cigarette porch

left brain

Joe Hahriman carried his books under an arm and flopped through the lobby of the dormitory, door shutting slowly behind him, having gained nothing from his momentum. His sneakers were lightly grey and their ridges hurt his foot. He exhaled as he lapsed into the lounge sofa. He picked up the phone and dialed his girlfriend, who lived in the same dorm. She didn't answer, which was lucky because he didn't have any energy. He had gone to three classes and two activities meetings, and he had work that evening in the student lounge where he made hamburgers and salads. Already the fear of his next paper had set in, since it was eight pages and was due in a week and a half. Two kids walked past, oblivious to him, clearly stoned and with no sense of self-respect. How did all of these degenerates get in here?

right brain

Mark and Adam basically skipped down the three short stairs which lowered the floors between bends in the squarish and sprawling dorm. The pink ugly carpet got denser under their feet, one in green-and-black smeared sneakers rounded with rubber eroded by contact with concrete, the other wearing boots found in a Los Angeles surplus store. Their faces wore a serious set that matched their suddenly efficient walk as they passed one of the larger singles where serious discussion was occurring.

"They're trying to figure out how to socialize," said Adam. It was a fraternity planning its next party.

"Effectively and maturely," said Mark. He was an accomplished student who had become bored and nearly failed high school.

Both were red-eyed, but it wasn't what distinguished them. Neither had rushed a frat, neither really had a specialized social group to call their own, but they were also not short of friends or opportunities for fun. Today fun was intoxication, some live music, and on their way to that, a stop at cigarette porch.

Overlooking the lush vegetation trimmed by wellpaid gardeners who knew half their salary was earned during the yearly promotional photoshoots which occurred at random, above the infrequently-travelled streets where students parked cars they would take home on weekends, an architect's afterthought which had bloomed into textural detail for the building was poised: a small balcony, like more than forty others throughout the complex. This one, being off of a public hallway running past the small kitchen and thus once used more than in a time of microwave meals and dorm room refrigerators, was distinguished by the placement of large glass ashtrays on the metal railing, secured with epoxy. Each was filled with wormlike butts pushing out of the grey ash.

Mark and Adam enjoyed a smoke there, as did seventeen other students and one local resident that day. The smokes were the excuse, the location a good place for a quiet talk or deranged prank, or maybe urinating carelessly onto the cars below deep in the cover of night.

Hahriman hefted himself from the couch and went to his dorm room. It being 1993, email was something new, so he checked it. Then he went out to the lounge and looked to see if he got any mail. Nothing there. He went back to his room and called Girlfriend again. No answer. He had a good night's work of molbio, calculus and C++ programming ahead. Nothing to do but start. Maybe there was something on TV. His roommate had brought a small one back after his last visit home, but was never around, since his girlfriend was in another dorm. Joe's face was slack and his eyes focused straight ahead no matter in which direction he moved. It fucking sucked to have so much homework. He went out and talked to some people he knew vaguely from his freshman initiation group about the homework. "I can't wait to be out of here and to get a real job, so I have money and I don't have to live in the shitty dorms," his lab partner said. "You're right," said Joe. "There's nothing to do here. No clubs, not even really any big concerts come through."

At that moment, Adam and Mark, having split a cigarette with their friend Jenna and learned about an impromptu sidewalk fingerpainting contest down the block, walked by. "Those guys are so immature," said Suzanne. "Yep," said Joe. "This courtyard is boring," he said, throwing down his half-smoked cigarette, and closing the door after his two acquaintances. Behind him, the smoldering butt pushed down against the green leaves of a wild strawberry plant growing underneath a mimosa tree and two arching hibiscus. A moment later, the plant's resilient leaf rolled up and rose over the butt, which, destabilized, canted downward flaring into the damp mud.