Out in the Open

By: A.J. Truman

CHAPTER ONE


It wasn’t even nine on a Saturday morning, and Ethan Follett found himself surrounded in a sea of lime green. Lime-green Browerton Tshirts. Lime-green shorts. Lime-green bandanas. One guy had his face painted lime green and white; green streaks lined another girl’s hair. Ethan glanced over at his friend Jessica, and her lips pursed with disgust.

“Game day.” She rolled her eyes.

They waited at a crosswalk with what seemed like fifty other students, and every single one of them wore lime green.

“Who are we playing?” Ethan asked. Jessica shrugged. As if either of them would know.

The girl in front swiveled around, and Ethan got a mouthful of lime green-streaked hair. “We’re playing the Eagles. GOOOOO WHITETAILS!” She and her friends threw up their arms and let out a WOOO! Ethan noticed her sneakers were even dyed lime green. That was dedication.

“You should come to the student tailgate,” the girl said. She seemed familiar to Ethan, but he couldn’t place it.

Her invitation tempted him for a second. Even though Ethan had never been to a single Browerton football game, he felt a twinge of excitement knowing it was game day. He shrugged it off as a contact high from his rowdy peers.

“We have plans,” Jessica said. She grabbed Ethan’s hand and cut in front of the girl as soon as the WALK sign lit up. Ethan tried to flash the girl a half-smile as a thank you, but she was already ensconced with her friends, rattling off school cheers.

Ethan realized then where he knew her from: freshman orientation last year. They had sat next to each other during one of the sessions and talked about something small-talky. Where they were from, potential major… Ethan couldn’t remember. She had turned out to be one of those students that you saw during orientation and then didn’t see again until graduation. Or, in this case, a busy intersection.

Their college paths had diverged wildly. She obviously had gone the Greek Life/party-drink-party route, and he’d chosen a more studious, intellectually stimulating road. In Browerton terms, she was North Campus and he was South Campus.

North Campus was where the frats and the party dorms with kegs in the bathroom were — the central locale for any type of debauchery basically. South Campus held the arts and sciences buildings, the drama center, and the so-called nerdier dorms with the liberal arts bent. He had been placed in a South Campus dorm as a freshman, and he’d considered it a sign from the universe that he was in the right place.

As they reached the other side of the road, he watched the sea of lime green march away toward Arnold Stadium with just the tiniest bit of longing. He imagined rushing the field if they won like he’d seen in photos, the whole student body united, screaming and cheering.

Me and Jessica at a tailgate chugging beers? He shook his head and laughed to himself.

Jessica walked in the opposite direction, and Ethan jogged to catch up. “They’re just going to watch a bunch of ‘roided-out guys knock each other over while they all get wasted,” she said.

He linked his arm in hers. “And we’re going someplace much cooler.”

Φ

Wiry sculptures stretched up to the blue September sky. They twisted and lurched in different directions across the lawn of the cultural center. The exhibit reminded Ethan of the house in Beetlejuice.

Another Jessica find. Ethan never knew how she always discovered such interesting activities around here. Duncannon, Pennsylvania, revolved around the university. The town lived to serve the student body with cheap food options, Browerton Whitetails decals in all the store windows, and bars that did a poor job of carding. He’d had no idea the town had an art gallery, let alone a whole cultural center.

Ethan strummed his fingers along a sculpture that looked like a giant metal harp. “This is awesome!”

“I know!” Jessica said, bunching her long brown hair into a bun. “I was taking a walk the other day, and I saw all these funky statues. I had to add it to my list.”

Jessica had a list going of all the cool things to do around campus that didn’t involve binge drinking or frat parties. He was amazed she’d come up with more than three items; she was now up to twenty. Ethan considered himself very go-with-the-flow, and Jessica was the flow. He liked being along for the ride.

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