plrknib

1982.

Slonim Woods Eight dorm house, just before winter break.

I was a sophomore and so far the year had been indistinct and depressing. Slonim was too far from the main campus, too far from the life of this world and I felt cut off, isolated. The previous year had ended on a bad note with Anita and Simon, and then Bruce transferring to Wesleyan. So I was literally and figuratively alone, and thinking I might even move back to the freshman dorms on the main campus. Other non-freshmen lived there and open rooms were almost always available, so I wouldn’t be a total freak. And it would get me out of Slonim Woods.

I had had a fight with one of my housemates, recently – an irritable trumpet player – because I “borrowed” his milk. I just wanted a bowl of cereal, and the cafeteria was two miles away. We Slonim Woods Eight folk shared a community kitchen and fridge, and it must’ve only been a cup of milk. But he flipped out. To be fair, I did open the carton, depriving him of that keen, initial carton opening experience. Of course, he had no idea who took it, and left angry notes on the fridge: Who the fuck took my milk!? I expect this milk to be replaced!

He went room to room to get answers. When confronted, I admitted the theft, but said that I’d thought, perhaps, it was community milk.

“Bullshit,” he said. “You stole it!”

So, the next morning I slogged a mile and a half through knee-high snow to a convenience store near the parkway and bought three cartons of milk: one for myself, two for him. I left his cartons in a bag with his name on it in the community fridge, and included a note: “Sorry about the milk.”

Later, he came by my room.

“You got major guilt, dude! All you had to do in the first place was ask.”

 

Tuesday night. I was digging through the community fridge and the community phone rang. It was Chip Chinery.

“I’m watching The Tonight Show,” he said. “Are you watching – ?”

“Nah. We don’t have a TV – ”

“Some guy just came on – and he totally stole your bit!”

And my blood froze, because I already knew the answer to the next question.

“Which bit?” I asked.

“Plrknib.”

 

For the better part of my senior year of high school, I was Plrknib and Plrknib was me. We were one and the same. When people saw me on the street or at the club, I was Plrknib. At Wyoming High School and at Ursuline dances, at Bogarts, and at the Losantiville Country Club, at the Corral Show and Zantigo’s, I was Plrknib. I was Plrknib to cute girls, and guys that wanted to impress their girls. And to young guys who were pissed and hated me and thought, what the hell is so special about him? What the fuck has he got!? To them, especially, I was Plrknib. On cold nights and hot summer days, and sometimes when I looked in the mirror – or practiced lines, wearing a groove around the house – I was Plrknib. I was Plrknib. And that was okay. Plrknib was a fine, joyful thing to be. Cotton candy, cocaine, Pepsi with ice. It was funny and happy and free, and liberating. And it was not mine, and it was all mine. And, briefly, it made my life much, much easier.

And I was conscious that I’d been relying on it too much. But people loved it. Sometimes more than they liked me. And I thought: I don’t need Plrknib. I was fine before Plrknib, and I’ll be fine after. Yeah, okay, we make a good team. A great team. But I’m in charge. Not the other way around. I can give it up. No problem.

Or so I thought.

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