Seducing Professor Coyle(4)

By: Darien Cox

Dominick pulled two beers out of the rack and popped the caps off. Ben wasn’t a big drinker, but the after work beer on Friday night had become a ritual for them. Though they were opposites in most regards, Dominick’s relaxed nature kept Ben grounded, and he was feeling anything but grounded at the moment, so he accepted the beer. His pulse slowed a bit, grateful for his roommate’s presence and cheerful energy as he sat down on the floor across from him. “Okay,” Dom said. “Start over.”

Ben relayed the events of his day, and his meeting with the professor, while Dominick sipped his beer and nodded, annoyingly relaxed as Ben grew more anxious with the retelling. Dom had moved into his apartment a year ago after they’d met at one of the few gay bars on the outskirts of town. He wore his bright red hair long and wild, a trimmed goatee, and with his construction worker physique, had initially appealed to Ben as a sexy Viking type.

Though they’d shared a single night of satisfying sex, Ben hadn’t expected to stay in touch with his brawny conquest—picking up townies was a less complicated way to get laid than fishing in the college pool, but he certainly had no designs on dating one of them.

But the morning after, they’d talked for hours while Dominick cooked him breakfast, and eventually lunch, and had found they enjoyed each other’s friendship far more than they’d enjoyed the sex. Through mutual agreement, they never slept together again. Neither of them made friends easily, and they deemed their quick, comfortable connection to be valuable, something that shouldn’t be hindered by the complications of a sexual relationship. When Dom’s lease ran out on his apartment, Ben gladly offered him his extra bedroom, grateful for the added rent money. And grateful to have someone around to make him feel less lonely, who would remind him to slow down once in a while. Dom’s pace was infuriatingly docile to Ben at times, and in turn, Ben drove Dom nuts with his obsessive drive to succeed, at the expense of almost everything else.

“I don’t get it,” Dominick said. “Isn’t there some way you can prove you were in class that day? I mean doesn’t he take attendance?”

Ben rolled his eyes. “Taking attendance is for children, apparently, not grownups paying for an education. The guy is a pompous fucker and I hate him. I can’t find the damn test. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.” He hung his head and rubbed his temples, shoulders slumping with the weight of his world crashing down.

“So you’ll fight it.” Dominick gave his shoulder a squeeze. “I’m sure it will work out fine.”

Despite his roommate’s optimism, doom pressed down on Ben. This couldn’t stop him from graduating, not this. It was too stupid. He’d find a way around it somehow. He had been through worse. He’d been on his own, more or less, since he was ten years old. After his mother died, his father became a drunk. The old man passed out in front of the television every night. Ben avoided going home while his father was on a bender, spending all his time on the computers in the town library.

But then dear old Dad turned to pills, then cocaine, and was home less and less. As the money ran out, so did the food, then the electricity, and finally the heat.

Though he was only a kid, he felt a deep shame that winter night he was forced to wander over to the neighbor’s house, frozen tears on his cheeks, and explain that he had no heat, no food, no lights, and no idea where his father was. Thereafter, as he maneuvered through life as a foster child, he was driven, determined that this unlucky hand would not dictate his future. He studied hard, worked for two years after school, saved his money, and eventually got into college. He’d worked his ass off, and now, on the last mile, he was emotionally tapped out, and had given it everything he had. Worse than that, his bank account was getting light. He needed to graduate this spring and get a job. He’d planned it so carefully, there was no wiggle room. He couldn’t put in another semester after this, to retake a class he’d already taken. Aside from the fact that he couldn’t afford it, his nerves were frayed to shit.

“I like literature, personally,” Dom said as he perused Ben’s text book, retrieving it from the pile of items torn from his backpack and strewn across the floor. “You should read more. It’s such an escape from the real world.”

Ben huffed. “You think I want to escape the real world?”

Dom looked up from the book, smiling. “No, Benny. I think you need to. You’re too high strung.”

“Screw you, I’m strung just right.”