THE COLD INSIDE
By AL BRUNO III
Monday November 7, 1994
“Tristam your sister is so goddamn hot.”
“She’s my half-sister Rich.”
Blessed Heart’s cafeteria was cramped and dimly lit. The tile floor was scuffed from the passage of generations of shoes. The drone from dozens of conversations blended together to form a single chaotic murmur.
“Like I care. That Ronnie Miller is one lucky S.O.B.”
Adelphos laughed, “He ain’t lucky he’s the captain of the football team. The captain of the football team always gets to hook up with the prettiest girl. It’s like in the Constitution or something.”
“Damn the law!” Yusuf pounded his fist on their table, “Damn the law!”
Two long rows of folding tables divided the cafeteria. They were worn and sagging, clusters of initials and graffiti marked the edges. One table was set off from the rest, along the wall furthest from the exit. The students that called themselves the Magnificent Seven sat here during lunch period, weathering their classmates shouted insults, thrown objects and passive scorn.
“I’m not the envying type, but if I was going to envy anyone it would be Evan.” Greg said, “He’s gone out with every good looking girl in the school and he’s not on the football team.”
“Not anymore.” Tristam said with a smile.
“So Greg,” Rich asked, “you value quantity over quality?”
“Just remember I had Evan first.” Drew said in a matter of fact tone.
Silence fell across the table. Greg blinked, “What?”
“Are we talking about the same person here?” Warren asked, “Big biceps, early mustache, no neck?”
“He’s been my neighbor since forever. We used to play together all the time.” Her smile became sly, “When we were in first grade we played doctor.”
There was a no man’s land of about five feet between where the Magnificent Seven sat and where the other rows of tables began. Nearest to the outcast table where the Honors students, the charity cases and the faceless nobodies, from there the social standing filtered upwards. Closer to the middle of the room were the cheerleader wannabes, the second string athletes and the kids from new money. The popular kids sat at the tables nearest the cafeteria’s exit. It was there that the star athletes, the rich kids with the impressive pedigrees and the ingenues sat. Pamela Bloom and Ronnie Miller held sway over them all.
“Playin’ doctor huh?” Adelphos cracked a smile, “Drew you never cease to amaze me.”
Tristam shook his head, “Technically I don’t think it counts if neither party has gone though puberty yet.”
“Like Yusuf said, damn the law.” Drew frowned and risked a glance up at the first table. “He was mine first. Plain and simple.”
“Whatever.” Tristam followed Drew’s gaze to the front of the cafeteria. To Ronnie the star quarterback of a losing team. To the nauseatingly wealthy Linda Kaspary. To Evan Crawford, who could have any girl he wanted but only fucked to keep score. To Bobby Hilton and Kenny Wurman, defensive linemen and chief tormentors of the Magnificent Seven. To Monique Lermenos with her green eyes and chestnut hair- Tristam first and only real girlfriend. They had cast Tristam aside so easily, as though the trips and the parties and the laughter had been nothing.
Pam caught him gawking and gave a shout of “Staring problems?”
“What’cha lookin’ at dog-boy?” Kenny’s shout echoed through the cafeteria.
Greg and the others got to cover before the food started flying.