BY STEVE COLORI
Copyright is held by the author.
WALKING THROUGH the hallways Jim kicked beer cans out of his way and punched a hole through one of the walls. He was short and stocky but could bench press as much as anyone. He broke through the door of Big T’s room to hang out with the guys.
“How much have you been drinking?” Big T asked.
“On my tenth beer right now,” Jim replied. “I’ll have this thirty rack kicked halfway through the night.” He placed the rack next to a chair and sat down.
“Good man, good man,” Big T replied.
“Ain’t anyone gonna ask me where I’m at?” Mark replied.
“Why the hell would anyone wanna know?” Jim asked.
Mark glared at him sharply. “What the hell would you know about anything? Goofy-looking meat head.”
“Watch it, dude,” Jim replied. “I don’t have a problem standing up for myself.”
“Just shut up, Jim.”
“Hey, hey hey!!!” Big T yelled. “Let’s just do this eight ball and everyone is gonna settle in and have a good night. Kapeesh?”
“We’re brothers,” Henry said. “We’re all in this AS ONE.”
The five guys in the room chimed in their agreements. “Who’s got a 20-dollar bill?” Henry asked.
“Dude, I just jacked up that last eight ball with laundry detergent. We made double the money. Use a 100. You think this is amateur hour or something?” Big T handed him the 100. Long white lines were layered one after another on the table. There were two lines for each of them. They took them hard and quick and laughed.
“Damnit, I got a bloody nose already,” Jim said.
“You would, man. Friggin’ amateur,” Mark said. His hair was slicked and his golf shirt was tucked neatly into his jeans. He wore black shoes.
“What is it with you and this amateur stuff?” Jim asked. He cracked his knuckles out of habit.
“Whadaya mean, guy?” You’re a friggin’ amateur. And you’re short like a lawn gnome too,” Mark said. Everyone except Jim laughed. A few other guys threw in some short comments. “Why ain’t you like the rest of us? Why do you gotta be different all the time?” Mark asked.
Why doesn’t anyone ever like me? Jim asked himself. I joined this place to make friends. I’m still the outsider. How do I change? What do I do? Why am I so much different than everyone else? I’ve always been different. I don’t understand . . .
“Yo, you gonna answer the question or just sit there in silence for another hour?” Mark asked.
“I’ve always been different. Why are you guys all the same?”
“Ooooo, good one,” Mark said. “That’s because we’re normal and you’re not. You’re friggin’ weird, man. We’re upstanding brothers of this beautiful campus. The cream of the crop and you’re nothing.”
“Maybe I’m different because I have self-esteem.”
“I have self-esteem. I can get all the coke and beer I want and still own this campus. You on the other hand have nothing,” Mark said.
“You’re guilty of something,” Jim said. “Goddamn criminal.”
“Hey what’d you call me?” Mark asked. He stood six-foot three and was tall but he was skinny. He was toe to toe with Jim who was all muscle.
“You gotta problem, criminal?” Jim asked.
“Yeah, I got a problem. You’re my goddamn problem.”
“Do something about it,” Jim said. “You afraid you’re gonna get knocked out.”
“Look, I ain’t never been knocked out and I’m not about to get knocked out by a midget.”
Jim’s eyes lit up. His pupils were dilated and he did his best not to blink. He was having trouble controlling his breathing.
“I’m telling you right now, pal, I’m not messing around!!” Mark yelled. The rest of the guys looked on in anticipation. None of them liked Jim and they were hoping this would happen. Fighting seemed to solve everything. It was the go to option. This was their chance.
“Do something, Marky. DO SOMETHING!” Jim yelled.
Mark was shaking with anger.
“Chicken,” Jim said coolly. “No balls on this guy.”
Mark cracked his beer bottle on the edge of the bar and glass shattered everywhere. He held the broken glass to Jim’s neck. “I’ll slit your throat if it’s the last thing I do!!!”
Jim was beginning to hyperventilate. The room was becoming blurry. His mind was filled with white noise. He couldn’t hear himself think. None of the guys were coming to his rescue. They all watched without saying anything. The glass was getting closer, closer, closer to his neck. He was inches from death. A drop of blood trickled from his neck.
“I think you’ve scared him enough,” Big T said.
“I’m not messin’ around yo. I hate this kid.”
“Just relax. Just put the glass down and we’ll just forget this whole mess,” Big T said. Jim gulped as slowly as he could, hoping he wouldn’t get cut further. His eyes were beginning to water. His thoughts were racing. He prayed for his life. He wondered why he ever wanted to be a member of the fraternity. He wondered how his life had gotten to this. He thought back to his freshman year when he had friends.
Mark slowly lowered the glass. Jim let out his breath and ran his hands through his hair. Mark turned to walk away. Jim pivoted and sucker-punched him in the stomach. He fell hard. Jumping on top of him Jim started throwing punches. Mark’s head hit the floor hard, bounced back up, and rattled to a standstill. His body was motionless. The guys yelled and threw beer bottles at Jim. One hit him in the head and blood ran from his hair. They tried jumping Jim but he got up and ran. With tears running from his eyes he ran faster than he ever had. He ran for his freedom. He ran for his life. He ran straight into the night.