The party is what I expected. Smoke billowed under a circus tent that looked as if it was on fire. It could’ve been Dante’s inferno, except that drug-induced laughter kept erupting inside like an active volcano bubbling up with disrepute. A young man exited the haze, having escaped Dante’s deepest circle of hell.

“This is Julius,” said the girl.

“I see that you’ve met Joy or that Joy has met you. It’s probably the latter,” he said.

I could tell the boy was obsessed with her and I knew she was more dangerous than a loaded gun. Joy would never pull the trigger, but she could convince any man to do it.

“I didn’t even know her name, until you said it.”

“Names are a formality and a waste of time,” Joy said. “They signify who we used to be and keep us locked in the past.”

“Oh, I don’t know… people love their names more than any word in the English language. Psychologists have proven it. To give up your name may be akin to self-hate or instability,” Dr. Johnson said. He walked over from the bar.

“Who invited you?” Joy asked.

I knew Johnson only by reputation and I had always wanted to meet him. “Can I plunder your brain?”

“Sure, but you might only find empty space there.”

We walked to the bar. “Odd for a student to talk that way to a professor.”

“It’s happening more often these days. I was terrified of my teachers when I was in school. They were high and mighty and terrible.”

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