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Subject: The English Year **Standard disclaimer applies. This is based on actual events, although names, places, and descriptions have changed to protect the identities of the living. Don’t read if you shouldn’t because you’re under 18 or live in a backwards area. I appreciate any and all feedback, so please email me ail. Enjoy the story! It’s been forever since I stepped foot on the cobblestone walk ways lined with white arches, Nantucket red bricks, and flourishing green grassy hills that made Old Dominion a picturesque utopia… if not a complete bitch to walk through in flip-flops. It’s been even longer since I’ve considered how my third year there shaped my life; changed it, rather. Forever. I thought back to that Friday when I returned to campus for my junior year. I remember hauling my stuffed off-brand suitcase up the back stairs of the Chi Beta fraternity house, up to room number twenty-three, the first room ever I could call my own. My old roommate, Brian, lived in the room next to me on the left and my vertically challenged pledge brother Hutch lived to my right. On his other side was the Argentine, Roberto, and next to him was the only open Bush-era republican in the house, Austin. The whole configuration of the second floor formed a square around two restrooms, one on each side, and a laundry room. A back landing led to the bedrooms and a Beirut room sat to the left, right next to the fire escape. The house smelled clean as I walked through. I knew the smell wouldn’t last through orientation week, but it was good to be greeted by a smell that didn’t resemble body odor and stale beer. “Corbin Crowley,” I heard as I turned the first corner. I smiled at Hutch as I walked towards him. I gave him a bear of a hug, knowing how much he hated them, and led the way into my bedroom. Of the old furniture that had been in there when I selected number twenty-three as my room, only the bed, desk, and lopsided couch remained. There was a hat rack placed randomly on one wall, and an air conditioning unit teetering perilously by the window. Out the other window, I could see all of historic downtown Clifton Hill, home of the third largest battle in the Civil War, and reportedly where Robert E. Lee met his future wife. “How was the flight?” Hutch asked, sitting on the bed. “It was good. I was drunk the entire time,” I replied with a grin. “Why didn’t you ask me to pick you up? I would have driven to Charlottesville.” “I mean, it’s cool. I knew Amanda was coming back to campus around the same time I was flying in and she wanted to talk about the magazine and all of that kind of stuff, so it just made sense to ride with her,” I said. I decided to begin unpacking with Hutch there, hoping the company would make the task go faster. “So what has the EC been meeting about?” I asked, not really interested in what our fraternity Executive Council had been hammering out for the past two full days. They had wanted me to come back to campus early to discuss the social calendar, but I lied and told them I had already bought my ticket for Friday, buying myself some time. In truth, nothing began on campus until the first Orientation week session on Saturday night. On Saturday morning, the upperclassmen would help freshmen pry boxes out of their parent’s loving hands and haul them into one of the four freshman dorms that made up The Quad. They would then spend the rest of the time day drinking and going over first impressions. Saturday night, the kegs would come out off campus and O-Week would officially begin. Classes didn’t start until Thursday, giving everyone almost a week of inebriated preparation for the year to come. “The same old shit,” he replied. “New rules on this, new mandates on that. They’re determined to start fining for real this year.” “They say that shit every year,” I said, putting some shirts on hangers. “Not gonna live out of your suitcase this year?” I heard from the door. I turned to see Brian standing in the doorway holding a Collins glass that I’m sure had more gin than tonic in it. “Shut up, Brian,” I grinned. I stepped over my bag to give him a hug. “How was fucking Egypt?” “Well, I didn’t technically fuck while in Egypt, but it was good.” “I’m glad. AIDS is real. Especially in Africa,” I said with a smirk. “You’re a sicko,” he replied. He saw me glance down at his sweaty glass and he made a face at me. “Would you like one?” he asked with his usual brand of snark. I simply smiled at him the best I could and nodded. It was too early in the year to get bitchy. On day one, I played nice. Brian left the room, presumably to pour Hutch and me a drink from his self-crafted pretentious bar, complete with stirring spoons and a shaker. At this point in frat life, a stocked fridge and solo cups were all that anyone really required. “Everyone is anxious to hear about the social calendar,” Hutch said once Brian had returned and the real conversation was ready to begin. I knew coming back that I would be put through the wringer once I stepped foot on campus. The EC had given me social autonomy, and the task of raising our social standing where last year’s social chair, Jackson, had faltered. At the end of my sophomore year, just one month before school let out, our illustrious senior class got us a strike by using all of our surplus budget to throw an unregistered rager. That party left Chi Beta broke, unable to socialize officially, and pretty much on thin ice with the faculty and the sororities alike. Sororities couldn’t afford to mix with frats that got strikes. There were too many that didn’t to choose from. So I’d spent the majority of my free summer time emailing my contacts at the five different sorority houses, desperately trying to convince girls that we weren’t our reputation. It was easier said than done, and even with good friends in each srat, I’d still only managed to pull off three mixers, two of which weren’t booked until after recruitment. “We’ll be fine,” I assured, tempering my voice. It would take a miracle on my part, but I was determined to pull one out of my ass. “What are y’all up to tonight?” I asked the two guys sitting in my room. I took a long sip of Brian’s perfectly poured gin and tonic, and it felt it ease my nerves immediately. “We were gonna ask you,” Brian replied. “Mr. Social Chair.” “I just got into town. The only person I’ve seen so far is Amanda, so no, I don’t have any plans yet.” “And when were you gonna tell me you’d come back into town?” I looked up at the doorway to see Roberto standing there, his thick South American accent entering the room before he did. Roberto was meticulous about his physique, and sure enough he stood there, post workout, dressed in his usual brand of running shorts and sweaty abs. “You knew I’d be back tonight, baby,” I said with a smile. A second later, Roberto leapt into my room and gave me a sweat soaked hug in the most masculine, non-gay way possible. I wouldn’t have minded a little gayness in his embrace, but after two years of knowing him well, I knew that any affection Roberto showed another guy stemmed from a brotherly place… and I hated it. “Get off me,” I pushed him back. “You reek.” “You like it,” he teased. “Where’s your wife?” Hutch asked Roberto, referring to his best friend within the house, Austin. “He was right behind me,” Roberto said, sitting down on my unmade bed. I was sure there’d be an assprint of sweat there when he got up. “I must have beat him back.” “You cheated, you asshole,” Austin panted, hurling himself onto my couch between Hutch and Brian. If I thought Roberto would leave an assprint, it was nothing compared to how drenched my couch would be from Austin. Though shorter and stockier than Roberto, Austin was in great shape of his own, and could have given the Argentine a literal run for his trust fund money. The two of them double-handedly kept us from embarrassing ourselves in every single intermural sport. I hung up some more shirts while the crazy crew bickered in my room, which was too small to house my four favorite pledge brothers. “Corbin,” I heard, snapping back into the conversation. “Huh?” “What are you doing tonight? Inquiring minds would like to know,” Hutch said, sounding impatient. I took a gulp of my gin and tonic. I’d been on campus for forty-five minutes, and already I was being bombarded about social plans. “I don’t know,” I said. “Amanda’s house is throwing a get together for upperclassmen before rush starts. I told her I might stop by. I heard there might be something happening at River 4, but honestly, no one is raging for real until tomorrow night when the freshmen get here.” Rush at OD was a long and arduous process. Orientation week was every house’s only chance to make a first impression. That impression had to last until the following January when formal recruitment happened. That was four long months, hinging on the rage-ability of one fucking week. And with our strike not being lifted until September 1, Chi Beta was screwed. All we could do was attend everyone else’s O-Week parties and pray we ran into some quality guys. If we could get a few interested in us by the time our social calendar kicked off two weeks late, we might have a fighting chance. “I vote we stay here, play a little Beirut, and relish the last night before the freshmen invasion,” Austin suggested. “I second,” Roberto said, raising his hand high above his head. “Put your hand down,” I replied, hitting his hand down. “And the power couple has spoken.” Hutch hated when those two teamed up, which was always. “Jealous,” Roberto snarked. “I wouldn’t mind taking it easy tonight. It’s going to be a long O-Week,” Brian reasoned. “I’m down to hang out,” mezitli escort I replied passively. The thought of staying in and doing nothing except beer pong all night depressed me. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my brothers, especially the four in the room at that moment. The problem was, I wasn’t wired socially for one night-long engagement. It would have had to be a kick ass kick-back to get me to commit that many man hours, and honestly, being a homebody didn’t qualify. I continued folding clothes and listening to the four guys get drunker off more perfectly poured gin and tonics and share summer war stories. The quick catch up I managed to gather while I listened with half an ear: Hutch hooked up with every eligible bachelorette and one married lady in his east Texas small town. Roberto and his sister spent the majority of the summer in south France, where he had a week long fling… with an American. Austin had broken up with his girlfriend right before we left for break, and it turned out that Charleston, South Carolina was a much smaller town than he ever realized. He spent most of his time getting nowhere with no one and running into his ex over and over. Brian’s story was the least eventful. He was the closest to the marriage track than any of us, and although I was privy to some of his and his girlfriend’s drama, the two of them were still going strong. “And you, Corbs? Did you hook up with what’s his name back home yet?” Austin asked. My sexuality had been a minor issue for the guys when we first pledged together. I didn’t wear being a homosexual on my sleeve, but folks talked, and I was far from being in the closet. At this point, we could talk about my relationships with guys freely, something we couldn’t do when we’d first pledged freshmen year. Austin, who’d been the last to come around, was now the most intrigued by my relationship comings and goings, mostly because of how ridiculous they were up to that point. “Who?” I asked, snapping back. “Your friend that you’re always talking about…” Hutch prodded. I knew exactly who he was talking about. “Kyle?” “If that’s the one,” Roberto said. He was sprawled out on the bed I had just finished making. I took a long sip of the vodka and water I had switched to after the second gin and tonic made my mouth feel like pine cones. “I didn’t hook up with him, no. I’ll never hook up with him. Me and Kyle don’t hook up,” I said quickly. “He’s like my brother.” “No,” Brian said. “We’re like your brothers. He’s like the best friend you’re dying to bone.” I threw a pillow in his general direction. “Fuck you,” I said. I sat down and crossed my legs on the bed next to Roberto. “I don’t like him like that, I promise. Plus, he was up the ass of some guy named Cooper the whole summer that he met at school… blah, blah, blah. I dunno. Whatever.” “Still maintain that you don’t like him?” Austin asked. “Still maintain that you’re a douche lord?” I snarked with a mean smile. “Okay, kids, break it up,” Roberto said. It was funny hearing him use classic American phrases with such a thick Latin accent. “Yeah,” I said, downing my drink. “Break it up and get the fuck out of my room.” “And he’s back!” Brian said, standing. He stretched. “He’s back,” Roberto echoed, rolling over. “I missed you this summer, mi maricon.” “Only you,” I said, pushing him away. Roberto called me mi maricon, or his gay, all the time… something that would have offended me from anyone else. “Yes, yes, the bitch is back.” “Get ready.” Austin stood and followed Brian to the door. “We have pong to play. And Roberto and I are in prime shape.” He shot an imaginary ball into the air. It took me another two minutes to coral the troops out of my room so I could shower and change. While I was rinsing off in the bathroom, listening to at least two different guys come in and take a piss while I washed, I realized I didn’t have a beer pong partner. I got out of the shower and checked my phone. I had a message from Amanda asking if I was coming over to her kick-back. I thought maybe hanging out there for a while would be a good idea. I was already buzzed, so I wouldn’t need to pre drink. Plus, it always took Roberto twice as long as the rest of us to get ready. Finally, I figured I might be able to snag someone away from Amanda’s to be my partner for the night… or I might be able to convince the guys to come out there if the hang-out was fun. I got dressed really fast and dodged out of the frat house before anyone my year had a chance to ask where I was going. I texted Hutch when I was halfway to Amanda’s saying I was going to go say hi to some of her sisters before I hit the table. To Corbin: We’re getting food. Don’t sweat it. Food for those guys, even the simplest Wendy’s run, could take upwards of an hour. I was safe to hang out until at least eleven at Amanda’s. “Mandy Moo,” I said to one of my best girl friends when I reached her house. The place was completely bare, as neither she nor her roommates had properly moved in yet. “Baby doll.” Amanda gave me a huge hug. “This house is a ghost town,” I said, looking around. It was a classic Clifton Hill two-story. Three bedrooms upstairs, one bedroom downstairs. Wood floors that creaked with every step. White flakey paint on every wall. The girls had already removed one of the doors to their utility closet and had propped it up on four barstools to create a Chandeliers table. When I walked into the breakfast nook, I was greeted by eight or nine upper classmen standing around the table and playing what was essentially quarters on speed. I had already caught up with Amanda during our ride to campus from Charlottesville, so we shot the shit for a little bit, and then I went to mix and mingle. It felt good to be back. Really good. Dallas was a fun place to call home, but Clifton Hill was where I really thrived. Everyone knew me there. In the short time that I walked around Amanda’s, at least four of my classmates stopped to ask about me, my summer, and when the column in the paper was starting up again. “Soon,” was the only answer I could give. “Look who’s finally back,” I heard from behind. I turned, a smile already on my face, and gave Adam `California’ West a half hug. “Hey yourself,” I replied. Adam had been a late Chi Beta pledge the year before and one of my prized rushies. He was definitely one of the more pampered and spoiled guys in the brotherhood, but as long as his dad kept writing checks addressed to Chi Beta, everyone turned a blind eye to his faults. “And what is Mr. Social chair doing at a little party like this?” “Slumming,” I joked. “Oh shut up,” Amanda gritted. “I’m getting another drink.” “How are you? How was L.A.?” I asked Adam. “Busy,” he replied. We walked slowly towards the refreshment counter to pour a drink while he regaled me with the details of his internship at a small production company that his mother did P.R. and events for. It was somewhere during his rant about Los Angeles traffic and finally being able to maneuver his way from Hollywood Hills down to Santa Monica that I noticed the guy standing behind him. I felt my breath literally leave my body as Adam continued to yap away. He was standing on the other side of the kitchen, watching the folks in the breakfast nook play Chandeliers. He didn’t look particularly comfortable in the setting, partially because he seemed too tall for the low ceiling architecture. Still, even looking on awkwardly, clutching his red solo cup like it was a thousand dollar bill, I could tell he was special. “Have you met my suitemate?” Adam caught me staring. “Evidently not,” I replied. “What’s his story?” “Not sure yet,” Adam replied. “I just got in today, so… I had to coax him to come out with me tonight.” “Yeah,” I replied, not really paying attention to what Adam was saying. “Where’s he from?” “Why don’t you ask him yourself,” Adam replied. I turned and gave him a dirty look. “Maybe I will.” I took a step forward. “Is he family?” “Again… ask him. Trust me.” I took another step. I didn’t know why I was nervous, but I was. It could have been his stature. He stood a good four inches above me and he wasn’t slim, but he wasn’t muscular either. It could have been his face, which even contorted in concentration on the game was still spectacular. It could have been the honey hewed hair that fell haphazardly across his face, curling back at the end as if he was a week overdue for trim. Or maybe it was the dark blue eyes that darted back and forth across the drinking game on the table, trying to keep up with the rhythm of bouncing and chugging. Intense. In truth, I realize only now, looking back, that it was all of those things, and then some. It was the fact that I hadn’t been forced to `meet’ anyone in exactly two years. I hadn’t put myself out there to be judged at first sight, read by my cover�which, dressed in head-to-toe J. Crew, I hoped wasn’t too shabby. Ever since I’d parlayed my position at Old Dominion’s newspaper into a widely read column, people `met’ me… never the other way round. And yet, there I was, as nervous as a freshman on the first day, approaching a guy I couldn’t quite pinpoint what made him special. But I knew, at first glance, that he was. “Hi,” I said, trying my hardest to lower my voice from its usual tenor two register. Baritone was a much flirtier register. He turned and looked at me without saying anything. “I don’t know you,” I pressed. “Are you supposed to?” he asked in a crisp, clean, British accent. I could have melted like a stick of butter in a frying pan right then and there. I had two weaknesses in life. Eyes and accents… in no particular order. “I don’t pozcu escort think so,” I replied. “But I make it a habit to know everyone.” “Well then it appears you’re slacking on your habits, aren’t you?” “So… who are you?” “Wouldn’t you like to know,” he said. I could tell by his slight smirk that he was enjoying giving me a hard time. “Inquiring minds,” I said with raised eyebrows. “If you know everyone, and you don’t know me… that makes me a nobody until…” “Until you introduce yourself,” I said, cocking my head upwards to look him square in the eye. They were eyes I could swim in. Get lost in. Drown in. “I’m Pete,” he said, extending an arm. “Pete,” I echoed. “Just Pete?” “Peter Williamson Davis Junior, if you must know. Stalker!” “I’m not a… okay, Pete.” His smirk grew as I shuffled my weight to the other foot. I was never this unsettled, this nervous. I could talk to anyone on campus at any time, and here I was fumbling in front of a Brit. I looked into my cup and realized I had an easy out. I downed the rest of my drink. “I’m out,” I said, holding my solo cup upside down. “Do you need a refill?” “I could use one, I suppose,” he said. He lifted what was left of his drink and tossed it back. “So explain to me how it is that you know everyone,” Pete said as I free poured three fingers worth of vodka into the bottom of his glass. “Well, I write for The Founder,” I said, putting down the Aristocrat vodka and picking up the cranberry juice. “Which is…” “The school magazine. Paper. Essentially, it’s a newspaper, but we don’t actually report any news, so we call it a magazine.” “What do you report then?” “Whatever the hell we want,” I said. “But it looks like a newspaper. Comes out every week.” “I see. And what do you write?” I watched him take a sip of the drink and make a face. I knew it was strong. “My drinks are always strong,” I smiled. “There’s strong and then there’s poison.” The vein in his neck expanded. “You’re a big boy,” I smiled with a tap to the arm. I picked up and tasted my own drink and then led him to the living room where people were standing around and talking, away from the noise and distraction of the Chandeliers game. “To answer your question, I write the back page. It’s called The Signature,” I deadpanned. “The Signature?” “The end is always signed John Hancock. It’s a relationship column,” I explained. “And what do you know about relationships?” he asked, with a raised eyebrow. “You’ll have to the read the paper to find out,” I smiled. “Clever marketing, I like it,” he replied. He took a sip from his cup and cringed again. “Not used to hard liquor?” “You see, in England, we don’t make our drinks quite strong enough to kill a baby elephant,” he said. I laughed out loud. “I’m sorry. I’ll go easy next time.” “Who asked you to?” It was right then and there that I felt the spark. The flirtation. The first beat of a mutual attraction. He was joking with me. We were bantering. I still knew how to meet people. And then I realized that the spark I had felt was actually my cell phone vibrating in my pocket. “Hold on a sec,” I said to Pete. I turned, answered my phone, and said, “Hello.” “Yo, where are you?” “I’m still at Amanda’s,” I replied to Austin. “Why?” “Me and Roberto are about to beat Hutch and Brian. You’re up next, so get here.” “I was gonna hang out here for a little longer,” I said. I reflexively pivoted my body towards Pete, and he knew exactly what it meant. I was staying there for him. Amanda was nowhere to be found. “Plus I don’t have a partner.” “Listen, asswipe,” I heard Roberto chime. “Tell whatever straight frat guy you’re talking to, to come with you, and get your horny ass over here! Vamos!” “Shut up,” I said, paranoid that Pete would here Roberto yelling. Then I realized it would be the battle of the accents, so good luck to him deciphering what took me two years to finally understand. “I’m not even talking to anyone. Currently. Except you.” I watched Pete’s face change. “No, but seriously. The list is a mile long, so if you let them jump you, you’ll be waiting to play all night.” I took in a deep breath. I’d promised to hang out with the guys, and Amanda’s was meant to be a detour. I hadn’t planned on falling in love and deciding to take the scenic route. “Okay, fine,” I said. “I’ll be there in five. I’m leaving now, so don’t let them skip me.” “That’s better, Zorro!” Roberto yelled. “I still don’t have a partner,” I reiterated. “You’ll find one,” Austin said. “Come home!” I hung up the phone and turned back to Pete. “I’m still not anyone?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. I knew I’d said it. There was no denying it. He’d heard it. After our brief flirting, he was back to being `not anyone’. “Look, you don’t earn your somebody status after just one drink,” I said. “Come with me, we’re moving on.” “Where to?” he asked without skipping a beat. I liked it. “To my frat house to play Beirut.” “What’s that?” “Seriously?” “Seriously,” he said, definitely mocking how I’d said it. “Where in England are you from that you don’t know what Beirut is?” I asked with more snark than I intended. He recoiled for a second. “I’ll explain it to you on the walk over,” I said. I downed my drink. I watched him hesitate, and take a look inside his glass. “I really shouldn’t leave without Adam,” he said, swallowing hard. “He won’t miss you, I promise,” I said. I turned my shoulder to where I’d last seen Adam. He was currently talking to one of Amanda’s sorority sisters, his arm over her shoulder and propped on the wall, his face just inches from hers. “I guess not,” Pete said. I raised an eyebrow. He took my cue, finished his drink in two champion gulps, and followed me out of Amanda’s house. The walk through town on what was the beginning of a Virginia fall felt pleasant. What felt even better was the company. “So Beirut is really simple,” I explained. “Two teams of two stand at opposite ends of a table. Each team starts with ten cups in a pyramid. You take turns shooting a ping pong ball across the table until you sink the ball into the other team’s cups.” “Oh, like beer pong?” he realized. “Just like beer pong,” I said, relieved I wasn’t playing with a complete beginner. “Except, there are additional rules.” “Such as?” he asked. We rounded the corner to Jefferson Ave, where my house stood three stories high just before campus. “If both players on one team make their cups, we shoot again. If we both make the same cup, they have to drink every cup touching that one. If one of us makes three in a row, we get on fire and get to shoot until we miss. Let’s see… we get redemption.” “We play with redemption,” he said. “Perfect. Bounces count as two, but you can swat a bounce. Watch out for Roberto; that’s all he does. If a ball is spinning, girls can finger and guys can blow.” “What about guys like you?” he asked quickly. I shot him a look of surprise and hesitation. It usually took more than one cocktail for people to assess that I was gay. I tried to remain as ambiguous as possible, but I guess he saw right through it. It might have been the fact that I’d been trying to flirt with him all night. “I just assumed.” “I get to do whatever I want,” I replied, not wanting to turn his assumption into a big thing, or anything for that matter. By this time, we’d made the short walk up to my house. We rounded the back landing and turned a left into the game room. There were a couple of guys standing around waiting for the next game to start. Everyone had a Natty Light can in hand. Brian was double fisting with gin and Hutch, nursing his loss, was double fisting with cheap bourbon. “The bitch is back,” I shouted when I walked into the room. Roberto and Austin were in the process of setting up their side of the table. Pete and I slipped right in and started setting up ours. “I told Jackson he could play with you,” Roberto said from across the table. “I brought a partner,” I smiled at him. He cocked his eyebrow, and I turned to Pete to make sure he hadn’t seen. Luckily, Pete was focusing on arranging our cups in a large triangle and missed the nonverbal assault that was hurled across the table. “Not like that,” I mouthed. Roberto nodded as if to say `okay, sure…’ A minute later, both sides poured their beers and the game began. If I was worried about playing with a novice, the fear was squashed within seconds. Pete had a laser beam shot that went directly into every cup of his choice. Whereas I missed my first two cups, he single-left-handedly kept us in the game by immediately catching on fire. “So what do I do now?” he asked after getting three in a row. “You get to shoot until you miss,” I said excitedly. I could see the crow smeared all over Roberto’s face. He and Brian never lost at Beirut. Two shots later, Pete finally missed a cup, but we were solidly up five to eight. The only drawback was that we hadn’t gotten to drink but one cup a piece. Eight shots, two reracks, and five cups later, Pete and I ascended to the winner’s side of the table, and began what could only be called a run on Chi Beta for the rest of the night. Anyone who’s ever played multiple games of beer pong knows how the game sneaks up on you. I started to realize I was drunk after our fourth match, up against two sophomores that didn’t stand a chance. We’d resorted to drinking game beers on the side because Pete was so good, we’d go through games barely downing a couple of cups each. We took a break between games six and seven to do a shot with everyone in my room. I poured vodka and lemonade into my six shot glasses and passed them around while my friends got to know… correction, interrogated, Peter. “Where are escort bayan you from?” “Outside of London. I study at Oxford, but this is my second semester abroad.” “You’re Adam’s roommate?” “Suitemate, I guess. We don’t actually share a room.” “Adam would never share a room.” “So true.” “What are you studying?” “International business. I’m here to take some marketing courses.” “What year?” “I should be a senior, but not all my American credits transfer.” “Are we going to continue with the third degree, or are we going to play some more pong?” I asked, breaking up the English Inquisition. We finally met our match during game number nine when Austin and Roberto were back on the table. Loosened up, they flew passed us, but at that point, Pete and I were drunk enough not to care. As soon as they sank our last cup, I turned to see Pete yawn. I looked down at my watch. It was almost two. On his biological watch, he’d played through the night. “You ready to get out of here?” I asked. “What tipped you off?” he asked with a smile, pushing his hair away from his forehead. His eyes were big when he’d been drinking. Wide. Amazing. “You’re good at Beirut,” I complimented. “You’re not bad yourself,” he said. “Can I use your loo?” “Of course,” I said, hesitating for a second to recall what a loo was. I walked him out into the hallway and showed him which door it was. He looked at me for a second before going in alone. “Okay, you like him,” Roberto said to me as soon as I walked back into the game room. “I do not,” I replied, unconvincingly. “Is he gay or straight?” Brian asked. “I didn’t ask. But if I like him, he’s probably straight.” “I told you, you like him,” Roberto said. “I think he’s cute. And interesting. And British.” “Very British. And tall,” Hutch chimed in. “I mean, it sounds like you want him for yourself, Chad Hutchinson?” “Fuck you!” Hutch said. He absolutely hated it whenever someone implied, even jokingly, that he might be gay. He hated it more whenever I used his full name. “Listen, the thing is, I just met him. I don’t know even know if I like him or…” at that moment, I watched the door open. I shut up immediately and turned to watch Pete walk in. “I think I will head home now,” he said. “If you could just point me in the direction of Jefferson Hall.” “When you go out downstairs, just turn right. It’s down the al…” I caught Roberto’s eye. He was not-so-subtly urging me to ixnay on the directions and show him myself. “Here, let me walk you,” I said. “It can be tricky.” “You don’t have to,” he assured. “I’m sure your brothers would like to hang out with you without me hogging.” “You’re no hog, we promise,” Hutch shouted belligerently. “You, Chad, are too fucking kind,” I said. I stood up and walked Pete out, leading him in front of me by pushing the small of his back out the door. We walked downstairs and out the back entrance. A second later, we landed in the alley that would take Pete straight to Jefferson. It wasn’t tricky at all. “Your brothers are fun,” he commented mid walk. “I can’t believe we beat them so many times.” “Neither can they, I assure you,” I smiled. “Is this kind of the speed most nights?” “Not at all,” I said. “You’ll see tomorrow. There’s a big rager in the country. There’ll be band parties on Greek Row almost every Friday and Saturday. Dance parties on Wednesday, and bar crawls on Thursday. Sunday funday is mostly like this… just kicking back and hanging out.” “You go out almost every night of the week.” “Except Tuesday,” I laughed. We’d made it to his entrance. “You must be a popular guy, going to all of these events.” “It comes with The Signature, trust me. I was a nobody freshman year,” I said with a raised brow. “Oh, I forgot. I’m hanging out with a local celebrity.” “You’ll see more of that tomorrow,” I said. “People at Dominion… know me.” “Tomorrow? You mean I get asked back?” “Shut up,” I said, pushing him into his doorway and following him inside of Jefferson. He pulled out his key, and walked towards his suite. The lights in the hallway were blinding, something I wouldn’t miss from school housing. I had barely adjusted by the time we stopped at 223 and he let himself in. The place was spacious, and clearly a corner suite. There was a large living area, kitchen, and patio in the center. To the left, I knew immediately was Adam’s room. He had a big California flag hanging on one wall and an even bigger California king-sized bed under it. The room was installed expertly, already decorated, and finished. On the left was Pete’s room. There were still a couple of boxes to be unpacked, but the bed was made and the essentials were put in place. It was modest, the only real gadgetry consisting of a laptop and a printer. Everything else, minus what I couldn’t see inside the boxes, were clothes and shoes. “My humble abode,” he said, letting me in. “I’d offer you a drink, but I haven’t managed to get to the market yet.” “I would pass anyway,” I replied. “I don’t want you getting me drunk and taking advantage.” “Advantage?” he said with wide eyes. “Me?” “Umm, yes you.” “Said the guy who’s been pouring me stiffies all night. No sir!” He smiled. “Fair enough,” I replied. I wanted to pounce. All of me wanted to jump his bones right then, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to scare him, but I really wanted to know if the flirting I’d felt all night was real or platonic. “So is this how you gather intel for your column?” he asked. He sat down on his bed and sprawled back on his arms. It was weird standing in front of him, outstretched like that, trying my hardest not to run my eyes up and down his body. I failed. I took a slow, thorough inventory, paying attention to how much more comfortable he looked lying down than he had standing up. I could see his chest going up and down under a thin cotton t-shirt, and I wanted nothing more than to rub my hand across it. “Not exactly,” I swallowed. “I usually have much better moves than this.” “Oh really?” he asked sounding intrigued. I nodded. “I would show you, but then you wouldn’t be able to resist me after.” I gave him my classic half smile. It was tried and true. It had worked on several `straight’ frat boys my freshman and sophomore years, and I was hoping it would work then to kick off my junior year. “I think I’ll manage,” he said with a smirk. “Alright, if you’re confident,” I said. “Stand up.” He stood up a few inches away from me. “If I’m really trying to… gather intel,” I began. “I’ll put my hand on a guy’s chest like this. Can I?” He swallowed hard as soon as I made contact. I was surprised at how comfortable he was being so close to another guy, and it gave me hope to move on. Maybe I didn’t need to ask. Maybe I just knew. Like he had about me. And just maybe, it wasn’t a big deal for either of us. “Sure,” he replied. “If you have to.” “It’s part of the demonstration,” I explained. There was a fine line between hitting on someone and throwing yourself at them, and I was performing a balancing act directly on that line. “I’ll lick my lips, really slow and say `I had an awesome time tonight’. If he doesn’t say anything, I’ll tilt my head, just slightly, and with my eyes, I’ll ask the question without saying anything.” “And at this point, what’ll he say?” “He’ll either go in for the kiss or he won’t. If he doesn’t, I lower my hands casually down his stomach, trace with the lightest touch ever. If you go too fast or too hard, you lose them,” I said. “And then I’ll look down, not subtle at all, and then I’ll look back up and make eye contact.” And that was when he was supposed to kiss me. I say supposed to because the events that followed were so utterly baffling, even now, looking back, I can’t quite comprehend them. “Wow,” he said, just inches away from my face. “I’m sure that works out for you.” “Less than you’d imagine,” I said truthfully. “Still, you gather enough intel to write a weekly column,” he said. He pushed back, away from me, got on his bed, crossed his legs and put his arms behind his head. It was a clear shut off, a dismissal. The room suddenly went quite cold. “A lot of it is theoretical,” I said, not sure what I’d done to turn him off. There was no way I’d misread that entire situation. And yet the proof was right there, lying alone on his bed. Not kissing me. “I’m really sleepy, Corbin,” he yawned. “Maybe you tell me more about it tomorrow.” “Of course,” I said. I took a step back. He didn’t even turn his head to look at me as I exited. I left Jefferson Hall and walked up the alley alone. I felt sort of empty inside. It was like the buildup of the decade had just fallen flat. I had nothing to show for what I considered a charming night. When I reached the landing of my house, I took a deep breath. They’d all seen the chemistry, and they’d all be assuming what had happened. I would have done the same. And I was slightly embarrassed for myself that I had let that slip away. “That was fast,” Roberto chided me when I got upstairs. The guys were still hanging around the game room, shooting the shit and trickling off to bed. “Nothing happened,” I replied, trying my best not to sound disappointed. The only way to save face would be to act like I didn’t want anything to happen. “Why not?” “Because I’m not a slut, dude,” I said. “I’m not just gonna throw myself at him on the first night.” They really didn’t need to know that I had thrown myself at him on the first night. “Oh wow, you’re growing up…” Hutch said, sitting up and setting his glass down. “You guys, I think he likes this guy.” I stood up and walked out of the room. “It’s the first night,” I said in a sing-song non-committal tone. I wanted desperately to keep it light, even though inside I was still trying to figure out what had gone wrong. “So you’ll fuck him tomorrow!” I heard Hutch shout as I walked into my bedroom and closed the door. “I hope so,” I whispered to myself before taking my clothes off and climbing into bed. Alone, unsatisfied, and yet inexplicably happy.

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