August 2, 2011

The Green, First 1000 Words

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” I asked Chloe for the hundredth time.

She rolled her eyes. “Emily,” she whined, stretching the vowels. “You’re totally gonna get us caught.”

I shook my head. “I’m just nervous because I don’t know the rules out here. I did this all the time at home,” I lied.

I flipped the fake ID over in my hands. The photo was a girl who looked vaguely like me but with curly hair; her first name was even Emily. I wondered how Chloe had gotten them so quickly. I didn’t ask, because I didn’t want to look stupid. I wanted college to be different from high school. I wanted to be the sort of person who knew how to drink and make friends and get fake IDs.

I slipped it into my purse. My real ID was back at my car, along with my guts, apparently. I looked up at the marquee over the Student Union Cinema; last summer’s horror flick was playing. “We could go after the movie,” I suggested hopefully.

She snorted. “Sure, along with the fifty other kids from our orientation group. That won’t look suspicious at all. Look, are you coming or not?”

She crossed her arms and waited for me to decide. The dying sun was behind her, so all I could really see of her face were her bright, annoyed eyes.

“Alright,” I sighed.

“Jeez, it’s not like I’m twisting your arm. Give me the ID and go watch your stupid movie.” She grabbed at my purse, but I pulled back.

“I’m serious, okay! It’s just been a long day. Believe me, I need a beer.”

She gave me a long look. I’d never had beer, but it was what people said, when they’d had long days, so I said it. I’d only ever had grape-flavored vodka at Bobby D’s graduation party, a month before, and it had tasted a lot like cough syrup. I hoped beer tasted better than that.

“Come on, then,” she said.

Chloe picked leaves off of a line of young maple trees as we walked to Malloy Hall. At orientation they told us that Malloy Hall was named after one of the founders of the university, and that it was the highest point on campus; more importantly, its archway was the quickest way out into the city. We went through the arch and its stone lions, and I rubbed their noses for luck when Chloe wasn’t looking. On this side of the arch, the trees were huge, ancient oaks that grew in loose clusters of twos and threes, as if gossiping. They looked odd against the buzzing lights of the city.

“What was that?” Chloe asked.

“I didn’t see anything.”

“It was probably some guy going to piss behind a tree.” She shook her head and started down the steps. She stopped so suddenly that I ran into her. “There he is again!”

I looked up, but whoever it was had gone. Chloe crossed her arms and scowled.

“What a creeper. I think it’s a girl.”


“Whatever.” She started stomping down the steps. I tried to catch up with her and tripped. I bumped and slid down to the sidewalk, where I landed in a heap on top of my bag. Chloe was waiting for me at the bottom, slouching and listless.

I looked up and realized my mistake. Chloe had smallish hazel eyes; the girl staring down at me had huge eyes and they were so dilated you couldn’t tell what color they were. They were just big, black orbs. That didn’t blink.

I swallowed.

“What is the hold up?” Chloe yelled from the road.

I looked back to the girl. She flinched. I grabbed my bag and stood up. She stared at me and took a breath, like she wanted to speak. I glanced away to see if Chloe was still waiting; when I looked back, Chloe’s double was gone. I laughed, but it sounded nervous and lame, even to me.

“I think that girl was on drugs,” I said, when I finally caught Chloe at the intersection. “She was dressed like you.”

Chloe shrugged without uncrossing her arms. “Whatever. You have to ignore people like that. They’re just trying to get attention.”

I nodded. “Oh, yeah.” I didn’t know what she meant, exactly, but it sounded right. I glanced over my shoulder, but then we had the light and we had to run and the girl was still gone, so I made up my mind not to worry about it.

We walked the rest of the way in silence, me struggling to keep up with Chloe’s open stride. I caught glimpses of things, bums in suits and cars painted like houses and stern, angry bicyclists; all absent from the list of things my mother told me to fear about the city. I was surprised by how much light there was in the growing darkness; an orange streetlight reflecting off broken glass in the sidewalk made me think of walking on stars.

Chloe stopped at the corner to examine the street names. We were by a fountain with a sculpture of woman covered in vines; I waved at the sculpture, and Chloe snorted.

“It’s this way, space case.”

We turned left, walked past an indie cinema, and arrived.

“The Green,” Chloe read aloud. Its windows were a tangle of green neon tubes. “Supposedly, if you get drunk enough you can see a face in all that.”

I shrugged. She shrugged. We went in.


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