“How to remember what happened when you were blackout drunk”
Manny stared at the words in the Google search bar of his phone, then silently hit enter. He jumped and abruptly sat upright in his seat when he felt the sharp tip of a pencil jab into his shoulder.
“Pay attention! Just because I tutor you in algebra does not give you an excuse to space out during the actual class!” Israel’s harshly whispered words brought Manny back to reality and the classroom around him. Hurriedly, he moved his phone from half-shadowed hiding under his desk and shifted it back towards his pocket. He didn’t want to remember what happened that night, anyway.
He did, kind of.
Manny squinted at the white board, and his pen moved on his notebook, copying the equations.
No, not really.
Damn, so that person was real? He was really that beautiful? She had said, “like a K-pop model.”
K-P-O-P M-O-D-E-L Manny’s fingers moved over his phone keypad, typing into the search bar.
No, ALGEBRA. He shoved his phone into his pocket and glared up at the whiteboard. Don’t get distracted. Stay focused.
Out in the hallway after class, Manny stood back against the wall, watching Israel talking with some girls. The guy was a natural. Flipping the blue tips of his hair back away from his forehead, smiling like he was sunshine itself—even the movements of his eyes seemed perfectly executed. He gave the two a bye-bye wave before he turned and walked away.
Manny fell into stride with his friend. “You’re wearing skinny jeans,” he observed quietly.
“Yes, and I look good in them.” Israel flashed his friend that same glittering smile.
“I know.” Manny smiled slightly, then jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “So, you’re…flirting, or what?”
Israel shrugged lightly. “Well, I’m single.” He flashed a hand across his ear, setting strands of hair into place. “Might as well shop around, right?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Manny blinked.
“Lunch now, right?”
They started for the cafeteria.
Broccoli and macaroni and cheese. Manny did not have much of an appetite. His phone was still sitting in his pocket with that unfinished search. What exactly was a K-pop model? Was that even a particular thing? Maybe it was just an image to get the point across. What kind of image?
Manny dropped his head into his hand, glaring down at the tabletop. The face he remembered was too pretty to be real, wasn’t it? Like a bug had just bitten him, Manny snatched his phone out of his pocket. He brought the screen to life and hit enter. Seconds later, he was shutting off the screen and discarding the device onto the table beside his plate. Those people were impossibly pretty, too.
Israel swallowed and lowered his spoon from his lips. “What’s wrong?” Flickers of concern darted across his face.
“Nothing.” Manny made a meaningless gesture towards the food line they had just left. Then, like he was still partially under the influence, “H-how did you lose your virginity?” Then, rapidly scratching his hand through his hair, “No. No. I mean—not how. Not how. Don’t tell me how. Just…just…with who?”
Israel quirked an eyebrow. A slight smile spread across his face, and half a laugh escaped his throat. “With my first serious girlfriend.” He trailed his spoon absently across his teeth. “Why?”
“Who was that, again?” Manny was biting his nails.
“Marie.” The spoon flipped briefly through the air. “You know her. We were all in high-school together that one year.”
“But…I thought you had your first serious girlfriend in middle-school.”
“Same girl, Manny.”
A sly smile crept across Israel’s lips, and his blue eyes searched Manny’s face for several moments. “Why…are you asking?”
Manny lowered the fingernails he had been chewing on and brushed his hand across his nose. “What? Um. No reason.”
“So…” Israel left a long pause to build suspense. Then, eyes twinkling, “Who’d you do it with?”
“What? No. Nobody.” Manny shivered suddenly. Then, stiffly, “People don’t always do it for the first time with someone they know, do they? I mean…I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it if…” God, I don’t even remember it. I don’t even know if it happened. He glanced back at his phone, darkened and blank on the tabletop. It didn’t even make sense, he realized suddenly. If that person really had looks like the ones he somehow remembered, then that person would be way out of Manny’s league.
Then again, things did not need to make sense when people were drunk.
Maybe that beautiful boy was avoiding Manny just as desperately as Manny was avoiding him. All those frat boys had certainly thought the match was a hilarious one.
Was it the match they found so funny?
Or something else…?
“Oh my god, Manny!” Israel’s face became a full-blown grin. “You did it with someone you don’t even know? Who?”
I’m not telling him. Manny lifted his fork and shoved macaroni in his mouth, then gestured to his closed lips when Israel gave him an impatient glare.
Israel narrowed his eyes. Then, snapping his fingers, “The frat party! You met someone at the frat party! Then—my god, you took a stranger to bed drunk?” He snapped his fingers again. “That’s why you were asking me about the people I saw you talking to that night! You were trying to figure out if I already knew! Come on, Manny! Who is it!?”
Sometimes, Israel was a terrifying friend to have. Manny swallowed with difficulty. “I don’t even know his name, ok?” The words were mumbled, and Manny found himself shuffling his feet under the table.
Israel slapped the table and threw his head back laughing. “Man-Manny—Manny—oh, lord, you know wha—” He broke off wheezing. “You know what that makes you, right? Manny, you know what that makes you?” But then his expression suddenly changed. He shook his head and abruptly lifted both hands in the air as if to put the universe on pause. “Wa-wa-wa-wait.”
“His…? His name?” Israel shook himself as if he thought he might have fallen asleep somewhere during Manny’s sentence. “His name? As in, the owner of said name is a he?”
“What? No.” Manny’s face flushed a burning red, and he quickly turned to glare down at his broccoli and cheesy macaroni. “I—I didn’t say that.”
Israel’s spoon made a small vertical helicopter spin and settled aiming at Manny. “I’m pretty sure…you did.” That sly smile was pulling at his lips again.
Manny shook his head stiffly, unable to raise his face and meet his friend in the eye. “No. Why would you think it was a guy? I…I’m not gay.”
“So…you were just too drunk to tell it was a guy?” Israel raised his eyebrows in evil amusement.
“No, I could tell! I mean—” Manny broke off and raised a hand to his face. He swept his palm across the reddened skin, then dared a peek at his friend between two fingers. Why is this happening? Why did I say that? Oh damn, how does he figure out everything? Could Manny have told it was a guy? That boy had been so impossibly beautiful the way Manny remembered him.
“You didn’t like…” The spoon swished through the air slightly. “Figure out…somewhere along the way?”
“I…I don’t know,” Manny admitted at last, his shoulders falling with a tense breath. “I don’t…I don’t remember it. Like…at all.” He dropped his hand from his face. “Any of it.”
Israel’s blue eyes widened. “You had an actual black-out? Damn, you got that drunk?”
“I—I guess.” Manny swallowed. “I just…woke up…next to…some guy.”
“Oh shit.” Israel’s eyes blew even wider.
“Yeah, I…left before he woke up.”
“So, you didn’t get his name or anything? Do you remember talking to him at all beforehand? Seeing him at the party, at least?”
Manny tossed his hands hopelessly.
“Oh shit!” Israel repeated. Then, eyes widening still further, “Was he hot?”
Manny raised his hand and began biting at his fingernails again. He watched his friend uneasily for a long moment. Then, quietly, “I’m not gay, Israel.”
Israel’s lip pouted slightly. “Aw. So, he was gross?”
“He—he wasn’t—gross.” Manny shivered slightly, mind unintentionally darting back across the memories of that slim set of five or six minutes he had actually spent awake and sober with that beautiful boy. At the time, he had been much more focused on finding all his clothes and getting out of there as fast as possible. But now, the only things that seemed to matter were that pretty face; flawless, toned body; strange bird tattoo. “He was weird.” Manny frowned slightly on the words.
“Weird how so?” Israel frowned as well. “Gawky-weird? Nerdy-weird? Mystery-weird?”
“Pretty-weird.” Manny gave his friend a cautious, sideways look.
“Pretty weird? Yes, but how so?”
“I mean pretty. Like…it was weird how…pretty he was.”
“So, he was hot?”
“No. Not like that. I don’t know.”
A long silence followed.
“So…” Israel tapped his finger against the tabletop for a moment. “Are you…gonna find out who he is or…?”
“Nah. No.” Manny shook his head. “I—I don’t remember what happened. I think it’s best if I forget anything happened at all.”
“But you haven’t yet,” Israel pointed out.
Manny bit at his nails again. His eyes strayed towards the food line. “No…”
“You don’t wanna at least know the name of the guy you lost your virginity with?” Israel gave his friend a cringing smile.
“What would that do?” Manny hesitated.
“Maybe…” Israel shrugged. “I dunno. Something. Seems you’d want to know, at least.”
“But I don’t even remember it.”
“Shit, I don’t want to think about that.” Manny’s eyes flickered back to the food line.
“Well, it’s not like you have to talk to him. Someone else from the party that night might know who he is.”
“You don’t get it, Israel.” Manny sighed and looked down at his food, suddenly feeling queasy. “I cheated. I cheated on Ana.”
Israel shrugged. “I won’t tell her.”
“Why would you tell her? I thought you were set on forgetting this whole thing.”
“Then why would I go looking to figure out who he was?” Manny shuddered. “And what would I say, anyway? Just saunter up to those frat boys and tell them that I don’t remember who the hell I slept with that night, but they obviously do, so who the hell was he?”
Israel grinned. “I guess.”
“No. I’m not doing that.” Manny bit his lip and glared down at the floor.
“Ok, well what if I asked around for you?” Israel offered.
“No. No, I need to forget the whole thing happened.” Manny got to his feet, swinging his backpack over his shoulder and lifting his plate off the table. He started for the dish drop.
“C’mon, what harm is knowing a name gonna do?” Israel hurried to catch up. “If you don’t want to know any more, then you don’t have to. But damn it, Manny, I want to know!”
“That’s weird and creepy,” Manny decided.
“No, it’s—it’s minimal concerned curiosity for my best friend.” Israel grinned. “Come on, you wouldn’t even have to do anything. I’ll talk to the guys I know at the frat house, and I’ll get back to you with a name. How’s that?”
A name. A name was a key to all kinds of things. A name could be put into a Google search. A Facebook search. Instagram. Did Manny want that? Yes. What sort of name would a guy like that even have? Did he really look the way Manny remembered him? A social media search on the guy would answer that question well enough. What if he did? No, that was impossible. It didn’t add up. But it could be a good thing to dispel illusions about that strange boy, too, right? Why? Why do I care? No, I need to stay focused. Not get distracted. Manny let out a long, tense breath. “Suit yourself,” he said finally.
“Yes!” Israel gathered a victorious fist and passed Manny a triumphant grin.
I’m going to regret this, Manny already felt certain. Maybe Israel would not be successful. The frat boys might just throw him for a loop like they did with that girl, Ava.