Almost two thousand words, y'all!
Chapter 1 is down the page. Chapter 2 is below. Enjoy.
On the Monday before the concert, Derek notices that my hands are stained red.
“You finger a girl you killed?” he asks.
“Yes, Derek. I fingered a girl I killed.”
Derek means “sick” like “that’s gross,” not “sick” like the slang term for something that’s cool, but Derek uses both, frequently. If Derek or an extreme sports star does something, it’s the latter. If myself or any avowed or simply Derek-declared homosexual does something, it’s the former. And Derek does not distinguish between those two groups, me and the gays, despite my early protestations to the contrary.
I wish Derek would network faster. And I wish Derek would network far away from me. There’s lots of room. We’re the only two people in a vast flourescently-lit barn that will someday be the Tulsa Community College Main Computing Commons. It would be the Tulsa Community College Main Computing Commons a lot faster if Derek would stop image-searching girls on their periods on computers he’s just put together.
“This is you.”
“I’m not looking, Derek.” He has the monitor of the computer next to the one I’m working on swiveled toward me.
“When did you grow a mullet?”
The cold shoulder never works, and by now I’ve worked up a tolerance to all manner of ghastly Internet porn, so I look.
“Yep, that’s me, alright.” Me is a portly guy giving one thumbs up to the camera, the other thumb in a girl whose head is cropped out, socks still on.
“Sick. You’re a fucking sicko.” He swivels the monitor back.
“I was dying my mom’s hair, Derek,” I say, which is the truth.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because she’s going senile and can’t do it herself.”
The terminals we’ve hooked up so far hum. I finish the one I’m working on and move over a seat.
“Chad Muska is the fucking sickest. I skate-battled him one time. No joke. In Oregon. He beat me, but even he said it was close. No joke.”
He turns the monitor back to me. A skater is doing complex tricks on a ramp.
“Yea.” And back again. “I basically invented that trick. Me and Bob Burnquist worked on it one whole summer in Oregon.”
Derek is a twenty-two year old kid from Oregon. I’ve never been there, but to hear him tell it, Oregon is a place where the drugs are excellent, the girls are easy, and extreme sports luminaries are constantly challenging Derek to feats at which if he doesn’t waste them, he at least does well enough that the star expresses surprise and offers Derek a bong hit. He is also my superior at Centricic Networking, leader in Tulsa’s burgeoning IT industry. (It says that on our van.)
Six and a half hours later, I get to go home. In that time I have hooked up forty-four computers to Derek’s seven. But on the other hand, I have not shown Derek a single humorous internet animation, autopsy photo, or video of two frat-boys doing naked beer bongs from opposite ends of a prone co-ed. I guess that’s what makes us a team.
My house is the house I’ve lived in since I was born. The car I drive home is the one I drove in high school. The tassle from my high-school graduation mortarboard is still dangling from the rearview mirror. I didn’t realize it was there ‘till a week after being in Tulsa and the night after I took it down my dad reminded me at dinner how much they paid for my graduation outfit. He threatened to find the receipt. I said I believed him. I put it back up while he watched, smoking on the porch.
I sleep in the same bedroom I did when I was a kid, before my mom started acting as though she perpetually had half-a-bottle of Robitussin in her. When I was a teenager I used to lock my door at night for the obvious reasons. Now I lock it so I won’t wake up to her sitting next to my bed in a rocking chair she dragged in from the hallway, the stuffed giraffe that usually occupies the chair in her lap, rocking slowly while she whispers words nobody can hear.
My dad gets home at seven-thirty and chides mom for still being in her bathrobe. We eat dinner in front of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I download mp3s for a while and correspond with people from home. Later, I fall asleep with the TV on. Tomorrow I will be 17 minutes late for work, beating Derek in by half an hour.