12. High like me

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"But you don't wanna be high like me
Never really knowing why like me
You don't ever wanna step off that roller coaster and be all alone."
(I took a pill in Ibiza, Mike Posner)

The queue in front of the club was endless. It was another boring party, but the theme of Halloween seemed to attract lots of people. I didn't even know what I was doing here. I came simply because that's what I always did. Because Dario expected me to, although now it looked like he didn't care. He was in the corner, plotting something with Stiff – something that I wasn't part of. Sometimes he really angered me and I even thought of staying home just to piss him off. But then I thought that maybe he wouldn't even notice and I had already showered and put on my favourite flannel shirt. And then I thought, what if this party is the party we're gonna talk about when we're thirty? Once again, it would be something Dario and Stiff shared. Something I wasn't part of. And maybe that's the real reason why I came.

Of course, now I regretted it. Gaia wasn't here yet, and I was left in the company of the Brazilian douchebag and Clarissa and Gloria. The girls were leaned against the wall, while Diego stood in front of them. I, instead, found a perfect spot on the floor, where hopefully no one had urinated.

''Is your costume being a slut?'' Diego said, looking at Gloria.

Her face scrunched up. She was wearing a crop top, mini shorts and ripped tights, just like every other girl in this queue. But of course he had to shame her for it. Bullying people, especially his friends, was his only entertainment.

''Is your costume being a jerk?'' she replied.

Diego scoffed. ''That's not an original comeback, Gloria. I already know that I'm a jerk. Maybe you should try that too – accept who you really are.''

She shook her head and gritted her teeth. ''I can't believe I almost liked you."

Diego burst out laughing. ''Oh I'm sorry, sweetheart, I didn't mean to break your heart. You know what? I take back my words. You're not a slut.'' He made a dramatic pause. ''People pay in order to bang them, and no one would want to sleep with you even for free.''

Her face turned red.

''I'm joking! I'm joking! Geez.''

I hated him. I hated how he hurt people and didn't even care. I'm joking. That was enough for him to feel entitled to say anything he wanted. I hated that.

''You know,'' Clarissa said, ''making fun of someone for their appearance is really stupid.''

Diego gave her a goofy smile. ''Oh come on, let's not pretend that beauty doesn't matter. I mean, of course, there are exceptions. Look at Pit for example. The dude has the girliest face, yet no one give a shit about him. But you've got nothing to worry about. You're pretty, Clarissa. In fact, pretty is all you are.''

She gaped at him confused and then simply shook her head.

''You think you're being smart?'' I said.

He looked at me with amusement, as though he was waiting for this his whole life. Perhaps he had already prepared all the comeback lines and studied them by heart. My humiliation danced on his tongue, his mouth ready to destroy me with a single word. He provoked me at every chance he got and perhaps it was a stupid thing to react to his remarks, but I couldn't help it.

''No,'' he said. ''I don't consider myself particularly smart. Well, I was smart enough to never fail the year, but you know, you must be really stupid if that happens.''


''But hey, I'm not saying you're stupid. You're probably much smarter than me. I mean, guys like you usually are. In fact, I was wondering, did you fail on purpose, Mr. Rossi? To hit the bottom of the bottom, so that no one expects anything from you, so that no one gets disappointed. That's the most selfish and pathetic thing a person can do.''

My nostrils flared, but I tried to appear indifferent. ''You know nothing about me.''

He smirked. ''You're right, I don't. But the thing is, I don't want to. You're not as interesting as you think you are, angel boy.''

I bit the inside of my cheek. Right there, right in that moment, I was ready to drag him down. To expose his self-obsession, his egomania, and the way he was so boldly full of himself. I wanted to say he was a hypocrite if he thought he was better than me, better than anyone. His stylish clothes and perfect cheekbones didn't make him a supermodel. He made fun of Clarissa's shallowness, but he was way more superficial than her. He thought of himself as Dorian Gray, but truly he was a pretentious boy with a fragile ego. I wanted to tell him that insulting everyone didn't make him edgy or likable. I wanted to ruin him, but then Gaia showed up.

She looked at him before she looked at me and their eyes ignited when they met. She looked so pretty tonight, too pretty not to hurt. Her presence made me gulp down my words and I thought that if Diego laughed at me, then the whole world would. And if that included Gaia, I'd rather die than be ridiculed in front of her.

As she leaned in to let him light her cigarette, I looked away. But as I did, my eyes fell on as equally ugly picture. Virginia Colombo was here. On heels. Red dress. Coughing as she tried her first nicotine. I didn't know what was more confusing, the fact that she was here, or the fact that she was here with us. Just a few days ago, she made it clear that she didn't like our presence, and now here she was. Before I could think of how contradicting that was, I felt something else: I was worried.

With her short red dress and dramatizing make up, she looked like a completely different person. And all this ardour, all this wilderness and rawness, it wasn't her. It was excessive and heavy, like a Baroque painting. She looked like one of those many girls standing in front of the club. With their long legs shaking and high heels stolen from their mother's closets, they all pretended to be someone they weren't. But she wasn't like them. She was Virginia Colombo, so what the hell was she doing here?

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Hey guys, I hope you liked this chapter.

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