Friday night, I’m kicking it by myself on the porch of some house party and sipping cheap beer.
More than half an hour ago, Cameron slipped away to pick up more cigarettes from the corner store. He’s taking so long to get back, but I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s such a damn flake when we get trashed.
It’s cold as fuck out here. I want to go back inside, but the music is blaring and honestly just not my style. It’s also crowded. Really crowded.
Whoever lives here must’ve needed some extra cash, because they bought a bunch of kegs and told everyone to stop by and pitch in five bucks. Cameron caught wind of the whole thing from one of his sculptor buddies and dragged me along. I told him I wasn’t paying to drink shitty beer at some random person’s house when I could just buy my own and take it home, but he convinced me. He also promised that if I came with, he’d pay.
He kept his word. He did pay. So, here I am.
At last, Cameron shows up. I spot him strolling down the street towards the house. He turns up the driveway and I can see he has on that same stupid smile he always wears on his face.
“What took you so damn long?” I snark. “Get lost or something?”
He gives me this smug ass grin and then unzips his jacket, reaching in and pulling out a bottle.
“Oh what? Man, fuck you,” I crack up. “Did you run all the way to the fucking liquor store?”
I reach out and take his offering, instantly feeling better about how long I was kept in the cold.
“Well, I knew you’d have more fun this way, yeah?” he says with a cheeky shrug.
I unscrew the cap and take a swig straight from the bottle. It tastes absolutely vile, but anything is better than the piss water I was drinking before. Cameron lights himself a cigarette and when I’m done, stretches out his hand and makes a grasping motion for the bottle.
“Don’t get crazy,” I say with a laugh, handing it over.
He doesn’t respond. Instead, he takes a gulp, trying to copy me. When he pulls the bottle away from his lips, he sputters and coughs.
Ha. Love him, but what a fucking idiot.
“Slick,” I smile.
“Whatever,” he bites back. I can’t help but laugh, but he gives me a pissy look.
Cameron’s the type of guy who wants to make people laugh, but they’ve got to be laughing with him. God forbid they ever laugh at him.
I grab the liquor back and guzzle a bit more before handing it off to him once and for all. This time, he manages to choke some back without spitting it everywhere.
Good job buddy.
“So, are you working on any cool projects lately? Besides that shit you showed me the other day, obviously,” he side-eyes me.
“You should show me when you’re done.”
“Yeah, maybe. Only if you stop giving me suggestions I don’t ask for.”
Cameron rolls his eyes. “Get over it, Avery. There’s always gonna be someone telling you that you should’ve done one thing over another. Why can’t that person be me?”
It could be, if he was less of a dick about, or if he took suggestions back. He doesn’t, though. Half of the time when I try to explain my work to him he just runs over me with the importance of marketability, but arguing with him sounds like a drag right now, so I just change the subject.
“Why’d you take such an interest in that Rudolf kid, huh?”
“I don’t know, he’s talented, I guess.”
“Yeah, but tons of people are talented. We go to a school full of fuckin’ savants.”
“Yeah, dunno,” he repeats, sounding indifferent. “Rudy was there. I was feeling chatty.”
I’m not going to get a real answer out of him. He might not even have a real answer. Cameron’s just like this; act first and think later.
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. He opens Instagram, searching for Rudolph’s account.
“He updated a bunch of shit that same night,” Cameron tells me, scrolling through the grid of pictures. “I guess he figured I knew what I was talking about.”
I snort at that. “Yeah Cam, you’re a real genius.”
I look down and examine the photos of Rudolf’s work. It’s unique, to say the least. I can appreciate the style, even if it isn’t really my thing. I know something good when I see it though, so Cameron is right about that. Rudolf has talent. That alone doesn’t separate you from hundreds of other students though. It’s funny to me that Cameron has taken such a sudden interest in him.
Maybe he just wants a project. I guess that awkward kid would be the perfect assignment.
Once he’s scrolled through Rudolf’s whole page, Cameron pockets his phone and lights another cigarette.
“Want one?” he asks, shaking the pack at me.
“Sure,” I grab it from him and pull one out. “I am not going back inside that house.”
“Aw, not having a good time?” Cameron mocks. “Somehow that’s not surprising.”
“It’s not?” I feign amazement. “Come on, Cam, you know I hate this kind of crap.”
“I know, I know,” he bobs his head and leans against the porch railing, staring out at the road.
“But...you’re going to keep dragging me to them,” I chuckle. “You’ve been doing it since we met so...I really oughta be used to it now.”
“Oh you’d better be,” he squints, ashing his cigarette. “Come on, you don’t even like the music?”
“It’s shit,” I say without missing a beat. “You know it too. Don’t play dumb.”
He smiles wryly. “Well, maybe it’s not my favorite.”
“Yeah, because it’s shit,” I reiterate. “This place is a hole.”
“Yeah, yeah, all right. Want to go, then? Just say the word.”
“Yeah, let’s dip. I’ll call Rose to come get us. We can go back to my place or something. It’ll be more fun than this.”
“Cool,” Cameron agrees. “I’m gonna say bye to a few people and tell’em we’re heading out.”
I nod and wave him off before pulling out my phone, dialing Rose’s number and putting the phone to my ears. After a few seconds, I hear, “Hello?”
“Hey, babe,” I say sweetly. “This party blows. Want to come pick me and Cam up and we’ll all go back to my place?”
Rose laughs into the receiver. “I knew you’d hate it!” she exclaims. “Why’d you even go?”
“You know why. Cameron insisted,” I roll my eyes and flip my septum ring in and out of my nose. “It super sucks though. I’d owe you big time if you came and got us.”
“Mmmm, I dunno…” she teases. “I’m already in bed.”
“All right, fine. But we’re picking up food on the way back and you’re gonna be paying.”
“Fuck yeah,” I flick my cigarette into the snow. “Thank you so much. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she chuckles. “I’m going to get dressed. Text me the address.”
“All right, will do. See you soon babe,” I confirm before hanging up.
I shoot her a message before putting my phone away. Cameron shows up a few minutes later and I tell him that Rose caved.
He sits back down next to me, finishing off his cigarette before flicking it into a snowbank in the front yard.
“Was she annoyed?” he asks.
“Of course not,” I say.
“Man, she’s so damn nice. Too nice for you.”
I scoff, not bothering to respond because it’s true. Rose and I have been together for four years now, and I think most people would probably agree. She’s too good for me.
Rose is a literal angel. I’m such a trashrat comparatively. I still have no idea how I managed to convince her that I was worth her time. We met when I first moved from New York to start school. She and Cameron went to high school together, then stayed friends afterward even though she’s two years older. I was at his apartment one day and Rose stopped by to say hello. I must have made a good impression because here we are.
“She wanted us to stop somewhere and pick up food on the way back,” I decide to tell Cameron, “any ideas?”
“Huh,” he taps his chin. “What’s she want?”
“We can get burritos or something.”
“I don’t really care,” he says with a shrug. “Whatever sounds good to you guys, yeah?”
“You’re so unhelpful,” I snort.
Eventually, Rose rolls up in her Jeep, and Cameron and I trudge down the steps through the snow on the front lawn. I open the passenger side door and climb inside, slamming it behind me.
“Hey,” I plant a kiss on her cheek. “Thanks again for coming.”
“Of course!” she smiles. “Just to be clear though, it’s not because I care about seeing either of you. I just wanted the free dinner.”
“Rude,” I laugh. Cameron chuckles in the backseat.
We ditch the house and drive down the street. Fuck, it feels good to be out of there. I hate parties like that. Well, I hate most parties, period.
“Burritos good?” I ask.
“Yeah, sounds good to me,” Rose says, nodding in agreement.
We head out to this little place a few minutes away from my house and get some take-out.
Fuck, it smells good. I can hardly wait to get home.
I sit the food on my lap and buckle in. Once we’re at my place, Rose pulls into the driveway and we hurry inside. I set the takeout on the kitchen counter and grab a couple of paper plates since I don’t feel like doing dishes tonight. Rose opens the paper bag and distributes everyone’s food, then the three of us head upstairs.
“Don’t wake my roommates up,” I warn while we’re on the stairs, though it’s mostly directed at Cameron and his loud mouth. “Danielle will skin you.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt it,” he remarks.
I close the door to my room quietly behind us. Then Rose sprawls out on my bed and Cameron and I sit cross-legged on the floor.
“See? Isn’t this better?” I joke as I unwrap my food. “No obnoxious music. No trashed douchebags.”
“I was having a fine time,” Cameron says. “You’re the antisocial one.”
“I’m not antisocial,” I insist. “I just don’t like wasting my time pretending to be interested in people who are so drunk they can barely form a full sentence.”
“Whatever, it’s not that bad.”
“Why’re you grilling me all of a sudden?” I ask, getting kind of annoyed.
Cameron takes a bite out of his burrito. “I’m not,” he maintains.
“Oh stop it,” Rose cuts in and scoots towards the edge of the bed, setting a hand on the back of my neck.
What a piss-off. Cameron needs to stop riding my ass like this.
"Relax," Rose says, squeezing my shoulders.
"Yeah, I know," I mumble back.
I take a bite of my burrito, trying to move past Cameron’s shitty tone. The food’s good, but I'm not a fussy eater. I'll inhale pretty much anything that’s set in front of me.
"How was work?" I ask Rose, turning away from Cameron.
"Same as always," she says simply.
She has a nine to five as the secretary for a law firm. She’s been working there a while now. She says she likes it, but it gets monotonous. I could never be satisfied with an office job like that. I need to move around. I like things to be fresh and new. I wouldn't have the ability to concentrate like that all day.
Rose is more focused than I am. She's so accomplished. Sometimes I don't know why she wasted time on me...a fucking art student. What am I going to do with my life?
Cameron says he thinks I could be successful if I did shit like sweatshirt designs, but I just can’t confine myself to something that small or consumer-oriented. I like to work big, but my style doesn’t really sell. It’s gritty and unpolished. I want it to be that way. That’s my thing. I could try to get more into public art, but that’s not really my style. Besides, I’d probably have to be a street artist or something because I can’t think of a single person who would want to pay me to paint a mural of a twelve-foot rabid raccoon.
If I’d had more foresight, I would have gotten into printmaking. That would have been more conducive to the images I make. I could learn quickly if I could dedicate the time, but I’m a senior and already busy as hell.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s something I’ll consider later on. Right now I don’t want to think about what I’ll do with my degree. I just want to actually finish. Then I’ll start making the hard decisions.
“School was good?” Rose asks, playing with my hair. She twirls bunches of short, curly strands between her fingers.
“Same as always,” I reply, echoing her response.
She pauses and then tugs lightly on my hair.
“Stop being boring. You’re an art student. I’m sure there’s tons of exciting stuff going on at the school.”
“There is,” Cameron chimes in. “But Avery likes to skillfully avoid every event. She even ditches the gallery openings.”
Rose gives me a critical look but I can tell she’s being playful. “Why am I not surprised?” she says.
“Hey, I show up,” I try to defend myself. “I just like to leave early.”
“And that’s why you’ll never get anywhere as an artist.”
“Fuck off, you dick,” I snap.
“Connections are the most important thing if you want to be successful,” Cameron continues.
Usually, I’m fine with how Cameron and I bust each other’s balls, but I’m not in the mood right now. It’d be one thing if by connections he just meant working professionals, but he doesn’t. He means everyone. That’s why he always drags me to these shitty parties. He calls it networking.
“It wouldn’t be a bad thing for you to try to stick around the whole night every once and a while,” Rose agrees, and I can’t help but scrunch up my nose. Cameron just smiles and I seriously want to chuck what’s left of my dinner at him.
“Okay, fine,” I give in, mostly wanting everyone to shut up.
These things don’t change in the blink of an eye though and I’m not about to magically start having an easier time with this just because they both rag on me for it.
“Okay, fine,” I give in, mostly wanting everyone to shut up.
These things don’t change at the drop of the hat though and I’m not about to magically start having an easier time with this just because they both rag on me for it.
“Anyway,” Rose says, sensing that I want a conversation change. “What’s new with you, Cam?”
“Working on some new pieces,” he says. “It’s going to be pretty dramatic.”
“Yeah?” she asks. “What’ve you got?”
He gives us both a sly smile. “You’ll see. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”