A Summer near Westcity -- v2 -- 4by @abrahamKim PATRON | 1264 words | 1🔥 | 426💌
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Once I knew I'd no longer be in college is when I stopped wanting to date. There was nothing to my name anymore, nothing to offer. Who the hell was I?
The past couple years I could always answer that question with a major and a list of vague interests. Now? What is there to say? It's impossible to introduce myself now, and it's only once school's disappeared that I realized the extent of my life it inhabited. I spent so much of my energy rebelling against the institution, the man, yet now I can't grasp who I am without it.
Jackie calls me back. I'd called him because I missed one of his calls, and he had called me instead of responding to one of my texts. That's one thing I liked about Jackie. He didn't feel the need to respond to things in an orderly manner. I'd text him a question, and he'd call me, days later. I admired that gall about him, and I had been about to try it on my friends but never had the chance to before losing them all.
Once I was no longer affiliated with SU, it was not just the dating, but also platonic relationships that fell through the floor. It's not like I planned to exile myself or anything. Honestly, I tried. Meeting for coffee. Lunch. Drinks. Whatever the occasion I just couldn't shake this newfound observation that most of our conversations were predicated on talking about school and our projected futures. Either bitching about how shitty a professor was or how much work one had to do after a bout of procrastination, or pondering how great their future would be once they got a high paying job in one of the attractive cities: New York, Colorodo, or Shook City.
I couldn't stand listening to my friends go on and on about this stuff. All I could wonder was how I'd tolerated it before. I mean, I hadn't just tolerated it before but had actually participated. I had been them. And now I wasn't. Can someone change so fast? These were the only thoughts I could have while sitting across the table from my friends. I found it impossible to care about what they had to say anymore. Their GPAs, their internships, their study abroads, their Fulbright Scholarship applications. None of it; all I could wonder was, do people seriously talk about this kind of stuff for days on end?
Slowly, I stopped going to coffees, lunches, dinners, and drinks. I holed myself in my apartment doing nothing for the most part. Literally nothing. Just existing. I must've lost like 15 maybe 20 pounds? I don't know. I didn't have a weight scale around.
Anyways, one of the days I just happened to decide to plug in my phone. Not knowing what to expect, I kind of hoped that I would have missed calls and texts. But to my disappointment, and also a bit to my relief there was none. Zilch. I tried returning to doing nothing that day, but now that my phone was on, I noticed myself incessantly checking it throughout the day. I'd gone weeks just staring into space and now that my phone was plugged into a wall, I felt like I couldn't get away from it. Like it was a magnet.
I went to go shut the thing off when the phone began to vibrate. And I thought, of course, now all the messages and calls are coming in! I remembered that when the phone was off for a long time there was usually a delay registering messages/calls received during the hibernation period. It turned out not to be old messages. They were in fact new ones, coming in now. Two messages from Jackie.
So that's how I began hanging out with Jackie. Out of the blue. Two text messages sent when I had cut ties with everyone I knew at SU. I don't know how much diversity in expression is possible in the form of a text message, but something about his texts made me not shy away. It felt like there was some human at the other end of the other phone. I never felt that way about my other friends... or whatever they were now. Old-friends.
Jackie suggested we meet at some shitty bar that served very greasy burgers and rectangular pizzas. I must've eaten enough for two linebackers.
-- Wow. How the hell are you so skinny.
I explained how this wasn't normal. That I hadn't eaten all day. I had almost explained how I'd spent the past couple weeks barely eating anything besides an odd cracker or scoop of peanut butter rubbed on a banana, but I held back that information. I didn't want him to think I was a nut.
-- Well. Eat up, man. I get an employee discount here.
-- You work here?
-- I used to. But the manager and I get along, so if I come in when he's working, I still get the discount. It applies to drinks too, so let's get really fucked up.
We drank a lot of craft beers. Then, after we left, we got a 30 pack of Busch Light and took it to his house.
-- So what have you been up to?
-- I'm taking a break from school.
Jackie curled his eyes.
-- Really? What made you decide to do that?
-- I needed a break. I didn't know why I was in school.
-- I feel like that too. Quite often actually. But I never thought of taking a break from school because of it.
-- In fact, it makes me want to double down and finish even quicker.
-- I thought of that too. But I didn't think I could make it that far. Hold my breath that long.
-- I think you could have. But you know, I haven't seen you in forever man. I just remember in high school you being so smart. I figured you wouldn't have any trouble here at SU.
-- My struggle here isn't so much the academics. My grades were actually not that bad.
-- Figures. So more an emotional thing?
Jackie handed me another Busch Light.
-- Yeah. I think that everyone's going through what I'm going through, they just won't admit it. Or they don't even know.
-- Fuck, I agree with you. That's why they're all so preoccupied with meaningless stuff, like their phones and Netflix, and drinking!
We cheers'd to that.
-- So when are you going back?
-- I may not.
-- You've thought a lot about this haven't you?
The way he said it made me feel like he understood. I went ahead and told him what I'd done the past couple weeks. Told him that I'd dropped out for good. Jackie seemed to understand. Understood in a way where maybe he wished he was in my shoes, but didn't have the privilege of being able to do so.
Sometime around 4 AM, I walked back to my apartment, where outside, I looked up at the window of my bedroom and imagined trying to fall asleep. I didn't think I could. So I went to a greasy diner nearby and ordered some coffee and pancakees. I still had an appetite that's for sure. And this is how I began spending countless hours at this greasy spoon.