Rolemn awoke to a hastened knock on the door.
Who the fuck is that? he thought as he climbed out of his bed and grabbed his pants from the floor.
He slid into them and stumbled to the door while zipping up. He rested his hands on the door handle before he unlatching the door, closing his eyes. An image of Sandy with that wide grin standing in the doorway crept up under his eyelids. He held a present in his hands, a welcome gift of sorts in a round shaped container, maybe a cake or a brownie. He shook the image off and opened the door.
“Sleeping?” It was Corklin.
“Where have you been? I knocked on your door for forever?”
Corklin pushed passed Rolemn, a grocery bag in his left hand. “Really? I didn’t hear anything. I just woke up like an hour ago,” He lied. He stared at Rolemn for a while as if to make out his face in the dark. “Why is it dark in here, man?” He looked around. “Open the curtains.”
Rolemn sat on his bed. “No, it is fine. I like it this way.”
He turned the lights on and opened the curtains to let natural light in. “This is better.”
Rolemn studied the grocery bag from where he sat, intrigued by its contents.
He continued, “I was dead, man. I slept through my alarms and everything. Did you go to lunch without me? Did you even wake up?”
Rolemn nodded. “Yeah I did. I tried waking you.” He knew he was lying but he didn’t feel like confronting him. He thought if he did he might admit it and then immediately explain why he never told him with another and then his account of where he had been would another lie, only then he would have no way of telling. Letting him believe he believed him felt like a safer bet.
“I got you something.” He smiled as one who is unable to contain his excitement would.
Rolemn could see how thin and shallow the whole act was, it was a guise to ask for something in return. Since he had already got him something he would be put in a position where he couldn’t refuse without feeling guilty. He smiled back. “What is it?”
“Close your eyes.”
He did. He heard him clear the desk, shuffling paper and objects. Then the sound of the grocery plastic bag as his hands invaded and took without care. An object was placed on the desk, something sizable like a pot plant that made a soft dull thud as he placed it. Then more shuffling, and an abrupt crumpling of the grocery bag. Then he footsteps moving to the side.
“Open your eyes.”
Rolemn inhaled deeply and opened his eyes. “Wow, Thanks man!” He exaggerated his reaction fivefold. “You are the best, dude!”
It was six pack of his favorite beer, on top of the packaging was a lighter and two packs of premium cigarettes, the labels he had been curious about tasting.
Corklin laughed, happy to have evoked such delight from Rolemn. “I thought you would be psyched about it.”
“I am. You are the best.” Rolemn got up and began opening the package. “I just want a sip before dinner. Small things.” He surprisingly started to feel grateful for the gesture despite of its devious roots.
Corklin seesawed his shoulders. “I’m not going to supper.”
Rolemn stopped, startled. “Erica?”
“No, I’m just not hungry. I’m sorry.”
Rolemn read his face to no avail and sighed. “It’s fine. Guess I will have a meal with Sandy again.”
“I had lunch with him today. He’s pretty cool.”
“Okay,” Corklin nodded, shifting his glance to the side.
Then there was a lingering silence, Rolemn awaited for the request that bore all these gifts. Corklin started to nervously tap his foot and rubbed the back of his neck. Rolemn turned his attention back to the package and pulled a bottle, he knew the act would exert a lot pressure. When he turned back Corklin’s face shone with an admittedly guilty smile. Rolemn ignored it and opened the bottle, worsening the unwieldy silence further with his bland stare. However, careful not to drive the mood into inescapable weirdness. Corklin looked down to the side as if he was retreating from an argument he couldn’t win.
He drew in a big breath and raised his head halfway. “How many pills you got left?”
His shoulders rose while waiting for an answer. “Um…like twenty five.”
“Can I get two? I will reimburse you, man. I know you need them.”
Rolemn’s eyes lingered on his face momentarily, an empty act of reluctance. “Yeah sure.” He decided on the spot that he should also crush a pill.
It’s a Saturday after all, he thought.
Something about having that conversation with Sandy made him feel reckless, discard all thought of how difficult the rest of the month will be. Something about caking his nostrils and drinking promised to make him feel less miserable about his inevitable future. At least this way he would be in control of one thing he didn’t want anyone to own, his life. “How about we do the pills together when I came back from supper? You know, chill a little.”
Corklin smiled. “Sure. Yeah, I can wait.”
Rolemn decided he should save him from finding Erica in his room. He wanted to spend more time with him, he enjoyed it and there was no telling if he would be back from Erica’s den. “I think you should stay in here since you have everything in here already.”
Corklin sat in his chair. “Yeah sure. I will check some emails and YouTube some stuff in the meanwhile.”
“Cool.” Rolemn nodded.
Rolemn scoffed his way through dinner, this time not worried about where to seat. Dining hall politics not on his mind. Amongst his thoughts was the Erica and Corklin situation, but it was what Sandy told him that took center stage. A life of toiling away in a desk job, vulnerable to market fluctuations perpetrated by the greedy, having to work hard all his life just to be comfortable, never to pursue his goals and heart desires and realize his dreams. The greedy had a ceiling in place that was difficult to penetrate. Something about the social injustice made him feel bitter. He couldn’t work his way up because of the structures in place, a total lack of social mobility – the poor die poor and the rich rake wealth of their backs. A lack of equal opportunity and result, the disadvantaged can’t take advantage of the opportunities available to them because these opportunities demand a set of resources and tools they don’t have and can’t utilize. There isn’t equal opportunity if the majority of the people can’t access those opportunities. A chance of a person to lead a meaningful life within a society shouldn’t be at the mercy of luck and caste. Justice demands we all be equal in opportunity and result regardless of our race, tribe, religion, sexuality, nationality, political opinion and social group, if not, at least equal enough to lead meaningful lives. But that wasn’t the world as he knew it, or the world he lived in. He will have to be lucky or make his own luck. And Sandy had encapsulated that it well, all things are permissible under the quest for justice. All things.
People like Corklin will be his friend as long as they could leech drugs off him. They didn’t care about his interests above the line of powder. People of that kind never opened their social circles to his kind. But if he got close enough to Erica maybe…
A crafty grin formed on his downcast face and his eyes started to glimmer.
“Not all bright ideas shine through to the end.”
He lifted his head and it was Sandy sitting across from him again, smiling quaintly.
“Men don’t smile like that unless they think they have stumbled upon something worthwhile,” Sandy added, he appeared pleased with himself. If he wasn’t always in his stained shirts and for his lack of hygiene maybe people would take him seriously. This evening there was something thoughtful and meek about him, a demeanor that could easily be mistaken for fragility rather than reserve.
“How are you, Sandz?” said Rolemn.
“Good. How come Cork didn’t come with you to dinner? He is here, you know?”
“I know. He is not hungry.”
“Did he tell you where he was?”
Rolemn considered telling him the truth, but he thought its better if he didn’t. “Yeah, he did.”
Sandy gazed right through him, brooding. A fork of food paused midway to his slightly gaped mouth. It didn’t look like he was breathing. Rolemn studied his face and he realized how sad, lost and lonely it looked, it needed saving but it wouldn’t accept it. With a deep tired sigh he started moving again. “He doesn’t give a damn about you,” he spoke softly. His voice weak like a starving beggar’s. “Don’t make yourself believe he does. I get you. But you just won’t see that. Whatever plan you got going on is fuckin’ waste of energy if you ask me. You are on a quest for something that is not worthwhile. You like fooling yourself.”
It stunned Rolemn, something about the manner in which he spoke made him unable to formulate a response. The sheer confidence and knowledge in his faint voice was uncanny.
Sandy stood on his feet. “Come visit me sometime.” He paused, and mumbled to himself. “Not now. You probably have plans and I do too.”
He picked up his tray and started walking away. Quietly this time, no mumbling.
On his way to his room he knocked on Corklin’s door. He heard small footsteps approach and the door opened.
“Hey, how are you?” said Rolemn.
“I’m well thanks. How are you?” Erica displayed a warm tender smile. Something so elegant in its humility that it rendered him heady for a few seconds.
With flick of the head and redirection of the eyes Rolemn went back to his plan. “Is he here? I was checking ‘cause I’m going to supper.”
She sighed. “No, sorry. He hasn’t come back yet or answered any of my calls.”
Rolemn’s brow furrowed. “Are you sure you have no idea where he could have went at all?”
“No?” She shook her head.
“It’s very strange. I mean he hasn’t even said anything to me either and I can’t also reach him,” Rolemn grimaced. “Has he done something like this before?”
“No,” She folded her hands, gutlessly shaking her head. A trace of worry in her voice.
Rolemn was examining her distraught eyes when he felt a sharp stab of sympathy beneath his heart. A powerful inclination to embrace her and cheer her up filled him, softening his rough arms and mollifying his heart. But even the most exquisite and enchanting of all faces couldn’t dispel his convictions about inequality, issues of social justice and his place in it, not even momentarily.
He rubbed her arm with his hand. “I’m sorry.”
She sighed once more like one who attempts to regain lost strength. “You hungry?”
Rolemn hesitated, getting a feel of the contents in his stomach with an empty contemplative gaze past her.
Before he could make up his mind she added, “I ordered some pizza. Couldn’t chow the whole thing.” She snorted, then added with a hint of regret and embarrassment, “Actually I was saving some for Corklin. Hoping he would show up. You can come in and have some if you don’t mind.”
“Are you sure he won’t mind?”
“Who cares? He might as well be further than Jesus right now.” She beckoned him in, opening the door wider.
With a slight shrug of the shoulder he entered.
She latched the door behind him. “You will have to seat with me on the bed. I have no idea where Corklin took some of the furniture in here.” She gestured to the bed while moving to the dressing table where the pizza box lay. She lifted the lid and started laying the slices on an empty plate by the box. “Would you like a cool drink?”
Rolemn sat on the bed right across from her, her back his delightful watch. “Sure, thank you.”
She cursed indistinctively under her breath. “He took the mugs so I will have to give it to you in the bottle.”
Rolemn nodded. “It’s fine, I really don’t mind.”
She turned to around, biting her lower lip. “It’s vegetarian.”
Rolemn shook his head, smiling. “It’s fine. I really don’t mind it. Pizza is pizza, right?”
She curtly nodded. “Alright.”
Rolemn shifted his gaze to the desk. Corklin’s laptop was open with a film paused. “What are you watching?”
She handed him the plate and set the can of cool drink on the floor. “We can watch something else if you like. I don’t think you would enjoy this.” She moved to the laptop.
“No. It’s fine. I wanna see.”
She laughed. “Trust me.” She started to minimize the media player on the monitor and utilizing Explorer to find something else.
“At least tell me what it is before you change it. You might actually find I like it.”
She turned, hand on her hip, giving Rolemn a playfully doubtful glance. “It’s Gilmore Girls. I’m re-watching it so I really don’t mind if we watch something else while you here.”
“I love that show! It’s one of my all-time favorites.” He shook the bed as he gestured in his excitement. “Rory Gilmore was like my role model. C’mon, put it on.”
“You are not kidding?”
“No. Absolutely not. I love that show. I’d die for that show.”
Erica laughed. “Never met a guy this crazy about Gilmore Girls. My brothers hate it.”
“They don’t know what the world of Gilmore Girls has to offer. Hands down one of the best shows of all time.”
“Yeah! It is really awesome, right?”
“Awesome? I think that is an understatement.”
She put her hand on her mouth, blushing. “Wow. Rolemn.”She turned and put the media player on full screen and pressed play. Then she took a seat next to Rolemn.
“Which one is this?”
“The one where Rory gets an acceptance letter from Harvard I think.”
Rolemn exchanged a glance with her, a wide grin on his face and her face brimming with contagious amusement. “Perfect!”
Thanks for reading this chapter. If you are new you can quickly catch up.
When I wrote Before the Cult it was always an intense and emotional process with equally intense breaks of contemplation, analysis and careful decision making. With Pyre of Envy it is mostly the latter, it does not make it any less important or less moving to me. This chapter reminded me of how charged with philosophies and concepts the entire series is. Although this is the second book there are three more already being planned under the overarching theme of the series, which is very important to me, both philosophically and personally.
See you next week.
“Rain down on me and wash this pain away.” – Death Angel ‘Lost’