More from My Shirtcuff

“I’m going to write a play,” says Ben. Ben is massive – six and a half feet if he’s an inch, and beautifully, brilliantly dissipated. He holds his hands up from where he’s sinking into the couch to indicate the scope, the manifest grandeur of his vision. “The Fall of Jamie, the All-American Boy.” Jamie is his roommate, another massive man, a hefty, hairless, and utterly unself-conscious Ukrainian, one of God’s innocents. They ended up living together accidentally, though they’d been friends in high school, since they both requested non-smoking dorms and there were only two on campus. Both of them smoked; they didn’t want their parents to know.

Ben has plans to build a time machine some day. It’s a pipe dream (he’s a theater major) but he keeps careful notes of times that having a time machine would come in handy. “Beer,” he says, his hand out ready for the materialized can, at 2:27 on a Sunday afternoon, 15 October 2000 B.C.E., and notes it in the little book he carries. No beer ever shows up. “He’s got the time machine,” Ben says, meaning himself . “He’s just a jerk. I know he’s laughing while he’s drinking my beer.”

Later on he makes a sculpture out of hundreds of candles. It’s an impermanent sculpture, melted over an endtable he fished out of dumpster, dripping on to a cheap carpet, three feet of wax spears from tabletop to floor. Underneath the wax there’s a half-empty bottle of Leinenkugel’s. I only see this once; I know too many terrible stories from early on and I’m indiscreet. After I visit once I’m politely – but firmly, decidedly – uninvited back.