white people: the movie

Brett came to pick me up in his uncle’s Mercedes convertible, waving to me on the third floor so I would recognize him, as he wasn’t in the Grand Cherokee he usually drove. At the time I didn’t know that the SLK 230 Kompressor roadster was one of the lower-end Mercedes, what industry insiders called an “entry-level” model, slotted below the M, R, and SL classes. I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to Mercedes. As requested, I brought Brett down his Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz CD and his travel sized bottle of Hugo by Hugo Boss cologne that had come prepackaged with the big bottle. He didn’t have that much stuff in our dorm room anymore; aside from having to share the suite’s bathroom with Steve and Mitch, I basically had the place to myself. It would have been a good time to grow a pot plant or something, but the thought never occurred to me. I got pretty good at shooting baskets with my off hand on the Nerf hoop on the closet door.
Not that many juniors still lived in the dorms, just the ones whose scholarships mandated it, which no longer applied to me. I had lost my scholarship the semester before when my GPA went below 3.2 for the second straight time, but I stayed because had already filled out my housing form for the spring. Brett was staying mostly at his uncle’s place by the lake anyway by that time. His uncle was in Singapore on business till June and had given Brett a key. Told him to come by and bring the mail in a few times a week. Keep the grass cut. It might be a quiet place to study, he told Brett’s parents, or even use the pool if he wanted. I never met Brett’s uncle, but he was an older guy, like sixties. Divorced. It was a big place for one person. I couldn’t tell if he had good taste, but definitely expensive taste. The picture window mirror in one of the bathrooms was enormous, and angled in such a way that once I couldn’t help noticing this weird face I made when reaching back to wipe my ass. Did I make that face every time, I wondered. I worked for months afterward to correct it, then forgot about it. Oh shit, I probably still do it.
When I got into the car, he weirdly did not give me shit for wearing just a pocket t-shirt from Old Navy. He was dressed for the club though; he kinda always was. Did this fucker ever once wear a normal shirt the whole time I knew him. We went to college in a town where people still cruised the drag, and as we pulled on to the street where the club was, he handed me a pair of sunglasses just like the pair he was already wearing and I put them on. Not because I was trying to look cool, but because I didn’t know what to do with my eyes. It was a convertible. My whole head, my face, were just out there, and people were looking at us. I tried to look like I was looking straight ahead, expressionless, but I probably looked scared. Behind the sunglasses, I was looking all around.
We got to the club and I sneaked up to the third floor where they played hip-hop, to see if I could get a black girl to dance with me, but they could all tell I was a student. I went back downstairs to check on Brett, but he was fine. He had the reddest ass of any baboon in there. Looking and acting like an asshole was important to Brett, but he wasn’t one. He told me once that he had gotten with a girl that had been in a bad car accident, and he had had to hold her colostomy bag for her to get into the one position she was comfortable in. Uncharacteristically, he didn’t use the word ‘bang’ when telling the story. He had probably had to be pretty careful. I never knew why we lived together longer than one semester, but he accepted my weirdnesses long before I accepted his. Which of us was the better friend. The better person.
When the lights turned on at the club, he and I found each other and he had his arm around this really tall girl, Jamie. He said Jamie was just waiting on her roommate to come back from the bathroom, and then they were both going to follow us to his uncle’s place. Turns out I kinda knew her roommate. She was this girl Holly, a freshman, whose dad Mark I came into contact with a lot at my job. When I lost my scholarship, I got a work-study job at Central Purchasing at the physical plant. Mark was in charge of the motor pool, and he came by to order and pick up vehicle parts. Starters, brake shoes, bearings, belts. We all got back to Brett’s uncle’s, and instead of asking if they wanted to go swimming like he usually did, Brett started a VHS of A River Runs Through It in the den, then he and Jamie went back to the master bedroom. The movie was already halfway over when he started it, so Holly and I had some beers and talked for a while with it in the background. She told me Mark and her mom were divorcing. She was thinking about taking a semester off, having never lived anywhere but this town. I mostly just listened, but when the tape ended I put my hands on the couch to get ready to stand up and press Stop, and she put her hand softly on top of mine.
We kissed briefly. For seriously less than a minute. Then we heard Jamie’s footsteps walking briskly up the hall towards us, and when the light crossed her face upon entering the den I saw she had this really annoyed, impatient look on her face. Brett was behind her, not walking as fast. “I think we’d better go,” she said, and Holly stood up and got their purses and they left. Holy shit he had brought out the acoustic guitar, hadn’t he. He had.


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July 2012
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