The List: Chapter One

It took me two hours after I woke up this morning to remember what happened last night. Items on the carpet remained untouched; the air stunk with weed, which was now replaced by air freshener, and fresh bottles of liquor (mainly vodka) sat in the corner, waiting to be opened. As I lay on the futon in my basement, regret filled my mind. Not one person cleaned the plates of the food they never ate. Empty red solo cups lay skewed instead of inside the trash next to the bathroom door.

 

I struggled to get up. A warm body lay next to mine. I looked over at the mess of black hair and winced. Jasmine Rivers. She was the most recent girl I added to the list. I think she’s number twenty-three? I might’ve added more girls after her.

 

I shook her a little, hoping she’d just get up and leave. Her eyelids opened and she smiled.

 

“Good morning.”

 

I smiled a little and waited for a split second. After numerous amounts of parties, I got used to people who woke up, ran to the bathroom, and puked their guts out. They wouldn’t clean up after themselves, but would apologize and leave immediately. Even if I bought twenty water bottles, it was never enough.

 

The bathroom door slammed shut and the sounds of another girl puking in my toilet commenced. I rolled my eyes and collected the trash scattered throughout my basement. After Jasmine left, the day would be just as miserable. I’d have the entire house to myself, and maybe every thirty minutes someone I knew would show up and ask if they left behind anything. I was always home alone. My friends weren’t the best influences, but they always had the idea to party at my house. It didn’t bother me, so I allowed it. What bothered me, however, was after. After was when all my friends left with no gratitude for my hosting and no offer of a helping-hand.

 

Jasmine stumbled out of the bathroom. She fiddled with her hands in her hair, “I should go home now,” she told me.

 

I nodded in agreement. It took me a minute to realize she was staring at my bare chest. I had on black sweatpants, and across the room laid my Star Wars t-shirt on the floor.

 

“You should,” I told her.

 

I didn’t mean for it to sound harsh, but I had no patience, and the urgency for her to leave was increasing as she stood in the basement with me longer.

 

Her eyes fixed on mine for about another second before she finally went up the stairs. Never again, I thought. The front door shut, and I exhaled a breath I never realized I was holding.

 

1.     Esther Burns

2.     Cecily Ethiopia

3.     Anne Daniels

4.     Lucy Wren

5.     Hannah Olson

6.     Kylie Grace

7.     Rose Se

8.     Bridget Gute

9.     Jenna Intihar

10.   Katelyn Adol

 

These were the first ten girls on my hit-up list. The first ten were really the only ones I looked at, because they were the ones willing to do the most with me. Girls after number ten I would hit-up when I was incredibly desperate, admittedly.

 

I was not a hundred percent sure why this list was created. Technically, it was Russel’s idea. Over the past year, ever since I cut my hair, girls practically swooned over me. I always had a list of my body count, but Russel thought it would be fun to keep a list of the “best.” It got to a point where I had no idea how to go about which girl. Russel convinced me the list was the only thing that could help me decide.

 

Last night, I hooked up with number twenty-three: Jasmine Rivers.

 

Every morning after, though, I felt guilty for my actions. The truth was, I didn’t like any of these girls. Okay, so maybe that was a lie.

 

The only girl I considered dating was Esther Burns, number one on my hit-up list. My feelings for her kept appearing and disappearing. It wasn’t because I liked another girl, though; I just hated the idea of being tied down to anyone. Esther accepted that. We were best friends who messed around all the time, and I was content with that. She was always available. Every time I hit her up, she wasn’t doing anything. She would come to my house, give me company, listen to my rant about whatever hockey situation I was in, and when we kissed… that was magic. The best part about it was that our parents wouldn’t care. My mom distracted herself since Dad’s death, and Esther’s parents were always out of town.

 

I considered texting her as I lay on the couch. Lights were hung all around the basement’s walls, creating an eerie effect to the room I was obsessed with. I haven’t bothered touching any of the mess from last night.

 

Creaking steps sauntered into the room. I ignored them. I tried to avoid the wrinkles under my mom’s eyes and the sadness they carried. I know she said something, but through the television, all I heard was something about a “party.” The screen shut off and I looked up.

 

Mom looked like she just climbed out of the sewer. Her bed-head was larger than usual. The wrinkles under her eyes were smudged with leftover mascara, and her right eye was a little pink. She looked around the room tiredly. Her long and baggy shirt covered her underwear just enough. Forty-seven years old, and yet, my mom didn’t look a day over thirty. However, she was a mess. She scratched her head, then looked at me again.

 

This needs to stop.”

 

I rolled my eyes and looked back at the black screen. It was obvious I wanted her to leave me alone.

 

“Why don’t you clean this up?” She snapped.

 

“Why, is your boyfriend still here?” I retorted.

 

Nothing that came out of her mouth after that was acknowledged by me. I hated my mother. When I was five, I caught her cheating on Dad with the man upstairs. I looked at her like she was a monster ever since—snakes in her hair, like Medusa. She manipulated my father and if I wasn’t careful, she would manipulate me, too. Her lies were as truthful as Pinocchio’s nose.

 

“Jayce?” A voice asked.

 

I turned and looked at the face of Forrest Schmidt. Everyone called him Schmidty because he didn’t prefer the tree jokes anymore. Many kids used to taunt him for his name, “Forrest.” His long and mid-cut hair dripped like the rain. His eyes were still red from last night. He looked at me, then around the room wearily.

 

“…I think I left my wallet here,” he stuttered.

 

Then I recalled what happened last night. I remembered McCoy bringing the beer and weed while half the girls arrived. Russel showed up with brand new Panasonic speakers. The girls amped it up, almost crowding around my best friend. Most of them were high already because they attended McCoy’s pre-party. I distinctly remembered the speakers blasting “Come On Eileen.” Russel had the strongest taste in music, but he was also open to any genre. Other people arrived and half the crowd disappeared throughout my house. If anyone left, I hadn’t noticed. Schmidty was known for always being late to parties, so my friends and I didn’t bother inviting him anymore since we knew he would crash anyway In addition, being my neighbor was probably beneficial to knowing when and where my parties were.

 

Last night, however, Schmidty broke from his tradition and arrived a bit earlier than usual. It was about twenty minutes into the party, and right behind him was Esther Burns. The same girl who was number one on my list was also Schmidty’s step-sister.

 

She gazed around the room, as if she was searching for something. Our eyes met and she stopped looking. I watched Schmidty lean down and whisper something to her. He passed his wallet to her. He pointed at me next and smiled.

 

“Hey man!” He shouted.

 

I waved, but someone stepped in front of him, and they were already in deep conversation when I got there.

 

I felt Esther’s presence next to mine, and I looked down at her. She pursed her lips as we stood next to her step-brother and the other guy I didn’t recognize. I couldn’t tell if she was waiting for me to say something or if she was really into Schmidty’s conversation. I sighed loudly in hopes it would capture her attention, and I pushed a few stray hairs of mine back. She didn’t move an inch. She was wearing one of my older Pink Floyd t-shirts. She was never going to give it back to me. I smiled in remembrance of that morning. She was in such a good mood. She made me breakfast.

 

“I like your shirt,” I told her.

 

Her eyes shifted lower and she peered down onto her shirt. Her long jet-black hair was almost down to her mid-waist now. She didn’t like having short hair, I remembered. She told me it brought too much attention to her face.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry!” She apologized. Her eyes met mine again. “I never returned it.”

 

“Keep it,” I told her. “It looks good on you.”

 

I smiled and tried grasping her hand, fidgeting with it, like we always did, but somebody else grabbed my elbow and pulled me away.

 

Before I could even react, I remembered number twenty-three, Jasmine Rivers, in front of me. She giggled uncontrollably—obviously drunk—and I smiled, trying to wave her off of me. I had only wanted to talk to Esther last night.

 

“Come on, Jayce,” Jasmine said.

 

Usually I was way looser at parties than I was last night. Lately my feelings for Esther were increasing, but that also ended with a one-night stand with someone else. Cold hands held both sides of my cheeks and when I looked down, I was staring into a deep emerald pool.

 

“You have such pretty eyes,” I admitted.

 

“Thank you,” Jasmine giggled. Her cheeks were flushed.

 

I knew the next day I would be telling myself again it was just a thing in the moment. I felt attraction for one that I knew I connected with. Jasmine was just a number. She didn’t mean a thing.

 

Breaking from my flashback, I replied, “I only remember you giving it to Esther.”

 

“Sh*t,” Schmidty said, shaking his head. “I was so out of it last night…”

 

A lot of people came last night. Mom locked herself in her bedroom with her boyfriend. She hated every single party I threw, but she knew that she couldn’t do anything about it without also getting herself into trouble.

 

“Check the cabinet in my bathroom. For some reason, Esther likes keeping things in there.”

 

For a split second, Forrest was frozen and his face contorted in an expression I didn’t recognize. He looked irritated, but he shifted his posture and smiled, like nothing happened.

 

“I’ll go check!” He said. “Thanks, man!”

 

He ran up the stairs. I asked myself all the time if it was weird to go after his step-sister. Technically, Esther and I weren’t a thing, but I assumed he knew we were messing around. He didn’t seem to mind it. He knew Esther came over often and he never did anything about it. Yet, when I mentioned the idea of her, there was a slight change in the air we both didn’t need to say was there. It wasn’t a secret I had been with a lot of girls. I was quite proud. However, it created a negative connotation to my name, and I was judged easily by it. Frankly, I tried not to ponder over it because I hated feeling hated by others. Schmidty knew me personally enough to understand that—as well as Esther herself. The only thing was that Schmidty wasn’t necessarily part of the group. He was one of my closest friends and my neighbor, but besides hockey and partying, he never interacted with Russel or McCoy. It’s not like I could or ever would cut him off. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be one of the best hockey players at our school. He taught me how to play as a kid at the pond down the street.

 

Hockey was setting up my life. Out of everything I knew, I knew hockey the best. I saw myself having a career in hockey. Before my dad passed, he told me all the time how proud of a father he was when he watched me play. Hockey was the best thing about my life and the only thing I could really see myself successful in right now. Scholarships laid in front of me and I needed to decide which to take.

 

“Thanks, Jayce!” Schmidty shouted suddenly.

 

I heard his footsteps by the staircase, creaking against the floor. He made no motion to come back downstairs.

 

“I am leaving now, thank you!”

 

When Schmidty left, the door closed with a bang. All I could hear was the splatter of rain on the basement’s windows. I was close to falling asleep when the door upstairs exploded open. Loud footsteps stomped over me, and I listened to him going downstairs step-by-step.

 

“Jayce, are you here?”

 

I recognized Russel’s voice immediately. He didn’t bother knocking anymore; no one did.

 

He entered wearing his hippie glasses with circle-shaped frames. A toothy grin was plastered on his face when he saw me lying on the couch. His hangover from last night was gone, and he looked like the same joyful best friend of mine. He took off his brown jacket, revealing a white V-neck shirt underneath. He tousled his hair and then looked around the basement. Sometimes I wished to be Russel. He was the most ambitious person I knew. He was open to anything without judgment. I felt like I could trust him with my whole life.

 

“This is a mess,” Russel stated, referring to the basement’s condition.

 

I hadn’t touched a thing. I was almost positive Jasmine never picked up her underwear from the shower. It was strange, really, because all I remembered was someone coming out and shouting she was in the shower. No further explanation; just a shower.

 

“Have you done the math review?” Russel asked.

 

My head bounced up, like a slinky. Math was an entirely different planet to me. It was my worst subject and I didn’t understand why.

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” My mind was blank.

 

Russel laughed, “Our unit test is tomorrow, man! Coach told me if I don’t pass that test, he’s taking me from our next play.”

 

I scoffed. “He’s bluffing. He wouldn’t do that to you or the team. You’re one of the most valued players.”

 

“I hope he’s bluffing. I’ve worked so hard! I’m so close to getting accepted by the U!” He whined, scratching the back of his neck in thought.

 

It was Russel’s dream to go to Washington State University. He was hoping this hockey season would endow him sponsorships. To receive a good sponsorship, however, he needed to keep his grades up. This was hard for Russel because once upon a time, he was in special education. He worked hard and got himself out of the program. He struggled with school, though, and I never mentioned it, but I always thought him going back to the Special-Ed program was his worst fear. Grades mattered to Russel, and as a result, his anxiety increased.

 

“Washington would be stupid not to accept you,” I told him.

 

Russel brushed my genuine comment aside.

 

“Do you know what the test is on? It took me a while to do the review, but I can help you.”

 

I groaned at first, but sat up. “That would be great, actually. Thank you!”

 

Russel handed me his pencil and packet. I scanned over the first problem and copied down his answers. Believe it or not, my grades used to be exceptional. Somewhere amid my father’s death, I stopped caring. Grades didn’t matter to me like family. However, my family was dead—and so I thought, my grades might as well be, too.

 

The rain pouring outside continued.