“Dude, it’s totally got you.”
“It doesn’t have me—it’s just becoming a problem, is all.”
“Addicts never admit they have an addiction, not until it’s too late.”
“I’m not an addict.”
“Spoken like a true junkie.” They’re sitting on the couch in the living room—she had a sorority function or some weird bullshit, so he has the night off. He hasn’t been in his room for the past two days—electing instead to sleep on the couch and wear the same clothes over and over again.
He reaches over and takes the bong away from his roommate. “Look, man, can we just concentrate on the problem at hand?”
“I can barely concentrate enough to use the lighter.” Tyler stares at the lighter in his hand with a look of mild surprise for several seconds, then remembers what he was doing. He gives the lighter to Jeffrey.
“What am I supposed to do about my room, bro?”
Tyler glances briefly down the hall at Jeffrey’s bedroom. At what used to be Jeffrey’s bedroom. He wrinkles his nose and looks back at the TV, where a little cartoon girl is kicking the shit out of a little cartoon robot. “Beats me, man. I told you, that’s alls I got to say.”
“Yeah, man, you told me. You were right, okay? And I am a junkie, okay? What I need now—instead of a bunch of ‘I-told-you-so’—is help. I mean, look at my room, man!”
Tyler looks down the hall again, wrinkles his nose again. “I would rather not, if it’s all the same to you.”
“What the hell am I going to do?”
“Man, you know what you have to do. You have to take a stand.”
“You know what that involves.”
“I do, in fact, know what that involves.”
“You know how it’s going to go.”
“I do, in fact, know how it’s going to go. This is why I never let it get this far.”
“Only if you don’t put a stop to it.”
“She’s gonna kill me.”
“Now you’re just being dramatic.”
“Yeah, babe?” He hates the pet name she has chosen for him, but like a million other things that grow into a billion other things, he has gotten used to it, even if it does make him cringe internally a little each time she uses it.
“Isn’t that the shirt you were wearing the other day?”
Shit. In his head, he hears the stereotypical gangster voice crying out. The gig’s up, boys! Everybody scram! “Huh?”
“That shirt? Didn’t you just wear it the other day? Like, weren’t you wearing it last time I saw you?”
He looks down, pretends to examine the shirt. The funk makes his eyes water a little bit. “Hm. I don’t know—maybe.”
“It smells like it. It smells like you’ve been wearing it for the past week.”
The last four days, actually, but who’s counting? “I washed it the other day.”
“Did you wash it, or did you just sit around getting high in it?” She giggles that giggle that means she wants him to think that she’s making a joke, but that she wants him to know that she’s being serious.
“You don’t like this shirt?” Hoping to avoid the conversation where she tells him to quit getting high. She has told him countless times that she’s cool with weed, but he knows what’s coming. It’s inevitable. It’s another part of it.
“First they start asking you if you’re high,” Tyler explained long ago, “Even when they know that you are. I mean, we’re no longer in high school, man—the day is long gone when we think that we can fool people into thinking we’re sober when we’re baked. You get stoned, everyone knows it. You know it, she knows it, and the guy at the convenience store that sells you thirty bucks worth of Skittles knows it, okay?”
“Weren’t we talking about-”
“Shut up, bro, I’m on a roll. So, that’s the first step: ‘Ty, are you high?’ ‘Are you stoned right now?’ ‘Have you been smoking?’ The next step is when they start adding in a bit of editorial with their questions. ‘Are you high? You’ve been high a lot lately.’ And shit like, “Gosh, are you smoking again? It seems like every time I see you, you’re getting stoned.’ And then it moves on to the major bullshit. ‘I think you need to quit smoking so much.’ And ‘I worry about you smoking so much.’ That’s when you know, buddy, that you’ve let it go on for too long. That’s like the final straw that breaks the camel’s back, or whatever. When they’ve reached the point that they feel comfortable enough to tell you to change your life completely, that’s when they’re too comfortable, you know? That’s when you know it’s gone on long enough.”
“I like the shirt,” she tells him, “But I like it when it’s clean, you know?” She does the giggle again.
This is where he tells her, “Well, if you don’t like what I’m wearing, feel free to take off.” This is where he tells her, “It’s clean enough for me—if it bothers you, you can leave.” This is where he tells her all kinds of shit, unless he’s a junkie, which he is. “Would you like me to change, babe?”
“I would. Are you going to take a shower before you put on clean clothes?”
“Guess so,” he mutters, standing from the couch and walking down the hall.
“I said ‘yes.’”
“Have fun in there—but not too much fun.” She does the joke/no joke giggle again.
He pauses before he opens the bedroom door, then realizes that she’s probably still watching him. He steps in and shuts the door behind him. One of her first questions upon entering the house had been why was his bedroom door shut. He had been counting on this question, and had an answer ready. “It’s ‘cause it smells so good in here, babe—I don’t want it to get all stinky when I’m cooking or whatever.”
It satisfied her, as he knew it would. Much better than admitting that he got the creeps seeing his room transformed into one of those “after” rooms that they showed on the design channels that her roommate was always watching. Much better than admitting he got tired of hearing Tyler making jokes constantly.
He stands in the room for a moment, in what used to be his room, trying to get his bearings. He understands that this is still technically his room, that his socks should still be in the dresser, that his shirts should still be in the closet, that he still pays rent…but he feels like a thief.
He grabs a change of clothes, not paying much attention, and heads to the bathroom. He knows she’ll probably have something to say about the outfit, but he doesn’t care—the room gives him the creeps.
He leaves the room, shutting the door behind him, and walks down the hall to the bathroom. She’s chatting on her cell phone, telling the person on the end that they will not believe what Cindy did the other night, blah, blah, blah.
He pulls his shirt off, tosses it into the corner of the bathroom, and looks down at his belly button. Sure enough, there’s fuzz in it. Fuzz from that giant blanket. It was one of the first things he noticed the morning after breaking in the sheets, was that the blanket fuzz seemed to get everywhere. For the past couple of days—the days that he’s been avoiding the bedroom—he hasn’t had any of the fuzz in his belly button. Today, he walks in there for, like, thirty seconds, and the freakin’ stuff is practically filling his belly button. He pulls out the fuzz, drops it into the toilet, and pisses on it. He watches with an odd sense of pleasure as he flushes it.