Page 93

I pause before asking, "What hat?"

"You know which one."

He hangs up.


"You have potential," Jamie said.

We were lounging in a Camden flashback in the commons, splitting a Molson, our sunglasses on, our eyes glazed over, a peeled orange sitting untouched between us on a table, and we'd already read our horoscopes and I was wearing a T-shirt that read IF YOU'RE NOT WASTED THE DAY is and waiting for my laundry to dry and she was alternating between playing with a pencil and smelling a Thai orchid a secret admirer had sent her and heavy-metal pop-Whitesnake or Glass Tiger-was playing from somewhere we couldn't figure out and it was driving us nuts and her dealer wasn't coming up until next Tuesday so we were fairly unresponsive toward certain events and in the sky things were getting dark.

We were lounging in the commons and we'd been talking about how shallow everyone was, ticking off the affairs we'd had with all these shallow people, and then Jamie saw someone she hated or she'd f**ked (they usually existed in the same realm) and she leaned in and kissed me even before I could say "What's the story?" The guy, Mitchell, passed by. It wasn't enough that she and I had been screwing each other for the last two weeks or so; she needed people to know that we had.

"Man, did I get torqued last night," I yawned, stretching. "Totally excellent," she said.

"Get a haircut," I muttered to someone with a ponytail shuffling by, and Jamie eyed a maintenance worker trimming a rosebush and licked her lips naughtily.

She had long fingernails always painted with white polish and liked starting sentences with the words "Contrary to popular opinion..." She hated baseball caps on men but would wear one if she thought her hair looked bad or if she was too hungover to wash it. Her other pet peeves about men ranged along the predictable lines of: fake rap talk, urine or se**n stains on jockey shorts (a type of underwear she abhorred), razor stubble, giving hickeys, carrying books around ("Camden isn't Yale for god's sake," she'd moan). Condoms didn't necessarily mean anything to her but she knew every guy on campus who had herpes (through some kind of deal with a lesbian nurse in Health Services who was in love with her), so it was all moot. Shakespeare "irritated" her.

I would tell her "I'm not looking for a serious relationship" and she would stare back at me like I was insane, as if I wasn't capable of one in the first place. I would tell her "Your roommate's really pretty," before moving on to long monologues about ex-girlfriends, every cheerleader I ever f**ked, a cousin I fingerbanged at a party in Virginia Beach, or I'd brag about how much money my family had and I always inflated the amount because sometimes this was the only way to get her attention, even though she knew who my dad was, having seen him on CNN. She forgave me for a lot of flaws because I was "simply too goodlooking."

At first she was so inexpressive and indifferent that I wanted to know more about her. I envied that blankness-it was the opposite of helplessness or damage or craving or suffering or shame. But she was never really happy and already, in a matter of days, she had reached a stage in our relationship when she no longer really cared about me or any thoughts or ideas I might have had. I'd try and f**k her into some kind of conciousness, desperate to make her come, and I'd f**k her so hard that she'd be drenched with sweat and red-faced and yelling out, the two of us on the mattress on the floor next to piles of books she'd stolen from the library and a couple of  p**n o magazines I bought that we both whacked off over and her accountant was always calling or her therapist was always calling or her cousin lost in Ibiza was always calling and we'd have sad conversations about how much she hated her mother and wished she was dead like my mother was but I listened "intently" and took it easy on Jamie since I knew her first boyfriend died in a car accident coming back from cheating on her at a ski lodge in Brattleboro. "But he was so weird I really don't even want to talk about it," she'd finally say after an hour, after seventy minutes, sometimes eighty.

A limousine rolled up next to one of the dorms and a group of freshmen were sunning themselves beneath a darkening sky on a mattress pulled out from Booth House, which bordered the commons. A keg was being tapped and people drifted toward it and the wind tossing leaves around the lawn made Jamie and me look at how leafless the trees were. MTV was on the large-screen television set that hung above the fireplace and a VJ introduced a video but the sound was off and then there was static and people were really just hanging out, waiting for lunch, for another class to begin. Someone sat down next to us and started taping our conversation and someone else was explaining to someone behind me how a camcorder worked. Jamie was gazing at the giant NO PHOTOGRAPHY poster pinned on an unnecessary column in the middle of the room and I had just noticed a naked mannequin lying on its side that someone had discarded on the stairs leading tip to the dining halls.

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