Saw him for the first time in my music theory class – sitting in the corner; he was basically the only good-looking one, so I guess I noticed, though I didn’t think much of it more than a fleeting thought.
We all walked out of class, casually chatting and learning names. People peeled off, heading to classes or conferences, until it was my friend and I (we’d decided to eat lunch together), and FF. Being the nice, friendly freshman that I am, I invited him to eat with us, which he did with a ‘why not’ attitude.
My impression over lunch? He was wearing pajamas and flip flops. He’d never gone to that class before. He was open and lax and casually confident. He had an odd habit of looking around during a conversation, while he was talking, while listening. When he took a pill during lunch, literally while we were talking, I realized he was probably high. He was on the professional a capella group; walked in to the audition while high on a whim and just nailed it. He got a whole plate of food and barely touched it. He partied hard, every day.
My friend left because he was uncomfortable.
We finished lunch. Was I going back to my dorm, FF asked. Sure, why not?
He smoked a cigarette on the way back. “If there’s something that I want to do that I can only do in the present, I choose to do it.” “I would rather sit outside and enjoy the sun than study or go to class.” “I smoke a lot of weed.” “We should walk to class together.” “Want to come in?”
I paused. “What would I even do in your room?”
He shrugged. “It’s just 20 steps up.”
I met two of his friends. One, an international student who was also smoking. Another international student with a man-bun who was listening to jazz, messing around on a saxophone. There was a huge cardboard sculpture of a mushroom in the middle of the room. Clothes strewn across the floor; instruments casually lounging on the bed, in the closet, under a chair.
He picks up the tenor sax, starts to mess around. “I have a happy song that I wrote yesterday to show you.” Picks up a guitar and starts.
His voice. Breaking and scratching in all the right places, hitting that perfect interval that I love. What were the words? Something about sunlight. Before I know it, I’m smiling, cross legged on his rug, moving slightly to the music.
He finishes. I clap. “There’s something else I want to show you.” Two minutes later, he’s hooked up to a looping machine and he’s improvising on the guitar, looping and playing and harmonizing and beatboxing. A plaintive guitar line. Adding a harmony line. Adding light strums. Adding rhythm with beatboxing. Adding a humming bass. And then singing, and I’m smiling again.
“That’s one of my favorite things to do. I also like cuddling. Want to cuddle?”
I shake my head no, laughing. So blasé. So platonic. Casual, confident, not quite present, unattached. He keeps talking, no break.
He starts playing again. Elaborate beatboxing, rapping, and I’m too distracted to understand what he’s saying, but I hear my name pop up a few times.
Soon after that, my friend texts me to study. I get up to leave.
“Want me to walk you out?”
I cock my head, study him. He’s lounging on his bed, getting ready to watch TV and smoke weed.
We stand outside, exchanging numbers. “Text me,” I tell him, partly because I don’t want to be the one who texts him, and partly to see if he was simply hanging out with me because he was high. He extends his arm for a side hug, we say goodbye, and I walk away, not letting myself look back.
He is such a bad idea.