First time I cheated on an essay? Teacher didn’t notice. I didn’t even bother paraphrasing, just straight-up Sparknotes and highlight and control v that shit.
See, I had this girlfriend, Lucille. We were on a date and she had her coffee straw in her teeth and she just sighed and was like, “Georgie, you’re so innocent.” Because I was that kind of guy. So I told her I was sorry and that’s when she like lost interest, like though it took her two more weeks to dump me, that was the moment—girl has become Bored, guy is Unimpressive, commence breakup.
Afterwards we were waiting in this parking lot, me shivering from the caffeine, Lucille thumbing her phone. Problem was, I didn’t have my license, so transportation was my mom (I know), who wasn’t always the timeliest, which led to a lot of waiting and standing awkwardly.
Finally Lucille just left, strolling off to wherever it is girls go after mangling a boy’s dreams, which meant I was standing there until the van rolled sheepishly into the drive.
“Hey dude, where’s the girl?” mom asked.
“Shut up,” I said.
Plan B: Obtain a driver’s license.
Which was harder said than done, because obtaining a driver’s license, as I would later learn, required a) obtaining a permit, and b) waiting like six months to take the driver’s test, and c) actually knowing how to drive so that I could pass it.
I was like, “Really?”
“Yeah,” Dylan said. “It takes longer than you think.”
What we were really talking about wasn’t Lucille but Dylan’s pool party, which Lucille, being Lucille, was probably going to be at, unlike me, due to a, b, and c. It wasn’t really my fault but I told Dylan sorry anyways for not being able to go.
“Sorry? Jesus Christ,” he said. “Whatever.”
But Dylan’s Dylan and he was more interested in this thing he wanted to show me, which was why we were in the theatre, during an assembly, when we were supposed to be at the assembly. He rooted around for a bit and came up with a flyer, a dodgeball, a pair of prop glasses previously ogling the wall.
“Are you sure about this?” I said.
“Sure,” he said. “Come on. We’ve got like fifteen minutes.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I just don’t think we should be screwing around like this.”
“Just chill, okay? It’s really cool.” Like defensive. “I promise.” He held the flyer over this floodlight that was beaming the ceiling and glaring on his face like he was some weird fiend thing. Soon enough it was smoking. He pulled it away, guffawing into his arm. “Did you see that?” he said. “Did you see it?”
“Oh! Oh! Check this out—” He held the dodgeball over it, casting a monster shadow on the ceiling. Then he just pressed it against the lens and stuffed the light. “Holy—Jesus,” he said. “I can feel it through the plastic.”
“This is what you do in acting class?”
“Oh my God,” he said. “I think it’s melting.” He pulled it back and a glob of plastic dodgeball drooped like snot.
I don’t know how to explain it, but right then is the happiest I ever remember feeling. Like there was this image in my head, this image I can’t really describe but there were street lights, and girls, and music, and Lucille and me, and Dylan melting dodgeballs, and I was like holy crap, I can do this, and this feeling, I was like shivering from it, like this must be how it feels to be high, this is how it might have felt that time when some tramp offered me and Lucille crack at the diner and Lucille looked at me like hopeful, but when I didn’t say anything she sighed and said no—like what if I had said yes, like what if that happened again and I said yes.
“Oh my God,” Dylan kept saying, over and over, “Jesus Christ, are you seeing this?”
A bunch of nights later I was writing the aforementioned essay, worth like the entire trimester and due tomorrow, but the thing is, I couldn’t focus. So I took my orange juice and stepped outside for a bit, hoping the cold would clear my head. It was one of those almost-winter nights—cars rushing on the highway far away like a permanent wind, my toes bare and bitten (I was wearing sandals), these faint trails of clouds in the sky, like those times when you lay on your back in the drive and imagine you’re skydiving into some huge misty ocean.
Mom was asleep, so I felt like a criminal for being outside, but what the hell. Soon enough I was at the pool (not Dylan’s pool, but the crappy local one with like mold or something drooling down the sides) and there were people in the clubhouse watching some baseball game. The door was open. I passed by once and paced around and passed by again. The second time this woman saw me, and made this like “Heh?” noise, standing on the porch watching me. When I looked back there was another guy with her, muttering something about having had a big breakfast, and suddenly I realized how I must’ve looked, wobbling down the sidewalk (wobbling because I didn’t know anything about where I was going, only that I was taking my time getting there), with this mug in my hand, filled with orange juice, but they didn’t know that. And so I kept going because they could think what they wanted to. But when I got back home I was still thinking about that guy, and that woman, both of them like thinking I was some alcoholic, and Lucille thinking I was innocent, and nobody thinking what they were supposed to think. So I got really pissed and went back to the clubhouse.
When I walked in nobody noticed me. “Excuse me,” I said, like civilized. “May I please use the restroom?”
There was this old guy in the corner stool leaning against the wall. “Yeh.”
So I set my cup pointedly down on the counter and went into the bathroom and stood there long enough for them to look at what was inside and confirm that it was in fact not alcohol at all, but orange juice, then I went out and took my cup. “Thank you,” I said.
“Sure.” He sounded angry.
I left and went back home but still it didn’t feel right. Like once Dylan told me about these worms that go into your veins and swim around if you drink the wrong water, and it felt like that right now, like I had these things wriggling around inside me, like I could feel them moving. So I went on Sparknotes etc. etc. which took some pressure off, but I still wasn’t comfortable, like it took me an hour to sleep.
Here’s the thing:
When Dylan was done melting the dodgeball that day, I snuck back out and caught the last few moments of the assembly. Lucille, who was on the Honor Committee or whatever, she was up there saying something about the SDCIM community, and when I came in she saw me—I swear she saw me, our eyes met and this like wire stretched between them—but she looked away and didn’t look back again. Not for the rest of her speech. Like there I was, her boyfriend she hadn’t dumped yet, and she wouldn’t look me in the damn eyes. Then she stopped talking to the assembly and to me in general.
By the time I got to the licensing office it was too late to save anything. Two weeks, three, had passed. We walked into the door and the first thing I saw was this poster of some kid beaming for no reason, all, You Can Save a Life, Donate Today, Be a Hero. “Come on Georgie,” my mom said, like she was super busy and I was wasting her time. We went to the counter and while the lady asked me questions I kept staring at the poster. The kid was just glowing, like I’m So Happy, like They Are Paying Me So Much To Do This.
Then suddenly the lady was like “Do you want to be an organ donor” and I blinked and stared for a while, and because there were a whole bunch of people in line listening to me, and this lady waiting for me, and mom right there, I was like, “sure.”
But mom started freaking, going all, “Sorry ma’am but this is a mistake,” “Georgie what the hell are you doing,” (because apparently doctors were now going to murder me in my sleep for my organs), like when your dog starts spazzing out in public and you don’t know how to calm it down. “Mom,” I was like, “holy crap, chill out, there’s a line.” Because she was just standing there freaking and not letting anyone else come up.
What a pushover I was, back then! Of course, my mom made me cancel the whole thing the next day. But in the car, when she was still screaming, all “Why, why did you have to be a donor,” I said, “Because it was the right thing to do.”
Michel Ge is a student living in Missouri. His work has appeared in Tincture Journal.