At the end of February in his only year at school, we all hijacked this igloo—me, James, and Lil’ Chubby Chuck. We spent the entire time huddled together like baby otters. James insisted on poking holes through the top of the thing with a stick so we could “see what the stars are bringing to the table these days.” I started yelling at him, because that made it disastrously cold, and in the middle of my tirade, that beautiful boy kissed me right on the cheek, and it calmed me down entirely.
The kid had a special touch. We stayed up all night calling each other names like “Sir Charles” and “Flash” and “Luke Walton” and “Sloth” and “Tyrant.”
That beautiful boy kissed me on the cheek.
I like the time he went door-to-door on campus, “Hey, anyone want some pot? Best grass in Grinnell! 2 g’s for 30, bags for 60!” Some derp on North Campus called the cops, and James wore a thick black beanie for the next three weeks to hide his glorious red hair. It was the worst he’d ever looked.
He always had squinted eyes and hair like redhead Jesus. I saw his cock once—it was the size of Saturn.
There was a group of girls outside a basement party mentioning his name while I was out there smoking a cigarette. Then one of them just flat said: “He fucks for dollars.” I laughed and went back inside. He was in there, and nodding his head, but not talking to any strangers.
I called him over winter break.
“Hey there, Cambridge scholar.” He always answered phone calls with such grace.
“You get your grades?”
When he came back for all of his crap—his one suitcase of clothes, his working vile of acid, his notebooks, his guitar, and the grocery bags filled with his 219 empty packs of cigarettes—I wanted to duct tape it all to the floor. We didn’t even have time for a coffee. I asked if I could watch him smoke a cigarette.
“Don’t have any, chief.”
And then, “Don’t worry. I’ll see you soon.”
He came back for my graduation—even brought me a gift. A book of short stories: Tooth Imprints on a Corn Dog by Mark Leyner. When I held it in my hand, it felt like a 14K gold chain.
“Who’s this fella?” My dad asked in his New York accent.
“Hello. James Samson, pleasure to meet you, sir. Sterling young lad you got right here.” (Jamesy gestured towards me). “You must be extremely proud.”
“Eh, he has his moments…”
Then James and I talked on our own for a little:
“Chicago PD get you yet, Jamesy?”
“For what? All I’m doing is shaping violins.”
“You like it?”
“Shaping wood like that is the greatest feeling.”
“You think it could be lucrative?”
“Don’t matter. I have my side gig where I charge kids $10 for me to squirt a hit of acid into their mouths. I love it. It’s like I’m the Dalai Lama or something. And it pays well.”
“I’ll be as solid as I’ve ever been once Theresa moves back to me.”
We kissed each other on the cheek and said goodbye.
After the festivities, my father approached me:
“Boy, James seemed cool.”
“Yeah, he’s great, dad.”
“Did he graduate?”
“Umm… not quite.”
“When do you think you’ll see him again?”
“Don’t know, guess I haven’t really thought about it.”
Leo Abbe is the Writing editor for Not Mad. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.