At the Chinese restaurant at the bottom of the hill at night, I sit down across from the drunk girl and beside Schuyler. The kitchen is open behind the counter and so the restaurant is hot, and Schuyler says as much.
Jesus Christ, he says.
The drunk girl is a Mormon and asks Schuyler to not curse. At least around me, she says.
Sorry, he says and kicks my foot.
Behind the counter the line cook is sweating through a T-shirt that says Y2K and has a picture of the earth on it. He, and not the woman behind the counter, comes out and brings Schuyler and the drunk girl their chicken, and me my bean curd.
What is that? she says.
What’s your name? Schuyler says.
We walk back up the hill to campus and a Mitsubishi Montero almost runs onto the sidewalk into us. Elena and Schuyler both grab an arm of mine, instinctively I think.
What can I do? I say over the crackle of the tires on the loose, shifting hunks of pavement and the hum of the brakes.
In the dorm suite, we sit down and rip open the thick paper bags, stapled at their tops, and pull out the plastic tubs of our food, obscured by condensation and uncommonly-thin napkins. Two girls who live on this floor are in a corner playing backgammon with the wall-affixed TV turned to Everybody Loves Raymond. In this episode, Ray has to deliver the eulogy at his uncle’s funeral, which his mother is protesting attending because her estranged sister will be there. His brother Robert’s obsessive compulsions cause him to make strange braying sounds during Ray’s eulogizing his uncle, and Ray is aware of the tension between his aunt and his mother even during his speaking. He sits them down and helps them resolve their conflict at the end of the episode.
I love that Robert guy, Schuyler says, mouth full of chicken and rice. He’s so funny.
I’ve never seen it, Elena says.
The two girls react negatively from their corner, rhetorically asking her how that could be.
Elena and I walk and she is still carrying what’s left of her chicken, eating while she walks. Your friend is nice, she says.
Elena is from the town next to the college, she tells me, and would have been roommates with her closest friend, excepting that she had died in the spring.
Jesus Christ, I say.
Don’t say that.
Are you all right?
She eats more chicken and says, She and her boyfriend were walking on the road too late at night and a car didn’t see them, is all.
My dad’s dad died like that, I say. A young girl drove drunk and hit him.
She takes me past the visual arts building, which is situated in a manner that lends it the feeling of being removed from campus, and throws the rest of her chicken in a large plastic garbage can.
Come on, will you? she says.
It is dark on the trails behind the visual arts building and she takes me to a clearing that overlooks an overgrown field with grave markers too old for us to make out, and the Green Mountains. There is a broken-down Land Rover in pieces, half-sunk into the ground and with the trunk opened up. We sit in the back of it and can see only light from the sky, not any from the field. There’s smoke from somewhere distant, obscuring entire constellations.
Your friend’s nice, she says.
I take her neck and pull it to my mouth and suck at it, but she recoils away from me and into the shallow bay of the back window. And then it feels I am cornering her, angling her back into the body of the car with my body, so I pull away—sit back.
It’s not a good idea is all, she says.
She takes her knees closer to her and stares at me through the dark, lit up by the sky through the windows. In the distance, kids on campus are hollering and shrieking, and she reaches out and takes me by the shirtsleeve so to draw me to her. I lie down, neck bent and head against the leather of the backseat and she fingers my hair, rubs my scalp, scratches my neck.
My dad was so angry when his father was killed, I say. He went to the girl’s house at night with gasoline to burn it. He couldn’t do it, though.
Why not? she says, fingers laced in my hair.
And then she is kissing me behind my ears, on my neck, all over my face—so that I couldn’t have formed the words.