Sometimes, sitting across from Archie on those thigh-sticking
vinyl seats at Pop’s, Jughead has this feeling. A
pricking at the pit of his stomach. A hollow he tries to
fill with milkshakes, burgers, and cream pies. He watches
his best friend from under his black fringe.
It’s a feeling that started years ago, when they were still kids.
In the middle of a game of marbles, glancing at little Archie and his sunny-
side-up smile. At the bowling alley, his hand frozen over the score sheet, laughing
at Arch mid-bowl: tongue hanging out, leg waving high like a puppy’s. Or
riding shotgun in Archie’s busted-up jalopy; seeing that red hair somehow
unmussed by the wind, he’d wince.
He knows, he’s always known, that if he’s not careful he’ll
fade into the corners of this town that has so many cute girls with such short
memories. He does what he can. He wears that stupid hat he got as a gag gift
one birthday. He says mean, woman-hating things, just so people will stop in
their tracks and stare right at him. He listens to grievances. Cloud-gazes with
the guys at the beach. Hears desire dripping off their voices. I want her,
man, I want her so much I can’t stand it.
They have fewer days alone now, Jug and Arch, less bowling, less bellyflopping
at the ol’ swimming hole. Sooner or later one of the girls always shows
up, tricked-out and desperate for attention, takes Archie off to the movies, arm-in-arm.
Now not even the slim string of a tincan phone connects them. Jughead eats
alone at Pop’s, goes home and lies on his bed, twists his fingers through
Hot Dog’s fur. He lies on striped sheets that used to match the ones on
Archie’s bed, before he changed them to something dark and silky
for the girls. Jughead closes his eyes, hands clenched behind his neck.
At the beach, he listens to Archie’s latest scheme
to get Betty to fix his car while he and Veronica go dancing.
They are cushioned in the sand, angled towards each other.
But before long Archie leaves, as he does these days, to
buy sodas for the girls and watch them bicker.
Jughead stares at the hollow left in the sand: head, back, and buttocks.
He places his hands there, feels the warmth that is rapidly fading.