Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dulce Periculum, Baby: A Meatspace Adventure from the past

Names, dates and *some* locations have been changed. I also left out a good bit of background info and context around this time of my life. Likewise I neglected to mention the girl I had just broken up with and any other females that shared my attentions lately at the time. When I was single it was always at least 2-3 on the brain at any given time.

Anyways, this little look at my life lead me to write some of the more inspired parts of "Fair Coin" my first, worst and ugliest novel which buddha willing will not see the light of day until I am long dead and cremated. But let us not dwell on fire, for this is an aquatically themed story.

Enjoy. And as always don't forget to check the Meatspace Omnibus if you want more demented adventures from my life.


Dulce Periculum, baby.

(Summer 2003)

Life as a Student Patrolman is good. Summer school takes up a big chunk of my week but two classes 4 days a week is easy money. Campus is largely deserted, no lines and no fucking pedestrian obstructions.

Just the kind of time for a guy like me.

While day time soaks up a lot of homework the nights are all business. There are only 3 of us in the area, 2 per shift so I work 4 nights a week. Tonight is pretty typical. We haven’t had an escort call in 2 weeks.

Most nights we just hung out and watched movies or TV after a few token patrols. We don’t get paid much but we hardly do anything. Campus population drops an order of mag and a half during the summer break. There just aren’t enough people around to meet even our meager supply of potential escorts. Fine by me.

This fine summer evening falls on a Thursday. It will gleam like a nova in my memory for months to come due to a fortunate Confluence of Events. I am the only one working, most of the students are getting hammered off campus and the cops are running a skeleton crew. Perfect time for some mischief.

To get the full effect you need to know a little about what we do and more importantly what we have access to: basically everything. Right now on my belt I have a million dollar keyring. It’s not that the keys themselves are so valuable but they literally open every door on campus. My dorm uses the K key for suite doors, L key for individual rooms. Most of the psych buildings use N1 for exterior doors and N2 for interior.

When in doubt the M key works for almost everything else. It’s a lot of power, who could resist just a little abuse? Now barring a few of the labs (they had combination locks) I could go anywhere and do anything on campus that suited my fancy.

A less imaginative mind might have turned thoughts towards pillaging. After all there were hundreds or thousands of computers, projectors or various other valuables for the taking. As I stand outside the library I smile at Harrison Hall’s UFO-like round exterior. Second floor utility closet has a stack of brand new laptops awaiting distribution. A little backpack work could yield significant financial gain.

There are more chemicals and reagents waiting in the bio and chem labs just across the brickyard. While I wouldn’t mind walking home with a huge chunk of sodium metal or maybe some DNA sequencing equipment my heart just isn’t up for theft.

I want entertainment and if my guess is right I should have some soon. For now I just compose myself on a vast expanse of shadowed brick and await my quarry.

Sure enough around 9pm Jackie walks out of the library and peels left up the hill. I plot a course to intercept about halfway to her car. She hasn’t seen me yet so I fall in step behind her. I try not to chuckle as I notice her speed up.

“Hey little girl,” I say in my creepiest oh-god-there’s-a-stalker-behind-me voice. Wide eyes turn towards me but soon narrow and brighten.

“I should have known it was you,” she says with a chuckle. Jackie’s a knock out when she smiles. When she gets steely eyed she can be nothing short of terrifying.

“Couldn’t resist the chance to give you a little thrill,” I tell her. “After all my night is shaping up to be utterly and totally boring. How was the study group?”

Oh yeah. I knew Jackie was going to be there because we were having a study group that night. I got to exempt myself because I was working. See it’s not as creepy as you thought.

“I learned some stuff,” she says. “It just wasn’t the same without your sarcasm. We ran into those Diffy Q guys again and no one could say stuff to them.” I smile.

Last time we had to commandeer half of a table from a trio of engineering guys. We were taking statistics for psych and they felt the need to turn up their noses at the ‘soft math.’ I spent a few minutes scraping the paint off of their souls before they got up and left. Then we had the whole table to ourselves. Good ol’ social engineering is a powerful tool. And they say humanities are worthless majors.

I tell Jackie about my plight, that I am all alone for the evening and have no safe haven to park my listless posterior for the evening. I am pleasantly surprised by her response.

“You can have me for half an hour,” she says slyly. “Maybe more if you buy me coffee.”

I do and we sit in the East Campus Courtyard talking about constellations and the scary people in our classes. It’s a pleasant enough time but I keep getting distracted.

Jackie’s a classic case of the pretty ugly-girl. She grew up in a rough house with a bunch of alcoholics and fuckheads. Got married at 18, divorced at 21 and now at age 23 was going back to school to make something out of herself. Somewhere along the line she blossomed and after the divorce she lost 20 pounds. This took her from mildly doable to start-a-war-with-the-greeks hot. It wasn’t fair. She was slender and well proportioned but never needed to diet or exercise.

One of the chosen. If she could see herself through my eyes there is no way in hell she’d be sitting there goofing off with me.

“Can I see it?” she says to me at one point. I pause mid-sip and raise an eyebrow. “The key ring, you perv.”

“Happy to accommodate,” I say. I unclip it from my carabineer and plop it in her lap. I have already given her the million dollar key ring speech and she was interested but polite enough to show me I was being humored.

“Funny that you’re bored with all this . . . potential.” Now she raises an eyebrow at me. Her teeth are perfect and the way her lips frame them is helplessly fetching. Admring her haloed jaw line under the street lights gives pause to my response. I can’t say anything because all my hormones are doing the biological equivalent of a mosh pit in my veins.

“Trust me,” I say eventually. “There’s a lot of fun to be had with that item but since all of it is illegal by definition it forces you to reprioritize. Every idea that pops up has to make it through the cost benefit analysis. Is this fun enough to merit jail time? Or is the risk to being caught so low that I should have no fear?”

She hands them back and mutters ‘pussy’ under her breath.

“I beg pardon?” I say. “Were you accusing or offering just now?”

“Accusing,” she ripostes. “I can’t believe you never do anything. You literally have the keys to the kingdom but you’re too scared to sit on the throne while no one is looking.”

I hate being goaded to bragging but I have already done some nefarious deeds with the key ring at my side. I take a nibble at the bait.

“We climbed up on Jordan hall a while back, easy roof access. No rails or walls either so it’s trippy being so close to the edge with nothing but 90 feet of air between you and the parking lot.”

Jackie feigned a yawn.

“We also watched a movie on one of the big screens in the chemistry building. You going to turn up your nose at a personal IMAX theatre?” Jackie perked up.

“Let’s do that,” she said excitedly. “Right now let’s go.” Subcon hands me a memo and I feel like screaming.

“Can’t tonight, there’s some event going on in that building. We would definitely get busted.”

“That’s too bad,” she says. “You don’t have much time with me left and what are you going to do for the rest of the night all by yourself?” Another note from Subcon. This time elation hits me like freefall.

“You remember that thing we talked about a while back?” I ask her. “You said you had never been to the campus pool and we started talking about…”

“Oh I remember,” she interupts. “What’s your point?”

“How about I make that happen for you tonight. But not right now, we have to wait until midnight at least. Interested?”

“That depends,” she says mischievously. And don’t worry I will give the details out later I’m just creating a little suspense. “You already offered so I know this meets the cost/benefit analysis. But does that mean we’re unlikely to get caught or the prospect is so exciting that it’s worth the risk.”

I choose my words carefully.

“I could definitely lose my job over it,” I say truthfully. “And I consider it worth the risk.”

“I’m flattered,” she says. “Where should we meet at midnight? I twitch, all the way down. I can’t believe she’s actually into this. My inner cynic warns me she might just say yes and then cancel. That would be unfortunate. Subcon cracks his knuckles in case some mental self-abuse has to go down later.

“Park at Wood Hall and then meet me behind the gym, near the basketball courts. I’ll be somewhere visible.”

“See you at midnight,” she says. Normally we hug goodbye but I let her go untouched tonight.

When she’s out of range I whisper ‘for now’ and laugh maniacally. A pair of girls gives me a dirty look so I mosey down to south campus.

Kill a few hours and then let the good times roll.

Jackie arrives a few minutes before midnight. As I pinpoint her silhouette I can only imagine what she must be thinking. I’m leaned against the post of a halogen streetlight. My dorky student patrol baseball cap blocks out the glare. She steps lightly through the night air like it’s broad fucking daylight in some picturesque vista.

I wave once I can make out the impish smile on her face. I lean towards my radio and put a finger on transmit.

“This is 804, I’m gonna be taking my 10-22. Back in 30.” I clip it on my belt and escort the lady to the appointed destination.

“Scared?” she asks me.

“Only that you’ll punk out on me once we’re inside.”

“I’ll have you know I shaved for this. Just don’t disappoint me and all your wildest dreams will come true.”

I smile but don’t point out the obvious flaw in the statement. In my wildest dreams I would be omnipotent. I’ll settle for a scandalous evening with Jackie until the Djinn season picks back up.

We have to hang around for a few seconds to make sure the coast is clear. I’ve got the M key at the ready. My hands shake once we determine that there are no meddlesome folk about. A thrust and a little twist and bingo. We’re inside the gym and no alarms are blaring yet.

“Dulce Periculum,” I say to myself.

“Dool say what? Man you are strange sometimes. Guess I can’t talk since we just broke into the gym. Is that latin?”

“Oh yeah,” I say. We start the long dreadful walk down the dark hallways that converge on the locker rooms, aerobic spaces and of course the aquatic complex.

“Genetically my last name should be McCalla,” I explain. “My dad’s biological dad was a McCalla. He got killed right after WWII and later my dad took the last name of his step dad. It’s one of those things that I have always wondered about had things been different. What would life be like if that damned steam pipe hadn’t exploded . . .?”

“Wow,” Jackie says. We grab the pile of towels I secreted away while I was waiting for her. Time’s a factor and less prep means more of the good stuff. “That was a really long explanation and you didn’t even explain your little cryptic phrase.

“Dulce Periculum,” I continued with a sharp inhale through gritted teeth. “Is the phrase on the McCalla coat of arms. Literally it means ‘danger is sweet’ and this occasion it seemed doubly appropriate.

“Ooh,” Jackie said with a laugh. “Does that mean I am sweet or dangerous?”

“Both. Follow me.”

I lead her to the pool. Well technically there are two pools arranged in a T. The big pool is surrounded by windows and is for lap swimming and all that. The smaller pool is where the swim team and diving teams practice. It’s usually ten degrees warmer and off limits unless you’re on the team. More importantly any one walking past the gym who looked inside would be hard pressed to spot someone in there.

Silence and stillness weigh down the mood. We skulk up to the pool and take another look around. I plop all of the towels down in a pile. Jackie seems to be glowing in the faint light.

“Moment of truth,” she says. “You up for it?”

I answer by unbuckling my belt, setting down the key ring and my radio. As I am pulling my red work polo over my head I notice that Jackie’s taken off her tank top. She’s wearing a bikini.

Now the deal was ‘I’ll provide a secluded body of water for us if you’ll go skinny dipping with me.’ A bikini was totally out of the question.

“You’re about to disappoint me,” I said. My voice betrays that I am already prepared to mope.

“Keep your pants…well never mind. Once you’re done I’ll finish getting undressed.” Jackie plants her hands on firm hips. I step out of my shoes and pants.

“Why does it matter if I am going to see you naked anyways?” I ask.

“Because the deal was nudity,” she says. It’s like she’s explaining why the sky is blue to a slow child. “Nudity isn’t sexual. I’m not doing a strip tease for you. We’re just friends, remember?”

Fair enough.

My glasses are the last thing to go, I nearly dive in wearing them. That would have been bad. Instead I dive in, keenly aware that I am fully nude and half blind while in the midst of breaking and entering. It’s a fucking rush like you wouldn’t believe.

A tight splash lets me know that Jackie’s joined me in the water. Now I see a crucial flaw in my plan has been exposed. In the dim light, sans glasses I can’t even tell if she’s fully naked or not.

“Wow, this feels really weird. It’s like being more naked than naked,” she says jerkily treading water. “Have you taken a lot of girls here?”

“You’re the first,” I say. “And if it helps I can’t really see you anyway so you get all the rush without any of the ocular molestation.”

“So now what?”

That’s a damn good question. I wonder if she feels like doing me. No? Guess we’ll just swim around then.

“Have fun,” I say. I take the time to push off the wall and angle myself towards the bottom. Both hands are out and stiff to prevent the ridiculously poor visibility from bashing my head into concrete. I sink down, touch, and push off to breach. Jackie seems to be struggling with something.

“Ok over there?” I ask.

“No,” she says floundering and making what sounds like a tremendous racket. “Come over and help me.”

You got it.

“What can I do?” I ask. Even point blank she’s just dark skin. The rippling refraction turns the underwater parts of her into an erratic mosaic of half-seen skin.

“I want to be weightless but I can’t get myself to float. How do I do that?”

“Just lie on your back, take a deep breath in and spread out.” I demonstrate, keenly aware that my junk is thrust upwards into full view. She probably can’t see and the water’s warm enough that I don’t care.

Jackie makes a few attempts but just doesn’t have the buoyancy (ie fat) that I do. She appears a little distressed by this. In an admirably selfless gesture I decide to help her out.

“Stretch out and lie on your back,” I tell her. “I’ll hold you up by your lower back so you can float.”

“Just be careful where you decide my lower back is,” she warns me sternly. Even in the blue soup I can see that she’s smiling. I take her by the waist and pull her backwards until she’s gliding over the water. With some aquatic grace I slide my right hand under her rib cage and use my left to hold her legs behind the knees.

“Comfy?” I ask. She shushes me.

“Just let me be free for a minute,” she chides me. I hold her in silence, taking in the warmth of her skin and the ambience of the place. The whole complex is a blackened tangle of wet blue silk. Jackie wanted to be weightless and she feels that way to me. I barely need functioning arms to keep her floating peacefully. Her eyes are closed and a serene smile covers her face.

Ok I also took the opportunity to check out her naked body but it was literally right under my nose. How could I resist? Better yet why would I want to?

“Thank you,” she says eventually. “You can let me go now.”

I don’t think I could if I tried.

Instead of letting her go I shift my stance bringing my right arm around to her shoulder and my pulling my left up. If that’s hard to imagine just think ‘groom carrying bride over the threshold’ only we were naked and supersaturated.

“Can I tell you a secret?” I ask, stalling for time and noticing she hasn’t moved or protested.

“As long as that secrete doesn’t relate to you and me and whether we are ever going to go out that’s fine,” she says. And now for the ultimate mixed message she puts her arm around my neck and begins to stroke behind my ear.

“It’s not that,” I lie. I would tell her that I’m descended from Julius Fucking Caesar’s retarded nephew if that kept her in my arms. “I just like that this particular night I asked if you wanted to do something. You could have done a million other things but you didn’t. Instead of doing homework or crashing early or going out drinking you chose to come hang out naked with a geek from your psychology class.”

“Well I already knew that,” Jackie said softly. She moved her hand to smooth out my disheveled eyebrows. “Doesn’t really qualify as a secret.”

“It does,” I tell her. “And it’s the best kind of secret because no matter what happens you and I are here now, and we don’t have to share with anyone else if we don’t want to. I kind of like the idea that someday 20 years from now you might think back to college and the time you went skinny dipping with the single greatest author of the 21st century.” We chuckle, it’s an old running joke.

“You know that’s why we can’t be together,” she said. “You’re just too modest and withdrawn, not enough ego for my taste.” Just then part of me brushed against the outer curve of Jackie’s buttocks. You can guess which part. “Was that?”

“Yep,” I confess. “That was my weiner just now.”

Jackie laughed and wriggled away from me. She didn’t go far, just kept enough space between me and her to prevent a reoccurrence. (So you know she was at least 18 inches away, yuk yuk yuk. Ok, try 6.)

“Why are you attracted to me, Seth?”

Ooh, she used my name. That’s serious business.

“You’re a charming and attractive girl, err, lady? Hell I don’t need to quantify I just like you because when we hang out I tend to remember it more so than most of the girls in my life. You should know the significance of emotional response and memory formation.”

“So romantic,” she said. I suspect there was an eye roll or a funny face made but it was too dark to be sure.

“Here’s a better question,” I say. “Why are you attracted to me as a friend but not a romantic interest? And no jokes because there’s no one else here to impress or placate and I just want to hear it from you straight up and sans sugar coating.”

Damn that got heavy pretty quick.

“Two reasons,” she tells me. “And don’t get pouty because the first is that I am not physically attracted to you.”


“You make me laugh and I love that.”

Fucking fuck balls.

“And you’re not terrible looking.”

Felching assfuck.

“But you don’t dance, and you’re not into my kind of music.”

Shitraping assock.”

“Basically I like you enough to be friends with you but . . .”

And twist it just a little deeper.

“You understand what I mean, and you know that you feel the same once you cut past my body and your hormonal urge to fuck me right?”

“Sure,” I say. I think about what it would be like to drown myself.

“Now the second reason is a little more complex.” Jackie moves in closer and puts her hands on my shoulders. Despite just immolating my self-esteem and salting the charred carnage there is a look of vulnerability all over her. She’s trembling as she speaks.

“You know me well enough to know about my dick ex and my asshole dad. I hope you see that I trust you and that has nothing to do with wanting or not wanting to fuck you. But getting out of a situation like that makes you a little paranoid. One of the things that made me thinking about taking a bottle of sleeping pills or slitting my wrists was that I had no control over anything going on in my life. Do you know what that’s like?”

I shook my head. I had my own suicide story but decided to just let the woman talk. Despite her words forbidding me I wanted so much to comfort and console her. However you don’t try to cuddle with a tornado so I just let her speak.

“Now you’re a pretty sharp guy. Hell you make me feel like an idiot sometimes. I know you don’t mean too but you just know stuff about the world that kills me because I am jealous. You have traveled and met awesome people and I want that for myself and not just by proxy through you. I can’t be with you because I can’t control you. I wouldn’t want you even if I could there’s just something missing in you.”

Oh great, like I haven’t heard that from enough girls already. Souls are so overrated, no matter what they say.

As if reading my mind Jackie corrects herself.

“That’s not really what I mean,” she jumps a little in frustration. “There’s just something…oh fuck I’ll just say it. I believe in soul mates. And I believe that one of the few chances we are given in life is to pick who we get to be with. And you have already chosen someone else and I’ve been through too much bullshit to spend my life wondering if I really measure up to her.”

Her. That would be Natalie. Damn me and my big mouth going off about that girl. She’s been dating that douche rag for over a year now and no matter how hard I try I can’t pull the shrapnel out of my bones that she left behind. Fuck.

“Tonight’s gone a little differently than I expected,” I tell her. Jackie smiles at me. She knows I can take the harsh words, and I can. Never mind how much they sting, I’m not allergic to reality. Just sensitive at times.

“Are you ok? I hope that didn’t sound mean or bitchy. But you did ask . . .”

“I can take it. So I guess my dark side’s a little more obvious than I thought. Cripes.”

“Don’t be sad,” she says and gives me a playful slap. “You’ve got a hot naked girl in the pool. Just because you don’t get to take her home doesn’t mean it’s not a great story.”

“Like I give a fuck,” I snap. “I just wanted to be here with you, yes naked and yes I was hoping for something to happen because I like you. I really like you. But you’re right. We could probably have some fun but once we washed it off there wouldn’t be enough to continue on forever.” I chew on my lip for a few seconds. “Love is a sick fucking joke, you know that?”

“Harsh,” she says. “I think love is wonderful we just don’t have it. And it sucks because we have the anatomy and the opportunity just not that quintessential part that would make it worthwhile. At least we’ve got each other.”

This is the moment when I see the end of our friendship. It won’t take much after tonight. The first guy she mentions going out with will snap off my affections for her and I’ll sacrifice a piece of my heart so the rest can get away. That’s my romantic strategy. I realize I am just a blue-tailed skinks ready to ditch my tail at the slightest sign of trouble.

“Are you having fun at least?” I ask. The sheer weirdness of the event sinks in hard. “Strike that, we should be having more fun. Since you’ve already raped my self esteem is there anything else I should know before I have your door in the spank bank welded shut?”

“Am I really in your ‘bank?’” My eyes have adjusted enough to notice the sharp contrast of tanlines exactly where I expect them. The added detail is just lemon juice on a paper cut. I want to say something like ‘you could have your own branch’ but I don’t want to be gross.

“I guess it doesn’t matter anymore,” I say. “Once the hope is gone the fantasy tends to go along with it.”

Nothing is said or done for ten agonizing seconds. Jackie is looking at me, her eyes are locked with mine in some inscrutable combat.

“Put your fucking hands behind your back,” she says. “You move more than a statue and I am out of here.”

Subcon drops me a memo. It just says: ??? I do a mental shrug and lean back against the wall. Left hand is cupping the right and I stand as still as I can. Jackie, sweet Jackie, dips her hair under the water for a second.

For whatever reason the next sensation is her naked slippery back oozing and wiggling all over my chest. Fingernails rake down my thighs as she leans into me. A hand touches my twitching face. I can feel her skin all the way down to my feet as she writhes over me.

Most of the details are there, far to vivid and pornographic to bother writing down. It’s just a tease but it might as well be a preview of heaven from my standpoint. I noticed the rough edges of her tanlines, a little stubble under the arm and an unprecedented amount of local blood pressure in my nether region.

Subcon opens a data stream commanding me to grab her and fuck her until her eyes bleed. I don’t move voluntarily. Jackie grinds against me with the skill of a club veteran though without clothing or friction to get in the way it’s an order of mag above my fantasies of her. My eyes do somersaults and my jaw oscillates, rattling my teeth with intensely bittersweet pleasure.

Subcon remains stalwart commanding me to do awful things. Worse I find the commands harder and harder to ignore. After all a quick move and I could be inside her, hands wrapped around her neck and breasts, hips shuddering into my groin.

Yet I resist. Though the urge has never been stronger I resist with every synaptic bit of restraint I possess. Maybe 30 seconds pass. She moves off, reality descends back into awareness. The surreal events ends with a warm kiss on my cheek.

My hands move unbidden and wrap around her back. I hold her firmly but I am ready to let her go at any moment.

“Was it good for you?” she whispers. I sigh into a chuckle.

“I would take a human life if you asked me too right now.” Before any more levity can come between me and the testosterone bonfire now raging through my cortex the radio squawks.

“Dispatch to closest officer, be advised we have a potential break in at Carmichael gymnasium.” My blood freezes for a second. Subcon shoves Jackie out of the water and hauls over to the towels. That guy can put gravity on hold in an emergency.

“What the hell?” she asks. If you don’t know to listen to radio it just sounds like garbled gobblety gook. Jackie had no idea we just went from sweet and dangerous to get-out-before-it-puts-a-serious-dent-in-your-corporeal-existence.

My hands fly over towels and skin, rushing to get myself back into my uniform. Jackie is dressed much sooner than me, few pieces to worry about, no belt or socks. I grab my shoes and clutch them to my chest. We start to move towards the entrance where we came in when a door slams open.

“Oh fuck,” I whisper. “We need to go another way, follow me.”

She grabs my hand and I half drag her to the side door on the south side of the gym. It’s an emergency exit but if you have the key. . .

The door creaks, no alarms sound. Earlier we snuck in with the greatest of ease now we burst out like a handful of grapeshot. There are several people around but no one close enough to identify us or really notice. I look behind us and see flashlights sweeping the pool area. Thirty seconds earlier we would have been caught with our pants down.

“Holy shit, we need to get out of here. Seth we need to get the fuck out . . .”

“Come with me,” I command. She falls in behind me and we start towards the intramural field just south of the gym. A millesecond before we step out into the street lit area I notice one of the cops, on a bike, hauling ass over the field directly towards us.

“What are you waiting for?” Jackie hisses at me. “Let’s just run for it.”

“If you want to run that’s fine, I’m going to get out of this without getting busted thanks.” I double back towards the woods near our exit. A placid creek carves an ugly brown path through the trees.

“Where are you going?” I point towards the creek and proceed. There’s no time to explain so I just go and she follows. I’m still barefoot and the dried leaves and twigs maul me a little as we slide down the bank of the creek. There’s a tunnel that allows the creek to flow under the nearby basketball courts and we are going through it.

I help Jackie into the mouth of the tunnel, keeping her flip flops dry for the run ahead. She’s a country girl and handles herself well. I can’t help but file that under ‘stuff I like about this girl’ as we enter the tunnel.

Imagine a tube about 6 feet in diameter stretching 100 yards under two very darkly lit sections of campus. Each end is a pinhole camera pointed at a shadow. I have no flashlight, no lighter and no means of generating light but for the ultra feeble glow of my radio’s LED.

While we’re still close to the lip I point to the brackish water flowing down the middle.

“I need you to trust me,” I tell her. Jackie is shivering with fear but I look her in the eyes. “We are going to get out of this, the hard part is already over with. Right now we just need to make it through this tunnel and we’ll be home free.

Jackie nods. Flickering red and blue light filters down from on high. The cops are close enough to hear them speak.

“Come with me now, run a few steps on one side and then hop to the other so you don’t get wet. It’s a smooth pipe all the way down. If you trip or fall try not to scream, I will hear you and I will not leave you alone ok?”

“I’m fucking terrified right now,” she says.

“Me too. Let’s go.”

We trot through the pipe, skirting from side to side to avoid the water. About halfway through I notice one of the bright blue lights from the campus emergency phones on the other side. It’s bright enough to scatter some light off the water and brings visibility from zero up to about 5 feet.

Jackie’s panting and jogging right behind me. I couldn’t help but wax sarcastic that she looks like she’s in great shape but hates working out with a passion. One hundred years through inky blackness and we arrive on the other side of the tunnel. More importantly we’re across the road and far enough away from the gym to risk popping out in plain sight.

Before we do I get myself situated, finally covering my raw feet in socks and shoes. I do a gear check and find I still have my shirt, pants, belt, keys, radio and . . .no hat.

Oh that’s fucking tragic. No reason to bring Jackie along for THAT ride though.

I escort the lady out of the tunnel and take her through the woods to the parking lot near Wood Hall. That’s where I had her park if you remember. We walk the last part of the way out in the open and with a forced calm and cadence. Both Jackie and I are nervous, exhilarated and riding on a bolus of pure adrenaline. We have been clutching hands since we left the tunnel and don’t let go until we arrive at her car.

“Well,” I say. “That was an adventure.”

She kisses me, fiercely sucking my tongue into her mouth. I pull her towards me, cupping her face in my left hand, doing something naughty with my right. We claw at each other for a few moments hungrily devouring each other. It ends with my holding a tangle of her hair, gasping for breath. Her teeth leave a faint red ellipse on my neck. I feel her breath pulsing against my throat in perfect synchrony with my own.

“Even though we can’t be together I want you to know something,” Jackie whispers in my ear. I feel her pulling away and it’s like gravity subliming away into nothing. “I am going to go home and masturbate for an hour thinking about you.

We kiss again, long slow and powerful. The raving cannibalism is gone, this is more like patiently quenching a deep thirst. I don’t want it to end but even now, face to face with this mysterious siren in my arms I know that it will and it must. When she pulls away my hand slides from her collarbone to her chin and then caresses nothing but the summer breeze. She winks at me and turns to leave. It’s the last time I hear her outside of the classroom.

“Dulce Periculum, baby.”


Later that night, towards the end of my shift, I get an interesting request via my radio.

“804, can you meet me in the brickyard?” I recognize the voice. It’s Ned. Ned used to be on Student Patrol when I first started. Now he’s a cop, a rookie but still a cop. I confirm with a 10-4 and a smile and chug my away over to meet him.

“Been a while, young man.” Ned’s 28. He was in the Marine Corps before he came back to school.

“Yes sir,” I say. “What can I do for you?”

“Anything you feel like sharing?” he asks. My fear impulse twitches off but I wrestle it down.

“Nothing comes to mind,” I lie. Ned just smiles.

Oh Christ he knows something. Ned’s a lot of things but he’s sharp as a fucking nanotube hypodermic. I am about to get pricked.

“I notice you’re out of uniform,” he says. He looks down meaningfully at my attire. “Not wearing a hat would get you a verbal warning back when I was 801.” Last year Ned was running Student Patrol as the senior officer. He knew the campus better than anyone.

“I’m a little surprised,” he said. “I mean you took your lunch break at midnight and then 20 minutes later some girl out for a run hears laughing from inside the gym. Apparently some people were doing a little skinny dipping.”

“Guess that’s what all the fuss was about. I was over at Wood at the time.”

“I bet,” Ned smiled. “So imagine my surprise as I was looking around the pool when I found this.” My hat appears and lands at my feet. I stare at it for a long time not daring to pick it up. It isn’t personalized or anything but I am the only one working tonight. Circumstantial or not this is a damning bit of evidence.

“Interesting,” I say. Ned and I lock eyes for a moment. He’s smiling but he’s always been hard to read. Anger and happiness have exactly the same precursor expressions.

“You need to get some better hair gel,” he says finally. “Makes it look like your hair is wet.” I don’t say anything or move a muscle. I have just been busted open like a condom full of nitro. Yet no handcuffs or Miranda rights seem to be forth coming.

“You have a good night, Seth.” Ned saunters off looking like ten times as much of a badass as I could hope to be. “Hope you had fun with your girl,” he fires over his shoulder.

“She’s just a friend,” I whisper. Ned’s too far away to hear my reply or the scrape of my hat on brick. I still have two hours to kill before the end of my shift and already my mind is racing. Of course I dwell on Jackie for a bit and what she said about soul mates and how that’s one thing we really get to choose on our own.

So of course my mind turns to Natalie, the latest in an endless iteration of self-inflicted torments. While Jackie’s just left my life at least she did so on good terms and I never doubted the outcome. With Natalie it was always different, some false hope refused to die no matter how many fights, no matter how many bad or brazen outcomes. There was torment in not knowing, and refusing to settle things by just letting her go.

Perhaps things would have turned out differently if I knew then I had only wait another two years before my soulmate returned to me.

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