Two on a Pier

Two on a Pier

A Story by Beau Maysey
"

Another college-level creative writing project I worked on this last semester. I am aware of the tension in the story, and hope I pulled it off well. Let me know your critiques and suggestions. :)

"

The two of us sat out on the dock at the edge of campus, watching the bay fade into the rest of the darkness, everything still and ethereal. There'd be lightning peppering the horizon where the last streak of red fell, and occasionally a little fish would break the surface to escape the bigger, hungrier fishes. At around 10 or so, Darren would say something regarding the bay between drags, like, "Beautiful, ain't it?", balancing a cigarette between two fingers. I'd smile softly in agreement, and it'd become one of those nights. One of those grey nights with the moon stuck up like a white-knuckled fist, gnarled fingers pushing down on oppressive clouds that advanced from the skyline to our thoughts...

Floo!

And out Darren's' lungs, dragon's breath skimming the dark and dissolving to wisps. I held my clouds in, chucking them from neuron to neuron without release. Occasionally, he'd offer me a cig or blunt, real casual, just twirling a lit one in his fingertips and nodding towards it, to which I'd decline with a simple, “No thank you, Darren”, and he'd shrug and take another puff. It was the way our early conversations often went, perpetuated by silence and gestures.


Darren off-the-cuff started calling me Spigot because of, even though my name's Alex. I so rarely spoke to him at the start that he basically had to prod information out of me.

"Like a stuck faucet," was his remark, chuckling a bit.

I understood it wasn’t meant to insult, just tease, so I let the nickname stay. I don't know, even with borderline Asperger’s feeding into my shyness, there was something compelling in Darren's attitude, an aura akin to charisma that made folks like him simply for being there. In my mind, I saw a lack of that in me- I was more the frantic outcast that everyone saw in themselves Freshman year, when 'abandoned' by mom n' pop to the wilderness of college life.


The second week of classes, Darren found me standing at the water's edge at sundown on a Saturday, homesick and avoiding some big dorm party. For thirty minutes he just leaned over towards the dark expanse as well, which confused me. Why would a clearly older student bother sticking around with me. After first offering me a drink from what looked to be a bottle of Smirnoff. I introduced myself in typical list fashion, being used to telling people about myself and then losing their attention quickly afterwards.


"Evening, um, I'm Alex, Freshman. My hometown's Ft. Lauderdale, a couple miles south. Major is creative writing. Interests are, well, arts, writing,... Nature I, suppose. Apologies if I rant too much or don't talk at all, I just... Yeah..." From thought to mouth, there are so many ways we blunder elegance in speech.

His interests, I learned, differed somewhat wildly from mine, with his excellence in math and science, but he offered a prize-winning grin anyway.

"Name's Darren Reynolds. Pleased to meet you," followed by a handshake I accepted somewhat clumsily. "Not sure if I’ve noticed you from around campus. Don’t think so though. You come out here a lot?"

Right away, I could see he was some bored upperclassman, with his slight smirk, dirtied flipflops, and laid-back demeanor; why else would he think nothing of the booming parties going on back on the grounds? On the other hand, I also accepted the possibility that he was some stoned wanderer, getting a bit of a fresh air break before heading back. But it didn't happen: He stared from me to the water like he was fathoming a metaphor from the depths, like he was trying to see what I saw when I stared into that bay- Friends, clubs, home, and a high school crush, Kai.

Darren kept coming back each Saturday night, and there I'd be there too, partly to destress from everyday life, partly to glance into that reflecting pool of memories, and partly to make sure Darren also came back. There was something intriguing about a friend of his eminence; I mostly got along with the social underdogs who felt out-of-place in a sea of dubstep and fast-paced conversation. For me, drinking and smoking seemed irresponsible and unnecessary.


In the beginning, Darren would try to talk about sports, harmlessly fishing at topics. I was neutral to ‘sportsball’, as some of my friends called it in high school, but as I leaned against a wooden pylon and stared out, I gave the guy props for trying.

"So I saw the Miami Dolphins wrecked shop yesterday," he'd mention, or try some other team he'd probably seen while flipping across channels.

"Ah, well, interesting".

I was more interested in pinning down what those far-off but approaching nimbuses reminded me of...

"You like football at all, Spigot?"

He was really hoping I’d throw him a bone at this point, but I still saw him as an older student trying to mess with me; maybe trying to embarrass me in some elaborate scheme.

"Not particularly".

I got it: The clouds reminded me of slow-moving sharks pushing their way to us.

Calculating my response, he'd purse his lips in mock thought and turn back to the horizon himself, searching.


He got me the third Saturday night with arts. There was just no way I couldn't stay off that topic; it hit too close to some mission I’d made for myself, to try and find beauty in that which surrounds us. We were watching boats lazily passing for a while until he opened his computer bag for a light, offered one as per ritual, and started talking about himself.

"Spigot, you're giving me nothing here, so I'm gonna mention some things I'm very interested in, jumpstart the process. Let's see: Math... Horrible to start with, um, television- cooking shows-, philosophy, indie pop, the wonder that is surrealism, world cultures..."

Followed by a long pause, since I had coughed.

I shrugged and tried to feign disinterest.

"Rather fond of Dali, myself".

It was slightly embarrassing, but there was something brilliant about the madness of a person. To that, Darren nodded his head, contented. And now all the advancing cloudforms and distant flat landscapes were melting and contorting before me; he'd gotten Dali back in my head.

"Everyone seems to favor 'The Persistence of Memory', but my personal choice was that one he did to combine science and religion, uh," he snapped a few times, conjuring the name, "Galaci...dalribonucleicacid, or something".

I knew what piece he was talking about before he tried the name.

"My favorite's gotta be 'Santiago el Grande', the one with the chapel reaching everywhere".

Darren closed his eyes, leaned back.

"Ah, a marvelous choice as well. So beautiful and powerful, that image."

Agreeing, praising my choice, he was slowly reeling me in. As rain droplets descended sporadically, I watched him snuff out his cig, flicking it as a paintbrush, or a fishing pole.


Next night, we talked a little more; he'd jumped from art to writing, and that was my wheelhouse. We sat there possibly an hour, and for the first time I tore my gaze completely away from the water, reflecting myself and my poor memories, and examined Darren closer:

Tanned, muscular, especially around the forearms, 6'4'', green eyes that could lighten or silence a room... He was in his later 20s, which at first instance I wrote off as him having been in the army or something. He had a slight southern accent that came out occasionally, but it wasn't defining. And for sure, he knew what writers he loved.

"God, the brilliance of Chekhov in his stories. They just give a sense of color to characters we shouldn't give half a damn about, with their lives that they get bored with.”

"Oh, right, 'The Lady with the Dog', right? That piece got me with that one long pull-back to setting in the middle of it..."

We went on like that, and I slowly moved from the front of the pier back towards Darren, smoking and leaning on a railing. I couldn't help it; his charm was infectious; it created its own climate distant from the grey clouds so close by us. I found myself wondering why I hadn't heard about this student around campus, who was so willing to hang out with Freshmen.


      It was around this time that I found out that Darren (or maybe  Mr. Reynolds) was a calculus professor. It hadn’t occurred to me before we talked more that maybe he wasn’t a peer: There were only so many times he could segue into math or reference obscure 90s alt rock groups before my suspicions were raised. Far from being discouraged, I actually felt more inclined to open myself up to Darren. Here was a responsible adult, removed from the general shenanigans of the student body, especially our Freshman class; we were the worst so far, breaking the record for most ambulances in a single night. He seemed fine smoking and drinking on his own, but a man of his stature surely knew his limits, right?

The bigger surprise for me was how bad he was at teaching, when I finally happened upon one of his classes accidentally whilst looking for around for a club. It was quite amusing, he almost seemed distracted, sometimes plastering functions on the board, sometimes scratching his shoulder, sometimes glancing over all his students nervously. I didn't blame him, especially since later I found out he had not yet received his PhD... I would've been just as nervous up there. And lately I’d been distracted too; I’d gained more friends, more allies from what felt like a transference of Darren’s confidence into me… But I kept remembering that damn pier, and the water, and Darren cooly considering the distance shores. So I kept meeting him on that pier, and he drew me out of a shell. From art we got to academics, which- hilarious enough-, he had a pessimistic view on.

"Education in America, to be honest, it's going downhill... Teachers, professors, locking students away, monotone robots of textbooks; they have no connection to their pupils. They think they have to be mindless animatrons to beat their lessons in..."

I gave his sudden outburst time to breathe- It was the first time I'd seen him upset, and it was the closest he got to revealing himself as a professor.

"I mean, distancing yourself from a class can have it’s advantages, right. For instance, it can probably quell anxiety… And emotions tend to lead into bias when unchecked.”

He gave me a once-over, as if seeing something on me for the first time.

“Well, Spigot, I suppose you’re right with that.”

The rain was hard enough to where he clicked open his umbrella, but when he offered it, I shrugged- The rain was fine; it was the water underneath I had a healthy concern for.

As the seasons changed, the clouds came overhead, but now, from underneath, they seemed old, tired. Too weak to snow, too heavy to rain. With each pier session, we’d reveal ourselves more and more until I felt a certain impetus standing in our way… Something uncomfortable, right beneath us, spilling around us and out into the ocean; whispers, of friends, some from bullies back home, who’d called me ‘f****t’, ‘queer’ for appreciating the arts.

Sometimes, we’d talk about life experiences, and that got us into sex. Awkwardly, we’d goosestep around the subject, until Darren would crack some joke about his ex, who he always mentioned like she was something that existed far, far ago, and her breasts, and that he was a "jugglernaut of the twin moons", a phrase he'd slap around like it was the funniest thing, or at least like the delivery would hold it aloft... It didn't. But at the same time, I was comfortable enough in social graces to finally start this crazy thing people called flirting. In my opinion, girls were, and continue to be, nerve-wracking and foreign. But I finally got my first sexual experience out of this Christian sweetheart, who I started hanging out with as fall faded to winter. At some point, I found out that Kai had had an epiphany (read in: a falling out with the parents) in which there was a coming to grips with the fact that the God who welcomed the miracle of birth probably wouldn't mind if the processes leading to it began one or two years prior to the legal adult age.

In the end it was neither ideal nor uncomfortable, simply an awkward dance of two amateurs trying to tap into a rhythm and passion. What stayed with me the most was that before we got into it, Kai lay there open and vulnerable and nearly as anxious as me, and repeated something’ likely overheard in some adult movie or show:

"Take me".

I stared at this demure figure under me, and had a flash of images- The pier, and the water, and how we all ended up there eventually, and I thought,

"Where?"


Now and again, time is a clusterfuck. You accomplish one thing, sit back and relax, and when you get up again the game's changed and some other rut is in front of you. The weeks after I first hooked up with Kai, my sessions with Darren decreased. Over time, I saw him less and less, and I supposed he had simply gotten as busy with work as I was with trying out my newfound self-worth. What I eventually found out was that he’d been fired around the end of the fall period, and was protesting up until Christmas break. I never got full details, but I suppose that’s what you get for hanging out so much with students after class.


Our last conversation, I talked to him the most. I basically opened up, with floodgates overflowing, and told him about so many of the anxieties of the past and present, of that water that stretched out so far. And he smiled.

"Spigot," he was staring out to the sea like a wistful sage of some B-movie plot, but he still retained that melody in his voice. He turned and corrected himself,

"-er, Alex..."

“This is going to seem… odd… but have you ever played a little 90s gem of a video game called Earthbound?” I shook my head, regarded him calmly. “An odd departure”, I thought.

“Aliens, little kids rising up to save the word, adults uninterested in the state of their children… y’know, nevermind. The point is, I used to love that game when I was younger, and you make me recall that time, when I could feel young and do what I loved.”

Still odd.

“Another point- Adults don’t know what they’re doing just as much as kids don’t. Don’t get fooled. We’re all pretty rudderless. It’s ok to be awkward, and hold onto that past, and wonder what the future holds, because we’re all like that.”

I was actually feeling better having poured my soul out onto that pier, but I got the feeling that a certain part of Darren was speaking to himself. It was all very tropey, but I suppose that just proved his own point. No matter how comfortable or nervous one gets in life with their decisions, someone else matches you in nervousness. That water underneath the pier will never stop flowing into the sea, and the clouds, they’ll build up a storm and then evaporate like everything else.


The two of us sat out on the dock at the edge of campus, watching the bay fade into the rest of the darkness, everything still and ethereal. The fish had disappeared, eventually so would we. Darren turned.

“You wanna, jump in and swim or something?”


© 2014 Beau Maysey


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Added on December 18, 2014
Last Updated on December 19, 2014

Author

Beau Maysey
Beau Maysey

St. Pete, FL



About
Hey, I'm Beau, and these little autobiography section always irked me yet I understand their function and significance. I live in St. Pete, go to college at Eckerd College, study creative writing as a.. more..

Writing