Local: Roommate (Part III)

The roommate was there too, on those Thursday nights at the bar. She and the other stoners from campus would light up in the gravel parking lot or, once they got drunk enough, in the tiny bathroom near the jukebox. Stella let it slide — they tipped well for a pitcher of admittedly-lousy beer, and as long as it wasn’t dealing or prostitution, she really didn’t care that much.

She’d be the first one dancing, always around 11pm, pretty plastered at that point and certainly high, turning slow meandering circles in her beat-up sneakers. It didn’t take long for the other women to join, and she and the girlfriend would laugh uproariously and hang on one another to the rhythm of the beat coming out of the old speaker, whose bass was definitely near-blown. After a time, the men finally got up out of their stools to spin the already spinning women, and she’d be grinning so hard her cheeks hurt.

There was a time she got the best friend to actually dance, and she and the girlfriend whooped in surprise and excitement so that the shyly swaying woman’s cheeks turned bright red. But she looked happy and that made the roommate nearly tear up. Even if it was only for a second, the roommate often sensed her joy all over her skin so that it felt like she was bathing in it.

When it got too raucous, when the dancing became too sloppy and the grinding too suggestive, the roommate and the stoners would slip away to walk back to campus. There were times they’d stop to light up in the dugout of the baseball field near the fence-lined barrier of the school. And times, campus security would roll by in the truck and they’d let themselves get chased off, running and laughing into the darkness of back campus where the trees hung low and old. Security would never follow, so they’d wait till the truck had finally driven off and then make their way out, tripping over roots and rocks hidden in the deep shadows.

Sometimes, when the sky was clear, they’d lay themselves in the cool grass of one of the sports fields and watch the stars for a long while, talking quietly and giggling in the night. An errant falling meteorite would send a thin plume of misty light across the sky and they’d all fall silent for a moment in quiet awe. And the roommate would cry a little, silently, so that no one knew and feel such happiness, but tinged with something like poignancy.

Then they’d all eventually rise and stumble to their respective homes. The roommate would find her way to the little house on the edge of campus and slip inside, turn all the lights on, grab a snack from the kitchen. Times she’d go straight to bed, and there were times when she’d settle down on the couch to smoke up one more time with the television on for company, volume low. And she’d often fall asleep there, but not before leaving that one last hit for the best friend she knew would, eventually, return home.

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