Lou is renting an old second floor apartment in a duplex with one of his fraternity brothers from Thailand who is from a very well-off family and did not want to go home this summer. His roommate spends a lot of time in the gym, and God only knows where else he goes, but he is almost never home, so we usually have the place to ourselves. I cook, and we get to hang out without a bunch of other guys around; it is a nice change from the fraternity house. To get some cheap furnishings, Lou and I went to some yard sales, where he also picked up a used 8mm movie projector. He immediately went out to buy some X-rated movies at a local porn shop; I refused to go in with him. He’s always had magazines around; I guess most guys do, but the movies are more of a distraction than anything else as far as I’m concerned. The film keeps jamming up, and he stops to fix it and re-spool and thread the film into the sprockets. The picture is distorted on the uneven bedroom wall, because we don’t have a screen. I get bored pretty quickly with it, and I’m not interested in seeing the movies over and over and over again like he is. He keeps going down to the porn shop, claiming, ”just one more.” Sometimes, I think he is much more into the action on the film than he is into me. Thank God for the music on the record player to drown out the incessant noise of the projector that rattles like my banana seat bicycle tire spokes when I used to clothespin a playing card to the wheel. If I close my eyes, I can ignore the fact that his eyes are glued to the images on the wall.

Lou is still expecting me to cancel my vacation that starts in a couple weeks from now and keeps challenging that I would not do this if I really cared about him. This trip is for me, and has nothing to do with him, but I can’t make that point in a way that won’t piss him off even more. So, I just explain that I’ve already paid and have committed to the trip with my girlfriend and can’t back out now, which is technically the truth. It implies that I’d rather stay with him and would like to get out of it if possible, which sounds better than me saying that I do care, but really want to go on my own. A few of his high school friends are coming to visit; I’ll meet them to hang out one night but will have to head out the next morning to New York City. He wants me to tell them I have a family event to attend rather than tell the truth about where I am going. Apparently, my solo vacation is something I should be ashamed of doing. Whatever.

Yesterday was my 18th birthday. Not a big celebration, to say the least. In my family, the only birthday parties are the ones I plan, and I’m long past the days of using my oldest sister’s shared birth date with me as an excuse to have a party for myself as well. Lou and I went out for my first legal beer, and he gave me a birthstone ring with a ruby and two small diamonds on either side, sized for my left ring finger. I tried putting it elsewhere, but he asked me to wear it on my left hand as a commitment ring. My parents literally raised their eyebrows when I showed them the gift; I explained that was the only finger it fit.