Every Step You Take

by Chuk Kittredge

It took Liz all of five minutes to call Mark a bitch. A little bitch, she kept saying. She then proceeded to use the terms 'cum' and 'gism' flippantly, and with great frequency. It's a long story; goes something like this:

The man in question, on the night in question. The man in question, on the night in question.

I dunno about y'all, but I put down a case at Spring Concert last year. I think; it mighta been more. I took my shirt off and ogled Amazon women. I kicked back in the afternoon sun and watched as row upon row of young men stood, like lonely sentinels, pissing is some farmer's field. There was something about a car later - a stick shift, I remember that much. Something about a bunch of Oles in Crack House, and maybe a fight. My memory is like so much Swiss cheese.

I slept well that night, and woke up feeling like someone had flogged me with a hawser and crammed a rancid lemon down my throat. And this was all before the real drinking began. I don't know why we do this to ourselves. I really don't. I mean, I suppose it seems right at the time. We must think we look cool, reeling and leering and breathing thickly. But oh, the price! This was all running through my head right before I slammed four Ibuprofen and made myself a stiff one.

There's nothing quite like the smell of gin in the morning.

But it got weird soon after that. Some townie was passed out on our couch, our female housemates had fled the county, and Mark and I were doing the long haul, the third shift of drinking. I think, all in all, it was close to 4 am by the time I had a good buzz going.

Mark was right there with me, like brothers in arms. We drank, we smoked innumerable cigarettes; we hit the bowl from time to time. At one point I had to hold Mark at bay with a spatula while I wolfed down half-raw steak tips. It was shaping up to be a pretty good night.

But, so, it's like 4:30 in the morning, and we're on the stoop, having a smoke. Our landlady lives right next door; I'm pretty sure arson was discussed in passing. And this girl walks by the house, sees the porch light, and makes a hard left. She rolls right up, looking us over. Mark and I perk up - we go to point like a couple of decrepit bird dogs.

"What's up?" we holler, slurring slightly. And just like that, she comes over. I'm gonna have to try that one again, I tell myself.

So she comes over and introduces herself. Liz, she says. Mark and I, ever masters of witty repartee, chime "what's up, Liz." It's kind of like being at an AA meeting. Conversation stays at that level for a while.

It turns out Liz is 24, went to Notre Dame, and lives in Minneapolis. "That's cool," Mark says, and I nod directionlessly, in a more or less amiable way.

I should take this opportunity to explain something. See, nice girls don't chat with strangers. They don't smoke their cigarettes; they don't come inside their house and drink their booze at four in the morning. For that matter, they probably don't do it at any time of day. And nice boys, of course, don't contribute to the moral decline of a good girl - but Mark and I weren't nice boys.

Maybe it was the morning, maybe it was the booze thinking; maybe it was the memory of those towering Oles, those quivering peaks of tanned farm-girl flesh - it could have been any of these things. Either way, Mark and I may have been, in a slightly obtuse and roundabout way, trying to put the make on young Liz. I should have remembered that my mother always told me to stay away from older women.

So Mark and I are sitting there, leering at each other and at her, trying to decide who's gonna hit on her first, when we hear: "...fucking her in the ass!"

This breaks through the reverie pretty quickly. We sit up, sniffing cautiously at the suddenly changed, charged air. Liz, oblivious to our drunken disregard, is blithely telling the story of her - roommate? friend? sister? - somebody, who apparently doesn't go to Carleton, who's fucking some townie who works in the food service department - we immediately think of Snack Bar Benny - and they're fucking in somebody's room in Watson, which explains why Liz showed up on our stoop, with a day-old babe in her arms, snowflakes in her eyelashes, and no place to turn. So to speak.

Things get decidedly weird after that. In between further details on the anal probing of her - housemate? lover? mother? - and how she was so familiar with this subject, we shuddered to think - she began coquettishly telling us we she was fourteen. Problem was, we kind of believed her. We would have believed just about anything at that point. Hell, I still believed I was attractive.

And wouldn't that have been some shit - contributing to the delinquency of a minor while wasted. Then, in the middle of a sentence, Liz points to a dry white stain on her pants, and asks us which one had gismed on her.

"Alright, you fuckers," she shrills, "which one of you came on me, huh? Which one gismed on my leg!?"

We could take no more. We escorted her to the door - she protested loudly the whole way - and threw her outside. Mark locked the door as I pulled the little curtain over the glass, shutting out the oval of her face, screaming obscenities in the growing light. Our landlady's kitchen curtains may have twitched slightly, but that could have been my face, too.

When it was all over with, when Liz was done banging and berating, the townie was still passed out - no small feat for a townie - and Mark and I were seriously considering fleeing the country.

It went something like this:

Mark: "I keep on lifting my glass, but its empty. Can I have a sip of yours? My throat's dry."

Me: "Look, why don't we just do a line, get in the car, and head for the border? It's what, like ten hours? I'm fine to drive."

All this while stumbling out to our stoop, where after a cursory Liz-check, we had another cigarette.

Things went poorly that night. I can think of no one single factor to pin the blame upon. Maybe it was my burgeoning alcoholism, or maybe some random tickle of fate. I don't know, and, looking back on it, I'd wonder if I made it all up - except that Mark remembers the same thing happening, before he passed out with his head in the sink. I don't even think there's a moral lesson to be learned here, except this: Whatever you may do at Spring Concert, whoever you may go home with, however much you drink and whatever you snort, do one thing: lock your fucking door that night.