The first thing I noticed was that she was a mess; haggard and worn out. She was showing Jacob her breasts, and she came over to me. "No, no thank you," I said. This was a marker on the times we spent. Orbiting the same axes were myself, Jacob Carroll, Nathan Atkins, Jeremy Holcomb, Ryan Dorman, and occasionally others who would catch in the spiral and drain. Stratified in the lowest rung of high school, we bonded like... well, like only freaks can. Unified by a collective retreat into fantasy, we lived a subterranean life uncool, sick and sad, running through abandoned apartment buildings, staying up late, late, late.
Driven by an unsavory collection of personal obsessions; rudimentary behavioral patterns not yet cemented into habit, i.e. comic books, pornography, role-playing games, pathological lying, nascent punk rock &c, we congregated at one of our houses, never mine of course, as my mother was always a little too attentive, and it was better when we could be someplace without parental supervision. My house was always the cleanest, though...
Jeremy's was usually a good option; he had the basement of his house all to himself, and he demonstarted his unchallengeable rule there with a pyramid of Coke cans, standign at least four feet high, a monument to caffeine consumption, artificial frenzy and the stilted, staggered social life of the misfit. We could gather, hunched around a table, rolling polyhedric dice of various sizes, complaining bitterly about the injustices of worlds both real and imagined, seething with frustration, unrepentant masturbators of the mind.
Jacob, however, had an even better place, an apartment that technically belonged to his mother, but she was always either working on a fishing boat up in Alaska or in jail. So he had no supervision whatsoever, despite the assurances of his sister, a coke-fiend and (accused) crack whore who drew a stipend for "taking care" of Jake. Since she obviously had better things to do, the apartment was rapidly transformed into a shrine to adolescence run riot; a clubhouse that nobody had to build. All he had to eat was saltine crackers, and we were all poor as rats, but it was heavenly for a while, when nobody noticed.
When Jacob vanished is when it all seemed to start for us. He was gone for four days, on the streets apparently, and his sister, fulfilling her obligations, called all of his friends. I had been out of touch with him for a while, so I decided to get out and find him, which I did. He was hanging out with this girl he had met. Her name was Drifter.
He had met her as part of some live action fantasy gaming thing that Jeremy Holcomb was playing. She had a boyfreind, but he went somewhere, and so now she was Jacob's girlfriend. I told him about his sister, and he said that he was going to move back into the apartment this weekend, and that I should sneak out on Sunday night and come over.
Sneaking out of the house, at that time, was incredibly easy; I lived in a basement room, and all I had to do was slide my window and climb out, being careful to not make any sound, dropping three feet to the ground, climbing up a rock wall through our neighbor's property, and voila! I was free. I had done it before, taking night walks up to the 50/50 convenience store to buy snack food.
So out I went, ears tingling in the newly cool autumn air. The leaves were almost off the trees by now; I could feel winter coming south from Canada. I put my hands in my pockets and walked up the hill to catch the 54 bus, which would take me close enough.
Drifter had moved in with Jacob, and he had for some reason moved their bed, the bed that they now shared, into the living room, perhaps to faciliatate ease in watching TV. Jacob smoked 7 cigarettes. Drifter smoked 4. I didn't smoke any. They ran out. We went to buy more, Jacob using his fake ID. Interbay is the west face of Queen Anne Hill; there's a Darigold ice cream plant and softly clacketing, passing trains. Freeways arch and curve over it, deserted. A golf course where we ran crazed lays deserted; mini-markets and fast food places line the streets. We walked, and for the first time that year, I saw my breath.
Eventually we returned to the apartment, chapped lips and clattering teeth. I paid for groceries, being remarkably flush from my paper route, and Jacob put a tape of pornographic animated cartoons into the VCR. I felt uncomfortable.
Unbuttoning her shirt, she leaned over in my direction.
I went into the room that Jacob's sister would sleep in, if she ever did, and closed the door. Fully clothed, I lay down on the mattress, and through the paper-thin walls overheard Drifter trying to convince Jacob to let her try and seduce me into having sex with her. Jacob told her I would never do it. I closed my eyes and sank my face into a pillow, but sleep came so slowly.
Waking up with a head full of fog, I heard two sets of gentle snoring in the front room. Pulling open the window, I climbed out under a sky ludicrously peopled with stars, so they shone without differentiation.