Paco and I
I had the word “outpatient,” embroidered on my jersey, though I never felt sick.
He was Paco, a nickname he earned within the first week of school, an athletic Jew with the habitus of a Mexican soccer star. A lacrosse background. Athletic prowess, a gift for gab—a magnet for the young freshman women–older ones as well. We, roommates, polar opposites.
Opposites attract. We lasted four years together, bonded over bong hits and Pink Floyd and I rode his coattails to the dining room and the library, always envious of his commercial fame.
His interpersonal skills and business acumen were lightyears ahead of mine, but he needed help with his prose, so I wrote introductions and conclusions for his papers and he made my introductions so I could meet normal people and let them make their own conclusions about who was cooler, more athletic, more interesting.
Our room–across from the bathrooms and showers–straddled the line separating east from west; the cool from the uncool, as if we dwelled in a fascinating temperate strip akin to the planet Mercury or a city like Berlin.
Next door was a DJ known as “The Rick”, whose woofers blasted through our walls like thunder.
If we lived in Berlin, I mostly hung out on the east side with my fellow intellectual communists and Paco was free in the west with the jocks to watch sports, smoke joints or do shots.
We east-enders opted for mind-expanding psychedelics.
I watched raindrops crystallize on the windows, felt flames from The Rick’s disco lights singe me from under my door.
Paco played college Lacrosse and came home with all sorts of bruises, telling me how many goals he scored. He scored in the afternoons and at night. They tell me he broke many school records.
After dinner together—always together, Paco and I trucked off to study. Me with a knapsack full of books, him with one thin textbook under his arm and a highlighter.
He was home from the library by nine, partying by ten, asleep by 11:30, unless we had a party. Then Paco found a woman and kicked me out of the room with my mattress.
Usually I found a fellow communist on the east end like Calascione, who let me crash in his room. We stayed up until dawn when the crows stopped us from falling asleep anyway.
Because it was impossible to sleep normally, I took my own weekly DJ spot on the school radio station: 3 am to 7 am. I played German New Age electronic music heard only by truck drivers and fellow east enders.
Once at a party, I met a pretty girl, whose father actually listened to my show. Soon, I found myself sitting in between her and a cute friend in someone’s car.
I think we got high, but unlike Paco, I didn’t know how to score.
On a dreary fall Sunday afternoon, I decided to take a bath. I cleaned the tub, normally reserved for kegs of beer during parties and soaked in the bath salts and bubbles I borrowed from the girls downstairs.
Paco and my hallmates ridiculed me. But I insisted on enjoying my bath even as they expunged their freezers and refrigerators from all expired foods: frozen peas and carrots, pickle juice and borscht, sour milk, Captain Crunch.
The debris floated alongside me; a slick of flotsam which I continued soaking in until Dubin decided to spoil the broth by taking a piss.
Sometimes in the mornings, I vacuumed to Brahms.
For a while, I decided not to shave and after a few months, I was fascinated to learn that a classmate referred to me as “that guy with the beard.” Somehow, I managed to change everything about myself by doing nothing.
Once, while Paco and the others laughed, I sat naked on a seltzer bottle, as if training for some devious activity, and soon after, I went on a road trip to Friendly’s with a car full of women in nothing but a bathrobe.
Now, it seemed our training was complete, and we moved on to actual relationships.
Paco was the first of us to get married.
© Richie Smith
© Richie Smith