" Of all the aphorisms used to show some kind of passive condolence to the victim of a brutal breakup, there is no expression more nauseating than “I know how you feel.” Pardon me, but until you’ve watched your girlfriend of almost a year engage in six extra-relational hookups—two white guys, one black guy, one lesbian, one straight girl, and one drag queen—all on a cable television reality show… until then, you do not know how I feel.
Like all my most pathetic stories, it began in Brett MacDougall’s basement. In high school, we used to go down there after practice to drink warm beer, recreationally beat each other up, and eat bright orange potato by-products that probably would have killed us if we hadn’t been athletes. We were sort of the Popular Crowd, but you wouldn’t have known that if you’d seen us. Twenty people, one couch, Brett MacDougall’s basement. Every single day. My friends were really into being popular, but I never paid a lot of attention. At graduation, when everyone else was bawling and clutching each other, I was ecstatic, knowing that anywhere I went next would have to be more exciting than the place I’d just left.
The thing is, when you go off to college an hour away, you hope your life will sort of, I don’t know, refresh itself, and that when you come home for a weekend, you’ll have a million hilarious stories and seventy new best friends, and you won’t feel so empty as you stare at a screen in hopes of seeing your girlfriend, who you have barely heard from since she got a real life, while you sit in Brett MacDougall’s basement.
But as soon as the clock hit 7:59 on that one fateful night in November, all my anxious feelings started melting away. I sat on the 1970s-style corduroy upholstery, surrounded by most of my old cross-country team, and some of the dance squad girls I’d graduated with. I checked the clock on my phone. Go time.
“YO; SHUT UP!” I yelled. I had the remote control in my palm, kicking up the volume on Brett MacDougall’s shitty TV, until the theme music drowned out everyone’s excited chatter.
“Seven aspiring actors,” announced a female voice over edgy instrumental music. “One house, one summer, and one goal: Who will be America’s next soap opera star?”
The music continued, and a handful of hot teens and twenty-somethings struck poses, announcing their names. I could feel excited tension bubbling all around me, when the camera finally landed on her. She looked like herself, mostly, but somehow… faker. Still, I beamed at the TV like a moron. “I’m Lindsey!” she shouted, spinning, her hair whipping around, as her named popped up below her. She blew a kiss at the camera, and I seriously think I shivered in response.
For the first fifteen minutes of the show, I was living large. Every time Lindsey came on screen, her friends would holler things like, “Get it, girl!” and at one point, someone punched me in the shoulder, saying, “Damn, Cole. Your girlfriend’s not just small-town-hot anymore. She’s reality-TV-hot.”
And then… and then it went downhill.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint the worst part of watching your girlfriend dry-hump strangers on national television, but I can compile a list of the top six: 1) Finding out that the girl who wouldn’t sleep with you because of her “morals” is a nymphomaniac who, apparently, only had morals against you, 2) Seeing the earrings you made her in Metalshop dangling from the very earlobe some stranger is licking, 3) Not being totally sure whether one of her partners is a natural man or woman, 4) Realizing your mother is at home, watching it, and 5) Being in Brett MacDougall’s basement while it happens to you, open-mouthed like the biggest moron on the face of the planet, feeling like there’s a dead pregnant squirrel lodged and rotting in your throat.
And, of course, the worst of all these. The moment when one of Lindsey’s friends looks you in the eye, holds a hand to her chest, and proclaims, 6) “Oh my God, Cole. I know how you feel.”
* * *“Cole,” said a chick with blue hair on my video game screen. I didn’t respond, and just continued to stare at her, unmoving but for her ponytail swaying back and forth. My computer mouse was hidden amongst the filth in which I lived since driving back to school in a haze, somewhere in the general vicinity of Pringles Can Valley and Dirty Clothes Cavern. I didn’t care to look for it. The blue-haired avatar was used to combating all kinds of danger, facing peril around every corner, and looking hot, even when covered in mud, but without my manipulation, she was kind of boring.
“Hey! Faggot!” she said, this time with more force and less politeness. Also, she was a baritone.
It turns out that the voice was not coming from my computer after all. It was my roommate, Anthony, at the door of our shared dorm room, in another attempt to nag me back to life. “Dude, unlock the freaking door. You’ve been in there for like twelve hours.”
Had it only been that long? When you’ve fallen beyond rock bottom and into the deepest, darkest pits of despair, concepts like time and hygiene and not-scratching-your-own-ass-all-day just seem so trivial and energy-consuming. Instead, I’d chosen to spend my time listening to the same few bars of video game music repeating from my computer screen, while wearing nothing but a pair of plaid boxers, white soccer socks, a grease-stained t-shirt, and one of those winter hats with furry ear flaps.
“Use your key,” I yelled back, noticing by its hoarseness that my voice was just as reluctant to speak as I was to live. The video game music was then interrupted by the jingling sound of Anthony opening our door. Without entering, he popped his head into the room.
“It smells like alien piss in here,” he said, scrunching his nose. “What the hell have you been doing all day? Puking on yourself?”
I pulled my hat down over my eyes. “Sorry, man. I should be more courteous to you. I forgot that your girlfriend also banged a she-male on TV and that your life is also over.”
Anthony said, “Yeah, well, you look like Sasquatch and sound like a pansy.” He lowered his voice and added, “I have a girl with me, dude. What am I supposed to do about that?”
If I’d had more energy, I would have made a joke like, “Search ‘sexual intercourse’ on Wikipedia and start from there.” But I did not have more energy. Instead, I sighed. “Tell her your roommate is catatonic. Go to her room or something.” However, before I even finished mumbling the words, Anthony was kicking his way through my piles of trash, opening a garbage bag, and filling it with clothes and food alike.
“Hey!” I tried to exclaim, but it came out sounding feeble and apathetic. So I just went with it. “Okay, whatever. But don’t, like, throw away my iPod or some--”
“Hi,” said a girl, cutting me off. She’d entered the room in the middle of my sentence.
“Uh, hi,” I replied, finally feeling a little bit embarrassed about my appearance. I glanced at Anthony, who was cringing and scowling, then back to the girl. She was shorter, curvier, heavier-but-not-fat. She had dark pretty hair, and a necklace draped over her protruding collarbone. She didn’t look anything at all like blonde Lindsey with her supermodel dimensions and permanent pout. This girl looked friendly, and normal, and quite frankly too attractive to be with my roommate, who somewhat resembled a pitbull. Not that it was my place to notice such a thing, because I was in the Depression stage of grief. And because I looked like I’d been run over by a cement truck.
“I’m Cole,” I said. I considered outstretching my hand, but decided it would be beneficial to the girl’s health if we skipped the handshake.
“Cole Richmond. I know,” she said, looking down and smiling all cute-like. “Do you… have any idea who I am?”
Um, I thought. I turned my eyes to Anthony, who just looked exasperated, and looked back to the girl. “Um,” I said.
“It’s okay,” she admitted, but I could tell she was embarrassed. “I didn’t really expect you to know. I’m Alicia MacDougall. I was a year above you in high school? You, uh, used to hang out with my brother, I think.”
“Oh yeah!” I said. I very, very vaguely recalled Brett MacDougall having a sister living at his house my junior year. But we stayed downstairs, and she was some kind of theater geek, or an artist or something. Not really my crowd, so I never paid close attention. “How are you doing?”
Alicia MacDougall brightened. “I’m. Well. I’m doing better than I imagine you are, huh?” I glanced at the grease stain on my shirt, and at my lack of pants. “Everyone’s talking about what happened with your girlfriend and that drag queen.”
What do you say to that? Since I said nothing, Alicia sort of tilted her head in concern and continued. “I’m going to totally humiliate myself by saying this, but I’m a tiny bit drunk, so I’ll got for it.” She giggled. “I always thought you were so cool. Just, like, really together. So judging by… this… you must be feeling pretty low. After the whole Reality TV Incident and stuff.”
I shrugged and said, “Low? Nah. What makes you say that? Is it the Pringles cans or the pit stains?”
Alicia giggled again, cutely, and she looked me up and down with an almost maternal expression of pity. “No, you just always seemed so interesting and, like, exciting. I’m not trying to rub it in or anything.”
“Thanks,” I said, trying to sound as genuine as I felt. “That means a lot.”
Alicia MacDougall shrugged. “No problem,” she said. “So…I only ask because I’m legitimately curious. Are you okay? I have no idea how you must feel.” "
So... yep. Again, not the greatest or most coherent thing to ever come out of my brain, but I don't think it's bad. The main character, Cole, is actually from a partially-finished novel I have lying around somewhere, and I liked him enough that I wanted him to get a little bit of attention, as it's very likely that his whole story will never be told. I'm open to suggestions if you'd like to leave a comment. If you don't have anything to say, but still read it, thank you! And if you didn't read it, that's still cool, too. You all deserve virtual hugs just for keeping up with the blog of a stranger. :)
Today, I saw: tons of awesome video comments. Love you guys!
Today, I heard: from my good friend, PJ, who I'll be seeing lots of once I move back to school.
Today, I touched: my suitcase zipper, getting ready to head off to Chez Situation.
Today, I smelled: an emery board. I filed my nails down shorter, so as not to accidentally spike my boyfriend in the jugular.
Today, I tasted: chocolate from Germany, thanks to an awesome girl named Amina who follows me on twitter!
Chipotle burritos this year: 23
Nail color: "Through the Grapevine," Wet 'n' Wild
P.S. I'm going to the YouTube gathering in Albany, New York tomorrow. Let me know in the comments if I'll be seeing you there. I hope we'll get to exchange real hugs. And have dance parties. Mid-Embrace Dance Party Gift Exchange: it's happening.
P.P.S. As I have stated before, I am extremely LGBT-friendly. My characters' opinions or word-choices do not always reflect my own. I do not condone the use of several slang terms in this story; it is fictional.