By Juliet Escoria - Aug 8, 2018
I killed a cat before I left. I was supposed to go home real quick, get out of my work clothes, grab my bag. The sun was at a bad angle, slicing through the dirty windshield into my eyes, and I didn’t see the cat until it was too late.
The cat didn’t look too bad, laying there like it could just be sleeping—except for its right eye, which was pooling in blood. It breathed in and out, jagged and loud. I stood over it. It didn’t lift its head or even look at me.
A Jeep drove past as I was standing there, two girls a few years younger than me. They probably went to my old high school, the one I’d dropped out of a year before, long blond hair and light tans, bikinis tied in knots around their necks. The Jeep was brand new, shiny white, pink and yellow daisies appliquéd to the back.
They pulled over. “Fuck,” I said. They were going to come over here and make me feel bad about the cat.
OH MY GOD, one of the girls yelled.
OH MY GOD, the other girl yelled.
I thought for a second that the cat was theirs. The one in the cut-offs felt around its neck for a collar. The cat was still doing the jagged breathing.
WHAT DID YOU DO????? the one in the miniskirt yelled at me. She was slightly less attractive than the other one, bigger nose, smaller chin.
“It ran in front of my car,” I said. I tried to sound sad. I felt horrible, this sucking feeling in my gut and shaky hands. “The sun was in my eyes. I couldn’t see shit.” I was about to tell them I wasn’t speeding or anything and it wasn’t my fault, but it was clear they didn’t care.
OH MY GOD, one of them yelled again.
“We have to take it to the vet,” the other said.
It was after five and the vet around the corner was closed. Blood was spilling out of the cat’s eye onto the pavement.
The girls cradled the cat—one at the legs, the other the head—like a heavy, sacred object. They carted it over to the back of the Jeep, not seeming to care if they stained their cute clothes with its doomed blood. They drove off without saying anything to me. I felt like shit.
There was blood on the pavement, just a little bit, a splotch the size of a lima bean. I had an urge to touch it but I didn’t want to touch it so I got back in my car. There was nothing else to do. I drove home. I changed. I got on the train.
I had a flask of cheap vodka and my silver pill case was full. I couldn’t stop thinking about the bloody eye. I shut my eyes and it was still there, red and wet. I bought a bottle of orange juice at the snack bar, drank the vodka, ate two pills. The setting sun skimmed off the ocean, a bright orange globe behind my eyelids. I fell asleep.
The purpose of the trip was to party. We were always going there, to Santa Barbara. Me, from San Diego, where we’d all grown up. Blair and Cara from their college in Santa Cruz. Krista and Abby lived there in a studio apartment.
In San Diego, I worked at the wine store and took a class online at the community college. I drank too much, alone, and slept a lot. Sometimes in the mornings I could barely get out of bed, this feeling like some beast was crouched on my chest. In Santa Barbara, I drank more but not alone, and I barely slept. I didn’t know it until years later but it was a bad time for the rest of them too. Blair had been raped at college and Cara was close to getting kicked out of school. Abby’s dad had just died and Krista’s Mormon family had cut her off.
It was like we were playing a game each weekend. We tried to outdo each other, and ourselves from the weekend before. There was the time we went to the porn party—they did a news story about it and we saw our dumb drunk faces on TV. There was the time we wore wet underwear in a kiddie pool, holding a sign asking for money for our abortions. Between all of it, half of us had spent a night in jail, less serious than it sounded. The cops took you away in a van, fed you a sandwich and let you out in the morning.
Then there was the game we played out on Del Playa, the main street, which was crowded each weekend with thousands of students, thousands of strangers walking from party to party. We got a point for each penis we grabbed as we walked. The reactions varied. Sometimes the boys yelled and asked for our numbers. But most of them—we did it for the look on their faces. Pinched, flushing red, surprised. Afraid.
I didn’t say anything about the cat when I got there. I was still thinking about it. I wanted it to go away. We shotgunned beers and I tried to push it out of my brain. A few beers in and it grew softer. I pretended it was something I saw in a movie. It floated out and away.
The girls wanted to go to the party at the big house next door. I wanted to do anything else. I didn’t like those boys because they were stupid and boring. But I agreed to go anyway, didn’t even complain. When we walked over, there was nobody there yet and the boys were playing pool. They offered us cups of punch, which we took, and then they ignored us. We sat on the couch and made up a new game.
We came up with the concept, the name, the rules. A “forority,” an equal opportunity Greek fraternal organization, Delta Iota Kappa. If boys wanted to join, they had to show us their dick. I took out the notebook I kept in my purse and we wrote all of it down.
Only one of the boys in the house was cute. His name was Remy. He was stupid and dressed bad but he looked like some guy in an underwear ad, blond hair and chiseled everything. Bright blue eyes. We called him over to us. We told him we needed a cute boy in our forority. “Just show us your dick,” Cara said.
“It’ll take one second,” Blair said.
“Just a peek,” I said.
“You’ll get a patch,” Abby said. “Sew it on your jacket.”
Remy laughed. He seemed uncomfortable. Which was the point. “You guys are crazy,” he said. He walked away.
Toward midnight we were sitting on the patio. I’d bought this jug of juice from the store because I thought the name was funny. Beefamato. It was Clamato but with beef broth instead. We were trying to sell it to this boy. He was younger, only seventeen, had come up to visit his brother for the weekend. We told him it was mixed with vodka.
“Just try a sip,” I said. “It’s so strong.”
He took a sip. Beef broth.
“Isn’t it good?” Krista asked him.
“Oh man,” I said. “I got so fucked up from it last weekend.”
“I don’t taste anything,” the boy said. “This shit is gross.”
“It’s the tomato juice,” Cara said. “Haven’t you ever had a bloody mary? You can’t even taste the vodka.”
“Oh yeah.” He’d never had a bloody mary. “OK,” he said. “How much?”
“Twenty bucks,” I said. “I paid forty.”
“Why don’t you want it?” he said.
“Last weekend was too much,” I said.
“Oh my god, we got so fucked up,” Abby said.
“Just the thought of it makes me want to vomit,” Blair said.
He gave us the twenty dollars. I put it in my pocket and we hopped over the patio wall. When we got in the alley we started laughing and couldn’t stop. What an idiot.
At the store, we decided on whiskey. I liked the taste but forgot how it always made me mean. We drank it straight like shots, right in the alley. I had that heavy feeling in my feet but the rest of my body felt floaty and nice. The cat was long gone and I could do anything.
The bottle was just about empty when Remy came by. He was buying more beer for the party, he told us. The alley went from the apartment complex to the back entrance of the store. We were standing in the narrow part, a wooden fence and only enough room for one person. There was a hole in the fence, some planks removed, which was how you got to the store. Krista stood in front of the hole. I was near the fence, blocking the light from the patio, darkening everything except Remy’s beautiful face in shadows.
“You’re going to join our forority,” Blair said.
“You have to,” Krista said.
“Ha ha,” Remy said. Something ran across his face like a rat. Fear.
I pushed him against the fence, a hand on each shoulder, hard. He seemed too startled to move.
“Get him,” Cara said.
Krista grabbed his belt, tugged at it, released. I kept him pinned to the wood. His pants were at his ankles.
“Oh hey, hey,” he said. He tried to bend down to pick up his pants, but I held on to his shoulders and he didn’t fight back.
Blair reached through the hole in his boxers, found his cock.
“It’s hard,” she said. We laughed. It wasn’t, but it was getting there. She tugged at it some, rough. I took one hand off his shoulder and cupped his balls.
Abby spat in her hand. She started jerking him off, sliding over the turkey neck to the tip. He still looked a little scared but was breathing heavy and it got heavier. Blair kissed him on the neck. I released his shoulders, took over for Abby. Cara grabbed his wrists and held them together. He was making little moans by then, jagged breaths, like the cat.
Blair stopped kissing him, got on her knees.
“Come on my tits,” she said. She was wearing a t-shirt so this was technically impossible. “Oh yeah baby,” she said, like a girl in a porno. “Come on my tits. Look at that cock. It’s so hard. You’re so hot, baby.”
Remy’s breathing got heavier. He made a soft cooing sound, like a baby. His face scrunched up. He came. Blair reached up, caught it in her hand. She stood, wiped it on his shirt. She laughed. We laughed. Remy looked at the ground. “You’re fucking disgusting,” Blair said.
“So gross,” I said.
“You can’t join our forority,” Krista said.
Cara spat at his feet. We ran away. I looked back, just for a second. I could only see his shadow. It was crouched over, like maybe he had fallen. Maybe he was throwing up.