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Authors: Brad Land

Goat (13 page)

BOOK: Goat
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Brett speaks.

They nod.

I vanish.

9

I DON’T KNOW WHAT to do with myself after I leave the fraternity. I still feel their eyes on me everywhere but now it’s different. It’s fear and shame. I’m scared to see them, to see the look on my pledge brothers’ faces that says you left you left us and the look on the brothers’ faces that says pussy I knew you were a pussy I knew you couldn’t do it. When I see them I duck my head, skirt my eyes toward a building or tree or anything but I can feel their eyes on my back all the time and they’re laughing. The dreams still come every night. This thing inside me I can’t get out.

And my fears are right. I have nothing without the fraternity. I don’t lose Brett but I do lose him. Something is cut between us. Again. But I know it’s how it’s got to be. He’s got to be away from me because I’m fucking him up. I stay on my side of the dorm and he stays on his and it’s not some regulation it’s just the way it goes.

——

WE TAKE A field trip for Geology class and the hippie teacher leads us out past campus into these thick woods. Down into a ravine. Clay rising on each side. But I can’t keep up. I keep thinking about Brett and how he’s fucked, about me and how I’m fucked, how I don’t sleep and how my head won’t ever be quiet. There’s this kid named Doug who has long hair. The only one I can talk to. Not because he’s really interesting. He just never asks about what I do. Who I am.

The hippie teacher points up toward the clay walls inside the ravine.

Notice the striations, he says.

We all nod.

We can see time here, he says.

We all nod.

On the way back I bend down and pick up a small rock. Granite. Put it in my pocket.

   

I HAVE THIS one friend named Matt who’s a Phi Delt but he doesn’t care anything about it. Lives a floor below me.

Matt’s five-seven and full of muscle and we work out to kill the time even though he’s got a busted ankle from intramural soccer. He never says a word about me quitting the fraternity. He doesn’t make fun of me. He doesn’t laugh or call me a pussy.

I come into Matt’s room on a Wednesday night at eleven when my head won’t be still because I’m scared of the dreams I know I’ll have. Matt sits on his yellow couch with his bad leg perched on a coffee table.

We watch
Rocky
and after the movie’s over Matt’s girlfriend Emily calls. He moves into the corner beside his desk to talk. He yells and tells her she’s fucked up fucked up, what the fuck is your fucking problem, he says.

Then he hangs up.

Emily calls again and he says don’t fucking call me again tonight I’ve had enough of your bullshit and then he slams the phone down, picks up his small coffee table and throws it against the door. It breaks in half and the beer cans and ashtrays go all over. He throws the door open and stomps out into the hall. I follow him and he’s leaning against the wall.

I hit him as hard as I can in the stomach once, drop my hands, stare at him like it was the most natural thing to do. I don’t tighten my stomach for his punch and he looks at me like I’m crazy. He smiles and hits me, my eyes water and he lets his hands drop to his sides just like I did. I hit him again and it goes over and over until I can’t breathe and we fall down laughing and sobbing and clutching our guts. Matt gets up and puts his hand through the glass case of a fire extinguisher, just turns around without flinching. He has pieces of glass in his knuckles. He pinches his fist open and shut, pulls out flakes of glass, the blood dripping on the floor and I’m still on the ground holding my stomach and he just laughs and I laugh because there’s blood everywhere and there’s nothing else to do but laugh after we’ve beaten each other breathless.

I do this because it makes me forget. Because the pain is real. Because it’s in my gut and not behind my eyes.

——

WILL FORGETS ME. Dave forgets me. I know it. They all forget me and I can’t forget them. I love them. I hate them. I am dead. I never existed.

   

TOILET. WILL’S HANDS in a toilet down on his knees kneading a banana. He thinks it’s shit.

Squeeze it, they say.

Get it in those fingers.

Yeah.

Mash it up.

Uh huh.

How’s that shit smell?

How’s my shit smell?

You’re shit boy.

Goat.

Fucking goat.

He’s gagging. Eyes closed.

Don’t open your eyes, boy.

Shit boy.

Fist on the back of his head. White behind his eyes.

You gonna eat that shit.

Swallow it.

Pulled away. Stumbling with the shit on his hands. Dropping from his fingertips. Water over his hands. Open mouth. Fingers pulling his jaw down.

Open wide, they say.

Will can feel his throat locking.

Don’t worry, goat, they say. No more shit.

And it’s on his tongue, his throat clenches, and he swallows. Again and his mouth burns.

You thirsty, boy?

Thirsty, huh?

Hot shit.

Will’s face shoved down into a cooler. Water lapping the sides, he’s swallowing again, pulling it all down.

Here is what’s in the cooler:

Water. Phlegm. Pubic hair. Piss.

I know he’s doing this. Brett tells me. He had to do it once too.

10

THREE WEEKS AFTER I quit Brett calls me. Out of the blue. We’ve talked a few times since everything went down. Sometimes I ask him what the pledges are doing. Mostly, though, it’s nothing more than hi, Mom and Dad say hi. And I know it’s not because he’s mad or disappointed, it’s just that he doesn’t know what to do, and I don’t either, so we leave it that way.

Brett wants me to come down to his room and I say I don’t know, I don’t want to see those guys and he says fuck them, they aren’t around anyway. They’re all at a mixer with Kappa, he says. I don’t ask why he didn’t go. I already know. He’s pushing himself away from them. From everything. Because he can’t stand himself anymore.

   

I LOOK THROUGH the window of the door to the Kappa Sigma hall. Brett’s door is closed. My hands are shaking but I push the door open anyway. Just don’t look, I tell myself, don’t look over and you won’t have to see them. I’m afraid I’ll see Ben Moore and he’ll call me a pussy or just shake his head back and forth. I walk quietly and knock on Brett’s door.

He says come in. His voice opaque through the thick metal door. I push it open and he’s sitting staring at the television, the lights off, the volume down.

Hey, I say.

Hey, he says and I sit down in a metal chair and it’s cold through my T-shirt.

I stare at the television and I know he’s looking at me.

Do you want to leave? he says. I’m leaving.

Tonight? I say.

Yeah, tonight.

Where to?

Charleston, he says. To see Chrissie and to just leave. Chrissie’s his sometime girlfriend.

I don’t know, I say. Kind of late for that, you know?

Okay.

Okay? I didn’t say I wouldn’t.

You won’t, he says, and he’s right; even though I want to leave with him some part of me can’t. Everything is quiet and then he stands up.

I’m going, he says. He looks over at me. At my pockets. What the fuck’s in your pockets?

Nothing.

Getting big, man.

Drop it.

Okay.

Bye.

Bye, he says, and then I’m up. I know he’s right about my pockets. I can’t stop keeping things and I don’t know why. I pull the door and when I turn around the television is off and the room is dark and Brett is standing in the corner staring out into the cold.

   

I GO OUT onto the side stairwell and look down into the parking lot. Brett’s car pulled up on the grass. The wind blows, pulls the wet scent of garbage from the trash bin below me.

On the wall next to me in blue marker someone has written this:

Phi Delts suck cock.

Beneath that someone has written this:

Your mother sucks my cock.

I hear a door slam while I’m reading the wall and I look down and Brett’s lights blink on. The car cranks and begins to back up and for a moment I want to run down and leave with him but I know it will just have to be like this for now.

My feet won’t move.

I watch Brett’s car grow smaller and then he disappears when the oaks swallow him.

   

WILL’S NEW NICKNAME is Ghost Fitch. It’s because he’s never around. His excuse is that he’s busy with schoolwork. Architecture major. But the brothers don’t care.

This is what they say:

School is the most important thing.

This is what they do:

Yell and scream and hate if you don’t show your face.

Will’s a ghost.

My brother tells me this on a Tuesday in mid-November.

   

NOW I CAN’T throw anything away. I’ve been saving things for a while but now it’s everything. It all gets stored in my pockets or under my bed.

These are the things under my bed:

Letters from my mom and dad.

An article my grandfather sent me about a local high school student who has sworn off alcohol, tobacco, drugs and premarital sexual intercourse.

My pledge paraphernalia:

The
Bononia Docet,
which I haven’t given back.

Invitations to pledge week functions.

An alphabetical list of my pledge brothers.

An alphabetical list of the brothers.

A photocopy of the Star and Crescent.

My bid from Kappa Sig.

A baseball bat.

A bloody T-shirt.

These are the things in my pockets:

Receipts. From cigarettes. From food. From anything.

A campus map.

My class schedule.

A leaf.

Movie stubs.
Trainspotting. Beautiful Girls. Heavy. Jerry Maguire. Swingers. Ransom. James and the Giant Peach.

A watch that doesn’t work.

A Band-Aid.

A key.

A tiger cut from an Exxon gas card.

Pennies.

A small glass bluebird.

Cigarette wrappers.

A green string.

Used books of matches.

A gold earring in the shape of a heart.

One medium-sized rock. Granite.

One clear blue plastic lighter.

They make my pockets bulge like I’m carrying small animals down there. I think I do it because these things are tangible, because I can hold them in my hands and because I know that if I don’t something bad will happen. That the things I dream will find me. Brett doesn’t say anything else about my pockets sticking out or the way I have to pull out wads of trash every time I look for my keys or my money. When I walk everything rattles and I have to shove my hands down deep to hold the pennies and the trash so the noise won’t be too loud.

   

I READ ABOUT the girl and the dam on a Monday after I leave class. Mike’s standing there beside the pile of student newspapers and I say hey man and he says hey man. Mike’s a Phi Delt from Pittsburgh, all gruff with a beard he never shaves. I don’t mind being around the Phi Delts because they never ask me about fraternities. They know I quit Kappa Sig and they don’t care. Mike says so Thanksgiving huh you going home huh and I say yeah day after tomorrow or tomorrow I don’t know. He nods, pulls out a smoke and lights it and then holds the pack toward me. I take one and light it. Fucking turkey Mike says and I say yeah fucking turkey. When he leaves I get a newspaper. I sit down on a bench and cross one leg. I’m reading the front page. At the bottom there’s a small article about a recent student death. Emilia Bright from Connecticut and she was a sorority pledge. Found bobbing facedown at the base of the Lake Hartwell dam.

I tear the article out and cram it down into my jeans with everything else.

   

WHEN I KNOCK on Brett’s door he’s up in his bed with a hand hanging over the rail into the empty space between the floor and the loft. I pull on his index finger and he turns over, looks down at me.

What? he says.

I need your car.

What’s wrong with yours?

In the pit. I saw yours outside.

Why?

I have to go somewhere.

Where?

The dam.

He sits up and rubs his cheeks.

Gonna jump?

No. Not yet.

Okay.

He drops down from the bed and pats his jeans, goes over to the windowsill and picks up his keys. I didn’t expect him to come but when I look at him I know that we’ve made this turn back toward each other. That now we’re going to be fucked together.

   

THE DAM IS whitewashed concrete all the way down to the lake. Brett touches my shoulder as I lean over and we stand on the edge with our toes sticking out over the concrete and I’m scared of heights but I want to see what the girl saw when she went over into the water. If she could feel the air rush into her face.

Brett stands there looking over the edge.

Let’s both do it, he says.

Okay, I say. Lean forward again out over the edge. Look for the girl. Brett puts a hand on my shoulder.

No, he says. Not yet.

I stare at the water. It’s still and the girl’s there floating facedown the hair stretched out around her head like weeds. She dips over the rise of water. Arms and legs stretched like some star. And I don’t know why I love her but I do. Brett touches my shoulder again and says careful and then the girl’s gone. I squint my eyes to see if I can find her below the dirty brown water. Staring up at me. Smiling.

——

WE WATCH
The Natural
in Religion class. The girl in front of me with a Kappa shirt on. Big embroidered Greek letters across her chest. She’s hunched and I can see her shoulder blades poke through her shirt. I can’t stop staring at the shoulder blades, the way they make the fabric rise and fall. She turns around and looks at me like I’m bizarre, like I know something I shouldn’t. I want to tell her that it’s nothing, that I’m not strange and that I knew her once when I was a pledge and she smiled at me then told me her name was Erin and that just now I didn’t mean anything by staring at her shoulder blades but she just turns around and hunches again.

   

I CROSS BENEATH a brick arch that leads from the quad to downtown, where I’m going to buy a compact disc of this band called the Descendents and after I do I keep the receipt.

After I leave the record store, I go back toward the quad, down Main Street, all the bodies pushing past me, the voices, this chatter and hum everywhere. I keep my head down, focus on the cracks in the sidewalk, start counting, make sure not to touch one with my feet, make sure that my right foot steps over a crack first because it makes perfect sense now to do these things and I’m looking down and I hear someone call my name. I look over and stop my feet and there’s this girl named Tara Powers who I went to high school with and who I thought I might have loved once. She’s at a stoplight with the passenger side window rolled down, leaning over across the seat, saying hey you hey you, waving her hands toward the car and then I forget about the cracks and I’m walking over to the edge of the sidewalk. Tara tells me to get in.

   

WE DRIVE. LEAVE downtown and take the road that leaves campus. She looks at me while she’s driving.

So Eric, she says.

Who? I say.

Boyfriend. You know him. He’s a KA.

Heard of him.

Well, he’s a shit.

Oh yeah?

Shit, that’s what he is.

Okay.

Not really.

Oh, I say. Listen. I turn around. Look behind me at the tops of dorms jutting out over the trees. Where are we going?

To my place.

Why?

Just because.

All right, I say and we drive to her apartment, which is in this complex with nothing but students.

Inside her apartment she drops her bag on a coffee table littered with magazines. Tara sits on the couch. Puts her face in her hands.

That fucker, she says. I know he’s fucking that girl. There’s a Van Gogh print on the wall. A
Pulp Fiction
poster. I’m standing by the door. She looks up at me. The brown hair. Pale skin.

You can sit down you know, she says.

All right, I say and then I sit down.

You want to watch TV? she says. I say yeah. She turns on the television, it’s some cowboy thing with the horses and the guns and the red rocks everywhere.

This cool? she says. Turns her head to the wall.

Yeah, I say. She runs her hands through her hair. One of the cowboys gets shot off his horse and falls down.

Whoa, I say.

What? she says. Turns and looks at me.

That cowboy he just got shot and fell off his horse.

I look over at her and she’s still looking at me. She takes my chin and pulls my face to her and her mouth opens, her tongue inside my mouth and my tongue on hers all wrapped and she kisses me hard and I kiss her hard back.

And then she pulls away from me. I sit back against the couch. Scratch my chin. On the television another cowboy drops.

Sorry, she says.

For what? I say.

For that. I shouldn’t have done that.

Oh, that was all right, I say. Fine. Good. You kiss good.

We watch the cowboy movie and she reaches over and holds my hand.

And it’s fine that it’s been this way with girls for a while now, these random things, because I know I’m too much for anyone, that if I let myself, I’d love them all, I’d think they could fix me. But I know they can’t, and it’s enough, because every so often when a girl kisses me, touches my hand, my face, I remember that the world has light.

On the way back she keeps looking over at me and I don’t know what to say. She pulls up into the dorm parking lot. Keeps the car running. I open the door and step out. Look back into the car.

Bye, she says. Thanks for that.

I nod. Shut the door and watch her drive away.

BOOK: Goat
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