Things were already hopping by the time I arrived.
I saw maybe ten guys I knew, plus a few hangers-on, townies mostly. Better, there were at least a dozen girls. The room was packed, let me tell you. It's a good thing were on break, or Dale might have gotten in trouble.
It's Dales dorm room, in case I didn't mention that. Enrollment is low this year, so he has it all to himself.
Dale had a keg like he always does, and it must have been half gone already. Funny thing, though, the music was kind of quiet. People were talking, and I picked up on two or three really heavy subjects being discussed. The sort of things that I try to avoid. I need all of my brain for class work.
See, if I don't get halfway decent grades my dad will cut off my checks and I'll be SOL. I don't want to end up working at Mickey Dees or someplace like that. Too debasing. Get that diploma, though, and I'll be sitting pretty. The big boys are hiring like crazy this year.
Then the girls will really pay attention. I'll have my own office and I'm going to hire the foxiest secretary in the whole place.
Anyway, I grabbed a mug and drifted from group to group. Over in one corner there were maybe five people, all gathered around this one chick. She was sitting in the middle of Dale's raggedy old brown couch. I'd seen her around campus before. After all, this is a small school. Shed never impressed me much. Not a Plain Jane exactly, but she usually kept to herself. Too nerdy for my taste.
But today she was really intense. I think her name is Jodie. Her eyes were just blazing. "It's the ultimate," I heard her say, just as I came up. Some of the girls rolled their eyes, but a couple of the guys leaned in closer. I soon got the picture. She was talking about doing it. Something different, and it was pretty interesting from the way the guys were acting. And she wasn't charging two dollars and ninety nine cents a minute, either.
No, I take that back. I've got a hangover now so it's hard to be serious. That chick deserves respect too. I said this is a small school, but UCLA itself is no more free-thinking than we are. Were cutting-edge school, not at all like that football-crazed junior jock shop in town. Doc Ritter could use some of those hulks for specimens in his Biology lab. I can just picture it. But I'd better back to the conversation.
"The ultimate?" one girl said. Allison is her name. "Are you sure? I mean, last year my boyfriend and I learned a few of those Kama Sutra moves. Now that's what I call ultimate."
"Yeah," another guy said. "I'm gonna buy a video about that." He rubbed his poor excuse for a beard. "Costs sixty bucks, though. Maybe I could ask your boyfriend for some tips?"
As I said, we can talk maturely, with dignity and respect, around here. Just like they teach us in Womens Studies.
"Ex-boyfriend," Allison told the guy. "He split for California the minute break started. Out there the girls have all-over tans, he says. I heard him telling his brother on the phone. Says it makes their skin more receptive." In summation Allison snorted most rudely.
Doc Ritter would debunk that tanning business, I think. Maybe I'll ask him. He doesn't live too far off campus.
"I'd settle for learning the Butterfly Twirl thing," Doug butted in. "I know this one girl that"
I know Doug. The only action he gets is way on the other end of town, out by the air base. Costs him twenty bucks a pop, unless he gets really lucky. What a loser.
Jodie started talking again, mercifully cutting him off. "Most Americans are too weak for this, anyway," she announced. "I met people who can really do it, and it's like they're shining. It's like, better that you can imagine. But it takes discipline. Real endurance."
"Endurance?" Tim announced, too loudly.
He'd been quiet up til then. I think he'd been into that keg pretty good.
"Endurance?" he said again. He turned to his girl, who was sitting on a beanbag, leaning all over him.
"Hey, Marlina," Tim says, "you tell them about endurance. Remember that first time? After finals last year? You couldn't walk straight for a week."
Marlina giggled. She stuffed the back of her hand into her mouth to keep from losing it completely. I've seen girls in her condition pee their pants cracking up like that, and that isn't too dignified. Lucky for Marlina she held it okay.
Then Tim reached over and copped a feel on her. Marlina scowled hard enough to sour milk. Without even opening the fridge, if you get my drift. He didn't seem to notice, and reached farther over, one doubt planning to examine the other one.
Marlina jumped up, almost fell over, and somehow made her way down the hallway to the head. So Tim walks off, casual like, to refill his mug. Then he comes back and put his arm around Allison. She took a good look around the room, then snuggled up close. Marlina didn't come back for a long time.
Jodie watched this little drama without saying a word. But the look on her face said plenty.
"You guys don't know what happens if you don't do it right," Jodie said. "You hear all about VD and birth control and all that physical stuff. Don't you know its spiritual too?" She glared at Allison. "And don't go giving me some Kama Sutra line, either. The spiritual stuff happens anyway, whether you even know it or not. You exchange spirit, not just bodily fluids. A little every time. With any partner. With all of them. Tell me, can you guys even remember them all?"
She was looking right at Doug. I got it then. Jodie's dad is in the service, so she's probably seen him hanging around those dives by the main gate. He had the presence of mind to shut up and look thoughtful.
Then I started thinking. A real mistake on my part. Oh jeez, there was that schizoid babe in Fort Lauderdale that time. Hot for a weekend, but wow did she go off the deep end later on. Exchange spirit with her? I suddenly felt very weird. I started rubbing myself, up and down, but I don't know where I can find that kind of soap.
Next thing I knew I'd polished off two more brewskis. The little worry-warts inside me just faded away. Meantime, Jodie had got loud enough for me to hear her from over by the keg.
"It's so simple," Jodie said. "You think you know about it and you don't. You think it's old but theres a whole new way. You say it has to be complicated, but you could put it on a video twenty minutes long. If you really tried it, it would blow you away. Make you so high youd think these parties were duds, total wet blankets."
"So whatre YOU doing here then?" Doug said.
He was getting defensive. I mean, that chick had really laid into him. Whoa, was that a pun? My gray matter must be clearing up, even if it doesn't feel like it yet.
"Im outta here," says Jodie, like it was a relief. She lets out this big, world-weary sigh. "Ill be around."
She got up and walked straight out without looking back.
The room swayed. I decided to take her place on the couch.
There was a paper left where shed been sitting. It was shiny, like a pamphlet. Nobody else was looking, so I picked it up.
On the front was a picture. A gold ring.