As they walked into the bookstore a bell dinged. After a quick scan, they noticed they were one of the few customers inside the store, the environment was tranquil and cool. Just the way Rolemn preferred it. Busy stores made him uneasy, he’d always feel like he was bound to screw something up and that made him jittery. This was perfect. He’d take his time to browse the shelves if something of interest caught his eye. The décor was also calming, grey shelves, white light, white ceiling, uncrowded book displays and no electronic signs or graphics. Simple. Declutered.
“This project of mine, Rolemn. I haven’t found a person for it. I seriously do not know where to start or go,” Corklin was telling him.
Rolemn half-heartedly listened as Corklin told him about it all. That he had until Friday, there was still shooting to be done, he had to find a student who would want to participate. After all that there would be hours or days of editing. Then he would need to find music for the short documentary. He had to make the music or find some free music, something he could get the rights to easily. It would take him days to do this right and obtaining a passing grade. Other commitments, including Erica, made things complicated, something about essays and missing tutorial assignments that needed to be done and submitted. He was in deep, and from the sound of it he didn’t have the energy, the time or drive to get it all done in time or give it his best. If only he could somehow work around it or cheat or get an extension.
“I look horrible don’t I?” he asked.
Rolemn studied his face. “I don’t know.”
“Like If I saw a doctor and told him I had a flu or I’m feeling very depressed and suicidal would he believe me?”
A thin string of indignation slit Rolemn’s heart at mention of faking a mental illness. It made things harder and difficult for students who were actually having problems, it made the system harsher and stricter making reporting issues to the university overwhelming to such an extent that a person suffering wouldn’t be able to handle or deal with the admin. Facing dubious faces within the various university departments instead of compassion was a repelling and disheartening experience that worsened the state of sufferers. Banishing a host of suffers into isolation until they breakdown and lose it, all because a few students needed an extension on an assignment they were too lazy to do.
“What are the symptoms?” Corklin asked.
Rolemn took offence, but he would not show it. The ability to conceal one’s emotions was a skill he’d honed over years of suffering, it saved him a lot of trouble. “It’s really complicated, dude. I don’t think it’s easy as you think,” he replied trying to discourage him.
“C’mon. I’m sure if I went online I could figure out how to do it. It’s just so I can get that extension, y’know.”
“Why don’t you just go and tell them you had some trouble with the project and you request some free time?”
“I could try that but I can’t spin the same story at other departments, right?”
“Unless you help me.”
Rolemn had made it to the classics aisle and he was packing titles from The Iliad, Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, Readings In Ancient History and more in his basket. He paused and then sighed. “How do I do that?”
“You know a lot of people. Do you know someone who is willing to tell their story of struggle with anything and how they got over it?”
Rolemn shook his head haplessly. “I don’t know anyone, dude. I used to but I don’t anymore. You know the story.”
Corklin pressed his lips together.
“How about Erica?” Rolemn threw the suggestion in there, although saying her name around him brought him some unease after what had happened.
Corklin glanced downward onto his side, stiffly shaking his head. When his eyes came back up they shot with nomination. “How about you?”
“I told you. I know, no—“
“No, no, no. I mean you. You could be in the documentary.”
It pleased Rolemn, he’d thought Corklin had overlooked him completely. Deeming him an undesirable candidate for his documentary, which he took as a severe ignorance of his struggles. “About what exactly? How I got to study here?”
“It has to be something that happened while you were here and you got over. Like your visit to the country side.” He paused.
“I’m barely over it, Corklin. I don’t talk about that place.”
“Maybe that is the problem, Rolemn. You barely talk about it. If you don’t talk about it will always remain a big deal. You giving it power. It just keeps on growing and growing inside you. Maybe by sharing your story you could encourage other students who will see the documentary too. You know?”
Rolemn returned to packing books, this time tossing them inside without organization. A thought crossed his mind, that Corklin had planned it all along. He knew that the story was off limits but pushed him into a position where if he refused he would seem like one ungrateful son of bitch. Teaching him to abuse his meds and exposing him to drugs was a ploy to make him more desensitized to their presence, therefore making it easy to be cajoled into stashing Corklin’s supply in his room. Assisting with the textbooks was so he could get the story, just like Corklin cleaning his room was to coax him into giving out more of his Ritalin pills. And Erica had warned him, if he confronted Corklin he would just say he was being delusional. He would swear to the contrary. “You slippery son of bitch,” Rolemn muttered under his breath.
“Think about it,” Corklin said.
Rolemn found himself without a proper response. The ones that came to mind where all pointing to a road he wasn’t keen to go down, at least not in public. That is when he realized it, Corklin had brought it up in public where he knew reproach would be minimal and controlled because Rolemn wasn’t the one to cause scenes. Rolemn was uncomfortable in normative public spaces already, he wouldn’t want to draw any attention to himself. He snorted scornfully, a crooked smile forming on the side of his face. His face was out of Corklin’s view. He would not confront him, there had be something better he could do in response. He chipped the guilt he felt about Erica a notch. “Okay, Corklin, I will help you. I just have to prepare myself a bit.”
“Awesome. Thank you, man!”
“It’s a pleasure.”
Corklin followed behind Rolemn as he turned into another aisle. “I guess there is only one problem.”
Rolemn turned his countenance to default. “What?”
“Actually, two problems.”
“If I cut my time with Erica for the week I can get a lot done. So I have to turn all our plans together down, including the concert.”
Rolemn snorted. “Look, it’s okay if you really don’t wanna go. You don’t have to cover that up around me. I am your friend. Now, admit that you just don’t wanna go.”
Corklin giggled, slightly blushing. “Yeah, I am really tired of those, man.” He shook his head and wearily remarked, “Bitches, man. Bitches!”
Rolemn nodded. “Good.” He felt a surge of apathy within him. “If I had a chick who could play like she could I would go see her a million times. I mean it’s not about how you feel about it, is it? It’s someone you love doing something they love, you gotta support them.”
Corklin frowned. “I don’t know, hey. I mean I have went to a million of those things already. I gotta catch a break.”
Rolemn looked up at him, a perfect window to ask him about one thing that could make what had happened earlier with Erica justifiable in his own terms. “I have seen you two together for years. I have watched you two guys from afar. You are really great together. You have always been the one couple I looked up to. I have always said to myself ‘I want a relationship like that’. You are the perfect couple and I loved you guys. You know what I mean?”
Corklin nodded pressing his lips together.
“Now that we have become friends and I got closer to you guys I am starting to see the cracks. There is not a perfect relationship I know that. But I would still call it perfect. I worry now that you are throwing it away. Do you love her, Corklin? Of all the time we have talked about her I have never heard you say that. I need to know if you really love her or if you are just stuck with her.”
Corklin stared at Rolemn. “That’s heavy, man.” He sighed. “Well I really don’t know what love is. I can’t claim to have felt that emotion or to be in love. It is very deep and complicated emotions, you know? A lot of people use that word but I think none of us have ever felt it or know what it is. As far as I know it might just be some construct. Therefore I can’t say I love her, Rolemn. I am pretty sure I have feelings for her though, or else I wouldn’t have stayed with her for so long. Right?”
Rolemn marked the response as a clever deflection. He hadn’t said anything or at least what Rolemn wanted to hear. He bet if someone put a gun on her head he would know without a doubt where he stands. Rolemn decided not to pursue it further, he sensed Corklin expected him to. Cutting the impending argument shot would both surprise and intrigue Corklin which meant he would be thinking about matters of the heart far longer because he wouldn’t have someone to affirm his convictions to by challenging them. So, Rolemn solmnely nodded. “Right.”
Corklin rasied an eye brow. “I don’t think me going there should be a measure of my affection. Or spending large amounts of time with her.”
“I guess so.” Rolemn shrugged vaguely. Corklin searched his face looking for answers. Before he could say anything, Rolemn said, “So what’s your second problem?”
“You told me you got two problems.”
“Ooh yeah, the other is finding enough rit to get me through these days. I would not be able to make it without help.”
Rolemn dropped his gaze. “I don’t have much now. I don’t think I can help you with that, dude.” He reckoned he could probably get it all done if he pushed himself, Corklin took every excuse he could to snort a bit of powder. He was becoming dependant and Rolemn was afraid it would get worse. In the two days they had spent they had finished fifty 20mg Ritalin pills, something they couldn’t have imagined doing a mere two months back. Truth was, Rolemn was empty, he entirely depended on Corklin buying him pills on the street like he had promised he would. “I think you should contact your dealer.”
“Sure, sure. I will do that, man.” He looked away. “I need you to go with me to dinner at Erica’s place.”
“What for?” Rolemn frowned, his heart thumping on his chest. After what had happened he couldn’t be in the same room with both of them. Not in that house with the tension and Corklin’s unreadable facial expressions around Erica. Something could go terribly wrong, freeze and break, or heat up and explode.
“So that I can leave early and announce, with you there, that we have tons of upcoming work and stuff. She trusts you for some reason. You have that face, you know.” He paused. “Plus if you spoke with me and supported me I think she would really be understanding.”
That would be like driving a blade through her heart and Rolemn didn’t like that. She was a good girl, she didn’t deserve that. She would surely see through the whole thing and Rolemn would know it, but he couldn’t tell Corklin that. “You are also going to use the opportunity to cancel on the concert?”
“Yeah, of course.”
Rolemn looked at the titles on the shelves. “It’s Monday, Corklin.”
“So?” Corklin shrugged.
“They serve my favorite supper every second Monday in the dining hall. It’s the only meal I look forward to every second week. I build up to it. You can’t just drop this on me now. Don’t wanna wait two weeks for this meal, dude. It’s the best. Steak, chips and a brownie with custard for desert. Not even my mom can prepare that for me and she is the best cook I know.”
“Why you always gotta have foreplay before anything, Rolemn?” Corklin snorted.
“You know why.”
“This is an emergency, man. I need your help. I will tell her to make you some steak, chips and cheese cake. She makes good cheese cake.”
Rolemn shook his head slightly. “It’s also about the entire dining hall experience, you know.”
Corklin stared at Rolemn for a moment, mouth gaped. “Please, man. This will only work if you come.” He paused. “I will buy you beer if you come.”
Rolemn looked up at him, finding the offer a tad attractive.
“And smokes,” Corklin added.
“I don’t know, dude. I have that essay to write and I haven’t even written a word yet.”
Corklin’s eyes went to the ceiling, taking a deep breath. “I will help you.”
“How?” Rolemn frowned.
“We will work together in the same room while we chill. I will script the film and you write your essay. You will find it helps having someone work by your side.Kills procrastination, man. If you get a bit wasted I could help you type the rest of what is left.” He paused, an eye brow raised. “We could totally bullshit our way through the essay, man. What is it about? World War II, right?”
“Basically. We have to argue whether or not America was justified in dropping the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
“What are you arguing for?”
“It wasn’t. I don’t know why yet. I find it quite hard justifying murder of a thousand of people. I mean where am I gonna start. I should have went to the lectures, Corklin. Things would be so easy if I did. We were busy getting wasted and I ran low on my meds so I couldn’t go. Even if I went it would have been a waste without my meds…but maybe better than not going.”
Corklin looked down, nodding. “I know, I know. But you have done a bit of research, right?”
“Yeah. It is hardly anything though.”
Corklin nodded, this time pinching his chin. “If I get some Rit for us we could stay up together and work. We will only sleep once the paper is in. When is it due?”
“Before end of day tomorrow.”
“Okay, okay. How about this? We start working the moment we get back from Erica until about 11pm. Then if you have written more than half of your essay or you got it all planned out you can start having your first two beers and a bit of powder. Then we go back to work by twelve while getting wasted in intervals until the next day.”
Rolemn looked away. Worrying about the strain it would take on him. The headaches and how the shots of alertness will fizzle too quickly because it wasn’t long since the last time they did the same thing. They had retired at dawn then, tired and beaten. They were fooling themselves and he knew it, but they convinced themselves otherwise. Maybe if they plan it out carefully it might all work out. It was a very appealing proposal, the drugs might ease his frustration and anxiety. And the essay would be easier to do. “We are not using this as an excuse to get high, are we?”
Corklin shook his head. “I think it is capitalizing on our high. Instead of just wasting that energy now we are directing it into something good. I don’t think your essay would be any good without the help either. You know?”
Only because I am out of my meds and I need them, even if that means snorting them, Rolemn thought.
“I think we should have the powder as soon as we arrive at my place, so I can sprint through most of the work before I have a drop of alcohol.”
Corklin put on sly smile. “Yeah. We can do this. Let’s kill it tonight.”
Rolemn returned the smile. “Yeah. Let’s kill it.”
If you haven’t yet, join the journey of an underprivileged student as he tries to deal with his prescription drug abuse and carve out a real future in a world that denies him of it in the most unconventional ways. Find the first chapter here.
Next chapter coming next week.