The Consequences of Dissonance - Chapter Nine
“C’mon, Cory. You take friggin’ forever.”
I threw my binder into my backpack and tucked the New York Times in along with it, zipping the thing up so quickly that neatly perforated a corner of the paper that hadn’t quite made it in all the way. “Sorry, sorry… wasn’t paying attention.”
“You’re worse than a girl, boy,” Kris laughed. “Hell, you’re almost worse than Erin.”
Now that it was a few weeks into the semester, classes were picking up. Our composition teacher had required us to get a newspaper at least once a week and write a one page basic analysis of one of the articles in it for every Tuesday’s class. Kris and I had gotten in the habit of doing that on Tuesday afternoons before class in my room; me working on my desktop and Kris on her laptop so that she could use my printer. She always finished before I did.
I bounced out of the room as she held the door open for me, letting it shut heavily behind us as we walked quickly down the hall.
“Man, I hope that didn’t wake Thomas.” I said, “He was pretty zonked out.”
“Poor boy must not be sleeping well,” Kris said, sounding worried. It had caught me off guard, originally, that the little anachronisms of her speech sounded so natural coming from her.
“Oh, come on, you don’t really believe that, do you?”
She laughed and shouldered me against the wall, “’Course not, he was stoned out of his gourd.”
September had taken an edge off the heat of August, but only a bit. It was still warm enough for t-shirts and, for the adventurous and slightly fashion challenged Jamen, shorts outside, so Kris and I speed-walked to the engineering class from my dorm unencumbered by heavy clothing, dodging guys on longboards and girls on cruiser bikes.
My back was sweaty from hauling my pack by the time we got to class, just barely avoiding being late. I sat forward in my chair and tugged the damp t-shirt away from my skin, pulling on it a few times to help cool myself down. Kris made a gagging face at me and I stuck my tongue out at at her.
“At least this building has AC,” I murmurred to her, hushing up quickly and looking apologetic when the teacher gave me a Significant Glance.
“Alright, pass your papers to the aisle and up to the front,” the teacher said in that insufferable whine she had for a voice.
I pulled my paper out and handed it to Kris, getting my New York Times out as well and putting it in front of me, relaxing back against the seat a bit as the papers percolated to the front, the class then going from person to person to give a brief synopsis of the stories they had written about. I’d picked something about how global warming was viewed in the UK, and Kris had picked a story about book banning.
Class plodded along dully and I spent most of the remainder of the hour and a half trying to see how close together I could draw concentric circles with a ball-point pen without them touching, taking up most of the margins of my newspaper. I spoke up once or twice in the discussion about appeals in an argument, enough to get me credit in the class. Having been in school long enough now, I had come to agree with Kris — college comp was bullshit.
When we were finally free to go, Kris and I walked back to my place much more slowly than we had to get to class, drifting across the plaza almost without direction.
“Alright, so if I were to design a curriculum to teach English majors writing,” Kris began. She talked about this almost every time after composition. “I’d probably drop all this BS about arguments. They’re teaching us as if we all plan on going into politics and we need to come up with rebuttals to proposals. The appeals stuff is cool, at least from a fiction standpoint. I mean, it’s kinda cool to see how pathos and logos turn up in novels. Real novels, not that trashy sci-fi you read.”
“Hey! It’s not trashy! It’s legitimate writing! At least, the stuff I read. No little green men or anything.”
“Speaking of debatably legitimate writing, want to go see the new Batman movie tonight? Haven’t been to a movie in this town yet.”
“Sure, I guess.” Kris shrugged, “Mind if Erin comes along? She’s all gung-ho about it. Plus, she can drive. The theater isn’t exactly walking distance from campus.”
“Erin, huh? That means Eric’s going to have to come along, too.”
“Oh, come on, he’s your friend!” she laughed
“I know, I know,” I replied. “They’re just so… disgustingly cute together. They need to just, like… officially start going out and quit teasing us all.”
Kris elbowed me in the side, “What, you have a problem with them being close?”
I elbowed back, just because. “No, it’s not that. I just think it’s a little quick for them to already be getting into a relationship.”
“Whoa now, you just said they should get together…”
“Jooooookiiiing,” I sang out.
“Jaaaaackaaaass,” Kris mimicked.
We piled back into my dorm room to find Thomas lounging on his bed with his Beastie Boys turned up to eleven.
“Hey, buddy!” I shouted over the rap. “If you’re going to listen to nineties music, can you maybe turn it down so we can talk?”
Convulsing with chuckles, he pawed at the remote to his stereo, knocking it off the bed. With Kris laughing, I grabbed at it and turned the music down to a somewhat saner level. I hadn’t heard Intergalactic since middle school, and although I liked it then, I wasn’t about to start listening to it again any time soon.
Plopping down in front of my computer and unlocking it, Kris directed me to the theater’s website so that I could look up showings for the movie, simultaneously trying to rouse Eric over IM.
“Here, I’ll get Erin,” Kris mumbled, tugging her laptop from her backpack to wake it up, the very tip of her tongue poking from the corner of her mouth as she typed in her password.
“Whoa now, why don’t I have either of you in my contacts? C’mon, what’s your IM?”
She giggled a little and rocked back on the bed just as a program, my instant messaging client, started flashing in the task bar on my own computer. Clicking on the flashing window, I brought up the window, ‘Message from krisTALsaidso’. My hands whacked away at the keyboard.
CoryroC: Dork. How did you get my sn?
Kris punched me in the shoulder. “I’m right here, son. Don’t like computers nearly enough to IM someone sitting right next to me.”
Laughing and leaning away from her, I replied, “Well, how’d you get my name, then?”
“Well, Eric’s my friend, too,” she shot back.
“Oh. Duh, sorry.” I closed the window and scrolled for the Batman show times. “What’s the ‘TAL’ stand for, anyway.”
“The… awesome… lemur?” She wound up as if to punch me again, grinning as I shied away. “My name’s Kristal, dear. Though if you ever call me that, I may just miss your shoulder the next time I hit you.”
Thomas laughed from the other side of the room, a hollow ‘hu hu’ sound. “Kriiiistal.”
“Shut up, stoner!” She threw my travel mug at the kid.
“Maybe woul’nt be so touchy if you just got a little hiiiiiigh,” Thomas sighed the last word before convulsing with his cuckles once more, rolling onto his side away from us and curling up some. His already slurred speech always got that much worse when he was really gone.
“Alright, children,” I interrupted. “There’s one at six thirty, Kris, that good?”
“Mmn,” she chewed on her tongue a little more as she typed away at her own keyboard. “Yeah, Erin says that’s fine, too. Eric’s at her place anyway. Gotta, like, wolf down dinner first, though. It’s already five fifteen.”
“Really? That far away?” I asked incredulously.
She grinned at me, “C’mon, the previous are the best part!”
I pulled a face, but dutifully locked my computer again as she stuffed her computer back into her backpack, kicking the bag under my bed with her heel. We marched in lockstep down the hall for no particular reason and then I tried to walk along with her so that our steps made a swing tempo, but I must’ve looked too goofy trying that, because she rammed me into the wall again. I wasn’t quite sure why we were so elated, but wasn’t about to start complaining.
Dinner passed in a hurry, and we ran halfway to Parmalee to catch up with Erin and Eric, stopping only when our stomachs cramped. Soon enough, the two of us were piled into the back of Erin’s coconut scented white Honda Accord so as to make the trek down to the theater, which really was on the outskirts on town.
Walking from the car to the theater, Kris tugged at the sleeve of my shirt, dropping back with me a little bit so that she could raise her eyebrows and gesture towards our two friends. Eric and Erin were walking close enough together that it was difficult to see, but their fingers were intertwined. Not quite holding hands, but some subtle medium that seemed all that much more intimate for the differences.
Taking a double step, I caught up with Eric and gave him a pat on the shoulder, though he jumped as if I’d slapped him, looking bashfully back toward me and sneaking his hand back into his pocket. I grinned as disarmingly as I could while nodding in what I hoped was an approving fashion.
He smiled back gratefully and I saw his hand slip back out of his pocket to seek Erin’s again, though she seemed decidedly distracted by Kris leaning agianst her in order to nudge her closer to Eric. Not quite as subtle, I thought.
The guys got the girls’ tickets — Eric out of some sense of chivalry and me because of the distressingly well-practiced puppy-dog eyes Kris gave me — and we all made our way into the theater. Picking some seats out somewhere in the middle despite Kris’ pleas for the first row, we sat together, the boys on the outside surrounding the girls. The lights were already half-dim and some sort of pre-show set of commercials was running in lieu of a slide show, affording us some opportunities to jeer at network TV’s new blunders and a rather blatantly patriotic music video.
The lights finally dimmed to darkness as the screen flickered towards real film and the previews. Kris golf-clapped excitedly and then surprised me by tugging the armrest up from between us and leaning in against me. I stiffened somewhat in my seat before relaxing again a little, shrugging it off.
I’d never understand the girl’s random displays of affection with me.