It is the night of his twenty-first birthday, and he knows it will be epic - drugs, nameless girls, endless booze and everything in between. But as the night goes on, peices of Bret's past peirce through the party's haze. And he realizes that in always looking for a rush, he missed the moment his life turned into one big downward spiral that can only end at rock bottom.
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A crazy angle on the chalkboard. Bret’s econ section leader checked her notes and carefully surrounded the angle with three dots. She was a short, bronze-skinned woman from an unknown country where English was never spoken.
“Curve,” she said, almost like she wondered herself. Then she nodded. “Emmm … economiki … is under. Under this.”
She made a little chirping noise and stood back, pleased.
A girl with curly hair leaned forward in her chair, clutching an exam book. Red ink snaked over the fanned pages. “Wait. Can you say that again?”
“Is under, ” explained the teaching assistant.
The girl tapped her pen and bit her lip.
Bret leaned back in his chair and laid his head against the wall. A brilliant sunset pressed against the third-floor windows. He stared up at a bright fluorescent light tube. Every now and then the tube flickered.
“Dude, this sucks,” Craig whispered to his left.
“Dude, it’s my birthday, ” Bret whispered back.
“Oh, shit, that’s right!” Craig punched Bret’s shoulder softly. The curly-haired girl shot them a wild look. “Happy birthday, man,” Craig added a little more quietly.
“Circle,” said the TA, drawing one on the board. She never erased the board right, so the circle was almost impossible to see. “Like a rus!” She started giggling.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Craig whispered to Bret. “This is like the first time I’ve ever seen you in section and it’s your birthday.”
“I needed to get my test back,” whispered Bret.
“Like a rus!” the TA repeated, giggling again. The room was silent because no one had any idea what she was talking about.
“I think she freebases before class,” whispered Craig.
The TA drew another line and the chalk screeched.
The curly-haired girl, chin in hand, stared glassily through the blackboard. Her eyes looked like they were watering.
Bret shifted positions. Luck that his birthday coincided with the biggest Pi Alpha Kappa party this quarter. “When’s the thing start,” he asked.
“I don’t know,” whispered Craig. “Pretty soon. Drink something.”
“Yeah, like what,” asked Bret.
Craig unzipped a pouch on his gray Billabong backpack and pulled out a shiny flask. He passed it on the low to Bret.
“Right on,” whispered Bret. “What is this?”
When the TA turned around and began to dot the circle, Bret took a gulp from the flask.
“My first shot,” he whispered, passing back the cold metal. Craig flashed him a backward peace sign.
The chalk screeched again. A tear fell onto the curly-haired girl’s exam and red ink ran. Beyond the window, palms swayed in the cloud-streaked fire of sunset.