Clips of Dissonance
I wasn’t sure if it kicked in on the walk over. It was too cold to tell. I was used to not feeling much of anything. The drugs weren’t the only thing that could be held responsible for that. There were too many elements to consider. Snow sat quietly on the ground; each footprint meant something. On a Saturday night people were going places, despite the fact that the happier ones were lying comfortably on their backs already, starring up at a ceiling, bottles of wine stationed on their cold apartment floors, lit cigarettes in their mouths. I wanted to be one of them. I wished I were the person without a care. I wanted to be comfortably settled in the concept of college romanticism. After all, it was just one step away from the restlessness of life. It was almost reality, with the exception of the occasional call from one’s parents, or a few faded red marks on an essay written late one night, after spending time somewhere else other than a dark bedroom. There were happenings in various places. Unfortunately, I only knew about one.
I stood off to the side of the kitchen, next to Ross, both of us patiently waiting for some sort of distorted view. The alcohol wasn’t doing much of anything, and the blunt we smoked before taking the walk had only briefly sunk in. I couldn’t tell the difference between gradually stoned and completely stoned anymore. There was too much of a tolerance built up in the time since I moved back from Vermont. It was a summer of too many strange parallels. I left to get away from her. My Uncle Jack had a business that required little to no participation from its employees. My cousin Lloyd and I would sit at our neighboring computers, looking up different variations of porn, or playing minesweeper with the utmost accuracy. He didn’t have any connections in that town, and I didn’t feel like searching for them. I didn’t want to look for people who were too much like the ones I already knew, and yet for some strange reason or another I managed to find them. I suppose they stay stationed everywhere.
After work each day, Lloyd spent the majority of his time with his girlfriend, Mary. She was beautiful, but dumb as a rock. Her best friend Penny and I made-out the one night in the basement when Jack and Tricia were passed out upstairs. We had been drinking burgundy and talking about Bob Dylan. It didn’t really go anywhere else after that, which I was completely fine with. I didn’t need to focus on the idea of getting wrapped up in all that Penny was. I still couldn’t quite drown out the thoughts of Amelia. She somehow managed to become an intricate part of my summer, despite the fact that I didn’t see her, that I decided to run away from her, and position myself around those who I felt like I needed to reconnect with. It didn’t quite work out that way, though.
I became more distanced by the end of July. They were too used to me at that point. I would hide in my new bedroom, like it was the old one. My aunt would call me down for dinner like my mother. I spent too much time in bars. They knew my name. I would know stories about them as well. She had fucked the majority of the guys there. Stay away from that one. If you play him at anything, let the Wookie win. I met a girl named Emily who laughed exactly like Amelia. Maybe they were all the same. She lived with her parents, worked at the Movie Theater, was nineteen with a fake ID and a serious dependence on alcohol.
When the two of us had sex, it was like that scene in the movie where she whispered to be quiet, to not moan at all, her parents were one very thin wall over. I told her not to worry about it. I saw no chance of me giving her an orgasm that night anyway. Before I fell asleep, I looked at the picture of James Dean on her wall. It was black and white, and felt far too iconic. I wished I were dead already.
It continued in a similar fashion until people started talking about it getting colder and darker out. I had to return. There was one more year of requirements and thoughts of weekend plans filtering into the week. I thought I would be completely different, coming back with stories to tell and new philosophies to preach. Instead, I was predominately the same. I fell back into stupidity that first week with Ross. We were out and about, looking for whatever temporary solution there was. Maggie managed to steal enough sustenance from her mother’s liquor cabinet to sustain us for several hours. We let the time pass on large hills, or spacious fields. I got drunk and jumped into the lake naked. The moon was the perfect beacon above us. I laughed and managed to cry a little bit at the same time. I hated every aspect of my own catharsis. I didn’t like coming to realizations about anything, and Amelia should have known that by then. She should have known that inviting me to a party would be a bad idea, that I would have to get beyond fucked-up in order to even attempt to handle it all.
I vaguely listened as Ross talked to Cherie about the class they had together. It was some sort of upper-level math course. Ross always somehow managed to understand numbers. It just clicked with him, despite all the narcotics. I sighed a little to myself before deciding that I was in no kind of mood to pretend like I cared to listen. I stepped past some unfamiliar faces. Most of them were friends made that year. She was good at it, or at least good at faking like there was a connection. She could spend time with anybody, and yet just as easily talk copious amounts of shit about them later if somebody else brought it up. She was far too normal, I suppose. I mean, the more I thought about it, the more it required me to take a much larger leap, just to even think about her in the same way.
It had changed dramatically since the previous year. While Vermont only offered a different nightlife, there was still the underlying sense that both of us were different people. I had just about given up on her, and yet she required my presence at social events, like it was some sort of manifestation of the charitable qualities both of us knew she lacked. I suppose I would have just bitched about it if I hadn’t been invited. I thought about not going more and more with each day that week, and almost decided not to. Luckily, Ross had connections. We each bought a full cut and ate them without regret the second before walking out the door.
I leaned against the wall leading into the living room. My brown jacket sat quietly on the floor next to a girl with red streaks in her brown hair. She was another new face. Silently beautiful, and yet somehow undeniably superficial. Her outfit screamed slut, while her subtle smile brought back memories of girl-next-door types from high school. I suppose we all became something new once we were done walking in straight sequential lines and filling out book slips.
I tried not to look like I was glancing over at Amelia as she laughed in the corner. She was drinking cheap pounders of beer, and wearing her “I’m so glad to be here right now” expression. He shot a bullet of a glance back at me, as I was sure that there wasn’t a doubt in either of our heads that both of us, despite the fact that we hadn’t conversed in any kind of way, already knew far too much about one another. I looked down at the carpet, as my vision began to blur and refocus at different levels. As the trip began all I could think about clearly and concisely was one pure and truly idealistic thought. I hated her new boyfriend.
A barrage of new bodies filtered in through the front door. I knew all of them. They were friends from back home, arriving at the worst of possible times. Rex and Will carried a case each, walking into the kitchen and attempting to look for room in the fridge. There wouldn’t be any. My bottles were keeping condiments company on the side of the door. Katie and Donna lingered in closely behind them. Everyone was fashionably bundled in snow gear, and yet coming in out of the cold didn’t necessarily offer with it any warmer faces or less than blurry outlooks. I followed the new group in and looked over at Ross. Cherie had wandered into one of the bedrooms, the black light managing to just peak out the half open door.
I walked back over next to him, trying to hide what we both knew was happening. His eyes were bigger than everyone else’s. I set my bottle down on the kitchen table. I wouldn’t need it anymore. Alcohol only offered so many possibilities for living life. Getting drunk meant passing out or possibly sex with the wrong person. I had become sick and tired of all regularly accepted actions. I suppose I was attempting to defy some sort of norm that night, and yet nothing was normal. When she asked if she could bring Calvin over to my house for the party the week before, I very elegantly told her no, that there would be no way come hell or high water that I would be able to handle the idea of her and her boyfriend participating in similar actions right in front of me. I would rather drink alone in my room or drive home and visit my mother. These were all exaggerations, but for some reason or another, with Amelia it was the only way to get the point across.
I had to be bold with her. I had to say what was happening, and I didn’t care if she felt somehow out of place by it. That was a normal feeling as far as I was concerned. I feel out of place everywhere. She hadn’t said two words to me since we walked in. I wasn’t ready to be introduced to him. I already knew too much. Opinions would be circumstantial evidence. I had already made up my mind on the case.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Uh… Pretty good, I guess. They kick in for you yet?”
“I think so. Halfway through that conversation with Cherie I started to focus solely on each individual word she was saying, as if each one somehow managed to mean something else.”
“What, like she was subtly dropping hints about wanting to sleep with you or something?”
“Yeah, or maybe it was about the meaning of life. I don’t know. You ever feel like you never really listen to anybody, and even when you do, you’re minds spinning somewhere else?”
“Yeah, all the time man.”
“Well, I think my mind just officially started spinning at double-time Jim.”
“Mine too.” It started to become overload as more of them filtered in. We talked to Rex and Will about life back home. Nothing much had changed, and obviously nothing was going on, as they had to drive an hour and a half away for a party that night. We discussed all the normal endeavors, as each thing became shaded by new appeals and then foreshadowed by older realities that would set in. She didn’t walk into the kitchen much, and I had no sense of time. He would grab her alcohol, and the two of them would drink together in unison.
I felt as if I was looking through the walls completely and seeing the same things I had seen previously happen over and over again. Part of me wanted to start conversations with some of the new ones. If things had stayed the same I would have been just as much an intricate part of their lives as they would be of hers, and yet I felt like the person who everyone was waiting to freak out at the party. I was getting there as the front door continued to open. It was encasing us all in our shells. Marijuana dust clouds crawled out of neighboring bedrooms. Chapstick and lip-gloss was put on in plain view as each person waited for eyes to meet and things to be left unsaid.
I talked nonsense with Katie for awhile. She could tell what both of us were on, and yet didn’t at all disregard my thoughts as mere rants brought on by substances of deep personal conflict. She understood. Mostly everyone did. We leaned against the small white walls in the hallway and tried not to focus on other occurrences in neighboring rooms. People started to become louder and louder. Volumes of volume became massive and voices became distant. I could still hear her having a good time from Carey’s room. Rex smoked us all up, which didn’t help my disposition in the least bit. Instead, I could feel my eyes watering over onto my jeans. My bladder was full of mixtures that only prolonged realizations.
I stepped into the bathroom after the girl with streaks. She smiled at me before walking back to the party. I saw her quickly escape out the front door with a pack of cigarettes. I stepped in and hit the wrong switch. The fan turned on, and I left it to linger. I was tired of hearing all of them. Their conversations were loud and repetitive, and no one was managing to function on a similar level. It wasn’t just the drugs. It was the environment. The fan shut them all up. I could just hear myself humming along to The Stooges, coming from Amelia’s bedroom. She wasn’t there of course. She had become far too social. I missed the dark blue nights where nothing was going on for either of us. I would be personal and say almost every thought. She would often drift to other outlets, looking for things said on blogs or comments posted late when everyone was drunk, starring at screens and thinking about false promises.
Sometimes we would walk around and watch the drunks. They offered better entertainment. We were usually high, and breathing in for once. I was tired of exhaling skeptical false opinions on everything. When we were all fucked up together, it felt better, and yet I liked slouching on her couch, my eyes fluctuating to different facets of the wall, just as much as walking. With Amelia it was everything that made it somehow better, and as I looked into the scratched mirror, the only thing I could think about was how I missed reminding myself of possibilities with her. I would always manage to build it up too much, to put the pieces back together again properly, but with the occasional hole here and there. She would only see it my way once I left, and at that point there was no reason to do any of the same things.
I turned the light and fan off as I stepped back into the hallway. It felt beyond empty all of a sudden as Calvin stood, silently waiting. I slowly nodded my head as I walked past him. I hoped that that was it, that we wouldn’t have to get into it. My head wasn’t level. The carpet seemed to be deeper than it was, as if there was some huge gaping black hole or vortex sucking in all the bullshit that was pulsating off of everyone and everything. He shouldn’t have said anything. He should have known better.
“So do I even fucking know you man?”
“Do I know you?”
“I’m Jim. I’m a friend of Amelia and Carey.”
“Oh, well she’s never mentioned you before.”
“Well, whatever. She’s never mentioned you before either.” That was the truth. In the brief shreds of conversations we had had since school started, passing each other in-between classes and the occasional run-in at parties hosted by mutual friends she hadn’t once said anything about the illustrious dud that was Calvin. She didn’t ever come close to making him seem like anything other than less than interesting. I shuddered to think what she said about me, if she did at all. He goes through rough patches all the time, and does copious amounts of drugs to try and cope with the repercussions of seeing and not seeing me everyday. It would never be that clean cut with us. There were bigger amounts of bullshit and falsehoods still lingering. Conversations left unfinished and those never started because dense looks sometimes said it all. We were just bad at knowing each other.
“Well, I’m her boyfriend. I find that hard to believe.”
“Whatever. I saw some cute girl walk outside; so I think I’m gonna go talk to her. If you wanna stay here and continue with that look, go ahead. I could care less.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Fucking Christ man. It’s just so simple. I don’t know why it’s like this, when it’s just so simple. Everything is simple and clear and there for a reason.” I could feel my brain opening too many hotel doors in the hallway, and checking each room for a different scene. There were couples dancing together, so pleased with the idea of being somehow fresh and new. Others were having sex in varying positions, or talking about how it didn’t lead up to expectations afterwards. Honeymooners made love in the sweets, as lonely martyrs wrote their last words before stepping out into the highway, trying to save what little face they had left. Fathers flipped through channels, while mothers got the kids ready for another adventure. Sons listened to their headphones at he highest level possible to attempt to drown out what others in the encased room were saying. Daughters stood on the back, watching their new loves run off towards the beach with images that reminded them too much of how incredibly distant everything seemed sometimes.
“I’m gonna go pee.” I had been waiting for that response the second I hit the switch. I didn’t need his interrogations, not then or ever. Will spilled beer on the tile floor, as I accidentally bumped him on my way towards the front. He said some backhanded comment about my weakened cerebral condition, before letting me go. It was something I forgot the next morning, that along with several previous conversations and looks that could have possibly meant something if I had only taken the time to think about them.
I stepped outside and instantly felt better. The cold gave off a new version of life, as with each breath I could see inside thoughts drifting off into the blackness. She stood, leaning on the snow-covered porch. Her cigarette was almost gone. Nobody was around, and I didn’t smoke. I would come up with some sort of explanation, something that couldn’t be repeated by others later, on big screens, looking for answers. I met a girl once who seemed incredible until I realized that all her best lines were from a movie I hadn’t seen yet. I only had sex with her after I watched it the whole way through. I had a better sense of who she was after that. Her insecurities offered all the right ways to pierce her walls of perception.
We would lie in bed together and wait for our favorite shows to start. We didn’t officially call it anything, and she transferred the next semester. I didn’t really miss her, just the idea of knowing somebody well enough to not ask them about anything else other than their day-to-day excursions. I never met her parents or family. My mother had no idea she even existed. It ended perfectly.