My name is Bo Shiva, and I’m a beta male.
I’m a freshman at New Gilead University. I’m standing here in the hallway, sipping on a light beer and talking in a loud voice over the deep thumping bass of the latest Killuminati album, beneath a cloud of smoke in the hallway of the Sigma fraternity house.
I’m a student of anthropology, animal behavior, psychology, and when I graduate I want to pursue a degree in cognitive science as it relates to primates. I’ve been starting to see meta structure of group animal dynamics surrounding me more and more every weekend.
The alpha males are the Sigmas who occupy the corner rooms on the second floor. These are dominant young men with aggressive personalities; they have the large rooms and usually fill these rooms with people. They buy beer and liquor every weekend, with the goal of always fill their rooms full with attractive young women. They are considered alphas because they are large, physically dominant and they possess attractive qualities that bring in young women. These women attract young men. The immediate goal of these evenings is for the alpha male to mate, to select one of the young woman and hook up with her. The beta males are left in the hallway, and when the doors close, they’re left to talk with each other.They admire the alpha, continue to follow him, and join the fraternity.
I started coming to Sigma Xi because my older brother is the president right now. Joe’s an alpha, but not in the same mold as the others. He’s shorter, stockier than most of the others; he has a steady girlfriend, he’s conventionally handsome, and he spends money freely. Joe is a natural politician, and he has social skills that allow him to travel in circles that the brothers envy.
I’m here because they invited me to be here. I’m a skinny Caledonian kid, adopted into a wealthy Cuhualan family from the foster care system. I’m hundred and thirty-five pounds, average height. I like to read books, I’m a pianist, and I work hard. I’m not like the other guys here. They’re meaner than I am, they make fun of other guys more than I do. They put each other down, frequently, but they definitely have their goats, their scapegoats.
I’m here because I don’t want to be a nerd. I like girls, I’d like to meet them, I’d like them to go home with me, and then to be my girlfriend. I would never say no trip sleeping with a bunch of girls, but I would like to have a girlfriend, that would be nice.
I started hanging out here because my brother invited me. He told me the brothers liked me and wanted me to come up. Once I started to make a habit of it, and I was here more nights than not, they stopped being nice, and Joe started keeping his distance. It reminded me of when we I would come and try to play with his friends and he would tell me, “no no no” or get mad at me; sometimes his friends hit me, I remember one knocked the wind out of me. When I would have my friends over, he would come and try to steal them. My brother was really the first alpha in my life, and he was set on me remaining beta to him.
Alcohol doesn’t agree with me – I’ll sip on beers for the whole night, but if I drink hard liquor, I get too drunk and I black out. One of the first things that happened on pledge night was when they had this 40 ounces of Mad Dog 20-20, a fruit liquor, and one of the last things I remember is how I raised the bottle in the Sigma Xi salute. The next thing I know, I’m seated on a couch with my shirt off and a bowling ball next to me; I have no memory of the rest of that night.
The guys who can drink heavily are the ones who get the girls- they stay sober, or more in control anyhow, as the girls get drunker and drunker. And then it’s the walk of shame the next morning when the girls walks home by herself from the fraternity house.
Then there’s the shoe tree. There’s probably ten pairs of old sneakers tied together and thrown into the large oak tree in front of the house. The tradition is that if two guys sleep with the same girl, they throw shoes up in the tree and then never speak of it again. There were girls like Wendy, who slept with multiple guys in the house, before landing on Caleb. They got really drunk together, she crashed his car, burnt up his golf clubs, and then gave birth to twins. The guys called her the succubus.
More and more doors are starting to close around a hallway; this is usually the signal that things are shutting down for the night. I’m amped up and restless; I’ve been talking to a bunch of girls whose interest in me has waned as night has gone on. Likely they’re not pretty enough or they’re too fat, or they were the girls who were on target a few months ago and now they’ve been used up – the brothers don’t want to touch them.
This aspect of the fraternity culture has always made me uncomfortable. Rebecca, Angela, and Jillian are nice girls, they’re friendly, and when I see them, we say hi and smoke a cigarette together. I get made fun of because I talk to the fat girls. They’ll say I’m talking to “ugly fat” or “fat ugly.” I defend myself saying that I’m not dating these girls and then I try to keep my distance from them, but it doesn’t seem right; it’s not really the way it that I grew up, it’s not what I was taught about how you’re supposed to treat girls.
I’m go by Bill’s room, and bills lying down on his futon, Shelton’s there also and they’re talking. I say, “hey can I grab a beer?” and Bill says, “sure it’s free country. but they don’t really pay attention to me they’re having some kind of heated discussion and I sit on the couch for a few minutes drinking my beer trying to find a way into the conversation both of these guys are a couple years older than me that my brother’s class and they’re both taller they’re both well regarded in the fraternity they’re both alpha in their own way way been friendly to me and interested me in times in the past but Michael out of the brothers they really don’t seem that into me anymore
Shelton said, “look, this is bullshit, we put these parties on, and we’ll just get the same people over and over again, no new people are coming up, this place is dead, half the time we’re putting all this beer out but we’re not going to new people, when I’m rushing people and all the time, I just get to looking at Shimmy and his fucking ass everyday.”
I look up, my mouth open a little bit. I’m shocked by the rudeness of it. Shelton turns to me, “yeah you heard what I said, Shimmy, we don’t need you, okay, we’ve got 10 skinny fags in the pledge class already, we don’t need one more, and you not bringing any girls up here, you’re not bringing in any new people, and we’ve got enough of your kind around here. I think we’ve met our quote for Caledonians with George boy already.”
“Holy shit…” I start to say
Bill turns to me, and this is now full on scapegoat. I’ve gone from being the guy they want to get to the worst regarded pledge. “Yeah, Shimmy, it’s a bit much, you hanging around here all the time, okay, you come here and drink our beer, but you’ve got to go make your own friends, okay.”
“What the fuck did I do? I’ve been coming up here every weekend and I’ve been talking about it with my friends, I’ve been bringing people up here, and I’ve been doing all the stuff I’m supposed to do, when it’s my turn for dailies, I clean the bathrooms, I hold the trash out, I talked to your parents on alumni weekend.”
See see me this is the kind of shit I’m talking about, okay, you feel like you’re entitled to something because of who your brother is, and it’s like your own this house. You’re not that funny, you’re not that smart, and you’re not that good looking, okay, so why don’t you get the fuck out of here?”
“Fuck you guys, man, I don’t know why I waste all my time here.”
They’re both giving me this aggressive stare and I get up and walk out of there. I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes, but I’m not going to let them see it; people shit on me all through high school and the only way that I got out of that was by being funny and by making friends with the right people.
And I guess this is a reality I’m coming back to and that nothing has really changed. I’m still the skinny little kid is weird who people don’t want to have around.
I go down to the first floor and walk around the TV room for a few minutes, which is one of the things I do when I’m bored. I look at the composites, with all the faces of the Sigmas from years past. There are ones who look like Superman, and you can see the ones who got fatter and drunker as their time and college continued. A few have the same picture year after year, likely because they weren’t presentable enough to get photographed on picture day.
I notice that as they move from the freshman row up the composite, they always seem to miss one. Ten guys are in the picture on the bottom row, and they lose one every single year. The rest of the years seems to be a solid progression from bottom to top; there’s always one missing.
Thinking about this, I wander across the first floor hallway to the library. I start to read the book titles about three rows back. I notice something in the way the bookshelves are arranged; there’s a small Gap on either side of the shelves in the middle, and I can feel a draft coming to the other side.
Do I hear breathing?