"A smoothie machine, huh?" Scott said. He wasn't sure whether to be impressed or amused.
On the other hand, Luis was his celly and rumor had it he packed a mean punch, so ... impressed it was.
Luis held up two fingers. "Two. Two smoothie machines."
"What, were they having a sale or something?" Scott hoped his smile indicated that while this had been intended as a joke, he was one-hundred percent ready and willing to agree that it hadn't been a funny one and/or disclaim the possession of anything resembling a sense of humor.
Luis smiled. It made him look like a really nice, sweet guy. Ruthless smoothie machine thief, Scott reminded himself. It didn't really help much.
"Yeah. On toasters," Luis said. "But I still had one, so I was thinking 'damn, I wish I knew someone who needed a toaster', but everyone I could think of already had one, too, and then I got to these big, shiny smoothie machines and I thought, 'damn, smoothies are like super-fine and also kind of expensive', and I could think of at least three people who'd really love to have one. But the sale was something, like 'buy one, get half off the next one', so I only got two. Fair, right?"
"Uh-huh," Scott said. "Sounds totally fair."
"Yeah, only they caught me." Luis made it sound like getting arrested was comparable to getting rained on, or having a bad hair day. "But hey, if I'd never come here, I'd never have met everyone here."
"That is absolutely true." Scott would have been perfectly happy to have never met, say, Peachy, but then, to each his own.
"Right?" Luis honest-to-God beamed at him.
That night was the first time Scott had The Dream.
It didn't sound like much, really, just Luis, standing in the kitchen of Scott's old apartment, making him a smoothie. Perfectly ordinary, everyday stuff; kind of homely. Like, so Scott would really rather have not been stuck in jail, sure - thanks for the newsflash, subconscious.
Aside from the small, teeny-tiny detail of what Luis was wearing, which was, well, a smile.
"Bad dream, Scotty?"
"Aargh." Okay, bad conversational follow-up. Scott had a master's degree (granted, in electrical engineering, but still); he could do better. "Luis?"
"It's cool, bro. I'm right here," Luis said.
Yes, but are you wearing any clothes? So not the right question to ask out loud. "Not 'bad' bad," Scott said. "Just, you know, freaky. A little intense."
"Oh, right," Luis said. "Like a sex dream. Don't worry 'bout it, bro. Everyone gets those. No biggie, right?"
"Right," Scott said, more or less on auto-pilot. "No biggie."
On the one hand, between him and Luis, Luis clearly had the more experience with this whole 'stuck in prison' thing. If Luis said this kind of thing was totally normal, then maybe it was.
On the other hand, Luis was, well, Luis. Scott felt that he'd definitely lucked out in getting assigned to the guy as his cellmate, but Luis's outlook on life in general tended to focus a bit more on the sunshine and the rainbows rather than the storm and the rain.
Scott liked the guy, but he was pretty sure he didn't like the guy. Like, eighty percent sure.
Not that it mattered, at all, given that starting a relationship with someone you were sharing a prison cell with sounded like a really, really bad idea, and anyway, statistically speaking, Luis was probably straight, just like Scott was probably straight, so no need to worry.
"Hey, Scotty. You know you can tell me anything, right?" Luis said, five nights and five naked-smoothie-making dreams later. "I mean, we're cellies, right? Cellies stick together. Like blood-brothers."
Right. So about these sex dreams I keep having -
"Thanks, Luis. I'm fine, really." Scott hadn't been really sure what to expect. Sure, he'd seen some stuff on TV, some movies about what sort of things went on in prison, but, well, Hollywood.
"If you say so, bro."
Clearly, Scott might need to work a bit on his interpersonal skills, aka his ability to bullshit convincingly.
"So hey," he said, "you got a girlfriend out there or something?" Boyfriend, maybe?
"Yeah," Luis said. "I got a great girl. Like, the greatest. I'd show you a picture, but, you know, lights out."
"First thing tomorrow morning," Scott said. "But hey, that's good, right? To have someone out there, waiting for you?"
"You got someone like that, Scotty? Great guy like you - there's gotta be someone, right? No way you're still single."
Totally not hitting on me, Scott told himself. We're buddies. Buddies say nice stuff about each other. If he felt being hit on, well, that was definitely just his imagination. It happened; people imagined things that weren't real sometimes. In fact, lots of times.
"Well, there's Maggie, I guess," he said. "We were high school sweethearts."
"I knew it," Luis said. "That's so great, man. I mean, by the time you're sixty or so, you guys'll have been together for, what, fifty, forty-five years? Well, minus the time you're spending in prison, of course, but hey, it's good to take a break every once in a while, right? That's totally a thing people in healthy relationships do."
"Actually, we broke up." He hadn't expected that. Then again, if he was honest, he also hadn't quite counted on actually being convicted and going to prison. Stuff like that happened to other people, people who deserved it.
"Oh." Luis said. "That's too bad, man. But hey, that means you're single again, right?"
Always look on the bright side of life. Right. "Yup. Totally single."
Totally single, sure. Totally straight? That's the question, isn't it?
Scott dropped his soap in the showers. It was slippery, and also not really great soap or anything, so he figured that he'd let it go. Pretend it hadn't happened. Me, drop a bar of soap? Never happened. Oh, you mean that bar of soap. Well, sure, it looks like mine, but then, all bars of soap look alike, am I right or am I right?
"Hey, Scotty." Luis picked it up. "Dropped your soap, bro."
"Um," Scott said. He didn't really want to make a big deal out of something that maybe wasn't. On the other hand, 'dropping your soap' had been pretty high on his list of things to Never Ever Do in Prison. "You're not going to get in trouble or anything, right? For, you know." He lowered his voice a bit. "The soap?"
Luis gave him a blank look. "You feeling all right, Scotty?"
"Just ... peachy?" Scott tried. "Distracted? I'm a little distracted."
"Got a lot on your mind, huh?" Luis nodded sagely. "What with your girl and everything? I understand."
"Right," Scott said. "My girl."
"You're gonna get her back, right?" Luis said. "Making big plans, that's good, Scott. Positive thinking."
"I ... don't think I'm going to get her back, Luis." It felt good to say it out loud. Bad, too.
"Oh, right." Luis nodded. "Just - you had a good thing for a while, right? Nobody's ever going to take those memories away from you, bro. And now next time, you know what not to do, right? So this thing with Maggie, it's been like a learning experience for you."
"Great. A learning experience. Just what I always wanted."
Luis slapped his shoulder. His naked, slightly wet shoulder. Stop overthinking this, Scott. He's a friendly guy, that's all. And he's got a girlfriend.
"So about this dream," Luis said.
Scott wondered if he was just that loud in his dreams, or if Luis was just a really, really light sleeper.
"I kind of don't want to talk about it?"
"That's cool, Scotty. Just - general talk, right? Like, is it always the same? Any change? Hey, they've got this book in the prison library that can help you interpret your dreams. Maybe you should check that out. Some cool stuff in there, like, I used to dream about this beach, right - clear blue sky, palm trees, everything, but then I read this book and it turned out that actually, it was just that I didn't like the fish sticks they served for dinner. Only I didn't like them, like, subconsciously, like I didn't even know I didn't like them. So then next time we had fish sticks for dinner, I gave mine to Scarface, and he gave me his veggies, because he doesn't like peas, and now we're buddies. See?"
"Scarface doesn't like peas?" Scott asked.
The book was every bit as kooky as Scott had expected it to be. Possibly a bit worse, given that he'd taken Luis's story with a grain of salt, but no, there it was: you dream about the beach, it's your subconscious trying to tell you that you dislike seafood.
Still, it was something to distract him for a while. In between the excitement of not dropping a bar of soap and guessing what was for dinner today, there really wasn't very much to do in prison.
Presumably, the idea was that people would spend their time contemplating their sins or, in Scott's case, their mistakes. He hadn't done anything morally wrong, after all; his one mistake had been to assume that he'd be able to get away with it, that he lived in a world where doing the right thing was something that would be celebrated, rather than condemned.
"You ever regret anything?" he asked Luis. "Like, wish you'd done something differently?"
"Sometimes." Luis shrugged. "But then I figure, well, there's always going to be a next time, right? So why look back when you can look forwards instead?"
"To ... learn from the past?" Scott tried. Personally, he'd think twice before ever again taking another job at some big, hi-tech corporation that was vague about what, exactly, they were doing.
"Yeah, but it's not going to be the same, right? I mean, different people, different time." Luis shrugged.
"Look, it's you, all right? I know it sounds crazy, but I keep having this dream where you're naked, and I'm naked, and I don't think I need some stupid book to tell me what that means. So I guess now you know, and I'm very sorry if telling you this has made you uncomfortable in any way, but I felt like you deserved to know, so there you have it."
Oh, for - "Not you, Scarface," Scott said. "I was just - I wasn't talking about you, all right? Fact, I didn't even know you were there. What are you, a ninja or something? Oh, and I know about the peas, so don't even think about starting something."
"Luis. I want to tell you something, but I want to warn you that it's going to be a little weird."
"Can I go first?" Luis asked. "Because I've been doing a lot of thinking about this, and this whole dreaming thing, it's seriously screwing up your biorhythm, so I think we should try having sex."
"Oh," said Scott. "Okay. Yeah. That works, too, I guess."
"Why, what were you going to say, Scotty? You got a plan, too? Because, I mean, that sex thing, it's also 'cause you're mad smart and I think smart people are also crazy fine, you know? Like, there's this sort of aura around that says 'hey, look at me, I'm sexy'. But I also seriously think it could help you sleep better."
"Please don't tell me the story of why you think that."
"But it's a really good story, bro."
Scott sighed. "All right, let's have it."
"And then sex, after, right?"