By contributing writer Joe Ouldhouse

So there I was, staring into my future with the power to choose: corrupt my body, my temple, my safe haven—or get laid, because I wasn’t planning on doing anything else that night. It was a Friday, as I recall, and the plump hand on my ass kept silently inquiring if I’d like to go up to her room. Silently, but forcefully. I daresay that forcefully is the only fitting word. Wait, perhaps I should let you know how I got into this little predicament. Yes, I think that’d be beneficial. Let me back up.

Ten minutes earlier:

I stepped outside my dorm and walked down the stairs, humming “Hooker with a Penis,” by Tool—a song that I had had stuck in my head for the past hour—caressing the only true source of happiness that just happened to be resting in my pocket: Salem menthol cigarettes. The nectar of the gods, now available with a filter.

I strutted out the doors, slipped one of the cancer sticks into my mouth and lit it with man’s real best friend, the Zippo cigarette lighter. Inhale. Exhale. Exfoliation from the inside out. Mental cleansing. My moment of happiness, of solitude, of purity. Suicide at a snail’s pace.

The calm before the storm, if you will.


Now you know exactly where the witch hunt began.

It so happened that while I suckled on the teat of my cigarette that a group of fellow smokers had gathered at the picnic table in front of the North Hedges dorm complex. Feeling slightly more sociable than usual, I walked over and made small talk, all the while taking in drags and letting out stress. It was beautiful. Synchronized. Clockwork.

Then she came out. For her sake, we’ll give her a pseudonym: Amber. Let me tell you a little something about Amber. She’s lacking. You name it, she’s lacking in it. Appearance? Check. Intelligence? Check. Adequate social skills? Check. Hygiene? Double check. Man? Check; but she was trying to fix that one.

Amber resembled a plumper Rosie O’Donnell with greasy hair, a face full of acne and dentist’s wet dream for a smile. I don’t want to say she smelt bad, but I’ve been in slaughterhouses with a more aesthetic aroma. Ok, I was lying: I do want to say she stunk like a gym sock stuffed with a decaying carp, but I’m trying to be nice here. You can see how that’s working for me.

So she comes up and starts shooting the shit with the brotherhood of smokers. Since I had arrived late, my cigarette was only about middle-aged by the time most of the other smokers were paying respects to the paper corpses fading in their yellow hands. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. One by one, the snubbed out their cigarettes and went inside, leaving me alone with her. I was abandoned, left to the mercy of Amber, the merciless fiend. The passionless would be harlot. The fascist shrew.

So there we were: Amber puffing on her cigarette looking as appealing as 8-week-old road kill, and me being nice and naïve enough to continue conversing with her rather than blowing her off and departing with my cigarette prematurely. It started out innocent enough. She told me that she was having troubles sleeping at night; that she hadn’t retired successfully for the past two days. Naturally, I offered some logical solutions to her ailment: Tylenol PM., Nyquil, alcohol, weed.

“I’ve tried those,” she told me. “No matter what I do, I’m just so hyper. I’m always full of energy.”

Your understanding of the next portion of this story is vital. I didn’t think before I spoke. It’s as simple as that. I solve problems, and the problem at hand was Amber’s insomnia, so I offered what I thought was good advice at the time. In no way did I intend for it to be taken the way that it was. Just so you know. There, I’ve washed my hands of it.

“Well, maybe you just need to get laid,” I said. “That’d wear you out.”

She smiled her crooked tooth smile, and then changed the subject momentarily to something that slips my mind. I must have blocked it out of my permanent memory records. I wish to God my brain’s self-defense mechanisms would have done me the same courtesy for the unfortunate event about to be bestowed upon me.

After she was done talking about whatever, she returned to the subject at hand. “You know, maybe I do just need to get laid.” At this point, her hand went south, and clamped like a bulldog’s jaws. My testicles leaped in fear, and rightly so.

“Umm…”

“What are you doing tonight?” she asked.

And now we’re back to where we started, so you can see my concern. On one hand, I have the ability to screw what looks like it should either be on the endangered species list or in some mad scientist’s secret lab. On the other, I have my dignity. Her hand worked. My mind buzzed.

“Umm…”

“My roommate’s gone. We could go up, if you want. What’d ya say?”

“Umm… no.” Her hand lingered a moment longer and left my ass in peace… for a while. I said farewell to it and my cigarette and went up to my room to gargle with whiskey.

Most people, normal people, can sense when they’ve been brushed off and either change their approach to the query, or back off altogether. At least, that’s what I thought. Sometime later that weekend, I was riding in the elevator and I saw Amber again, this time with a friend of hers. Keep in mind I use the term “friend” as a euphemism for the person whose life she’s currently disrupting of its pleasant cycle. People like Amber are about as welcome as near-sighted proctologists. I’m sure you can see why: she’s constantly trying to pass off her groping as undergraduate pro-bono work.

With Amber around, I wish I had cancer.

Mentally, I rejoice for the presence of this unfortunate with me. You see, elevators have an emergency stop button, and if Amber really tried to do something, I’d probably be powerless to stop her. “Hooray!” I think. “She’s not alone with me in the elevator! I’m saved by this stranger who wants to evade this nuisance just as much as I do. Surely she’ll leave me alone when there’s another party present. Surely my ass is spared another uncomfortable experience.” No dice. I guess I’m just not that lucky.

She came up to me and announced to her friend that I let her molest me. I find it ironic that she actually used the word “molest.” At least she’s honest about the nature of… the experience.

Hand clamps. Testicles leap. I want to cry.

“Umm…”

I tend to become inarticulate with a monster on my ass. I tried to brush her off, to let her see I had no interest in her. I shrugged my shoulders to try to move her sausage fingers off of me, and they just clamped down harder. Here’s to another ten years of therapy.

“Umm…”

Like I said, I’m not much for words when I’m being violated. Ding.

The doors opened and I got the hell out of dodge. After that, I did my best to spare myself from her. I think I know what inmates feel like when Bubba takes a liking to them.

Trying to recuperate from what I now refer to as “the experience,” I found a fairly attractive girl that I enjoyed hanging out with and asked her if she’d like to watch a movie in my room. She complied, but asked if she could bring her boyfriend and a couple of friends up, too. A little disappointed that she wasn’t single, but not so downcast to turn to assholery, I said sure. Why not? What’s the worst that can happen?

We plopped ourselves down on the futon and popped in a movie. “Oh, Joe,” the girl we’ll call Vicki said. “My other friend might be a little late, but she said she’d be here.”

“Cool beans.” A few minutes latter, there was a rapping at the door. But rapping isn’t the right word. A thudding. A thunder. I opened it and cursed under my breath. Amber. She was all perky, like she’d just won the lottery.

“Hi Joe!”

I think I choked out a “hi” of my own. She sat next to me during the movie. I got up and watched the rest of the film from my computer chair. I had to draw the line somewhere.

After the movie, we started talking and whatnot, exchanging our hometowns and intended majors. Before I could tell them mine, Vicki looked at my overflowing bookshelf and said, “Man, you’ve got a lot of books.”

Take this as an example of something to not put your roommate through. Davy, my roommate, knew full well who these girls were and my feelings towards them, having heard the story several times. For the record, Davy, if you’re reading this, I still think you’re an asshole.

Davy, in all his infinite wisdom said, “Yeah, Joe’s a writer.” Amber’s interest was perked, her breath quickened, her perspiration pouring. “You never told me you were a writer!”

I shot Davy a glare, the kind that says you better be sleeping with one eye open, motherfucker. I’m sure I was red in the face and twitching. If I wasn’t, I should have been. “That’s because I didn’t want you to know,” I muttered to Amber.

For the next hour, she ran her greasy fingers though my manuscripts, asking why I wrote stuff all over the rough drafts with a red pen, and if I was going to be published someday. Asking if I ever wrote a romance. If I ever wrote a sex scene. If I’d write one for her.

For the record: Davy, you’re still an asshole.

If there’s a silver lining to every tragedy, I guess this silver lining is that I started secluding myself from Amber in every possible way, both for my nostril’s sake and my ass’s fading dignity. This included me quitting smoking, cold turkey. For those who claim it’s impossible to quit, that if they even think about quitting they get the shakes, that if they don’t have a smoke they’ll wither up and die like the smoldering cigarette butts, I beg to differ.

You don’t need a nicotine patch or chewing gum or friend support. You don’t need to take up a hobby or start using smokeless tobacco. You don’t need the support tapes telling you how much you want to live and that you don’t really want a cigarette. All you need is a little incentive. A nudge in the right direction. The missing link latching onto your hindquarters. Some positive reinforcement.

What you need is your own Amber, and an asshole of a roommate.

Yes, Davy. You’re still on my shit list.

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