In my apartment, the clock reads seven-thirty. The television is on, but I can't hear it over a Pixies album. Or maybe it's Pavement. I can't really tell. Distorted guitar chords are muffling the sound of a basketball game or SportsCenter or something, filling my small apartment with a soft, busy white noise. In my bathroom, I'm toweling myself off with one hand, and holding a Corona with the other. I wrap the towel around my waist and walk into my room, where my cell phone is blinking. I toss it aside without reading the text messages I received while i was in the shower. My room is mostly tidy; the clothes I was wearing earlier today are in a small heap on the floor, but for the most part everything is in order. The waning daylight filters through the half-closed blinds over my window, and the sunlight throws a series of imposing vertical shadows over the carpet of my room, which is an unfortunately drab shade of brown. Hm. I pull on a nice pair of jeans from my dresser, and walk down the hallway to the kitchen. My place, a smallish one-bedroom, is located in a pretty nice part of town, in a complex inhabited by for the most part by a population of apartment-dwellers somewhere between the regular assemblage of shitty old people and irritating college students. Nobody ever really gets that noisy, and nobody ever really complains if I get noisy. It's nice. My kitchen, like my room, is mostly tidy. There are a few unwashed dishes in the sink, but things never really get out of hand. I grab a pot and start making myself some pasta, simultaneously responding to the more important text messages I got while showering, giving out selected details about tonight's goings-on. Some of these details are accurate; some are intentionally vague. Elliot wants to know what time I'm picking him up, so I tell him we're taking a cab from my house. Whitney wants to know which bar we're planning to meet at, so I tell her we're going downtown, and nothing more specific. Pat wants to know whether or not Cassandra will be there. I tell him she will be there, but I will not. Amy wants to know what's going on tonight, and can she get a ride with me. Her text goes unanswered.

The water begins to bubble, so I snap a handful of angel hair pasta in half and put it in. While I watch the water churn and boil around the frail, uncooked noodles, I consider the approaching evening. I consider exactly what is going to happen, and I consider the fact that my certainty regarding the chronology and specifications of what is going to happen is sort of depressing. I consider the fact that we're going to start out at a bar, maybe District 12 or Hooligans. Once we're significantly buzzed, we'll split up our modest group for a little while, only to reconvene at someone's apartment, where enough relatively inexpensive beer will be consumed to make us all appreciably intoxicated. Weed will be smoked, girls will probably be fucked, and then everybody will fall asleep somewhere. Standard issue Friday night.

 

The clock reads eight forty-five, and somebody knocks on my door. I pause at the sink, where I'm washing the dishes from my dinner, long enough to stare at the door, knowing who's on the other side and hoping that maybe she'll go away if I don't answer. I stand quietly, thinking that maybe she han't heard the water running in front of me. I set my dish down gingerly, so as not to make a sound, and I move very, very softly to the television, where I turn down the volume little by little, hoping the adjustment isn't noticeable. I hear knuckles on the other side of the door again. I curse under my breath, but still don't say anything. I count, but only get to about fourteen.

"Open the door, Benjamin."

Shit.

"Ben, you dick."

"Hey! Sorry, I was in the bathroom. I'll be right there." I run down the hall loudly, so that it sounds like I'm hurriedly coming to greet her at the door. I rustle some things around noisily in the living room, so that it sounds like I'm tidying up. I put on the face that looks like I give a flying fuck that she's come to see me. And early, no less. I'm going to see her later tonight anyway; why the hell does she find it necessary to come to my house now? It's alone time. I think quickly about whether or not I can make up a story that would be convincing enough to make her leave, but she would either know I'm lying or stay anyway. I click the lock back and pull open the door. Cassandra is standing just a few inches off the welcome mat, in nice-looking jeans (I can't see the back pockets, as she's facing me) and a fairly plain, but very suiting V-neck tee. Her hair is pulled back on her head in a high ponytail, and her skin looks healthy and young. I really wish she would go away. Without saying anything, I pivot back on my right foot and sweep my let arm out to my side, welcoming her. She walks in, but doesn't pass me. Instead, she plants both hands right above my waistline, comes up on her tip-toes a little bit, and kisses me on the mouth. Her breasts are pressed against my chest. She's doing that on purpose.

She pulls back. "You look nice."

"Danke schön."

"What?"

"Nothing." Sigh. "So what's up? To what do I owe the unexpected pleasure of your presence at my apartment? Not only is it actually daylight out, but your clothes are still on."

"Hilarious. I just got off work a little early, and thought maybe we could go to the bar together."

How interesting! That's exactly the opposite of what I would have liked. In fact, if there's anything I want, It's to hook up with someone new tonight. Or maybe even just to meet someone new. To talk with someone new...maybe someone who actually has something to say, for once. Hell, actually talking with anyone would be a welcome reprieve from the usual bullshit our Friday nights generally involve. Talking with someone would imply that there would be an exchange of ideas with some sort of intelligence, or relevance, or something other than what CDs I bought recently or what movies I've seen. Jesus, that would be nice. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I don't actually need to talk to someone, quite so much as I just want to speak with someone.

But now, my thoughts are rudely interrupted. Cassie's lips are on my lips again, and her hands are on my hips, and we're stumbling into my room, and my shirt is off, and we're having sex, and none of this is really what I want at all. I'm moving, and she's moving, and we're moving, and we're sweating, and we're breathing, and my skin is grinding, and her skin feels like paper under my fingertips. The friction is just too much here.

 

My watch says that it's eleven thirty at night. I've spent the last hour and a half drinking and drinking and drinking. Cassandra's spent the last hour and a half talking and talking and talking. Right next to me. The whole time. Everyone's having a great time, and it's nice to see most of my friends, but I really just wish Cassandra would go away. Or just shut up. Or both. Both would be nice. But instead of any of those things happening, Cassie stays at my side, jabbering in my ear, kissing my cheek every once in a while—it's a gesture that I know is supposed to carry with it a degree of affection that just isn't there, and that's what makes it a bit depressing every time it happens.

Finally at twelve fifteen, Cassandra goes to the bathroom. I glance around, looking for a group of people in which to bury myself. I don't want to leave, but I sure as hell don't want to stay where I am. Behind a fairly sizeable conversation, I see a girl standing at the bar alone. I know I've seen her somewhere before (she's someone's friend or something), but I've definitely never spoken to her. I make my way over quickly, glancing at the door of the ladies' room the whole time. The girl is standing at the bar by herself, and seems to just be surveying the scene in front of her. She's holding a Newcastle, and her cuteness is nearly indescribably. Glasses, ponytail, little jeans, adorable shoes. Oh man.

I ditch my half-full drink on a nearby table and walk up to the bar, where I order a Newcastle and then turn around so my back is to the bar while I wait for my beer. We stand next to each other, surveying the same scene together before I pretend to notice her next to me and say hello. Her name is Madeline. Adorable. She came with my friend Rachel. Already a point in my favor; Rachel loves me. Introductions are less awkward than they usually are, as I point out some obvious fact about the group of people there that evening, attempting to make som initial conversation. We talk. We talk about a lot of things. We talk about movies, we talk about music. We talk about art, we talk about culture. We talk about food, we joke about the Beatles. She's amazing. She's intelligent, and she's funny, and she's engaging, and she's attractive. I'm actually attracted to someone. And what's more, Cassandra has managed to keep her distance for a good hour or so while I've been talking to Madeline. It's a fucking miracle. I've watched Cassandra nervously as she's circulated the bar, talking to all of our friends, somehow leaving me alone almost the entire time. It probably helped that I continuously adjusted my position so that someone was situation directly in between myself and her line of sight at all times. She finally makes her way over to get a beer, and I introduce her to Madeline as "my friend Cassandra." This doesn't seem to bother either of them. Cassandra, after saying hello, however, squeezes my left butt cheek before walking away. God dammit.

Madeline and I talk for another solid hour. The sparks, they're flying. We're laughing, we're drinking, we're touching each other's wrists when making important conversational points, and we're agreeing about almost everything. I buy her a drink. She buys me a drink! I propose to her. She responds in German when I say "danke schön." She knows who Thomas Pynchon is. She's got some semblance of an idea as to what's going on in the political realm. Good god, she's excellent. I get her phone number. We make some plans. We're going to have some dinner.We're going to go out next Wednesday after I get off work. We're going to go to dinner and see a movie, hopefully a little independent flick, where we can look really cute and hold hands and then talk about it over a cup of coffee or hot chocolate or whatever, it won't really matter because oh man she is very great.

I'm drunk. My watch says it's about one forty-five. We've been talking for ages. Friends have come and gone, joined and left the conversation, turning the direction of our discourse in new ways, opening doors and windows in our exchange. New people bring new topics, which bring more out more interesting facts about Madeline. I wonder if we're actually going to go out. I wonder if we're going to have a first date as great as this one conversation. I worry a little bit. I wonder if I'll have a pet name for her, like "Mads." Oh, man. "Mads" would just be the cutest thing ever. I wonder if she would move in. I briefly consider getting married to her, but that's not as exciting as the idea of her moving in with me.

At ten minutes past two, the group begins to dissipate. Everybody is going to someone named Jonas' house. He's a friend of a friend, apparently. I can't really concentrate on anything, and it seems like everybody is sort of running around frantically, grabbing jackets and finishing drinks. Madeline is over there, and now she's over here, and I'm laughing. My balance is kind of shitty, which is weird because normally I possess a superior degree of agility. Madeline comes up to me and says that she'll see me back at the apartment. I put my arms around her neck, and kiss her directly on the mouth. She kisses me back, but pull back quickly enough to let me know where we stand. We're not having sex tonight, but she likes me. We both giggle a little, and make out way towards the door. She kisses me on the cheek when we're outside. It's nice.

Madeline goes to join her little group of friends and I start looking for a cab. Out of nowhere, Cassandra shows up.

"Heyyyyyy!" Her greeting lasts a lot longer than it should.

Apparently she's there to get a taxi with me. Just because we cane together doesn't mean we have to leave together, but she doesn't really seem to understand that. Whatever, it's not that big of a deal. She's looking extremely hot, anyway. She kisses me and I kiss her back. My face is pressed against hers, and all of a sudden I remember Madeline. I pull back suddenly, turn my head, and start scanning the small crowd, looking for her and hoping that she didn't see anything. I glance around frantically, and can hear Cassandra catching a cab behind me. I spot Madeline, who doesn't appear to have seen me kissing Cassie. She sees me, and not a moment too soon. I get a little wave, and wave back as Cassandra grabs my wrist and starts to pull me into the cab she's caught. I look down to see where I'm going, and when I look back Madeline looks a little confused. I smile and wave, showing that I'm not worried that she sees me getting into a cab with Cassie, because we're just friends and I don't really like her that much anyway. I yell that I'll see her there, and Madeline smiles.

Cassandra and I fool around a little bit on the way to the apartment.

It's three thirty in the morning, and I'm sitting on a couch talking to Madeline. I have no fucking idea what we're talking about, but whatever it is it's the funniest thing in the entire world. Everything is swimming. Weed has been passed around, and a lot more beer has been consumed by everyone. I feel fucking great. Madeline is tossing her head back and laughing in front of me. Oh man, she's adorable. I want to kiss her, but I know I don't just want to hook up with her. I want to take her out, talk to her, get to know her. Maybe I even want to fall in love with her. She gets up to get a beer. I sit, smiling foolishly to myself, looking at everyone around me.

Madeline sits back down in front of me, but her breasts are bigger and on prominent display now, and it's not Madeline; it's Cassandra. Cassandra kisses me, hard and on the mouth. I'm kissing her back. She takes me by the wrist, and leads me to the bathroom. We're kissing and we're touching. My shirt is off and her shirt is off. My hips are pressed against hers and my hand is on the doorknob, but my fingers are too clumsy to turn the lock.

The door opens, and Madeline is standing there. Cassandra's breasts are pressed against my chest, and my lips are pressed against her neck. Madeline just sort of stands there, looking at us. Her mouth opens a little bit, and she seems to say a very quiet, "Oh." She looks away, closes the door, and leaves.

I push Cassandra off me and put my clothes back on, but it takes me an hour and a half because I'm completely fucking beside myself. Cassandra asks me where I'm going and I tell her to shut up. I leave the bathroom and make a frenzied lap around the apartment, searching for Madeline. I look in rooms, interrupt conversations, and ask people I've never met before where Madeline is. She's gone.

I sit down in a chair. Cassandra walks up and grabs me by the wrist. She leads me out of the apartment. We get into a cab. She touches me while we're in the cab. We get to my place. She touches me more and we have sex.

I'm lying in the dark. There are weird shapes in front of my face, and there is a stupid girl in my bed next to me.

I look to my left and see the book sitting on my bedside table. Thomas Pynchon.

I cry a little bit.

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