High… How Are You? (A Short Story)

“Why don’t you go talk to him?” Eric says, barely looking up from his book. It’s a book by George R.R. Martin. Very popular. I think it’s about dragons.

“Excuse me?” I ask.

He sighs and closes his book but not completely. I see his left forefinger sandwiched in between the pages like a disproportionate hotdog in an even more disproportionate bun. “If the music bothers you that much,” he says, “go tell him to turn it down.”

“It bothers you the same way it bothers me,” I say. “Why don’t you go talk to him.”

I see the gears turning in my roommate’s head. It only takes a second but there’s a deviousness in his eyes.

The manipulative bastard! “Because I don’t even know his name,” he says. He’s lying.

“It’s Kevin.”

“I …” Eric says, looking for another excuse. I raise a brow. “I’m afraid of dreadlocks.”

“That’s not a thing.”

“Yes, it is.”

“No. It. Is. Not.”

“Just go talk to him. You’re braver than I am.”

“He’s not going to hurt you. It’s weed, not crystal meth,” I say.

 

*******

 

An unfortunate turn at Rock, Paper, Scissors later, I’m standing outside Kevin’s door. I don’t want to knock but I do it before I lose my nerve. I don’t like confrontation. The door opens. Kevin stands in its frame. I never realized how big he was. I also never realized how much I could hate Eric.

“George!” He says, going in for a bro hug. A hug I don’t want because he is currently shirtless and smells like Reggae. He hugs me anyway. “What’s up?”

“Hi, Kevin,” I say in a muffled voice. I can feel my eyes changing to that tomato red colour. His room is full of smoke and that song is playing louder.

“Come in.” He doesn’t wait for me to decline. “Want a puff?”

“No thanks.”

“This is the good stuff.” He takes a puff and freezes for a minute, savouring the smoke. I start to wonder what my mother would think if she found me here now. I also wonder if hell sounds like this.

That damn song!

“Kevin, I know it’s none of my business, but –” he falls down into his couch and stares at the ceiling, “-would you mind keeping it down? I’m trying to study but I keep hearing this song over and over and over…”

He snaps out of his reverie. A sad look crosses his face. “Vickie left me,” he says. There’s a tear in his eye. An actual freaking tear!

“I’m sorry, Kev.”

“She said I smoke too much weed…”

“You do smoke too much weed.”

He sighs and says, “I know.” He takes another puff and blows the smoke out in a neat ball.

“Cool trick,” I tell him.

He smiles. “I’ll turn down the music, George.”

“Thank you.” I turn to leave and the song – which is on a loop – starts again.

“I love this song!” Kevin says. He bobs his head up and down and starts to sing along. “Gotta change my answering machine, now that I’m alone…” he has a surprisingly lovely voice.

“Umm… Kevin…” he looks at me. I mouth the word Volume.

“Right, sorry,” he snorts out a laugh and continues to sing. “I’m so sick of love songs…

So am I, Kevin. So am I.

 

 

 

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