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  • When We Were Boys
  • Eric Severn (bio)

Some freak storm howled down from Canada, hammered the spine of the Cascades, boomeranged west and ripped across Puget Sound, dumping record snow that brought Olympia, Washington, to a dead halt. Not that we weren’t stuck already, our four-person crew. We were fat, courageless boys. We were freshmen in college. We walked around campus with large books so everyone could see: Hegel, Wittgenstein, Kant, and Leibniz. We said a priori and syllogism. We wore glasses and had dandruff. We ate Adderall at mealtime and smoked Dunhill cigarettes. We went to lectures and read The British Journal of Mind and Ethics and scoffed ironically. We were contentious. We were roommates. We were virgins.

It was a Friday night and the snow kept on. We were on winter break and talking vulgarly about girls. We did this often. It was our thing. Our vernacular reached a certain genius simplicity and euphemistic zeal, bringing us that much closer to the thing itself: girls. We said we wanted to bury the baby leg. We wanted to boom boom and bone dance. We wanted to bonk, boof, bop, and breed, sink the gravy boat, and stomp the goat.

A pathetic fire smoldered in the fireplace. The couch sagged under our weight. An icy draft bloused the floral sheets we hung against the windows. We were getting tired of using binoculars to peek across the street at Mr. Bennett parking his yacht in Mrs. Bennett’s harbor. We were tired of spying on their teenage daughter nob-jobbing her boyfriend in his car. We were tired of talking about our sisters waxing the bean. Of our fathers flogging the hog to porn while thinking everyone was in bed. Or diddling some stripper in a used-car lot. Or worse, doing none of these. Simply giving up and sitting alone in an empty house. But mostly we were tired of the things we couldn’t talk about. The ineffable holes no euphemism could fill. Of lying in our silent beds after doing the five-knuckle shuffle. Fuck this, we said. This isn’t living. We need to venture forth and take the bull by the horns.

We went outside and shoveled snow from the ’77 Lincoln. Crow Black. Tan leather interior. Sure, we had other wheels: a cramped Honda and dented Toyota handed down from parents. But the Lincoln was different, the way it offered its own living space, fit the four of us to coast down [End Page 625] back roads with effortless control. We had pulled our money together. We left communal cigarettes in the glove box, shades on the dash. Cruising in the Lincoln, possibility unfolded before us and now we tapped its hood and called it Papa because tonight would be different. We didn’t go to parties but tonight we would. There would be girls, and we would talk to them. We’d flex our dizzying minds. We’d say epistemology and heteronormativity. We were going to go out into the world and screw and scrog and scrump. Bang and ball and stab the trout. Stick. It. In.

We climbed into the car. We needed music, and fast. We argued and decided on Chopin’s Nocturnes. The car slid, coasted. We snickered ironically. We saw things objectively. We rolled down our windows, hung our heads out like dogs and howled into downtown, passed Capital Lake, passed a group of girls testing the snow-cracked ice under their weight. Their soft voices crept up to us and we barked back at them. Above us the clouds broke and the sky looked enormous.

We dropped into the Westside neighborhoods. Flung out on black waters the solitary orb of a fishing boat rocked dolefully. The rumored party was at a derelict farmhouse. We had heard stories. The bands. The drugs. The girls. Stories of people who did not fuck around in the face of violence and danger. We wanted to not fuck around too.

Shincke Road took us into the woods. The forest was a dark face knocking in the wind. We were cautious drivers, letting the Lincoln draw slow tracks in dry powder. Then...


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pp. 625-629
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