Everyone outside turned to look directly at Bipolar Man.
“Christ,” Jameson whispered, before he smiled nervously and continued walking.
“Dude!! There are chicks buzzing around here like bees!” Max followed-up with.
Jameson’s eyes closed tightly for a few seconds, and he rubbed across his forehead with his fingers to momentarily hide himself from the situation.
“Hey…did you hear me?! Did you see those four chicks?!” Max asked loudly.
Jameson quickly pulled his phone out, and pretended to tap at the screen as he ignored Max.
“What, are you texting your wife? Put your phone away; let’s go inside and take some shots.”
Bipolar Man blankly stared back at Max.
“What’s that look?” asked Max.
“Just tone it down a little bit bud.”
Jameson realized he should have actually kept his mouth shut. Best case scenario would be if Max worked himself up into a frenzy, took a bunch of shots, puked, then immediately passed out. It was a slippery slope though, Bipolar Man knew, that could fall violently in either direction should Max black out.
“Just be cool Mr. Midlife,” Jameson slowly followed-up with, as he tried to inject a little calm into Midlife Crisis Max’s evolving intensity level.
The two friends walked toward the entrance, and Max put his arm around Jameson’s neck. Max squeezed his arm at the elbow slightly and pulled Jameson closer, while he simultaneously opened the door with his other hand.
“I’ll be fine,” Max softly whispered into Jameson’s ear.
The lobby was brightly-lit; the cover of darkness was no longer Jameson’s ally. As they walked toward the front desk, Max’s toddler-like excitement level was neutralized by Jameson’s apprehensiveness. The twenty feet from the entrance to the security desk felt like a mile to Jameson, as if he was escaping from a maximum-security prison with a spotlight seemingly tracing his every step.
A shorter, reddish-haired girl with a pale face waved at the boys as they approached the desk, while a confused-looking and tall boy, with short black hair, stood next to her while gazing at nothing in particular.
“Hi, I’m Existential Erica. You must be my new protégé?”
“That’s the rumor,” Jameson replied, as his swiveling head scanned the small lobby.
“This is Steve, my boyfriend. Most people call him Stick Man.”
“Stick Man Steve? People call you that because you’re tall and skinny?” Jameson instinctively asked.
“No. I just go with the flow, bro. Like a stick on the river.”
“Shit yeah!” Max jumped in with, as he high-fived Stick Man.
“I’m pretty creative too. I made that up. My last name is Stickman. My buddies always called me Stick Man, since that’s my last name. I made up the ‘stick on the river’ part, because people say I go with the flow a lot. It’s pretty sweet…and true.”
“Deadly,” Jameson nodded.
The larger, dark-haired lady who was sitting behind the security desk was not amused. She was staring at Jameson and Max intently, as she tapped her fingernails on the desk. Jameson noticed her staring at him, and he looked away quickly. He glanced back at her a few seconds later, and her two large eyeballs were still peering back at him through thick, black-rimmed glasses.
“Can I help you?” she asked sternly.
He quickly glanced down at her nametag, which displayed ‘Gilda’, and became slightly more anxious.
“Umm…I don’t know if uh—”
Jameson started to blush as he looked over at Erica for assistance. She had her back turned, and was talking to Max and Stick Man. Jameson’s eyes slowly traced back toward the lady at the front desk, who looked less amused than before.
“Did Erica talk to you?” Jameson asked.
His face felt hot.
“Her,” he responded, as he pointed his thumb in her direction to his left.
“My friend and I are here to see her.”
She analyzed Jameson for a few seconds, and noticed sweat starting to dribble down from his hairline.
“Does she know that?”
“Yeah. Why do you ask?”
“You and your friend look a little old to be lurking around the college dorms.”
“We’re not lurking.”
“You look like you lurking.”
“We came in with Erica.”
“You two just walked in. Nobody was with you.”
“Well, we are here for her I mean.”
Gilda tapped her fingernails a few more times as she thought for a second.
“How do you know her?”
Jameson’s face now felt completely sunburnt. He didn’t know whether to make something up, or just explain the situation to Gilda. He wiped away drops of sweat that were now reaching his eyebrows.
“My friend…he is, um, he met Erica’s roommate on—”
“Gilda…you playing nice?” Erica interjected with.
“I’m just fucking with your friend here,” Gilda replied, as she chuckled.
Jameson smiled, and felt his shoulders relax. Gilda looked back at him, and her smile quickly disappeared.
“You need to lighten up,” she demanded.
“Ok?” he conceded, with wonderment.
Bipolar Man quickly pulled his cell phone out and held the prop up to his ear as he walked around to the other side of Erica in order to position himself next to Max and Stick Man.
“Let’s go in,” Erica offered, as she turned to her right and waved her keycard at the sensor.
The door beeped quietly and clicked as it unlocked; Max and Stick Man walked through, and Erica held the door for Jameson. He took a step forward, and noticed Gilda staring at him with her arms folded. The aspiring super hero quickly looked at the floor and stepped to his left, through the door, and into the hallway.
“Does Gilda not like me or something?” Jameson asked Erica, as he slid his phone back into his pocket.
“Right before you guys walked in, I told her to fuck with you; a pop quiz for my new protégé, to see how you react under pressure.”
“Oh. How’d I do?” he asked sheepishly.
“Did you just get off a fake phone call?”
“You failed miserably,” she disclosed, as she led Bipolar Man down the hallway.
“I wouldn’t say miserably.”
“Is that sweat running down your face?” she probed.
Erica had turned around and stopped to face Jameson.
“Whatever. I’m 35. I don’t want to get hauled out of here in handcuffs because the front desk lady hates old guys. I didn’t want to just say we’re here because my friend was sniffing around Tinder.”
“It’s not like you guys were breaking in.”
“She looked like she was ready to explode. I was trying to diffuse the situation.”
Erica shook her head with disapproval.
“I had to step in after like twelve seconds before you had a panic attack. You crumbled like a saltine, and you didn’t think on your feet. I heard the whole conversation.”
She turned around and started walking again.
“Besides, Gilda’s boyfriend is like 45. He’s here all the time.”