"College Stories" is a weekly column by MFA student Gavin Colton. Read last week's installment here.
Abby sits back down at the high top. She feels the drunk move in her and feels suddenly very far from the ground, her feet hooked around the legs of the stool.
“Drinks?” Kara says. She’s waited for Abby. Nice of her.
“Sure. I’ll go with you.”
Kara holds her hand on the way to the bar, where the boys are getting another round of shots under their belts. Olivia is perched on the edge of the pool table now and has manifested a drink for herself.
The bar fills up. A line shuffles forward outside, flashing their IDs at the burly bouncer. Abby recognizes some faces, obscured by the blare of the neon beer signs against the glass.
Kara burrows her way up to the bar. People move aside for her. Must be nice, Abby thinks.
“Should we split a pitcher?” Kara says.
Abby notices Kara still has one of dad’s credit cards in her wallet, glimmering next to her student ID. At the end of Abby’s freshman year, Mom and Dad told her that she had to take a bit of responsibility for her finances. “Value for money” was how Mom put it. She makes a mental note to ask Kara about it later.
Kara hands her the pitcher. Abby feels the foamy head bubble and pop and spit onto her wrists. The beer is cold—she wants to pour the whole thing over her head and go home. Instead, she dips her ear to hear the fizz, and lets it splatter against her cheek.
When she turns around, a face from the John Wall shot group is there. A boy. His teeth are the first thing she registers, his front two ones hanging between the thin line of his lips.
“Abby!” he shrieks.
The volume of the music has been turned up to battle the buzz of the growing crowd of students.
He folds himself over her and draws a small circle with his palm on her back. When he unfurls himself and steps back into the light, all eyes and teeth, she recognizes him. His face at least. His teeth. No name yet. They’d been paired together for a sociology project freshman year, where they had to observe people ordering coffee and develop a thesis based on their observations. She remembers doing most of the work.
He’s put on some weight. Good weight, she thinks. He’s changed his hair too, to slim his face. It’s working.
“Hey!” Abby feigns some excitement and hopes she doesn’t have to take a stab at his name.
Kara passes her, pats her on the ass and mouths something that Abby can’t decipher from her lips, which are caked with lipstick. Not even kissable, Abby thinks. Lips only for photos.
She nips at the brim of the pitcher, so as not to spill any. Lose any.
“How’ve you been?” he says.
“Good. Great actually.” She feels a dollop of beer land on her foot, exposed in these shoes. It explodes on her skin.
“That’s good. I’ve missed having class with you. You were always…”
Abby doesn’t hear the last part. Someone has scored something somewhere in some sport on some T.V. and people are cheering.
“Thanks,” she says anyway.
He looks down at the pitcher, the beer lapping a little around the brim.
“Can I give you a hand?” he says.
“No.” She’s been too quick, too cold. She sees it in his face.
“I’ll let you go then.”
“It’s good to see you.” She’d say his name if she could remember it. But that seems to be enough to revive some delight in him.
“Let me know if I can buy you a drink later.”
“Okay. Yeah. I will. Thanks.”
He steps to one side to clear a path for her.
She pushes past the crowd of girls selecting songs on the jukebox. Freshmen, she can tell by the shoes—too high. She imagines them watching her, their eyes landing on her back.
Disclaimer: All characters and events in these stories are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.