There were three things I knew for sure as I lay in the dark of my cinder-block cell of a dorm room.
One: I shouldn’t be awake.
Two: I definitely should not be listening to my roommate round second base with Cami/Cassie/Chloe, or whatever her C-name was.
And, three: I should not be sporting the monster of all hard-ons from all those deep, growly sounds Malcolm kept making.
I needed to turn over. I needed to face the window and my desk and the stack of physics textbooks instead of the wall with the closet and the narrow full length mirror that was giving me just enough view of movement to make me feel like some creeper. But I was afraid if I flipped over, I’d alert them that I was awake. I closed my eyes and tried to block it all out, but the girl’s muffled giggle and then kissing sounds made it hard to ignore.
My gaze flicked over to the mirror again, and there was a flash of Malcolm’s bare shoulders as he shifted what’s-her-name beneath him. It wasn’t an unfamiliar sight. Hell, I’d seen Malcolm in the locker room every damn day during soccer season in high school, but something about seeing him like this was altogether different. It made me want things I shouldn’t. It made me want to tell him.
Who was I kidding? It made me want him.
Screw it. I couldn’t keep watching. I needed to move. I rolled over, wishing I could fall into some portal that would take me anywhere but here in this moment. It wouldn’t hurt if the portal could also transform me into a guy who’d be turned on by C-girl’s sighing girly sounds instead of my best friend’s caveman ones. My pillow shifted with me as I rolled, and the corner caught the wire from my phone charger. Horror streaked through me as my phone launched off the crates I used as a bedside table. I grabbed for it, the scene morphing into slow motion, but my fingers only grazed the wire. The phone clattered onto the ugly linoleum floor, making a noise that sounded like a bomb going off in the muffled quiet of the room.
I froze, my lips clamped together to keep the string of colorful profanities from escaping. Please God, please God, please…
Whispered sounds, then Malcolm’s sleepy, lust-drunk southern accent drifting over from across the room. “You awake, Bates?”
That’s it, God, I’m going atheist.
I debated whether or not to open my mouth. What the hell was I supposed to say? Yeah, man, just hanging out over here listening to you get it on with your girl of the week. Soldier on. Don’t mind the tented sheets. Nothing to see here. Move along.
“Hmm?” I said, a lame attempt to sound like I was coming out of a deep sleep.
The girl let out a whispered ohmigod, and there was a hurried rustling of sheets or clothes. Her voice was urgent and low but I could hear everything. “Malcolm, where’s my bra? Find it. I don’t want him to see anything.”
Malcolm chuckled at her obvious panic. “Bates, if you’re really awake, close your eyes for a minute. Chrissy’s got to get herself together.”
Chrissy. That was it. I knew it was something like that, but Mal went through hook-ups so quickly I’d need a spreadsheet and a flow chart to keep them straight. And dear Chrissy had no need to freak out. As much as I wished it weren’t the case, I had about as much interest in seeing her naked as I did in seeing my seventy-year old astronomy professor do a striptease. I’d tried the boob thing in high school. Saw them. Touched them. Even tasted one. Well, two, I guess. It wasn’t something you could just do one of, apparently, but the whole experience had been clumsy and uncomfortable.
“Um, you don’t have to leave because of me,” I said into the dark. “I can, you know, go hang out in the lounge until y’all are, uh, done or whatever.”
Awkward, aisle one. But what else was I supposed to do? It was a high bullet point on the bro code that one should not cock-block a friend. I’d learned this freshman year from our dorm neighbors Howie and Jun. Apparently, Howie could never remember the sock tied around the doorknob signal and interrupted Jun and his girlfriend regularly.
“Dude, it’s two in the morning,” Malcolm said. “What the hell are you going to do in the lounge?”
Not listen to you. Not think about you in completely non-best friend ways. Not wonder what’s she’s doing to get you to make those sounds. “They have cable out there.”
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