The following is an excerpt from a book about the year I lived with college students at 23 schools across the USA. Each chapter tells the true story of one week in the life of a random college student at one of the nation’s most interesting colleges. This chapter tells the story of Randy, a heavy-drinking fraternity member who tries to work up the courage to talk to “Dream Girl,” a beautiful sorority girl he sees every time he goes to the bar.

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Chapter 4: Auburn University (excerpt)

“Put on something fratty,” said Randy. His breath smelled of alcohol and he was in some sort of hurry. “We’re going to the bars.”

“Is this not fratty?” I asked. I was wearing a red sweater, dark jeans, and loafers.

He eyed my outfit, presumably thinking ‘no’ but then said, “Ok, that’s fine, just wear that.”

Randy was meeting me at my car, which I parked somewhere near downtown Auburn so that I could join him at the bars. My drive from Oklahoma to Alabama took 14 hours, and I had only stopped for a couple short naps in the back of my car. But I was there to write about Randy, so I wouldn’t be able to sleep just yet. He led the way to the bars, so eager to arrive that his walk was almost a jog.

“Drink specials end in an hour, so we need to get there quick,” he said. “You get these huge mixed drinks for $2 until 9pm.”

“You’ve already had a few?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’ve had a few. I had to leave the bar so I could come find you.”

As we walked into the nightlife part of town, Randy pointed out each bar—the freshman bar, the GDI bar, the country dancing bar, and then, finally, his bar, called 17/16 and named after the score of a classic Auburn vs. Alabama football game.

“This is my bar,” he said. “Don’t say anything weird, ok? Just be cool.”

“Yeah, ok, I plan to try,” I said.

He realized his rudeness and waved off the thought with his hand. “Yeah yeah yeah yeah, no, you’ll be good. You’re good.”

I hadn’t been nervous about meeting Randy’s friends until Randy told me not to say anything weird. Now I was nervous. The first impression I made as the strange visitor was extremely important for what kind of week it would be, whether or not I would be invited to things, and whether or not anybody would tell me anything interesting. (I also just wanted to be liked.)

Inside 17/16, Randy and I each ordered three of the big mixed drinks so we could enjoy the cheaper prices before drink specials ended, then we carried them wedged in our hands outside to a table of Randy’s fraternity brothers sitting on the patio. On Tuesday nights, Randy and some of his fraternity brothers come to the bar for drink specials before their chapter meeting. They were all wearing white-wash jeans and cowboy boots. There was loud country music playing, and the guys all had their stockpiles of drinks in front of them at the table. I shook hands with each of them briefly, then Randy and I pulled up chairs.

The guys started asking me about my book, and I gave them the usual answers. 

“So, do you just watch what goes on, or do you get to party?” someone asked me.

His phrasing was funny—do I ‘get’ to party?

“I pretty much do whatever Randy does,” I told him. By this point in the trip, I had given up my plan to be an objective observer.

“You’re gonna try to keep up with me, huh?” Randy said. “You better get drinkin’ then.” He raised one of his big styrofoam cups in a ritualistic “ready to drink?” gesture. I picked mine up and matched him as he gulped down about half of its contents.

“Good luck writin’ about Randy, he’s a real shithead,” one guy said.

“Oh, get that shit out of here!” Randy snapped back.

“Fuck you, Mississippi bitch!”

“Oh, fuck you, Tennessee!”

The guys started insulting each other, the verbal equivalent of roughhousing. That took the attention off of me, so I sat back and watched as a spectator of their pastime as I tried to finish the three massive mixed drinks. There was a brief conversation about whether the actives were abusing the pledges that semester, but mostly they stuck to insulting each other’s home states. It was quickly apparent that my host Randy was the runt of the group—the lovable one who nevertheless gets picked on the most.

A little later, Randy’s fraternity brothers left the bar to go to their chapter meeting. Randy was going to skip it that week because I wouldn’t be allowed in. After we finished our three drinks, we each ordered two more, then sat side by side on the back patio. For me, this was an incredible amount of alcohol, especially on an empty stomach.

“I am fucked up,” Randy said.

“Me too,” I said.

“You didn’t do too bad back there.”

“What do you mean?”

“You weren’t weird. I was worried you’d be weird.”

“Thanks, I’ve had a few weeks now to warm up. Also, drink specials help.”

“Good, good. Hey, I’m gonna tell you something, ok?”

“Go for it.”

He turned to face me and opened his eyes wide with a sudden drunken seriousness. “My goal for the end of this week is for you to be able to say my name and be proud of it.”

I matched his seriousness and looked back in his eyes.

“Ok?” he asked. 

“Ok,” I said.

We left the patio and went back inside the bar. As we entered, Randy scanned the room as he had many times before. He was looking for a girl, one girl, his girl. And there she was. He turned to me over his shoulder.

“My girl is here,” he said. “Keep walking, don’t look.” Randy sat on a stool at the bar and I joined. “If you nag me, I might go talk to her.”

“Your girl?” I asked.

“Don’t look,” he said again. “She’s across from us right now. She’s kind of my dream girl.”

17/16 had a wraparound bar. The bartenders were in the middle of the bar and the patrons sat around it facing inward. I looked across the bar to a group of girls facing our direction from the opposite side.

“Which one?” I asked.

“She’s blonde. It should be obvious.”

“In the red dress?”

“Yes. Stop looking.”

“Dream Girl, huh?”

“Yeah, I mean, whatever you call it.” Randy nodded along to the country music as he pivoted his head toward Dream Girl, trying to appear innocuous, until his eyes reached her. He let them linger for a moment, then turned back to me and said through his teeth, “Goddamn.” To Randy, she was ethereal, so beautiful and alluring that she could have only been conceived in his dreams.

“I have a confession,” he said. “I’ve never talked to her.”

“What? Go right now.”

“No way. I am way too fucked up.”

“You don’t seem it.”

“I am fucking smashed.”

“Does Dream Girl know you exist?” I asked.

“She has to,” Randy said. “We always make eyes across the bar. We’re always here on the same nights. She must know who I am.”

“So go talk to her. You told me to nag you.”

“Dude, I am so fucked up. You gotta understand.”

“You have to at least talk to her before I leave, ok?”

“Fine.”

We ordered more drinks. Then as the bar filled up with more people, we lost each other for the rest of the night. Randy’s phone died, so I couldn’t contact him, and I forgot where I parked my car. I hadn’t been to Randy’s apartment yet, so I had no idea where to go or what to do. I was also a lot more drunk than it was responsible to be. I did a lot of humiliating things over the next couple of hours, the last of which was lying down to sleep in an alleyway. That lasted until a guy who was taking out the trash told me that I couldn’t stay there. Desperate, I started making phone calls and was able to reach an acquaintance from high school who went to Auburn. My call woke her up in the middle of the night. She said I could sleep on her couch, so I took Auburn’s student bus there and went to sleep right away. (Thanks again, Erica.) 

In the morning I called Randy, and this time he answered.

“I got fucking blitzed last night,” Randy said. “Where the hell did you go?”

I told him the whole story.

“Damn,” he said, “on your first night in town. We’ll see if we can’t beat that tonight.”

The good thing about being a 20-year-old and embarrassing yourself by drinking too much is that it’s usually a badge of honor instead of a source of shame. When Randy picked me up at Erica’s apartment, he looked at me with an odd sense of pride. He was proud of me for getting that drunk, and he was proud of himself for facilitating it.

Now we were on the way to Randy’s accounting class. When we arrived, we were late and had to walk across the front of the room and interrupt class before sitting down. Randy was wearing sweatpants and flip-flops; I was still wearing the red sweater and loafers from the previous night. The professor smiled, as if to say, “Oh, you boys.”

After we took our seats, Randy turned to me and said, “She can’t say a damn thing—I just got a 96 on her test.”

He turned to his friend on his other side. “Chad. What are you doing for spring break?”

Chad didn’t answer and kept listening to the professor.

“Chad! What are you doing for spring break?” Randy repeated.

“Randy,” Chad whispered. “Dude, she’s teaching. She’s literally talking to us right now.”

“Oh, right,” Randy said. He turned to me, laughed, and shrugged.

* * *

One of Randy’s roommates and fraternity brothers, Nick, had just been released from the hospital. Three days earlier, his esophagus had randomly constricted and blocked his air flow, nearly killing him. Randy and I waited for him to pick us up so we could get margaritas with more of Randy’s fraternity brothers before a party.

“Hop in, man!” Nick yelled over the loud rap music.

Randy asked him about his throat. They hadn’t seen each other since the incident.

“It was scary, man,” said Nick while driving, “but I got some awesome pain killers out of it! I’m supposed to take one but I just took four! Feels crazy, man! And I ripped my bong too before I left!”

Randy grinned back at me from the front seat, knowing I’d be nervous to ride with an intoxicated driver.

“Hey, does this truck have seatbelts?” I yelled over the music.

“Nah, man!” said Nick. “Alabama doesn’t have a seatbelt law for the back seat!”

“Interesting!” I said, clutching the door.

We sped through winding roads, bouncing and rattling as the driver’s drugs kicked in. He must have been sober enough, though, because we made it to the restaurant without an accident. Inside we joined a long table of Randy’s fraternity brothers who were eating chips and drinking margaritas. On the far ends of the table were the pledges—younger guys undergoing the process of initiation into the fraternity. During pledgeship, a pledge must remain sober, aside from when he’s being hazed, so that he is always available to drive active members from place to place. These pledges were only there because they had given the actives rides, so now they had to sit on the edges of the table as subordinates until the actives were finished eating. Throughout the meal, the pledges were timid about dipping their chips into the queso if an active’s hand was anywhere near the vicinity of the bowl. It was currently spring semester, which meant that there was a small pledge class—eight guys compared to the usual 40 in the fall. This meant that eight pledges had to do the same workload of pledge rides as 40 pledges. The pledge next to me at the table was jumpy, even around me, monitoring my chip-dipping to make sure he didn’t encroach on my territory by trying to dip his chip at the same time—and all this because I had arrived with an active member.

Randy, who was 20 years old, had lost his fake ID a few weeks earlier on a trip to Atlanta. During margaritas, Randy convinced a pledge to let him borrow his fake ID until he could get a new one. The pledge was upset, because that meant he couldn’t go to the bars himself, but he had no choice.

After margaritas, a pledge dropped us off at a fraternity brother’s apartment to keep drinking. At the apartment we drank whiskey and became fairly drunk. Our plan was to go to a house party hosted by the freshmen in Randy’s fraternity, then go to the bars. As we drank the whiskey, I noticed that there was a huge shift in Randy’s behavior when he started to drink, more of a shift than normal people. During the day when he was sober, he was kind of lethargic—he’d wear sweatpants, have messy hair, and would keep a bit of an unamused air about him. Then when he started to drink, he’d get a twinkle in his eye, a spark of vitality and optimism. I don’t think it was just the alcohol though, but also what the alcohol symbolized, which was that nighttime was beginning.

Nighttime was the best part of Randy’s day, perhaps the only good part. He worked 25 hours a week stocking vegetables at a grocery store and did all of his studying alone in his bedroom. A lot of his peers studied in groups at the library and made their studying into a social activity, but Randy always studied alone. His typical day began with a commute to a few accounting classes, followed by five or six hours at the grocery store, then followed by a few hours studying from an accounting textbook in his room. At that point it was either time to get ready for bed or to start drinking. If it was an off night, which meant that his friends weren’t doing anything, he’d spend the evening alone or with his roommates in his usual lethargic state. But if it was an on night, he would have dreamt about it all day—during class, work, and while he studied—and then when nighttime finally came, he’d give it his full dedication.

“I hope these fuckers have something fun,” said Randy. “I’m about to get blitzed.” On the way out the door of the apartment, he took two cold beers and shoved one into the front of each cowboy boot, then he took a third beer and put it in his pants pocket.

We took off to the party, about eight of us down the sidewalk. Randy’s pace was quick, like when I first met him. The pledge who sat next to me earlier was still with us. He spoke to me when we were separate from the group.

“I know it’s hard and it’s gonna get harder, but I’m not gonna drop,” he said about pledgeship.

“Why do you want to join?” I asked.

“I don’t really know.”

“I’m not from here, so I don’t know what the point is of joining,” I said, acting dumb. “What’s the appeal of a fraternity?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really get it either.”

We could hear music from the party before we reached the apartment. Before going inside, Randy and his friends went to the side yard and pissed shoulder-to-shoulder into some bushes. Only the pledge and I didn’t join in. (For some reason, guys from the same fraternity often ritualistically piss in front of each other; I don’t know why, but I have a few guesses.) I followed Randy inside the apartment. The walls were covered in Christmas lights, which illuminated many dozens of students packed into the apartment and spilling outside into a courtyard area. Randy’s group agreed that it looked like the freshmen had thrown an impressively good party. We passed by a keg and a few big thermoses of punch, but we didn’t need new drinks yet. As I scanned the faces of the students, I began to understand at least one reason why that pledge didn’t want to drop out: among the faces in the crowd were a large number of good-looking girls smiling at us as we walked by. At a bar you’re always arriving as another anonymous face, and you have to charm a girl from scratch if you want her to be interested in you. Here it felt different, almost like the girls were already halfway charmed.

(For the record, I have a plain face and a large, curved nose; for a girl to be attracted to me, I really have to earn it—perhaps with a rare burst of charisma or a well-timed display of talent. But here, since the girls mistook me for a member of Randy’s fraternity, it was as if I had already earned it. Girls would make eye contact with me then give a warm, inviting smile. Such smiles were foreign to me, and I didn’t know what to do about them.)

I followed Randy to the courtyard behind the house and then up a ladder leaning onto the rooftop. There were some students on the roof already, but Randy and I sat alone. We had arrived too mellow for the party, according to Randy, so he wanted to drink more to catch up. We lay back on the roof with our heads to the sky, drinking without conversation. From below us, the party noises blurred and wrapped us with the sensation of being in the center of everything. We were in the right place and could finally relax. After a few more beers, Randy pushed his hair to the side and wiped the beer suds off his lips.

“Something about the rooftop, man,” he sighed. “It’s gonna be one of those nights.”

I agreed with Randy, thinking that by “one of those nights,” Randy was referring to the peaceful, relaxed, contented feeling that we were experiencing on the rooftop. But no, Randy had something entirely different in mind.

I had no reason to expect what Randy did next. When we climbed down from the rooftop, he headed inside to the big thermos of punch and told me he needed help because he planned to chug the rest of it. I agreed. We unscrewed the top and lifted the thermos up to his head. He put his mouth on the rim then started to tilt back the jug. As Randy began to chug, shouts of “CHUG!” and “OH, SHIT!” could be heard throughout the room, and this encouragement led Randy to tilt faster and faster. The punch began spilling down his neck and onto his shirt, and as the jug got more vertical, more students turned to watch, so as the noise crescendoed, Randy lifted the jug up and away from his mouth so that the last remaining contents poured down all over him, soaking his hair, face, and shirt just as the cheering reached max volume. Across the room, girls’ eyes were beaming—if not with romantic interest, then with sheer amusement—although Randy acted nonchalant afterward by never acknowledging the crowd, instead turning his back to them to deny that his act was in any way a performance. It had been a huge success.

“I am fucked up,” Randy told me with another intense stare. When Randy told you that he was drunk, it was always with life-or-death intensity.

“I am fucked up too,” I said, trying to mirror him.

“I didn’t think you’d be such a shithead.”

“I knew you’d be a shithead.”

Randy smiled and said, “Fuck you.” I took this as a sign of affection.

Then Randy disappeared into the crowd, leaving me alone. I didn’t really know what to do now that I was by myself. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to just stand alone for a minute, to maybe make eye contact with a guy or girl, give a friendly smile, make a small comment about something trivial, then perhaps get into a longer conversation or perhaps not. Instead I’d start to feel anxious about the fact that I was doing nothing, and I’d rush to get involved in something new. Parties were hard work.

One of my go-to maneuvers during these situations was to play wingman. Playing wingman is a great way to stay busy at a party, to do something useful that your friends will appreciate you for, and to talk to girls without having your own ego at risk.

I went to some cute girls and yelled, “Holy shit! Did you see the guy who chugged that punch? Who was that?”

The girls glanced at each other and shrugged.

I continued, “Oh my God! That’s the coolest guy I’ve ever met! What the fuck!”

(This sounds extremely obnoxious, I agree, but I was just matching the energy level that already existed in the room.)

And it was working. The girls were getting more interested. One of them smiled and asked, “Really? Who is he?”

“I think his name is Randy,” I said. “Do you want me to introduce you?”

The girls glanced at each other again. One of them nervously said, “Yeah, ok,” with a smile.

“Hold there,” I told the girls. “I’ll go get him.” I pushed through the room and went out onto the patio to find Randy. “Randy! C’mere! These girls want to meet you!”

He had a new beer already. “Ah, what the fuck! Alright! I am fucked up!”

I pulled him back through the room to the girls and introduced him with my arms like a magician introducing a sidekick—“This is Randy.”

The punch that Randy chugged must have taken him across a new threshold of drunkenness. The twinkly-eyed, charismatic Randy from the start of the night had shifted into something new. He stood there peering under heavy eyelids as he looked at each girl. He took a sip of his beer and then muttered, “Man, I am fucking hammered.” Then he walked away.

The girls hadn’t said anything to Randy, and Randy hadn’t said anything to the girls. With Randy now gone, they looked to me for an explanation.

“I’m really sorry,” I said, shrugging. “I guess he’s not interested. You can’t force these things.”

Randy’s group of guy friends was rounding up by the door to head to 17/16. Randy and I took more beers in our pockets before we left. On our five-minute walk, Randy tried to keep alive whatever recklessness he had displayed when he chugged the punch. First, he punched a pedestrian crossing sign, and then a telephone box—the latter so hard that another guy said, “that’s a broken hand for sure,” to which Randy replied, “You wanna see a broken hand? I’ll show you this broken hand flipping you off all night!” as he flicked him off. Next, Randy chugged a warm beer that was sitting on the sidewalk and threw the empty can at a different group of students in front of us, then ran ahead to kick the can but missed it completely and fell back onto his ass. Once on his feet again, he stood defiantly on the edge of the road with both middle fingers in the air and yelled, “Suck my fucking dick!” to the next two passing cars. Calming down from this act, he noticed his knuckles were bleeding from having punched the telephone box. He tasted the blood, then asked me to taste it too. I declined. For the rest of the walk, he hobbled along, muttering and yelling to no one in particular, flipping people off, and kicking or punching whatever objects we happened across. Oddly enough, despite all of this, Randy’s friends still weren’t paying any attention to him.

17/16 was a lot more crowded this time, and I lost Randy in the crowd for much of the night. He had a habit of making laps around the bar, though, so every now and then we’d bump into each other while he was going for a lap. (He actually called it a lap. When he was done talking to you, he’d say he was going to make a lap and he’d see you later.) Each time he came around on a lap, he’d tell me with his intense stare just how drunk he was, each time with a new word: hammered, smashed, stupid-drunk, obliterated. On one lap, he told me that he just ripped a $20 bill in half, on another he told me that he punched a hole in the wall and re-bloodied his knuckles, and on another he told me that he just helped his friend get into the bar by handing him a fake ID from the patio and then retrieving it once his friend was let inside. He described this last move as “some Martin Scorsese shit.”

I spent most of these nights at the bars standing by myself but trying to look like I wasn’t. I was there to write about Randy, but I had to keep a balance between following him around and not annoying him. At one point, I saw another guy standing alone who looked a little uptight because his shirt was buttoned too high.

I said to him, “Freshman?”

He said, “How’d you know?”

I pointed to his shirt collar and said, “One button too many.”

He smiled, unbuttoned the extra button, and said, “Thanks.”

He probably thought I was some sort of badass, when in reality my brief interaction with him was one of the coolest things I did all year.

I also tried my hand at hitting on women at the bar, but I was getting nowhere. Auburn girls were particularly harsh about the fact that I didn’t go to college. I tried to make my book sound as cool as possible, but nothing seemed to make up for the fact that I had no higher education.

Eventually Randy found me on another lap and said, “Let’s go.” I didn’t know how much more he’d had to drink, but he was nearly unresponsive at that point.

We went to get pizza from a place across the street. Randy cut the line of customers and went straight to the large man who was handing out boxes of pizza to those who had already ordered and paid. Randy walked up to him and said, “I’m just tryin’ to get some fuckin’ pepperoni.”

The large man serving the pizza said, “I swear, if you keep running your mouth, you’re not gonna get a fucking thing,” so Randy backed away and sat down while I waited in line.

As soon as I ordered pizza for myself, Randy walked up to me suspiciously and admitted that he just tried to steal pizza, but they caught him in the act. “Let’s get out of here,” he said, “I’m fucking belligerent.”

“Nah, man, I just ordered,” I said. “Wait until I get my food, I already paid.”

“‘Nah?’” Randy said. He clenched his fists and stepped aggressively toward me. “You tell me ‘nah’?”

This pizza shop was tiny. I looked around and realized we were standing up in the dead center of the place, and everybody was silently watching us. The whole restaurant had seen Randy try to steal the pizza, so everyone was still observing him as the scene developed. Randy continued toward me with his fists ready.

When he got too close, I pushed him in the chest, but not very hard. I didn’t think we would actually fight—neither of us were the type. Randy bit his lip and came toward me again. Again I pushed him back. This time two grown men, roughly 45 years old, stood up from their booths next to us, ready to intervene and break up a fight.

Randy looked at me and said, “Fuck you.”

“Back up,” I said. 

“Fuck you!”

“Randy, back the fuck up!”

The two men stepped closer to us, keeping the peace by threatening violence. Randy looked at them, realized he stood no chance, then put his hands up in submission and stepped back.

Now my pizza was ready. I had ordered two slices, so I offered one of the slices to Randy as a truce. As soon as he took the slice from off my paper plate, he dropped it onto the muddy tile floor below us, cheese-side-down. Randy bent down to pick up the slice. Everybody was still watching us. “Oh my God,” a woman gasped, “he’s gonna eat it.”

Randy did. He shoved the pizza into his mouth without thought and chewed it like a zombie eating brains. The woman groaned. The two men who had prevented our fight shook their heads in disgust and sat back down. Randy wasn’t a violent threat anymore, just a drunk moron.

“Let’s go,” said Randy.

We left out the back door into an alleyway. Randy leaned his hands against the brick wall, took a deep breath, then forced out a belly full of vomit that splashed across the concrete. “Fuck,” he said. He leaned his back on the wall and let his head hang limp. His blonde hair glowed orange in the street light while his puke glistened between his cowboy boots. He spit onto the puddle of vomit and wiped his mouth. He was calm for a second, as if maybe he had vomited away his troubles. Without lifting his head to look at me, he said, “Dream Girl was there tonight.”

“Did anything happen?” I asked.

“Nothing at all,” he said, defeated. “Nothing at all.” He lifted himself off the wall. “C’mon, we gotta walk back.”

I thought he had calmed down, but on the street Randy’s aggression returned. When another guy would pass us, Randy would raise his arms and say, “What? What?” and when a girl would pass, Randy would say in falsetto, “Sup, girl? Sup?” He was on auto-pilot, and nobody indulged him. It was around 3am now, and the people out on the streets were all headed home like us.

Randy’s recklessness was coming back in full force. When we passed by a clothing store with nobody around, Randy walked up to the big display windows, faced away from them, leaned forward, then donkey-kicked the glass with the bottom of his boot. The glass flexed and rattled but didn’t shatter. It could have been a serious crime for vandalism if he’d kicked just a bit harder.

“Oh, shit!” Randy yelled as if it had been somebody other than himself who had just kicked the glass. “We need to get the fuck outta here!”

I sprinted behind Randy. We took a left, right, then left until we were suddenly wedged between two apartment buildings, stuck in dense shrubs. Randy led the way, pushing, tripping, and getting tangled up in the sticks.

“Ah, fuck these branches!” he yelled. “Fuck this! Goddamnit!” Randy’s shirt sleeve was caught up in a small limb, and he tried to flail his arms while tackling the bush, but this only made him lose his footing and fall over with his arm still stuck in the bush.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

He heard me laugh and said, “You think I’m a pussy?”

“Yeah, I do,” I said.

“Oh, you wanna see pussy?” Randy said. “I’ll show you pussy.”

Randy stood up and went next to the window of one of the apartment rooms that faced into the alleyway.

“I’m gonna punch this fucking window out.”

“No you’re not.”

“Wanna see?”

“You won’t.”

He did. He clenched his fist, wound it around his body, then in one quick motion, unwound, letting the side of his hand fly into the glass, which, this time, did shatter. Glass poured into the dark room next to us. It was almost certainly somebody’s bedroom, and since it was around 3am, they were almost certainly asleep before the crash.

Randy yelled, “RUN!”

We took off again through the alleyway, this time unfazed by the shrubs, then down a small street, through a wooded area, across a parking lot, down another alleyway, and across another street. At one point we could hear sirens, but we weren’t sure if they were for us.

Our stupid escape ended when the road opened into a sweeping panoramic view of Auburn campus. We stopped running and caught our breaths, figuring we were safe for now.

“Holy fuck,” Randy said as he gasped for air.

“I know,” I said.

“I just smashed a fucking window.”

“Yes, Randy. Take it easy. Jesus.”

He looked out across campus and raised his chin a little.

“You see that?” he asked. He pointed to a big bronze statue, far away in the middle of campus. “Someday there’ll be a statue of me. None of these fuckers know it, but someday there’ll be a statue of me.”

We continued on. Randy tried to jump a fence at one point but only managed to sit on top of it until it was too wobbly for him to hold himself up. He looked at me for sympathy, but I gave him none. The only way for him to get back down was to fall off the fence onto his ass. When he stood back up, he kicked the fence and said, “Fuck this fence.” But that fence must have humbled Randy, because finally his aggression was subsiding. He walked ahead of me with his head hung low. He started to unbutton his shirt. A half mile later he muttered some words to himself: “I can do all that, but I can’t even talk to her. I waited for her all night, but I can’t even talk to her.”

(This line sounds like something I made up, because it seems too good to be true, but Randy really said it.)

I asked, “Dream Girl?” but he didn’t reply.

His shirt, now fully unbuttoned, clung with sweat to his shoulders. His hair had lost its swoop and instead fell across his forehead without design. His head, shoulders, and feet were heavy—the physical body he occupied was now a burden for him to transport. Ahead of me, he slowed to a stop. I stopped too, leaving him some room. 

He tilted his head back, took in a deep breath, then screamed, “I’M THE BIGGEST PUSSY IN THIS TOWN!”

His body drooped, and he took off his shirt. He turned back to me and gave me the saddest look I’d ever seen. It was a plea for my sympathy and for my silence. I nodded. He tossed his shirt over his naked shoulder and carried on toward home. And with that, the night was finished.

Click here to read the rest of the story of Randy and Dream Girl, and to read all 23 chapters of the book