Hambones and hooknasties
He doesn’t actually look like Brad Pitt, but he does look like a movie star. A little too much like a movie star, which adds to the allure. Like he was created, chiseled, and sculpted at a Hollywood studio.
‘That’s her environment, that’s her life. Upper-crust town, good looks, private high school, private college, marry some big-bucks hambone, pump out some kids…’
By Matthew Powers
I gaze upward at the spatial, futuristic dome of my cafeteria as soft streaks of sunlight pierce through the Plexiglas, oval-shaped summit. The Atrium is quite an achievement. Completed just before I arrived at The University, it’s the most expensively built college dining hall in America. Most dining halls at The University sit in the bowels of academic buildings. They’re all claustrophobic and smell like urinals. But the Atrium is different. Aural and spacious, it feels liberating, refreshing, even occasionally intimate.
I usually meet Sebadoha and Plinkerton after Theories and I’m always the first one here; Gardner Hall, after all, is virtually next door. I walk to the west end of the cafeteria. Long, rectangular tables stretch across the surface.
I plunk my backpack down and wrap my jacket on the back of a chair. As always I deliberately choose a table at the perimeter of the food court. The opening corridor is unobstructed from this angle, allowing us a perfect opportunity to check out everyone who enters. Glistening hooknasties, baseball cap-adorned dudes, our friends. No one escapes our notice, our acerbic critiques, our ruthless evaluations.
The main reason I sit here, however, is because no one will be near us. Orienting ourselves in the center of the Atrium would be far too dangerous. We usually get pretty zany during lunch — the vulgarities, the sex stuff, the loony stuff. People don’t want to hear that. And I certainly don’t want people listening.
Due to its superior architecture, you’d expect the Atrium to have better food than the other dining halls. It doesn’t. Maybe I’m too familiar with the place, but the quality and choice of the food is consistently mediocre. My eating habits are terrible too. I’ll eat anything that is available and edible. Really. Although I appear pretty fit I’ll probably die of a heart attack before I graduate.
As I walk into the food court I see the erupting smile of Sebadoha as well as Plinkerton in the distance as they enter the building. I spot the pasta service center and weave my way through the elastic tape-designated lines. Food lamps glow like a synthetic sun across a plastic horizon. There are few people around and virtually no waiting. Without fail, the Atrium is almost empty of students during lunchtime. It’s packed during breakfast and dinner. But lunch is not a real meal for college students. Between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon kids are all over the place with class, errands, meetings, practice. People’s schedules are just too erratic, too unpredictable in the middle of the day to schedule a time to meet up with friends. And just about everyone is too embarrassed to sit alone. So people just snag some chicken fingers on the way to class, a burger on the way back to the dorm.
I return to the table and instinctively whip out an essay I just received back from Professor Gladstone. I am not much of an exception in this embarrassed loner phenomenon. Although I am willing to eat alone, I always need something to occupy myself. Usually it’s a newspaper or something. It’s more about creating the appearance that I’m not a loner, however, than finding something stimulating to do. I know that Sebadoha and Plinkerton will return from the food court in a second but I still follow instinct. Conspicuous solitude is not a cool thing.
“Sexy monkey,” Plinkerton welcomes, quickly back.
“Hey muffincakes. How’d the mid-term go?”
“All right. I didn’t really get the section on diathermic systems. The last third was pretty hard too. Otherwise it was okay.”
“What was the last third?”
“Section on entropy. Mainly entropy outside of an internally modified state.”
“Oh…,” I nod, badly feigning knowledge and interest.
“Hey, what you got there?” Sebadoha arrives, with a tray full of greasy garbage: French fries, hamburger, buffalo wings.
“Are you gonna eat all of that?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“You know gluttony is considered a sin by….”
“Did you guys see Brad Pitt over there?”
“No, where is he?” I respond.
Plinkerton points forward to my right and I see him. Brad Pitt is the most perfect archetype of a hambone, and I sort of have a fascination with him. His name isn’t really Brad Pitt. Bradley Pittsfield. Putnam. Pittman. Pliny. Pliny the Elder. I don’t really know. Something like Brad Pitt. I think he actually goes by Brad Pitt sometimes. He ran for Student Congress last year and posted all of these fliers around campus with his face superimposed on the body of Tyler Durden. In the background, a series of epigrams ran: “The first rule about Student Assembly is you don’t talk about Student Assembly. The second rule about Student Assembly is you don’t talk about Student Assembly.” And so on.
And he won too. He won a spot on the student assembly, assuredly and singularly due to that advertisement. What a guy.
But I’m genuinely fascinated by him. He’s so exaggeratedly one-dimensional, his hambonic gestures and movements congeal so seamlessly with his physical features that it’s hard not to be fixated by the guy. He doesn’t actually look like Brad Pitt, but he does look like a movie star. A little too much like a movie star, which adds to the allure. Like he was created, chiseled, and sculpted at a Hollywood studio. A mechanized, celluloid beauty.
“That girl is smokin’,” Sebadoha says.
Sebadoha and Plinkerton start scrutinizing the hooknasty Brad Pitt is talking to but I just keep staring at Brad. A cosmetic sheen envelops his face, from his gravity-rejecting gelled hair to the pristine, artificial glow of his chin. He’s one attractive man, I must admit. Still, I don’t know he pulls it off. Getting the girls and all of that business. He’s more beautiful than handsome, more debonair than rugged. But somehow he epitomizes masculinity.
“She’s got a nice rack too,” Plinkerton interjects.
“Hells yeah,” I join the conversation. I think I know this hooknasty. And she does have some nice jugs. I can see in the protruding outline of her right breast encapsulated within her sweater. The fact that I can make any delineation whatsoever through that thick sweater is testament enough to her rockin’ bod.
“I haven’t seen her before,” Plinkerton remarks.
“I recognize her,” I say.
“Seen her around campus. At parties around frat row.”
“What’s her deal?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, ‘What’s her deal?’”
“What’s her deal!? The same deal with these three hooknasties by the entrance. Same deal with every hooknasty I’ve come across at The University. Same deal with every girl I’ve come across at this school. We all know what happened to her, what’s happening to her, and what’s going to happen to her. Her life is one long, determined narrative. We all know this!"
“What do you mean?” Sebadoha asks and I glare at him uncomprehendingly. “Like, the whole ‘narrative’ thing.”
“First off, it’s a near certainty that she’s from a wealthy suburb. Greenwich. Wellesley. Westchester County. That place Plinkerton is from.”
“Old Westbury,” Plinkerton answers.
“Right. And she went to that school Plinkerton went to.”
“Right! That’s her environment, that’s her life. Upper-crust town, good looks, private high school, private college, marry some big-bucks hambone, pump out some kids — there ya go! The cycle of life!”
“The Origin of the Hooknasties by Jeremy Burnsides,” Sebadoha says dourly.
“Hey, I’m just sayin’, if you were born in a palace you’re gonna want to live like a queen. I don’t even know if I’m arguing against it. Just explaining. I think.” I pause, eat some of my lunch, and take in a momentary joy, self-satisfied by my spontaneous exegesis. Could I write my senior thesis about this?
“I don’t buy it.”
“The whole academic thing. That they’re not smart. It doesn’t make any sense. If they’re such idiots then they’d never get accepted here.”
“I never claimed that. That they’re idiots. I think they get in legitimately. Totally legitimately. People always say legacy or their dad has connections. Bullshit. Just about all of them make it on merit.”
“So what the hell’s your problem?”
“Well they’re not legitimately intelligent by any means. I’ve never said that. It’s the internalized academic pressure that gets ‘em going. Nobody really pressures them. Their parents, teachers, whoever. It’s culture. It’s part of their genes, it’s part of their environment. Like oxygen and carbon dioxide and YouTube. All they’ve seen since elementary school is success. All I’ve heard about since middle school is college. I mean, when the climate dictates success, you better do well. And the pressure is so frickin’ internalized that you really have no option. You become part of the gristmill without even knowing it!”
I pause briefly. I get something of a high after monologues like this and right now I really feel it. I slurp my swamp of spaghetti and meatballs and stare at the trio of hooknasties now exiting. Plinkerton and Sebadoha follow, only the faint hum of rock music from the cafetaria’s speakers is audible.
Sebadoha finally breaks the silence, moving his chair.
“You’re going already?” I ask.
“You’ve only eaten half of your meal.”
“Are you my mother?” he retorts. I have a no response and no one talks for a few seconds.
“You got class?” Plinkerton asks.
“No. But I gotta study. Got a mid-term in an hour, at 4.”
“Why don’t you stay here?”
“You think I’m gonna learn anything with you clowns?” We can only coyly glare at him, defeated, as he departs.
Plinkerton and I finish our meals silently, and the silence is strangely restorative after my vitriol early during lunch. We walk out as the blinding fall sun beats down on us. Friday afternoons are the weirdest time of the week for college students. There is a strange characterlessness to these late afternoons. No one seems to be on campus. Classes are over and no one is in an academic mood. But everyone, especially episodic alcoholics, would feel too much like an alcoholic to start partying at this time. I don’t know where everyone goes but I also seem to drift into this autumnal black hole. This enigmatic black hole that fuses with the sun and dips and dies over the hills of The University and we only wake when the sun is dead, the dusk is fresh, and hambones and hooknasties prowl the streets like jackals. §
Matthew Powers is a freelance writer who lives in San Diego. He can be reached at email@example.com.