IRL Ch. 02

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Like all of us, college senior Jackson has fantasies. Lately, all of his are about his philosophy professor. But Jackson has stumbled upon a peculiar way to go a little deeper into his fantasies. Maybe too deep. As he drifts further and further from reality, he is pushed toward a dangerous choice: Does he want the girl of his dreams, or the uncomfortable truth?

This story is sequential; Part Two probably will not make any sense if you haven’t read Part One.

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It’s a sweet misery to sit through this class. I’m exhausted from my mostly sleepless night. Worse, I can’t look at Professor Donahue without remembering what she looks like naked. Of course, I’m not “remembering.” I know that. I’m not crazy. I don’t actually know what she looks like naked. But some deep recess of my brain did a hell of a job filling in the blanks. I try and fail to follow the substance of her lecture—a rapid succession of fireflies, slipping in and out of her jar. I can’t listen to her voice without hearing the echo of profoundly filthy things ringing in my head. It’s like I can still feel her hot breath on my ear. It’s torture, but at the same time, there’s nowhere I’d rather be in the world than sitting here, drinking her in. I am, all at once, happy to just share her proximity and desperate for more.

“…and you may have found some of it quite frustrating,” she tells the class. She can’t know the hidden meaning her words seem to have. “And you should have. Descartes himself is frustrated here. Using this ‘methodological skepticism,’ he’s backed himself into a corner. He can’t be sure that anything is real. Until he finds one little foothold—one tiny strand of certainty that he can…” She grasps dramatically at the air. “Latch onto.” She’s very theatrical in her presentation. Some of the others in the class think it’s overkill, but I don’t mind it. She just gets so excited about this stuff—this dry, awful stuff—and she can’t contain herself. It’s kind of adorable. “He realizes: ‘Wait a second. If I’m wondering about all this stuff, then something has to be doing the wondering.’ And just like that, he’s found a starting point. One thing he can be sure of.” She writes ‘COGITO, ERGO SUM’ on the white board, then turns back to us. “I think, therefore I am.” She beams with the same pleased smile your dorky uncle gets when he reaches the punch line of a lame joke. Then she sees a hand. “…Yes, Jackson?”

“Why does he care?” I ask from the second row to the last.

“Pardon?”

“Why does Descartes give a damn about any of this?” I ask. A student laughs uncomfortably. A few shoot me concerned looks. “I mean, a piece of wax is whatever it looks and feels like to you, right? What’s the point in sitting around having some kind of anxiety attack over whether it’s ‘real?’ You see it. You feel it. Doesn’t that make it real enough?” Katy nods quietly as I talk. My heart rate climbs as I wait for her response.

“Thanks for that, Jackson. You’re basically describing existentialism, which is where we’re headed next on the syllabus. But the role of religion is important here. Descartes is coming at this from a…” But I still can’t focus. I’m thinking about what I just said. What if it doesn’t matter? That my twisted fantasy life with Katy isn’t real? If the dreams make me happy, so what? Maybe the truth is overrated.

I keep thinking about my existential crisis and about the sight of Katy’s ass bent over a desk until I realize she’s wrapping up. “…which is where we’ll pick up on Tuesday. Remember: this is the last week to sign up for a conference slot with me to discuss your proposal for the final project. If you don’t have a time yet to discuss your topic, please, please come see me or sign up outside my office. See you Tuesday.”

I start to throw my stuff in my bag, in a hurry to try to catch Katy on her way out. I still don’t have a conference time. But as I try to escape my row, I find my path blocked. “Hey you,” Jill says. “I hear you’re coming tonight.”

“Tonight? To what?” As I ask, I look past Jill and see Katy gathering her things. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to duck Jill, and whatever it is she’s talking about.

“There’s this bonfire beach party thing. Coop said you two were coming.”

“He failed to consult me on that decision,” I say. To my dismay, Katy has put her stuff in her bag and is heading for the door.

“He said he wasn’t giving you a choice. Something about you needing to get out more.” Jill gives me a teasing smile.

“Oh, well. I don’t know. I should really study,” I say. If I’m being honest with myself, I’ll probably just take more Fairy Dust.

“It’s Thursday night. And you don’t have Friday classes,” she says.

“Yeah. Well. I guess maybe I could stop by. We’ll see.” At this point, I’m just trying to end the conversation. Katy’s already left the room. “Sorry, Jill. I’ve gotta go.” I squeeze past her and head swiftly down the aisle.

I bolt into the hallway and look around. I see nothing, ankara escort and my heart falls. But then I hear a familiar voice.

“Damnit. Are you…wait, seriously?” I follow the voice and catch sight of Katy’s shiny brown hair in front of a vending machine in the hall. As I approach her, she’s banging the Plexiglas like an agitated monkey slaps the viewing glass at a zoo. “You piece of shit motherfucker!” She chastises it, puncturing each word with a smack.

“…Professor Donahue?” The name thing is still weird for me. As a general rule, I’ve defaulted to using “Professor” when there’s a chance other people will overhear. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, or anything.

“Hmm?” She turns around, startled. “Jackson!” She instantly looks horrified. “I’m—I’m sorry. This thing took my dollar.”

“Oh. Based on your reaction, I thought it had slapped your grandmother or something.” She blushes a little. She covers her mouth with her hand, trying not to laugh. “I can leave you two alone, if you want to keep teaching it a lesson.”

“Stop it! Don’t be a dick.” But she bursts with laughter, in spite of herself. I love it when I can make her laugh.

“I mean, you were probably only a few more slaps away from making it yield to your demands.”

“Okay, okay! I may have overreacted.” She laughs. I laugh. We laugh together. It feels so fucking warm. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t conduct befitting an institution of higher learning, was it?” She asks.

“No. I pretty sure they frown on professors swearing at and attacking inanimate objects, here.”

“I guess it’s a good thing I’m technically only a lecturer, then, huh?” She winks. I can’t handle how cute it is, that wink. This conversation, this moment—it feels so good. Screw what I said earlier. This reality shit is awesome. I need more of it. I’m hooked.

Katy looks longingly at the vending machine and the bounty it has denied her. “I guess I should really stop eating out of vending machines anyway.” She sighs. “But it’s kind of all that’s in my budget, right now.”

I see an opening. I make a choice. I have to know. I have to know if Katy Donahue could ever be more than a little pixie who slips through my dorm room window at night to whisper naughty things and strip for me in Dreamland.

“Well. Hey, I was actually about to get lunch.” I say, trying to keep my voice from cracking with nerves. “Why don’t you let me take you out somewhere?”

Her smile fades. She shifts nervously. “I don’t know, Jackson. That’s probably not a great idea.”

“I didn’t—I didn’t mean it that way, if that’s what you’re thinking,” I stammer. “I was just thinking that would give us a chance to talk about my project.”

She gives me a look. “Come on. I know what you’re trying to do. If you wanted to conference about your project, you would make an appointment like everyone else. Asking me out for lunch is more than that.” I start to feel very much the same way I did last night when hardwood became carpet.

“I’m sorry. I just…really like it when we get a chance to talk.”

“I do too!” She says quickly. “I really do, Jackson. I love it when you come by. And if I wasn’t your professor…” I want desperately for her to finish the sentence, but she trails off. “But I am a professor, you know?”

“Lecturer.”

She rolls her eyes. “Gah. Yes. I know. But the rules are the same. What’s expected of me is the same. And I’m not necessarily a big believer in the rules. You know that.” She looks around nervously and lowers her voice. “But if I want them to put me on the tenure-track after I get my doctorate, this is what I have to do.” She lowers her eyes, avoiding mine.

“…Yeah. I get it.” I try not to look how I feel—like a rapidly deflating balloon.

“There are…boundaries that I’m not supposed to cross. And I may have been a little lax about that this semester. Which is my bad, and I’m sorry.” Her words are uncannily similar to the ones she used last night, right before she started taking her clothes off. But this time, there’s no sultry, stern professor act. Just awkward hand-wringing and what looks like genuine sadness in her eyes. “I wish it wasn’t that way. I really do.” I wonder what that means, exactly.

“Well. Then. I guess I will have to make an appointment. Like everyone else,” I say. I let the bitterness in my voice be heard.

“Don’t do that,” she looks hurt. “You’re not like everyone else. That’s not what I was saying. It’s just that…” She trails off. We both know there’s nothing more to be said. “…Well. Let me look.” She somberly takes our her phone and flips through its calendar. “Uhh…crap. All I have left is 5:30 tomorrow. Friday. Is that too late?”

“No. That’s fine. I mean, if it’s fine with you.”

“Yeah. No problem.” We stand there for another terrible, uncomfortable moment. “Well. I’ll see you then,” she says quietly to the ground. I watch her walk away.

***

Back in my dorm room, Katy’s utter rejection has left me in escort ankara the kind of all-over-body pain you get from jumping into a freezing lake. It was so stupid of me. To want more. To think that could happen. And now I’ve probably ruined whatever good thing Katy and I did have going. It’ll be weird now, between us.

On the other hand, I keep playing what she said over in my head. I wish it wasn’t that way. She sounded so sincere. I think. And if I wasn’t your professor… What was the end of that sentence? If I wasn’t your professor, we could hang out and be platonic friends? Or, if I wasn’t your professor, I’d love to have you throw me on my desk and ravage me?

Goddamnit. Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I dwelling on every glance and every laugh and every ambiguous statement and trying to find in them a reason to believe this juvenile fantasy can be anything other than that? I can’t ever, ever be with Katy Donahue. She made that clear today.

At least, not IRL.

I eye the baggy with its purple pills sitting on my desk. All I have to do is take one. And I can go back to that place I was in last night. That place where there is nothing but lust, and pleasure, and her deep brown eyes. Where nothing’s complicated and everyone gets exactly what they want. That Katy—dream Katy—would never give me a speech about the rules. At least, not as anything other than foreplay. That Katy will kiss me, and stroke my face, and laugh that rolling little laugh of hers that fills me with pure, beautiful warmth all the way to my toes. All of that is just one little pill away…

But Coop was right. I should take a break. This isn’t what a young, healthy college student does on a Thursday night. This is getting out of control. What if I can’t stop? And maybe it’ll wear off too quickly anyway, like last night. Unless. What if I took two? Then it would have to work. Then I could—

But my door swings open.

“We’re going out,” Coop says.

“Jesus. You forget how to knock?” I ask as I bolt up in my bed.

“There’s a party. And Jill’s going to be there. And you’re going.”

“Yeah. She told me about it. Listen, I don’t know. I’m pretty fried. It’s been a long day.”

“Uh-huh. I know what you mean,” Coop says.

“You do?”

“Yep. The kind of long day where you just want to lie down, and close your eyes, and invite a certain purple fairy to make your dong hard with sweet, sinful dreams.” He picks up the baggy off my desk, and dangles it in front of me.

“Dude. Give me that.” I lunge for the bag, but he snatches it away.

“Nope. Not tonight. You need to get out. You’ve got a problem. And you know, ‘friends don’t let friends’ and all that.”

“What?!” I cry, incredulous. “Are you kidding me? You sold it to me, asshole!”

“Because I thought you could be responsible with it. Now I see that you need more adult supervision.”

“Come on, man. Seriously. Give it back.” I’m almost frightened at how furious it’s made me, having my stash snatched away.

“Come out with me, have a good time, and then you get them back. Okay?” He puts the bag in his pocket.

I’d like to say that I went because I knew Coop was right. That I should get out and have fun; that I should give Jill a chance. That I should try to be normal.

But I think part of me just really wanted the pills back.

***

Cold water laps at my bare feet, like an affectionate dog. The wet sand feels good between my toes. The ocean breeze is sweet with those first hints of spring. According to the Princeton Review, the proximity to the beach is the number one reason students choose this school. If I’m being honest with myself, I’m probably among those students. But I hardly ever am. Honest with myself, that is.

“There you are.” I don’t need to turn to see who it is.

“Hey Jill.”

“People were wondering what happened to you. You disappeared.” I can hear drunken laughter and an acoustic guitar a half mile down the beach.

“Yeah. I just wanted some air,” I say.

She laughs, as she walks up behind me. “The party’s on the beach, dumbass.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I usually don’t, actually,” she says. I finally turn to look at her. Her long blonde hair and her loose, white halter top flap freely in the wind. Her skirt barely covers any of her long, tan legs. She’s a runner, Jill. She’s in incredibly good shape. I should want her. I want to want her.

“You don’t have to keep me company,” I say. “You can go back to the party.”

She shrugs. “It’s kind of lame. I’d rather be out here with you. …Unless you want me to go.”

“No. It’s not like that.”

“What is it like, Jackson?” She gives me a piercing, serious stare. Even in just the moonlight, I can see the glittering blue of her eyes.

“Uh…what do you mean?”

“I mean what’s going on with you? Are you avoiding me? It kind of seems that way.”

“No. It’s not that.” I search for the right words through the haze of six ankara escort bayan or seven beers. “I’ve been really busy lately. There’s this—”

“Tell you what,” she cuts me off. “We’ll do this.” She starts to walk away, down the beach.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“Just shut up, okay?” She plucks a piece of driftwood from the tide; a long stick. She jabs its point in the sand. Then she drags the stick in a big, wide circle. Maybe ten feet across. When she’s finished, she drops it and curls her finger at me. “Come here.” I comply, hesitantly. “You see this? This is the Circle of Truth,” she says once I’m standing inside it. “And while both of us are in it, there’s no bullshit. Deal?”

“…Deal,” I say.

“So. Are you avoiding me?”
“…Yes.”

“Why?”

“I just don’t think there’s anything here, Jill. Between us, I mean.” To my surprise, she laughs. I guess she’s not heartbroken.

“Of course there isn’t. That’s the whole point,” she says.

“…What do you mean?”

“Wait. Did you think I was trying to make you my boo or something?” She’s still laughing. I can’t decide if I’m offended or relived.

“Well. You’d called a couple of times, and invited me out. So I thought…”

“No. God, no. Don’t be silly. I just, you know…” She traces a finger softly down my chest. “I thought you were good. Last time.” She tugs the bottom of my shirt and draws me nearer. “You kind of rocked my world, honestly. And I wanted to tap that ass again.” Her lips are inches from mine now. I can smell vodka and weed on her breath.

“…Oh. Well, uh, thanks. I guess. But isn’t there a line of guys around the block who’d love to get with you?”

“There’s this thing about you, though. You’re so…distracted. Detached. It’s like you live most of your life in your head.”

“…And you find that appealing?”

She shrugs. “A lot of guys get clingy, in my experience. And I’m not looking for that. I just want to feel good, you know? I don’t have to worry about that with you. Whatever it is you want, kid…I know it isn’t me.” She looks at me with something close to pity, but only for a second. “At least, not for anything but this.” She turns around and lifts her skirt to reveal her exquisitely tight ass in a bikini thong. “So. You want another piece of it, or what?” Without consulting the part of my brain where voluntary things happen, my dick springs to life.

“Right here?” I ask. “Right now?”

“Yeah,” she says. She turns back to me and grabs my waist. “It’s on my bucket list. To fuck on a beach.” She kisses me softly. “What do you say? Help me cross off a life goal?” I kiss her back. My tongue greets hers. I pull her face into mine with determination. This will be fun, I tell myself. This will be good. I will be satisfied with this and not want more. “Mmmm,” she purrs. “I was hoping you’d – mmph – have that response,” she says between hot, hurried kisses. “And I have something to – hmm – make it – mmm – even better than last time.” Reaching into the small bag that hangs from her shoulder, she produces a plastic baggy. With a sexy, winged fairy on it. My heart nearly stops.

“…Whoa.”

“Uh-huh,” she says with a dirty smile. “You want to?”

“I don’t understand. Won’t we just get…sleepy?” I ask. She looks perplexed for a second, and then laughs.

“Wait. You’ve just been taking the pills, haven’t you?” She keeps laughing. “Oh, Jacks. You hopeless square.” That’s when I notice her bag doesn’t have purple pills in it. It’s purple powder. “That’s not how the cool kids are getting down with this stuff. It’s Fairy Dust. Duh.”

“What do you mean?” I ask. As far as I knew, the idea of recreationally using Desitrol was started by Coop a few weeks ago. He had never said anything about powdered form.

“You crush it up and…you know.” She makes a snorting sound. “It defeats the time release, so you get a quick high. And insanely turned on. Like E or Molly. But better.” …Man. Kids these days.

“And do you like, trip? Do you see stuff?”

She shrugs. “Some people say they do. I never have,” she says. I’m disappointed. Why am I disappointed? There’s an incredibly stunning girl in front of me. Actually in front of me. IRL. Why do I need to see something that isn’t there? “But the key is to do a line with…you know, a partner. And then let the spirit move you,” she says. She jangles the bag at me the same way Coop did in my dorm a few hours ago. “So. You wanna have a real party?”

“Uh…I don’t know, Jill. I’m pretty drunk already.” Not to mention that going out tonight was supposed to be about getting away from that stuff. But there she is, that stupid fucking fairy. Looking at me.

“Good. Me too. That just makes it better.”

“I’ve never done anything like that before. Snorted anything.”

“Tell you what,” she says, taking her phone from her bag. “I’ll try to…persuade you.” She fiddles with her phone and puts on a song. Her speakers are good. I can hear it clearly: Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl.” She sets the phone down, and starts to sway to the music. “And then you can decide if you want to have sex…” She puts her hands on my shoulders and gives me a shove. I go down on my ass. “…Or if you want to see the face of God.”

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