You get drunk at the party and tell everybody about the time you were raped. Half of it’s bullshit. Alcohol is doing that to you these days, though. Last week you were at the bar and started lying about doing time in Chino. And the long-haired dude who looked more like a rocker than a convict stepped to you and said he’d been up in Chino. “What pod was you up at? When was you there?” Like the time you got so drunk you whipped your dick out and the one girl, the sexy-ass mixed girl with the pink t-shirt, actually squinted. That went well.
But you tell them the story anyway. Half of it’s bullshit. You tell them because you want to seem different. You tell it because you know they’re secretly laughing at you. More than anything, you tell them because you want to fuck this girl Sarah with the soft face and too many earrings. She seems like a sucker for a good tragedy. They’re all college kids. Friends of your brother’s from his new job at the University. You were eighteen and passed out on your boy Jacob’s floor. And The Guy rolled his way on top of you and started chewing on your neck. You tell them you were too drunk to fight back, but really you were just too shocked. Thinking to yourself maybe he was sleepwalking. Maybe this was just some homeboy shit you didn’t know about. The same way they’d draw in permanent marker on the face of the first one to fall out. You felt him pressing against your spine, steering you open.
“Did it hurt,” the kid with the neckbeard and the blue jean jacket asks.
“Nah,” you tell him. “Mostly, he just used his mouth.”
You don’t tell them the part about trying to punch him. That didn’t happen till five minutes later. After he was done and he came back and you were still lying on the floor. Those red Arizona jeans puddled under your thighs. The air conditioning weaving in and out of your asshole. The Guy was trying to say something — say he was sorry and you threw the punch, still lying on your back. But despite all that hard talk you liked to blow, you had never punched shit before. And it was awful. All elbow like a man trying to hammer a raindrop. The Guy’s face was biscuit white. You don’t tell them about his candy breath or the gray line of hair on his upper lip. “Dude, we fucked up,” The Guy said.
You don’t tell them about the next few months when you started to hit the weights. You slammed steel in the Y with the kids with the swastika tattoos on their hands and the older black guys who seemed to know everybody. Two hours a day, a hot silent mess of incline pressing, pec-deck flying gut snake. You’d run on the treadmill with your three pairs of sweatpants and your toboggan in June. No matter how many preacher curls or bicep rows you’d do, your arms didn’t grow much. But your chest got as big as a lumber yard. You looked like an old refrigerator with the wires hanging loose. And the girls started to notice you. When you met Juliana she’d squeeze your chest and watch the blood blaze through your body. “Mi montanas,” she’d scream. “That body,” she said. Like it belonged to you.
One day one of the older black men crowded you next to the weight tree.
“You know all them muscles don’t mean shit in a fight.”
“Is that right?” You told him. And you smiled into his broken teeth.
“That’s a fucked up story dude,” the neckbeard says into his red Dixie cup.
“Which one?” Your eyes are all over Sarah. Your brother gives you a look but it’s too late to stop. The only reason he brought you here is to show his new students that he’s part animal. That behind all those big words and well placed commas, there’s some living, slurring proof that he ain’t from where they’re from.
“Did you ever see him again?” Sarah’s voice sounds sincere, but so does everybody’s.
“He sent me a letter.” This part’s true. You got a letter at your Mom’s house from The Guy. His handwriting looked like buckshot and he misspelled your name. He said he was sorry and he was in school now and he had a girlfriend and he had heard you had said he was gay and he was going to kill you. There was something in there about how he had tried to hang himself, but he decided it would hurt his sister too much. You threw the letter away. Or maybe you kept it. Later you heard he got married; or he disappeared; or he went to jail; or he has kids now; or he drove his car off a mountain. It’s all the same thing, really.
You’re so drunk now. Like ten minutes from dick-whipping drunk. And you will not shut up. You’re playing all the hits. Half of it’s bullshit, but they’re college kids. Too polite to call you on it. You tell them about the year you lived in your car, the nights you slept under a bridge. You’d tell them about Juliana too, if you thought anyone gave a fuck. How she used to say you were the only man in the world who dreamed angry. You would tell them how she stuck with you through the black eyes and the last chances. Until that Christmas when you took her kid’s toys to the dopeman. You keep talking. Trying to explain, to absolve, to justify. Telling lies that would beat a polygraph.
“What’s crack like?” Sara asks.
“It’s stupid. Totally fucking stupid. Been clean off that shit for years.”
“Good for you,” she laughs blowing bourbon back into your face.
You tell a seriously racist joke. When no one laughs you tell it again because you figure they didn’t get it. Later, one of the girls at the party calls you disgusting. Another one says you smacked her tit. In the hallway your brother grabs your shoulder.
“What are you doing?”
“The fuck you talking about?”
“This is my department head’s house. That girl is one of my students.”
“What am I doing? What are you doing?” His eyes are sad concrete. You know he’d give up everything to kick your ass.
“Give me your keys,” you tell him.
“You’re not driving my car.” You remember all the nights the two of you would spend breathing cold air at your father’s house. When he was too scared to sleep without you in the room. You almost laugh.
“Relax, man,” you say. “I just need to get some sleep.”
You try to stretch out in your brother’s car. The heater’s broken on his piece of shit Avalon with the coffee stains older than his students. The bourbon twists through your body grinding you to sleep. But your back and your neck aren’t having any part of it. You throw one his books on tape to the floor and try and nestle in between the seat and the console. Tomorrow, you will wake up and wish you hadn’t. Tomorrow can go fuck itself.
None of it hurt. Not sleeping in the storage shed, not Juliana’s screaming bloody face, not the cops who rolled their eyes, not the evidence they said they had on you. You don’t feel shit. Whatever it is that makes other people cry and sweat and love; you don’t have it. The only thing that still makes your dick hard is shame. All the rest of it is just fucking make believe. That’s your only secret. Everything else you tell.
At first you think it’s starting to rain when you hear the tapping on the window. You look up.
“Aren’t you cold?” Sarah with the soft face asks.
“Yeah,” you admit. There’s a cigarette behind her ear.
“What are you doing out here?” she says.
“Well…” Half of it’s bullshit. The rest you forget.