3: “There’s no way you care that much about Free Willy

Dylan was finally getting his undergraduate degree. It had taken him an inordinately long time to finally decide to go back to school and actually finish this time around. He was the only twenty-five year old in their second year. Everybody else was just freshly twenty. Some were even nineteen. Alexis, the girl who sat next to Dylan in his Shakespeare lecture every day, was turning twenty and she was very, very excited about it. He knew this because she brought it up every single class leading up to the weekend of her birthday for three weeks. And then, on the Friday of her party, she finally invited him to come. Dylan got the impression that was what it had all been leading toward the entire time. He also got the impression that she may have wanted him to come to his own conclusion, maybe ask to attend, but that hadn’t happened, largely because he didn’t want to attend.

The party was to be held at the house she shared with four of her twenty year old friends. Then the whole party was going to go out downtown. Alexis had bought a new dress for the occasion, as she had told Dylan several times. It was, as she described it, shorter than what she’d normally go for and also covered in gold glitter. It sounded to Dylan like the kind of dress Eastern European escorts wore on dates with wealthy political officials. She told him he could bring whatever friends he wanted to. He wondered if she knew how old he was or if it even bothered her if she did. He sensed that she was interested in him, but as he felt she was very young, it seemed unlikely that anything would ever happen between them. Besides, he didn’t think that they had anything in common. She bought glittery dresses for instance and he had owned the same pair of jeans for six years. They had a hole in the knee which had now unfortunately aligned itself with fashion trends. Some girl on the bus told him he had cute pants earlier that very day and he’d hated every second of it.

In the end, Dylan agreed to go, though only because Alexis extended the invitation another five times throughout the lecture and he really just needed to focus on what their professor was saying. Dr. Minicros was approximately a trillion years old and she looked like a turtle. From a distance, it appeared as though she had her life together, but as Dylan had learned when he’d gone to her office hours, she fared significantly worse up close. For one thing, her bright red lipstick looked as though it had been applied with a very shaky hand. She was talking about Othello, which Dylan hadn’t had the chance to read and he needed to pay close attention so that he wouldn’t have to.

He managed to convince his roommates Godfrey and Luke to come to the party with him. Luke was incredibly displeased about it though, sentiments he made very clear by complaining at every possible opportunity. Godfrey, on the other, was amiable and always up for a good time. Plus, he was in a rare single phase of his life, which meant that he would be looking for his next serious girlfriend to fill the void. Dylan hoped to God he didn’t find her at a party full of twenty year old co-eds.

“We are so old,” Luke grumbled for about the tenth time as the three of them sat on the street car on their way to Alexis’ shared house.

“So you’ve said,” Dylan replied, rolling his eyes. “Eight billion times.”

“These children will have been born in 1997,” Luke continued bitterly, continuing to repeat things he’d said several times over. “They won’t even remember Y2K. Free Willy is older than these children.”

“I don’t think so,” Dylan returned, thinking it over.

“It is,” Luke retorted adamantly.

“How could you possibly know the release date of Free Willy?” Godfrey interjected. “There’s no way you care that much about Free Willy.”

“It was released in 1993,” Luke told them, managing to sound both smug and put-upon, like he was annoyed that he knew that. Godfrey googled it on his phone and amazingly Luke ended up being right.

“How the hell do you care that much about Free Willy?” Dylan asked, stunned.

“You’re a complex man, Luke Bell,” Godfrey said, patting Luke on the head. He hated that.

Alexis’ birthday party was in full swing by the time they showed up at her house. Dylan had made sure that they would be more than fashionably late, lest they be the first to arrive, God forbid. Alexis was unreasonably excited to see him. He introduced her to his friends and she did the same, but he promptly forgot every single name she listed to him. In his defense, he only had two friends with him and she appeared to have forty with her. He wondered how all of them were supposedly going to make it into the same club. It seemed like they’d be breaking some kind of fire code.

“I hate this,” Luke told Dylan after thirty minutes. Godfrey had already made friends, which was typical.

“I know,” Dylan replied. “I can tell. You’re literally not hiding that at all. You’ve never looked so displeased in your life. I didn’t actually think it was possible for you to express so much hatred with just your eyebrows.”

Luke turned his impressive glare to Dylan instead.

“I hate you,” he growled.

“Yeah, I know that too, buddy,” Dylan said, patting him on the head as Godfrey had done on the bus.

Things really took a turn when they were at the club later into the evening. For one thing, several of Alexis’ friends were in hysterical tears. Dylan had no idea why that was. He had been standing by the bar with Luke for a large portion of the night, trying to avoid almost everyone there, even strangers. But then Alexis had come over and asked him to dance with her. He said initially declined, but then she too looked close to tears and he figured that was too cruel on her birthday so he agreed. He tried to make Luke come with him, literally grabbing the front of his shirt, but Luke ducked and let Dylan pull it over his head so that he was only wearing the plain white t-shirt he had on underneath his sweater. Dylan went to the dance floor holding onto Luke’s shirt.

It was fine for a bit. He danced half-heartedly with Alexis for a couple songs, holding onto Luke’s shirt and willing time to move faster so that he could go back to the bar or conceivably leave entirely. But then Alexis started shimmying closer and closer to him, putting her hands on his chest. He could sense it was going to end very poorly. He inched backward, she moved forward. She started moving closer more aggressively and he literally pushed people away behind him so that he could move further away from her. And then she finally reached up to wrap her arms around his neck, her gold glittery dress lifting up on her legs. She put her face toward his and he dodged it, threw his arms around her and gave an overzealous bear hug.

“Happy birthday!” He shouted excitedly, eliciting excitable cheering from all her drunk friends. Then he pulled away and hurried off toward Luke again. He threw his shirt in his face.

“Alright, let’s go,” Dylan said. “Where’s Godfrey?”

“I don’t know,” Luke shrugged, pulling his sweater back on over his head. “He went outside like twenty minutes ago with some of your stupidly young friend’s stupidly young friends.”

Dylan rolled his eyes, but led the way out of the club and onto the sidewalk outside. He scanned the nearby areas for any signs of Godfrey. Eventually, he and Luke split up and began walking around the vicinity to expand their search. Dylan was peering at the vacant faces of some spectacularly inebriated people smoking next to an enormous planter a few buildings over when Luke caught up to him again.

“Godfrey’s met a girl in the line for the hot dog cart,” he said, jerking his head in the direction of the street meat cart up the road. “He’s drunk enough that he’ll be contemplating asking her to move in by the morning. We have to put a stop to it because the last girl he did this with left a trail of lip balms everywhere she went. I was stepping on chapsticks like four weeks after she’d gone for good.”

He had a point. Dylan did not have overly fond memories of Lucy Lip Balm. They made their way to the hot dog cart and literally dragged Godfrey away. They pushed him in the opposite direction and started the long trek back to their shared apartment. No one said anything for a long time, no doubt reflecting on the evening. Dylan felt certain he would never be attending one of Alexis’ parties again. He also felt certain that Luke sure as hell would not be.

“Hey, Luke?” Godfrey said, breaking the silence. “Do you know when Free Willy 2 was released?”

“1995,” Luke grumbled darkly in response. There was yet another moment of silence as Godfrey opened his phone, presumably checking to see if Luke was in fact correct.

“Fuck,” Godfrey breathed eventually, sounding awed, so Dylan assumed it was correct.


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