Shelton

February, 1992

I run into James Fielding as I’m heading up the back steps of the fraternity house, and at first I think he’s lying when he tells me he doesn’t remember that we have a dinner tonight. But when he grimaces I realize he’s telling the truth and that just pisses me off even more. We’ve been organizing this dinner for our alums since the middle of last semester; he’s on the fundraising committee. I mean, how fucking preoccupied can you get?

If I was stupid enough to ask why he forgot he’d probably start mumbling about that roommate of his and what happened to the guy’s mother over the break. Like that should have anything to do with him, or the brothers he pledged to honor last year. He has an obligation, a responsibility to the guys who care about him the most.

Does this mean you don’t have a date, dude? I ask, and he shrugs. But I know what that means. He hasn’t asked anyone. This dinner fell off his radar so completely he didn’t even find a girl to go with him. And that just makes me narrow my eyes because there’s something wrong with him if he’s not looking to get some pussy, I don’t care what’s going on with his roommate. You know what I mean? Because I’ve asked Tabitha Sweeney to be my date and that means I’ll be looking at some grade-A tonight.

Do you need me to find a date for you, dude? I ask, and Fielding kind of laughs. He’s all hunched up in his sorry-ass coat, with that dirty baseball cap hiding his eyes, and I kick his ankle with the toe of my Cole Haans. He looks at me with an expression bordering on dislike. You going to show up without a date? I ask. I’ll figure it out, he tells me.

He’ll figure it out. I mean, really, why else are we even here? For the grades? I could make the grades with my eyes closed and my dick tied between my legs. And even if I couldn’t, I have a fucking empire waiting for me back in West Texas. My father’s making a killing in oil. So while I’m here in Austin I can’t think of anything more important than getting laid, you know what I mean? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an asshole or anything. I know what girls want. They want to be taken out, they want to be wooed, they want you to compliment their hair or their outfit or their fucking shoes. They want a little sweet talk before you bend them over.

You have other plans tonight or something, Fielding? I ask, because I suddenly have a hunch. He shrugs again, like he’d rather not say. But I bet I know. I bet he’s going to be consoling that roommate of his. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear they were screwing each other. What other use could Fielding possibly have for him? I’m not saying I don’t have other friends, guys not in the fraternity, but this relationship or whatever you want to call it between Fielding and his roommate can’t possibly be anything aboveboard.

You know what I heard? I heard that Fielding flat-out refused to move into the fraternity house this year, even though Dugan told him he’d figure out a way to slash the cost so living off-campus couldn’t possibly compare. Fielding’s our fucking pledge captain and he’s not living in the house? That’s not right. And now he’s forgotten about the dinner tonight? I’m working my ass off for my brothers and Fielding here can’t even keep track of his fucking calendar.

I really don’t think you should skip the dinner tonight, man, I tell him, just in case he’s thinking that’s an option. Yeah, thanks for the advice, he says, making a move like he’s going to walk away from me. I hold out a hand to stop him and he looks down at the way my fingers grip his arm. I let go and give him a big, friendly smile, like I’m just trying to talk to him. Let’s get some lunch, I say. I have plans, he tells me.

I wouldn’t have pegged Fielding for a fag but he’s living with Joel Grayson, and that seems like a pretty fucking tight indictment to me. And I know Grayson’s gay, don’t try to convince me otherwise. I don’t care if he dated Melissa Cerassino last summer. I don’t care if he fucked her so hard she bled all over her panties. I’ve seen him eyeing the troops here, the couple of times Fielding has brought him around. I’ve seen the way he looks at Carson when he thinks no one’s watching. Carson’s a good-looking guy, I won’t deny that. But I’m not jerking off at night, thinking about him. And I’ll tell you something else. If Joel Grayson ever looks at me the same way he looks at Carson I’ll bash his fucking skull in with a crowbar.

I’m getting pissed just standing here, on the steps of our fraternity house, so I take a little breath the way that shrink my parents send me to suggested. I straighten my coat, too; it’s a Ralph Lauren wool. I look good. I look put-together, which is more than I can say for Fielding, who’s wearing a barn jacket that looks like he drug it across the fucking floor and the same work boots I’ve seen his roommate wear, like they’re plunging toilets or nailing A-frames in their spare time.

What do you think? I say, Are you coming tonight or what? I’ll probably drop by, Fielding says, and I want to kick him in the balls he’s so noncommittal. But I hold my ground and he turns, his ratty backpack slung over one shoulder. Later, he says, like I’m the world’s biggest afterthought.

James Fielding doesn’t know a thing about brotherhood. He wouldn’t understand loyalty if it kicked him in the ass.

Copyright © 2010 Jennifer Hritz All Rights Reserved


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