Photo by Tamyka Bell

Chapter: Study

Matte black with bold lettering, my coffee mug reminded me of my plans for this evening: Stay up all fucking night.

I sighed, resisting the urge to check the clock or my email, regretting my earlier transgression with Dave. Algebra was never going to be my friend, and the only thing I’d learned in the last forty-five minutes was that the hours I’d spent smoking the wacky tabacky and then sleeping it off were greater than or equal to the hours I should’ve spent studying.

I closed the textbook with another sigh, and picked up Clinical Psychology by Trull and Winstein instead. It was an elective, and less critical for my degree, but at least it was interesting and the authors had more letters in their names than after them.

Another groan came from the next room — not a human voice, but the sound of floorboards protesting their mistreatment as furniture got moved across them by the force of the pounding. I could hear that, too. The pounding. And then I heard some moaning.

‘Are you fucking kidding me?’

My coffee mug didn’t respond, which was almost certainly a good thing if I didn’t want to end up as a case study in my textbook. I raised it to my lips and gagged as the cold, black dregs hit my tongue. I don’t like black coffee at the best of times, but it’s the worst when it’s tepid. Time for a fresh brew.

There was a bad smell in the kitchen, but it seemed to be wafting in from the lounge. I’ve never regretted my decision to claim the back room with its direct access to the kitchen, where it was relatively quiet and private and easy to find a midnight snack. Of course, everyone wanted to be close to the lounge — it’s the same in every share house I’ve ever lived in — because the lounge is always rocking, whereas the kitchen is the rarely used as anything more than a glorified beer-fridge.

But I preferred to steer clear of the lounge (unless Dave had lit up), and tonight was no exception.

I followed the usual ritual, first filling the kettle and setting it to boil, and then rinsing the plunger before adding two scoops of coffee — one for me and one for the plunger. I rinsed my mug and automatically reached for the milk. For the third time that evening.

Fortunately, I’ve lived in share houses long enough that I also automatically sniffed the milk before I poured it. I gagged at the sour smell, for the third time that evening.

‘Fuck!’ It almost spoiled my appetite, but at least I didn’t ruin the coffee. I recapped the bottle and put it back in the fridge, also for the third time that evening. Then I caught myself, took the milk back out, and poured it down the sink.

There must be some long-life stuff in the pantry. Nope, but there was a fresh tube of sweetened condensed milk. I’m not one for sweet coffee, but I like it better than black coffee, so I figured it’d have to do. I peeled back the foil and squeezed a generous glob into the mug. It didn’t change colour as much as I expected, so I squeezed some more in and swirled the mug. No change, so I added a bit more. Then I dug a spoon out of the top drawer and stirred vigorously, watching in dismay as my brew transformed to some ghostly white beverage I can only describe as not-coffee.

‘Fuck.’ It was not my night. It was also not my time to wallow in self-pity, though — I had work to get done.

But first, I needed to piss.

I had only taken a single step into the lounge when I heard the ruckus down the hall. Chemise was clearly upset about something, and punctuating her complaint with expletives, but I couldn’t make out the detail. ‘Say something, you smug little bitch!’

I walked back to my bedroom, closed the door, and placed my mug down next to Clinical Psychology. Then I opened my window, breathed in the crisp air, unzipped my fly, and watered the garden.


Dave was in my face as soon as I entered the kitchen. And he was smirking. ‘SuperScott! Shit, dude, I don’t know what you got up to last night, but it must’ve been good: you look shagged!’

‘Thanks, Davey-O. You look like shit, too. At least I’ve got an excuse.’ I tipped my dregs into the sink and put the kettle on, then held my coffee mug up for him to see.

He read it out loud. ‘Stay up all fucking night…hey, that’s good. I like it. But, what? No sleep?’

I nodded.

‘How come? Not studying?’

I nodded.

‘Dude! On a Friday night?’

I nodded.

‘That’s shit, man. That’s what happens when you do science. You should switch to business or something.’ He tilted his jaw towards the coffee plunger. ‘Make enough for me?’

‘Sure thing.’ I measured out three scoops of coffee — one for me, one for Dave, and one for the plunger — and poured the hot water in. ‘So how come you’re so chipper? Didn’t sound like you got much sleep, either.’

He knew he couldn’t deny it — he’d never succeeded so far — but he tried to play dumb anyway. ‘Huh?’

I pushed the plunger down and topped up my coffee mug. There were no other clean mugs, so I poured his into a glass and handed it to him. ‘Dude, the furniture was moving. Also — ’ I put on my best girl-voice: ‘Oh! Oh! Oh, Dave! Yes! Oh, yes! Right there! More, yes!’

‘Oh, yeah. That.’ He grinned. ‘Sorry. I hope we weren’t too noisy.’ He looked down at his coffee, unimpressed. ‘Milk?’

‘Sour.’

He took a sip and grimaced. ‘It’ll do. I need it.’

‘So, where’s Winnie? It’s not like her to leave early.’

Dave said nothing. He also refused to make eye contact.

‘Dave?’

‘I…’

‘Dave?’

‘She never showed up.’

‘Then who the fuck were you…’

A familiar voice spoke up from the lounge, accompanied by light footsteps. ‘Dave, I think someone puked in here. Ugh, gross. It’s, like, everywhere.’

I looked up in alarm.

Loni stood in the doorway. ‘Oh, hi, Scott.’


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