Instead of a tip of the week this week, I ramble a bit about Andy Weir’s book The Martian, and how I can’t decide if I like it or not. It’s a conundrum of epic proportions.
And now, this week’s critique of The Problematic Virtue:
Brian scribbled furiously as he committed his thoughts to paper, in his traditional study-technique of trying to recreate lecture notes from memory. With one final to go, he had a last chance to save his grade in Social Psychology. After his dismal performance on the mid-term, he needed a near-perfect score to pass the class.
“Hey baby, do you mind if I turn on some music?” Heather said.
Studying at her apartment had not been his idea, but Heather had insisted. “No, that’s fine, but no Sublime, please. Something chill so I don’t get distracted.”
Heather, wearing only a tank top and panties, crawled over him to reach the stereo on the end table behind the couch. She made sure that her breasts obstructed his view of his notebook as she slid in a CD, then returned to the couch and laid across his lap. “You should take a break,” she said, running her fingers up and down his thigh.
“I can’t, really.”
“Do you want me to do flash cards with you?” She tugged at the hem of her shirt. “I’m really good at flash cards. You should let me help you. I’ll take something off for every one you get right.” She giggled. “I won’t last very long.”
“Cut it out. I already flunked Algebra, and I’m going to flunk Psych if I don’t study my ass off.”
“You’re such a pessimist. You don’t know that you flunked Algebra,” she said.
“Maybe, maybe not. But I need to focus. I think I’m going to go back to the dorms,” Brian said.
Heather launched into pouty-face mode. “No, please don’t go. I’ll be good, I promise.” She scooted off his lap and moved to the opposite end of the couch.
Brian returned to scribbling, but he had reached the end of the last page of his notebook. “Do you have a notepad I can use?” he said.
“Yeah, I think in my bedroom. On the nightstand, or maybe in the drawer. I bought a whole pack of them at the beginning of the semester. There were like twelve in the pack, and I was sure that I wouldn’t use all of them, but now I think I have only one or two left. I guess I take a lot more notes than I thought. Kinda funny, right?”
Brian entered her bedroom but found no pad on the nightstand, so he opened the drawer. On top of the pile of clutter lay a box of condoms, except they were a different brand than those he and Heather used. Brian picked up the box. Flavored condoms, pack of three. Brian opened the box, turned it upside down and only two condoms fell out.
Brian stuffed the strawberry condoms back into the box and returned to the living room. Heather was facing away from him, hunched over the coffee table. He held up the box and cleared his throat. “I thought we were done with this,” he said.
She turned, and put a hand over her mouth. “Oh, shit,” she said.
“That’s all you have to say? After all the talks we had about how we were going to be exclusive and how things were going to be different, and now you’re doing this?”
An image of the attractive tattooed girl from Miguel’s party flashed in Brian’s mind. That was just a fantasy. I never even talked to that girl.
“Baby, no, no, no. It’s not what you think. I was just…” Heather trailed off.
“You were just what?”
Heather climbed over the back of the couch, and now Brian could see why she had hunched over the coffee table. On a CD case, Heather had laid out four lines of fine white powder.
Brian thrust a finger at the powder. “And now you’re doing that? Is that why you sent me into the other room, so you could do rails in secret, like I wouldn’t know?”
“I just needed a little boost. I have finals too, you know. This is so like you, to make a big deal out of a little coke.”
“Maybe this is a good thing,” he said. “Honestly, I’m tired of spending my weekends holding your hair back while you puke into random toilets or clothes hampers. Or finding you a damn tissue whenever you get a nosebleed.”
“What do you mean, it’s ‘a good thing’?”
“I want you to be happy. I want to you to go out, have fun, and do what you want. I don’t want you to have to hide things from me like I’m your parole officer that you have to check in with. We should be able to talk to each other, not live like everything is a big secret.”
Heather started to cry. “Brian, what are you saying?”
“This isn’t working out anymore. It hasn’t for a while and this proves it. I mean, come on, Heather, we’re a mess for each other. It’s not right.”
Heather fell back into the couch. “You high-and-mighty asshole,” she said.
“Okay, I think I should go,” he said.
“What about him? Are you going to yell at him too?”
Brian’s voice became shaky. “Why do you say ‘him’, like I should know who it is?”
Heather walked to her recliner, and picked up her sweatpants. She faced away from Brian and hummed to herself while she slid each leg into her sweats.
“Who did you sleep with? Is it someone I know? You can tell me or I can find out from somebody else. Did you sleep with a friend of mine?”
“It’s all his fault,” she said. “I was at a party, and he showed up and was all suave, and convinced me to come back here. You know how I get when I drink, everything sounds like a good idea to me. I didn’t want to, Brian, but I was drunk and he practically raped me. Not my fault.”
“Who was it?”
“Alex, okay, are you happy now? Your little pet project Alex.”
Brian dropped the box of condoms and narrowed his eyes. Most of what came out of Heather’s mouth was untrue these days. “He raped you, did he?”
“Well, not exactly,” Heather said, crossing her arms. “But it wasn’t my idea. I knew it was bad and I knew you’d be upset but I did it anyway because I wasn’t thinking clearly and I’m sorry and I know I fucked up and please forgive me because I can’t lose you.”
“Wasn’t your idea. I find that hard to believe.”
“You don’t believe me?” she said.
“He’s eighteen years old,” he said.
“And I’m twenty-one, so what?”
At eighteen, Brian would have relished the chance to sleep with an older girl, especially one so attractive. “He’s barely out of high school. You should have known better.”
“You can just… forgive him, but not me? What kind of warped shit-logic is that? All I did was have sex with him, baby, it didn’t mean anything. You and me, that’s what’s important.”
“I’m sorry that it didn’t mean anything,” he said. “I want to you to have fun and do whatever you want. I want that for you. But me, I can’t be with someone who’s dishonest with me. I need to be with someone I can trust; someone who’s not going to cheat on me.”