Seis de Mayo

I devised my Mississippi itinerary under the influence of a wicked hangover.  My newfound transience—acquired just minutes before via a phone call from the landlord whose convertible I defouled the night before—required a change in scenery.

‘What are we going to do?’ Marty said, wringing his hands as he paced across the front porch.  He looked up at the house that had witnessed so much debauchery, the house we could no longer call our own.  He winced at the sight and began to tear at his brown hair with frantic hands.  The man without a plan, Marty was always in need of guidance.

‘Don’t worry, don’t worry,’ Monty said, lounging in a lawn chair.  ‘We’ll talk to Shylock.  I’ll talk to him.  No problem.  Shylock loves me.  Loves me!’

Monty was the leader, inferior to Marty in Ultimate Frisbee but more decisive in life and better at holding his liquor.  Monty had marketed the previous night’s party, which had culminated with our minutes-old eviction.

‘Something tells me we won’t be able to talk him out of it this time,’ I said.  This time had been preceded by at least three time-befores.  Nothing this serious, but enough to give Shylock grounds for terminating the lease.  We were the tenants from hell.

‘Calvert, Calvert,’ Monty said.  ‘Always the pessimist.’

‘Look, we’ll be lucky if we just lose the house.  The man wants our hides.’

‘C’mon, Calvert.  Don’t you believe that I can be diplomatic?’  I didn’t answer.  Monty was as diplomatic as a shoehorn.  At times he was quite charming, but Monty was not the man you sent to remedy the rift with the landlord.  Narcissistic, ultra-competitive, and fascinated by the medical uses of marijuana, Monty was better suited as the captain of an intramural volleyball team.  He’d grown up in San Bernardino, within biking distance of the first ever McDonald’s.  The Hamburglar had been Monty’s childhood idol.

Marty, his counterpart, was just as incapable.  Quiet and diminutive (‘five-foot seven and a half,’ he’d say, emphasizing the half), Marty was Monty’s official sidekick.  (In Marty’s estimation, it was Monty who did the side-kicking.)  My spare friend was born and raised in Carson City, but he’d never been tall enough to operate the slots—not without a stool.  This experience had forever scarred the fragile Marty, and as a result he would now nut-up to any pharmaceutical challenge in an attempt to prove he was tougher than he looked.

And then there was Jackson Calvert.  I was the apathetic hanger-on, the man-behind-the-scenes, as Monty liked to call me.  Sure, I could talk to Shylock.  I’d done it the past three times.  I could explain and joke my way out of anything—one of my more positive attributes.

I didn’t puke all over the inside of your Corvette, Shylock.  Honest.  Or if I did, I didn’t mean to.  And Monty is curbing his drinking lately.  And Marty didn’t round the bases with your daughter.  And the check is in the mail.

I saw Monty’s eyes on me, reading my thoughts.  Two years living together and you get to know people pretty well.  Their worries and hopes fill the room like the smell of day-old beer.

‘So what you wanna do, Calvert?’  Monty said.

‘I’m dropping out,’ I said.  ‘Fuck it.’

Fuck it. It was my credo by now.  Six years and counting of fuck-it. I wasn’t anywhere close to graduating.  I’d hardly opened a book since moving in with Cheech and Chong.  In the supermarket line I would gloss over the tabloid headlines and marvel that I still remembered how to read.  Add to that my impending poverty: the college money Mom tucked away was long gone, along with most of what she took in after selling the house.  At tops, I could afford one more quarter of tuition, which wasn’t enough to graduate, even if I overachieved.  For all other expenses I was living paycheck-to-paycheck.  I had no possessions worth mentioning—nothing to sell save two tattered couches and my mother’s ’92 Chrysler LeBaron, which had about five-thousand miles left on the current engine.  There were plenty of people around worth staying for but that was the worst part of it.  The looks people gave me—oh yeah, that guy, the fifth-year senior with the crazy stoner roommates….

Not that I care much about my reputation but it’s hard to attend to the daily matters of life when everyone believes you incapable of pragmatic thought.  I couldn’t get anything done anymore, not with SLACKER branded on my forehead.  Dropping out was the easiest way to deal.  And though I didn’t mention it that hazy morning, dropping out served a purpose.  My father had called the week before, his paranoia hinting at some dark secret awaiting him in his home town.  For the first time since starting at State I felt a burning intellectual curiosity.

Marty and Monty were laughing now.

‘Bullshit you’re dropping out,’ Monty said.

‘Haven’t you already dropped out like fifteen times?’ Marty said.

‘Sure,’ I said.  ‘I’m an expert by now.’

‘What are you gonna do after you drop out?’ Marty quipped.

‘I don’t know.’  I said it, but I knew exactly what I was going to do.  I was going to Poscataw County. Mississippi promised answers.

So I quit.  I quit on San Jose, on California.  On Monty and Marty and my mother, and on Helen, too, because right then I quit on everyone but me.  Quitting was the only recourse that made any sense from under the haze of a Cinco de Mayo hangover.

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