Right in my fuckin’ eye, bruh.
She texted me.
It’s fuckin’ 7 A.M., bruh.
Girl’s got issues, bruh. DON’T TAKE THE BAIT, BRUH.
The bathroom door closes. In there, he is safe. He sits on the throne, staring at his phone, four inches from his face, crouched like Rodin sculpted a hangover. He squints, having not put in his contacts, or maybe having not taken them out. Too early to tell.
His hangover threatens to shut the whole operation down. Everything hurts. Sunburn, heartburn, buttburn, brainburn. Too many frozen dranks for a traditional beer drinker. But when in Panama City, right?
His thumbs hover just above letters, suspended like the puck on an air hockey table. Those three little dots would betray the detachment he’s carefully rehearsed for the role of JUNIOR, FINANCE MAJOR in this SPRING BREAK production.
Freeze until you remember the line.
The emojis tempt him. His fingers twiddle above so many faces, expressive and yellow like the piss that streams beneath him. He sinks deeper into the hangover, his posture reminiscent of scoliosis screenings before summer football tryouts.
Bend at the waist and pretend you’re a thoroughbred.
For a moment he wonders whether she might be on some other toilet right now, holding her phone, waiting eagerly for his reply. The two of them, alone but together. Their most depraved, intimate parts exposed but connected by a series of pipes, sitting over their own small puddle of bodily refuse.
Isn’t it romantic?
Cut to last night, when he didn’t have time to obsess over the right words. When she smiled at him and he said hi. It was an involuntary reaction after years of social conditioning from a mom who raised him right, who licked her thumb to wipe smudges off his cheeks.
He put her in his phone as Indiana. It’s not her name, but it’s almost everything else about her. Where she’s from, where she goes to school, where she DOESN’T have a boyfriend.
He could barely hear anything else she said, her words sucked into a vortex of dubstep. It sounded like two commercial jets murdering each other with blunt objects. Or a haunted Nintendo game going through a very painful metamorphosis. Or the “Werk Hard, Jerk Hard” pregame playlist for JUNIOR, FINANCE MAJOR.
He bobbed his head and pretended he knew the song, the sounds, the meaning of all this noise.
With pop, he knew how to dance like an idiot, mouth the lyrics, and camp it up like he was trying out for the school musical, which he did all three years in middle school. Silliness, the most reliable closer for the fun, kind of chubby guy. The Kevin James guy. The make out one time—I’m sorry I’m sorry I didn’t mean to lead you on—guy. The fucking friend zone guy.
Before 10th grade, he *grew into his body. He started **listening to hip-hop. He ***made friends with Chris and Ray. He ****grew up, a lot.
* ate a strict diet of 1200-1400 calories per day
** obsessively studied lyrics on RapGenius
*** quit his acapella group
**** cried in his room with the door closed
With hip-hop, he knew all the lyrics and gestured appropriately with his hands—not too gay, not too gangsta. He practiced skipping the N-word, after Ray got beat up that day outside the Wawa. He knew how to play that game. The one where they’re all pretenders. To put one hand in the air. To bend at the knees and bounce while someone else, someone prettier obeyed explicit instructions.
Drop *it low. Put your back into **it. Shake ***what ya mama gave ya. Pop that ****pussy.
* your ass
** my dick
*** your ass/tits
**** your pussy
He didn’t get it. No melody, no rhythm, no lyrics. Just sounds. Numbing sounds? Exciting sounds? He couldn’t tell. His dick couldn’t tell. There were no instructions this time.
Everyone else seemed to get it. So he tried their methodology: putting both hands high in the air, holding a drink, occasionally lowering to sip through a straw, letting out a guttural OHHHHH whenever the crowd dictated it was appropriate.
When the beat dropped*. When the beat came in**. When a new track blended in***. When someone brought a new round of drinks****.
* no sound
** all sound
*** new sound
**** unrelated to sound
On SPRING BREAK, things generally start with body contact. Careless flesh on careless flesh. No names, no numbers. Anonymous interlocking drunk genitals. Numb genitals? Excited genitals? He couldn’t tell. His dick couldn’t tell. There were no instructions.
In this room of bro tanks and armpits, he wondered if maybe there was some kind of pheromones that he was missing. Maybe that explained the blank stares and incidental contact and sweating. The sloppy, uninhibited tongues all around him.
Maybe he was immune or sterile or hormonally off-key. No one knew. No one cared.
But then she walked by with her My Pretty Zombie friends, looking too awake, too conscious. Not like #WOKE, fist raised & righteous. Like, eyes open and observant and aware. Like, uncomfortable. Like, having so much fun hanging out in the room, did you guys maybe just want to stay here?
She was pretty, but not ONLY pretty, you know? Like, someone who had a good sense of humor. Already lined up her summer internship. The kind of girl who was probably in the musical in middle school.
He smiled second. She was always too polite. She hadn’t even looked at him on purpose but, after he said hi, she was glad she did. They yelled smalltalk at each other for 40 minutes, learning nothing, hearing nothing. Their smiles filled the gaps like caulk in a decrepit bathroom.
They both wanted to leave. Before meeting each other, while meeting each other, after meeting each other. So, in their boldest of choices, they actually did what they wanted to do. Now that they had an explanation that didn’t require explanation.
His friends YEAHHHHHed, high fived, thrust their ugly hips and tongues.
Her friends asked if she was sure, if she was going to be OK, if she could text when she got home.
They shook them off like pitch signals. Throw the heat. Low and inside.
But it didn’t turn into crass baseball metaphors—strikeouts and balls and progress around bases. They just walked together to their hotels, which were cattycorner. She was right over there. He was right over there. What are the odds?
They talked, laughed, and when they got to the corner, exchanged numbers. As they handed their phones back, they did that thing where they didn’t kiss but wanted to, smiling and tilting their necks, wringing their hands and fiddling with phones and hair.
Then they *made plans. **Said see you later. ***Waited for tomorrow. ****Couldn’t stop smiling.
* Wanted to be together.
** Wanted to be together.
*** Wanted to be together.
**** Wanted to be together.
Cut back to the bathroom, where it’s been 20 minutes. Sitting there, staring at her same words on the same screen. Why is he holding it in?
From atop the porcelain thinkpot, he let it all go. A flush, a text, and a decade of method acting.