Fenwick Northrop walked calmly down the sidewalk, kicking stones as he headed home. It was approaching 1 a.m., and Fenwick was returning to his dorm just before visitation hours ended and he would have had to leave his girl friend’s place. It was a school rule that nobody particularly cared for, but most grudgingly followed. It was most annoying when you tried to watch a late night movie but had to segregate genders come 1 a.m.
But Fenwick followed it unswervingly. The moon was nowhere in sight tonight, but the street lights made his shadow long and slender. He kicked another rock and rounded the corner towards his building. He opened his door and immediately lowered his head as he turned to close the door. He didn’t want his roommates to see the word he mouthed at the site of them. But it wasn’t necessary. Their eyes didn’t move from the flickering screen, their fingers and thumbs furiously twitching across the game pads.
“Hi guys,” Fenwick mumbled as he took his coat off and hung it in the closet. They mumbled a response and continued playing. Fenwick stood in the entryway for a moment, watching them play. In an attempt to be amiable he asked what they were playing. It was the latest release, fresh from the video store, and would probably keep them occupied the rest of the weekend. Fenwick sighed and retired to his room.
He kicked off his shoes and stepped around his roommate’s piles of clothes, books, and various papers. He settled into his computer chair and flicked the whirring monitor to life. The screen brightened the room and Fenwick lazily maneuvered the mouse and started a loop of mp3’s playing through his stereo speakers. He checked his email and found one message from Faye, a girl he’d met online and conversed with occasionally, and a message from the company that made the mp3 software he used. It was something about a chance to buy the program he’d been using for free. Sending it to the trash, he turned to the message from Faye.
She was telling Fenwick about the latest book she’d read, something about a girl who discovers she’s really a witch and begins learning all these magical powers. Faye explained what a rich narrative the book had and how much she liked it. Fenwick shook his head and moved on to the next paragraph.
Her next paragraph was an answer to his question about appropriate ways for women to dress. They’d gotten into a heated debate and Fenwick was determined to make Faye see it his way. He couldn’t possibly see how she had a leg to stand on. It all started with an off-hand comment Fenwick made about the girls sunbathing outside his window. Fenwick explained that he shouldn’t be tempted just by looking out his own window. He expected a little more decency from the women on campus. But when Faye didn’t whole heatedly agree with him an eruptive argument took shape. Faye mentioned something about the women on campus walking around with dresses below their knees and baggy sweatshirts, all so poor Fenwick wouldn’t be tempted. Fenwick shook his head, realizing she still didn’t understand.
He started to reply to her email and realized he didn’t feel like arguing so late at night. He told her he’d explain things tomorrow, and when on to something else. He told her he couldn’t understand how she could appreciate a book about witches. He hadn’t yet read the book and didn’t plan on it. What’s the use of filling your mind with witches and magic and spells? None of it’s real, and none of it’s good for you. But now he was approaching another argument and decided to change the subject.
Next week the new Star Wars video came out on video. Fenwick was planning on renting it with his roommates–a rare bonding moment–and he asked Faye if she’d seen it yet. Reminded of his roommates, Fenwick took the opportunity to vent his frustrations to Faye. They were always wasting their time playing those stupid video games. He didn’t understand how anyone could waste so much time. It boggled his mind. Nothing like staring at a flickering screen for hours on end.
Finally Fenwick wrapped up his email to Faye, saying he needed to get to bed. He shut down the computer and hastily got ready for bed, realizing how early the alarm would sound in the morning. Climbing into bed, Fenwick remembered the comment his girlfriend made the other day. She complained that his sheets and pillow case smelled. He had smiled weakly when she said it, annoyed that she was nagging about his personal habits. With is head resting on the pillow Fenwick took in a deep breath and didn’t notice anything. He knew he didn’t have a particularly good sense of smell, but he still couldn’t smell anything. With that he dismissed her comment, realizing that if he didn’t notice the smell, it wasn’t worth worrying about.