#83: Afterglow.

Part I.

Read the original thread here.

Boca Raton, 2018.

You wake up in the attic for the first time since you were 17. You spent all night drinking warm 40s and smoking American Spirits. Today you feel like shit and smell like a urinal.

You're 28 now, and you don't drink and you don't smoke (you never smoked) but this was the closest thing to freedom you could conjure—Vic's backyard and chain smoking and no parents to tell you to go to home or turn the music down or not to smoke inside.

Where have Vic's parents been all these years? Ten years later and he's still living at his mom's house and his mom is still perpetually "at work."

Vic wakes you up by throwing you a bottle of Adderall which lands right in your eye, so dry it feels swollen shut. He asks you if you want one like he's offering you a cup of coffee.

"Isn't it hard to get these refilled?" you ask him.

You almost open the bottle but think better of it. You grab a half-empty water instead. It's warm and tastes vaguely like garlic and that disgusts you, but it's better than whatever you'll get from the tap.

“Nah man, it’s easy.”

Alright then.

Waking up, you appreciate how much Vic has changed. His 33 is a well-worn 33. He's gained 40, 50 pounds, his facial hair is flecked with gray, and he dresses exactly the same as he always has.

This ages him in a way that surprises you.

The morning—which you realize is really the afternoon, it's 1pm—goes exactly the same way these mornings have always gone. You laze around and listen to Vic argue on the phone with his girlfriend of the month, you two go to Burger King, you idly shoplift.

At the Goodwill, Vic asks you if you're on steroids, and before you can say no, what are you talking about, tells you about how Andrew, who still works at food court at the mall, got obsessed with steroids in 2015 and…

And one story bleeds into the next, each new fact losing its shock value within the first 5 seconds of hearing it.

Michael Baker got a crazy sales job and moved to San Diego. Matt married Erica. Katie has an OnlyFans.

Andrew's balls shrunk.

Talking to Vic, you feel like a tourist in your own memories. Nothing can re-anchor you there. You've completely forgotten what it feels like to be comfortable around him

Driving along 441, still listening to the same music you listened to when you were a teen and he was an early 20-something, he asks you how the wife is.

Kids yet?

He launches into something about how Steve had a kid. You know Steve has a kid, because it happened when you were a senior in high school.

You don't tell him that you haven't had sex with your wife since you were 22, and you don't tell him that you haven't cheated on her either, that you two just don't have sex, and you're 28 and fucked more at 15 than you have in the whole of your 20s.

No. No kids.

He says, "Oh. Well, Katie got an abortion," as though to suggest that maybe your wife got one too.

There's a moment of silence for your shared potential children.

Vic lights a joint.

You wonder if you'll ever have kids.

You're not having them with your wife, Mary, that's for sure. You're 28 now and you'll be 29 soon. You'll probably work up the nerve to ask for a divorce around 30.

You don't think you can get remarried right away...

Vic asks you if you want to go to a show tonight. You might as well.

If you felt out of place at these shows as at 17, you feel out of place now. Even in two day old clothes, sticky with your own grime, you're a little too clean cut for your surroundings.

And worst of all— for the first time in your life— you feel old.

A girl who you could only describe as dressed in "2011 retro" comments on your sneakers.

She says they look "orthopedic."

What? Why can't she give you benefit of the doubt here? These assholes can wear velcro shoes and it's ironic and alternative but if you do it, it's...

"They're the wrong kind of ugly," she explains to you, ashing a cigarette in a sea full of vapes, dangerously close to your arm.

You stare at your feet.

"You're the wrong kind of trashy," you immediately start panicking as you hear yourself say that too abrasively.

As you wince at your own comment, you realize you recognize her. It's not 2011 retro. It's the same thing she was wearing in 2011.

This is Katie Osborne, Vic's ex with the OnlyFans.

You're in fight or flight trying to figure out how to backpedal, but Katie Osborne doesn't care that you called her trashy.

She recognizes you too, and she's excited to see you.

No pleasantries. Just a, "I never thought I'd see you at one of these again!"

Then she asks you if you want to get a drink instead of hanging out with middle schoolers who think they're in bands.

Are they really in middle school? Of course not. But we can do better than this.

Even though she's your age, Katie drinks like she's still 17.

For the second night in a row, so do you.

You two don't catch up. You're just two people at a bar. You don't remember yesterday or an hour ago or your life back at home, and there's no anticipation for tomorrow.

You just are.

Katie kisses you. You're too drunk to pretend to want to say no, to pretend to want to push her away, to make some mean comment about her being almost 30 selling pictures of herself online, to re-position her in your mind's eye as Vic's ex, to manufacture contempt for her.

In fact, the opposite happens, and you see her as you first saw her in high school, and it's more than just desire—it's more than just wanting to fuck her, you feel warmth spread through your body, the kind of fondness reserved for adolescent crushes.

The rest of the night happens in a quick clip. A $9.00 Uber, fumbling to get through the front door a $800/month beachside bungalow, the kind crawling with palmetto bugs, more humid inside than it is outside.

Finally being too tired and too drunk and too porn sick to consummate the first instance of mutual desire you've experienced in 6 years.

You pass out and wake up at 7 AM, 3 hours later. Even though you've sobered up, you still feel the afterglow of affection.

Katie isn't suddenly ugly to you, there is no overwhelming sense of shame or guilt. You think she looks even more beautiful in the light of day.

Katie's eyes flutter open and while you anticipate a smile, she doesn't greet you with one. She asks if you could leave, because she doesn't know how to share a bed and she has work (what work?) in a few hours.

You walk out to the beach, not even a mile away from Katie's place and lie there for a while.

You just feel empty.

7 turns to 8... 8 turns to 9...9 turns to 10.

Mary calls.

"When are you flying home again?"


Soundtrack:

  1. Ruby Soho by Rancid

  2. Jesus Does the Dishes by Wingnut Dishwashers Union

  3. New Mexico Song by Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains

  4. Bad Kids by Black Lips

  5. So You Wanna Be A Cop? by Leftover Crack

  6. Change Your Mind by The Killers