The English Year - 2. Being English
"Honey, he's European... they're all a little bit gay."
There are a hundred and one obligations that come with being Greek at Old Dominion University. In order to understand these obligations, one must first understand the system itself.
When I was at OD, there were 14 national fraternities and 5 national sororities. 97%, or roughly every English speaking student, joined some sort of Greek house.
Within this system, there was a clearly defined hierarchy. Four frats stood above the rest as the Big Four. Seven or eight competed under them for supremacy among the others. Every year, three or four fraternities would doddle along the bottom, scraping whatever social scraps fall to the wayside.
Since my freshman year, Chi Beta had fallen from being in the upper tier, to scrapers at best.
The girl’s division was even rougher. Kappa Kappa Gamma ruled the pooch with an iron fist. Below them, Kappa Delta is the widely considered runner up. No one cried at rushing Theta, but those girls whose only options were Chi-O and Pi Beta Phi usually considered transferring to a less Greek campus.
Still, being at the bottom of the hierarchy was far better than not being in at all. Just ask the Asians who always set up their wing in Jefferson Dorm and can be seen eating lunch at the freshman dining hall on any given day of the week.
“I don’t get why we have to wear these stupid matching shirts,” I complained, examining myself in the mirror. The yellow made my skin look sallow, and the purple letters were cringe worthy. “Do you think Phi Delt or Sigma Chi are wearing matching shirts?”
“Sigma Chi, yes,” Hutch answered. “They wore their letters last year, if you’d bothered to show up.”
“I was busy,” I whined.
“You were hung over,” Brian corrected. Stupid roommate, disloyal Brian.
“And this year is different because…”
“Because if you don’t come this year, wearing your shirt, you’ll get fined.”
I breathed in heavily, yawned and stretched. It was barely nine o’clock and I was already over the day. I squeezed a fourth lemon into my Nalgene, which I had already equipped with vodka and water before anyone else gathered into my room.
“Who are we waiting for?” I asked.
“Roberto and Austin are coming back from their run and then we can go.”
Who ran so early in the fucking morning? It’s a wonder those two worked so hard on their bodies… they never left the gym long enough to get laid.
I walked downstairs to get a granola bar for breakfast, replaying the events of the night before in my head.
The more I thought about it, the more the Brit’s actions really did bother me. Pete had almost asked me to seduce him.
He had asked me to show him my moves using more or less words. And when I did, when I put myself out there, when I showed him what I’d do to get him into bed, he went to bed. Without me.
I was dazed, confused, and probably still a little drunk from the night before. I ran into Austin and Roberto on my way back upstairs, and twenty minutes and two showers later, the five of us left to join the rest of the brotherhood in the quad.
The quad was a grassy square that marked the beginning of campus from Washington Street. To the left of Washington were three freshmen dorms forming a semi-square around the knoll. On the right side of the street was the biggest dorm, Hamilton Hall, and on the other side of that dorm was the rest of campus, or the Colonnade.
I squinted under my sunglasses as we walked through the alley that led from our house directly to the back end of the quad. We walked around the freshman laundry chute and there we were.
I mentioned it was only nine o’clock, however the entire quad area was already bustling. Minivans were parked along Washington with their hazards on and their trunks open. Dean Watson directed traffic, allowing only a couple of minutes for fathers, sons, and helpful frat stars to unload entire vehicles onto the curb. From there, the dads got back in the vehicles and found parking while the mothers directed the Greek movers to whatever room her baby would call home for a year.
“I’m Corbin Crowley, Chi Beta,” I introduced myself to one family. I’d approached them because I noticed how cute the father was when they pulled up to the curb. The green Sienna didn’t seem too full, but that was the deceiving thing about mini-vans.
If I thought the dad was cute at first glance, it was because I hadn’t seen the son yet. He escaped the car from the passenger’s side and shook my hand after my greeting. He was taller than me, almost six feet. He had short dark hair and eyes that were almost pitch black. His face reminded me of Jake Gyllenhall, and it took all I had not to stare.
“I’m Lee,” he said with a smile.
“Cool,” I replied breezily. “Let’s get you moved in, Lee.”
It took Lee, his dad, and me three trips to get all of his suitcases and boxes upstairs. His mom and little sister worked diligently to get everything unpacked as we brought it in. By the time we were done, his bed was made and half of his wardrobe was hung.
“We’ll need more hangers when we go to Walmart,” Lee’s mom commented as I lingered. “And do you still want that box fan, honey?”
“I dunno. It feels pretty good so far.”
“You’ll want one,” I assured. “It gets pretty hot in the afternoon, at least through October, so…”
“Let me add that to the list. You still need laundry supplies, honey.” Lee shot me a look and rolled his eyes. I smiled. “Why don’t you all head to the store and start picking things out. I’ll text you whatever else I can think of.”
“Actually, I would wait until tonight or even tomorrow to go to Walmart. It’s a wreck right now, and you’ll be there for hours for just a couple things,” I said confidently. “Unless it’s an emergency, I’d hold off.”
“We’re driving back to New Orleans after lunch,” the mom said to me, concerned. “I’d really like to get Lee settled up here before we take off.”
“I can always drive him in my car tomorrow morning or tonight,” I offered. “If you want. I mean, I just know you wouldn’t want to brave the traffic and the lines at Wal-Mart right now. Especially if you only have a couple of hours left with your son.”
“How does that sound, son?” the dad asked. I could tell he couldn’t care much either way. Getting out of shopping was a bonus.
“I guess, um… Corbin, if you don’t mind, we can get some of the stuff I need tomorrow morning, first thing. That way we can finish unpacking here and grab lunch and say goodbye.” He scrunched his shoulders.
“Yeah, of course. Here, grab my number and text me tomorrow when you wake up. I’ll scoop you and we’ll get you all set,” I smiled. Lee pulled out his phone and typed in my number. I watched, waited for him to save it, and then said my goodbyes. His mom thanked me with a hug.
“Enjoy lunch,” I said. “Your son is in good hands.” I heard his mom say something about me being ‘such a nice boy’ as I walked down the corridor to the stairs, unaware that I had my own selfish reasons for being nice.
I repeated the act four times, helping four different families move in. Three were guys, and of those guys, I expressly invited two of them to pregame at my house that night. The third guy seemed like the type that was born with a bid to Beta, so I didn’t even bother. The fourth family I moved in was a girl who’d swindled me into helping them by asking which one Franklin Hall was. When I pointed it out, her dad circled the wagon and placed a box at my feet, somewhat presumptuously.
By the time lunch time rolled around, I was exhausted, sweaty, and seconds away from taking my shirt off if I didn’t fear Hutch would see me and demand I be fined for being caught out of letters on move-in day.
“Hey there,” I heard from behind me as I was planning my exit strategy back to the house. The voice was very English, and I liked it.
“Hi,” I turned around and squinted at Pete. I really needed to get new shades with how much light my current ones were letting in.
“So, yesterday…” he began. I could tell where this was going.
“Was a shit show,” I finished.
“Yeah. I’m never letting you pour my drinks again,” he smiled.
“I have a strong arm,” I said with a raised eyebrow.
“You should put it to better use,” he mumbled, barely audibly. I squinted at him, making sure I’d heard correctly.
“I hope I didn’t do anything too stupid,” he said finally, his voice still low, just above a whisper.
Like ask me to show you my moves? Make me act out how I seduce guys right in front of you? Pass out before you kissed me?
“You don’t remember anything?” I asked.
“I just remember playing beer pong and then walking home.”
I took a second to assess the possibilities. I could lead him to believe we’d messed around. That would have fucked up his psyche, sure, but it might have prompted him to want to mess around not blackout, which would have been perfect because we hadn’t, in fact, yet messed around.
I thought about it for a second, and then the thought passed. It was too creepy. If I wanted this guy to like me back, there were much less extreme ways of accomplishing that.
“No, you were fine,” I said. “Nothing ridiculous happened. I just walked you home and then you went to sleep.”
“Oh,” he said, sounding slightly disappointed. Or was I reaching again? “Okay, cool.”
“What are you doing tonight?” I asked quickly.
“Whatever you’re doing, I guess,” he said, shuffling his feet awkwardly. “If you don’t mind me tagging along.”
“Of course not,” I said. “Pregame is at seven. Wear comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting dirty.”
“Sounds kinky.” He sounded skeptical, and with one hand covering the top of his face, and his eyes squinting down at me, he looked skeptical as well.
“We’re going to the country,” I said. “It’ll be fun.”
“Sounds even kinkier,” he smirked. I caught Roberto making a face at me from the distant corner of the quad.
“I need to go,” I said. “Come to my house at seven tonight and be ready to get wasted.”
“I don’t know if I can get as drunk as last night,” he replied.
“Oh come on. It’s the official start to the social season.” I trailed off as I walked towards the alley, following the trail of yellow and purple Chi Beta shirts in front of me.
“What were you and your boyfriend talking about?” Roberto asked when I caught up.
“Going out tonight,” I said, my eyes wide with the express purpose of leading my pledge brothers on.
There was a chorus of ooh’s and ahh’s.
“Corby’s got a date. Corby’s got a date!”
“Fuck y’all,” I replied. But I couldn’t help but smile. For someone who didn’t have an actual date, it sure did feel like it.
I took a nap as soon as I hit my bedroom, setting my alarm for 5:00 p.m. I had a dinner meeting with Alexandria, the editor in chief of The Founder, to talk about our direction for the year. I tossed and turned on top of my covers for two hours before I gave up the fight, got up and got dressed. I text messaged Alex and told her I could head down to Patty’s Bakery any time, with sooner being optimal than later.
At 5:40, I walked down two blocks into historic Clifton Hill to meet Alex and Todd, the business manager of the magazine.
“Hey, doll,” Alex said, lifting her Ray-Ban sunglasses onto her perfectly highlighted hair. Her dress was Lily, her bag was Louis, and I’m sure her nails were O.P.I. from Barney’s. I would have expected nothing less.
Todd was a beast of a man. He stood at over six feet and easily weighed into the three hundreds. His demeanor was intimidating, almost bullish, and I hated having to deal with him.
“How was your summer?” I asked, following Alex to a table.
“It was amazing. I interned at Women’s Wear Daily, you know right?”
“Of course,” I said. “I followed your tweets.”
“Of course you did. I got to lead on a photo shoot for Alexander McQueen. It was meant to be. Amazing.”
I entertained her with wide eyes and listened to the brief story about the McQueen shoot, the entire time forcing my eyes not to roll. It was 6:00 before we were seated in a booth and ready to order. I usually loved hanging out with Alex when there was something fun to gossip about, but that night, I wanted to be home, waiting for a British caller.
“Tell me about your summer,” Alex said, finally taking a break from her recap.
“Oh you know. Nothing too exciting.”
“You were in Dallas, right?” Todd asked.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“Did you ever run into Tripp Morgan?”
“No,” I replied. “Not even once.”
“Interesting.” Todd took a sip of his drink. I knew right away why he was asking if I, of all people, had run into Tripp. Tripp was one of Old Dominion’s biggest sexual mysteries, and a guy I’d crushed on since freshman year. I happened to know for a fact that he played for the home team, and I was waiting for the perfect time to spread the rumor. Until then, I waited in speculation like everyone else, including Todd.
“So nothing exciting? No new love interest, or anything?”
“Nope. Just your average summer back home. Working at the Gap. Everything you’d expect.”
“Well great,” Alex nodded along, fingering the lemon in her water. “Sometimes I wish my summer had been less eventful.”
Leave it to Al to look at the positive.
A waiter walked by and I flagged him down, hoping that ordering would shift the awkwardness of the conversation. I made sure to order a cocktail on The Founder’s tab… and I made sure it was a double. I could almost feel Todd wince at the words.
“So, let’s get down to business,” Alex said as soon as our drinks hit the table. “I know we’re all trying to get out to the country tonight.”
I took a sip of my vodka and water and looked intently at her.
“We were left in really bad shape last year, weren’t we, Todd?”
“Pretty much. After this meal, we’ll have somewhere around three hundred bucks to our name.”
“Now, we can hold off until budget allotment with the EC, which I’m okay with, except that we’ll miss three isues,” Alex explained.
“When do they meet?”
“In three weeks.”
“They can’t advance us anything?” I directed my question to Todd who had considerable ties to the school’s Executive Council.
“They could, but we’ve pretty much lost all good faith with the EC. We’re a liability.”
“So what are our options?” I asked, growing concerned. I had no clue this was what I’d be getting into in our meeting.
“Basically, we can trim down and make the first few issues as skimpy as possible. Or we can do a digital issue.”
“The school will not let The Founder die,” I said sternly. “Why can’t we just demand the money?”
“Because they’ve been warning us for years to trim our budget, and it’s finally caught up with us,” Todd explained. I thought about last year and all of the freedom I took for granted. We added pages whenever we felt like it. We did a full color senior issue just because it looked cool. We threw ourselves an end of the year party because we thought we could. Basically, we’d pissed all of our money away and if we couldn’t get it back, we’d be hosed.
“What about subscriptions?” I asked. “Where are we with that?”
“Well Thomas quit over the summer,” Alex explained. “I’ve been working to re-sign our old subscribers. We have a booth at the freshman activity fair on Tuesday and we get the freshmen parent’s mailing list the following Monday. That’ll generate some cashflow.”
“But definitely not enough,” Todd interjected. “Most people pay per semester.”
“So what, sixty bucks?”
“Basically,” he answered. “We talked about doing a fire sale for people who subscribe for the whole year. Do both semesters for a hundred bucks. That buys us time until the EC meets, but in the long run, it hurts our bottom line.”
“So we cancel the end of the year and Christmas parties this year. I say we do that, generate some cash, and show the EC that we’re correcting the wrongs of the people that ran the magazine before us.” Alexandria had spoken.
“I’m going to scour the town for advertisers starting Monday,” she continued. “With Thomas quitting, he left us pretty high and dry, but I think we can turn it around. Corbs, I think you should come with me.”
I knew it was a slight to Todd. The business manager always assisted the new business editor. It was basically his job to make sure that Thomas wasn’t lazing around, and he’d fucked it up. Not letting him go to advertiser meetings was a pretty big diss.
“Of course,” I replied. That was the end of the business talk. We ordered our food right after, and continued to listen to elaborate, if slightly exaggerated stories, from Alex and her summer in the Big Apple.
By the time I made it home, it was a quarter past seven, and everyone was already lounging around and drinking. Proper pre-games usually started around eight, eight-thirty, and gave people a little over two hours to suit up before the main event.
“Hey, Hutchinson,” I said, walking through the great hall area on the main floor of the frat house. Hutch, Robbie, and Austin were all sitting around nursing beers. “Can I borrow your car tomorrow morning, first thing?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said. “Why?”
“I’m taking a kid to Walmart. He didn’t want to go today while it was packed, so I offered.”
“A freshman?” Hutch asked.
“Or the Brit?” Roberto chimed in.
“A freshman.” I didn’t mean to sound so defensive. “I’m participating in rush.”
“Oh, look who’s trying to get himself a little brother finally,” Austin said. He knew that it irked me, seeing as the guy that his little had been my main rushee sophomore year.
“So you’ve already moved on from the homeland to the heartland?”
“Wow, how long did it take you to come up with that one?” I asked Hutch.
“Just now,” he replied with smirk. “English major.”
“Yeah, well, English major, I didn’t move on. I’m just diversifying my portfolio. Not that you’d know what that means,” I replied. “It’s a business major thing.”
“Are you hanging out with the Brit tonight?” Roberto asked. I liked how he kept calling him ‘The Brit’. It seemed like an appropriate, if not at all vague, nickname.
“I sure am,” I replied.
“Are you gonna put your dick in it?” Austin asked.
“Ew, no,” I said, feigning squeamishness. They all knew me too well to take it seriously. If given the chance, I already would have had my dick in it.
“Plus,” I continued. “I’m not even sure he’s gay yet.”
“What does your radar say?” Roberto asked.
“It’s gaydar,” I corrected. “And it tells me that he is.”
“And we all know how failsafe your intuition can be,” Hutch said. He was still bitter from me thinking he was a homo freshman year before I actually knew him. In my defense, any guy that wears pastel yellow sweaters with leather elbow patches and above the knee madras shorts is questionable. Any guy that does all of the above and is an English major has definitely tasted another man’s semen.
“My intuition is right more than it’s wrong,” I pointed out. Hutch gave me a questioning look, so I explained. “Present company aside, I successfully called Tripp Morgan.”
“Who still hasn’t come out yet,” Austin interjected. He was friends with a few of Tripp’s brothers in Beta, and for some reason, always came to Tripp’s defense any time I tried to cast a gay shadow over him. To Austin, the Big Four had no gay members… I knew better.
“It’s a matter of time. There was our very own Jackson, here at Chi Beta. I called that Adam West was a bisexual and no one believed me.”
“He’s from California… they’re all homosexual,” Austin said with a bitter taste in his mouth.
“And technically, he only made out with one guy,” Hutch tried to defend.
“He dated Privedi all of last year,” I countered. That was another story I’d broken to the masses. Adam ‘California’ West had secretly dated a senior dorm counselor for almost eight months… before swearing off cock and going back to vagina. Once the administration found out, Privedi had to resign from being dorm counselor for the last semester and pay back his stipend… something about ‘abusing his position’…
“Okay, fine. Whatever.”
“And then there was Rick, who no one wanted to believe. Alex Blackwell, who no one wanted to believe. Andrew B, who… hello. He’s one skittle away from completing the rainbow, and yet no one wanted to believe me when I said he was gay.”
“Again, we’re back to this,” Roberto said. “Just because you manage to hook up with these guys doesn’t mean they’re gay. It just means you’re a coercive slut.”
“I did not hook up with Andrew B,” I said. “And sometimes it takes one catalyst like myself to show someone who they really are. Case in point, my cadet?”
“Okay, I give you your cadet. He’s as gay as they come,” Austin conceded. My cadet was a guy that went to the military school in the next town. He was as masculine as they were made, and yet he had a huge crush on me. Nothing more than making out and rubbing down ever happened before he got too squeamish, but it tripped my brothers out that I had managed to seduce a guy that masculine… and ripped.
“Speaking of,” chimed in Austin. “How is your little gay soldier of war?”
“I dunno,” I confessed, my voice evening out into its serious tone. “He hasn’t talked to me this summer.”
“What do you mean, hasn’t talked to you?” Hutch repeated slowly.
“I called him twice and sent him a couple IM’s. I dunno, it’s whatever. I think he went to Europe with his family.” It was a made up excuse for why a guy I’d spent countless nights with the year before had iced me over during the summer. I knew the reason, but I wasn’t ready to come to terms with it.
Instead, I put thoughts about Mike the Keydet aside, decided I’d try one last time now that school was back on. I made a mental note to IM him on Facebook and let him know I was back in town.
“Anyway, haters. I have to shower,” I said. I walked towards the stairs, grabbing a beer on my way.
When I got to my room, I checked my phone and found only a message from Amanda asking what time I was going to the River Houses. I replied about ten, took off my clothes, and hopped into the shower.
I was halfway through getting dressed when there was a knock on my door. I expected it to be Hutch or Roberto, so I said come in. The door didn’t open. I tossed my black v-neck t-shirt onto the bed and walked over to the door.
“I said, come in,” I said, opening the door slowly. Instead of it being one of my pledge brothers, it was Pete standing there with a bottle of Skyy.
“Hi,” he said. “If you’re busy, I’ll wait out here.”
“No,” I said quickly. I turned and walking into the bedroom. “I just have to put a shirt on.” I turned around and noticed Pete looking at me. He seemed awkward, like he didn’t know exactly where to place his eyes, but they’d settled on my torso. I took my time pulling the slim shirt over my head and made sure to lightly caress my stomach on the way down. I did all of this with a smirk.
I had realized while showering that I didn’t want to be too obvious with Peter. My brothers were right. My gaydar wasn’t failsafe. There was a real possibility that Pete was just a flirtatious guy. That didn’t mean he wanted to bone me. I figured, I wouldn’t make any sort of solid move until I was sure. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t tempt him… and that’s exactly what I planned to do.
“Pour us a shot,” I said, breaking the awkwardness. “There’re cups next to the fridge.”
He grabbed two solo cups and poured two baby shots into the bottom.
“Seriously?” I asked, pulling a Tom’s Canvas shoe onto my foot and looking into the cup he’d just handed me. “Are these thimble sized?”
“Uh-uh,” he shook his head. “We’re not going down this road again.”
“Oh, come on,” I replied. “You only get to do orientation week once. Nothing that happens this weekend counts, my friend. Bottoms up.”
I didn’t wait for him to reply. I downed the shot and before I could even wince, I grabbed his bottle and poured another.
Pressuring a British man with a low tolerance to keep up with me drink-for-drink was a bad idea. Huge mistake. By the time I was done getting dressed and doing my hair, Peter was already buzzed. By the time we had played a couple of games of cards and were ready to head to the party, Peter was flat out drunk.
Luckily for him, he was a pretty funny drunk. Everyone kept asking him to say British things, and he was a huge trooper about it. I was getting annoyed for him, especially when a drunk Austin kept saying, “I think that you’re from London… you sound like you’re from London, Gov’na!”
I didn’t realize how drunk any of us were until we got up and piled into a sophomore’s car. He drove us down the three mile trail out of Clifton Hill proper and into the country. There were three different sections to the country that mattered.
First, there were the Log Cabins, north of historic downtown. Those were about five minutes out, and five of them lined a big hill that a property developer had decided to build fully functioning log-cabin style houses on. Cabin 2 (The Shire, because it literally looked like it was coming out of the hill) and Cabin 4 (aptly named Paranormal because it creaked when it got too full) were the only two that could be counted on for parties. I knew the girls that lived in Cabin 5 (or Flag Pole), so it was a good place to pregame.
South of campus were the River Houses and Windy Hill. There were five houses actually on Windy Hill, and they each belonged to one of the big four. Windfall was first, Pumptown was second and then Midway; Center Court was next, and Upwind was last. On the bottom of the hill, where the sober shuttle dropped and picked people up, the Pikes had taken over Downwind. Across the street was Kappa Hill, because only Kappas and KD lived there.
And then there were the River Houses, probably the most party-centric of the three spots. The houses were raised and on stilts in the event that the river ran over, which it never did. Still, the hill leading down to the water made for a perfect bonfire rager setting. The houses were merely numbered and not named. Historically, girls occupied the even numbers and guys occupied the odd numbers, although that had changed this year with Phi Kappa Gam taking over River 4 from Kappa Delta.
It took less than ten minutes to get anywhere in the country, and that night was no different. We all piled out at River 3, made our way around the stilts and down towards the fire.
And that’s when I blacked out.
The mixture of the shots I’d taken with Pete, the shots I’d taken with the guys, and the beers I’d used to chase them all hit me once we got outside. I followed everyone to the keg and got another cup of beer, just to nurse, and then made my rounds around the party.
I realized after a couple of minutes of catching up with my good friend Helen that I had lost Pete. I looked around and didn’t see him anywhere outside.
“I’ll be back!” I shouted at Helen. I walked up the stairs to the landing of River 3. Pete wasn’t out there. I walked past the trashcan punch. Nowhere. I looked inside the house on the dance floor, and there he was dancing to Miley Cyrus and looking like a fool. When he spotted me standing in the doorway, he smiled really wide and motioned me to come in.
I shook my head, and smiled. He waved me over, insistent this time. I stepped into the doorway and made my way around the half dozen sweaty forms that were blocking him from me. When I got onto the dance floor, an arm’s length away from him, he pulled me in, to the beat, and lifted my hands above my head.
I wouldn’t call what he did in my general direction dancing. It was more of a full body gyration. A pelvic led wiggle. He looked like a man possessed… by Miley Cyrus.
“I love this song!” he shouted. I smiled up at him.
“They have Miley Cyrus in England?” I asked.
“You’re an arse,” he replied, slapping me on the back. I lurched forward, another inch into him.
“You like it!”
He didn’t respond. He simply danced… or whatever you’d call it.
I had thought for half a second that he’d called me in to dance with him; that he wanted me close to him for some reason. Everyone knew that everything fun started on the dance floor. If we were going to make out… ever… it’d be then.
And we danced. Close. Really close. He inched further and further into me, at one point connecting our foreheads and smiling down at me. If he had been any closer, he would have felt a hint of boner through my jeans. I can’t lie and say dancing with this guy wasn’t a total turn on, and so I won’t.
And just when I was ready to show him how turned on I was, he turned around and put his arm around a girl. I watched the whole thing as if it was in slow motion. Truthfully, as drunk as I was, part of it did seem to be in slow motion. I watched him pull her in close, close his arms around her waist and dry hump her like someone had told him to.
I suddenly felt really awkward. Why was I reading so much into something that wasn’t there? Why was I letting the littlest sign of attraction send me tailspinning into a full on crush? Why was I allowing myself to be led on like this? Why was I acting like a desperate school girl, excited beyond belief at the thought of someone liking me? It was absurd.
Without saying anything, I stumbled out of River 3 and back onto the deck. I ran into Helen, who had made her way back up to the porch with her boyfriend Matt. They were talking around the trash can punch, and I said ‘hi’, reached in, and filled my glass.
“There you are! Where’d you go?” Helen asked.
“I was looking for someone.”
“Find him?” she asked knowingly. I shook my head. “Who were you looking for?”
She was probably just curious who the guy of the week was.
“The British exchange student. Have you met him?”
“I’ve heard he’s super cute,” Helen said with smile. “I’ve heard all of the imports are cute this year.”
“From who?” I shouted over the music and chatter. I didn’t want to sound possessive to Helen, but who else had he hung out with that would know her?
“I dunno,” she said. “The exchange students came up at lunch today. There’s a gorgeous German one, too.”
I saw Matt shoot her a look. She instinctively patted him down like a puppy with an actual pat to the stomach.
I didn’t care about a German one.
“Yeah, I guess he is pretty cute,” I told Helen. “The exchange rate from pounds to dollars was in our favor this year…”
“Are you into that?” she asked. She knew me, and she knew I was.
“I mean, I guess, kind of. I’m not sure what his orientation is, though,” I confessed. “I don’t want to make a move until I know if he’s straight or gay.”
“Honey, he’s European. They’re all a little bit gay.”
And that was my answer. They were all a little gay. He wasn’t being affectionate or flirtatious towards me; he was merely being English. It’s what they did. It was their culture. I’m sure the girl in there that he was dancing it up with meant nothing to him. He was just a flirt on a mission, and I’d gotten myself caught in the crossfire.
“You should hang out with my friend Marcus sometime,” she said. Matt nodded. I knew Marcus as one of Matt’s best friends and a fellow Pike. The two of them were usually inseparable, and had just moved to a house far west of campus. I happened to know that Marcus was slowly coming out to his close friends, and therefore I wasn’t surprised at Helen’s sudden interest in getting us to hang out.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Maybe I’ll come out to Candy Mountain sometime soon.”
“You’re always welcome, buddy,” Matt chimed in, wiping just under his nose for the fortieth time.
I talked to Helen a little more, intensifying my buzz with actual grain alcohol and returning to a state of black out. I went back and forth in my mind about whether I should give up on Pete entirely or just take things slower, less aggressive… less despy dater.
At a little after one, when Helen and Matt headed inside to go upstairs, I headed inside to find my posse. I saw Hutch in the corner of the house’s kitchen doing a gin bucket shot out of a turkey baster with a girl I didn’t recognize—she had to have been a freshman. I walked over.
“Ready to go?” he looked at the child. She nodded with a smile. “Where is everyone?”
“Outside I think. Front door!”
I walked out the front door and stepped out onto level ground. The house was only stilted in the back. Austin and Roberto were talking awkwardly to a couple friends of mine from the Gala committee.
“Speak of the devil,” one girl said. I couldn’t remember her name at the moment, but I knew I knew her well. “We need to go to lunch and recap summers.”
“Of course,” I slurred. “Tell me when.”
“How drunk are you dude?” Roberto asked. I picked the wrong moment to sort of fall into him.
“Not that drunk,” I lied. “I’m ready to go back. Are y’all going back?”
Roberto looked at Austin.
“Yeah, I’m game to go home.”
“Let me find Pete, and I’ll meet y’all out here,” I slurred. I whipped around and went back into the house. I looked around for Pete thinking that I’d last seen him on the dance floor. The floor was emptying out as most people had coupled off and were putting the last moves on before they went home. I scanned the room… no Pete.
I walked out onto the landing… no Pete.
I scanned the bonfire… no Pete.
I walked back into the house, thinking that if I didn’t see him, I’d just head out with Roberto and Austin.
“Who are you looking for?” Hutch asked, spotting me. His freshman was in step right behind him.
“The Brit!” I shouted over the music. Hutch pointed to a corner of the room I hadn’t assessed the first time. I looked, turned away, and then looked again to make sure I was seeing what I’d seen.
Standing in the corner of the room, in full on public make out, were Pete and a girl I recognized from the Gala committee.
“Who is that?” the freshman girl asked me. I stepped closer, just to make sure my blackout mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. It was him alright. With McKenzie Sutton. Right in front of me.
My first emotion was straight up rage. I was pissed off. I was angry. I had brought him here. I had gotten him drunk. I had loosened him up to the point where McKenzie ‘Slutton’ could take full advantage. Fuck her. And fuck him too! How dare he lead me on and then end up in the corner with some Chi Omega whore.
Immediately following rage was my practiced brand of indifference. I turned to Hutch, determined not to appear affected by what I’d seen. Why should I? Pete was a big boy. He was exercising his rights as an adult to engage with other adults on a dance floor. How could I deny him that? And why should it bother me?
“Let’s go,” Hutch said, pulling me towards the door. I pursed my lips, embarrassed, and swallowed hard.
Instead of cowering and showing my embarrassment, I cracked a joke when I got outside, another when we got into the student shuttle, and led the singing of “Sweet Home Alabama” by a bus full of drunk college kids. I was determined to finish off my night strong, regardless of what the Brit was doing with McKenzie ‘Slutton’ back at River 3. No one who saw me on the ride home had any clue how embarrassed and jilted I felt.
When we got back to the house, Hutch immediately went into his room with who I later learned was Haley Jepson, some girl that was interested in being an English major… at least for the night.
Austin and Roberto tried to get me to hang out in Austin’s room for a while, but I was tired. Physically and emotionally tired. So I made up an excuse, went to my room, laid my head down and closed my eyes.
But I couldn’t sleep. I kept playing the scene over and over in my head. Who did that? Who danced with a guy one second and then made out with a girl, the next? It was baffling. Confusing. It only made the ambiguity of The Brit’s sexuality that much worse.
I didn’t want to lose sleep over it, but I did, and I couldn’t help it.
While trying not to listen to the thump of a bed hitting a wall in the room next to mine, I laid in bed and decided that this year wouldn’t be dictated by this one English guy. No more time would be spent pining over a boy named Pete, especially when there were a million other boys at Old Dominion worth pining over.
And then it happened.
My phone vibrated. At two in the morning.
To Corbin: Hey. Are you home? I just got off the shuttle.
I told myself not to respond. Let him think I was asleep. Fuck, let him think I was dead for all I cared. He’d made out with his whore. He couldn’t have his slutty cake and come talk to me too.
To Pete: I’m in bed.
To Corbin: Can I come up?
I was weak. I could have said no. I could have told him not to bother. I could have told him to shove off, but I didn’t.
To Pete: Sure.
With that, I put my phone down, rolled out of my bed, and put on a pair of pants. Less than five minutes later, Peter stumbled in.
I feel like the ride home had sobered me up enough to realize that Pete was still pretty drunk.
“Where’d you go?” he slurred loudly. He sat down on the edge of my bed, and I sat down on my couch, turning my back to face him.
“I clearly came home,” I replied.
“Clearly,” he said. He looked at me intensely. I waited for him to say something. He’s the one that wanted to come up. He’s the one that could start the conversation.
“Did you want something?” I asked him finally.
“No,” he said. “I just wanted to talk. Did you have a good night?”
“I did. I caught up with my friend Helen and her boyfriend Matt.”
“Everyone knows you at this place,” he said. “It was hard to keep up.”
‘Is that why you made out with McKenzie ‘Slutton’? I wanted to ask.
“Did you have fun?” I countered instead.
“Yeah, I guess,” he replied. “The country is pretty overwhelming, I must say.”
“It can be. You should have stuck with me…” I could feel the word vomit approaching the surface. I caught it as I was on the verge of saying something stupid.
“I should have. You’re a good dancer.” I shook my head slowly and cracked a smile. I watched Pete raise his hands and croak the words to See You Again.
“You and Miley,” I laughed.
“I should walk home,” he said. “I just wanted to come up and make sure you weren’t upset with me.”
“Why would I be upset?” I stonewalled. Here it was. Here was the word vomit, boiling just below the surface.
“I don’t know…”
“Because you made out with McKenzie Sutton?” I asked, spewing word bile all over my room. It hit him like a volcanic eruption, and I wished I could have taken it back. There was no reason to bring her up. None whatsoever, and yet there I was… bringing her up, like a jealous little twat. I’d overreached and I knew it.
I could have played the McKenzie Sutton thing so coolly. I could have let it go, giving no indication that I’d seen or even cared what he did. But I didn’t. I laid my cards out on the table like a bad poker player, and he read them… and won.
“It’s just I went out with you, and then I disappeared, and…”
“Look, it’s not an issue. We went out to the country together, but not together… you know?” He nodded. “All that matters is that you had fun. And I’m guessing that you did.”
My words had unmistakable subtext.
“Not really,” he said. “That girl was sort of aggressive. I didn’t even realize she was kissing me until I stopped it.”
He stood up and made to leave. Halfway across my room, he stumbled over his own feet.
“You want me to walk you back?” I asked out of reflex. I was still marginally upset, but the fact that he didn’t quite enjoy kissing the Slutton made me feel better. Maybe he didn’t enjoy it because she was a bad kisser… or maybe he didn’t enjoy it because she didn’t have a penis. Either way, what I’d thought was hopeless an hour ago was back to having a glimmer of hope.
“Maybe you should,” he smiled at me. I put on a shirt and a pair of flip-flops. As we walked out of the house, I told myself that I was easy… stupid. I was playing myself emotionally on an English fiddle and I had no one to blame but myself.
And as I was reminding myself of how stupid I was to bounce back into him, torturing myself, he threw me another morsel… another bone. Another English tease.
We got to his door and he clicked on the light in his common room. Adam’s door was open and his light was off. I watched Pete look inside.
“You want to come in?” he asked, throwing me just enough bait. “Adam’s not here, I guess.”
I told myself I didn’t want to go in. I told myself I shouldn’t go in. I used up every ounce of willpower in my body to stay at the threshold. But willpower doesn’t work that way.
“Sure,” I said, my voice dripping with sexuality. I knew what an invite inside at three o’clock in the morning implied… I’d given that invite a million times before.
I followed Pete into his room, leaving my willpower and dignity in the hallway, where they would both stay until morning…
Hey folks! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this story! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Let me know what you think! Comments and questions are always welcome and encouraged.
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