Debbie herded Amy off to the library and Owen returned to his own dorm. When he walked into his room the curtains were drawn across the window and the room was dark. The air was thick and humid and it smelled of breath and sweat and the recent secret movement of bodies. Owen switched on his desk lamp and in the dim light he could see two pairs of feet entwined in the jumbled blankets of his roommate’s bed. In the bed lay Owen’s roommate and a girl. She was not the roommate’s girlfriend. Owen could see the girl’s naked back, and her long bare legs. The blankets bunched loosely across her butt, giving her at least that small privacy. The roommate and the girl were dead asleep.
Owen pulled his books out of his backpack and held them high above his empty desk and then let them go. They hit the desk top like a rifle shot. The feet in the bed flinched and then the roommate and the girl writhed and groaned and stretched themselves awake.
“Roomie,” the roommate said to Owen.
“I’m home,” Owen said.
“I see that,” the roommate said. He looked at the girl; she was lying comfortably next to him, putting her fingers through his unkempt hair. The roommate slid his hands under the covers and groped her and she giggled and he rolled on top of her. Owen turned away from the roommate’s naked backside. The girl whispered something to the roommate who rolled to his feet and pulled on his jeans.
“Yeah, we should go somewhere. I’m starved. Here’s your clothes,” the roommate said and tossed a wad of clothes to the girl in his bed.
Owen sat at his desk looking into an opened physics text book and he waited for the roommate and the girl to finish dressing.
“We’re going to eat or something,” the roommate said. “You never saw me.” He and the girl brushed past his desk and out the door. Owen heard the girl laugh as the door shut behind them and then the muffled sound of their voices receding down the hallway and then nothing. He got up from his desk and opened the window. Fresh cool air flooded in and cleaned the air inside the room.
Owen was at his desk reading later that evening when he heard a knock on his door. He got up and opened the door. In the hallway stood his roommate’s girlfriend Kim. She was a short, dark-haired girl with a round face and eyes like a tortured kitten. She wore a long t-shirt that covered her almost to her knees, but her legs were bare and on her feet she wore a pair of pink fuzzy slippers.
“Is he here?” She asked. She wrung her hands nervously in front of her.
“I haven’t seen him,” Owen said.
Kim stood in the hallway and looked down at her pink slippers. She looked down the hall for a moment as though she was expecting the roommate to appear at that instant. Then she looked past Owen into the empty room.
“Can I sleep here again?” she asked.
Owen backed out of the doorway so she could come in. “If you want,” he said. “Come on in. I’m just reading.”
“OK, thanks, Owen,” Kim said. “I’ll be real quiet.” Kim scuffed her slippered feet past him and went to the roommate’s bed. She pulled back the rumpled covers, kicked off her slippers and climbed in and pulled the blankets over her body. She curled into a fetal ball and lay quietly facing the wall. Owen went back to his desk and began reading again. It had been half an hour when there was another knock at the door. This time when Owen looked into the hallway he found The Bishop standing before him with a violin in his hand.
The Bishop was Dan Bishop. He lived down the hall from Owen and he was known on the floor to be full of advice for everyone on every topic. All of the advice was bad advice. The Bishop had no experience with anything he weighed in on, but that never stopped him. He was especially forthcoming with advice on women and people humored him, but no one took him seriously since all of his supposed girlfriends went to other universities or lived, unverifiably, in Canada.
“I gotta come in,” he said and he didn’t wait for Owen to agree. He simply stepped forward and turned his wiry frame and slipped past Owen. He crossed the room and sat down on the windowsill, his back against the glass. “You have to listen to this for me,” he said and he lifted the violin to his chin and began playing. He wasn’t bad, but it was late and the squeal of the strings shredded the delicate quiet.
Owen waved his hands at The Bishop and Kim sat up in the roommate’s bed.
The Bishop stopped his bow and looked apologetically at Kim. “Hey, Kim. Sorry. I didn’t know you were here. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“I wasn’t sleeping,” Kim said. “Just waiting for him.”
“Yeah. I haven’t seen him,” The Bishop said. “Owen, I just wanted to talk to you. I might have met someone.”
“You’ve been to Canada today?” Said Owen.
Kim laughed out loud and The Bishop raised a middle finger at both of them.
“I’ve been to the student union, asshole. She was in the coffee shop and I actually went up and talked to her. She’s a music major and I told her I played the violin. She was interested. I’m going to write her something. A song.”
“On the violin?” Owen said.
“Why not on the violin? I’m good. You’ve heard me play.”
“Yes. I didn’t say you were bad. I just don’t know how many great seductions have started with a violin.”
“I think it’s sweet,” Kim said from the bed.
“There you go,” said The Bishop. “Thank you, Kim. You are very wise.”
“She’s a girl,” Owen said.
“Meaning what?” Kim said.
“Meaning just – If something sounds romantic you guys love it no matter how corny the idea is. If he walked up to you and started playing the violin, I guarantee you wouldn’t go home with him,” Owen said.
“If I liked the violin, I might,” Kim said. “I would appreciate that he did something for me. That he knew what I liked and did it for me.”
“You’re very encouraging, Kim,” said The Bishop hopping down from the window sill. “I’m going to work on this. I’m going to do this.” The Bishop opened the door. “Thanks again, Kim. Fuck you very much, Owen.”
When the door closed, Owen looked back at Kim. She sat in the center of the bed, swaddled in the soiled sheets.
“You can’t encourage him,” Owen said to her. “He’s going to make a fool of himself.”
“What’s wrong with romantic?” Kim said. “You should appreciate that. Of all people.”
“What does that mean?” Owen asked.
“Oh, come on, Owen,” Kim said. “You’re just like him.”
“What does that even mean?”
“It means you guys would both rather fall in love than get laid.” Kim lay down in the bed again and rolled again to face the wall. “Believe me,” she said from the shadows, her voice muffled by the pillow, “it’s a good thing.”
…chapter 4 next week