Inspired by true events.
After a while, it wasn’t funny anymore. She was kneeling and heaving into the toilet for the third day in a row, and in her periphery she could see Jenni spinning around in circles, round and round in the middle of the bedroom, making thuds with her feet on the floor as she turned. What the fuck was wrong with her? Like a dying motor, Jenni came slowly to a wobbling stop.
“Man, it’s harder to make yourself sick than you think. I’m just dizzy.”
Snooki pulled her head from the bowl and just stared bleary-eyed at the frowning porcelain seat. It wasn’t very clear, neither was the water.
“Did you know I gave Pauly a blowjob?”
Snooki looked over at Jenni, who was looking over at Snooki.
“It’s going to be an interesting fuckin’ summer.”
They stared at each other in silence.
In the confessional, Pauly said, “I just blocked it out and went about my business.” The Shore house was weird, and getting weirder. By the next summer, it would be weirder still, the only house in the area left standing after Sandy. Pauly remembered during one of the summers when he overheard the Situation telling Snooki that he could rock her like a hurricane. Those are the type of situations Pauly mostly blocked out, but this sudden memory prompted him to get to the confessional. He thought he’d mostly forgotten those kind of things, lost in the ether, but lately he’d been having this feeling that those moments were somehow the key to the strangeness that had been growing with each subsequent summer, especially since Snooki had been swallowed by the house. The house was almost unrecognizable, though nothing had been rearranged or altered, inside or out.
“Operation Inside-Out was the most thought out, well planned prank this house has ever seen,” Pauly continued. He thought talking about it out loud would cheer him up, after all the prank wars were fun and brought everyone in the house together. This particular prank involved Pauly and Vinny moving all the outdoor furniture inside and all the inside furniture outside while the rest of the roommates were out. They even covered the living room floor with the large turf carpeting from the roof. At the time, he didn’t realize how confused everyone was when they returned. No one could figure out how they did it. They all kept staring at the arrangement, and as Pauly and Vinny looked back at their roommates, smiling about their well-executed prank, Nicole snuck off to the bathroom to vomit.
“I can’t believe we’re back here. It doesn’t feel real,” Jenni announced to everyone sitting around the dinner table for the first Sunday dinner of the summer. Mike and Ronnie had prepared the meal, the girls had set the table, and everything was ready. Nicole looked in the corner where she had once thrown a wine bottle, barely missing whoever she was aiming for, shattering it to pieces. It was not one of her high points, although some of the roommates had speculated whether or not she was high at the time. Suddenly feeling an uneasy anticipation, Pauly looked around the kitchen, as Nicole turned toward him.
“It’s like rehab. The first step’s admitting it, right?” was Pauly’s response to Jenni, but directed it toward the general table area. Everyone laughed, but it didn’t feel real. A few cameras lay around the room, one on its side resting on the countertop, the others on tripods staring blankly at the ground. The production crew had loaded all the rest of the equipment into the house that weekend, but due to some scheduling conflict (they were told) the equipment would be needed on another set. Begrudgingly, the crew loaded most of it back on to the truck, leaving just those few cameras, as they would need to be there anyway for when production began.
Pauly sat around the living room, watching his roommates come in and out of the room, walking somewhere for some reason. Mike was in the kitchen doing dishes. Ron and Sam walked through carrying their hampers filled with their dirty laundry. They seemed to be waiting for something to happen, killing time. Pauly thought, “It’s crazy that our chores turned into a national phenomenon. We made it an everyday thing and we’re probably gonna go down in history.” They were living a historical moment. He could hear the storm now, in the form of stomping feet, coming from the ceiling above. Then, they stopped.
One morning, Jenni woke up and stared at the white ceiling. She had been dreaming about Pauly. She remembered the first time they hooked up, it was at a club during their first summer in Seaside. She then remembered their subsequent hook ups. They still happened occasionally, kind of randomly, but she had a boyfriend, Roger, who was a great guy, not just to her but to all of the roommates. He would help the roommates home if they got too drunk at the club and step in if there were any problems when the group went out. He got along with everyone and everyone liked him, he was really great. But there was still Pauly, and living with him, seeing him everyday, things just sometimes happened. Like when her, Nicole, and Pauly all came home early one night from the boardwalk. She wondered how many times Nicole had hooked up with him. But those times were in the past, gone and somewhat fleeting, flickering in her mind like those trick candles on Nicole’s birthday cake that one summer.
She pivoted her head on the pillow and turned to look over at Nicole’s bed, which was empty, covers and blankets in a mess on the mattress. Where did she go? She thought maybe they’d go tanning or to the gym that morning. It was too early. She shut her eyes just as the sky started rumbling, perfect time for sleep, and quickly began her dream cycle.
“We shouldn’t’ve crossed that boundary, but stuff happens,” Pauly stated sort of matter-of-factly. The confessional was probably always the cleanest place in the house, maybe the occasional mixed drink spillage on the carpet, but certainly not the type of evidence found in the other parts of the house: clothes strewn on floors, dust and sticky residue hidden in different pockets of the house, the puke stain on the matted turf on the roof, minor scars of cigarette burns on the deck and some of the furniture, the dents in the walls.
“When Mike ran his head into the wall, he knocked himself on the ground, and he was fucked up! I remember, I heard somebody saying to Mike, they were like, ‘Stay with me bro, stay with me.’ And I’m like, ‘Holy shit, what’s happening right now?’ you know what I mean? It’s like, is this kid dying? It was pretty hardcore,” Vinny relayed in the confessional earlier with Pauly, reminding him of Mike’s temper at times, but he didn’t need reminding really. Mike’s strangeness had been manifesting in erratic behavior, through random physical outbursts and compulsive decisions. He even started becoming obsessed with Nicole, constantly trying to repair his relationship with her, but now who knows if that’ll happen? There wasn’t much certainty about anything at the Shore.
“If there’s one thing you can count on in the Jersey Shore house,” started Pauly stoically, “there’s gonna be fights.” But he knew that wasn’t what he meant.
Mike was in the middle of an interview with a reporter from some news organization. He seemed calm and collected, maybe distant, but clear-eyed, saying:
“Their relationship was so sensitive and volatile that like we couldn’t really–”
“We couldn’t be ourselves.”
He stared at the reporter, as she did the same, each waiting for a response. Living at the Shore house was something all the roommates looked forward to, if not for the fame and fortune, the family they had built, or at least that’s what he told the reporter earlier. He knew that she knew that that was at least partly a PR line, especially in light of all the scandals and gossip that the show had generated. Of course, like all journalists, from the tabloids to the New York Times, she was interested in those allegations. Initially, the spokespeople for the show plead ignorance, but their growing ambivalence bred closer media scrutiny, even as the investigation was reaching a deadend.
“I’m getting like spatulas thrown at my head, bottles, I mean, shit. I ain’t got a stunt double, you know what I’m sayin’?”
“Hey! It’s Pauly at the Shore. Pauly Shore!” yelled some guy into the Shore Store, the shop the roommates worked at. Pauly looked up, but all he could see was the sea of young females who came to catch a glimpse of the employees. Jenni worked the register, while Pauly and Sam pressed the shirts with various phrases they had popularized. There was a growl from the footsteps on the boardwalk and Atlantic waves, muddying the sharpness of the store’s scattered chatter.
Danny, the owner and resident manager of the shop, looked around with a furrowed brow. He walked up to the counter and asked, “Is Mike even here?” No one looked up from their work.
“I don’t know,” said Sam finally, in a quiet voice. Danny walked away, sensing Mike probably wasn’t there. It wouldn’t have been the first time, nor the last. As a business owner, he felt at odds with the situation that came with employing the castmates; he lacked the authority he thought he would otherwise receive, but business had never been better, plus the female traffic didn’t hurt. He looked over at Sam for a bit, until a customer tapped him on the shoulder with a question.
Leaning into the refrigerator, Pauly stared down at a tray of burnt chicken cutlets, scabbed over in a thick black crust that tinted the visible meat a greyish hue. For all the cooking expertise the cast possessed, no one could figure out the grill. There were some other leftovers, including a few pieces of lasagna made by Vinny’s mom, which Pauly took out and put in the microwave. He watched it spin around and around, the cheese slowly becoming flaccid and drooping out of the sides of the pasta layers. The microwave’s buzz resonated in his chest and he became slightly lightheaded. Before he knew it, the microwave beeped and stopped the vibrations, bringing upon a powerful silence which he sat with, he couldn’t shake it.
Out of nowhere, Nicole walked toward Pauly. A bit disoriented and overwhelmed by the punch of the entrance and punch of exit, he didn’t know what to say.
“I have something to tell you.”