“What I’m saying is: any asshole can cut a fucking cake. You’re here—working on the weekends, carrying a full class load, busting your balls—so one day your kid won’t have to. That’s what a good father does.”
I think about what he’s saying. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. Now dry your eyes, take some Midol, and stop with the premenstrual pity party.”
That earns him the flip of the bird.
Drew raises his chin toward my pile of notes for Statistics 101, the first-year requisite final I’m taking tomorrow morning. “You ready for Windsor’s final?”
“I think so.”
He shakes his head. “Don’t think—know. Professor Windsor’s a dick. And a snob. He’ll bust a nut if he gets to fail a redneck like you.”
I flip through the stack of papers. “I’ll look it over one more time, but I’m good.”
“Excellent.” He smacks my leg. “Then be ready to leave in an hour.”
I glance at my watch: 10 p.m. “Where are we goin’?”
Evans stands. “If I teach you only one thing before I graduate let it be this: before any big exam, you go out for a drink—one drink—and you get yourself laid. Standardized test-prep courses should add that to their rule book. It’s infallible.”
I rub the back of my neck. “I don’t know . . .”
He holds out his arms, questioning, “What’s the problem? You and your baby mama are doing the whole open relationship now, right?”
“Yeah, but . . .”
“That was a brilliant move on your part, by the way. I’ll never understand why any man would tie himself down to one woman when there’s so many to choose from.”
I don’t tell him it wasn’t my idea. That Jenny insisted on it after we talked—argued—when I was home for Christmas break. I don’t tell him the only reason I agreed is because the horny bastards in my hometown know Jenn is my girl, the mother of my daughter. I may only come home two or three times a year, but when I do I’ll happily rearrange the face of anyone who makes a move on her.
I also don’t tell him that I haven’t taken advantage of the new open-door policy in the five months since.
Instead I explain, “I’ve never tried pickin’ up women in a bar before. I don’t know what I’d say.”
Drew chuckles. “You just drop a few y’alls, a few darlin’s—I got the rest covered.” He points at me. “One hour. Be ready.”
And he cruises out of my room.
• • •
Ninety minutes later, we walk into the Central Bar—a favorite student hangout. It has good food, a dance floor with a DJ upstairs, and no cover charge. Even though it’s finals week the place is wall-to-wall drinking, laughing bodies. “What are you having?” Evans asks as we make our way to the bar.
“Jim Beam, neat.” If I’m only allowed one drink, better make it count.
I catch my reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Nondescript blue T-shirt, stubbled jaw ’cause I couldn’t be bothered to shave, and a thick blond head of hair that needs cutting. It’s practically immune to gel, so I’ll be pushing it back from my forehead all night.
Drew passes me my bourbon and takes a sip of his own—looks like whiskey and soda. Wordlessly we survey the room for a few minutes. Then his elbow nudges me and he cocks his head toward two girls in the corner, by the jukebox. They’re good-looking in the way that appears effortless but in reality takes two hours of primping to achieve. One’s tall, with long, straight blond hair and even longer legs, wearing ripped denim jeans and a cropped tank top that shows off a lacy black bra and a twinkling belly-button piercing. Her friend is shorter, with curly jet-black hair, a pink halter top, and dark jeans so tight they look like they’re painted on.
Drew walks purposefully toward them and I follow.
“I like your shirt,” he says to the blonde, gesturing to the writing across her chest: Barnard Women Do It Right.
After looking him up and down her lips stretch slowly into a flirty smile. “Thanks.”
“I’ve got one at home just like it,” Drew reveals. “Except mine says Columbia Guys Do It All Night.”
They giggle. I gulp my bourbon while the dark-haired girl checks me out—and seems to like what she sees.
“You guys go to Columbia?” she asks.
Drew nods. “Yep. Go Lions.”
Even though I have no real idea what the hell I’m doing, I try to follow Drew’s instructions, asking the most unoriginal question ever. “What are y’all majorin’ in?”