On particularly hot days, I would find outlandish excuses to sneak into Delilah’s room. My reasoning was that she was on the first floor and heat rises. And I wanted nothing to do with heat whatsoever.
It was cool in Delilah’s room; maybe it was because she was in the back corner of the dormitory, or maybe it was just because it was a hell of a lot colder than mine and Natalie’s. Whatever it was, I had grown accustomed to slipping inside. Regardless of timetables, it was always dark. Not so dark that you’d be bumping into things, but just enough that you’d have to squint to see the spines of all her paperbacks. Her room smelled like Barnes & Noble, in the sense that everything was new. Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac — everything was so virginal. For me, I wanted nothing but to touch them. I have a nasty habit or rubbing page corners between my fingers; the un-creased ones make me nervous. I wanted so badly to crack those bindings in the darkness — flip through every single page.
Natalie and I had three fans going at all times and slept in our underwear. Delilah and her roommate, Priya, set one lone fan in the window. Within a week I had memorized its revolutions — it would spin to the right so fast that before you knew what was happening it would stop and move to the left. Stacked on Delilah’s bed were blankets she had crocheted, and oftentimes, I’d idly wrap myself in them during Moulin Rouge.
“Are you even paying attention to the movie?” she laughed. Her voice was always very far away. Maybe that’s one of the things that made her so enigmatic.
“No,” I would say, my shoulders facing the wall, covered in angora. Because all I could think about was how we ate Oreos upstairs and sweat our brains out on the carpeting. These were the times when we would skip dinner and talk about our lives. I tried to imagine her at home, in Glassboro, doing the things she said she did. And I believed her, of course, I believe her, writers are only capable of lying in print, and I wonder what it is like to smoke a bowl with all the windows open. In the coolness of that room, I imagine her puffing into that fan, into its reeves, its whines. You see, Delilah was always very good at sitting. You could always tell that the wheels in her head were turning, but you never knew exactly why.
Priya would never know, of course. She played the French horn, slept on the top bunk, and wore a UPenn string-bag. Not that that’s a prerequisite for starry eyes, but the music education majors kept to themselves.
Leaning against doorposts had become my trade, and I can’t forget the slant from which I saw Quentin and Delilah emerge from the darkness, ending the whine as she shut the door. They were a good match, really. Girls who like everything acoustic like Quentin. They do interpretive dances to Frou-Frou’s “Let Go” and only pretend to like cigarettes. And boys with rectangular glasses like Delilah; they tend to wear Birkenstocks and watch the sunrise. I mean maybe that’s why it never worked out in the end.
They were sweating, panting, and it was in that moment I wondered if Quentin had ever wanted dreadlocks.
Delilah cried that night. She didn’t really like Quentin all that much. And he was a bad kisser.
I try to put this into perspective as I squat on the floor of Dmitry’s room. Since he is on the third floor, it is almost too hot to sweat. There are a lot of people, naturally. Dmitry is probably the most popular boy here, besides Giovanni. But people just talk about Giovanni because he’s guido, and people always want a good laugh. It’s strange because nobody is really talking. We’re trying too hard to ignore some girl and Quentin in Dmitry’s bed, making sounds you’re not really supposed to make in public.
“Well, don’t just sit here. Eat,” Dmitry snarls at the crowd. He goes to the closet and takes out a box of Cheez-Its. Without sitting down, he dumps the contents onto the floor. Before they heap in our circle, the orange bits fly about our feet and skid in the linoleum. It stays like this for a while, this rain, until everyone is so hungry that they cannot wait. Dmitry lies on his stomach and shovels the Cheez-Its into his mouth, right from the floor; the others use their fingers to scoop perfect little handfuls. I manage to nibble a piece before I see that only crumbs remain. As everyone cleans the orange goop from their back teeth with their index fingers, the sighs in the corner grow louder.
I get the sweatiness underneath my thighs whenever I grow mildly anxious.
“I’m gonna go,” I say to Dmitry across the circle. For some reason, it comes out as an apology.
“Oh, why?” he groans. He beats me to my feet, tries to tie my wrists in a knot. His eyes are practically bleeding.
“Take a shower,” Natalie had sneered when he came into our room earlier.
And he did. It’s just that it didn’t work.
“Once, I came into my room, and Bobby and his Asian friends were rolling joints on the floor,” Dmitry said in bed the next week. I laughed. Bobby played the cello.
On that particular night, I left; there were papers to write, books to read. But I didn’t always go. I’d like to think that I stayed more times than none. And it was on those nights when there was nothing to be said, and not everybody was around.
Because the thing is, I want everything to do with heat.