The following is an excerpt from Scott Muska’s piece for Cartel III (Fall, 2012), which can be purchased for $2.99 as an Amazon Kindle e-book or as a PDF.

***

I walked into the bar without much hope, just as I had so often that semester – the first half of which had been colored by moods that ranged from “sad” to “hopeless,” all painted on a canvas stretched over a frame built of unrelenting celibacy.

Lofty mating expectations were particularly unreasonable on this night, dressed as I was: a human American flag with exposed white legs and a mustache.

But if you expect nothing, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

 ***

Five months earlier, my girlfriend had told me during an argument that she hoped I would die.

Five minutes later, we broke up.

It was my first experience with rom-com-level heartbreak, and afterward my confidence rivaled that of a flat-chested freshman at her first high school pool party. I spent much of the semester drinking in the dark, listening to Bright Eyes and cowering from any hint of romantic interaction.

I still hadn’t gotten over the breakup in mid-October, which was when I found out that my now ex-girlfriend had cheated on me in the middle of our relationship. With a semi-famous Miami-based tattoo artist. (I wrote this poem about it: Fuck spring break, and fuck Miami Ink.)

A mutual friend referred to the dalliance in casual conversation; when she registered the horror on my face, she gasped and said, “Ohmygod you didn’t know?”

If you’ve never experienced what it feels like to suddenly become aware that some other man has been with your girlfriend and you didn’t know until half a year later, after you’d spent at least 30 seconds at a time on dozens of occasions doing the same, well, it’s like having your small intestine pulled out of your body through your belly button and then set on fire.

***

I was uncharacteristically unenthused about Halloween that year. I’d spent time brainstorming costume ideas, but had sprung into action too late to make any of them happen.

I left the house in a royal blue track jacket with a white V-neck underneath, a white bandanna wrapped Rambo-style around my head, and crew socks. The sexiest part of the outfit was a pair of red shorts that put the smuggle in plum smugglers. (Had my father passed unto me anything more than Medium Length, a wardrobe malfunction would have been imminent.)

My marathon-running brother, provider of the outfit, had suggested we go to a bar where a girl he liked was headed with pals of her own.

“It’s the day before Halloween,” Kev said. “So the odds are in your favor. This holiday, it brings out their inner trollop.”

“Right!” a friend said. “And the best way to get over someone is to get inside someone else!”

I nodded, for his benefit.

***

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