I was up before Lucas, a normal aspect of our typical routine. I called the house, only later regretting it when I realized that she was at work and Dave would be more than a little pissed about the idea of leaving the couch. He was there in five minutes as I sat on the front steps of the porch, looking dead. I shut the door to his new car. It was a midlife crisis on four wheels, and he knew it, but didn’t want to admit anything of the sort. It wasn’t in the cards for Dave to become like all the others. He enjoyed drawing the lines even if they didn’t necessarily exist. I buckled my seat belt as he backed out of the driveway.
“So what did you do last night anyway?”
“Just went to a party. Came back here.”
“Oh, well for some reason or another your mother thought you’d be back home.”
“Did she stay up and wait?”
“Only for a little bit before she fell asleep.”
“That’s what I figured.”
“So, was it fun?”
“In a sense.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means parts were fun, other parts not so much, but you really shouldn’t worry about it.”
“Well, okay.” That was the extent of our conversation. They never stretched past breaking points. He knew where not to go, and in that sense it was almost better that Dave was there rather than an actual father. I didn’t need shreds of advice or anything other than the occasional overflow of currency. I learned to depend upon the fact that there were others like me, stuck in similar positions with unoccupied rooms in their houses. In this way, a lot of us were the same, and yet they all didn’t have Daves like I did.
Upon arriving home he walked straight towards his outpost, while I went up the stairs and instantly hopped into the shower. I could hear my mother walking in as I shaved off some lingering stubble. I walked into the kitchen with wet hair as she sat, reading the paper and taking the proverbial load off.
“Hey mom.” I opened the fridge for sustenance. There was box of raison cookies just bought. I smiled to myself as I grabbed them and sat down at the table. She looked exhausted, another morning at the lab, probably several stories of little interest to somebody in my current disposition. I sat, ate, and listened as she enlightened me to the morning’s excursions. Questions about the previous night didn’t resurface, but rather only about the coming one. I told her about the show, and the possibility of the football game. I wasn’t sure yet. Part of me felt like I had to go, just to see Eve and Collin in their post-drunken-high-school-party-night bliss. It wouldn’t be good for me in the sense of current life dilemmas, but I knew that it would later present the right notions of the human race. This is how it was and while similar pairings would continue in the cruelest sense of the word for some time later, I knew that evidently there would be some sort of answer. It couldn’t be this way forever. There were other beacons.
I sat in my room for awhile, first flipping through a barrage of new Saturday morning cartoons that offered little solace and lacked all the reminiscent qualities from former incarnations. I listened to Doolittle and tried not to dwell in the previous night’s events. I was sure that there were bigger things that happened to which I knew less than nothing about. Words would encircle our tight community quickly in notes passed in the backs of classrooms or fingers pointed across the track at the game. I was still contemplating going. I had a small distinct feeling that Lucas wouldn’t be up for it, and that while Gail would be there, it didn’t necessarily mean that she would be somebody to fall back on.
I considered possibilities over again as I read an old issue of Rolling Stone. The novel I had been silently working on in between breaths sat closed at the bottom of my backpack, next to weekend work that I knew was destined for Sunday night. I could stay at home and continue in a similar fashion. There were records that needed to be heard again and again, passages read and levels beaten. This wasn’t necessarily progress, though, but rather just a way to wait for inevitable feelings of deep melancholy before the show reconfirmed my convictions about life in general. It was good to be young despite all the feelings of shit that went along with it.
There was the notion of the game. I wasn’t going to call Lucas. I knew him too well. He needed to unwind and recoil before driving to the show. I could walk over by myself. It wasn’t far. I would wear headphones and listen to the mix, which still sat in the right pocket of my sweatshirt, now hung on the rack by the front door. It would provide the right background noise for whatever shades of gray I would bare witness to. If the game didn’t flesh out, there were still graceful options for a return voyage. I could walk back, finishing up the mix, and possibly watching something edited on cable before the inevitable call from Lucas and our night starting in a somewhat reckless fashion. It didn’t take that much time to think about, and I was soon out of the house again, filling my mother in on the most minor of details before stepping back out into the wilderness.
I walked down the sidewalk on my way to further shades of disillusionment. I hated the rat races. People cheering in the stands, wearing make-up on their faces, and participating in all the right actions for a losing war. They had faith in those with less than stellar brain capacities. Their leaders were focusing on the coming night and similar dignities left shattered on the living room floor of the same house. I tried not to think about what I was stepping into, but rather just focused on each step. I needed to see if she was there with him. It plagued me, as each inclination managed to come up again and again. If they started dating it would most likely last. They would go to all the proper occasions, buy the suits and the gifts, the dresses and the fake looks of affection. It would shatter as he went to college, and I would attempt to repeat the process the next year at another drunken festivity. She would find somebody else. Eve always found somebody else.
“Never Ending Math Equation” started it off and each song that followed managed to make me think about how right I was in not playing it that night. Nobody would have understood anyway. I could hear the loud sounds of those lost in the thick of it all slowly filtering in, past the headphones and distorted point of views as I approached the football field. It was far too nice of a day for me to be there. I wanted to find her and just say everything right. I wanted us to run away from it all together, loud noises turning to quick spurts of silence, as the scene would shift to a place of more comfort. The soundtrack would play something delicate and for the briefest of moments, things would seem like they were going to work out. I was becoming too good at creating perfection, and was setting myself at too much of a distance from reality. The spectacle grounded me in the worst of ways. There were flames and wreckage everywhere. I was simply walking around, beyond disoriented, looking for something familiar.
Gail stood on the sidelines next to Nick in her Joan of Arc sweatshirt. I remembered how excited she was when they had it at the show. They didn’t play till late. The three of us stood around and waited until at least midnight. There was the concept of curfew filtering in; thoughts that we had just gotten our licenses still encasing us in juvenile shells of fear and happiness. Everything was fueled by adrenaline, and we were good at seeking out means to up the dosage. It was simple then. I wouldn’t even have to think about a Saturday afternoon spent at the field, all of us worshiping false idols, paying homage to ritualistic massacres of body and soul. I hated being part of the support system, and yet my own lingering hormonal imbalance was the only logical explanation I could think of for why I was currently reshaping my entire existence. I needed to see her in the worst way. A Monday to Friday addiction can only last so long before one hopes for another hit of perfection.
I slowly walked down the track. All the familiar faces were in the closest of vicinities just like the previous night. I had little room to breathe as I worked my way over to Gail. I wasn’t expecting the best of conversations. I just needed a place to stand before she walked past in all her glory. It almost felt wrong to have each waking thought instantly make its way to paying the majority of all attentions to the idea of Eve, which is exactly what she was at that point. Just an idea that I had made more perfect through long mornings spent looking up at the clock and then down at my desk or at the back of her head. It offered strange forms of conversation, but nonetheless worked out the majority of the kinks.
The two of them were surrounded as I made my way through the minor clumps and next to Gail. She looked surprised to see me, as if such an occurrence was her thing all of a sudden, and I was the one tuning into her particular brand of conformity. It was a face that looked offended, and yet I figured the two of us knew each other well enough to know that it was nothing of the sort. She was there because of him and I was there because of the inclination of seeing someone I probably wouldn’t talk to. Needless to say the two of us had become somewhat lost in the woods of new experiences with the same people.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m here to support the school that my stepfather pays taxes to.”
“Yeah, I know.” Nick’s eyes lingered over towards me. It was as if attention had somehow been stolen from the main event. He looked equally offended as I nodded my head.
“Hey, what’s up Henry?”
“Oh ya know, not too much.”
“Cool. You have fun last night?”
“Sure, yeah, I did.”
“Cool.” His eyes shifted back to the white lines on the field as Gail glared at me. I looked around. Jane was a few yards away, standing with friends. There was no doubt in my mind that she wouldn’t have spread the word about our encounter that night. It wasn’t something to brag about, and she wouldn’t want to say that she was so drunk she couldn’t even remember doing it. It wasn’t the truth. They didn’t need to know, and for some reason I didn’t want them to. The same would be true with Lucas and Phoebe. It was locked away in their sub-consciences.
I stood and watched for awhile. My eyes only tended to shift to the field occasionally, most of the time when there was some sort of loud rush of sound coming from all angles. There would be fumbles and tackles, and yet I could care less about either. It was like class as my eyes began to glaze over, all the idealistic dreams of past lives and future possibilities of lonely notions once again making their way around the track.
At halftime Nick walked towards the concession stand with his friends. Gail looked over at me again, slightly confused, or possibly disappointed. I couldn’t tell the difference anymore.
“So I’m gonna ask you this again. What the hell are you doing here?”
“I don’t know Gail. I guess I was looking for Eve, but she’s not here.”
“You’re right. She’s not. So just go.”
“What the fuck’s your problem?”
“It’s like your embarrassed by me or something. I mean, Jesus, I’m sorry if I’m fucking everything up with you and your new boy toy. I guess I can go.”
“Well, I think you should.”
“Can I ask you something first?”
“Go ahead Henry.”
“What happened last night?”
“I don’t need to tell you.”
“I thought friends told each other things. I made-out with Jane Leonard on the couch in the basement before we both fell asleep. Lucas got head from Phoebe Shetler in the upstairs bathroom.”
“Well that’s good for you guys, but it’s not like that with Nick.”
“What do you mean? Are you falling in love or something?”
“I don’t know. It’s just nice to think about the fact that somebody may actually like me.”
“And if not you, at least your boobs.”
“You’re never gonna understand Henry, and it’s fine. I don’t need you to, not anymore.”
“So that’s just it then. You’ve found somebody, and now it’s just like whatever.”
“We’re still friends. That’s not gonna change.”
“Yeah, I know. I just… Well, are you coming to the show tonight?”
“Fuck… I forgot about that.”
“Well yeah, I think Lucas and I are leaving at like five. I don’t know; I haven’t talked to him yet, but I’m pretty sure that was the gameplan.”
“Nick and I are supposed to go out for dinner after this.”
“Well, that sounds like fun. When does your social security kick in again?”
“Fuck you. It’s one show Henry. It’s not a big deal.”
“They’re all big deals Gail.”
“Not to me anymore, not really. It’s stupid.”
“Ya know what, fine. Can you please tell me when Gail will be back, because I’d like to talk to her about what’s important when she gets here?” I turned and walked away. I was furious with how she was acting. One day it’s set in stone and the next we’re all stationed at different outposts, waiting for supplies and wondering what happened to the friends we used to think we had. I started walking towards the exit. It became tedious, walking around all of those who were staying for the second half, stocking up on 32 ounce cups and nachos. I just wanted to get out. It was a mistake being there. I could see that now, and yet they wouldn’t let me leave, not without more perspective.
Jane grabbed my sweatshirt and pulled me over to the sidelines, far enough away from her friends that it would just look like we were talking about an assignment or something other than the fact that we fell into each other the night before.
“Hey, so I need to talk to you.”
“Okay uh… What’s up?” I pretended like I didn’t know. It would be easier that way, and yet as she spoke I slowly started to pay less and less attention to her. I spotted Eve standing in front of the bleachers. Colin was next to her, and yet it wasn’t a normal exchange. They were fighting over things that were of little interest to me. It was probably something simple like plans. People couldn’t agree to disagree. They needed to create scenes for spectators such as myself.
“Listen, about last night. I was really drunk and uh… I don’t want you telling everybody what happened.”
“What, about you throwing up?”
“No, about us, making-out on the couch.”
“Oh, well okay. I didn’t think it was really a big deal.”
“You’re right. It wasn’t. I was really drunk and you took advantage.”
“No, I didn’t. You kissed me, and you couldn’t have been that drunk because you puked everywhere.”
“Listen, just be cool about this, alright? I don’t want everyone finding out Henry.”
“Because I’m a huge loser and you’d think they’d think less of you, right?”
“That’s not it. I mean, not completely anyway. It’s more complicated than that.”
“Alright, I guess I can buy that.” She said her last few words and started walking away from Colin. He didn’t seem angry at all. Things like the beauty of Eve walking away didn’t phase him. It would happen too often anyway.
“Okay, good. So we’re cool then, right?”
“Yeah, we’re fine Jane. Just don’t expect me to give a shit anymore.”
“I never wanted you to give a shit. I don’t give a shit Henry.”
“I know, just forget it. I gotta go. So I’ll see ya around.”
“Okay, bye.” I walked off, leaving her to her coldness. Eve was just walking out past the fences as I caught up to her. It was slightly windy, her bangs blowing back into her eyes like a French film star. I started running through the right things to say in my head the second I walked away from Jane. I wasn’t sure where she was headed, most likely home. She lived closer than I did, and yet none of us were that far apart. I caught my breath and attempted to be charming and somewhat mysterious.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Nothing. I’m just walking home.”
“Oh, well me too.”
“Yeah, really. I don’t give a shit about the second half.”
“Yeah, well me neither.”
“Awesome.” I took the time to look at my breath in the cold. She was wearing a plain red sweatshirt, the hood pulled over her head. I couldn’t contain any aspect of how I was feeling. It seemed perfect, like something I would write a song about if I had any musical talent. There would be a string section, and maybe a slow build-up. It would sound like us, or at least the muffled dissonance of what I thought we should sound like.
“So uh, did you have fun last night?”
“What, at the party?”
“Sort of. I don’t know. Those things are all kind of repetitive after a certain point. I mean, I guess you wouldn’t know because that was like your first one.”
“No, I can see what you’re saying. I mean, I’ve been to parties before, just not stupid ones with kids from our high school.”
“Well which other ones are there Henry?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been to some after shows, hung out with bands and friends of bands.”
“Well, that’s cool.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“So didn’t you saying something about a show last night?”
“Uh yeah, I did. It’s tonight at Anderson firehall.”
“That’s right. I remember now.”
“Well uh, if you wanna go, we can give you a ride. I mean, Lucas and I can.”
“Yeah, maybe. I don’t know what I’m doing yet.”
“Were you planning on going to Nick’s again?”
“I’m not sure. I’m sort of considering my options.”
“Well, it’s like that all the time with you, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know. I guess it kind of is, why?”
“I’m just saying. Somebody like Eve Cardellino always has things to consider.”
“I suppose, but what the fuck is that anyway?” It was the first time I heard her say the F. word. I didn’t think girls like her went there. I mean, I was sure that they called each other bitches and cunts in the bathroom all the time, but that’s different. That’s part of growing up. Somebody like Eve Cardellino didn’t speak normally. Then again, that was the start of the first real conversation we ever had. It didn’t really measure up to previous dialogues created in the back of my head on cold rainy days.
“The whole thing where you say my full name like I’m a big deal or something. I don’t know what he deal is.”
“I guess I don’t either. I’m sorry. It’s just… Well honestly, I’d say that there’s at least some kind of separation between us. I mean, you always have something going on, and you’re popular. I mean, you can’t deny that.”
“Yeah, I know, but when you just said that it made everything sound kind of superficial.”
“Well the majority of the things you do are superficial.”
“You really think so?”
“Yeah, I do. I mean, you’re always off doing something somewhere. I don’t think you know what it’s like to have nothing going on.”
“I do. I do nothing a lot of the time.”
“Like when? When was the last weekend you didn’t go out and get drunk with your friends or something of the sort.”
“I don’t know. I guess you just don’t get it. I mean, it’s weird. You just can’t miss things, and why would you? I mean, if there’s something going on, why wouldn’t you go?”
“I don’t know. I guess you’re right. I mean, I’m going to the show tonight, so there’s my something.”
“Well okay, so it’s just different. I mean, just because I don’t wanna go to the show doesn’t mean that I’m some superficial bitch or something.”
“Why don’t you wanna go?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never been before. I’m not sure to expect. I don’t really know you or Lucas that well which would just make it an even more awkward car ride. Should I keep going?”
“No, that’s okay. I mean, I get it Eve.”
“Well, good. Plus, well… There’s just a lot of other stuff happening right now in my life, and I don’t know how to take it.”
“I feel the exact same way.”
“Yeah, I mean, this has been a weird weekend so far, but I’ll be better tonight. I know I will be.”
“Well, that’s good.”
“Yeah, I guess.” I wasn’t sure if what we were doing could be considered relating to one another. It was more like painting pictures with complimentary colors and letting each person critique the other ones attempt. I was enjoying it, but somehow knew that she wouldn’t rave on to her friends about the type of person I was. The truth of the matter being that I couldn’t even come close to being considered interesting. Instead, it was just mediocre company as we both headed in the same direction.
“So why did you leave the game early?”
“Because it sucked.”
“It wasn’t because of something with Colin?”
“That’s not really any of your business.”
“You’re right it isn’t. I’m sorry that I care.”
“Why do you care?”
“I don’t know. I mean, why do you think I left the game?”
“Because you hate football.”
“Well yeah, that’s part of it. But I saw you leaving and I figured that I’d rather talk to you than anybody else there.”
“Well that almost feels like a compliment after the whole superficial thing.”
“Yeah, but you’re not taking that to heart, are you?”
“No, I guess not.”
“So what are you gonna do when you get home?”
“I don’t know. Contemplate existence, maybe.”
“Well uh, do you wanna hang out?”
“Hang out, huh? And do what exactly Henry.”
“I don’t know. Listen to records, play video games. I’m not sure what kind of readily accepted activity would spark your interest. I mean, I could offer alcohol, but that’d just be stupid.”
“You’re right. It would be.”
“So if I come and hang out with you, it’s gonna take longer for me to walk home.”
“Lucas can drop you off before the show. I mean, we’re leaving at like five.”
“So it would just be until then?”
“Uh yeah, unless of course you wanna go to the show.”
“I’m thinking about it.”
“Well okay. What about right now?”
“Uh… Okay, let’s hang out Henry.”
“Cool.” I tried to act like it wasn’t a big deal, like I wasn’t jumping around with the uppermost happiness inside. I tried to hide my subtle smirks, as with each breath I became more nervous. Inclinations were popping up all over the place. She was going through different emotions, I was sure. Thoughts of what would happen only becoming mere subscripts to further inclinations of what would happen if they found out. Maybe she wanted them to. Maybe it would make it easier for her to run away for a little bit, to be something they didn’t expect. She could dye her hair and start wearing clothes that her mother hated. She could become something I couldn’t even come close to understand, and I would be somewhat responsible; the Victor Frankenstein of a different creation. She would be all mine, and we would tear the world apart together. Leaves were done falling, and so was I.