuse, dependence, and addiction for the millionth time, and I watch Andrew. He hasn't shifted around or done anything else to indicate he knows it's a pointed question. He's got the bored and maybe sleepy affect he's had all semester so far, aided of course by the fact we can't see his eyes.
"Okay," the agitating student says after the professor's unnecessary lesson. "So, one more thing, can a guy abuse these drugs so much he can't get an erection otherwise?"
The professor frowns. "I haven't heard about that happening."
"I have," the guy says. "Or maybe it's not the Viagra. Maybe he just couldn't get it hard for girls."
There is more laughter than I'd have thought at that. Andrew smirks the tiniest bit. The professor may still be unaware what is actually going on, but all the same she seems annoyed by the irrelevant interruption. She snaps at the guy that maybe he should research it on his own time, and any lingering talking and laughter dies down immediately.
"On that note. It's time to discuss the upcoming group project. You can find the rubric on the class site, I posted it earlier today. Now, you can work in teams of two or three, and—yes, Andrew?"
My head snaps to him when she says this. He lowers his hand from the air and pushes his sunglasses up from his face into his hair. "Yeah. Can I work alone?"
When class ends I find myself following him out, kind of on autopilot. Hearing him ask if he could do the assignment alone spurred something in me. Like, I had been wondering the same thing myself but never would have actually asked. I guess his desperation to not be forced into a group that doesn't want him is probably worse than my desire to avoid working with people who simply annoy me, though. Anyway, I'm chasing after him before I can even really think about any deep reason why or whether it's a good idea. "Hey!" I call out to him. He's speeding through the lobby and looking on his phone with his sunglasses back on. Everyone turns but him when I yell. "Shit," I say to myself, and walk faster to meet him on the steps outside. "Hey! Hey Andrew!"
Again, everyone turns around, including him this time. I try to ignore the eyes on us as I approach him. He's giving me the same raised eyebrow look I'd have expected if I'd called out his name like this when he was still an upper tier frat god rather than the joke he is now.
"Um. Hey," I open. His brows move up a little more like he's impatiently asking what I want with only slight facial muscle movement. "I was wondering if you want to work together on this project."
Andrew's face screws up a little. "Did you not hear me ask to work alone?"
"Yes. But I also heard her say she'd prefer it if you didn't."
"That wasn't a no, though."
"True," I concede. "But it probably means she'll grade more harshly if you do."
He shrugs and looks down at his phone again. I notice he's just staring at the home screen like he's waiting for something to pop up.
"Besides, if I don't work with you I'll have to join a group of three and that'd kill me."
He laughs kind of derisively. "You could work alone too."
"Then we'd both be in the same harshly graded boat. How is that better?"
Andrew sighs. "What's the big deal? You could work with someone else."
"Honestly," I say, before lying, "I was going to ask to work with you anyway. You're the only one in there who hasn't annoyed me to the point of no return." I'm impressed I manage to get this out while he's still wearing those dumb mirrored shades. Like he can hear my thoughts, he pushes them up. His eyes are kind of hazel, but the brown's more tinged with grey than green.
"If you're, like, trying to help me, I'm good. I don't need it." He starts to walk away.
"I mean, I guess I was asking you to help me too," I call out to him. He doesn't stop. "Whatever, though. Sorry." I turn around to go back inside, intending to find our professor and ask if it's really okay to work alone.
I look back at the sound of his voice. "Dex, right?" he asks. I nod, and hope my surprise doesn't show. It's probably just a social butterfly thing to know the name of even insignificant people. "It's cool," he says. "We can work together, if you really want."
I learn quickly Andrew Webber would have been fine working alone. He tells me during our first project meeting he's been working in our professor's lab since last year, and that he came up with an idea for this assignment on the day the syllabus was handed out. "I wanted to do a human study on the measured and perceived effects of THC on learning and memory tasks. Something like that."
"Something like that," I repeat. "She's not going to go for that."
"She loved the idea, actually," he says. "She said as long as I made it clear in the methods the subjects provided their own marijuana it would be acceptable."
"Huh," I say, surprised. "Well, where are we going to get subjects with marijuana?"
Andrew runs his hand through his hair and laughs a breathy sad laugh. "That's the thing. I was going to recruit my frat brothers. But…well, you know. I'm sure."
I twist my mouth around all awkwardly. "Yeah."
"I bet you've been dying to ask about it. You're gay, right?" He taps the Love=Love sticker from a campus group on my closed laptop.
"Yes, but that's irrelevant. I respect your privacy."
"Right," he says, drawing the sound out and laughing. "I get interview requests and messages from randoms all the time. But I'm sure you're the one person on the planet who respects my privacy and doesn't think I'm an idiot who should have expected this."
"I don't think you're an idiot," I say. "But you probably should have anticipated it."
"Maybe I did," Andrew replies, sounding mean. "Maybe I weighed all the pros and cons of the plan and having money to pay for this school year was more important." He kicks an unpacked box on the floor of his room, having just made an emergency relocation to an empty single after his frat membership was officially revoked.
It seems odd to me that he'd need money to pay for school. He doesn't fit the profile. I don't even feel bad about stereotyping, because he really does drive a BMW. This, I actually am dying to ask about but I don't want to pry. He's giving me a kind of challenging stare, though, like he wants me to. Instead, I steer the talk back to work. "My roommate is a secret stoner. He could help us out with weed and subjects."
The corner of Andrew's mouth twitches a bit. "Alright. Cool."
"And maybe we could take a small sample of it and do mass spec or gas chromatography in an Orgo lab to figure out the ratios of CBD and THC in the actual stuff they're smoking, since we're trying to assess the effects of primarily THC? Might be helpful to know how much is in it."
"Well that's going above and beyond," he says, grinning. "Great idea."
When I tell Pete about the idea for the study he's game. He also makes a snarky comment about it being nice that I'm throwing myself into my work again rather than sulking and complaining. He pulls the just kidding man when I don't reply to this.
He says nothing about Andrew because I don't tell him who I'm working with.
The next thing I learn about Andrew is that he has fun trying to make me uncomfortable. When I go his room for yet another planning meeting he starts changing clothes right in front of me. Well, actually, it's behind me but he's still doing it there in the room with me. I don't know this until I turn to look at him after asking a question he doesn't respond to and he's down to his underwear and taking off his shirt.
"Sorry," he says, not sounding it at all, when I hastily face forward again. "You don't mind, do you?"
"It's your room."
"Nothing you haven't seen before anyway," he replies, and I have to turn back around to give him a look like, what the hell? His grin is gleaming and he runs his hands down his torso to the waistband of his underwear, boxer briefs of course. I face forward again before he strips all the way.
"What makes you think I've watched any of your…work?"
"You haven't?" he asks sitting on his bed next to his desk where I am. He's wearing sweatpants. I know the boxer briefs are missing underneath, and his shirt is still off. He holds out a beer for me from his mini-fridge and puts it in front of me anyway when I shake my head no. "You should," he says after taking a long drink from his own bottle. "Watch, I mean. It's no amateur shit."
"Well, good for you," I mumble.
"Yeah, I'm really proud." When he closes his eyes and tilts his head back to down the rest of his beer I sneak another look at him. His chest isn't hairless like in the picture Pete found online, and he's since added a tattoo over his heart that's nice enough, I guess, though he probably just picked it off some art hanging in the place where he got it done. I don't look away fast enough and he smiles at me sort of wickedly before getting another beer. "Drink," he commands, twisting the cap off his bottle.
"I don't really drink," I say. "And we have work to do."
"Nah, we'll be fine. Drink up. I just wanna hang out."
I take a small sip to appease him, but turn the conversation back to our project. We get some planning done, but he keeps finishing beer after beer. I manage to finish all of mine without really thinking about it, first taking sips every now and then when my mouth gets oddly dry and eventually just finishing it all as he shifts from talking about our class to talking about school in general and then his life. It was no lie that I'm not much of a drinker and so I feel a little warm and sociable just after the one, and besides it's sort of fascinating listening to him. He seems eager for social interaction, and I imagine it must be odd to have had his station here change so abruptly he's stuck "hanging out" with me. I don't want to feel bad for him, but I can't help it, which makes me feel worse. It also makes me accept when he offers another drink. And it makes me ignore Rion's call even though we were supposed to meet up later. Later being now.
Andrew gets up for another beer, his fourth I think, but groans when he realizes he's run out. But I guess he's not done hanging out because he just takes the cap off this giant handle of vodka he's got and takes a drink right from the plastic bottle, making a face after he swallows that makes me laugh. "Here," he says, putting a red Solo cup in front of me and pouring in a small bit.
"No, I'm fine."
"Drink it, pussy."
I crack up. "God, is that really how you frat dudes talk? I thought that was a movie thing."
He grins all loose and liquid and leans closer like he's sharing a secret. "It is a movie thing. We learned how to act by watching those who came before us, and they learned from those before them all the way back to whoever first put it in a movie. It's all a script come to life." And he takes another drink. And I do the same.
I end up like drunk. Like, regular drunk, not just drunk for me drunk. And I'm still drinking, slurring through my story of Kwame. Andrew interrupts to ask if I'm a virgin. I make an offended noise that makes him cackle. "No," I reply, with the vowel way drawn out.
"You must have been doing something wrong, then, since he cheated. He drove from Atlanta every other weekend practically, you said, and he still needed more."
"He cheated," I say, "because he's an asshole who clearly doesn't believe in commitment."
"Neither do I," Andrew says.
I roll my eyes like, duh, and he actually giggles. "Can I ask you a question?"
"You want me to teach you to give a decent blow job?" he responds.
I curl my lip at him, and he wiggles his eyebrows. "Did you get to pick your own name?"
He takes another long gulp. I hold out my cup for more. "You think I'd pick Jayden?"
My laughter at this while I'm trying to drink what he's poured me makes the vodka dribble on my chin most attractively, I'm sure. "Can I ask another?" He only leans forward in response so I keep going. "Why'd you do it?"
"I told you. I had to pay for school."
"You strike me as rich, though," I blurt.
"My father is rich. And he's a piece of shit who cut me off," he snarls.
"Because you're gay?"
Andrew's face is flushed from alcohol and anger. The strands of his hair hanging in his face stick to his forehead. "Because he's an abusive narcissist and I finally fought back. Because he was going to end up killing my mom and I helped her escape. No, not because I'm gay." He twists the cap on and off the vodka. "I wouldn't call myself 'gay', anyway"
I'm left feeling idiotic and awkward by all of this. The mood has gone so dark it's like the lights visibly dimmed. I stare into my empty cup for the longest time before he's taking it from me and pouring more, but there's no way I can keep drinking. "I'm pansexual, I think," he says, breaking the silence. He makes eye contact with me and does his stupid eyebrow wiggle again and I snort and shake my head.
Andrew holds on to the cup he's just poured, tapping his fingers along the rim. "You're probably like, 'Oh he could've gotten loans.' Well most would need my dad to co-sign. I wanna go to med school anyway, and don't wanna rack up outrageous debt on top of that to come. And I don't qualify for any other financial aid with his income. I got a partial scholarship after applying but it wasn't enough and…and well, where I'm from in Cali you can swing your dick any direction and hit someone producing porn. And it seemed simple enough. And I'd probably do it again," he rambles. "Because it was fucking fun."
It's late when I take the bus back to my side of campus, and I'm not even the most intoxicated person riding. When I get back to my room Pete is gone and I don't think twice before searching for Jayden King videos on my laptop. Even with my drunken typos the internet knows what I want. I find them all there, archived forever on sites where you subscribe and sites where they're pirated and uploaded for my free consumption. He's shaved smooth and smiling and naked wrestling with other fratty guys and he's doing stilted couch interviews and he's kissing and sucking and fucking and being fucked and he's screaming and he's moaning that he loves it and he's laughing and wiping his face and his chest and there's no tattoo, the tattoo he told me he got because it looked like the shape of the last bruise his dad left, and he's winking and I come. So fucking hard.
The day we're supposed to run our study Andrew tells me I can conduct it alone if I want. I'm stupid and ask him why I'd want to do that and realize what he means almost as soon as the words leave my lips. I lie and tell him I'm sure nobody's gonna mind having him around, tell him he should come by and hang out beforehand if he wants.
He says he will.
Pete's pumped he can finally say he's smoking weed for science. He's also excited to see the results of our statistical analysis that he feels will prove he concentrates better high, and the chemical analysis that will show just how "dank" the shit he smokes is. He's geekily, but admittedly helpfully, measuring out exact amounts so every joint he rolls will have the same quantity for each subject. "For all my assistance you should give me a preview of these tasks and questions," he jokes. "I wanna win."
"There's no 'winning'," I laugh. "Besides, you know that'd throw off the reliability. Andrew's got the questions, anyway."
Pete pauses what he's doing with his tongue still out, wetting the paper. "Andrew who?" I just look at him like, come on. He swears and dumps the stuff he's rolling up out on his desk again. "Paper got too wet. Like…Webber? He's your partner?"
"Yeah. Is that a problem?"
He shakes his head in such a ridiculously exaggerated manner I know he's struggling with liberal guilt again. "No, not for me."
With the worst timing ever, Andrew knocks on our door. I let him in and introduce him to Pete who is all sup bro in that ridiculous pitch he gets when I know he's uncomfortable. Andrew sits on my bed with me and Pete does his throat clearing thing before saying he'll be right back. I try to give him a look, one that says don't fuck this up, but he won't meet my stare.
Pete returns, knocking before he enters as if anything is going on. "You guys are gonna hate me," he starts, and I won't let him finish.
"Goddamnit, man, seriously?" I spit. "Really?"
"Anjeet says he forgot he promised his girlfriend they'd go see this movie tonight and Chris has to—"
"Let me guess, wash his hair? Everyone is suddenly conveniently busy?"
Pete at least looks appropriately ashamed of himself. "I'm really sorry, guys."
"It's cool," Andrew says.
"It's not. It's bullshit."
Nobody says anything else for what feels like years. I want to. I want to unleash a rant on Pete that would have him begging for one of my old stupid garbage TV tirades, but I'm holding my tongue in my teeth again. Eventually he coughs and says he should go study in the library. I lock the door behind him when he leaves.
"We could ask for an extension," Andrew says after another prolonged silence.
"It won't matter," I sigh. "We won't find anyone to help us."
"I know," he replies.
I feel like I'm actually vibrating with hatred, stronger than even a call from Kwame could stir up. Andrew makes a joke about never imagining a situation where college kids would turn down an excuse to smoke pot, and when I don't say anything back he exhales loudly. "I need a drink," he says, running his hands across his face.
I apologize for failing him in yet another instance today. "I think Pete might have some tequila somewhere in here, though."
He scrunches up his nose. "I hate tequila."
"I've never had it," I say lamely. I glance over to Pete's desk and see all the pre-rolled, precisely measured joints. "We could smoke some of that," I laugh.
"I don't smoke weed. It makes you stupid."
"Our results aren't in on that yet," I reply with a sad half-smile. "I don't smoke either. As you may have guessed. My dad's kind of a stoner, and my sister. They're reasonably intelligent, but they can be spacey as fuck. Dad especially," I babble. "It's supposed to be good for, like, stress, though. I hear."
"Mmm. You know what else is?"
"A bubble bath? Yoga? A nice mug of cocoa?"
"Sex," Andrew says. I laugh not just because it's cheesy but because he's staring at me and making me hot and flustered.
"Of course," I respond dumbly.
"We could try that."
"Yeah. Right," he repeats, with a totally different inflection. He gets really close to me and I don't move away though I know I should. "You want to, right?"
"You weren't planning on it the whole time? Hoping at least?" he asks with a syrupy smile. I squint at him, perplexed. "You didn't watch me in class that day, the day you decided to come up to me, and think, 'I'm lonely and angry and I bet he's lonely and angry too'?"
I whisper no, but he keeps going. He's right in my face and I would've moved by now, I would've, but he's cupping my neck, leaning so close. "You didn't think, even for a second, maybe you'd get to be close to me and maybe you'd fuck a porn star? No? You didn't think, 'that'll fucking show Kwame'?"
"No?" He's still smiling through all of this. His breath tickles my face and the faint spearmint scent of it tingles in my nostrils. I'm paradoxically too nervous to worry about how my own breath smells to him. "Maybe, then, you wanted to be able to broadcast it on campus?"
"I'm definitely not the kiss and tell type," I reply. I'm shocked I get it out without tripping all over the words.
"You're sweet," he says. His lips are touching mine when he says this, not kissing but brushing against them as he speaks. I feel it in every nerve. He pulls back a little and his hand moves from my neck to my cheek, at the same time someone pounds on the door. Both occurrences make me inhale sharply.
"Dex?" Pete calls through the door. "I left my flash drive in there, and my keys. Open up."
I close my eyes and tilt my head toward Andrew to make up for the tiny bit of space he put between our faces. He laughs softly and then he finally kisses me. It's not like I imagined when I saw him do this in the videos. But it's still better, just because it's real and happening to me. He kisses hard but his lips are soft and his tongue moves perfectly and I think I growl a little when he stops.
Pete is still banging on our door. "Dex? I know you're in there, don't be a dick."
"Go away," I tell him. He starts knocking even more insistently, like to the point it has to hurt. Andrew slides his hand into my curls and tugs a little and the tiny whimper I let out in response must be louder than I thought, because Pete stops pounding.
We kiss again, slower. Easier. It's still too short and when he pulls away he murmurs, "I'm gonna go. You can let him in."
"What? Why? Don't," I say, almost whining. It doesn't work. He grabs his bag and opens the door and Pete is still there, looking alarmed, hand poised like he was about to start knocking again.
"See you around, man!" Andrew says to him jovially and Pete stammers something like yeah, sure. When he's gone, Pete looks at me bewildered.
"I know I said you needed a rebound, but come on, bro. Bad idea."
"Hey, bro," I snap. "Why don't you fuck off?"
Andrew stops answering calls and texts. He skips class. The day before the project is due I e-mail our professor begging for more time, and am momentarily relieved when she says yes. I'm sick again when I read her asking if I know why he hasn't come to her lab as scheduled.
While the rumor spreads that he's back in California shooting more scenes, I become convinced he's poisoned himself with vodka accidentally or something. He doesn't open his door, if he's in his room. I can't hear any noise at all coming from inside. I get odd looks as I visit daily and press my ear against the wood after every knock, hoping to get any sign of life.
Rion comes to me outraged I didn't tell him I'd "taken Andrew as a lover." I give him the most baffled look and ask where he heard that. "Sources," he replies. I figure Pete probably shared the story that Andrew exited our room leaving me kiss bruised and disheveled and it telephone gamed from person to person until it became the torrid affair Rion accuses me of holding out on him. I don't think he buys my denial, but he does take pity on me and offer to help find new subjects for our project.
I'm seriously considering calling campus police or student counseling or someone who can tell me what to do, when my calls to Andrew start ringing only a few times before ending, never the same amount. While it hurts to picture him dismissing me like I do my stupid ex, I am glad to know he's probably alive. I wonder if maybe his return to California is not just a rumor after all.
Until I see him in shorts and a hoodie like a total frat bro, stupid sunglasses on and holding a bag from the Mexican grill in the student union.
"Hey!" I yell, and he turns around on the first try this time. "What the hell, man?"
"Oh hey, what's up?" he replies in the same bullshit casual manner he used on Pete.
"Where have you been?"
"Here," he says slowly, like it's a dumb question.
"What the fuck happened to you?" My voice isn't exactly low. People are watching.
Andrew drops his face and lets his shades lower on his nose. "You're making a scene, Dex."
I tap the side of his sunglasses and they fall off his face. He looks startled, if also a little amused. "I'll give you a scene if you don't stop fucking around with me." I reach to smack the bag from his hand but he raises his arm too quickly.
"Not my tacos, man. Whoa."
"You scared me."
"I know," he says quietly. "I'm sorry."
"You don't sound sorry."
His eyes light up with a quirk of his brow. "I don't?"
"Well, you did, actually. Yes. But I'm mad at you and it felt right."
The smile on his face stretches wide, and the hair hanging on his forehead visible under the hood is wavier than usual. Maybe because it's dirtier. He seems younger somehow.
"I got us the extension," I tell him.
"I know. I saw."
"And what? You can finish without me."
"I don't want to," I say. "It was your idea." He shrugs and I wish I hadn't knocked the glasses off already. "I'm not going to fail for the first time in my life 'cause you're, like, being a pussy now."
This makes him snort. I pick up his sunglasses. "You can handle this. Fucking get it together, man."
I blink at him. "You'll do it?"
"I will," he says, taking his dumb glasses back.
"Alright." I look around and realize even though were quiet now we're still a show people are interested in. "Let's go to your room, then."
"To plan," I reply.
Andrew laughs. "We already finished planning."
"Well," I say, "then let's just hang out."