HUUMMMPPP DAAYYYY! I hate most of those (“How happy is he, Chuckie?” “Happier than someone who never has to watch a stupid Geico commercial again, Charlie!” ba lingy dow bow dingy bam bam!) but yeah, the camel one, it’s funny.
It’s probably a bad idea, Brian thought. Then he smiled lazily. It’s definitely a bad idea. Little marshmallows, he thought, looking at the Percocets in his hand, you are so delicious.
The phrase “it’s all good” had never seemed so true as it had after Brian took one more pill than he was supposed to, the day after he broke his hand. The prescribed dosage was keeping the pain down to a dull throbbing, but that wasn’t good enough. So he took two instead of one. And man, that was Cloud Nine.
The clinic doctor had written him a Vicodin prescription. “I can’t take those,” Brian said truthfully. “They make me sick.” The doc had shrugged, torn up the scrip, and written him some Percocet instead. He’d never had them, so they might make him sick, too, but the pain made them worth a try.
He was so relaxed. He realized he’d probably never been as totally relaxed as this. There had always been a reason to be tense about something.
He remembered an argument with a friend in high school about the Weezer song, “Island in the Sun.”
“It’s about pain pills, dude,” his friend Chuck had insisted.
“No it’s not! It’s about going to a warm, sunny island where you’re playing and having fun. Didn’t you listen to the lyrics?”
“I totally listened to the lyrics.” Chuck brought them up on his computer. “ ‘And it makes me feel so fine I can’t control my brain?’ Or ‘We’ll never feel bad anymore?’ Dude, that pain pill is the island in the sun. If you’d ever taken more than a fucking Advil, you’d know it.”
Brian totally saw it now. When you’re on a golden sea, you really don’t need no memory. Just…drift into the zone.
He’d come close to this feeling, hadn’t he? When Professor Ehrens or Coach Blaine had given him a vote of confidence, or…well, any time he was around Roger. But with those good feelings had come the edge of anxiety, of expectation, the need to live up to the vote, to be worthy of it. This…shit, this was just peace. An end to the stress of school, the worry about what his broken hand was going to do to his ability to…do anything. Write papers, take notes, play ball, jack off. He laughed at that last one – left handed strokin’ for you, buddy! Skin the other side of your dick for a while!
“Dude!” Jeremy had said when he’d picked up Brian’s bottle of pills, uninvited, shook it, read the label. “He gave you like…shit. I think he screwed up. You hit the jackpot. These are 10s, too,” he added, indicating the maximum 10mg dose.
“I’m a big guy. Don’t they prescribe it by body weight?”
Jeremy looked at Brian speculatively. “So…you want to make some money?”
“What, selling them? I need those. For my pain.”
“Ha. Yeah, I can see you’re in a lot of pain right now. I’ll give you five bucks apiece,” Jeremy offered.
“And then you’d double your money when you sell ‘em! Please. I know what a Percocet sells for around here.” Still, it was tempting. Brian’s summer job money was almost gone already, and he wasn’t working now – and wouldn’t be able to get a job for at least four weeks, would he, with his broken fingers. He ate a lot of food, and the school’s semester meal plan didn’t include protein bars or protein powder or even much lean meat, for that matter. Oh, and beer wasn’t free.
But the pills cried out to him, No! You need us! And Brian nodded, easily convinced, happy to agree. Yes, I do. You are so right, my little friends.
Roger showed up at the baseball team’s practice and saw Brian on the field, his back to Roger, speaking low to a group of freshmen. Roger came up behind him, unseen, as Brian gave them some tips.
“So I know there’s a lot of nerves right now, right? You guys were studs in high school, and now it’s like being a little fish instead of the big fish. Trust me, I know. So the trick is to take your game apart, think about where it’s strongest, or at least where it was strongest in high school. Then totally ignore that, stop working on that this week. And think about where your game is weakest. Rayvon, man, you can chase that shit down in the field. You look about 7 foot 1 out there.” Everyone laughed; the outfielder was 6’ 4’ but long and lean enough to look much taller as he leapt and extended into his diving catches. “But what’s missing?”
Rayvon frowned. “Getting the ball back in?”
“Right. You can’t catch ‘em all. You gotta field the bouncers. You’ve got the power, but not the aim.” Brian tossed him a ball. “Okay, so get in position, feet apart, knees bent. Great. Four seam grip. Now, put your glove hand up, and then rest your throwing hand’s elbow on top of it, so they’re perpendicular. That means straight lines, dude. You need to know that, you’re in college now.” General laughter, including Rayvon.
“Almost perfect.” Brian came in and adjusted Rayvon’s arms. “That’s it. Elbow above the shoulder at all time. Now flick the ball to me.”
“If I’m in college, why am I doing this Little League shit?”
“Because you got a Little League throw, man. You want to get better?”
“Okay, then. Now…”
In a way, Roger wished he hadn’t seen it. Watching Brian coaching these guys, seeing this side of him, filled him with even more love than he’d had before. Brian was so good with them, so confident, in himself and in the players. The way he stood there, so big and tall, sunglasses on, cap low, totally hands-on with his advice, his splinted fingers carefully held out of harm’s way… He looked more like the coach than Coach Deere did – he was probably off in his office running numbers behind a closed door, from what Roger had heard about his coaching style.
The players lost their concentration when they saw Roger. Brian turned around to see what the distraction was and broke into a big smile. “Hey, man, you wanna help me teach these kids something? This guy,” he said to the freshmen, “in case you don’t know, can throw a ball.”
They knew it. The seventh Saturday was coming up and while “Heisman” was just a word being kicked around by the chattering classes in same sentence as “Ehrens,” still, it was there. Roger shrugged it off; the single loss to Oregon that had started the year had robbed the Barbarians, mercifully, of the media’s focus, obsessed as they were with the undefeated teams.
“You’re good at that,” Roger said as they walked off the field.
Brian shrugged. “It’s not coaching, I’m just showing them a few tricks.”
“No, I can see it. You could do it, professionally. After you play in the pros.”
Brian was still, always, astonished when people took it for granted that he’d accomplish something great. “If I play in the pros.”
“I heard you’re on the follow list.” That was the list that MLB scouts kept, of players to watch, who weren’t ready (or available) yet for the big leagues.
Brian laughed. “I’m blocked there, even if I was good enough. They have to let me complete my junior year.”
Roger smiled. “See, you’ve been checking up on the rules.”
“Hey, everyone knows those.”
His lazy grin, his easy manner, were balm to Roger. Brian was the one person with whom he didn’t have to talk about football, who wasn’t obsessed with the team’s chances, who…just thought of him as Roger, not as “Roger Ehrens.” He was so relaxed, so easy to be around…
Brian was glad he had his sunglasses on. He didn’t want Roger to see his eyes, the honey glaze the Percs gave them. Didn’t want to talk about the schoolwork that was slipping, those calculus formulas that had set sail on that golden sea, waving lazily as they faded into the sunset. Here on the field, he was in his element, it felt good to be here, almost good enough that he didn’t need a pill to feel good here…almost.
You’d think a college would know how to do math, Brian thought, looking at his D on the calculus midterm. Why do they call this a “midterm” when it’s only like 1/3 of the way through the semester? Or maybe it’s 2/5th. Or something. I’d have to know math to figure it out!
He should have been more upset, but the pills, which he’d stunningly been able to refill, kept such thoughts at bay. The darkest spell that could be cast on a college ball player were the fatal words, “Academically Ineligible.” Slipping below a C average would be death to his position on the team next year.
Still. The important thing was that Roger didn’t know. He’d already started to suspect something was wrong. Brian couldn’t wear sunglasses all the time, unfortunately.
“Are you okay?” Roger asked him one night over coffee. “You look a little…fucked up. You’re not still taking those Percocets?”
Brian waggled his splinted fingers and smiled. “Yeah, but it’s okay. I have a prescription.”
Roger frowned. He’d noticed that Brian wasn’t all there during their study sessions, spending more time grunting in agreement with Roger’s theories than engaging with them. “You know, you told me the same story twice tonight.”
Brian was stunned to feel…something, never mind panic. But there it was, the little fingers of anxiety, curling around the edges of the wall the pills had built against it. He was slipping. Or the pills were slipping as he built up a tolerance to them.
Roger wanted to reach out, take Brian’s hand, touch him, something. But he didn’t dare, didn’t want to make Brian think that he…let Brian know that he… Shit. Anger flared up, an emotion he hadn’t even known he had in him until recently. But he’d never had anything to be angry about, before… before meeting Brian, before finding something he couldn’t have, couldn’t let himself want, wanted anyway.
He’d learned to channel that newfound anger onto the field, for the most part. He’d been thrilled last weekend when he’d thrown an interception and had been the only one who could stop the runner – Roger had blocked him, tackled him to the ground hard, and it had felt great, to feel that physical release of throwing someone down. Coach Orson had chewed him out, as the QB you’re not to endanger yourself, blah blah. All the same, he knew he’d do it again in a heartbeat. Where else could he put all these feelings? What else could he do with them?
And now, here was Brian, pissing him off. Because he was screwing up, because Roger couldn’t give him what he wanted to give him, that unbounded physical affection, that he knew Brian needed, as much as he did.
“Promise me you’ll stop taking those pills.”
“I’m still in a lot of pain, man, and I…”
“Bullshit. You’re a healthy young man who’s healing fast. You should never have been on them. You should have fucking sacked up and taken Tylenol and kept your head clear.”
Roger’s tone shocked him. This wasn’t the mild-mannered Roger he knew – this was the beast he’d started to become on the field as his talent, his confidence grew, as his mental and physical toughness started to emerge from behind that cool exterior. Roger, cursing! Roger, laying into him!
He nodded. “Yeah, man. Okay.”
“Promise me.” Roger’s eyes drilled into his, no plea there, only command.
Roger nodded, returning to…not his self, but his other self, Brian realized. Roger was getting better, at everything, and was getting more confident too. He was going to leave Brian behind in the dust, if Brian kept drifting.
You just need something to get your edge back. Something to balance things out, a little more Red Bull or…something.
Brian’s eyes lit up with the easy solution, the knowledge that he could fix this, the warm bright confidence of the orally ingested sun shining his eyes.
Roger smiled, seeing Brian light up. He was so handsome, so full of life, and it had been killing him to see him so…dim. There he is, he thought to himself, he’s back, there’s my Brian.
“I just need something, you know, to help me study.”
Jeremy snorted. “Right.”
“Seriously, dude. My mind is like, I don’t know, mush. From the pain pills. Everything just…gets away from me.”
“Adderall. I can hook you up.”
“I don’t want to fail a drug test.”
“You don’t fail a drug test if you’re on file as being on a ‘medically necessary’ drug.”
“You know,” Brian said, “if you put as much effort into your schoolwork as you did into your knowledge of pharmaceuticals, you’d be an honor student.”
“I’d be a broke-ass honor student. Fuck that. This is a dude I know, he’s a ‘sports psychiatrist.’ A real MD. He’ll evaluate you, diagnose you with ADD or ADHD. Do a big write up. Then you take the paper into the athletics office and file it and you’re good to go to pill up. He’ll cost you about 500 bucks…”
“I don’t have that kind of money.”
“Let me finish. Or, you can let him suck your dick.”
“It’s no big deal, man. He’s about forty, nice guy, loves college jock cock.”
Brian laughed. “I knew you were a pervert. You’ll stick your dick in anything, won’t you?”
“No. But I’ll stick it in where I get something out, no doubt. And he’s good at it.” Jeremy’s face went dark with concentrated lust, as he clenched his hands and mimicked bobbing an imaginary head up and down on his dick. “He likes it rough, too. You can skullfuck that shit. Make him swallow, too.”
Something stirred in Brian, dark and frightening, the allure of an easy get-off fighting it out with the horrifying thought that even considering it made him gay. Was that what Roger wanted, some guy to…do that to him? “No way. Not going there. Not a gay bone in my body.”
“Everyone’s got a gay bone.” Jeremy grabbed his crotch. “Right here.”
“There’s gotta be another way.”
“Yeah, okay, come on.” He went to his computer and Roger leaned over his shoulder. Jeremy brought up Amazon.com and did a search. “This shit, right here.”
“DMAA powder? What’s that?”
“That, my friend, is speed. In the form of a legal, unbanned performance enhancer.”
“NCAA doesn’t even know it exists. You might test poz for amphetamines on it, but if you do, you show ‘em your receipt for this shit, and they retest you, and hey! You’re good to go.”
“Sounds too good to be true.”
“Well, nothing lasts forever. They’ll catch on eventually. But you want an edge? Without getting your dick sucked? And it’s on Amazon.com, right? What could be more above board?”
“It’s pretty cheap…” Brian said, considering it, but not really, his mind already made up. It was a legal unbanned supplement. What was there to consider?