[Note: This is a novel being presented in installments, one chapter per week, every Friday, from May 4 to August 24, 2012. The full novel will be published in its entirety in September 2012.]
Jonathan leaned against the bar, waiting for any of the dozen bartenders to notice the twenty dollar bill in his hand. He was out with some friends and all of them were dancing and laughing on the dance floor. Jonathan just wanted another beer.
-What can I get you?
-I’ll have a Kokanee.
The bartender disappeared around the corner of the bar to the other side where the Kokanee tap was located. It was in that split second that about three other bartenders asked Jonathan if they could get him a drink. It was just like waiting for a bus. When you want a bus you stand by the side of the road for what seems like ages until one comes along, and then, it usually comes along with all the other routes. It’s what makes changing buses nearly impossible. Jonathan was always just missing the bus he really wanted. Why couldn’t they find a better stagger system? He thought the bartenders could use a similar arrangement. If there was one thing they ought to borrow from buses, Jonathan thought, it would be a pull cord to let everyone know that you need to get off. This drinking was dangerous business.
Jonathan handed over the twenty and waited again while the bartender disappeared around the corner to get change. A couple more bartenders came by to ask if anyone needed a drink. Jonathan just smiled as he took a sip from the pint glass. Looking around there were a lot of good-looking women. He saw his friends on the dance floor talking up some cuties and went to go join them.
-Great music, eh?!
-It’s good to dance to!
Jonathan was not really doing himself any favours. His drink had been spilling everywhere as his body bounced, almost with the beat of the loud music pounding through their eardrums.
-Do you like to dance?!
-I know! I meant in general!
-I don’t think I have been to that place!
-It’s not a club!
-I said it’s not a club!
-What?! I can’t hear you!
-I can’t yell any louder!
-Yeah! I can’t yell any louder!
Jonathan weaved his way through the crowd, losing more of his beer in the process, until he was safely at the edge of the dance floor. There were no tables to sit at as they were filled with groups of friends sitting around chatting or couples making out. Jonathan watched one of the couples exchange saliva. It was captivating like a car crash, he knew.
-Hey Jon, man, how are ya?
-Oh, hey, I’m good, you?
It was a friend of a friend of Jonathan’s, barely an acquaintance.
-I’m good, I’m good.
-There is a lot of fine tail here tonight.
-Yeah, that’s right.
-Too bad for you, you are rocking the mo.
-Heh? Oh, right, the mustache.
-Yeah man, you guys are making it too easy for the rest of us.
-You are a smooth faced bastard; you know that?
-I do know that. And so will that girl over there.
Jonathan was good to be rid of the jerk. He was exactly the kind of superficial jerk that Jonathan despised. There ought to be a place where people like that could go to get away from people like me, Jonathan thought.
The music was thumping in a steady carnal beat and bodies were grinding against each other making the fabric between them feel embarrassed. Jonathan could only let his imagination run wild as beautiful women passed him by. Average women who were looking their best also passed by, and they found a spot in Jonathan’s imagination, too. Finally, less than attractive women were given some of Jonathan’s attention as his mood plummeted and expectations and standards with them. Jonathan joined the dance floor and flung his body against anyone and anything with a mad intent. His friends nearby only cheered him on.
-Go Jon, go!
-You the man, Jon!
-Ladies, he’s single!
-He gives the best mustache rides!
Jonathan found himself wedged between his dance partner and the back of another man who was dancing with his own girl. The other man was violently encroaching on Jonathan’s space and he had nowhere else to go. Hoping to diffuse the situation, Jonathan wrapped his arms around his dance partner and pulled himself closer to her.
-What are you doing?!
-I thought we were dancing!
-I have a boyfriend!
-I have a boyfriend! He’s just over there!
-I didn’t know!
Jonathan looked across the floor at a tall, muscular looking guy. He had a military build and the dumb haircut to match.
-It’s okay! Just stop touching me!
-I’m sorry! This guy behind me keeps pushing me!
-Are you kidding?!
-Well push back!
Jonathan was not about to push anyone. He also was aware he was just wasting his time with this woman while her boyfriend was twenty feet away.
-I’ve gotta go to the washroom!
Jonathan slid his way off the dance floor and slowly began making his way to the washroom. It was all the way at the other end of the bar and downstairs. Along the way he witnessed a parade of comedies in each booth.
-No, I wasn’t looking at that girl!
-You looked, Tony!
-I didn’t look! Fuck, what do you want me to say?
-Don’t swear at me, you fuckface!
-That’s enough, please. I swear I didn’t look at anyone.
-Shots! Who wants them some shots?!
-Yeah, yeah! Right here! You the man!
-What are we drinking?
-It’s called a blowjob.
-That’s wild, man, wild.
-So I says to son, I says, listen man, you need to step back or I’m about to make you step back.
-What he do?
-The punk didn’t do n’thing.
-So what you do?
-I clocked him upside the head.
-Dude, I can’t believe we got in!
-Quiet, don’t look so obvious.
-Shit, I think I see one of my teachers.
-That guy? Sorry Ronnie, I think I might have grinded with him a bit.
-You grinded with my teacher? Gross!
-Just a bit.
Jonathan reached the stairwell and started to descend his way down. Along the way other people started passing him, obviously in more of a rush to piss or snort blow. It was not made any easier by the volume of people trying to go up the stairs and return to the bar. Jonathan was stuck in the middle of the stairs for what seemed like ages. He’d move faster but his legs felt wobbly and he didn’t really feel like ending up on his face at the bottom.
-C’mon man, move along.
-I am, I am.
-You alright, man?
-I’m fine. I just need to piss.
At the bottom, Jonathan turned the corner and found himself facing two lineups. In the ladies’ line he saw a continuous row of hotties, each more lovely than the last. In the men’s line he saw a continuous row of assholes, each more of a douche than the last. They were all probably at the bar together. What the hell, Jonathan wondered, why would anyone want to be with these guys? Jonathan figured that he was ten times the man any of these guys could be.
-Seriously? You are going to try and hit on me in a bathroom line?
-Fuck off, creep.
Lesbian, Jonathan thought.
Wait, did you really think that, Jonathan? Did you think that because a woman rejects you she is not sexually attracted to anyone of your gender? Are you that stupid?
-No, I didn’t really believe that at all.
Why did you think it?
-It was a way to dismiss rejection. I’m insecure.
Well, if it’s not too much trouble, I’d really like you to man up. I’m beginning to lose interest in you as the protagonist of my book.
-Now you know how I feel.
Is there anyway we can course correct this evening?
-No, I’m fairly certain it’s a lost cause tonight.
Jonathan went upstairs and left the bar. He flagged down a cab and returned home to bed. He woke up in his bar clothes lying on his couch. Next to him laid his notebook. In barely legible printing was something he had apparently written when he got home.
‘“There is an amazing phenomenon that happens twice a school year. In a harsh winter climate like in small town Quebec, much of the school year is dominated by sensible clothing, built for warmth and comfort. Sweatpants, sweaters, parkas, toques, and longjohns find themselves as the default fashion. However, at the very beginning of the school year, as the sticky humid summer winds down, and at the very end of the school year, as a warm spring appears, there is skirt weather.
Nick and I were sitting in the cafeteria; it must have been about the second week of school and one of the resident assistants from our building asked if he could join us. We had met him before and found him to be a pretty decent guy when off duty and agreed.
“So, how you guys liking it so far?”
“It’s pretty good. I like it here.”
“Yeah, classes seem interesting. Lots of cool people.”
“And the girls? You guys seen some of the bodies on these girls?”
What a second line to say to two complete strangers. I was in awe of his frankness, but Nick didn’t seem fussed about it.
“Tell me about it. There is nothing like this back home. I mean there obviously were great looking girls, but just not so many all in one place.”
“And the skirts!”
“Yeah, man, I’m really digging the skirts.”
“Well, I have to tell you guys this, because this is your first year and you haven’t experienced anything like this before; almost all of these girls are going to gain weight this year.”
“It’s a beautiful thing, boys, don’t worry about it. It’s called the freshman fifteen and everyone puts it on. It may not be exactly fifteen, but everyone gains a little weight in first year.”
“Oh, yeah, and the beautiful thing about all these attractive women is that they will be surprised by it.”
“Yeah, it is, man. Listen, right now all these hotties are walking around in tight t-shirts and those skirts, damn those skirts, and everyone is checking them out and they are used to that. They’ve been practicing for this moment all summer back home. They are stuck-up, they know they are hot, and they have great expectations about what that can get you in life. But, as soon as that cool air starts to come flowing in to town, and people get used to the slow pace of university life, they and their fashion choices start to relax. Loose, warm clothing is de rigueur. They discover beer, poutine, taking naps instead of heading to the gym. Ugg boots replace high heels. It happens. Four or five months of this happens. And everyone, I mean everyone, you guys included, are blissfully unaware. You will find some girl at the bar and she’ll be wearing loose fitting clothes and you will take her home and won’t notice she’s got a few extra curves. You are just thrilled to have her come home. It’s okay, it’s natural, man. She won’t know any different either. This is a beautiful, strange time in all our lives. But, and this is the truly amazing phenomenon that happens, come April, when the weather turns nice, the skirts and those tight t-shirts return. Only this time, instead of fitting just right, they are way too tight to fit properly around those extra pounds. And these girls don’t have any other spring or summer clothes with them here. So, for a few weeks, this campus is littered with tight, ill-fitting clothing on all the freshmen girls. It’s natural, man, and I love it. You get to really see everything pop out, and a love handle, here or there, is nothing to shy away from. The amazing thing is that girls that have no curves right now, all of a sudden, it appears to you, will have boobs and butts that you want to get with, and a lot of those stuck up girls that wouldn’t give you the time of day now, might consider it then. They are all self-conscious and it means that a fellow who does not mind holding on to a bit more will find himself getting pretty lucky then. Also, I have heard that sex is a great relief from exam stress. I don’t know if it is or not, but I have definitely used that line before and had it work. Remember I told you this in the spring and buy me a beer when it happens, boys.”
Nick and I were dumbfounded with this information. Every beautiful girl who walked by in tight t-shirts and short skirts became increasingly beautiful with the sad belief that she might lose some of that lustre in less than eight months. I wanted to tell them not to get that second slice of pizza from the cafeteria, but I was not really any better prepared. I ate tons of poutine. I drank tons of beer. I learned that a nap between classes was more enjoyable than a trip to the gym. As I worried about those girls adding on pounds, I simultaneously put on my own. Luckily I didn’t have to wear a skirt in April.
That spring, and every spring after that I was at university I always loved sitting in the quad, watching the girls walk to the library to study for exams, letting a little bit of extra skin pop out from between their tight tees and that short skirt. Their bums seemed to have a little bit more of a wiggle to them, their boobs seemed a bit too round, and the whole package made all of those girls seem way more real than the cookie cutter dolls that arrived every fall, fresh from high school. It really was a beautiful phenomenon.”’