“stay with the beer
beer is continuous blood.
a continuous lover.”
–Charles Bukowski, “how to be a great writer”
Saturday, 6:41 PM, Goose’s Car—The ride back from Meskwake Resort and Casino is shitty to say the least. Everyone smiles, while Goose rambles on about the luck they had at the blackjack tables: “Damn, we netted $1,500 between the five of us and that’s even counting the $400 Chris lost.” My asshole has never been this itchy before in my entire life. I tell Goose to drive faster.
“What’s your hurry Chrissy McPissy?”
“I gotta pee.”
“I drank like eight beers at that fucking table and you don’t see me complaining about my bladder,” Goose burps and takes his hands off the steering wheel for a second to light a Marlboro Black.
I need some three-ply toilet paper and at least six Bud Heavies and a place to put my incredibly depressed penis.
Goose’s old Buick creeks up and down as it desperately tries to keep up with the speed limit. This is the type of car people die in. It’s already dark, but I can see that the corn is looking especially boring and monotonous this evening. Every now and then I get excited about seeing a rare tree. I watch the rolling midwestern fields and think of slogans for the state of Iowa:
Iowa—where heroes go to gamble and die…
Iowa—in Iowa, you’re a supermodel…
Iowa—where dreams are turned into corn…
Goose pulls up in front of McNally’s right as I’m starting to worry that there will never be any benefits from me moving out here for four years.
As he gets out of the car, he stops and turns and looks at me. “You’re not getting anything?”
“I just lost $400.”
“Don’t be a sore loser,” he snaps back.
“Fine, fuck it—Spleen, lend me $20.”
“No way bro,” Spleen retorts as he exits the Buick.
“You just won fucking $550. You’re lending me $20.”
7:22 PM Main Dorm, 2nd Floor, Room 1216—Goose, Spleen, and Jimbo left to play cash poker (which I no longer had the money for), leaving me to my lonely abode. I look outside. I could’ve shot a hole in one of the dark clouds outside my window with a rifle if I had one. The weekend nights get lonely. I sit inside and drink, frightened of the howling drunk freshman girls roaming around my hallway. I can’t go outside because of the brutal frigid winter. I’m trapped in a 9×12 dorm room with nothing to eat except uncooked Ramen noodles and Nature Valley Granola Bars. My walls are white and naked. My bed is a large stone. This truly is just a smidge better than jail.
I open up my laptop and check my Grinnell e-mail. My window doesn’t close fully, so the wind whips in, whistling, piercing my skin like a thousand rancid bees. Only one e-mail:
From: Academic Support
To: Chris Catanampi
Subject: Possible meeting times
This is Lindsay from Academic Support. Due to your academic standing from last semester, we must inform you that you are now officially on academic probation for this semester. Please e-mail me possible meeting times for us to meet next week so that we can discuss your past academic issues and create some strategies to remedy those. I’m here to help you have an awesome semester.
My response to Lindsay:
I do not want to discuss my academic issues as they are quite personal.
I quit Google Chrome, go to my iTunes and put on the Beatles. I text Alice (cute second year I slept with a couple weekends ago, has been surprisingly elusive since): Hey, what are you up to? After a couple of minutes, she still hasn’t responded. I tuck into the first of my PBR tallboys, thinking to myself: Trust in the Beer, young soul. The Beer will love you when no one else will.
10:15 PM—This day feels like getting stabbed in the back by a thousand raging elephant tusks and then robbed of $400 dollars. But the beer drinking—the beer drinking has been going quite well. Goose trudges into my room with his uneven strides that make him walk like a retarded llama. “Let’s go, Chrissy.”
“High Street. Party at 1008.”
“What do you mean nope? Is that all you ever say to anything? Nope. Nope. Nope.”
“Nope…” I say, half jokingly. Goose struts over to my desk where I am sitting and closes my laptop right in front of my face. The beers I’ve already drunk tonight keep me from strangling him right then and there. Goose starts walking around my dorm room, trying on my sunglasses, checking himself out in the mirror. I look at my phone to see what time it is. 10:16 PM. Alice finally texts me back: Just drinking and chilling at 1008, wbu?
Goose is smiling at himself in the mirror wearing a pair of my Persols with blue-tinted lenses.
“Chris what are you going to do tonight if you don’t go to this party?”
“You know what, fuck it.”
“What do you mean ‘fuck it?’”
“I’m down to go.”
Goose walks outside to wait for me while I change put pants on and change shirts. I walk into the hall closing the door behind me. I take out my phone and text Alice: omw.
“Dude, you’re going to want to bring a coat.”
He’s right. I turn on a dime to walk back into my room. “Fuuuuuck…”
“Don’t tell me your door is locked…”
11:07 PM 1008 High Street—It took the fuckfaces at security 45 minutes to finally drive one block from the security office, walk up the stairs, and open my door. I assume the Main staircase was the hardest part for the overweight security guard, though he didn’t exactly unlock my door smoothly, either. I spent the time until I was able to get my coat taking pulls from Goose’s flask and listening to him ramble on about all of the girls he’s screwed lately.
Now we’re at this godforsaken party with football players and college dweebs scouring the party like animals—like wolves—searching for pussy and alcohol. There are a few 30 racks in the back of the party, and I grab three beers before the scavengers can get to them. I stuff one in each of my coat pockets, crack one open, and meander back towards the center of the party.
I text Alice: You here?
I don’t see her while I walk casually through the dancefloor and I end up standing squeezed against the stairs watching the parade of grungy, colorful, and insecure people walk in and out of the party like flower petals tumbling around a hillside. I keep checking my phone to avoid making eye contact with people and to see if Alice has texted me.
At one point during my second brew, I’m bored as hell and thinking about making a swift exit back to Main. I feel like everyone’s ignoring me. I feel like everyone’s surrounding me. I feel like I might get chained down to the floor. I sip my beer, steadily. Spleen walks up to me and taps me on the shoulder.
“Ayy, McPissy, what’s up dude? Glad you’re not being too much of a sore loser.”
“Do you have any drugs?”
“That’s seriously the first thing you ask me?”
“Come on, man. Tonight sucks.”
Spleen and I walk back through the swamp of sweaty human bodies and into the backyard like we’re going to smoke cigarettes.
“Give me your hand.” Spleen presses a small circular pill into my palm and I wash it down with my Miller High Life without thinking twice.
“What did you just give me?”
“Klonopin. You got any cash, man?”
“Spleen, are you fucking kidding me? What do you want—you want like three dollars?”
“Well, do you have three dollars?”
“Fuck you. I saw how much you won today, you Jew.”
“Alright, you owe me man.”
Spleen is a dickhead. We walk back to the living room where couples and wannabe couples touch each other’s legs playfully and whisper too loudly. I worry the grinding rime is going to evaporate out of the dancefloor and seep into my pores. I open the last of my beers and start to think about leaving.
I go out to the front porch and light a Marlboro Red. I am off to the side of the porch—nobody comes over and bothers me, and I like that. I sip my beer—feeling really good—really good and drunk now, like I always knew I would be. Over my left shoulder, I hear the sound of a laugh I’ve heard before. I turn, and there’s Alice, smiling gloriously, medium length brown hair tucked neatly and adorably beneath a wool knit hat. Standing on the top of the stoop like a queen who knows she’s royal. And the worst part—linking arms with some guy who’s not me.
For a second I think I shouldn’t go over there. Girls like Alice normally go for the cool guy, and walking over there and saying something certainly wouldn’t make me the cool guy. But then again, fuck it.
I bustle over. “Hey Alice, what’s up?”
She maybe glances at me for a split second, and I immediately know this was a bad idea. But then again, fuck it.
“Hey Alice, what’s up?” I repeat, this time louder.
She turns around. “Hi Chris…” The tall blonde, blue-eyed kid stands awkwardly next to her. He’s got on sweatpants so tight they look like leggings above his Adidas tennis shoes. He’s probably really good at soccer or something dumb like that.
“You didn’t answer my text, I was worried about you LOL,” and the worst part about it is I actually say the letters L-O-L.
“I didn’t get them…”
“What do you mean you didn’t get them?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t get them.” Both her and soccer boy turn and start walking away from me.
“Where are you going?”
“We’re going to bed.”
“Seriously—with this derp?”
“Hey man, watch it,” Soccerboy finally speaks up. I was starting to worry Alice was choosing a mute over me.
“Shut the fuck up soccer boy…” He stumbles backwards as if the force of my voice had pushed him.
Alice intervenes, “Chris, we’re leaving.”
“Great…I’ll walk back with you guys,” I no longer have any idea what my angle is here. I follow them up the block back towards Main. I need to stop Alice from sleeping with this kid and in some way convince her to sleep with me before we finish walking a block and a half. There is a persistently awkward silence in the windy air between the three of us. I sip my beer and try to think of something to say. As we start to cross 6th Ave. I stick my hand out towards Soccerboy, across Alice, who was in between us. “Hey man, I’m Chris.”
“I’m Leo,” He replies, not shaking my hand. What a stupid fucking name. He looks at me like I’m insane. Maybe, I’m insane. Suddenly our not-so-pleasant walk home is interrupted:
“What’s in the can? What’s in the can?” Two police officers are shouting at us from the Mears Cottage Parking Lot. The lights on their Police SUV’s are threatening and powerful. The three of us stop in our tracks. The skinnier of the two officers hustles over to us. “You two can go…”
“What? You’re just going to let them go like that?” At this point I’ll do anything to stay with Alice.
“What’s in the can?”
“Relax, it’s just beer.” As I finish my sentence the officer grabs the can of beer from me. Needless, to say, I will miss it dearly.
“Walk over to my partner.” I walk down the sidewalk, followed closely by the officer who has just taken my last beer. Looking back I can see Alice and the dweeb from the party walking up the stairs of Main and into a night of alcohol-infused intercourse.
When I get to the other officer, he pushes me up against the car like we’re in a porno and he’s about to fuck me, except I am 100% sure that I am not having any sort of sexual relations tonight. He pats me down and makes me take off my coat. Then he shines a flashlight in my eyes and makes me follow his finger back and forth across my scope of vision without moving my head. “You been drinking tonight?”
“No sir, just beer.”
“Don’t you fucking get smart with me, kid.”
He walks back to his police car and writes shit down and says stuff into a walkie talkie. Stuff I can’t hear. Stuff I know is about me. The other officer stands with his legs far apart looking at me like I’m an art gallery being assembled right before his eyes. I look him straight in the eyes and I ask him, “So, am I really gonna get in trouble for something this silly?”
“That’s gonna be up to the sergeant.”
And right on cue, the fatter one comes back from his car, “I’m Sergeant Penisface and this is my partner, Officer McMannoff. You’re under arrest for public intoxication and carrying an open container…”
“…turn around, place both hands on the back of your head.”
1:41 AM Grinnell Police Dept. Holding Cell—I take the phone and dial Goose’s number. He picks up on the fourth ring. He’s a drunk circus clown. “Heyyo, Iss Goose.”
“Goose…Goose, It’s Chris.”
“Goose it’s Chris, I need you to do me a favor.”
“Beep…Beep…Beep…” I call him again three times. He doesn’t answer. I turn to Sergeant Penisface, “What happens if no one can come pick me up?”
“Then you have to stay the night.”
I look around the cold cement holding cell. Being surrounded by gray concrete makes me feel lonely and criminal. I inch closer to the edge of my bench. I ask to use the phone one more time and dial Alice’s number. I wait for her to pick up, trying not to think about all the goals that Leo kid is scoring with her right now. She’s the only person I talk to—besides Goose—who has a car. The phone rings three times and then goes to her automated voicemail. I slam the phone down and dial again. The same thing happens—just the monotone fake female voice of the automatic answering machine telling me to leave a message if I’d like to. I think I’d rather not.