Anyway, enjoy part 3 of "Gateway Drug."
I have surmised that another person lives here, but I do not know where that person is. My nose tells me it’s a male, and which room his, but I have yet to see or hear him. His smell is… interesting.
Corey returns while I’m still holding the glass of room-temperature water, imagining I can feel Brownian motion with my fingertips. I know immediately what I look like, standing in the semi-darkness, staring ahead at nothing. I have lost time again. The tasp has that effect sometimes.
She looks at me, and I realize that she was probably at work. That means what she is wearing now is probably what she wears to work—important because she is wearing jeans and a t-shirt. A place with a dress code that lax is less likely outright deny someone like me a job. I should ask her for a recommendation. She looks non-confrontational. Asking should work.
She says, “How was your day?”
I take a deep breath and focus on the full message I want to convey. It’s getting harder and harder to complete a thought aloud. Everything in my head is abbreviated. I follow lateral strands of thought like a bloodhound, but one that picks up a new trail each second. When I think I have the thought, I say, “It wasn’t bad.”
“Not bad is not bad.” She walks to the refrigerator and stands before the door. It is covered with magnets and menus. “I’m going to order Chinese. Want anything?”
“No. Thanks.” I shake my head for the sake of clarity. Though I am hungry, eating takes too much time. Each hit of the tasp only lasts for a finite amount of time. I must make use of every second by enjoying every second. I hardly have time to eat anymore. Then an image comes to mind: black and white wolf-boy found dead in his bedroom. Newspaper headline: Idiot Forgets To Eat. “Actually yes,” I add. “I would.” That does not make sense on its own. “Like to order Chinese food.” She’s probably just going to tell me to do it myself, but I won’t do it if I don’t do it now. “With you.”
She watches me for a moment, but instead of talking simply hands me a menu from the refrigerator. “Their shrimp fried rice is good,” she says. “But it’s hard to fuck up shrimp fried rice so I guess that’s not saying much.”
“No,” I agree. I stare at the menu, uncomprehending. My eyes keep falling out of focus. The menu needs to be redesigned to be catcher, to make you want to look. I shouldn’t have to work when I want to order food.
And it’s then, as I’m squinting at the menu, that a voice behind me whispers, “Helloooo,” and I feel a surge of adrenaline bursting through my extremities. I yell and drop the cup. The voice laughs, says, “Hey, hey. Chill man. Sorry for scaring you.”
When I see him, I stare. I know I do. I am trying to break the habit, but this is really too much to ask of anybody.
Standing before me is a creature that looks like it came from a dream crossed with a history lesson gone too far. He’s six-foot I bet, at least. Hunched over so I’m not sure. He has feathers where I have fur and Corey has skin. He’s some shade of dirty blue that reminds me of water back home, in the low dip of the east field when it was empty for rotation, reflecting the sky half covered with rain clouds, with mother calling out—
“You all right, dude?” The dinosaur’s snout is inches in front of mine. I smell his breath. It’s spicy, like some Asian noodles that I like. I blink it away.
“Yes. I am fine.” But he’s sorry for scaring me. “I am just jumpy.” I was actually spacing out, but I probably shouldn’t say so. “Apparently.”
“No worries.” The dinosaur looks from me to Corey, back and forth. “Introductions?”
Corey obliges. “Jamie,” she says, pointing first at me, then moving with a flourish to the dino, “this is Tamlin. Tamlin—” the arm comes back to me, “—Jamie.” I watch it complete its arc and then settle on the counter. I look up at her face, see her watching me.
The dino sticks out a clawed hand. “Nice to meet you. So you’re the guy, huh?”
I try to think of what guy he’s talking about. I cannot come up with anything. “What guy?” Then it hits me. “Oh. Yes, the room guy. I am.” The room guy sounds stupid. More accurately, “The new guy I mean. Nice to meet you.” We stand awkwardly for a moment, with him staring at me and Corey watching us both. Then I realize what is missing. I raise my hand and shake his. “Sorry,” I say.
“It’s cool, man. You finding cohesion with the place so far?”
“Yeah. It’s not bad.”
“You know what you want yet?” Corey taps the menu in my hands. I look down, just remembering it is there. “We were gonna order Chinese from Harry’s. You want anything?” I focus on the menu, trying to make the blurry shapes resolve themselves into words. They remain blurry.
Well, I don’t know what I was expecting from a user. Something a little less creepy, maybe. Tamlin shows up and says “hello” all creepy-like, and then the wolf dude just stares. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he wasn’t so damned big. He towered over me, was at least half a head taller than Tamlin, and he just stared for almost ten full seconds. When I finally got him back on track—I was really hungry—he just stared at the menu for so long I thought he’d forgotten how to read. Maybe he had. Eventually he just pointed at an item and handed it back to me.
I once introduced Tamlin to a friend of mine who was completely unprepared for the idea that I was rooming with a male—scandalous—but a male genie as well. I probably shouldn’t call them that, but the way I see it, once you do the drugs, you’re using with full knowledge of the consequences. You forfeit the right to have me feel sorry for you. Pity, maybe. Anyway, my friend about jumped out of his skin when Tamlin laid a claw on his shoulder. I suppose I was hoping for a similar reaction from our doped-up genie wolf, but the only thing that happened was he took that blank look that he wears everywhere and turned it on Tamlin until the raptor got uncomfortable. On some level, I had to admire the self-defense mechanism being employed, here. The tasp did its damage to the brain, and slowed reaction time was definitely a side-effect. But instead of being purely detrimental, Jamie had adapted it for a kind of self-defense. He stared down a raptor, and then was apparently fine with it. Case in point: two minutes later, he and that same raptor were talking, the raptor looking up at him with something akin to awe in his face.
By the time I was finished placing the order Jamie and Tamlin were leaning against the counter, both talking animatedly… well, Tamlin was animated. Jamie moved his head some more than I had seen him move it so far.