The next day Corklin was nowhere to be found. After a night binging Rolemn would go wake him up for lunch. This was because Corklin struggled with going to sleep with the Ritalin still in his system, for Rolemn it easy because of his alcohol consumption, therefore Corklin struggled waking up. Today, Rolemn went on three different occasions to wake him up. The first occasion he knocked on the door and rattled the doorknob to make an irritating metallic noise. When there wasn’t a response he kicked the door once and went to his room. Normally that is what it would take and Corklin would get dressed and come get Rolemn no more than five minutes. After seven minutes had past he went again for the second time. This time banging lightly with his fists, despite the thumping sound, it made the door rattle in the frame. Then he finished with the same kick and left. Another seven minutes later, Rolemn banged harder, shouted and kicked the door three more times. No sound came from the room. He dialed Corklin on his phone but the call didn’t go through. He began to worry. An image of Corklin lying dead in his bed with vomit in his mouth came to him. He could already hear the flies buzzing around his head and teasing the contents of his yellow lumpy vomit. Saw his shocked eyes bulging into oblivion. He borrowed a master key from one of the sub-wardens and scurried back to open the door.
Upon opening he was met with empty room and bed that looked untouched. The towel on the rack was bristly dry, a sign that Corklin never went back to his room. Corklin would have showered if he had slept, even for the slightest amount of time. Even if he didn’t shower frequent visits to the bathroom, as result of Ritalin abuse, would have meant he used his towel to dry his hands. There wasn’t even a sign of the bag he took with him when he left.
Relieved that Corklin was not lying in his room dead Rolemn decided to go to lunch alone. His nose clogged with mucus and caked with Ritalin he had no issue having lunch alone since blowing his nose and noisily breathing through the nostrils would be plenty. This way he disgusted no one. He would miss the grumpy, pessimistic and depressed mood Corklin was usually under after a night binging. Unlike Corklin his body would still be high on some leftover serotonin and dopamine, the next morning he would be gloomy and sluggish. He enjoyed mocking Corklin when he was in the mood or simply listen to him complain about everything and laugh. Although Corklin never meant to entertain him with his withdrawal-induced grievances he did.
He found the meal unappetizing and plain, cornflower and cheese with steamed peas. He had to summon his strength to go through his meal but he found himself just staring, unable to. Extremely underwhelmed. He looked at the orange juice on the tray for salvation but looking at it only brought him heartache. It was diluted and nauseating, picking it was habit. The drinks menu never changed much in the dining hall.
Perhaps a hot beverage would help with getting the food down, he thought. Rooibos tea.
When he lifted his head someone had taken a seat across from him.
“Hey, Ro!” He shone one of his whimsical smiles. He always gave people names like that although he was never close with anyone. Majority of the time he sat alone and mumbled to himself. When he took a seat with the fellows from the dormitory they found him inappropriately frank and eccentric. He laughed at jokes the last when the moment had expired, contributed irrelevant information to conversation and lacked general kindness. His company was welcomed under some binding notion of brotherhood or simply because he was a freak and freaks are interesting. He wasn’t bad company overall just something different. In a cosmopolitan university of this kind some weirdness was easily permitted because the notion of normal was fluid and indefinite.
“Hi.” Rolemn noticed this time he had showered, but his black long sleeve shirt was covered in a spectrum of food and beverage stains. Hair unkempt, teeth yellow and fingernails filled with grime.
“You had a rough night, Ro?” He asked. In a small town scattered with a string of restaurants and clubs there wasn’t much to do on a weekend. On weekends, everyone started a conversation the next day by asking about each other’s night outs. It was the equivalent of asking about their wellbeing.
“I guess. I got super drunk last night,” Rolemn replied.
“You look tired?” He narrowed his eyes.
“I’m not. It is just this food. Terrible.”
He nodded. “I know. I have to force myself to eat though.”
“Are you sick?”
“Nah. Need a bunch of strength for later.” He started mumbling to himself. Glancing at the empty seats beside him and nodded as if there were people there. When asked he would say he likes thinking aloud and speaking to himself. Sometimes he sang and hummed to his food, something the fellas found childish. Then he laughed. “I never saw you out last night.” He never went partying but he had a habit of roaming the corridors and watching the goings of people on weekends. Nobody ever asked him why.
“I never went out. I was with Corklin, we just chilled together.”
“Really?” He frowned.
He looked around the dining hall and sighed, grimacing. “Is he your friend now?”
“I guess.” Rolemn shrugged.
“People treat you like a crazy since your visit to the countryside.” He frowned with contempt. “Ignorant assholes.” Then his expression changed with his tone. “Are you crazy though?” He shrugged. “I guess you wouldn’t know if you were. But do you feel like it though?”
Rolemn couldn’t be surprised. He shrugged the questions to the side. “Have you seen Corklin around?”
He passed one of his eerie sidelong glances. “His bike is gone. So he is off somewhere looking for his next high or with his girlfriend. He left very early.”
“How do you know this?”
That smile appeared again, wider. “You are not the only people who were up all night. It was a Friday.”
“But you don’t go out. What’s your excuse?”
“You never really go out either, do you? Yet you stay up.”
“Well I was with Corklin.”
“Well, don’t camouflage your insomnia with Cork, Rolemn. Even when he is not around I can see the light from under your door. It rarely goes off. I know what your problem really is and people like Cork are an enticing promise for a way out. Well, I just see a distraction, a waste.” He pointed at Rolemn with his fork. “You know very well that not much has changed for you after your visit to the countryside. Pretty much everything is the same, isn’t it?”
Rolemn frowned, boggled. “What you talking about?”
“Look at them,” Rolemn followed his gaze to the table next to them. “They aren’t like us. You rotate like two outfits of clothing. Not much variety there. Just like me. You see how frivolous they are with their lives and how of no use they are. Every day is the weekend to them. You sense something foul about being in their presence. No matter how much you try you can’t fit in. The only use they have for you is instrumental. You sense it, you know it. Their lives are worth using also, after all they lose nothing. Then you can have your life and what you deserve.” He cocked his head to the side. “You get me, don’t you?”
Rolemn nodded. Sandy was making sense. Life is hard for a student from a poor family. Not much of university life you could experience. You are doomed to be locked in your room lonely and forgotten. The rich and the privileged never kept company with the disadvantaged. The privileged had an array of careers and opportunities laid out in front of them. For the disadvantaged all that mattered was getting an education that will provide them with a job to survive. No working from passion therefore not much freedom. Even after the get a job they would be slaves to never ending loans and classism. People like Corklin could never lose in life and were perpetually free with their fate in their hands. And there was something that made his heart surge with resentment and heartache because of that. There was something very fundamentally wrong about the wealth gap and how it kept expanding from decades of exploitive economic practices and politics. Even with the new government determined at rectifying this problem, corruption was rife and it would take generations until the scale is balanced. And that was assuming the country economically determinant without the control, interference and pressure of big corporations and foreign governments which.
He looked down at his plate, suddenly struck by how unfair life was, how not even hard work would pull his life out of the rut and how his generation was just a stepping stone to something uncertain and equally hopeless.
“You know what they have. You need it. You want it. You deserve it. Does not make you a bad person. After all isn’t anything permissible under the quest for belonging and justice?”
“I guess.” He looked down at Sandy’s tray. He hadn’t touched his food as well.
Sandy smiled. “That was a good meal.” He got to his feet. “You might think Cork is your ticket to the club but you will learn very soon he is not. Leech. Come by my room sometime. At any time.” He left, mumbling to himself.
Sandy walked out of the dinning wall with a wide grin on his face. He stopped on the porch to take in the beauty of the day. Surveyed the clear blue skies and the gardens. The sun a warm embrace on his cheeks and the air crisp and quiet, without the noise that usually permeated it on weekdays. His peers where indoors recovering from their night of debauchery, unable to get out of bed and ordering meals and out of sight, he loved that.
“You think this time he’ll come?” a voice from behind.
He turned to see Macfearson leaning on the wall, lighting a cigarette.
“I think his eyes are opening.”
Macfearson walked to his side to join him. “This is fuckin’ nice. No fucking lifelings around.”
Sandy nodded, closing his eyes a moment. “This is awesome. I wish it could be like this all the time.”
“I know a place.”
“We will go some time. Soon,” Macfearson climbed down the porch and started walking to residence.
Sandy stayed behind, thinking.
Feedback is welcome.
Third chapter of Pyre of Envy, a Scarleton Series book. No need to read the first book to enjoy this one.