Midnight fog loomed wildly over the hillside, with winds as gentle as his damask rose kiss; a wavering sense of stability falling, falling, falling beneath our feet – I held his flask to my bosom, in his hand, and matched his gaze. We embraced, then inexorably parted, as our cloak of intemperance would be lifted by daylight. That was my final memory of him – B – the other one, C, had fallen ill, and seemingly disappeared from my consciousness; but he had been there, too. I was sure of it.
Three seasons passed before the College Boys acknowledged my disappearance. Perhaps they had blocked out reminiscences of our conversations about art for the sake of art; or failed to recollect that I had fallen from both of their beds, wearing remnants of night beneath my eyes. I assumed the mauve lipstick I had kissed them with had stained their ivory pillows. The days following our carouses, I would bathe, but I had suddenly ceased feeling cleansed. It was never quite clear if I had consciously left, or been a novelty to them – forgotten about with the passage of time.
Each party was the same: a revel for the sake of youth, and the perceived scarcity of such – We could die tomorrow! But we had failed to understand that we would sooner cause our own deaths than prevent them.
C, whom I had known before the others, was the only one to contact me after I stopped coming to their parties – I agreed to see him again, on the hillside, by the ocean, off of Mulholland Highway.
My friend killed himself.
I was catching up with C when his new roommate silently walked into the kitchen, then climbed up onto a stool. He was wearing a hoodie from some middle-American high school; his eyes were more carmine than cyan.
He said it nonchalantly. He gaped at the floor, then anticipated our silence. The tone of the house rapidly soured; I had rehearsed a joke about something meaningless prior to his revelation. B walked in thereafter, and I began to gnaw at the inside of my cheek.
The new roommate soon introduced himself after I had crossed and uncrossed my legs a dozen times, half-listening to his story about this person he had known, but became numb to; half-feeling as though I should have stayed home.
His glassy stare became one of weariness, and he retired to his bedroom, leaving me to converse with B. I could not meet his eyes, after all of the time that had passed. I was so nervous I mispronounced “hedonistic.”
Everyone knew I had changed; they told me I looked older.
The bottles from Halloween were ripe with decay; the number of cigarettes strewn about the courtyard had doubled. I began to chain-smoke whilst I watched the new brothers begin to clean the mansion, as one of their fraternity’s pledge activities. C and I sat outside, while B rushed up the spiral stairwell to seize his laptop.
He showed me the art film he had written and directed over the summer. It mimicked Donnie Darko in its score, though the rest of it was decidedly B. I had loved the screenplay when he e-mailed it to me last year; I had loved him, all the same. The star of the film, an ocean-eyed brunette, resembled the women he slept with, but never dated.
It was still difficult to meet his stare.
It reminded me of when I first encountered him beneath the gazebo, last December; except this time, I was the one with the cigarette in hand, I was sitting between them, and not on the outskirts.
So, what now?
We went inside and talked about our futures, as we always did, though we found that our post-college dreams had transcended California.
We all ended up hating Los Angeles, anyway – we thought New York or Chicago would change the fact that cities are generally isolating, even with the universe seemingly at our feet. Alas, we were ignorant to think the skyscrapers would look different; we would be shackled to the characters we had seen in films, and the lives we thought we deserved to live.
No matter how many times we altered our perceptions, the outcome had always been the same – we’d make love to ourselves, talking out our bright futures, then make love to each other, grasping for a depth that had not been explored by most of our peers.
I turned over a new leaf, I laughingly told them. They took bong rips while talking over a love song I had listened to with my first boyfriend. The middle-American boys who talked like men with New York accents. B, in particular, was from Hawaii.
He was only able to catch my gaze after his senses had been adequately dulled. A void of emotion, and the past, invited us to delve in.
Come up to my room – I have a poem I want you to see.
I sat on his floor while he sprawled out next to me; we attempted to discuss our new “creative” ventures. I could tell that he wanted to touch me. The night we kissed beneath our friend’s fire escape flashed across his wilting visage as I finished my final sentence, and he grinned.
I had never even added his phone number to my contacts – our attraction simply existed as it was. Ephemeral. It was electrifying, and I had been honest with him. When we met, he was taken, and I was intoxicated. I slapped his face, and told him to slap me back – hard – which he did, and C fell on the floor as he watched our exchange. I left my twenty-first birthday party to be with him, solely to swap a cramped apartment for a two-seater car, in a laughable endeavor to escape our friends. I had been attracted to C too, but I loved them in disparate ways.
B’s bandana was his crucial accessory; he was perpetually in character, making his arthouse films, attending a university that looked more like a resort than a college, that stressed its devotion to God. C went to the same school, wore vintage prep-school polos, wrote beautifully, and grew up in Georgia. I was from California, unlike the others, and was always self-conscious around university students, even though I was one, myself. In my cynicism, I had thought we tried to be unique, but were cheap imitations of beat poets.
But tonight – tonight was different from any other time I had spent time with the College Boys. It was past midnight; C had retired to bed, B and I stayed up to ponder on what I had asked.
So, what now?
Three seasons, gone – two seasons before it’s all over. I stood up, went to him, and kissed the inside of his elbow.
Outside, the stars were dim in comparison to the moon; streetlights didn’t exist in their neighborhood. I knew that the freeway would be closed and under construction by the time I left, and I would have to take the scenic route home.