I was awake. She was awake. It was 5 A.M. in the morning and we were both awake. I stared at the piercing darkness. There was a valid presence of warmth between us, yet the cold air, seeping in through the crack of the door, wanted to extinguish it. I yearned to talk about what was on my mind and the madness swirling around in it. Was I doing the right thing? Was I doing the wrong thing? Was this living? Was liberation selfishness? Who was I? Who was I becoming? Should I give into my wants and desires or should I deny myself? There were so many things circling through my head before Miki said, “Nate?”
Somehow just Miki articulating my name shut everything up.
“Yeah?” I asked.
“Are you okay?” she asked
“No, not really.” I answered
“You can talk to me, y'know. Whatever you're thinking, I won't judge.” I could hear the honesty in her words.
“Well I'm not very sure of what I'm doing.” I said. I couldn't believe I was admitting my thoughts to someone.
“Well you seemed pretty sure last night and you seem to be pretty enthusiastic about your game-”
“When you're under a Tzar's rule for so long it's hard to know your left from your right. All you know is what's happening is wrong.” I said.
She chuckled, “You sure have a way with words.” She flipped her body over so she was facing me. She continued, “But, you're right. I'll tell you what I told myself. If you've got a plan, do it. Otherwise, make sound choices and make it up as you go. It doesn't matter if it's right or wrong as long as you can live with yourself afterward.”
Could I live with myself? I was sure about the decisions about my family. But, I didn't know about anything beyond it. I was so unsure of everything and it made me fearful. For so long, I lived a life where everything was planned out for me. For so long I made it my goal to jump through the hoops that was put before me. Rebellion was new to me. Sex was new to me. This warmth I was feeling, it was new to me. Everything I had experienced in the last forty eight hours was new to me. I was always the type of person to analyze my opponent before making a move. I didn't know what was becoming of me. I knew if I wanted to beat the claws of the house and society and make my dreams come true, I would need to make a plan.
I was silent thinking again. I was thinking about so many things I would have to come to face. There it was. The worry, the doubt, the fear. They were all taking up residence and space in my head. They were yelling at loud volumes. They went back and forth capitalizing on my fragile state of mind. It was sink or swim and I didn't have much to keep me a float. I was sinking. I was slowly drowning. I didn't have much to light my path, until my floatation device spoke. She lit my path every time she spoke.
Miki ran her hand across my face and said, “Nate, I want you to stop braining over there. I know you're destroying yourself. Just lay here with me, think about your game or whatever brings you joy.”
“I'll try. But-”
“No, you're going to do. Try implies your attempting. Doing implies you are preforming and succeeding. What happened to the guy who loved dominance and power? What did he get scared shitless?” Miki's tone was stern as she sat up.
“No.” my tone was harsh. I couldn't believe she was lecturing me right now.
“Then act like it.” she said.
“Well I don't think you understand me.” I said.
“What is there to understand? You've got to break out of your shell and stay out.” she asked.
“I live in a shell?” I asked humorously.
“Yeah.” she replied.
“Whatever.” I chuckled. I didn't live in shell. I was my own person I did whatever the hell I wanted to. Though, that didn't mean I wasn't apprehensive or fearful of what was to come. I mean who wouldn't be?
“Try not to do that.” she muttered quietly.
“Do what?” I asked.
“Say 'Whatever' and chuckle like I don't know what I'm talking about.” her tone was a little louder. It was just above a whisper. I could hear the anger in her voice, but I could also hear the fear. I could tell what I did struck a nerve.
“I'm sorry. I sound like him, don't I?” I said.
“Yeah, you do.” her voice was soft like a kitten's.
“I didn't mean it that way, I just-”
“Yeah, you did. Don't apologize. Just make sure it doesn't happen again.” I felt a wall come up between us.
“I'm not mad. Just make sure it doesn't happen again. I have an addiction to trouble.” she said.
I was upset that she said that. I wasn't trouble, least not yet. I wouldn't hurt her. I cared about her. I contorted my brows in anger before taking her face and kissing it. I couldn't control myself around her. My emotions just found a way to pour out right in front of her. I hated that. I liked the recluse I was. I liked being my own nebula, even if the unnerving chill was bothersome. There were some down sides to the warmth, it made you weak.
Her face was hot, either she was mad or she was blushing. Either way, I was going to work with what I started.
I whispered, “I'm not trouble.”
“You will be.” she whispered back.
The sun wiggled its way through the shade. I sliced the darkness in the room with it's vibrant rays. But through the rays, I was able to see Miki clearly. Her amber eyes looked at me softly. She looked at me not as a piece of filth, but someone she could trust. She looked delicate and innocent through the rays as she hid her frame from me. I only wanted to rip into her again and again. But I had to learn self control. An empire would only crumble if the foundations weren't properly built.
“You're an interesting wolf.” she chuckled.
“That's a good thing.” I grinned.
“You hide in sheep's clothing and rarely come out.” she giggled.
“How about now?” I asked. I slid her onto my lap once more.
“This is still rare.” Miki teased.
“I-” I didn't even bother finishing the sentence. I just kissed her again like I wanted to. I wanted a bit of happiness before I had to face hell.
“So... when do you... have to leave?” Miki asked in between breaths.
“I don't start my last day... until, 10 A.M. So... I'll probably leave... in two hours.” I said in between breaths.
“So what is this anyways? Foreplay or roleplay?” she teased.
“Neither, this is the beginning of something. But I'm not quite sure on what it'll become.” I answered.
“You know I am not fond of being played like a cheap violin, Nathaniel.” Miki looked at me with her sharp eyes and pulled away from me.
“I know and this is not it. I just don't want to make any sudden moves, okay?” I shuffled out of bed.
Miki twisted her lips and looked at me.
“You wanna head to Soho and have an over priced breakfast?” I asked.
“I'd rather eat in Williamsburg.” she said.
“I'd rather not go there.” I sighed.
“Very well.” she looked me over with her eyes.
I headed towards the bathroom and took a shower. I came out and stared at the foggy mirror. I wiped the mirror and looked at my reflection. I was still distant, still young and to some degree innocent. But, something had changed about my eyes. I felt like they had gotten darker. I wrapped a towel around my waist and came out of the bathroom. Miki wasn't in bed anymore. I could smell a soothing aroma of food. She was making breakfast. I could smell the sausage, once I came out the bedroom.
“I didn't feel like leaving home today.” she sighed.
“I forgot you're notoriously lazy.” I chuckled.
“About most things.” Miki grinned.
I put on a shirt and some boxers as I waited for Miki to gravitate away from the stove.
“Breakfast is served.” she handed me a plate of eggs and sausage.
“Well this is surprising.” I said.
“Kind of a thank you for getting me laid.” she turned on the news.
“What? You can get laid. You're hot enough.” I chuckled. I twirled a few eggs onto my fork and gave them a taste. They were pretty good. They were better than most of my failed breakfasts I've made in the past.
“Says every guy I know, all douche bags and non douche bags alike.” her tone was humorously dry.
“I know plenty of guys who would kill to sleep with you, if they saw you.” I said.
“I know, but it's all about the principle of the thing. I won't do it unless I care about that person it's more rewarding.” Miki retorted.
“Well, what is it like with just a pawn?” I inquired.
“Stale, doesn't feel good either. It's more of a, 'why is this happening?' Well, at least for my party anyway.” she answered.
“Well, how was I?” I asked.
“That's not fair being though I haven't had sex in two years.” she said.
“Just be honest.” I put my fork down.
“Well couldn't you tell from last night? I don't go three rounds with just anyone, Nate.” she picked up a sausage link and chewed on it.
“So I'm just going to say amazing, right?” I grinned.
“Don't be cocky.” Miki said.
“Well it is about my cock.” I smirked.
“That was so corny.” she giggled.
“Thank you for letting me come here the other night.” I said. My voice put the conversation on another note.
“You're welcome.” Miki grinned.
I finished eating breakfast and got dressed. I wore the same as always, a V neck sweater and dark pants. I put on a dark hoodie, put on my hat and finished with my gray wool coat. I didn't feel like being stared at today. I slung my bag over my shoulder and headed for the door. I put my headphones in my ears and headed towards the train station.
The sky was a bleak robin's egg blue and the sun wasn't even up on my walk to the train station. It only teased me with ribbons of light. The air was cold just as I expected it to be. It was winter. I made it to the train station and did the usual. I swiped my metro card, and headed up the train station stairs. It was different standing on the platform. I was the only one on it. I waited patiently on the platform for the train as it soon became populated with people. Eventually, the train came and I got on. It was different this time around. No one was rudely glaring at me. They were all busy and concerned about their own lives and I was content. After about an hour and half I was there.
There I was. In front of the school that repetitively failed to define me. The school that was home to a bunch of fakes and phonies skating on their parent's salary. The school that was home to those who had their lives ensured by their trust funds. The coveted university that many would have killed to get into. One of the best school's in New York State. The one that ensured that you would be taken care of. But it was all a lie. A big fat irritating lie. It just had the most funding that gave it an advantage over other private schools.
I walked into the building with a new attitude. I was tired of taking people's shit. So I was prepared to do and say whatever that was on my mind, within reason. Even if my attitude changed, I still had a general sense of manors and morals. I walked to my chemistry class and took my seat in the back of the room. I took in the scene. It was full of students loosing their shit because they didn't study. Only about a hand full were calm and collected. I on the other hand, I was completely relaxed. I loved chemistry class and it was a class I excelled at. I excelled at it because I was a great mathematician and loved displacing molecules. I felt as though chemistry had more of a purpose than, physics. Chemistry was the study of the building blocks of matter.
I saw Matt in the front of the room slowly becoming more of a basket case than, he already was. Matt was pretty much lost without someone brainy. Thankfully, Raj wasn't there or probably would have harassed him. He was a lot like my idiot brother, Lucas. He hung out late, smoked, got drunk and didn't care about his grades. Somehow, his parents were still willing to pay for his college. He was the person you didn't want to be or be with in college. I overheard the waves of wails and screams of plenty of girls who were with Matt and they all said the same thing. He was true to his archetype. He was a womanizer.
Matt finally caught view of me and signaled me to come down. I tossed him the middle finger and he was surprised. There were so many nights, days and study sessions Matt used me because he was too stupid, lazy or incompetent to do his own damn work. I just let it happen because I was passive. I wanted at least someone I could connect with in the life I lived. I didn't want to go crazy. Even though I knew he would never understand what I was going through, nor did I tell him, it was interesting to hear life from the other side of the grass for a guy who didn't even bother wear sheep's clothing.
The test started and I could hear all the pencils scribbling against the paper, stabbing into it again and again. It was like a chorus of thoughts, or the essence of college. I wrote on my paper blissfully answering each question with ease one after the other. I put the compounds together as if it was a game of chess. Stabbing at one piece after another. After about forty minutes the exam was finished, and I put my pencil down. Many others tried to cheat the timer, but failed miserably. Matt just placed his head on his desk. After the class finished, we handed in our tests and went about our business.
Matt confronted me in the hallway. Apparently, he was displeased with my profane gesture.
“What the hell was that man?” he asked.
“Well, it was a final. I'm not going down because of you.” I lied. I was trying to mask how I really felt. I really wanted to say, 'I'm not your bitch anymore.'
“But we're friends. You're suppose to help me when I need it.” Matt's tone seemed a little softer than usual.
“You're suppose to study, when you need to.” I retorted.
He lifted a brow, “What you think you're funny you little nerd?”
Matt's body began to tense, as if he was ready to fight with me.
“Hey, what's all the hullabaloo?” Cassandra asked. She had great timing.
Matt's stature relaxed as he looked at the bubbly blonde.
“Nothing, just got out from our Chem finals. What about you, Cassie?” Matt said. I guess he let the matter at hand slide.
“I just came from my Math final. It was a doozey. But, I bet someone like Nate wouldn't have a problem.” Her tone sounded slightly flirtatious.
“Naturally, no.” I kept my speech short.
“Seriously Nate, what are you doing tonight? Maybe you'd want to go on a date or something.” Cassandra grinned.
“You can't seriously have a crush on that douche!” Matt spat.
“Why can't I, huh? Not like you want to do anything but sleep with me. At least Nate isn't like that.” she argued.
“Because that douche wouldn't help me on the final.” Matt answered stupidly.
“You're an idiot.” Cassandra huffed.
I slowly started to walk away from the conversation as they went back and forth. I really wasn't in the mood for that. I already heard enough arguing in the last few days. I didn't want to stomach anymore. I actually didn't know if I could stomach anymore. I sat on a bench outside and began to play chess like usual. My first target was the queen. She always was the most lethal and provided ample protection for the king. In normal royal context the queen has a great deal of influence on the king and vice versa. I systematically began killing pieces according to their usefulness. The cold didn't even bother me that much. I guess because I was so use to it.
The day pressed on like usual. It went pretty smoothly, until I entered the physics room. Everyone began to slowly loose their mind. Even one girl was hyperventilating. No one, and I mean no one was ready or aware of what was going to be dished out. I sat in my seat keeping my composure. I already knew what was going to happen. I was going to fail the course and loose a great deal of finical aid. So, there was no use crying over spilled milk. But, the more the professor spoke the more I just wanted to snap. The more just want to toss my desk to the front of the room. I wasn't quite sure what it was with me and physics. But my brain didn't like it. Each question he narrated made me twinge. I left the room. I couldn't take it anymore. My mind was slowly tearing itself apart in that room. It was a constant reminder of who I was. I didn't want to be reminded of the suffering or torture I endured as I sat in that room.
I was not cut out for that life of stability. I was not ready to sacrifice my talents for something I hated. I had potential and I knew it but it wasn't for any medical profession. It was for something all my own. It would be something I would forge with my own two hands. There were plenty of ways to be successful in America and the biggest way would be capitalism. I had to play the system. I had to trick the odds. I paced towards the bursar's office. I had nothing to loose, but so much to gain. I walked in and filled out the forms to unenroll from the university. There was a sudden weight in the room as I scribbled my name across the paper. Maybe I shouldn't do this. I worked so hard to get here. Doing this is practically an insult to myself. I continued on filling out my address, my student ID number and anything else that was asked of me. I did it. I took a deep breath and walked out of the university.
There it was again: fear, doubt, worry. They were all swarming around in my head. They were all yodeling, teasing, screaming. It was as if they were all fighting with each other, but agreeing that I was hopeless and stupid. Society always said and made it seem like it was humanly impossible to be successful without a degree. That it would be hard to be successful without a degree. It was often looked down upon if you didn't own one. But there was so much struggle, so much turmoil within getting it. It was almost as if the house didn't want you to have fair odds. They wanted to keep you down and suffocating at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They wanted you to keep supporting them, hoisting up the rest of the triangle. My heart was racing. I slowly was beginning to worry. I wanted to crawl back into my comfort zone but, I couldn't. What was done was done.
“Maybe you wanna go outside sometime?” It sounded like Matt's voice.
“No dude, you're not my type. Now, fuck off.” A voice said. It sounded like Miki's. I lifted my head and there she was fighting off Matt. She caught a glimpse of me and paced over to me.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I figured pick you up to celebrate.” she grinned.
“What? Is Nate your boyfriend?” Matt said in a fit of jealous rage.
“Possibly,” she teased.
Matt growled. His body tensed, “That's it you little-”
Matt threw a punch but, Miki gripped it instinctively. It was a little habit of hers. I had the pleasure of seeing it again, and again when creepers tried to touch her.
“What is going on?” Cassandra asked.
“This asshole can't control his temper.” Miki scoffed.
Matt lowered his fist.
I could have defended myself, y'know. I thought.
“Who the fuck are you?” Cassandra asked.
“Well to all of you strangers, my name isn't of any importance.” her tone was witty.
“Is she the reason why you keep blowing me off?” Cassandra said angrily.
“No, I simply don't want to date you.” I answered.
“What? So, You want to date this hussie?” Cassandra asked.
“Where anywhere in my style of dress do you see hussie?” Miki sighed. Miki was dressed casually like usual. She wore skinny jeans, and an olive pea coat. It was obvious the rich kids weren't use to the word no.
“Miki, let's go. We don't have to explain anything to anyone.” I was annoyed.
“Fine by me.” She took me by the arm and walked off campus with me.
I felt their glares on our backs, as I left all of the lies behind. I heard their murmurs about us and I didn't care.
“So how about we celebrate your liberation?” Miki grinned.
“Sure.” I said.
We got about two blocks away from the university before I questioned Miki again, “So really, why where you there?”
“I had to run few errands in the hipster parts of the city so, I figured I'd meet you and we'd go out to eat somewhere.” She grinned.
“I'm not really hungry.” I said. I tried so desperately to hold back my irritation. I was pissed at the rich kids and their stupidity, I was pissed that Miki even showed up, I was pissed that I was even Nathaniel Stone. Why couldn't I be someone else for a day?
“Well, we'll go anyway. Maybe you'll gain some type of appetite.” Miki whistled.
“I highly doubt it.” I said.
“Look, don't be an asshole. What are you pissed that you weren't all macho with that red head?” Irritation was smothered all over her words.
“No,” I lied. It was part of it. But mostly I was just mad at myself.
Why did I let that go on for so long?
“Then what?” she asked.
“Why do you feel the need to get inside my head?” I asked.
She was silent for a bit, before she let go of my arm.
“You're trouble, Nate.” she muttered.
“Please don't articulate that again. You have no insight into who I am as a person what so ever. You just assume. You only see the surface. You only see what I chose to show you. But, you don't know me. You only know what I've shown you.” I spat.
“Alright, I understand. But please do understand, that if you're an asshole to me, I will not hesitate to kick you out. Listen, if you really want to do what you said you're gonna do it's not gonna be all peaches and cream. This is coming from the girl who had an alcoholic for a mother, a dad who didn't give a shit about her, and a series of douchebags for boyfriends. You should be thankful I even bother to care and that I'm not fucked up beyond repair. So if you want to come at me with your little, you don't know me shit, save it. I don't want to hear it. As far as I can see, you're just like all the rest.” Her words were sharp like daggers. The way she looked at me was like scum. I could see the anger in her face.
“Let's just stop talking about this okay. Let's just go to a restaurant, alright?”
“Fine.” she said.
“Where do you wanna go?” I asked.
“The restaurant that Mike works at. He gets off work there soon, maybe it'll be good for you to talk to him.” she said.
“Where's that again?” I asked.
“Union Square.” Miki answered.
We walked to the train station and got on the train heading to Union Square. It was weird taking the train with Miki. It's like she deflected all the glares. It was nice. But, I wasn't apologizing for my words. They were mine and they were right. As much as I cared about her, she was a bit of a nuisance at times.
We got off the train and walked a few blocks down to a Italian joint named Capelli's. As soon as I walked into the restaurant, the smell of pizza adhered to my nostrils. It was a very pungent smell. The restaurant was warm though. It had medium traffic and plenty of waiters and waitresses running back and forth with orders. Miki took a seat in front of the window and I joined her. She sent a text and waited. Minutes later, a blonde giant was before us. It was Mike.
Mike was one of my best friends since the beginning of time. We only be came distant as of late. But, we were very close. He had the typical looks that came along with his hair: blue eyes, dashing looks, nice smile. He was pretty tall too. But not much taller than, I. He also fought for his piece of the pie completely differently than most of us. He had multiple jobs. He wasn't as fortunate as the self acclaimed indie writer and artist Miki. But I wasn't surprised the two had stayed in contact. They got along well.
His eyes widened as he caught view of me. He welcomed me.
“Hey man! How've you been. It's been a few since we last talked.” he said.
“I know, and I’m pretty good.” I said. I missed him pretty badly too.
His eyes didn't take very long to wander in Miki's direction. He always had a thing for her, but she always shot him down.
“Hey, Beautiful.” he said smoothly.
“Save it, you know I only let Nate call me that.” she said.
“I hate you, bro.” Mike narrowed his eyes in my direction.
“Anyways, what's on the menu?” I asked.
“Pasta, bread...things that Italians make. But I could just serve you guys the house special. It's really good tonight. Chicken Parmesan.” he said.
“Sounds good.” I said.
“I think I'm going to have the same thing.” Miki said.
“Alright, I'll be back.” Mike grinned.
Few minutes passed and Mike came back without his apron. He placed the food on the table and took his seat next to Miki.
“So Nate, what now?” Miki asked.
“Well, I guess I have to come up with a plan.” I said.
“What do you mean? What are you guys talking about?” Mike asked.
“Nate gave college the boot.” Miki said.
“Wow, how'd your folks handle that?” he asked.
“Not well, but we're not gonna talk about that.” I said.
“So what are you going to do?” Mike asked.
“I'm going to start an entrepreneurial pursuit. I'm going to start making indie games.” I said.
“That sounds pretty badass.” he chimed.
“Yeah, his current project is pretty cool.” Miki added.
“Aw man, I can't wait to play it.” he said.
“Whenever, you can get more than five hours of sleep.” Miki added.
“Yeah...but I think... in order to be completely successful...I'm going to need your help.” I said. I was starting to get lost in thought, quickly and systematically going through the scenarios one by one. This would be one hell of a journey.