Rolemn wouldn’t ask Corklin about the dinner, not as they climbed up the steps on the way to his room or in the next few hours. It all had to do with Corklin’s tendency not to share. He would wait until the night’s plans have commenced. Even then he would still have to be strategic about it. After spending lots of nights with Corklin he knew the perfect moments in the night, when he would be most vulnerable and uninhibited. The nights, becoming more regular, began to develop a routine and it became easier to expect and predict some things. However, each night did not involve the same quality of amusement or indulgence. With it their friendship solidified and Rolemn couldn’t be more grateful. No one loved routine and predictability more than Rolemn, it made him feel like he could control things which helped.
Rolemn sat in his chair and watched as Corklin closed the door behind him. He wouldn’t sit and he wouldn’t say what he was going to tell him with the door open.
“What time does the bottle store close?” he murmured.
“What time is it now?”
Rolemn checked the corner of his laptop screen. “7:50.”
“How many beers do you want?”
“How much did she give you?”
“Three hundred.” Corklin grinned slyly.
“Wow.” Rolemn jumped to his feet, excited. “Come here, you fucker!” He embraced Corklin. “Tonight is the night!”
Corklin laughed into Rolemn’s shoulder. He let go and did his victory dance accompanied by cries of excitement, his own and Rolemn’s.
“I want five,” said Rolemn.
“How much is that?”
“Doesn’t really matter, does it? As long as the damn things are under a hundred right?”
“I’m thinking we should also get some snacks this time.” A luxury they couldn’t afford before.
“A pizza for late at night when we get hungry and maybe some biscuits?”
“Sure.” Corklin nodded.
“Do you think we could make it to the bottle store on time if we go together?”
Corklin shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. I will take my bicycle. Just wait here and get things ready before I come back. It’ll be quicker that way.”
It pleased Rolemn that he didn’t have to walk that far and back. “Don’t forget to get me some real good cigarettes, please. You know I crave lot when I’m buzzed.”
Corklin laughed. “Alright. I just have to go change first and wear a dark hoody.”
Rolemn frowned. “Why?”
“The less chances I have of being seen at the bottle store the better. I don’t want Erica finding out I had gone to buy beer.”
Rolemn nodded. “Oh yeah. I see. Do that.”
Corklin stopped at the door. “Dude, we have to be on a super low profile tonight. She might come unexpectedly for one reason or another, she was pretty upset. Since she can always get into my room we should stay here as much as possible.”
“I’ll come give you my key once I’m done changing.”
When Corklin came back he was wearing black jeans, black hoody and black sunglasses. He wouldn’t come in. He tossed his room key to Rolemn from the doorway. “You know what to do.”
Rolemn had to collect several items from Corklin’s room. First he had to clear his desk of the clutter and make way for them. He emptied the contents of his backpack on his bed then furtively continued to Corklin’s room. Before entering he knocked to make sure no one was inside. Having turned the lights on he scanned the room. The place was neat and organized as always. It would make it easy collecting. For the scissors, a lighter and a herb grinder he searched the bookshelf. He leaped to the dressing table for a reflective metallic tray, a water bottle and an empty jar of coffee. He rummaged the drawers for a plastic card. Then turned to the nightstand to get some painkillers. He returned to dressing table having remembered that they can’t come back to the room to make hot beverages. He took the kettle, a box of rooibos teabags and coffee, with a pair of coffee mugs, sugar and milk. He picked up a toilet paper roll, zipped the backpack and slung it on his back, the load a bit heavier than usual. On his way out he grabbed Corklin’s swiveling chair.
As he stood in the doorway checking the room for anything he could be missing, he noticed how quaint the room was with all the stuff he’d taken. It occurred to him that they might have overlooked something but he couldn’t guess what.
When Corklin returned he found Rolemn slouching in his armchair and contemplative. Post-grunge played softly form his computer speakers. Grunge was always his choice of music when his mind gnawed at something. Corklin threw his backpack to the floor and sat in his swiveling chair. He wiped the sweat off his brow with his sleeve, panting.
He turned to Rolemn. “What’s on your mind?”
Rolemn lifted his head. “What is Erica going to think when she gets to your room and your stuff is missing? Including your chair?”
Corklin went quiet.
“You can’t possibly take all that to the department to work. She will know you lied unless she hasn’t been in your room for a while. And I assume she was here this afternoon.”
Corklin nodded. “She was.”
“What do we do? We just hope she does not come by your room and finds out?” Rolemn paused. “What you been telling her all this time?”
Corklin looked worried.
“The other times we didn’t take much stuff.”
“But we took enough for her to notice,” Corklin mused.
“Well, she knows that sometimes I take my chair and couple of things to go study with you or work with you. She will just think I came over here before we went to the department and I hadn’t come back to place the stuff back or I borrowed you the stuff. It basically means nothing if the stuff is missing. I could still be at the department,” he concluded, easing Rolemn’s doubts.
“Well, you know her better than I do,” said Rolemn.
“I can always turn it around,” He assured Rolemn. Corklin surveyed the dusted desk space that was provided for him. “I’m gonna mull some weed first and get it ready for a bong.”
“Throw me a beer while I wait.”
Corklin turned and picked his bag up. He took out two small pizza boxes and tossed them to the bed. Reached through the snacks and grabbed a pint of beer from the bottom. He opened it with his teeth and handed it over to Rolemn.
“Thank you. Nicely cold.” He smiled. “Put the rest by the window so they stay cold. It is quite chilly tonight.”
Corklin got five more pints from the bag. He placed them on the windowsill and opened the windows wide. Then searched Rolemn’s bag for the tools he needed. He placed the herb grinder and scissors on the desk. Then reached into his pockets for a bag of weed. He emptied the buds on the table. “Aren’t you gonna play us something nice?”
Rolemn took a gulp. “I will. Just after this song first.”
Corklin frowned, he was sensitive to post-grunge. It made him melancholic and broody. While it was expressive of somberness Rolemn never found himself turned somber, it gave him relief. Corklin snorted and carried on teasing the leaves and the occasional seed from the twigs.
“So I assumes no one saw you.”
“Yeah,” Corklin replied, eyes on the task.
Rolemn laughed. “Poor Erica.”
“I mean. I kinda feel for her.” Rolemn shrugged.
“Let’s not spoil the night by talking about her, okay?”
Rolemn gazed at him, his face emotionless and unaffected. He knew he wouldn’t talk now or show any sign of vulnerability so early but he enjoyed pestering Corklin meantime. The post-grunge and his fake sympathy for Erica were just one of a few peeves he loved employing. He knew at some point the jokes evolved into mild reproaches until Corklin couldn’t resist explaining himself. Rolemn would gladly lend his ears to laden dissatisfactions, issues and insecurities but Erica was one subject that Corklin refrained from talking about because of how overwhelming and complicated it had become. Rolemn found himself intrigued. He did not understand what was causing cracks in the once perfect relationship he so apotheosized.
“You can change the music now. The song is over.” Corklin pointed out. Rolemn applied a quizzical smile. Corklin caught a glimpse of it. “No, you are not listening to one more song.”
“Come on.” Rolemn chortled. “Just one more time or I’ll go insane, man. Please. You know how I crave when I’m excited.”
Corklin raised his voice, “What were you doing all this time I wasn’t here? You had a chance.”
“You got sand between your synapses.”
“And you making it worse.”
“Just one song. If we don’t play it now we will definitely play it later on tonight. Not gonna lie to you,” Rolemn insisted
“You still gonna want to play it later even if we play it now anyway?”
Rolemn laughed. “True, but I can’t help myself. Just put yourself in my shoes and be a little stronger, alright?”
“No.” Corklin began snappily cutting the buds into finer pieces with the scissor. “Alright? No.”
Rolemn quieted and hung his head. “I had the worst pity dinner of my life today. I did it for you. All I ask is a song or a couple.”
Corklin sighed. “Alright. Do it.”
Rolemn set back and thought carefully about what provoking song he should play next. Something to make Corklin feel like miniature skaters with razorblades for skates where haphazardly gliding on his tattered heart. That would exacerbate his mood and make him even more inclined to talk later on. The whole process would appear organic to him. Rolemn relished wheedling him in indirect ways like that. He had found Corklin to be uncooperative when straightforwardly approached, he never understood why. So Rolemn opted for a song that is emotionally overcharged and contagious.
When Corklin finished his first bong Rolemn placed his bottle of 20mg Ritalin long-release capsules on the desk, the crux of the evening together and his only contribution. Truth was he couldn’t afford the medication but governments, with its horrible free health care system, was paying for his sixty capsules a month. He needed it unlike many the rich students who paid off doctors for prescriptions so they can get ahead in school. Although it pained him he gave away twenty plus pills each night he spent with Corklin.
He knew the rest of the month would be difficult but he was willing to go through all that as long as it was with a friend. All his parents could give him, with difficulty, was money for toiletries. His father was a construction worker and jobs where scarce and temporary. Having proven himself, Rolemn got financial aid to attend one of the elite universities in the country, Scarlet University. The financial aid package only covered his tuition, internet, food and residence. Leaving a lot of other expenses; textbooks, complimentary reading material, trips, sporting, clubs and the institution’s health care costs. But Corklin provided a lot of things. It started out as an impersonal trade of goods that happened to cost Rolemn nothing but his grades and well-being (a price he was willing to pay for his other needs). Now that they were friends there was reason to hope that, maybe, Corklin will help without expecting nothing in return.
Corkling folded an A4 paper into half and folded the half so it had four layers. He folded edges on the two sides to close openings, leaving one and thus making a temporary envelope. “How many do we do first?” Corklin asked.
“I was thinking we should go for a solid start,” said Rolemn. “Four pills?”
“I don’t know. It is really up to you.”
Rolemn studied Corklin’s face, a face that was salivating at the idea. A loud plead drowning all the noise from around. “Alright. Four pills to crush.”
Rolemn laughed in response. “You have no shame.” He grabbed the bottle of Ritalin, opened it and chucked four capsules into his hand. He gave them to Corklin. Corklin continued to split the capsules and empty their contents into the temporary envelop. Corklin closed the envelope by folding the remaining opening and laid it on the tray.
“Where is the bottle?”
Rolemn handed him the empty coffee bottle.
Corklin used the bottom of the bottle to pulverize the contents within the temporary envelope by running it over the envelope with force. There were popping sounds as the balls became finer.
Rolemn took a sip from his pint. “So, how was your day?”
Corklin, still working the envelope, sighed. “Pretty average I guess.”
“You did nothing?”
“I spent most of the day trying to come up with an idea for a journ assignment we have to do. Then I went to do some shooting. Otherwise I just got high and watched toons.”
“What assignment is this? Is this the one you told Erica I’m working on it with you?”
He shrugged. “Pretty much.”
“We supposed to make a small documentary for class based on someone else’s ordeal and how they got through it. You are allowed to do one on yourself but it can’t be on the same topic as everyone else,” Corklin explained. Then he paused on working the envelope. “Some girl in class is doing one on suicide, the other about some kid in the hood. I’m like the only person who hasn’t come up with anything or found anyone interesting to do a story on who is also willing to talk.”
Rolemn felt offended because he had always thought he had an interesting story to tell and trusted Corklin would recognize that. He wouldn’t show it. “You sure you can’t find anyone?”
“Yeah,” he blandly replied. He started crushing again, rolling the cylindrical side over the envelope. “I mean I don’t know a lot people. Who do I know really?”
Rolemn shifted his gaze to the screen and nodded. “Okay.”
“Do you know anyone?”
Rolemn thought about it, a slight frown on his face. “Nah. Sorry, dude.” He thought it would be best if he came to the decision by himself.
Corkling unfolded the envelope and split it open and held it down like a book on its spine, careful not to touch the powder. The manner in which his lips were tight and his breathing was measured (careful not to blow off any of the powder). The bulge of his eyes suggested he was impressed with the quantity of powder that the pills produced. “Pass me the card.”
Rolemn glanced at him taking his share of the excitement. Without a word he handed him the bank card. Corklin used the card to scrape the powder stuck on the paper to the tray. Then he gathered all the powder on the tray into one mound. From there, with grace and refined skill, he cut the mound into multiple thick lines separated by two centimeters or less of clean space. He didn’t usually cut many lines at once, he cut the lines from the mound as they were needed but the excitement wiggling in him was prompting him to be a bit adventurous. This would require them to be careful not to scatter the powder around by abrupt movements of their arms or breathing. Wasting the powder wasn’t going to be much of a concern with the prescription recently filled. Doing things with ease was the kind of rest from prudery they needed
“Paper,” Corklin ordered.
Rolemn got to his feet and scrambled for clean print paper from the bookshelf. He handed two pages to Corklin. Rolemn watched like a child watching a craftsmen carving wooden toys, somehow gripped by a step he’d seen a million times. Corklin picked the scissors up and cut two rectangular pieces from the paper. With ease, he rolled the pieces of paper into straws like one would do to a bank note. He handed one to Rolemn.
“Any song you wanna smash to?” Rolemn asked.
Corkling leaned back, quiet for a while. “I’m still thinking,” he said when Rolemn opened his mouth to speak.
“Thought you didn’t hear me for a sec.”
“How about some Tiamat?”
A gothic metal band, an unusual request from Corklin as he would go for something softer and mainstream as a starter. Pleased, Rolemn smiled, “What song? Whatever That Hurts?”
Corklin smiled. “Whatever That Hurts,” he said, with tinge of honey in this voice.
“I think it is the most beautiful drug song ever written. It actually makes me wanna do some mushrooms right now.” Rolemn quickly started pushing some buttons on his laptop and working the mouse pad to find the song. With a click the heavy drum driven guitar riff blasted through the speakers, jolting them into a decadent climate.
Corklin put on a sly smile. He picked his straw and leaned towards the tray. He went for the line of Ritalin on the far left side and snuffed it. He flinched, contorting his face. “Fuck!” He looked up, eyes on the ceiling. Blocked his other nostril and snuffed once more to get the remaining powder in the nostril deeper. “Ah! Yes. This is fucking good.”
Rolemn laughed. Corklin passed the tray to Rolemn. Rolemn placed it on his laptop’s keyboard. He gazed at the tray for a while, savoring the beauty of the simple display. The first line always had to be special. He took massive gulp of beer, emptying the container. “I also wanna smash to this song. Can I start it over?”
Corklin nodded. “Yeah, sure.”
Rolemn lifted the tray with one hand and operated the mouse pad with another. As soon as the first verse started he leaned in for his turn. The powder shot up his nose, stabbing like an arrow up his nose. He leaned back, the burning in his nostril still bubbling. A tingling sensation moved up his nose bridge, over the side of his forehead and to the back of his head. Pupils dilated, a euphoric, zappy and riveting bolt charged through his body. Infecting his leg with igniting spasms and making his heart thump. He became a dance song. The world revolved around him and all that is out of his sight became surreal and unimportant. Everything could be enthusing and everything was interesting. Everything could suddenly be done and accomplished. Electrified thoughts dashed through his brain.
The extreme high wouldn’t last long, the alcohol would carry it for a short while before turning into a depressant. Then the seco
nd snuff will lift him up, but the high wouldn’t be as potent or extreme but just enough. The tug-of-war would continue until the alcohol wins, or he carries on for so long that the Ritalin weans the alcohol high. For the moment all was fireworks and carnivals. “Yes!” he exclaimed.
Corklin laughed. “Oh man, it never gets old.”
“Yeah. Fuck,” he leaned back into his armchair. Looked around him and stared right into his friend’s face who was grinning with triumph. It was then when he realized he didn’t want to share this moment with anyone else. Desperate that Corklin felt the same way.
“You want another?” Corklin cocked his head to the beer.
Rolemn savored the smile on his face. Such a kind face, he thought. “Yes.” He nodded like a cow.
Corklin jumped to his feet. Opened a bottle for Rolemn and handed it to him. It was courteous acts like these that made him pleasant company. Always looking for simple acts of kindness where Rolemn saw none.
Corklin grabbed the tray and set it in front of him. He put his hand on his knees and watched the tray. “I have been thinking about those textbooks you told me about.”
“The ones I can’t afford?”
“Yeah.” Corklin dived in for another snuff. He pulled back and looked up at ceiling in the same manner, driving the powder in. Rolemn waited for him to talk, when he thought he was taking longer he turned his attention to his computer. For some reason he urgently needed to check his Facebook, keep tabs on what is going on outside the walls of his room. If there were notifications, or messages and if the news feed was filled with pretentious posts from people he’d never met. He kept scrolling for anything one of his liked pages might have posted or shared links.
“I came up with a plan,” said Corklin.
“Uh-Huh?” he replied eyes still on screen.
“You can get them on my account.”
Rolemn stopped and glanced at Corklin, incredulous. “What?”
“Are you sure? Wait, can you do that?”
“Why not?” Corklin shrugged, smiling.
“Dude, wow.” Rolemn leaned back into his chair, a flimsy frown on his face. “How many books can you get me?”
“How many do you need?”
Rolemn shook his head. “I don’t know. I haven’t been counting.”
“Well, it does not matter. I reckon I can help, I know how things have been for you. Don’t want you to fail because of money. If there is something I can do about it I should, right?”
Rolemn scanned his face, he was dead serious. “Wow. I don’t know how to thank you, man?”
Corklin was quiet for a while, then he drew smile. “As long as you got my back. All is well.
Rolemn stood. “Come here.”
Corklin got on his feet and they embraced.
“I’m so grateful,” said Rolemn as they sat down.
“It’s chilled, man. So on Monday we go shopping, okay?”
“Okay.” Rolemn’s eyes glistened with tears. “It’s been hard, man. You don’t understand.”
Corklin laughed admirably. “It’s long hard road out of hell.”
Rolemn glanced at the screen. “Oh. I got a friend request.”
Rolemn checked. As soon as he realized who it was he laughed.
“Guess who it is?”
Corklin leaned towards the screen but Rolemn switched to an empty tab on his browser. “C’mon, Who is it?”
“No. Just guess, dude.”
Rolemn giggled. “Why would she add me?”
Corklin squinted. “I don’t know, dude.” He shrugged. “She liked you?”
“I thought you would know if she did.”
“She can be hard to read sometimes.”
Rolemn frowned. “You have known her for three years, dude.”
“I know. It’s complicated.”
“So who is it?”
Rolemn took a sip of the beer and reclined into his armchair. “See for yourself.” He gestured.
Corklin shot a suspicious glance at him. He opened his mouth but did not say a word. Then he snorted and leaned towards the laptop. Upon seeing who it was a frown crept up on his face like he had heartburn.
“It’s really up to you what I do,” said Rolemn.
“You see I share almost everything with her. For once I would just like something that is mine entirely, you know?” He shook his head. “That is why I don’t want us to go to her recital, man. She wants to turn us into a gang so that she spends all the time in the world with me. It would be cool except that we would never do the things we do together, we would never get time to ourselves, you know.”
“I see. So what should I do?”
Corklin leaned back, inhaled deeply. He was coming up with something. “Accept the friend request. If you don’t do it would seem a bit impolite since you had a great time today.”
“Then just live it at that and never talk to her except when spoken to I guess. Leave her in the sea of friends you have.”
“She won’t mind?”
“She will get over it. I will tell her you are busy guy and you have a lot on your hands and shit.” The frown turned softer. “What do you think of her?”
“I think she is cool.”
Corklin nodded. “What kind of cool?”
“Like she would be a nice person to hang with.”
“Do you think she is pretty?”
“Yeah, of course.” Rolemn answered, trying to conceal any sign of interest or excitement in his voice. “She is quite hot.”
A proud smile formed on Corklin’s face. He teased, “Yeah, she is. You wouldn’t mind tagging in?”
Rolemn laughed with restraint, as a kid would laugh at an inappropriate joke told by an elder, not wanting to be rude or appear corrupt either. “If you into that kinda stuff,” he blurted. When the expression Corklin’s face turned grave, he quickly reassured him, “ I’m just joking.”
Corklin burst laughing. “I know. I was just messing.”
Rolemn playfully punched him on the arm. “Don’t ever do that again. You know how I take things too far.”
“I know. That is one of the reasons I like hanging with you. You have a tendency to shock people.” He continued laughing.
“So,” Rolemn braced himself, “is everything alright between you two?”
His brow creased and he changed. “Why?”
“You were weird tonight.”
Corklin gazed at Rolemn for a while, lips pressed together. He then turned his attention back at to his side of the table, to begin packing another bong for himself. Rolemn knew even if he tried not to tell him anything his inhibitions were already running low. The Ritalin caused his thoughts to run obsessively and loudly all you needed to do was redirect them on a matter close to the heart and he would not be able to stop himself. He could resist for a time but the pressure will only keep building in his chest. All he had to was create an atmosphere that encouraged talking.
“I don’t wanna talk about her.” His voice lowered. “I don’t wanna give her the satisfaction of spoiling my fun. I wanna keep this evening clean and forget about it.” The manner in which he spoke caused Rolemn to hold back, very stern.
Rolemn found himself biting his lower lip, a jab of anxiety where his heart is. “Alright. I get it dude,” he said.
“Smoke,” Corklin ordered.
“C’mon, have a cigarette.”
Rolemn felt jumbled, the command was arbitrary. “Why?”
Corklin sighed and shook his head, disappointed at his lack of understanding. “They can’t smell weed in the corridor. Have a cigarette to make the room smell more like ciggies.”
“But you blow the smoke out the window.”
“Some of it comes back since the windows are wide open.”
“Okay. I will smoke.”
Corklin stood up, the bong in his hand. “Well, go on then.” He made his way to the window, ready to smoke as soon as Rolemn lights his cigarette. Flimsily, Rolemn reached for the pack of cigarettes on the desk. He picked one between his forefinger and middle finger. The cigarette slipped out from between his fingers when he lightened his grip. A miscalculation worsened by his unwillingness to smoke on command, it felt unfriend-like. Corklin’s gaze felt like a motherly scolding with its impatience and watchfulness. Rolemn groaned his frustration as the cigarette rolled future under his desk. A place he was lazy to reach unless he craved. He tried reaching the cigarette with his hand, shifting himself to the edge of the seat instead of hunkering. The cigarette rested where the wall met the floor, out of his reach. Hunkering would not work, he would have to kneel. It represented itself as a wearisome task. He made the calculation and shifted back into the armchair with a sigh of defeat. “Just pick another,” Corklin spoke sharply.
A prick of urgency darted Rolemn’s way. “Okay.” He grabbed the box and plucked a cigarette with his thumb and index finger. He planted it in the corner of his mouth and turned to Corklin, his brow creased. “Lighter.”
Corklin handed it to him.
Rolemn lit the cigarette and exerted a thoughtful gaze towards Corklin.
Corklin noticed it but opted to ignore it. Turned towards the window, sparked his bong and drew the smoke into the chamber. He released his finger from the hole and sharply inhaled the smoke. After a few seconds he leaned out the window and dispersed a cloud of smoke. He coughed a bit then turned to Rolemn. “What’s with the look?”
Rolemn shook his head. “Nothing,” he curtly responded with a slight shrug of a shoulder. He turned his attention to the screen and began pulling on the cigarette.
Feedback is welcome. Second Chapter of Pyre of Envy, second Scareton Series book. There isn’t a need to read the first to enjoy this one.
The series is thematic.