Jack Armstrong always wears overalls. I always thought he only had one pair, but the first time I spent the night in his dorm room, I saw that he had a closet full of them, all the same, like a cartoon character. He lives in Peet, the dorm across the quad from mine. Jack Armstrong uses a microwave to cook things, and no matter what, when you open the door, it always smells like popcorn. All the boys who live here wear bright orange beanies and roll their own cigarettes, and in the bathrooms there is vomit caked between the cracks of the floor tiles. Which is why I never pee here.
I get out of his bed and go stand in front of his desk. So far, I’ve had sex with him six times. He has a plastic stegosaurus and a plastic T-Rex on his desk, and they are having a
Sarah Little, my roommate, is in love with Jack Armstrong. They all are.
In the corner of his room, he has two plaid, cigarette-burned chairs held together with duct tape. He calls it the Chouch. I lay down on it. There is my stomach, flat, the skin hanging over my ribs like a hammock. I’m only wearing underpants, because Jack Armstrong took off everything else I was wearing, and instead of thinking about what was actually happening when he put his hands on me, I tried to concentrate on what he was doing. How he did things. I am an anthropology major. Honestly, I’m not completely sure what anthropology even is. My brother said to me, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, studying people when you are one!” I look at Jack Armstrong’s posters: one tells the rules of Beirut, in imposing green letters over a black background. get your balls wet! it says underneath in a different font. I am going to learn how Jack Armstrong lives, starting with where he puts his hands.
Jack Armstrong is snoring. I go over to his closet and slide a pair of overalls off of a wooden hanger. I step into them, then turn and look at myself in his greasy mirror. I have a mole just like Cindy Crawford. Sarah Little looks at me with this kind of longing, but also there is resentment. I think, maybe, that is the closest I can get.
When I take a step in the overalls, I trip on the bottoms of the legs and knock over Jack Armstrong’s plastic bong. He opens his eyes and rolls over to face me. He only has one pillow. But he has three bongs.
“Hey,” he says, looking at me. And then, “Those are sexy on you,” he says. He reaches out for me. It is a small room where you can touch nearly everything from the bed.
“Jack Armstrong,” I say.
He tugs off the overalls, and when he kisses me, I shudder at his yeasty beer breath. He thinks I am cold, so he holds me tighter. When he touches me, I think of what it would be like to kiss Sarah Little.
Last night, she came home after taking peyote, and she was sweating.
“I can speak other languages on this,” she said breathlessly. “And I don’t mean like French. I mean like dog, I mean like wind.”
I turned all the mirrors around because reflections would have been dangerous. Her skin was damp, and there was panic in her eyes. Because she was afraid, she let me sleep in her bed. “I’m right here,” I told her. When she started to fall asleep, I looked down at her, and it made my stomach twist. Her eyebrows are faint and flaxen-colored, like aerial shots of grain. Below the cartilage in her ear, I could see the reddish glow of blood in the lobe. Once her breathing became steady, I touched her lip, I couldn’t help it, and her fingers curled into the safety of her hand.