by Julia Zygiel ’19
Five years ago, while he was sitting in some stoner’s basement with music blasting and underage drinking tornadoing its way through a high school party, Erik finally clicked in James’ head. They’d been friends for three years leading up to that, and at that point, James liked to say that Erik had about 20 different people living in his head. With every different situation that James saw him in, he was different. When it was just the two of them he was chill. They played Call of Duty and Halo until their eyes burned from the strain. When they were with those of a more popular crowd Erik was all about drinking and getting high. With girls it didn’t matter what clique or creed they belonged to, it was always smooth city.
At that particular party, James had spotted at least five different Eriks. The stoner that was hosting was a surprisingly popular kid, and the party provided a decent spread of high school specimens. James was high as a kite, vegging out on a couch whose history he didn’t want to think about, and Erik was ever the social butterfly, moving quicker around the room than James’ eyes could track him. That was when it clicked. James always thought he was smarter stoned.
Erik was a performative creature. He existed only as others perceived him. James smirked at himself. His mother would be proud that the SAT prep course she was paying for was increasing his vocabulary. Erik, at this moment, was wide-chested and tall, talking with the football jocks and effortlessly cradling the can of Bud Light in his hand. James was fairly sure that when Erik was completely alone he just stared blankly at the wall until a personality he could feed off of happened upon him. He shuddered at the thought. Creepy.
Five years ago was the last time James saw Erik, his light blonde hair stained blue in the LED lights of the party. After a week of radio silence James had shown up at Erik’s house uninvited, musing with a smile that he’d just shut down without enough people around to sustain him. But no one answered the door, and Erik hadn’t been to school in a week. The whole family, it seemed, had packed up and left without a word given to a neighbor or friend. Only Mrs. Stuart, the woman across the street, knew where they went. They had left her with the family dog, Bentley. “They went away, wanted to live among nature,” she told James, the little Scottish Terrier trembling in her arms, “Guess the hustle and bustle of suburban life just gets to be too much for some folks.”