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I can’t remember how Mia’s voice sounded.

Her face features, eyes, small hands, the way she moved, smell even, all is there, yet her voice has left the plain where memories dwell. And I miss it every day.

I was twenty-one years old when my best friend Fox and I rented a ground floor apartment within a large house. The apartment was small, one bedroom, a bathroom, and a tiny kitchen. It was bright, affordable and in a great neighborhood.

The landlord was a semi-wealthy ginger balding guy, with a cute wife and a twenty–something daughter. He lived on the second floor, while renting the first one to collage students.

I loved that place. When I think about it, nostalgia washes over me. It was the first place where I felt at home. Being from a small town, I also immediately fell in love with The City in which Fox and I were to spend the next few years of our lives studying journalism.

Immediately after moving in, Fox started to hang out with, as I call it, his Paper gang. It was composed mainly of casual acquaintances from classes. The Paper gang seemed dumb and not enough interesting to my intellect, although I suspect they would have said the same thing about me, just with less picky words. I gave them this name because I knew their fellowship wouldn’t last, like paper in the rain. And I was right.

Instead of with Fox, I spent time with Chris, some asshole whom I had met a couple of weeks earlier. He was a sneaky, hustler-type kind of a guy, but he had certain charisma and was fun to be around. The only thing you had to remember was to not lend him any money.

He was short, with ocean blue eyes and short blonde hair. Sometimes he would stare at something and slowly his jaws would open and stay that way. He never started to drool, but then again I’ve always swiftly reminded him to close his gates of a mouth.

It was in the beginning of October when Chris and I went out partying together. We met at the downtown city park at 8.15 p.m.

When I arrived there, he was already waiting, smoking a cigarette. He was standing near a big anchor monument, which used to belong to some Italian cruise ship.

“Yo! What’s up, Nick?!” he greeted me cheerfully.

“Hey,” I responded.

“What’s in the bag?”

“What do you mean what’s in the bag? You said, vodka, right? I bought vodka. And ice tea.”

“What the fuck? Ice tea? And vodka?”

“It’s a good mix, trust me, very tasty.”

“Did you buy paper cups?”

“Yup, all is there, amigo. Now, give me half the money.”

“I’ll give it to you later.”

“No, give it to me now. Jesus…”

“Don’t you trust me, Nick?”

“Not really…”

“DHA, HA HA!” He had a specific laugh. He sounded like a hyena was choking on its own vomit, after gulping a shot of liquid feces.

He gave me the money and we sat down on a nearby bench and started to drink. I poured one third of the plastic cups with vodka and then added the ice tea.

“You see this jacket?” he asked me and pinched it. It was brown and old fashioned.

“I do. What about it?”

“It cost four hundred bucks.”

“And?”

“No, not really… It’s actually my dad’s DHA HA HA!”

“You’re kinda weird, you know that?”

“DHA HA! Hey, you know Jim, right?”

“Yeah, the skinny tall guy.”

“One time we spent the night together…”

“Oh?”

“Shit, that came out wrong. He slept over at my place…”

“Oh?”

“Aaah! Fuck me! We were gaming all night, that’s what I wanted to say. Damn. Anyhow, we, me, Jim and Will… You know Will?”

“Who the fuck cares, just finish the story already!”

“Yeah, yeah, okay. Anyway, we were gaming the whole night. And when the sun came up, Will, who’s my neighbor, went home and I offered Jim to sleep at my place. He’d drunk a few of beers and wasn’t really fit to drive. My bed is huge and there is enough space, so why the fuck not, right?”

“Well, I can think of several reasons,” I answered and smirked.

“Oh, don’t be so childish! Anyhow, we went to bed and after a while he started to snore like a motherfucker! And it didn’t stop no matter what I did. I would shake him up and he’d take a pause for a moment or two, but then he would start right back again and there was absolutely no way I could wake him. He pissed me off so much I decided to stick my sister’s tampons in his mouth and take a picture! And then I would show the picture to people we both know, and I would become an epic legend on his expense! Chris, the guy who stuck tampons into Jim’s mouth! DHA HA HA!”

“What the fuck?!” I laughed. “Did you? Stick them in?”

“Listen to this! I just started gently pushing them into his open mouth…”

“Wait a minute. You’re talking about used tampons?”

“Yeah. My sis usually throws them in her bathroom basket or whatever you want to call that blood box. Anyhow, I was pushing tampons into his mouth, when he suddenly woke up! Like holy shit, it was so unexpected, it really startled me! He rolled his eyes like a crazy cow, howled, like a werewolf and threw me to the floor!”

“Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!”

“DHA HA HA! He wanted to beat me up, but after a while he chilled and went back to sleep. What a weird fucking person.”

“Yeah, tell me about it…” I replied still laughing.

“There’s more.”

“Jesus H. Christ.”

“Yeah, I’m telling you, this guy is something else. It was a similar situation. We were gaming all night and in the morning Will went to his house and Jim and I went to bed. Nobody said anything about the tampon incident. He was just smiling in a funny way. Good night, Jim, I said to him in a… You know… a very pleasant manner, yeah! Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite, he replied politely. The whole atmosphere felt a bit odd…”

“Gee, you think?”

“DHA HA HA! Anyhow, I was falling asleep when I heard something move…”

“Look man… Enough.” I frowned.

“No, trust me, you need to know what kind of a freak he is. Anyhow, Jim was leaning over me and had a tissue in his hand with brown stains on it. Bastard wanted to shove toilet paper with his shit stains down my throat! Now tell me, I dare you, tell me he’s not weird!”
“God damn it, now I actually need to get drunk. Thank you, for all the pleasant mental imagery you planted in my brain,” I shivered.

“Hey! I went through that! How the fuck do you think I feel? Anyhow, drink up! DHA HA HA!”

We were both laughing, telling each other funny stories, drinking and smoking. It was a beautiful fall night with something special in the air. There were collage kids all around the park, drinking, hanging out and enjoying themselves and their passing youth. As I looked around, I found myself searching for Mia. Is she here? She could be, right?

She is here, you asshole, I answered to myself. She’s always “here”, in the back of your brain, that’s why you’re so fucked up.

The bottle quickly became empty, so we decided to head to the KSS. KSS was a legendary nightclub, with worn out leather seats, not very clean toilets and everyone, I mean everyone, even the waiters, were drunk. People of my age loved it, except of course for disingenuous dull posers.

While walking we were listening to music on our phones. I showed him a few classic rock pieces I liked and he showed me some electronic piece of shit music I didn’t like. I tuned out for a moment or two and thought again about Mia. Where is she? What is she doing?

Other than that I was feeling fairly well. I loved The City at night. Empty streets, taxis, traffic lights, the Moon, random people walking by, everything was where it should be.

When we came near KSS, there was a huge line.

“Ah, crap! Now what?!” Chris yelled and lighted a cigarette.

“I guess we’ll wait.”

“Fuck that, let me think it through.”

“Think? You can do that? Oh… shit…”

“What is it, Nick?”

“I think I need to throw up.”

“Oh, really!? Don’t ditch me, man!”

“Relax, I won’t, I just need to throw up a bit. Fucking vodka, right?”

“Otherwise you’re fine? There’s nothing worse than to get ditched by a friend who goes home because he can’t hold his liquor.”

“Don’t worry. It’s just that the content of my stomach demands independence. And I am going to give to it.”

I went between two parked cars, which were both hookerish red, and threw up. Immediately I felt better. I went back to where Chris was standing.

“Now what? Let’s get in line, otherwise we’ll never get in,” I murmured, while breathing heavily. Throwing up was never a big deal for me. I just emptied my stomach of booze when feeling sick and afterwards I would continue on drinking, as if I was a hedonistic patrician from ancient Rome.

“No, fuck that, Nick. I have a better idea,” he said with a devilish smile on his face. He was looking at me like he was going to save the planet and everyone will cheer him! Women will suck his cock, men will want to be like him and children will collect his action figurines. That was the look he gave me. I always enjoyed the childish spark of his character, that particular enthusiasm that can only arise from an adventurous soul.

“We’ll climb through the wired fence, go around the building and then climb another wired fence and voila! We’ll be in the KSS yard.”

KSS was in an old building, within an enclosed area.

“You know what, people don’t give you enough credit for your intelligence. And I mean that.”

“So you’re in?” he asked eagerly.

“Hell, yeah!”

It was a stupid plan. The wired fence was high, almost seven feet tall and we could have torn our clothes or even our skin easily. And if we had gotten caught by the bouncers, they’d probably have given as a smack or two. Or, in the best case scenario, they’d have thrown us out.

We successfully fulfilled the task of climbing the first fence.

“See, it wasn’t that hard, right?” Chris asked proudly. And it really wasn’t.

“Nope.”

“DHA HA HA!”

We walked around the building, where we encountered the second fence, but we were in luck. There was a huge gap in the lower section, so we grabbed and raised the wire for a bit, crawled under it and in a matter of seconds we were in front of a wide iron door, which was unlocked and was located relatively far from the KSS’s bouncers.

“Okay Nick, here’s the deal. I’ll slightly open the door, so I can glance at the muscle. When they’re not looking in our direction, we’ll just slip in and slowly close the door behind us. Deal?”

“Sure.”

Again he gave me the I’m gonna save the planet look. He opened the door and we slipped into the KSS’s enclosed yard, which was full of drunk people, so us two popping out of nowhere didn’t really stand out. We both lighted cigarettes and looked at each other.

“That’s it, I rock,” Chris grinned importantly.

“You do, you truly do.”

“We’ll do this more often.”

No, we won’t, I thought to myself, but didn’t say anything. We were mingling and started noticing weird scenery happening before us. There were two piles of beer boxes next to each other, which were empty and assembled in pyramid-like structures. Across the beer box pyramids there were two guys dressed in beer bottle costumes. Soon one of the waiters came out of the KSS’s building and started yelling.

“The two guys inside the costumes don’t see a thing! They will try to knock out as many beer boxes as they can! You can direct them vocally! The one who knocks out all the boxes first, wins a box full of beer! Each time they knock a few, guide them back to the start line!”

“That’s awesome,” I said to Chris.

“It sure is. This is why I love this fucking place, this right here! Let’s go stand there, see those girls?”

“Yeah, they’re pretty. Let’s go.”

So we went towards the group of girls, to watch the spectacle.

Chris tapped the shoulder of one of them and said:

“Hey, if the left one wins, I’ll buy you a drink. If the right one wins, you’ll give me a kiss, okay?”

“Hi hi hi, okay. But on the cheek,” she winked at him.

“Sure, that’ll do just fine,” he grinned like a pervert. So the game began and as the time passed it seemed the left one would win.

“Ha ha, Chris, prepare the money, lady’s gonna get her drink,” I teased him. He didn’t say a thing. He was staring at me as if he needed to take a big dump. Then, out of nowhere, he stepped toward the left beer-guy, grabbed him and threw him into the pile. People laughed. But despite his effort, that didn’t change a thing, and the right one took the prize. The girl smiled at Chris. She was pretty, black haired, with glasses, nice face and an okay figure.

“You owe me a drink!”

“Oh come on,” said Chris, “I tried. I showed effort. That has to be worth a kiss on the cheek.”

“Fine.”

“Really?” He looked surprised.

“Sure, why not, it’s just a kiss right?”

“Yeah yeah, sure.” He lowered his head and exposed the cheek to her. And just moments before her soft lips would end on the target, he turned his head and kissed her. It lasted for a couple of seconds. After she removed her lips from his, she said:

“I knew you were going to do that!”

And his response was just an idiotic DHA HA HA!

The girls laughed and went their own way and we lighted another cigarette.

“That was a ballsy move there. Throwing that guy into the beer pyramid.”

“That’s me, I’m the shit, man! Are you going to buy me a drink?”

“What? Why?”

“I got us in!”

“Oh, fuck off,” I laughed. He made a sad face with which he thought he would change my mind. He didn’t.

While we were smoking our cigarettes, I looked into the black sky. It had rained the day before and you could still smell it. I loved falls. The weather became less happy and the nights became longer, which I unquestionably adored. To say I was a night person would be a severe understatement.

“I’ll fuck that girl tonight, okay?” Chris whispered, as if someone was eavesdropping on us.

“Whatever. Hey, wait a minute… You’re still a virgin, right?”

“I won’t be any longer.”

“I wonder, I really do, how you’re going to hustle your way into that girls panties.”

“Just leave that up to me, man, I’m the master of the galaxy regarding the matter in question.”

“Then how come you’re still a virgin?”

“Well… You know… I was saving myself for someone special!”

“And now you have finally found her?”

“Sure, why not, right? DHA HA HA!”

We put out our cigarettes and went inside. KSS had two levels, the first, the more popular one, was in the basement, so to get in you had to take the steps down. The upper one had a separate entrance but you could also access it through the basement level.

It was crowded and sweaty. But I liked that. I think everyone did, except for poor souls who happened to wander in sober. We pushed our way through the crowd to the bar and ordered a couple of drinks, whiskey sodas, and then went to the dance floor.

There we started to move and drink. I never enjoyed dancing and neither was I any good at it. I usually moved like a waving tree and sang along, which probably looked silly, but I enjoyed it.

At the dance floor I glanced towards two girls, one was a blonde, with wild curly hair and blue makeup around her eyes. Her outfit was very colorful. The other one was a brunette with ocean blue eyes.

Chris approached the blonde girl and started dancing with her. The brunette was way prettier. The more I looked at her, the more I was in awe. She was shorter than me, high cheek bones, nose like a doll, perfect small yet full lips. Her hair was straight, shoulder length. She also had the moves of a cat, cute, yet elegant and seductive.

After some minutes passed, Chris came up to me.

“Hey, I’m going to go grab a drink at the bar. You watch over my blonde girl, will you?”

“Okay, no problem.”

“Watch over her, don’t let anyone else nearby, otherwise it will all turn to shit. I’ve got something here!”

“No worries asshole, I have you covered.”

“You’re simply the best!”

“I know,” I winked at him and smiled.

So off he went to the bar and the blonde chick, who he was just dancing with, came up to me.

“Can I pretend I’m with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“That guy is a real pain in the ass.”

“Oh. That’s… Yeah, okay? But here’s the thing… He’s my friend and he’s really into you.”

“You two are friends? Well, okay… But I’m more into you. You’re really cute and I’d rather hang with you. Or would you rather be with my friend? I saw you looking at her. You can pick her, no worries, I’ll even help you dazzle her.”

Now this was a dilemma. Of course I wanted to pick the brunette, but I was sure the blonde chick’s ego would sabotage me in one way or another. So my best option for sticking my tongue into someone’s mouth was she.

“Fine, I’ll hang out with you,” I said, not really knowing what that was supposed to mean.

We were dancing for a half a minute, after which we spontaneously started to make out. She kissed rather poorly. No tongue, no nothing. It was like kissing a dolphin’s snout. Soon Chris came back and I caught him staring at us. He had his mouth open and a drink in his hand. He was startled for a second or two, then he started to laugh and I could see his lips form the word bastard. The blonde and I started grinning at him and he was smiling back at us. All three of us, staring at each other, looked like idiots.

Slowly he directed his attention to the brunette, but she just ignored him. Meanwhile the blonde girl was still dolphin fucking my mouth, but it didn’t bother me much.

“You kiss very well,” she complimented me.

“Thank you.”

“Do I kiss okay?”

“Like a dolphin.”

“What?”

“Like a doll.”

“Oh, thank you, hi hi, you’re sweet. Listen, I have to go to the ladies room. Will you wait here? Don’t wander off or something.”

“Yeah, not a problem, I’ll stay here.”

“Good. We’ll go out for a smoke, after I come back.”

She went to the brunette, told her something and after that headed her way. The brunette turned around, looked at me, smiled and walked towards the exit. I guessed she had enough dancing for that night. Chris came up to me.

“You’re a real prick, you know that?”

“Guilty. But hey, you would have done the same thing, you know you would!”

“Guilty…” He said with studied sadness in his eyes, which I fell for.

“You’re not sad about it, are you? I mean, I know it’s silly and all, but…”

“Well, I would feel better, if…?”

“Yeah?”

“Okay, look… Buy me a drink and we’re even.” Fucking hustler.

“Oh, Chris, go fuck yourself!”

“DHA HA HA! I’m going to the bar, maybe my one true love is waiting for me there. Smell you later!”

I lingered on the dance floor, waiting for the blonde. People around me were dancing to the loud music. A few minutes later, the blonde came back.

“Do you want to go outside for a cigarette?” she asked.

“Sure.”

We stepped outside and found an empty table. Fresh air felt good. We lighted our smokes. I didn’t like her lighter. It was brown. Like a small turd.

“Hey, I don’t even know your name?” I frowned.

“It’s Emma, and yours?”

“Nick.”

“I like that, I like short names.”

In that moment waiter came out, which happened rarely, and we ordered our drinks. Whiskey soda for me and a beer for her. I liked girls that drank beer. A few minutes later the waiter came back and I paid the bill.

“Did your friend resent you?” she asked with a calm voice.

“Nah. He’s cool that way, you know… Stuff happens. He understands.”

“Oh. He must be a really cool guy. I misjudged him. He looks and acts like an asshole.”

“Why, did he try to grope you or something?” I laughed.

“Can I have a sip of your drink?”

“Okay.”

She took the glass and gulped its content.

“Holy shit, you drink well! Hey, you owe me a drink!”

“Let’s go home.”

“Home? No, I don’t want to, it’s early.”

“Ha ha, you’re funny.”

“Why?”

“You really are clueless.”

“About what?”

“Let’s go to my place.”

“Oh!... Okay, why not?”

“Just don’t expect to get laid or anything, just hanging out and stuff.”

“I love hanging out. I also love stuff.”

“Which stuff?”

“I don’t know! You confused me!”

“You’re funny. Let’s go, boy!”

Boy? What the fuck? I kept my mouth shut, stood up and followed her.

The bus stop was a hundred yards away. While walking, we held hands, which I really didn’t like. At the bus stop she again dolphin fucked my mouth for a bit.

The bus came quickly and we hopped in. It was mostly empty. On the bus we kissed some more. She wasn’t much of a talker. The bus dropped us off five minutes later.

“So this is your stop?” I asked and looked around. The street lights didn’t work, so it was very dark.

“It is, now we just have to go through this park.”

“Ashby Park? Fuck that. Isn’t there a way around it?”

“Probably, but it’ll take a lot longer. Why, are you scared?”

“I heard that two girls got raped here. Also that it’s full of junkies and crack heads. Let’s take a different route.”

“Oh, don’t be such a fucking baby. I have walked hundreds of times through this cute little park and nothing happened.”

“Fine… But if the shit goes down, you’re on your own. Deal?”

“Oh, a gentleman. I always dreamed of a knight who’d protect me.”

“I am protecting you, which is why I don’t want to go through this fucking park!”

“Come on, crybaby!”

She started walking, so I went along. Fuck it. After a while we were once again holding our hands. She kissed me on occasion.

“Stop dolphin… I mean, stop kissing me. You’ll attract some horn-dogs or something.”

“Ha ha ha, you’re funny! Horn-dogs. Is that a metaphor or do you actually mean dogs.”

“It’s a metaphor of course.”

“A person can’t really tell with you.”

All of a sudden, the nearby bushes started to move.

“What the fuck?” I whispered and looked at her. She also had a lot of question marks above her head.

“I told you, I fucking told you.”

“Relax, it’s nothing,” she tried to encourage us both. Suddenly a figure arose from the bushes. It was a bum with long black beard and glassy green eyes. He was looking at us, staring and pulling his beard with one hand and making a yapping gesture with other.

I looked at Emma, completely calm and hissed:

“I fucking told you. You’re on your own.”

I dropped her hand and started to run. She followed my move. While running we started to laugh, and it was beautiful. We were like two wild horses galloping in an Australian bush. When we reached her building, we stopped, out of our breaths and still laughing heartily.

“That was funny!” she screamed.

“And scary!” I added.

“I need a cigarette.”

“Amen.”

We smoked in silence, but with smiles on our faces. After we finished the cigarettes, we entered the building, took an elevator to the fifth floor and entered her apartment.

“How many roommates do you have?”

“Three. I share a room with one of the girls.”

“So what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“A doctor. I want to be a doctor, plastic surgery. I’m a pre-med. And you?”

“Not sure yet. I like to write. Where will that take me, who knows? Hey, won’t your roommate mind me spending the night?”

“Who cares? She’s always moody, so it doesn’t really matter.”

“Fine.”

I took off my shoes in the hallway as did she and we went to her room. It was big and comfortable. Two beds, two desks, two laptops… two of everything. The room also had a private balcony.

We layed down. The roommate’s bed was opposite of Emma’s. She was sleeping and didn’t even notice us. In the bed we briefly kissed and that was all. We fell asleep in a matter of minutes.

I woke up at eight in the morning. Emma was still sleeping. The roommate was nowhere to be seen. I stepped out of the room, down the hallway, to the bathroom, took a piss and came back. Emma woke up.

“Hello.”

“Good morning. Can I smoke in here?” I asked.

“Let’s go to the balcony, I’ll have one too.”

The air outside was cold. It was foggy. The white mist smothered everything except the city noises.

“Shit, I forgot to text my friend. He probably wondered where I dissaperead,” I remembered Chris.

“It’s too late now.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“It was fun, yesterday. We should get together more often.” She looked directly into my eyes, studying me.

“Maybe?” was my modest and honest reply.

She wasn’t exactly my type. She was insecure, I could smell that shit on people a mile away. Her wild curly hair and blue makeup around the eyes also didn’t help her with the score. Not to mention the dolphin fucking.

We smoked the cigarettes and I decided it was time to go. She escorted me to the door. I wanted to be polite, so I asked her:

“What’s the code of conduct here, do we exchange phone numbers or what?”

“Ha ha ha, you’re so funny! Sure!”

She gave me her number. We didn’t kiss goodbye, I just winked at her, saying: “Smell you later,” and she laughed.

I took a bus to my part of The City, to my precious apartment and my brother in arms, Fox.

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