The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Thursday December 15, 1994
The nice thing about the current study hall monitor was that he was pretty liberal when it came to handing out Library Passes. Some of the other monitors wouldn’t let you go unless you had a note from a teacher or an AV Club card. Tristam preferred it in the library, there were always newspapers and magazines to occupy him and if he needed to 'sneak out' there were plenty of quiet out of the way desks where he could hide and pretend to nap.
Of course Phil had banned him from any extra-curricular adventures but now that he knew the old man was spying on his sister’s sex life all bets were off.
That Old man is just as screwed up as I am, maybe worse.
It was more than that though, he was starting to feel confined by his own skin. He wanted to be free, even if for just a little while. When he was moving through the world as a slip of thought he wasn't an object of scorn, he wasn't the result of an affair that ended badly. He was nobody's burden and nobody's punch line.
The desk he chose was near the back, in the history section. He set a book and a notepad before him. This way if one of the librarians that prowled the shelves noticed him they would only see a poor exhausted student. He set his head down, closed his eyes and slipped out of his body. There was a moment of tingling constriction as his consciousness passed through the center of his forehead. Phil had taught him this; to always go our through what the mystics had called the 'third eye'. Doing so kept him from feeling sick and exhausted when he returned to himself.
The library was crawling with ghosts. They wormed over everything like bloated maggots. Tristam tried not to ignore their lethargic mutterings, for fear he might understand them.
Now to find Drew's house.
He needed to see Drew. He needed to know she was all right. That near-kiss over a week ago had taken hold of his imagination. It wasn't just that he was lonely and horny, it was that there was something real and accessible about her. With other girls he had always felt like he was performing, like he was trying to charm a beautiful bird that might fly away at any moment.
With Drew he felt at ease. He needed to tell her that, he needed to talk to her.
Of course I won't be talking to her like this but a little reconnaissance won't hurt.
Before he could flit away he noticed a shape tentatively approaching his body, its posture slouched and familiar. When it called his name he slipped back into himself- better that than being jostled back to awareness.
“Tristam. Snoozing away are we?”
He made a show of stretching, “Must be more tired than I thought.”
“Look, I think you may be right,” Warren sat down in the chair beside him. Tristam couldn’t help but notice it creak a little.
“I think something is wrong with Drew, but not like she's sick.”
“Then like she's what?”
“I heard some of the other guys in gym class talking about her. The things they were saying, it was almost as bad as some of the stuff I say about you.”
Warren shrugged, “Well…”
“What were they saying?”
“It sounded like they found out she had a crush on Evan and were making fun of her about it.”
“Yes Evan. It's always Evan.” Warren said with disgust, “He's like girl Kryptonite.”
“You know my Mom once said to me that all women want to be treated like shit. That the worse you treated a girl the more she would want you.”
“Once again Tristam, your family leaves me awestruck.”
“That's what she said, and maybe she's right. How many girls do you know that aren’t going out with jerks? Heck my Dad is a complete asshole and I still don’t think my Mom is over him.”
“Yeah well my Dad is no prize either but I still will not accept that every woman wants to be treated like a pig.”
“Your Dad didn't seem so bad when I met him.”
Warren said, “Well of course my Dad was nice to you, you're the kind of son he wants.”
“I don’t think any parent wants me these days.”
“If you asked my Dad if he wanted a son who was a fat kid that was a nice person or a good looking kid that was a potential serial killer he'd pick you every time.”
Tristam frowned, “I'm not sure what disturbs me more, that you think I'm going to be a serial killer or that you think I'm good looking.”
“Do you know that my Dad got me a personal trainer? Some Cardio/Kick boxing guy that comes by the house three times a week.”
“That's sort of cool. At least your Dad cares enough to try and help you.”
“My personal trainer beat me up.”
“I wasn't feeling well one day. I told him I had had enough and he slapped me in the face and told me to be a man,” Warren couldn't make eye contact as he told the story. He stared intently at the pattern in the wood grain of the desk.
“Jesus. What did you do?”
“What I'm best at, I cowered.”
“Was it a hard hit? Was he kidding?”
“The man hit me twice a hard as you ever did.”
Tristam winced a little at that, “Shit. Did you tell your Dad?”
“He laughed and said I was trying to weasel out of getting sweaty three times a week. He said he didn’t care if the guy killed me because in the long run a funeral would be cheaper than feeding me.”
“Was he joking? He had to be joking.”
“I'm sure it would be funny if it wasn't me. It's always funny when shit happens to the fat guy. I'm a magnet for comedy.”
“That sucks. I know what it's like to have a Dad like that. Mine acts like I annoy him, he never has anything good to say… even before I got into my legal trouble.”
The look on Warren's face turned ironic, “Are we having a moment here Tristam?”
“Is this the part where we set aside our differences and team up to smite our enemies?”
Checking his watch Warren shook his head, “Sorry no time. Five minutes till next period.”
“Yeah.” Tristam stood, it looked like Drew would have to wait. He put his books and papers away. “It was actually nice talking to you today.”
“Same here, but don't let that make you think I've gone soft on you. You've got a lot to make up for as far as I'm concerned.”
“Now where have I heard that before?” Tristam said as they headed out of the library.