Parts of me were sinewy. It doesn’t seem like it took much effort, when I remember it, but when I remember it deeper, it took quite a lot of work. I was sleeping with one of the three or four campus drug dealers. He was my friend, two years my junior, someone I took beginning and advanced poetry with. I used to dogsit his Irish Setter for free Molly when I still hated doing Molly but by the time we were sleeping together, I loved Molly. And DMT. And opium. And cocaine. Weed was implicit. The previous winter was my advent of dabs, dabvent 2013. Finally, the plant I loved that resisted drug classification required a blowtorch to be heated in its gummier, more concentrated form. I was sleeping with the young drug dealer, a boy who looked like a beautiful lizard, who expressed few emotions but touched me gently. His dog gave me fleas, in the hottest part of August. I let the dog sleep in the bed with me; its hair sleeker than mine, a perfect stream on the pillow. Once, the dealer threw a beer bottle from the front yard of his fraternity. Delt. We had been making out. I was wearing a child’s Barbie sweater. The bottle bounced on the grass, refused to shatter. I came once with him, the last time we had sex. Another time, I wandered slowly down the Delt House staircase, a steep old antebellum staircase. I was fully naked, and rolling on Molly. In fact, we’d just fucked without a condom for the first time. He had me pinky promise that it was ok. He pulled out at just the right time. He had a bedspread with the cosmos screen printed on it. We had tried to fuck in the bathroom on the first floor. I was wearing a vintage Dior chapeaux hat and H&M white denim short-alls with pink flowers on them. And borrowed pink platforms. We couldn’t get the angles right, against the bathroom wall. It was in my ass for a brief moment. I squirmed too much. We went up the stairs, holding hands, jaws fixed into blind smiles. XXYYXX was always playing, the video where smoke emanates out of fox masks and it seems artsy enough but not inaccessible for the time.
He fed me ecstasy on the first night we had sex. The possibility of it had been lingering in the air for a few weeks. Canary yellow European ecstasy, shipped to the Student Post Office, along with a bongo drum, as if this would downplay suspicion and not ramp it up. We ate the ecstasy and we were at my house, an old servants’ quarters, named Purple Haze, with mice and a mirror in the hall that somehow watched back. Our friends were with us. They were an established couple. She got sick. I remember turning and seeing her kneeling at the corner of the foundation of the house, but I didn’t hear her wretch. She looked beautiful. I loved her. She was who I imagined Caddy Compson was when I read The Sound and the Fury. I had no right to feel intimately possessive of her, but I did anyway. Our other friend, her partner, bent down to comfort her.
Next, me and the boy walked on, and we walked to the town chapel, just a few blocks away, in this limestone Gothic Revival heaven for young southern heathens and we went in. It was always open. He took me to the locked part, where the bell tower began. He had a copy of a skeleton key he stole from his summer job working the campus. And we climbed the ladders and I was peaking and I knew the sex would be soon. His eyes were so big and his skin stretched over his cheekbones and left just enough space to not look too tight, so young, and all of him just the right amount of wet, amazing for someone who was so constantly on Molly. The bell tower felt draftier than the rest of the church. I didn’t climb the last few rungs. I was wearing slip-on sandals. The whole thing felt so young.
Weeks later, at the tail end of Spring Party Weekend, we would sleep with our other friends, the ones back at my house. An impromptu foursome. Though perhaps not so impromptu, considering. A swirl of smoke and sweating limbs, the sound of glass cracking as my mirror broke. The sensation of getting cocaine sniffed out my ass for not-the-first time. I didn’t ask him if he wanted to join. I grabbed his hand, led him into my room where the other two were making love on my bed. Goodwill sheets with a scrolling wisteria pattern got crunched into the corner, fell off the bed altogether. Her kisses were shorter, but wetter. We looked into each other’s eyes as we were mutually penetrated. The way she tasted, like ocean and smoke. Earlier that day, I wore a red, white, and blue bikini top and a denim skirt. The cool black fraternity kids yelled at me when they saw me crossing the street. It was Spring Party Weekend. I did tequila shots in the middle of the road at ten am. I browned out talking to my friend Jacob’s dad, Randy. My body was with me. I was sunburned so comfortably into my drunk. In the foursome, the men didn’t touch as much as I’d hoped. Some jaunty ass smacks, a couple of high-fives while the two women of us were being topped, side-by-side. The smoke from the gravity bong just sat in the air. It wouldn’t rise. At this point, I was pretending to do coke, dramatically rendered little bumps, because parts of me ached and swole and it wasn’t as easy to take in anymore. All my cavities were fighting me. I was so stupid at this time. This was before I’d ever had my own boundaries seriously compromised in sex, only by other women, only socially, only in an expected, gendered way, and so I didn’t give much thought to making any walls or nurturing any discomfort from those around me. The four of us got Mexican food the next morning. Me and the other woman kept at it for the next day or so. Then, we got in a fight. She did a lot of Adderall. She instigated our physical relationship, though I saw it coming and wished for it for months. I’d never felt predatory before. I was 21. But I felt like I was a little predatory, perhaps, with her. She was 19. She did Molly and Klonapin and took too many Klonapin to come down from the Molly and I gave her my robe to wear and I was wearing my other robe and she said, Can we make out? And we started making out and her boyfriend came in and said we should just all get naked, then. And I took my shirt off and stood up right then. I had a housemate who was asleep for all of this, on the couch, a can of PBR perfectly balanced on her slumbered form. And we walked to the bedroom and the other one was on his way and it happened as I said it did just earlier. My visions of us as a tweaked out Fleetwood Mac, dashed so very prematurely. But at the beginning of this weekend, I was fully naked, and no longer on the staircase, but now meandering the chapter room, headed toward the pool tables. Hours earlier from this moment, I was at a women’s only weed-centric gathering. I spoke to an old friend and roommate with whom things had gone so sour. It was April 2014. The last time I spoke to her, it was November 2011. Something ruptured in her, and was bubbling just under the surface in me. Un-empathetic to her wavering mental health, I was in denial of the same phenomenon in my own brain. My ribs appeared, my chest sunk, I was scared of my own shadow. In winter of 2013, I quit a sorority over email, self righteous and spun out on being ignored by women who were supposed to care for me. They never heeded my discomfort at the presence of the roommate, likewise a sister. I had to call the cops on her once. She was increasingly possessive. When I called the cops, she’d been following me and draining my phone battery for hours. She kept shouting. Where are you keeping her? You’re harboring her! And I was hiding in a closet. She scuttled around the room, crablike and bent in a mind-sick moment. Sometimes, when we lived together, I’d wake up just a moment, to see her rifling through my dresser drawers for money, or for drugs. Things would pop up in her closet, miraculously moved from my own. She was always poking me for my own money, some scheme and a twitching eyebrow at work. At best, she was erratic. At the moment when I hid from her, and in a few others, she was dangerous. I could be the same way, I found out all in the next two years. It isn’t just some who can manipulate. It isn’t just a few who fracture into themselves, into other people. In fact, these phenomena are quite universal, and in a way, necessary. At the end of the woman gathering, I offered her a ride home. Me, her, the woman I would be sleeping with the next night in a foursome, and a mutual friend to the three of us. We listened to the Tom Tom Club on my tape deck and everything about the moment felt like the tide of the ocean, a way that our bodies all waved and got taut in accordance to the landscape keeping us. And then, shortly after, walking down the stairs, I felt as if I was tight diamonds pulled together with dyed blonde hair. The things my organs did to keep me alive felt fully understandable, a series of concentric shapes that kept me metabolizing and thinking and able to bend my bones with joints and precious pinks, fatty whites, darker parts, too. My smooth freckled parts, my unafraid pubis, my small, boyish tits. A girl in the sorority I quit looked up at me, shocked. Some refused reaction. Two or three whispered, though there wasn’t any need. Anything they said would have been perfect for the moment. And I smiled.
Kate Jayroe is an editor at Portland Review, works at Powell’s Books, and serves on staff with Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Work by her is forthcoming and appears at Juked, NANO Fiction, Hobart, and elsewhere.