A Kind of Drug
Chapter 2 - Lust - Part IV
After two months of selling Rapture around their school and at the local mall, Michael and Jesse’s notoriety grew considerably. That’s when the first article ran about them in the local newspaper. Another two weeks would pass before the prime time news would catch wind of their story. And by the time they made national headlines, Michael and Jesse were each making over a thousand dollars a day and society couldn't make heads or tails of what they were doing.
National and local law enforcement scrambled. They knew something illegal was happening, but they didn’t know what or why. Of course, how the fuck do you make selling photographic paper illegal? Or written words? And for what reason? Being happy? There was no crime being committed and so there was nothing to criminalize. Some people panicked. Others rejoiced. The debate over whether these two kids should be allowed to sell Rapture was bigger than abortion and stem cell research and homosexual marriage and all that shit combined. In fact, no one really cared about any of that garbage once Rapture reared its ugly head on the scene.
And, as if only to complicate matters, this was also when other copycat dealers began sprouting up in small towns and big cities alike. Every soulless, shit-eating dipshit with a copy of Rapture began doing exactly what Michael Vespa was doing when they found out they couldn’t get arrested for it. Shit, a couple people even went legit and setup whole LLC’s and websites and the whole nine yards. I remember one company even allowed you to arrange an automatic billing service where they’d deliver Rapture to you once a week. Most of these companies even went so far as to claim the photographic paper on their taxes as an expense. It may have taken an idiot like Beth Vacey to give the world Rapture, but it took a raging case of herpes like Michael Vespa to turn it into a commercial property.
And it was around this time, when all of society was losing their goddamn minds, that Michael Vespa came across Lust.
Now, no one, and I really can’t stress this “no one” shit enough, but there wasn’t a single fucking soul alive that knew how Michael Vespa got a hold of Lust. According to him, a classmate gave it to him. Of course, the classmate that he claimed gave him Lust had died in a car accident six months prior to the media and government inquiry.
Didn’t matter. Michael’s source was an irrelevant issue. It was like trying to find out the origin of the question mark. Goddamn fucking pointless.
According to him, Michael’s first experiment with Lust need not be expressed in great detail. It merely involved Lust, a whole lot of internet porn, and a whole lot of dirty socks. And we can let that be just like that. Really. I have no desire to explore that event any further than I already have.
But Michael wanted to make sure the results weren’t just a fluke. As he told the world late one night on a talk show, he went on a weekend trip with his father the very next weekend. The two were going to visit an old college friend of Michael’s father. This friend lived on a ranch a few hours north and had a very, very attractive daughter the same age as Michael. He had met this girl, someone he referred only to as “Gemma,” a few times before but she never showed much interest in him.
So, after waiting for the right opportunity to present itself, Michael showed Gemma the Lust scroll to see what would happen. The two ended up absconding to her bedroom where they proceeded to have sex for the next four consecutive hours. The rest of the weekend continued in a similar fashion and Michael was pretty convinced his “friend” had given him the greatest gift since mankind received fire.
“Man, fuck Rapture,” Michael told Jesse one morning before school. “This new shit is gonna change our lives. Forget whatever fame we’ve got going on now. You need to try this stuff out immediately. Like, the minute school is over. I’ve been calling it Lust. I mean, shit, I don’t even know what else to call it.”
“Are you serious?!” Jesse screamed out. “What the hell is your problem? From what you just told me, it sounds like this Lust is just a new, fancy way to date rape a girl. Only she doesn’t realize she’s being date raped because she thinks she wants it, too.”
“Oh, get off your high horse. Think about Allison Fenton, man. Allison fucking Fenton. You can have her. Anytime you want. Use this and she’s yours. Fully conscious, not drunk, not stoned, not on anything but this stupid scrap of paper.” Michael reached into his pocket and pulled out one of his folded pieces of photographic paper. Only now, it wasn’t taped shut with a yellow smiley face. Instead, he went out and found white stickers with a pair of red lips on them. He used these new stickers to differentiate his two types wares from each other.
Now, Jesse may have been more morally grounded than Michael Vespa, but he was still a sixteen-year old, unpopular dweeb. Let’s not forget about his t-shirt and ketchup stains and all that nonsense. His wall of reason and sanity was only so high. This meant that rather than jacking his friend in the face and walking away, he very seriously considered Michael’s proposition for a very, very long time.
Though, in teenage time, a very, very long time is really just something like six or seven minutes.
“It’s just fucking wrong,” Jesse said at last. “I’d love to give Allison Fenton the worst ten seconds of her life and the best ten seconds of mine, but I wanna do it on my own merit. Not like this.”
“Man, what the hell is wrong with you? You’ve been such a piss-head ever since I started selling Rapture. Why? Everyone else is happy and you’re just such a….”
Just then, Michael Vespa looked at Jesse Epstein and studied his face. He saw his friend’s downturned mouth, the perspiration building at his temples, and his right hand balled into a tight fist.
“You haven’t been looking at Rapture, have you? This whole time. Jesse, why not? Why don’t you wanna be happy?”
“Cause it’s just fucked, that’s why!” Jesse yelled out. The four students who were walking over to Michael to buy doses of Rapture saw what was going on and chose to walk away.
“Look, I don’t care if it’s not illegal,” Jesse continued. “I don’t care if it isn’t banned. I don’t care if it’s given away for free in the mail with samples of fucking Tide. It’s still a mind-altering substance. I don’t want to feel any different from the way I’m supposed to feel and I don’t care what that means about me. I’m not Beth Vacey and I don’t have any sort of debilitating depression. I’m just me. Jesse Benjamin Epstein. I’m sorry, Michael, but I fucking hate Rapture and it seriously scares the shit out of me.”
So, in case you’re starting to notice, this is why I continue to retain the upmost contempt for both Jesse Epstein and Michael Vespa, but hold Jesse in just a slightly higher regard than Michael Vespa. He may have been a spineless jackhole, but if all of society had possessed just a smidge of Jesse Epstein’s moral fiber, I might still be talking to other human beings right now and not just to this fucking notebook.
Michael looked at Jesse and, even though he was on Rapture, frowned a little. He tried to pat Jesse on the shoulder, but Jesse swatted his hand away.
“I don’t know what to say, man,” Michael said.
“Say you’ll stop. Say you won’t sell Lust like you’ve been selling Rapture. Say we can go back to how we were; just playing video games and roof diving and having fun like before.”
For someone like Michael Vespa, this was like being offered a choice between being punched in the dick while rubbing his ass with a piece of sandpaper or going to Aruba with the varsity cheerleading team during an international ban on underwear.
Michael Vespa responded in the dickish way that only Michael Vespa could. “I can’t do that, man. I’ve changed. Grown up since then, you could say. Now that I’ve had some grown up toys, I can’t go back to playing with kid’s toys. Look, shit’s just tense between us right now. Let’s lay off and relax for a bit. We’ll talk in a couple days and see what’s up. And if you don’t wanna say hi to me in Spanish class, that’s cool. I still consider you my best friend, Jess. I know we’ll be alright in the end. Don’t worry, man.”
Michael Vespa tightened the straps on his backpack, gave Jesse a pat on the arm, smiled, and walked into a crowd of seniors that welcomed him with open arms. Before Jesse shook his head and walked away in the opposite direction, he heard Michael say something along the lines of “You gotta try this Lust stuff I just got.” Jesse sat on a bench just outside the lunchroom, pulled a comic book out of his backpack, and pretended like he cared about what the superheroes were doing on each, colorful page.
© 2011 J.E. Tobal