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Cool brick walls, suffocated by glossy posters of shrines to the modern model of manhood – large faces of Tony Montana, Vito Corleone, and Lil’ Wayne are intersected by smaller posters of luxury sports cars and red-lipped women. Books of varied content are littered throughout, one of which holds down the edge of a thin, jumbled blanket that would otherwise be fluttering in the soft wind.
Tarun Ophis, an olive-skinned boy of about twenty-one years old sits in an old- wooden chair hazily reading a textbook lying on his orderly desk. As he turns the pages, the paper glints in the dull sunlight that seeps in through a window on the opposite side of the room.
A phone buzzes on the wooden desk – Tarun picks up, “Yeah…come over now. I’m here.”
He keeps staring at the same page, as he impatiently taps his fingers against the glass screen of the phone.
A couple minutes pass and a knock on the door.
Tarun gets up before the final rap and opens the door with nervous force. A weedy looking figure stands on the opposite side of the door in basketball shorts and a hoodie. A small cloth backpack hangs from his shoulder.
“Hey Paul, come on in.”
Tarun releases the body cage that he set in the door opening and Paul walks into the room; neatly he posts his body up next to Tarun’s bed – right across from the desk.
The door is shut quietly.
Tarun continues, “Hey man…how you doing?”
In a professionally withdrawn manner Paul replies, “Not much man. You know the same old, same old.”
“Yeah, yeah. I got these finals you know. Partied too much this semester, so now I really have to crack the whip and cram all this stupid crap in a week.”
“I hear that, man.”
“So what you got going on this week?”
“Shit. My grandma just so happened to lose some Xanax this week, so you know I got that on deck.”
“Well shit man, that’s about the last thing I need!” Tarun laughs, but pushes on, “Maybe after finals I’ll score some of that good g-ma shit, but right now I need some…like Adderall or shit like that.”
“You already know that my girl got some of that good-good.”
Tarun seems relieved.
Paul continues, “But…you know she doesn’t like just giving that away…”
“No, no! I’m so desperate right now, I don’t even give a shit. How much you think she’d sell it for?”
“She want ten a pill right now.”
“Damn! That’s steep as hell!”
“Bruh – she stay trippin’.”
Tarun pulls out his wallet and takes out eighty dollars, “You got eight on you right now?”
“Let me check,” he loosens the cloth strings on his backpack and pulls out a baggy full of pills and throws it on the bed.
Tarun paces over and they count together.
“Looks like you’re in luck, my dude. I got ten!”
“Fuck yeah. My man!”
Paul pulls out an unused baggy from the backpack and fills it up with eight pills then hands it over to Tarun. Tarun flops the money on the bed in front of Paul.
“Glad we could make this work out for the both of us.”
Paul counts the money and folds it into the pocket of his hoodie, “Let’s get our smoke on in honour of this momentous occasion, broseph.”
“You know I’m always down for that.”
Paul pulls out a pack of cigarettes, carefully opening the paper container and taking out a ready made joint.
“Dude, you always got the hook up. Best connect ever!”
Paul lets a chuckle out as he lights the joint. The happy stick quickly crinkles away from the contained fire, leaving behind a frothy line of ash in its wake.
The tension in the room eases.
Paul flicks the roach out of a small opening in the glass blinds and daps Tarun on the shoulder, signalling his exit.
The door closes behind Paul and the sun kisses the room good-night.
Tarun opens up his computer, so a superficial glow fills the room. He plops down in the desk chair and lays out the drugs neatly in front of him – eight atomic tangerine capsules.
He cracks one of them open and spills the contents onto his desk; takes out a credit card from his wallet and forms a perfect line of pharmacological dust. Once the card is back in its rightful place, Tarun spins a dollar into the perfect straw and snorts the contents up his nostril.
The particles that still remain in waste on the grainy, wooden desk were saved by his oily fingers and spread across his gums.
Tarun crinkles his nose and pats his watering eyes. A gasp of electrified relief, “There we go!”
He swipes the left over capsules back into the baggy and stashes them in the desk drawer. Within a matter of minutes a campaign of cleanliness is commissioned – the bed is made, books are stacked neatly, clothes are put into a hamper, and even a hand held vacuum zooms around the corners of the room.
After the room comes together, Tarun turns on a bass-based hip-hop ballad.
The vibrations from the social hype seeded deep in the song reverberate throughout the room, digging into Tarun – he sings along, suspending himself in a world that could not possibly exist. Flavours of money, power, and a certain type of eternal being linger on his tongue.
Lost – he is reeled out by the neon glare of his phone; Tarun stomps over to the beckoning device and presses it onto his ear.
“Oh shit yeah…let’s do it.”
“Swing by my place when you are heading over.”
Tarun throws the phone onto his bed and pulls off his clothes; his young muscles twist and turn as he pulls together a selection of garments. Finally he spritzes himself with a cheap body spray and combs his hair with his hands.
The song still plays.
All ready, he sits in his chair and waits – opening up a book and turning the pages nonchalantly. Only a few minutes pass and the drudgery of pretending to study weighs on Tarun’s patience; his fingers become jittery and his jaw pulsates.
When he is no longer satisfied at his desk, he gets up and starts pacing around the room, feeding deeper and deeper into the rhyme of youth, flash discovery, and dreams of meteoric success. His fresh cheeks puff up in impatience.
He steals over to the bed and finds his phone on the smooth comforter; pressing on the glass screen the time reads 7:35 PM.
A growl of displeasure escapes from his plump lips, then he lifts himself onto the bed and starts wandering the back alleys of the internet on the portable device.
Seedy women with pretty bodies press onto the screen, and with just a flick of the finger, Tarun has access to all his momentary desires.
Flipping through a couple pages, he stops on a profile of a man that is cast on a yacht with a diamond-studded woman. The couple is stunning – even after the first glance. Tarun’s golden-flecked iris dissolves as the pupil gorges on the image; deeper and faster, he winds down a stairwell of useless information and avarice.
A heavy lump forms in his jeans; he grabs at it.
His thirst increases and everything outside of this four-inch glass frame disappears.
Suddenly his door swings open and three sinewy grown boys saunter in; Tarun is plopped back into his concrete block dorm room.
“Taaaaaarruuuuuuunnnn! Where’s our little terrorist?” a boy in khaki pants and button down shirt screams.
“There he is!” says another, who looks like he just emerged from a trashcan and reeks of liquor.
All three circle his bed, sloppily. “Whatcha lookin’ at queer bait?”
Tarun sits up on his bed, with little interest, “Took you guys long enough. Eatin’ each other’s assholes again?”
Trashcan boy peps up, “Tarun. You know we only do that on Tuesday. And, today…I think, is a Wednesday.” The boy goes in and drunkenly kisses Tarun’s neck in a friendly manner. “Don’t worry, darling, I’ve just brushed my teeth.”
“Seriously, where in the hell have you guys been?”
The quiet boy, and seemingly most sober, replies, “Here, there, everywhere, young Tarun. You never know where we’ll show up.”
“How many ‘shrooms did you take, dude?”
“Only two this time…I think I’ve figured out the meaning of life.”
“Shut the fuck up, Richie!” screams trashcan boy. He then continues, staring at Tarun, “Look we need to get you fucked up tonight.”
“I’ve got to study, man. I’ve been fucking off the last few weeks.”
“So fuck off one night more. What’s it gonna hurt?”
“I really can’t, dude. I have one week, and that’s it, or I’m fucked.”
At this proclamation, the three boys form a mock protest, “Would Weezy bitch out on us like this?…No!”
Khaki pants boy, “Nobody gives a shit about college anyways…all the rich fuckers out there dropped out. So, let’s do as the greats did and get ripped.”
Tarun finally interjects, “Fine. Fine…I’ll go, but this better be fucking good or I’m gonna be super fucking pissed.”
The three young men revel in their victory against academia. Tarun continues, “So, what you guys got?”
Khaki pants boy, “Richie, get out the good stuff.” The boy on ‘shrooms reaches back into his pants and pulls out a bottle of Jagermeister.
Tarun, “Dude, did you just pull that out of your ass crack?”
Khaki pants boy, “You know we can’t get caught drinking in the dorms again, so Richie here is our mule. No one would ever suspect him!”
“That’s fucking disgusting.”
“Whatever, stop being a pussy and take a pull.”
Richie passes the bottle to Tarun, who unscrews the thin metal lid. “Man, this smells like straight ass.”
The three boys glare at him until he takes a swig of the liquid crack. “Good. Again.”
Tarun’s eyes puff up a little bit, but he does as commanded. When he is finished, he breathes in deeply and shakes his head to dissolve the taste.
“So, what did you guys want to do?”
Trash can boy – “We’re gonna go out and get some puuuuuussssayyyy!”
Khaki pants boy pulls a pair of Ray Bans onto his face – “Alright, alright, alright.”
Tarun jumps off the bed and stuffs his phone into his pant pocket. The three boys walk out of the room as he swipes his keys from the desk; he locks the door behind him.
The hodgepodge quartet rolls through the musty hallways peppered with students in pajamas and reading glasses and an occasional drunkard stumbling into a room with a very lax open-door policy.
Sliding down the gullet of the building through a rickety 1970’s elevator, the boys find themselves in the dorm lobby full of loaded young people. Like the sea that effervesces with fish, the room has a naturalistic movement that is orchestrated by an invisible rhythm. Tarun and the boys are gobbled up by the crowd; but, slowly, even though they are stopped by friends and general disarray, they make their way to the doors that lead out into the wind-whipped air – the trees shiver oddly in the hot, sticky breeze.
A group of girls in sundresses pass by, but the boys make no visible signs of interest until they have a couple of yards in between. And, even then, the femme acknowledgement is a basic sexual fumbling of underwhelming catcalls and banal air- paintings of the female body.
Tarun demands another swig of the Jaeger, so the group forms a cloister on the dark sidewalk. The liquid bangs against its glass casing as Tarun swings it towards his mouth.
Khaki pants boy, “Be a man and take another.”
Tarun clears his sinuses and takes another pull from the bottle. Tarun, “Any of you guys want it?”
Khaki pants boy, “Naw, man, we already had like ten shots before.” “Well fuck…let’s get it then.”
He takes one last swig and passes the bottle back to Richie.
“Ughhhh I feel like a god right now!”
Tarun jolts out of the cloister and leads the pack towards a large group of people in front of colored lights that illuminate the Greek letters SAE. Muffled music can be heard as they get closer to the house. The blobs of bodies that were far away have now become distinct – the faces of classmates and friends pop out; they mingle as they make their way into the frat house.
A thick partition of strobe lights, house music, and the distinct smell of stale beer wash over all who enter.
Surprisingly, though, only a few people are sprinkled throughout the massive structure, so the boys are able to quickly slide through to a trough full of watered down ice and beer cans.
Tarun grabs two cold ones, and without hesitation immediately downs them both.
Trash can boy, mockingly, “And this guy said he wanted ‘to stay in and study’!”
Khaki pants boy, “I know right!”
Tarun, “Well if we are gonna get lit, let’s get lit! Am I right?”
The boys cheer in approval, but do not take any more for themselves.
A drug-induced wandering begins.
Strobe lights flash on the dance floor.
Girls ring around.
Sweat beads through the shoulder blades.
Small hands press in.
Alone in a dark room.
Warmth and connection.
Bright lights interrupt.
A deep red anger.
A boilingly mad, deep red anger.
Body thrown – Soft grass.
Where am I?
The misty light of sunrise ambles into the dorm room.
Tarun’s eyes are wide open and blood shot. Cuts and bruises are wrapped across his fits and forearms and crackling snot cakes his upper lip.
He lifts his fists to his face and inspects the damage; eyes unnaturally popped open. Without flinching, he pulls himself to the edge of his bed and stares at nothing for a couple of minutes. Then, with a slight adjustment, he fixes his gaze on the posters that plaster his walls.
His eye twitches; he looks back down at his hands.
Lips parted, he leans out of bed and stumbles onto the floor.
He walks over to his desk – the silver computer is cracked and stained with blood. Tarun reaches at his brow, then paces back to the bed.
His stare presses into the sheets that puff up into the air as he smacks it with raw fists. One blow, then a long pause.
Then another with the other fist.
The first few are spaced out, but then Tarun barrages the cot with increasing rage. Dissatisfied with the effect, he picks up the cot and throws it across the room, revealing the wire skeleton of the bed frame.
Springs recoil violently as he smashes down into them with the weight of his shoulders; holding in his breath, he lifts the heavy frame and flips it over, so the length of the bed dangles in the air. Scrambling towards the wall of moguls and celebrities, Tarun begins ripping down the shiny paper, with some of it sticking to his bloody appendages.
Within a matter of thirty seconds all the posters are ripped down from the walls.
With bareness achieved, he moves to the shelving and tears out the books onto the floor – the room is in complete disarray.
He grabs at his groin, which is swollen in the rage; two gulps of air pass into his chest. Grabbing at his bloody jeans, still on from the night before, he manages to sooth himself for a couple seconds – shoulders curled forward.
Then the door swings open violently and a smaller boy in boxer shorts screams out, “What the fuck is going on in here, dude?”
Tarun doesn’t look up.
The boy shouts again, “Have you lost your fucking mind? I thought someone was getting murdered in here! Get your shit together, cocksucker…it’s like six in the morning!”
Tarun leaps forward at the boy and drags him to the ground; he furiously slams the boy’s body.
“What the fuck did you just call me?” The boy’s body is limp.
“That’s what I thought, you stupid faggot!”
Tarun sucker punches the unconscious kid in the face, then gets up and bears down at the body.
Walking back into his room, he picks up the chair and throws it into the window. Glass shatters and the wooden chair splinters when it meets the floor in a confused heap.
Finally, exhausted by his efforts, he breathes in deep – air fills up his cavity; the elemental cleansing jerks Tarun into reality, and with the taste of this one clean breath, he craves another and another.
His body caves into the cluttered floor – he sits with his legs crossed, hunched over, taking in sips of air as if he had just escaped drowning. Tarun’s eyes dart around the room, looking at the damage – and the body, the poor crumpled body.
Reality creeps in, and her words are menacing:
He stands up shakily; running his swollen hands through his greasy hair.
“What did I just do?”
Breaths are quicker and more punctuated than before.
A feminine voice crawls down the hallway, “Oh my God, Ethan! Call 911!”
Footsteps pound over to the open door – shocked and curious faces peer into Tarun’s room.
Shaken whispers melt into his ears – he collapses onto his knees.
Tears cradle his pupils.
He picks up a thick piece of glass adrift on the old carpet.
More footsteps pound closer to his room – these are heavier and more pointed than before. Decision brushes over his face.
Noise goes white.
The blade runs smoothly across his jugular; dark hair flags against the momentum of the final crash. Eternity escapes his eyes, and the body, once rich with potential and worldly privileges, falls forward with an unceremonious clunk.
Blood circles his body and took him away in the same manner he came – a man consumed in infancy and laid to waste.