Saturday, December 29, 2007

On Cooking

There is so much discipline involved with all the debauchery.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Weekly Selections















Counterbalance

COUNTERBALANCE

A Short Film

FADE IN

EXT. SMALL NORTH EASTERN COLLEGE CAMPUS – A SPRING AFTERNOON

Various groupings of college kids walk around and head off to their private corners on a Friday afternoon.

ANGLE ON: LARGE BRICK BUILDING, a few writers, artists and misfits stand outside, smoking cigarettes, reading depressing novels and contemplating existence.

MARSHALL and ALICE walk out of the building, having just finished class. Both are in their early twenties and lost in the their own crippled versions of what their college experiences have been up to this point. Marshall is the somewhat quiet, perceptive, sarcastic type, while Alice is bright and full of life adding somewhat of a counterbalance. They are friends.

MARSHALL
Jesus, thank God it’s over.

ALICE
Another wasted hour of my life.

MARSHALL
Yeah, tell me about it. If I could calculate the amount of impure thoughts I have on a daily basis in America Lit, out of shear boredom, I think I would most likely have to go to confession every day for a year just to make up for it.

Alice reaches into her purse and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. She lights one as the two walk away from the building, around campus, eventually ending up on the sidewalk of the small town they live in.

ALICE
Well that sounds like quite the moral dilemma Marshal.

MARSHALL
You have no idea.

ALICE
I pretty much just thought about the weekend.

MARSHALL
Oh yeah? How’d that go for you?

ALICE
It’s probably gonna be another one of those things that’s better to think about rather than, ya know, actually live.

MARSHALL
Well, I can understand that.

ALICE
Yeah, that’s the sad thing. You’re one of the few people who can.

MARSHALL
Uh huh…

ALICE
So who were you thinking about?

MARSHALL
What?

ALICE
The impure thoughts. Who were you thinking about?

MARSHALL
Who do you think Alice?

ALICE
Jesus Christ, is there ever gonna be a day where we walk home from class and don’t talk about your whole Nadine thing?

MARSHALL
I don’t think so, no.

ALICE
Well, I figured I’d ask anyway.

MARSHALL
Okay.

ALICE
So was it just her or was there anything else?

MARSHALL
There was that one girl who was wearing that white low-cut thing today, you could totally see the majority of her boob, and then the nipples were starting to perk up a little, that occupied about five minutes or so.

ALICE
Well that’s progress. Her name’s Wendy, I think.

MARSHALL
Oh, well maybe I should have invited Wendy to that party tonight.

ALICE
Somehow I have a feeling she already has other plans.

MARSHALL
Well whatever. No shame in subtle denial, right?

ALICE
I’m not answering that.

MARSHALL
Good. It’s probably better that way.

ALICE
Yeah, so uh… I’m not really looking forward to tonight at all.

MARSHALL
Yeah, well me neither.

ALICE
No, but I mean, that’s normal for you. Me on the other hand, I’m usually a little more optimistic.

MARSHALL
Well, what’s the deal?

ALICE
I don’t know. I think the whole Bruce thing is starting to get to me again.

MARSHALL
Really? Why?

ALICE
I don’t know. It just is. I mean, he called last night, asked what I was doing this weekend.

MARSHALL
What did you say?

ALICE
I said I was going home, that I hadn’t seen my parents in awhile.

MARSHALL
Well that was resourceful of you.

ALICE
Yeah, I know. I deserve some kind of an award for that performance.

MARSHALL
Well so what’s gonna happen if the two of you drunkenly run into each other tonight on the streets of our shitty little college town?

ALICE
I don’t know. I’ll come up with something good. Either that, or I’ll sleep with him.

MARSHALL
Ya know, as your friend, I’m gonna say that that’s probably a bad idea.

ALICE
Whatever. We never listen to each other’s advice anyways.

MARSHALL
That’s true.

ALICE
But man, it’s so fucking weird talking to him now, like even on the phone. I mean, after six months of thinking about how entirely fucked our entire relationship was, I still don’t know what to say, and I don’t really see myself getting over it anytime soon.

MARSHALL
Well, join the club.

ALICE
No offense Marshal, but my whole Bruce situation is slightly more complicated than your mediocre Nadine infatuation.

MARSHALL
Really? Ya think so? I’d say mine’s way worse.

ALICE
Oh yeah, why’s that?

MARSHALL
Well you don’t really have to see Bruce anywhere. I mean, he functions on a completely different social plane. Me, on the other hand, I have to pretend like everything’s completely cool with Nadine, despite the fact that both of us know things are shitty.

ALICE
Well things are shitty for you. She just has to deal with the fact that you’re in love with her. That’s not too complicated.

MARSHALL
No, you’re right, normally that’s not too complicated. When the person has to deal with me being in love with them… Well that makes it more complicated, doesn’t it?

ALICE
Yeah, I guess you’re right. You somehow manage to make puppy love turn into a twenty-four seven headache.

MARSHALL
Yeah, well that’s your misguided opinion on the whole situation, but whatever. I mean, it’s not a big deal. I’ll just show up tonight, fully ripped, say a few choice phrases that subtlety hint at how I really feel, before getting too drunk to function, and walking home, to sleep alone, just me and my fucked-up thoughts on the entire human race.

ALICE
Well when you break it down to that, why are you even going out tonight?

MARSHALL
I don’t know. What the hell else am I gonna do Alice?

ALICE
Good point.
(Beat)
Ya know, I think you and I just need temporary solutions to our shitty relationship problems.

MARSHALL
Yeah, well what would those be, I mean, other than suicide, which had been contemplated in-between thoughts of Nadine and what’s her names boobs?

ALICE
Wendy.

MARSHALL
Yeah, that’s right.

ALICE
Anyway, we just need to jump into things. Like we need to find attractive people that we’re sort of into and just start a relationship, and then when it all falls apart, we can blame it on our impulsiveness or call it a rebound.

MARSHALL
I think that’s what you need to do. I need to figure out the whole Nadine thing in my own unique, overly idealistic way.

ALICE
Man, I hate to tell you how bad it’s gonna hurt when you realize it’s not gonna go anywhere Marshall.

MARSHALL
Well whatever. We don’t listen to each other anyway, remember?

ALICE
Yeah, yeah…

MARSHALL
I think maybe… I mean, this is a big hypothetical here, but maybe we need to meet and start dating people who don’t know the same people we know.

ALICE
Yeah, I could see how that would make sense.

MARSHALL
I mean, I just need to meet somebody who doesn’t like any of the same things and who isn’t very likeable.

ALICE
Well that shouldn’t be too hard.

MARSHALL
Yeah, probably not. Of course, the whole thing with bringing somebody in who doesn’t fit with the group, is that no one will like her. I mean, if I meet some random girl and fall in love, the second I bring her to a party with our friends, everyone’s just gonna talk shit.

ALICE
Well that’s what we all do.

MARSHALL
Yeah, I know. I’m just saying, it’s highly unlikely that anybody will like her in the least bit, and I mean, it’s not like it’d be you or anybody’s fault, it’s just a part of our nature to completely shun all those outsiders.

ALICE
We’re like the Amish or something.

MARSHALL
Yeah, exactly.

ALICE
I don’t completely buy into your particular brand of bullshit here Marshall.

MARSHALL
Why not?

ALICE
Because if you met somebody who was truly spectacular then I’m sure me and the majority of our friends would like her.

MARSHALL
Chas might like her, but you and all the other females I know would probably talk about how slutty she looks, or how stupid she is, or how she doesn’t know about some band, anything ridiculous like that.

ALICE
Man, you honestly don’t have any faith in my ability to judge other women?

MARSHALL
No, not really. I mean, all girls secretly hate each other. It’s like a proven fact. All that women’s liberation bullshit was just to get their pictures on the front page, because they love to look at themselves.

ALICE
You really are a different kind of asshole this afternoon.

MARSHALL
I’m sorry. I know you buy into all of that, I’m just saying that I can’t date a girl I don’t know already, because I already see it not working out with all our friends.

ALICE
Yeah, well maybe you’re right. I don’t know, though. I mean, do you think Nadine would instantly hate your hypothetical outsider girlfriend?

MARSHALL
I would hope so.

ALICE
Man, I shouldn’t have asked.

MARSHALL
Yeah, I know.

ALICE
Well what if I started dating some guy you didn’t know? Would you instantly hate him?

MARSHALL
I doubt it. Just so long, as he was a bro and not some mega-douche.

ALICE
Well how did you feel about Bruce?

MARSHALL
I don’t think I can sum up into words the level of douchebag Bruce was and most likely still is.

ALICE
Well, okay. Point made.
(Beat)
So I’m pretty sure Hunter’s coming tonight.

MARSHALL
Yeah, I know. He called Chas yesterday.

ALICE
So how are you gonna handle all that?

MARSHALL
You just have to ask, huh?

ALICE
Well there is the whole him and Nadine thing too.

MARSHALL
Yeah, I know. Fuck man, I don’t know… I guess, I’ll figure it out. I mean, maybe I’ll keep my head on straighter than usual tonight.

ALICE
Yeah, or you’ll end up doing something trippy with Chas before you go to the party.

MARSHALL
Well whatever works.

ALICE
Ya know, Hunter’s your friend. You should probably just talk to him about the whole thing.

MARSHALL
No, ya see, that’s where you’re sort of wrong. Hunter and I aren’t really good friends anymore. I mean, well… Chas and I are friends because we both got over the idea of liking and fighting over the same girl around sixth grade. Hunter doesn’t really ever learn, though.

ALICE
Well I suppose I should just let that one lie then.

MARSHALL
That’s probably the best thing you can do.

ALICE
Okay.

Both are quiet for a few seconds.

MARSHALL
It’s just that… Well ya see, the whole fucking thing with Hunter is that he’s somewhat socially awkward, so anytime we’re at parties or something, the only way he can really maintain is to make other people feel more socially awkward than, more specifically, me.

ALICE
Like you’re not socially awkward without him Marshall.

MARSHALL
No, I admit, I am. I’m just saying that it doesn’t help when somebody else adds to it. Give me a few beers, a couple of bong hits, I’m fine. I mean, I can handle socializing with Nadine at that point, but then add Hunter to the mix, and I can already foresee the entire night being fucked beyond belief.

ALICE
Well, I have no advice to even attempt to offer you at this point.

MARSHALL
That’s good. I would call that progress.

ALICE
Yeah, I guess so.

MARSHALL
Ya know, you shouldn’t have problems finding somebody slightly worth it tonight, though. I mean, there are gonna be tons of guys you sort of know who wanna jump your bones at the party.

ALICE
Well thanks, that almost makes me feel better.

MARSHALL
All I’m saying is, how are any of those guys different from Bruce?

ALICE
I don’t know. Bruce pretended like he cared better than most of the others.

MARSHALL
Well shit… I don’t know how I’m supposed to respond to that.

ALICE
Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure all of this bullshit out eventually.

MARSHALL
Yeah, you’re probably right.

Marshall and Alice stop on a corner of the sidewalk.

ALICE
Well, I live this way.

MARSHALL
Yeah, okay, well uh… I guess I’ll see ya tonight.

ALICE
But we probably won’t talk much.

MARSHALL
Well yeah, I mean, not if things work out.

ALICE
I’ll think of mediocre topics of conversation between now and then Marshall.

MARSHALL
Yeah alright, me too.

ALICE
Bye.

MARSHALL
Yeah, I’ll see ya.

Marshall and Alice walk off in opposite directions as “Give It a Day” by Pavement starts to play in the background.

FADE OUT

THE END

Thursday, December 27, 2007



I ran with you for as far as I could, but then my feet sunk in my shoes sunk in the mud like you said they would. I moved my limbs faster in attempt to get out, but my heart just quit as it moved those limbs about. It shook itself enough to release its body free, but by then it was too late, and you had all ready left me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chapter 6: The Last Breakfast

Chapter 6: The Late Breakfast

I was awake to the sound of cooking and misguided conversation, my head spinning in all the normal directions. It was close to a hangover, without being painful enough to take me completely over the edge. My stomach felt fine with the exception of the butterflies, our kiss a lingering memory that would only make the strenuous events of the day all the more unbearable. I rolled over and looked at my cellphone sitting on the oak dresser. It was almost noon, all of the upstairs voices most likely hypothesizing where our night went.
If they only really knew, it would tear them up inside and we would instantly be star-crossed lovers, sent to opposite sides of the country to make new friends and figure our lives out away from one another. Then in a lightening storm of epiphanies one of us would one day decide that it was worth it, taking the time and effort to find the other one. I saw myself as the one getting in the car, the highly idealistic, somewhat disheveled hero, making the trip with one-dimensional thoughts centered on love and pure sexual intrigue. She would be surprised to see me, and it would carry on for some time after that. I needed to build up Alanna like an intricate pyramid of jolted looks and words left unsaid. She would work out much better in that sense.
Muriel fit into the same dilapidated view for a time, the two of us seeing each other every day for weeks, only to later have it feel like a coke addiction when I told her the truth. It took her some time to simply deal with my infatuation, hers becoming somewhat blurry as time and drugs sank in. She needed the comfort of a reassuring voice such as myself, always around to stare mindlessly and pretend like I wasn’t looking at all. It helped remind her how beautiful she was at that very instant. I couldn’t become Alanna dependable observer, though. I needed to pretend that the kiss was our dirty little secret. No one else needed to know about it. I wasn’t yet ready for the mess of her life intertwining with the mess of mine.
While all my stories were about distant figures who had somehow become vaguely attached before ripping apart every colorful spectrum and letting it simply lie there for awhile, barely breathing, absent of all temporary vices associated with living, there was still an underlying sense that these were intricacies that she would eventually care about, and potentially become a part of. I wasn’t burying time capsules with Alanna, saying that one day seven years from now we’ll meet somewhere we’ve both only been to once with shovels, and unbury our moments spent together, searching for answers in the vastness of the wedding party.
Instead I was already coming up with explanations for why I had to stay, why we had to get out together and find some untimely hole to crawl into, why all the others could easily consider Alanna my downfall, and me hers. They would have problems distinguishing between love and lust, thoughts of the future and what we were all planning on doing once the bouquet made its untimely descent into the hands of all those drunken family members. They wouldn’t see any of it coming.
I grabbed some clothes out of my suitcase and walked over to the small bathroom in the corner of the basement. It was mostly there for drunken party guests, all of them being told to throw up downstairs. It was easier that way. The shower barely woke me up, as I was still dreaming of the previous night’s excursions. Although it didn’t seem in the least bit courteous, masturbation logically felt like the only way I was going to be able to handle Alanna that day. I had been pent up, stuck in the car the previous afternoon; mediocre thoughts about Muriel and our lack of true feelings still having somewhat of an effect on my own descending sexual prowess. I felt past my prime, all of my future children eventually turning into residue inevitably taking the long descent down the drain.
It took longer than I thought, as I first tried to think of a barrage of celebrities on covers, that eventually taking the downward spiral into people I knew, illustrious girls from high school and college, all somewhat more useful as mere dirty thoughts rather than fully fleshed out beings. It wasn’t about conversation, but rather just a way to allow myself to deal. It was so much easier to be a woman in that sense. They didn’t have to get off every five seconds as a subtle reassurance that they were still breathing. Men on the other hand would become mush in their presence if they hadn’t gone there in awhile. It was a ritual I wasn’t necessarily proud of, but at the same time couldn’t argue with myself about it being wrong. After all, I had a long day ahead of me.
I dressed and took the deepest of breaths before walking upstairs. The kitchen was full of lingering smoke and odd cooking smells, Colleen stationed at the stove, flipping pancakes and watching bacon grease fly out of the skillet and onto the burners. Gail and Brian sat next to each other like salt and pepper shakers, eating already. Joy and Fred were at opposite ends, doing the same. Alanna was nowhere in sight, most likely still sleeping off the last few shots, and rolling around trying to come up with some temporary solution to the Everett problem, which wasn’t too far off. Ken had work, a fact that allowed me to sit down without any second thoughts or feelings of youthful inadequacy.
“Good morning everybody.”
“Good morning honey. Did you have fun last night?” Joy said, as she took a sip of her tea. My mother was an addict. She needed a cup every three hours or so in order to simply maintain her loose sense of composure.
“Yeah, definitely.”
“Alanna’s still in bed, huh?” Gail asked.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“That’s normal for her. She’ll be up around two, complaining about how hungry she is.” Colleen fixed me a plate without even having to ask, setting it down on the table in front of me, without much hesitation.
“Thanks Colleen.”
“Don’t mention it.” She quickly returned to her post, allowing all of us the time to wonder who would eat all of the remaining food.
“So what is it we’re all doing today?” I took large bites of the pancakes, letting all the surrounding syrup drown away my supposed sorrows from the social aspects of the previous nights. I was in a new kind of spirit, looking forward to the inevitable bullshit, as it seemed like the best of ways to bring the two of us even closer together. I was wandering down foreign paths, alone, without many regrets.
“Well, somebody has to go pick up your Uncle Neal and them.” Fred said as if he was instantly claiming the “not it” position.
“What time does their flight get in?” Brian asked.
“Around six, I think.” Joy replied
“Well that’s just perfect. Fiona and Harriet get in right around that time too.” Colleen said as she placed a plate of toast on the table, all of well on our way to being completely full.
“Who’s gonna go pick them up, though? We have the rehearsal dinner at seven mom.”
“Uh well… Alanna will probably do it.”
“I guess I can pick up Neal.” Fred said taking a sip of his coffee. I saw instantly an opportunity presenting itself.
“I can do it.”
“What?”
“I can take your car and pick them up, then the two of you can just go to the rehearsal dinner with these guys, and we’ll meet you there.”
“You sure you don’t mind Noah?” Gail said, somewhat suspicious of my newfound charitableness.
“No… I mean, it’ll be easier for everybody else this way.”
“Well okay then, I guess that’ll work.” Fred said reasonably relieved.
“You can just follow Alanna up there. She knows where she’s going.” Brian said.
“Yeah, alright.”
“Speaking of Alanna, maybe somebody should go wake her up. I mean, we all have a lot to do today.” Colleen was starting to round up the troops, all of us somewhat restless over the idea of going to war.
“I can do it.” My affinity to instantly volunteer any time her name was mentioned was starting to give away my position. I wasn’t sure what they were all thinking as the night had been one to remember, and above all else talk about, some of them wishing they were there, others simply looking for fruitful details. We weren’t spilling any dirt.
“You’re eating Noah.” Gail said.
“Yeah, but I’m pretty much eating by myself. I’ll go wake her up.”
“Okay…” She stared at me somewhat confused. Had I become a completely different person within the constraints of one night’s events, or was I slowly growing into the person I was meant to be? Lovesick and at their beckoning call anytime she became something other than a thought.
“Wake up your grandmother while you’re up there. I didn’t check on her this morning.” Fred said, making it more than apparent that he was neglecting his duties as the responsible one. It was already too much of a task, having to think about the speech and walking down the aisle for the second and last time.
I was out of the kitchen and up the stairs faster than expected, knocking on Alanna’s door and patiently waiting for some sign of life. She opened it looking like a mess in her pajamas, hair all over the place, her breath still smelling of cheap beer and somewhat reckless tendencies. I enjoyed seeing Alanna out of her element, the morning after, without any real orientation as to what exactly had happened. I was sure that she remembered the kiss, our parting on the simplest of terms, one of us walking up the other down, but before that it could have been all over the place. Our conversations were meaningful, as were the events that followed. Yet after such a long night, the morning always seemed like the time to let things simply lie around for awhile.
“Hey.”
“Uh hey… I mean, good morning. They sent me up here to wake you up. Actually I volunteered, but uh… yeah, so you’re up now, I guess.”
“Yeah, I’m up now Noah. So what’s going on?”
“Uh well… Very little. We have to drive to the airport today.”
“Are you fucking serious?”
“Yeah, apparently you have to pick up your aunt and I have to pick up my uncle.”
“Well isn’t that convenient?”
“Yeah, I guess you could call it that.”
“So uh… Is that it?”
“I guess. I mean, there’s breakfast downstairs.”
“There’s always breakfast downstairs when we have company Noah. I mean, Colleen loves being hospitable.”
“Yeah, I sort of figured.”
“Okay, well you’re sort of creeping me out right now.”
“Sorry. I don’t mean to. I mean, I just came up here to wake you up.”
“Well, good job. Thank you.”
“No problem.” She went back into her room, shutting the door behind her. I stood in the hallway, leaning against the opposite wall, dwelling on what I had and hadn’t said. Violet walked out of her room seconds later, somewhat lost, starring around at fixtures and family portraits.
“Where am I?”
“It’s the Brinker’s house. Gail’s getting married tomorrow grandma.”
“Oh yeah… Well who were you just talking to?”
“Alanna. She lives her.”
“Oh, okay. Is she your girlfriend?”
“No. We’re just… Breakfast is downstairs grandma.”
“Okay.” She walked past me without a second thought to any of her questions. I stood outside her door for longer than I should have, before eventually deciding that the morning after a long night of binge drinking probably wasn’t going to be lined with any underlying sexual connotations. They would most likely come later, and in distorted mass quantity.
I sat back down at the table; my half-finished plate carrying with it illusions to the new version of me. I wasn’t my normal self anymore, and it had become apparent as I tried to hide all my smirks and subtleties. I would get better at it as the day passed, my lack of motivation to be anything other than a mere speck on the wall, taking over in full force. She joined us five minutes after I sat down, Violet wandering in closely behind her. Conversation became dry as Gail and Brian excused themselves, claiming to have “wedding things” to do. I knew that the majority of all their affairs were in order, and that all of us were simply waiting for the supposed big deal to be over with. The continuation of all our lives hung in the balance, as the long stretch of the afternoon would begin to sink in.
Following our late breakfast, she showered and I played pinball contently. Joy helped Colleen clean up the kitchen, while my father assumed his typical living room position, flipping through the channels and scratching various body parts. I began to home in my skills on the machine, very rarely allowing for the ball to sink past the last two lonely flippers. I listened to Perfect from Now On on my headphones and let time slowly pass me by. She stepped down into our the basement, dressed in blue jeans and a yellow Elvis Costello T-shirt, most likely bought at some online thrift store, all the ads claiming that hip vintage looks are the way to go. It fit her nicely, as I took my headphones off and began to dwell on previous questions still floating around in the back of my head.
“Hey.”
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Nothing… I see that everyone’s kind of doing their own thing.”
“Well, it’s a big enough house for that.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So how far away is the airport from here?” I was beginning to lose concentration on the game, letting all the buzzers and bumpers slowly fade with my former infatuations and harsh personality. She had to notice the difference, even after one night; it was beyond apparent to the both of us.
“It’s like a half hour drive.”
“Oh, alright.”
“So why did you volunteer to pick up your Uncle’s family?”
“I didn’t volunteer. I was sort of forced into it.”
“I doubt that. Your parents don’t seem like the type Noah.”
“Well they’re forcing me to go to this wedding.”
“Yeah, I suppose that’s true.”
“Uh huh…” My last ball fell past the bumpers. I turned to her, our eyes meeting with large sparks flying off in the background. Each moment seemed like it was bigger than the both of us. I couldn’t simply blame it all on circumstantial events or the fact that I was slowly sinking off the wagon. There was more to it. We all had our reasons for walking up and down creaky staircases.
“So maybe we should talk about a few things.”
“Like what?”
“Like last night. I uh… Well I shouldn’t have kissed you, because well… I don’t wanna lead you on Noah, and you’re only here for the weekend and then we’ll probably only see each other at weird holiday gatherings where both of us are still trying to figure our lives out and uh… Well I’m just sorry I did it.”
“Whatever. It’s cool. I mean, it’s not like I’m diving too deep into it or anything.”
“Really? Is that the truth?” She seemed to be beyond inquisitive and slightly offended even. I was placing my bets on all the right numbers, letting her decide whether or not she felt like spinning the wheel. Our entire hypothetical existence as something other than forced proprietors and lonesome strangers, who loathed the majority of the wedding party, was a gamble, and I couldn’t allow myself to falter in any sense. She had kissed me and saw it as a mistake or at least some sort of variation of a mistake where she felt as if she had to talk to me about it.
I would have to let it lie there for awhile, sopping up the minutes and seconds like all the spilled alcohol that would be wasted that weekend. I didn’t want her to see it that way. It was a profound connection and at least somewhat purposeful. She hadn’t made any dire mistakes at least in my field of vision. Everett would just have to understand, which was somewhat of a difficult task for anyone who had put the time in.
“Yeah, I’d say it is. I mean, it’s just something that happened, and uh… Well you were obviously feeling a little strange with the whole Everett thing, and you kissed me. No big deal.”
“Okay, well then I guess everything’s cool.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” I hit the start button again as the numbers began to roll back to zero. I had no intention of continuing to listen or allowing her the time to reconsider. She needed to know the truth, but not right then. It didn’t make sense to say everything when we were both lying around being lazy with nothing better to do. It never worked that way, even with Muriel it was at the worst of possible times, and yet still somehow strangely perfect. Drunk at a party, alone, away from all of our friends’ eyes, I just said it out of the blue. She sort of hated me for it, as I ruined her night, and yet we all knew that nights were meant to be ruined friends and potential lovers. That’s the whole point of the entire human condition. We only learn after we fuck up everyone else’s clear and concise vision of the morning after.
At that point, Alanna had already turned my supposed troublesome weekend, centered on family and free trips to the bar, into something bigger than the both of us, but it needed time to truly set in, like any stiff drink, we couldn’t allow ourselves to be taken over by it. There were so many other priorities, other trips to take into the cold and bitter unknown. We would adjust our bicycle seats and looks for dirt roads with no warning signs that weekend. Our disheveled senses of direction would fit together and allow us a long enough duration of time to decide for ourselves, whether or not that particular path was worth it. I knew it was before she even decided we needed to talk.
“Well, I’m gonna go back upstairs, probably read a bit, and then we can go to the airport.”
“Yeah, alright, but uh… What time is Everett’s party tonight?”
“I’m not sure. I was probably gonna head over around ten or so.”
“Alright, well that works.”
“Yeah… But uh, it’s probably gonna be just as weird as last night.”
“Well yeah, but there are gonna be more people there tonight, right?”
“Yeah, I suppose. I mean, your cousins are coming in, right?”
“Yeah, they are.”
“And so are mine, which means they’ll probably be with us.”
‘Yeah, probably.”
“Alright, well enjoy the game Noah.”
“Oh don’t worry. I will.” She walked back up the stairs as I had instantly lost the affinity to continue watching balls bounce off of red and black walls. I needed a more worthwhile activity, and yet upstairs only meant more complications. I began to flip through several dozens of channels, not finding anything to settle on. Anything I hadn’t seen was already halfway through, only making it all the more difficult to catch up with, and the things I had seen were lacking the appeal they once had. I began to doze off, letting other purposes take me over. Joy woke me up on her way out. Her, Fred, Violet and Colleen were meeting Ken at work, before checking on the flowers, the cake, and eventually meeting us at the hotel banquet hall for the rehearsal dinner.
It was almost four at that point, my afternoon seeming like a fleeting thought, and one that I would never truly think about again. It was troublesome knowing that certain days would feel that way. A waste of time was a concept that continually popped up over and over again with each thought. I had wasted time in all aspects of my life. High school was spent starring and thinking rather than acting. Those crushes would stay with me, although I would eventually learn to give them up and consider it all a part of being young. We all thought we were falling in love with the beautiful ones, or the strangely and slightly messed up ones, who would only give us the time of day when they weren’t being gawked at.
College in general seemed like the biggest waste of all, as I instantly felt like I should have been off finding myself in other bright locations, rather than taking the time to think about human existence and the fleeting concept of knowledge. I hadn’t learned anything other than the fact that certain persons should simply be sent off to an island somewhere. Once there their actions could be considered normal. The drunken screaming, the hook-ups, the violence, and the turmoil associated with the morning after all easily understood.
Then there was the future. A cold office and my parents on my case every single day for no reason other than the fact that they wanted me to stare off into a direction that offered with it more answers, rather than floating thoughts of women and moderate success in some literary dictionary that we would all browse through, looking for definitions and eventually coming up short when we all realized that it wasn’t in the least bit worth it, trying to understand the context. Some words were simply better left undefined.
As the door shut, I waited for footsteps. They came quicker than I expected; her afternoon being as misguided as mine. The two of us still had time to kill and a dusty attic reminding us why we were those specifics. She put on Between the Buttons and rolled another absent-minded device on the sleeve. I let things sink in, lying on my back, inches away from Shep, watching the rafters like a Saturday morning cartoon.
“So do you think your uncle and them are gonna notice you’re ripped when we get to the airport?”
“My parents can’t tell the difference, why would they?”
“I suppose you’re right.”
“Since when did you become the person to ask questions like that anyway?”
“I don’t know. I suppose it’s easier to ask stupid obvious questions rather than dwell on what I’m really thinking.”
“What are you really thinking?”
“My life is such a fucking mess.”
“Oh. Well, mine too.”
“Yeah, but you haven’t been in it for nearly as long as I have. I mean, I saw myself in a completely different place a year ago.”
“Well, whatever…”
“You don’t care, do you?”
“Not really. I mean, I sort of just wanna sit here and not think about bigger things, if that’s cool?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I mean, well… Actually, I’m sorry. You smoked me up. If you wanna talk about all the things you’re thinking about then I’m listening.” I sat up from the floor and gave her another look. It didn’t feel nearly as piercing as the other ones. It was like the looks with Muriel. Both of us knew they would never completely mean everything, but we enjoyed them nonetheless, just because it was better to know that such looks existed.
“No, it’s okay. You’re right. We shouldn’t talk about all of this stuff.”
“Well okay then.” We were quiet for awhile, listening to noises off in the background, and waiting for each individual tick of the clock. I didn’t know where to take the silence. It was always difficult, pretending like there was nothing to say. Side A ended, as we decided it would be easier just to leave and wait in the airport, rather than listen to the lesser known hits on Side B. It was strange thinking about artists spending the majority of their time on A sides, but for the most part it was what they did.
The majority of my vinyl collection only appealed to the shortest side of my attention span. Occasionally I would revel in the fact that I was flipping the record over, but usually I consciously decided to just pick out another A side. They felt better most of the time, as it was always a fresh start. The latter end of the record would only make the most devout of listeners somewhat depressed as the last scratched bleep rang true. We didn’t know where to go after that.
I followed her down the stairs and out the door, grabbing the keys to my father’s car off of the kitchen table and walking outside. She was three steps behind, making sure to take all the itineraries and directions with her. I leaned against the door, starring across the street at a few neighborhood kids running around in circles, screaming at each other. If it was a game, everybody was ill informed on the rules. In that sense, it looked like everything else I knew and was used to. Every attempt at making things permanent would only later become fully fleshed out into a game of cat and mouse around the suburban homestead. We knew all the hiding spots and where to run to, and yet there was still the underlying sense that something important was missing.
“So are you ready?” Alanna locked the door to her parents’ house and walked over to her car.
“Uh yeah, I am. I mean, I’m just following you out there, right?”
“Well yeah, I mean… You’ve been following me all weekend, why would this trip be any different Everett?”
“I don’t know Alanna.” I stepped into the car, and adjusted the seat. She backed out first, as I once again, carefully fell into place behind her. The roads were unfamiliar and each blinking light felt like a warning to simply turn off somewhere and say everything. Instead I did exactly what I was supposed to do. We would arrive at the airport early, all of the planes never allowing themselves to get caught up in fleeting thoughts of time. People would only pretend like they minded waiting.

Scanner Art?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pet Jesus

The neighbors used to visit before Christmas to admire the newly decorated tree. Gradually, this tradition receded into visiting afterwards to absorb the total effect of the tree and the newly stacked gifts beneath. With it came the slightly neurotic practice of carefully repackaging and returning our toys to the display after use. The first time I remember this interfering with common sense was the year that Lucy got a new bike. It was a mild winter and the streets were clean on Christmas morning. As the older brother, I accompanied her to Main Street, riding alongside in my year old ten-speed. The sidewalk was jammed with new bikes, bright white roller skates, and skateboards.

Upon our return, we were handed a bucket and instructed to wash the tires of the bike and wheel it inside to stand over the awkwardly arranged household items piled around the tree. It looked as if someone was packing for a trip. The first year, my father’s new luggage set cemented the image in my mind. My mother carefully stacked our new winter sweaters and jeans, a toaster oven, blankets, a gold necklace, and an assortment of toys around the suitcases.

Lucy’s pet Jesus year must have occurred before my parents’ mock packing tradition. The nativity set was still under the tree when the neighbors visited. That Christmas season, my mother’s hairdresser gave the children pet rocks that she’d made with her husband’s rock tumbler and copper wire. I thanked her and promptly forgot about my rock, but Lucy was determined to extract some fun from her new toy. The faux ivory nativity set was browning with age. Lucy’s pet rock was similar in size and color, but the gloss stood out next to the dull, antique figurines. I vaguely understood the principal at work when Lucy traded the rock for the tiny Jesus.

She began resting the rock in the manger and carrying the Jesus figurine in her pocket. At random moments, she’d pull him out and cry, “Pet Jesus!” My mother was horrified. We weren’t a churchgoing family. The nativity set was a family heirloom. She absolutely could not make Lucy understand the important difference between the rock the beautician had given her and the figure under our Christmas tree. No matter how closely my mother guarded Jesus, Lucy always managed to make the switch. It came to a head on Christmas Eve.

Somehow, while my mother was fussing over the decorations, she failed to notice that Lucy had made an alteration of her own. The first couple of visitors did not detect the slumbering rock. Everything went smoothly until Lucy introduced her friend to Mrs. Phelps, the proud owner of the town’s largest nativity set. She was sitting Indian-style at Mrs. Phelps’ feet, her fists jammed in the hollow of her curled legs. Suddenly, she pulled at Mrs. Phelps’ skirt, manically announcing, “Pet Jesus!” as he appeared from her unfurling hand. My father wordlessly stepped forward, slipped his hands under Lucy’s arms and carried her from the room. Her legs remained crossed as she laughed her way up the stairs. The room was silent. Mrs. Phelps instinctively put her hand to her throat, as if physically trying to suppress reaction. I followed her eyes to the shiny lump in the manger, and then looked back at Mrs. Phelps, still politely expressing her indignation with her body.

That’s when I went the way of Lucy. My mother attempted to quiet me, but it was no use. Tears rolled down my cheeks. The neighbors were staring. I couldn’t breathe. I was being very immature and I wanted to stop. It was becoming painful. My father ended it when he returned to the bottom of the steps. He pointed from across the room. “Out!” I ducked under his arm, up the stairs, past my bedroom, and collapsed in a heap of laughter on Lucy’s floor. Upon my entrance, Lucy stood on the bed, raised the figure high above her head and triumphantly squealed, “Pet Jesus!” before flinging herself back down.

I don’t know if that was the last year of the pre-Christmas visitors, but it was certainly the last year of the nativity set.

2008 Projects: Undeveloped Idea no. 2

Spaces: views and disections of underground music culture

2008 Projects: Undeveloped Idea no. 1

Home storage: garages, attics, basements, etc.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

i don't want to talk about what happened.
i can tell you that i didn't have sex with him.
i can tell you that i think i'm ready to let go.
i know that someone cares about me.
i think that i believe in the unseen members of this society.
i want to have a direction at least about one thing in my life.
my cat is my guardian angel.

Family Tree

















Friday, December 21, 2007

text messaging.

From: Dad 12-17-07
Ur aunt irma is going 2 pass away soon.

From: Grandma 12-21-07
HI DO YOU WANT 2 COME DOWN TO SEE RYAN HE WILL BE HERE WED.



It doesn't matter that i haven't physically seen or talked to either of you in person for months. Just text message me. I can understand why you wouldn't want to hear my voice.

Chapter 5: The End of the Night

Chapter 5: The End of the Night

Tracey unlocked the front door as all of us waited for the next person to filter up the stairs. I had to piss like a race horse after only three blocks of thinking. My kidneys were working overtime, as I tried to remember where the car was parked. Disorientation was a reoccurring theme in my life. It wouldn’t end with the slow descent of my youth; the future only days away.
I was the last in line, taking my shoes off and browsing the intricacies of the apartment. It was tiny, a narrow kitchen off of the living room, the fridge and stove barely squeezing in next to one another. The living room had a certain edge to it. A dark green couch took up the majority of the space, with an ugly worn purple chair a few feet away. The walls were mostly bare, with the exception of a few movie posters, High Fidelity, A Hard Day’s Night and The Goonies, all somewhat lingering in the background compared to the one lone piece of modern art. It was Alanna’s, a painting of a black sunset, the colors running off into the essence of all the other objects. The trees were falling apart; the grass and ground splitting in two like an earthquake had shook the painting’s hand, and lastly a dim lit figure on the left side by the tree, watching the entire world break off into pieces.
I didn’t quite understand it all from my initial glance, deciding to walk over and take a closer look. Alanna was in the bathroom with Amanda and Tracy, while Ronna and Joel sat on the couch, rolling individual joints as if it was some sort of competition. He was better, having more time to practice while making sure an overabundance of fifteen year olds refrained from stealing the tasty cakes each morning before school. Everett lingered close to me, as I peered into Alanna’s creative soul. She wouldn’t be able to explain her outspoken tact, or how some of the details were missing. In this way, it spoke louder than she ever could.
“This is really great.”
“Yeah, Alanna painted it like a year ago. It’s been here ever since.” Ronna licked her lips before moving the joint closer to her mouth. She spit little pieces of marijuana out on the floor, before, finishing her delicate masterpiece. Joel looked over and shrugged, taking his time to show her up.
“I really like it. It’s complicated, ya know?”
“Yeah, we know.” Everett walked into the kitchen, allowing himself the time to be alone. I could feel every individual look he was throwing around the room that night. The majority of them were directed at yours truly, as I attempted to be social with all of them. It would prove to be a beyond difficult task as conversations would dry up along with mutual buzzes and hopeful thoughts.
“So pick something to listen to Joel?”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“It’s not gonna smoke any better.”
“You always say that, but we’ll see which one takes longer to burn.”
“You guys are funny.” Talking seemed like the only way to forget about my small bladder.
“Our bickering’s only amusing if you’ve just met us Noah.”
“Well, I guess that explains it.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Ronna stood up and walked into the kitchen. Joel and I could hear vague remnants of their conversation, Everett drunk and breaking down the details to somebody who already knew where it was all going. Joel finished his joint, drying it with his lighter. He then looked over at me, as I stood awkwardly in front of the painting, wondering if I was the topic of anyone’s conversation.
“So uh… You’re new here. Why don’t you pick something out to listen to?”
“Yeah, alright. Where are the CD’s?”
“Ronna’s are in that black case over by the stereo. Those are the ones you wanna pick from. Tracy’s will just make you depressed.”
“Yeah, okay.” I walked over to the small shelf where a tiny blue and gray boom box was sitting. I unzipped Ronna’s hefty case of CD’s and searched for something to suit all our moods. Anything about love, loss or marriage just seemed inappropriate. We needed songs about the sun and flowers. Hippy shit that helped us forget our troubles and also increased the process of sobering up. I knew I was done drinking from the instant we entered the apartment. The morning would be full of questions from all old and future family members. They would need explanations as to why we were so late, and where we had been for such a long time. No one ever settled on the idea of simply letting things lie. There were topics that needed to be brought up, some on drunken nights full of less than Christian exploits, others passed off as mediocre dining conversation. We would all talk with our mouths full occasionally, sometimes not having the convenience of washing it all down, quick and easy like a pill.
I browsed the alphabetized collection, the majority of which were burned from friends of friends. Some were mixes from certain special occasions while others were simply thrown together on a whim, the creator hoping for the best, the ultimate listening experience among friends. Records were important to these people, as it seemed like each page I flipped through offered another small look into their slightly complicated lives. Ronna was a mostly upbeat individual with a few sad dashed of lingering depression. Her CD collection reflected this as I passed Bright Eyes and Elliott Smith without too many second thoughts. It was somewhat difficult, looking for a record that would please everybody, and yet I found my solace in Odessey and Oracle. It felt like we need the Zombies that night, to rupture our thoughts and prolong good-byes.
Joel lit his joint as everyone slowly filtered back into the living room. Everett had another drink in a worn McDonald’s glass, Grimace passively drunk on each side. Ronna shook her head as she reassumed her position at Joel’s side. Alanna took everything in as she entered with Amanda and Tracy; all three reasonably freshened up, ready to let their sorrows pass in conversations heard by everyone. We weren’t drowning each other out anymore, the bar now only a prelude to where they all knew we would end up.
I walked past her on my way to the bathroom, only stopping briefly to answer her question.
“Did you pick this?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Good. I’m proud of you.”
“I bet.” I entered the hallway and turned on the light in the bathroom. I took several breaths dead set on my own composure, as I relieved myself. Above the toilet was a picture of all of them at the Amusement Park, by the log ride. Joel, Ronna and Tracy were in the front, a trifecta of reliability. Amanda lingered off to the side in sunglasses, most likely staring at some brainless Bo in a wet T-shirt walking past. Then there was Alanna and Everett. She looked happy, her arm around his neck, his smile saying more than words ever could. They fit together in ways I could only think about. He remained in his dependable position throughout every troublesome endeavor, and yet that weekend was ours to flourish. It became something associated with loose feelings that only reminded us that all our sunsets were falling apart. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t in the picture. There would be others to frame on walls and let slowly dust collect.
I flushed and stared at my own reflection for longer than I should have. It seemed like a cliché, as I attempted to piece together who I was at that very instant. Was I vicariously living through others’ mistakes or simply taking the time to enjoy what Chicago had to offer? I remember the look I gave myself in Muriel’s bathroom mirror that night, after the joint in the woods. It was lined with all the normal depressing shit, my bloodshot eyes constantly at a loss, and yet there was a sense that I wouldn’t ever have to see myself there again. That felt good for some strange reason. Moving on always needed to happen, even if we all eventually ended up back where we started.
I stepped back into the living room, finding all of them in familiar places. Joel, Ronna and Tracy were on the couch, while Amanda occupied the chair on her cell phone, spouting off typical drunken girl banter to a guy who probably barely remembered her name. Alanna and Everett sat Indian style on the floor at a reasonable distance, his hands, mind and body wandering off to the previous week, where for the briefest of moments things seemed pleasantly perfect, and worth the pain, strain anguish and anger that had built up over twelve years.
I sat down next to her, reliably getting both joints that were circling in opposite directions at the same time. I loosely joked as I hit one, then the other before passing them on. We were quiet for awhile then, listening to the pop music in all its glory and the decline of Amanda’s phone conversation. She hung up like an angry housewife to a mistress aware that her husband was and had been cheating for some time. We all found it strangely comical, as it seemed to be the way certain people got when they were under the influence. Amanda was a parade of former loves and later regrets, all saved with detail in her blue glowing phonebook.
“So who was that?” Alanna said, passing the one joint to Everett.
“Zack, I think.”
“What do you mean, ‘you think’?”
“Well, I’m not too sure if it was him or Dean, but either way, I said what I wanted to.”
“Haven’t you slept with both of them?” Joel knew all the truths of Amanda’s illustrious affairs. Rumors would spread in the Mini-mart parking lot, or from the mouths of higher ups. Everyone was a friend of a friend, and yet their particular group managed to maintain all brash sensibilities as they moved from one direction to the next, sometimes spinning counter-clockwise on one-way streets and avenues.
“Yeah, but there was a big enough gap between them.”
“How big of a gap?” I couldn’t help but ask the obvious, my brain starting to settle into a more social area. Alanna and Everett were thoughts for a later date.
“I don’t know, like three weeks or something.”
“Oh.”
“Ya know Amanda, I hate to break it to ya, but that really isn’t long enough.” Tracy said, as she passed like the rest of us.
“Well whatever. Why is it that all we do is talk about me when I’m drunk and we’re all hanging out.”
“Because you enjoy being the center of attention so goddamn much.” Everett chimed in between sips of his white Russian, half of which would later end up on the dusty gray carpet as he attempted to stand up.
“That’s not true. I just felt like calling them. I mean, they were having a party tonight, and didn’t invite me, those fuckers.”
“Well maybe that’s because you fucked both of them in less than a month.”
“Just stop it Everett. There’s no point in getting into this right now.” Alanna was tired of letting her internal clock tick louder and louder. She needed the silence of a clear and concise notion.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Of course, we could get into other stuff right now Alanna.”
“Jesus Christ…” She put her head down and shook it with a unique rhythm all her own.
“Dude, just don’t right now.” Joel placed the remains of Ronna’s joint in the ashtray. It hadn’t lasted nearly as many rotations as his, a fact he was quietly proud of.
“Well then when the fuck is the right time to bring all of this up. I mean, C’mon guys, let’s be real for once.” He had a go at standing up, the floor no longer dry.
“God damnit Joel, what the fuck is your problem tonight anyway?” Tracy stood up and headed into the kitchen, quickly returning with a roll of thin paper towels to sop up the mess.
“Oh man, I’m sorry. I uh…”
“Don’t worry about in Everett.” Ronna slouched more into the couch.
“How can I not worry about it? I mean, this is my fucking life guys.” He looked right at her when he said it. She just stared down, the exquisite heartbreaker, reduced to a calm form of public embarrassment.
“Go sober up Everett.”
“How would you suggest I do that Alanna?” She stood up at this remark, Tracy quickly dabbing at the minimalist spill.
“I don’t know. Stop drinking, maybe go puke or something. Whatever fucking works man.” Alanna took the drink out of his hand like a mother scolding her child. It didn’t really faze him as the rest of the room stared at the ground, letting the scene play out as if it was a bad habit.
“Man, I can’t believe you. I mean, all night the two of us have just been pretending like nothing happened. I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Just let it all go back to normal again. Man, what the fuck Alanna? I can only be here for so long before I decide that you’re not worth it.”
“Just go compose yourself a little bit.”
“Fine.” He took a breath and cracked his neck. “Sorry to cause a scene, especially in front of the fiancé’s brother. I know he wasn’t expecting this.”
“Actually he was Everett. I told him before we even met you tonight”
He didn’t reply to her, but rather took his leave from the living room. Alanna sighed and took a sip of the white Russian as we all pretended like nothing happened. It was beyond simple, becoming intertwined in Alanna’s little messes. She had made a mistake that she would regret for some time, and yet moving on was never an option for him, nor was it for the rest of them.
The complications of friends and lovers always became a thought ending brief with somebody simply turning around in the opposite direction. Neither person wanted to accept that it would rip them apart, slow and steady until one gave in. It was the saddest of displays, my own life briefly mirroring that of those who surrounded me. I had seen it before, and even participated in my own lackluster fantasy spun into a bitter cold reality. Muriel and I would have been better off on opposite sides of the classroom, each of us deciding on different members for our group projects.
“So who’s gonna go talk to him other than me?” Alanna sat back down as eyes turned towards Joel, his particular position being the most helpful. He shook his head, knowing it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
“Fuck… fine, but you know that you owe me big for this Alanna.”
“Yeah, I know.” He stood up, exhaling bigger than he had the entire night, and walked off into familiar territory. She sat back down on the floor and allowed the appropriate amount of time to pass. It was time to think about other various topics and to let the buzz slowly creep up on all of us. I was at an absolute loss for words and dignity. It had been selfish of me to think about interfering. I had no real business anywhere.
We listened for a little while longer, none of us being able to think of anything to break the ice. Alanna stood up from the floor and turned to me. It was a strange look as if I had become her new codependent. I was the one who had to stand back and listen, offering shreds of advice in-between thoughts of where it was all going. Was I a minor solution to her long-lasting Everett problem or was she my answer to more than just the weekend?
“I’m going out for a cigarette. Come with me Noah.”
“I don’t smoke.”
“I know.” The room looked elsewhere as I followed her out. The streets were reasonably quiet, the occasional car passing with only the intentions of getting home. It was almost two, thoughts of how little sleep I was inevitably going to get, starting to take over in mass quantities. I always operated on pure motor functions. With youth it seems like everyone is pushing themselves to see how far they can go. I was running out fast, my somber depression from the strenuous car ride seeming to have a grandiose effect on my immune system.
She lit her cigarette and placed the pack back in her purse. It didn’t seem like a bad habit with her, but just a way to relieve stress. I thought about the inclination of someone as perfect as Alanna being stressed. It didn’t seem normal in the least bit. People falling in love with her was somewhat of a problem, though. It usually wasn’t an advantage, and I was slowly sinking like the rest of them, by her own accord. We could have just been anti-social soon-to-be sort of family members that night, but instead she decided an evening of frivolous summer living full of back stories from the previous week was more appropriate. I didn’t mind, though. It seemed like the only way I was going to get to know her.
“So I’m sorry about everything.”
“What, up there? It’s not a big deal.”
“But it is sort of a big deal Noah. I mean, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do.” She sat down on the cracked front steps. I followed suit again; the two of us a picaresque scene from a movie we both walked past while browsing the new releases.
“Well you’re either gonna be with him or you aren’t.”
“He’s my best friend Noah.”
“Well, I didn’t think it worked like that with guys and girls.”
“What, you’re pulling the When Harry Met Sally thing on me, where you say they can never be friends?”
“I think I might be, and it’s just not me drunk either. I do sort of buy into all of it.”
“It’s amazing the shallow propaganda the film industry feeds us about love on a daily basis.”
“I know. It’s kind of nice though, isn’t it?”
“What, to buy into something that’s not in the least bit plausible?”
“Uh yeah, I mean, love has to be big like that sometimes.”
“Jesus, you’re a pretty cliché drunk.”
“I’m sorry. I just…Well I suppose it’s easier to be like this when you’ve just met somebody.”
“What do you mean?” I froze. I thought she would have been able to figure it out from there, but like Everett I was fucking the majority of things up big time. He should have done it all sooner, though. Sometime between ninth and tenth grade when he was really sure about her, he should have just said it. It would have made things easier. They would have fallen apart; both deciding to linger on opposite sides of the hallway, before the eventual time it took to piece things back together. By senior year it would have been easy to date, before college completely ripped them apart.
Then it would have been a sign of youth, something they couldn’t fully grasp at the time, and would never completely understand no matter how long they stayed up thinking about it, starring at cold dorm room ceilings and rolling over to each unique creak in the bed. Instead it lasted longer than it ever should have and managed to explode on the first night I met her. I suppose some could call it bad timing, but I didn’t buy into any of that. It was something else entirely.
“Nothing really. I don’t know where I’m going with all of this.”
“Yeah, me neither.” She exhaled and briefly put her head down in her hands.
“So are you gonna go up and talk to him at all?”
“I don’t think so. We’ll work it out tomorrow, when he’s of sounder mind.”
“He was serious though, Alanna. I mean, no offense, but this is sort of a fucked up situation.
“Yeah, I know, but this really isn’t the time to figure things out. I mean, I just wanted to get drunk tonight. Ya know, to show you a good time, because the next two days are gonna be full of a lot of bullshit for both of us.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I suppose I didn’t really take the time to think about any of it too much, but whatever. You were supposed to be my Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card tonight, Noah.”
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
“Hey, it’s okay. These things happen, right?”
“I guess…” I tried to hide my smirk, as I couldn’t even imagine such a pure complication in my life. While I had occasionally been the friend in love with the other friend, all my boyhood crushes died off around freshman year of college. From that point it was a slew of occasional infatuations some leading to a mediocre feelings of perfections, others quickly turning into a mess without as much background. They would run sometimes on drunk nights when I managed to say everything, while other times they would stay. That was the majority of what it always came down to; Alanna not having such a convenience. They were attached at the hip. It was going to be a difficult procedure of separation
“You think this all ridiculous, huh?”
“Sort of. I mean, it’s just I wasn’t expecting it is all, even when you told me, I didn’t think it would happen, but whatever. It’s fine Alanna.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“So how sober are you?”
“Do you wanna leave?”
“I wouldn’t mind leaving. I’m sort of beat.”
“Alright, we’ll go up after this cigarette.”
“Okay.” We sat quietly as I waited for her to finish. The silence was beyond pleasant. It didn’t feel like we had to say much of anything else, at least not then. She flicked it on the ground as we headed back upstairs. Amanda was half-asleep in the chair, Joel having returned to the living room, packing up a small bowl to reinstate his buzz, which most likely fell apart with the forced heart-to-heart in the bathroom. Everett was nowhere in sight, his location becoming instantly apparent to the both of us.
“How is he?”
“He’s passed out in the bathtub. He’ll be fine tomorrow. I mean, I figure one of us will be checking in on him every time we have to pee.”
“Which is almost something to look forward to.” Ronna’s wit had hit its peak for the night.
“Fuck… I’m sorry guys.”
“It’s not your fault Alanna.” Tracey said as she leaned her head back on the couch. Our party had quickly descended, all of us ready for time to ourselves.
“Yeah, I guess… I don’t know. I think we’re gonna go, though.”
“Oh, well… Are you okay to drive?” Joel said.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Well, okay.” She turned to me as she searched through her purse for the keys.
“Get Amanda to the car, I’m gonna pee, maybe say a few things that aren’t gonna be remembered tomorrow anyway.”
“Okay.” She made it all sound beyond casual, as if after one cigarette and the briefest of conversations, her head was on straight again. I helped Amanda stand up and took the last hit from Joel’s bowl. It would keep me up for longer than intended, which wasn’t necessarily the worst of possibilities. There were still songs left unheard, and the beckoning of a pinball machine. I wanted the entire house to wake up to my high score. Although part of me knew, I wouldn’t have the strength.
“So we’ll probably see you tomorrow, right Noah?” Joel said as we were three steps on our way out.
“Uh, what’s tomorrow? I mean, I have a rehearsal dinner to go to.”
“Everett’s parents are out of town, so he’s throwing a huge party tomorrow.” Ronna said.
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, we’ve been planning it all week.”
“And I guess I’m going now?”
“Well yeah, I mean, Alanna’s going, and you’re sort of her friend all weekend, so we figured you’d be there.”
“Uh yeah, okay… Well I guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow then.” I wondered out confused to their fond farewells. It was most likely going to be a repeat performance of the events that had just perspired; only this time there was going to be a bigger audience. Amanda and I had some trouble with the stairs, before eventually making our way outside, and getting in the car. I expected zero conversation as she looked as if she had talked far too much already, dozing off at random increments from the backseat. I was wrong.
“So you have a crush on my cousin, don’t you?”
“What?”
“Ya see, it’s my theory that the majority of guys like you fall for Alanna.”
“What do you mean ‘guys like me’?”
“I mean, the intellectual types. See all the idiots fall for me, and I don’t know why. I guess it’s just one of those things that happened in high school and has carried on ever since. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
“I can’t think of anything that’s carried with me since high school.”
“Well you’ve been a loser since high school, right?”
“Fuck off Amanda.”
“I’m just kidding, but uh… You know what I mean, right? I mean, you understand why you’re falling for her.”
“I’m not falling for her. We’ve known each other for one night.”
“That’s all it takes sometimes.” It felt like that scene, where the less than knowledgeable ones try to preach to those who are at least good at pretending like they have it all figured out. She wasn’t going to let up.
“Just drop it.”
“No, I wanna know man.”
“I’m here until Sunday. There’s no point in starting anything.”
“Who lives their life like that Noah?”
“Sane people who have lost the majority of their motivation.”
“Well, okay.” She passed out fast after that as I waited a bit longer. Alanna seemed normal again as she entered the car. I wanted to ask about their conversation, but didn’t feel as if it was any of my business, despite the fact that she had tried desperately to place me somewhere in the middle. I was over-analyzing all my thoughts, feeling like Woody Allen on a good day. We often excused geniuses for their actions, no matter how strange or unbecoming they were. It would be acceptable for me to tell her exactly how I felt at that moment, but at the same time, unfamiliar objects passing both us by on the long drive home seemed more worthwhile.
She drove with the grace of several trained alcoholics, neither of us ever losing our cool. We watched Amanda stumble up her apartment stairs, before turning back to the car with a smile and waving. She had the comfort of walking into her empty nest drunk, her cat the only judgmental eyes she would see. Living alone was starting to appeal to me, as I thought about the possibilities of setting up shop in a brand new location. I wouldn’t know anybody and everything that happened would be all my own. I was somewhat tired of sharing memories with others, all of us becoming somewhat depressed or overly reminiscent the second the thoughts started to resurface.
Those with Muriel still hurt, and more so than my somewhat shattered college experience, myself and many others walking around our small familiar town, past iconic inscriptions on brick walls lined with graffiti. We would all search for warm places to shack up for the night, before coming to copious amounts of fond realizations the next morning, term papers and finals the farthest thoughts from our brain. I would somewhat miss all of the indecisions of my early twenties. It was like staying up late with no real purpose other than reminding yourself what it’s like to be alive, sinking eyelids only mere distractions to the bigger picture, whatever it may be.
She rounded the corner to the house, all the outside lights off. The engine sputtered for a bit, before turning off. We stepped out of the car and walked towards the house. She stopped me before I could even put my hand on the door knob, once again reaching into her purse for the white package, a few drags remaining.
“Ya know, you can tell it’s an addiction when it prevents others from falling asleep.”
“You’re too high to sleep right now anyway.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” She lit her cigarette and exhaled like it was all a passing fad. Every night was something to forget about with Alanna.
“So why can’t you just smoke in the house?” I said, as I leaned against the railing by the steps. It was freshly painted, I could tell from the lack of rust.
“Are you serious? My parents don’t condone much of anything I do, smoking being the least of it.”
“Well I suppose I should’ve figured that.”
“Yeah, well there are a lot of things you’re not really thinking about Noah.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“Would I?”
“Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot on my mind at this very instant.”
“Oh yeah, like what?”
“I don’t know. Have you ever wondered why two people like your parents would ever get together and decide to have kids? I mean, if they would have just taken the time to think about it first, then they would have realized that it was just a bad idea, ya know?”
“Well, we’re the fuck-ups, though. They thought they were batting a thousand with Brian and Gail.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”
“I know what you’re saying, though. I mean, my parents still pretend that they’re in love with each other, which is more than a little revolting.”
“Mine don’t, which makes the idea of my entire existence just seem like one gigantic mistake.”
“Yeah, but we weren’t accidents Noah, just failed attempts at rolling a seven two times in a row.”
“If they had only known.”
“Exactly.” She shifted her weight towards me, letting the smoke linger in clouds around us.
“So can I ask you something Noah?”
“Yeah, sure.”
“Why do you suppose it went wrong with you and your girlfriend?”
“Uh… I don’t know really. Muriel and I both sort of knew it was the end before we even decided to make it official.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, it was my last semester, and she was always all over the place. I felt as if the entire relationship was more like something owed to me as opposed to something else, ya know, something we could call bigger than the both of us.”
“So then why did you go through with all of it?”
“I don’t know. It had been awhile. I felt like my last semester would be better if it was full of drunken nights and mediocre sex.” She smiled, shaking her head lightly and let her cigarette fall to the ground in plain view. She wanted all of us to walk past it the next morning on our way out, as a subtle reminder that some bad habits aren’t easily hidden.
“I suppose I can understand that.”
“I figured you could, but uh… The weird part about the whole Muriel thing is the fact that she ruined a lot of things for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I can’t listen The Smiths anymore.”
“Really? How come?”
“I don’t know, just because we listened to them a lot when we hung out. I mean, there are a few other bands like that with her, but they seem to be the main one. “The Queen is Dead” makes my kind of stomach hurt.”
“Well that sounds like something you should maybe get checked out.”
“Yeah, I’ll have to schedule an appointment.”
“Definitely.” Both of us quickly ran out of things to say after that, merely giving each other looks that wouldn’t learn. She unlocked the door as we stepped into the foyer. The house was much more pleasant at night, small nightlights bought in dollar bins, illuminating both our paths to inevitable dreams of one another. She hung her jacket up on the hooks by the door and turned to me.
“So uh… Thanks for waiting with me tonight. I mean, through all the bullshit.”
“No problem. Thanks for getting me out of the house?”
“Sure thing.”
“So uh… I suppose we’ll see each other tomorrow morning.”
“It’s not too far off, huh?”
“No, it’s not.”
“Well goodnight Alanna.”
“Goodnight Noah.” I took a short breath, not expecting much more than a memory of her walking upstairs to help my sleepless night. She leaned in fast, her hands at her side, our lips coming together for the briefest of moments. It felt perfectly wrong and yet was what I needed. It was that subtle reassurance, that inclination of possibilities, and another forced perspective of my inevitable downfall. I wouldn’t be able to shake this one off, call it bad timing, or a lapse in judgment. She wasn’t a passing fad or simply a way to pass to the time. Alanna was real, for better or worse, and I would never regret knowing that.
She pulled away faster than expected, not allowing either of us the time to let things take their toll. We were both ready for separate beds and the comfort of staring up at the ceiling with no substantial manifestation of any answers
“I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have… I mean, tonight was bad, and I’m still sort or drunk.”
“It’s okay. I uh… You had to figure I would fall for you this quick.”
“Yeah, I sort of saw it coming in the attic.”
“Me too.”
“I need sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow Noah.”
“Yeah, see ya.” She walked up the stairs as I tried not stare, frozen in my incomplete emotions. Feelings were mixed and there was no plausible explanation for what had just happened and what was well on its way to my own self-destruction. I stepped down into the basement, finding Shep asleep on the rug next to the fold out. I didn’t listen to anything other than my fragmented thoughts as I waited for them to eventually stifle and run away without looking back. The morning would be full of new procedures and modes of action. I wouldn’t have to be so adamant about hating everything, not anymore anyways.

old Pyschology notebook

Afraid of rats
Afraid of bunnies
Afraid of beards
Afraid of coats

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Motivation on some days.






(thought-provoking, lose the apostrophes, .")


hahaha.

it's almost midnight. i will go home tomorrow in a dark red rusty car with vanilla air freshener and fake flowers hanging from the rear view. i don't want to use those hip words, or for people to think that i want them to see me any certain way. i suppose i do in a sense. but i don't think i want it to be anything specific...if anything a neverending possibility of who i could be...but you're always pretty damn sure you're right. like trust, ya know? i always ask people: "do you trust me?" they usually say yes. and if they do, i say "good. you should" and try to to half smile/half serious present myself...formulaic? sometimes. but i guess i say that because i trust myself. with you. with the collective you. who knows what i could do or how crazy i could get? changing days end up doing that to us...but, for what i know and i'd like to know and truly trust...you can trust me.

anyways, new years will come soon. we'll all be having our sorta serious new years thoughts and get sad probably...or slightly proud but still sad...or really fucking sad. i'm hoping for a newyearssadness i've never experienced. i'm assuming it will be really fucking sad and sort of fucking proud...or at least....more...inhabited. i suppose if anything i'm glad i leapt. i'm glad i fell into that disgusting, lonely, terrifying dark pit. i'm glad i fell into that sorry bed of *those little white flowers with the black thing in the middle that fill sides of highways and fields alike* yes those. but the way it left me is something i don't yet understand. feels strange and cold but i know i'm not done.
speaking in accents and wearing aprons and throwing things at people when they are not expecting them.
i hope that i've somewhat startled my environment.
i'll call ya'll group of people "folks." thank you, folks.

Thorton




Nothing looks better than anything through my dad's camera. All I want is to be able to see the way he does.


Dear Mom, I'm not even a Christian

Hi Mom.
Please stop sending me things like this because you're told to do it. I don't even mean "TOLD" by God or anything. I mean Pat Robertson. There are too many things for me to say about this-- just please, stop sending me these.
Thank you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chapter 4: The Deep End

Chapter Four: The Deep End

Stanley’s Bar and Grill sat on the corner of Eleventh Street. An absolute dive with piss-poor service and flat taps, it was beyond simple for Alanna to park right in front. They stepped out in heels as I followed the cousins into the dark secluded corner of the city that both were beyond familiar with. Alanna was the regular that bartenders still stopped to stare at. She wouldn’t take all that much time getting ready, and yet third and fourth impressions came rolling in from all angles as we entered through the brown splintered door.
I caught a few glimpses of sadness as we passed those who were slowly sinking in their stools. Old men with divorce papers and children who didn’t answer their phones, aging hipsters finally deciding that the slow spark of the Chicago club scene was no longer in the least bit appealing. They wanted to be known and not simply in a one-night stand sort of way. A girl with cherry red hair, blue eyeliner and used lips sat alone in black stockings and matching boots at the far end of the bar. A few suits from the other end were commenting on how easy she looked. I tried not to listen as we passed, having already grown more than tired of offhanded comments from those who never took the time to think. I had already become disillusioned to all the different variations of assholes from each nearby town in college. They were all uniquely the same never taking the time to revel in change like the rest of us.
Muriel dated a few at the beginning. I remember Paul the best. It was a unique form of torture as I played the friend card, while sitting on her gray couch, passing joints to him and all of his loser counterparts. They would laugh out of character and later discuss what the holdup was. Muriel was a complicated figment of many of our imaginations. While some could say that the shear depression would have been motivation enough for her to sleep with mostly anybody, it took time and precision to truly impact somebody so very good at pretending like she was complicated. Part of it was trust, although we were bad at it when the two of us were dating. I knew about a few late-night make-out sessions with guys who would give me subtle head nods at later social events. They looked content with themselves, and I felt like shit having put in all the time saying the sweetest of things never meant.
I kept subscribing to the idea that somebody such as myself who was reasonably honest and above everything else, worth it for somebody like Muriel to get lost in, still was a dying breed. I could see them all flipping past my picture in the endangered species catalogue. I was running from poachers with accurate eyes, all of whom were once again surrounding me in the abysmal jungle known as the bar. They didn’t really notice Amanda, or at least not to the degree that she wanted them to. The suits saw more potential in first measuring their dicks with somebody like me, and then going in for the kill. Combined conversations with the two young and stupid women who were dead set on getting drunk and forgetting about their highly troublesome and remotely confusing lives. It seemed to lack complications even from my point of view.
They passed it all with fleeting thoughts and walked up the nearby flight of stairs into a more secluded location. I stared at old movie posters and framed paintings of Al Pacino as I followed like a lost puppy. The upstairs contained a pool table and several empty places to sit and drown out the screams of drunken libidos and bad hair metal pouring out of the shiny red and silver jukebox stationed in the back corner.
I saw him instantly light up as she entered. Everett Hutchinson, the artist of all things Alanna. He knew her better than I ever could and would always be a specific part of who she was. They were friends from sixth grade on, lab partners, and later modern escapists together. She opened his eyes to a barrage of reckless activity; smoking joints on baseball diamonds, getting drunk on tall hills or at family barbecues. They would cheat on the majority of timed exams, and make sure to abuse all high school privileges. The library printer was always out of ink from printouts of obscene celebrity pictures, later thumb tacked to school bulletin boards. Instead of study hall they would make mad dashes for the parking lot, Alanna’s green machine offering some idealistic solace as they would bake out and listen to The Velvet Underground searching for reasons.
Weekends were for the most part spent together; the two of them showing up uninvited to illustrious high school get-togethers where the girls would make mix CDs of radio hits and the guys would try their best to hide protruding erections in the middle of the living room. It was beyond simple in the beginning as the first two years of hell were at least remotely memorable; every random occurrence worth more than a thousand words. Although, I could sense the cruel shift that had surfaced in both of them. Everett had eyes of fire, which were easily explained, and yet not taken lightly.
The boyfriends all hurt him in different ways. While Dave only lasted for that one summer, providing them both with deals on illustrious psychedelics to which, for the most part, they would take together and mindlessly wander around in nearby wooded areas and fields with no trespassing signs, there was still an underlying sense that the majority of Alanna’s mistakes got to him. He was the one staple in her life for all of high school, and yet college offered with it a barrage of new experiences both couldn’t ever fully grasp.
She thought she was in love with Julian. He had baby blue eyes, played guitar and would always take the time to stare deeply into whatever it was he fixated on. Alanna was the main objects of his affection for three years, before a few shots and the right kind of giggle made him see it all differently. Julian and Amy ran away together and would enjoy a fruitful life of mindless sex before eventually moving on again. Alanna was devastated and once again only Everett could pick up the shattered pieces, although he was starting to venture out of formed positions.
The college experience was somewhat varied for him, as random sex became like his duty. He was spiteful and all of them were nothing like her. Some were quiet and said the word love within the first few minutes of nomadic pleasure, and yet others took the time to fuck with his head, never to the same degree that she would, but usually with enough spiteful discourse to allow someone as passive as Everett Hutchinson to completely regret every decision he ever made.
He told Alanna he was in love with her on New Year’s Eve, both distorted enough to later talk about how utterly complicated it would be for the both of them if they lost each other over something stupid like sex. He was hurt, and both were lost with college degrees they didn’t know what to do with. They would sit in desk drawers for the duration of that spring, Alanna working double shifts at the restaurant, while Everett tried his hand at the family business. Used cars were less than appealing to somebody who merely dreamed of stealing keys and running away from it all.
Then finally after years of looks that spoke louder than words and introductions to potential mates both of which knew wouldn’t last, Everett and Alanna finally fell into one another at his parents’ house after a late Saturday night buying shots from Stanley. Both had to be quiet and whisper all their true feelings. The walls were beyond thin.
He looked more than alone with a half empty beer and a masked smile. All the surrounding tables were empty, that particular section of the city more or less dead to all those who were looking for something bigger than themselves. I was simply searching for a casual escape from my own long list of problems; the indecisiveness I used to bask in now slowly taking the last train to Clarksville. Home was the start of a brand a new period of my life. I was beyond fearful and didn’t need to think about any of them more than I should have. Alanna, Everett and Amanda were simply temporary void fillers. I wouldn’t remember all of our conversations the next week at my cold metal desk.
Alanna sat down first, acting as if it was all beyond casual. Amanda and I followed suit, the smoke from downstairs cigarettes already clinging to our clothes and leaving several kinds of distaste in our mouths.
“Hey, how long have you been here?”
“About a half hour.”
“Oh, well sorry we’re kind of late then.”
“It’s okay.” He could never be completely angry with her. It never worked like that. Everett didn’t glance over at me at first. I didn’t look like another tiresome explanation. The two of us were too much alike for that.
“Oh uh… This is Gail’s brother, Noah.”
“Oh right, the wedding. I almost forgot.”
“Well, it’s nothing to really look forward to.” I wanted my lack of enthusiasm to pierce all of their thoughts.
“I guess not. I’m Everett. Nice to meet you.”
“You too.” We shook out of habit, both of us raised by our parents to pretend like nothing big was ever happening.
“So do you guys wanna go get us drinks?” Amanda seemed beyond anxious.
“Yeah fine, what do you want?”
“Doesn’t matter.” Alanna didn’t look up from the table. Eye contact seemed like a problem.
“Shots would be good.” Amanda fixed her cleavage. Everett and I didn’t really notice.
“Alright fine, I guess we’ll be right back.”
“Okay.” I followed him back down the cracked stairs as both of us stood at the empty end of the bar. A few more faces had filtered in looking for their night’s meaning. I could already loosely hear the conversation between Alanna and Amanda from the table. They were discussing the awkward implications associated with every breath Everett took. His confusion circled both of us as we thought of what to order. Few words were spoken and little had to be discussed with the two of us. He had no idea of my intentions, and at that point neither did I.
While it appeared as if I was getting drunk out of principle, a long car ride and two strenuous days of butterflies in everyone’s stomach but mine, ahead of us, the truth of the matter was that, like Everett, I had become instantly hooked. Although, I wanted to appear different. I needed her to see me as somebody who wouldn’t always be there, waiting for apologies and ready to pick up the tab. I was the heartbroken younger brother with intentions to inflict some similar feelings of reality into all of them. Voices weren’t loud and heard, but rather muffled dissonant absences on all our empty plates. Love was only real in movies and greeting cards. All of us were meant to hurt each other.
“So where are you from again?”
“Just outside of Pittsburgh.”
“Oh, cool. So are you in college or…?”
“I just graduated.”
“Oh. Well what are you gonna do then?”
“I have no fucking clue man.”
“Well we’ve all been there.” He lifted his hand with a fifty in it and ordered a round of shots. Conversation wasn’t given the chance to continue as the rest of our hapless tour group wandered in with bloodshot eyes. Ronna Coar and Joel Lauer, the diamond couple of Alanna’s friends. Both were on their way to thirty, pretending as if each subsequent night spent in the dim city was a mere stepping stone to later greatness. Ronna wasn’t conventionally beautiful, but had a certain spark, some called it personality; I preferred the more proper terminology. She was decibel-shattering madness. Each phrase that spouted out of her mouth was meant to get under skin.
This quality was understandable, though, considering her profession. She needed to be true grit at times, as customers would commonly avoid voicing complaints when they were directed at Ronna. Joel was more or less the opposite. A lonesome cowboy with a brown beard and longer hair, he enjoyed looking everyone over twice. Joel could evaluate everybody’s true intentions without giving it a second thought. He had to be that way, as the Mini-mart was full of those searching for handouts and leftover answers. The regulars knew him, as the back door provided them with more common ground. Teenagers saw Joel as their savior. He would help them get laid, and if all else failed at least fucked up to a degree of perfect distance from the rest of their so-called dramatic lives.
Behind their smiling faces was Tracy Coar, Ronna’s roommate and longtime best friend. She was a year younger, and more or less completely reliant on the other two. Tracy was the one to cover shifts and pretend like the weight of life wasn’t in the least bit getting to her. She had been engaged once, only to later have it fall apart with lawsuits highlighting various forms of domestic abuse. She wasn’t in the least bit happy then, and without the other two would have been an untimely mess all together, sitting at the other end of the bar, not taking the time to fend off the suited strangers’ advances.
They all knew Everett better than he knew himself. They were the ones Alanna confided in; temporary sessions of bitching during cigarette breaks at the restaurant being somewhat of a routine. They all knew about the previous Saturday, how things had finally happened and now wouldn’t ever be the same. All three pretended like they were simply reuniting with an old friend, though. Nothing was bigger than any of them. It was a night to attempt to forget about lingering feelings and previous escapades with seemingly dire consequences.
“Well look at this fucking asshole right here.” Joel said as he gave Everett a quick hug. The two had a debauched understanding, the one often being asked to deal with the other. They bonded in their time spent waiting for the women in their lives to make decisions. Joel had it reasonably easy as Ronna was drawn to his particular brand of bullshit. He would preach to Everett about being somewhat bolder, although words of advice from a small-time drug dealer never seemed to filter in past the incessant humming. He had a long term plan and no simple way to simply let things go.
“I was wondering what was taking you guys so long.”
“Oh, well you know how it. Ya gotta meet a guy here, drive a guy there.”
“Yeah, I suppose I should have thought about that.”
“Well, it’s okay.”
“So where are the others?” Ronna seemed ready for a night of lazy unwinding with any and all females.
“They’re upstairs. I was just getting shots.”
“Oh, okay.”
“Who’s your friend?” Tracy gave me a look as if she was vaguely interested in figuring me out.
“Oh yeah, this is Noah. He’s Gail’s brother.”
“Oh, that’s right. The wedding. I almost forgot.” My sister’s big deal was a fleeting thought with all of them. I smiled at the shear perfection of it.
“So you’re here with Alanna then, huh?” Joel said, looking at me like a grand inquisitor.
“Uh yeah, I am.”
“Well cool. It’s good to meet you man.”
“Yeah, you too.”
“You don’t really look like your sister.” Ronna said, shuffling through her purse for some lipstick.
“Yeah, well we’re really nothing alike.”
“I guess that explains why you’re here with us.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” We waited mere moments for shots before Ronna and Tracy’s breasts served the cause better than Everett and I ever could. It always confused me, the fact that they sent us for drink they knew they would get faster themselves. Then again, it provided all women with the time to consider their options. Alanna had dozens that night as each passer-by lingered a little longer than expected, hoping for her to say something somewhat relevant to their own lives. I wasn’t the only man looking for substantial proof that she was real. They were everywhere.
The shots went down quick, all of us toasting better days and future excursions. It felt like family faster than the Brinker house ever could. They understood me in some vague sense of the word, and yet with the exception of Everett weren’t exactly the same breed. Joel was good at what he did, although his knowledge of mediocre media that the three of us swooned over the majority of the night, was more or less a dry well. Ronna and Tracy were the same way, as they didn’t really seem to care about any bigger issues, the predictability of modern art and people who were a part of it, only topics which they simply ignored, drowning away their thoughts in various sized of glasses.
While I had been lacking in creativity as of lately, the Muriel break-up reducing my literary edge to that of shear simplicity, there was still an underlying sense that I was socializing with the sitcom-watching crowd, all of us laughing at fart jokes with utter ease. Somebody as marvelous as Alanna didn’t necessarily fit with those people, and no matter how hard I tried to come up with an answer as to why she was so comfortable with them, there was predominately a list of blanks on my page.
It all became more clouded as the alcohol sunk in again. There wasn’t a completely clear path to walk that night as I began to spark numerous conversations with Tracy and Amanda. Their lives were somewhat the same, or at least on the verge of parallel notions. Jobs with no direction and each act leaning towards even more doubts about the human race. Men had been good at fucking them over, and without ever having a second thought about it. Everything we talked about brought forth the underlying sense that both had given up a long time ago.
Our positions became somewhat spread out as more late night tambourine men lingered into the upstairs area. I glanced over at Alanna in the middle of my third beer. I was pretending to listen to Ronna’s story of the day about a pregnant woman throwing a fit over a dirty fork. My head nods were in full synchronicity with Joel’s. Alanna looked bored talking to Everett about all the same subject matter, sipping her rum and coke and letting her eyes wander to neon fluorescents lining all the walls. I wasn’t sure if it would have been in poor taste to start the long and harrowing process of making my presence somewhat more significant with Alanna, and I didn’t care.
While I sympathized with Everett and his daily denial, I couldn’t help but feel that there was no longer a part of me that let incidents of varying magnitude pass by. I needed to talk to her, to pretend like I was falling to pieces while still maintaining my callous indifference towards everything that was happening that weekend. It was after twelve, we were all well on our way to piecing our head back together before the long drive back to structured civilization.
The opportunity presented itself in a matter of seconds as Joel walked over in front of the two, looking for a partner to buy the last round with. Everett paused briefly, looking into her eyes before taking the long trip around all the stationary alcoholics and walking back downstairs. Ronna decided it would be best if she looked after Tracy who was spinning along with the room, trying her best not to seem too flirty with a some douche bag frat guy, wearing metal letters around his neck. Amanda had already disappeared outside with somebody she claimed to know. I stood up from our now empty table, caught my balance and walked over next to her. Alanna was reasonably perfect at leaning against the wall, spinning the straw in her drink like she didn’t give a damn what was happening. I saw right through her at that moment, as from the very start of our encounter we were meant to take off together.
“Hey.”
“Hey, are you having fun?”
“Uh yeah, sure. I’m pretty drunk, I think.”
“Yeah, well me too.”
“So how’s everything going with Everett?”
“You’re not asking me that right now.”
“Oh really, I’m not?”
“It’s just messy, is all. He hasn’t said anything about it, but it’s only a matter of time. I don’t know what I’m going to do when he does.”
“Well, I thought you said he wasn’t going to cause a scene with me here.”
“Well yeah, that’s the whole thing. I don’t think he will, but you haven’t exactly been right here, have you?”
“I figured it’d be weird if I was the one constantly at your side.”
“Not that weird Noah, not tonight anyway.”
“Well sorry if I’ve been sort of a letdown.”
“It’s okay.” She rummaged through her purse, before finding her pack of Marlboro lights and exhaling smoke with each sigh.
“I didn’t know you smoked.
“Only when I’m stressed, and we’re all being social.”
“I suppose that’s a legitimate explanation.”
“Yeah, trust me, it is. I’m surprised you don’t.”
“Yeah, well I never really took to it. I mean, weed’s one thing. There’s a substantial buzz from that, but all that bullshit propaganda about cigarettes that they feed you in like first grade sort of just sunk in with me.”
“Ya see, now that’s weird, because I wouldn’t have thought you were the type.”
“What do you mean, the type?” I shifted my weight, getting closer, as more bodies crowded around us, all being obnoxiously louder than the average bear, waiting for some variation of a fight to occur before last call. I would walk past them often on the long way home from Muriel’s, all those nights she didn’t feel like being in the least bit intimate. Part of me longed for fists thrown over the wrong girl, but instead I was, for the most part, exactly where I wanted to be, in love with my shallow infatuation, and always on call.
“The type to not give a shit. I mean, fuck cancer. It happens to non-smokers; why not speed up the process?”
“I don’t know. I suppose I’m just used to always doing what people tell me to.”
“Which is why you’re gonna help me out with Everett tonight, right?”
“I don’t know what you want me to do.”
“Just stay next to me. I mean, well… Ya know, we really don’t even know each other that well.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s why I was asking all your friends about your most embarrassing stories.”
“That’s funny.”
“Yeah, not really.”
“But uh…Don’t you have like a million things to ask me?”
“I have a few, but I’m not sure if we have the time to bring them up right now.”
“Really, why’s that?” Her eyes got wide like I was somebody worth wasting time on.
“Because he’ll be back soon.”
“Look how crowded it is Noah. I’d say we have another solid five minutes or so to shoot the shit about all my friends.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
“So what is it?” She was playing devil’s advocate, and I was far too drunk to argue with her. I was surprised that I didn’t let everything out right then. I could see myself in a parallel universe leaning in and kissing her, or bringing up all the highly sinful thoughts that had entered my mind the second she interrupted my moping session in the basement. Instead I started slow, and waited for chemistry to overtake us.
“Okay uh… Well what do you have a degree in?”
“You mean, what did I go to college for?”
“Yeah.”
“I was an art major, why?”
“Well, why are you working at some shitty restaurant and hanging out with all of these people then?” She paused for a second, as if I was questioning every aspect of her very existence. I felt like everyone’s father and yet it was what had been on my mind all night. She had to fill me in, to make it so I could understand. Alanna was a master of explanations.
“Man, you don’t get it yet, do you?”
“Get what?”
“See you’ve just graduated, so you think you have to maintain some stuck-up hipster viewpoint on everybody you meet, like if they don’t listen to a certain band or haven’t read a certain book, they’re not worth it.”
“It’s not like that exactly. It’s just… I guess what I’m trying to say is, why are your friends nothing like you?”
“I don’t know. I mean, Everett and I are a lot alike.”
“That’s my next question. First just and try and help me understand.”
“Noah, these people are worth it. They’re not judgmental pricks. We get along great, and they don’t need me to be their inspiration, ya know? We just get fucked up together. It’s not any more complicated than that.”
“Well, okay.”
“Of course, I’m sure you expected all of them to be more like you and your friends.”
“I don’t really have too many friends anymore.” It was a true statement hidden behind what I thought some could consider mystery. She wasn’t buying into it.
“Really, how come?”
“I lost a lot of them because of Muriel, and others for various reasons. It’s all sort of fucked up.”
“Well, what else were you gonna ask me?”
“Why aren’t you with Everett?”
“That’s how you segue way, just like that?”
“Well it’s just that he seems like a great guy, and the two of you have known each other for awhile, so I suppose I just need to know what the hell the problem is.”
“The problem is that I see too much of a clear vision of my future with Everett. We’d get married stay in the same place have kids and eventually end up hating each other. I have bigger plans for the both of us.”
“Oh yeah, what are they?”
“To be determined at a later date.” She turned her head towards Everett and Joel walking over with the last round of the night. We couldn’t find Amanda, Ronna seceding and taking the last shot in her honor. All of us were having problems walking as the night air felt like it was puncturing our arteries. She turned up behind the bar, kissing the mystery man with the passion of a thousand kicked kegs. Amanda said his name was Keith and that they had had a history class way back when, before life had caught up. Part of her seemed like she knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere, and that made it all so much easier.
The casual escapism associated with any quick make-out session in the back alley behind Stanley’s Bar and Grill would remind anyone what it was like to be young once. Although, none of us were quite like our parents yet, or even like Gail and Brian despite their fruitful giddiness. It was just that every aspect of our intricate selves seemed to be slowly falling apart, or well on the way to floating off in the next big gust of wind.
I was fearful of settling. Everett was waiting for something more worthwhile than a one-night stand. Amanda was in the process of finding the exact opposite, while Tracy searched for some vague sense of independence. Ronna and Joel were attempting to avoid self-destruction, and then there was Alanna. I could fall in love with everything she said, and yet still have no idea how she viewed the world. I didn’t know if it was all somehow strangely beautiful or a mess of one-way streets and dirty sidewalks. She would never have an obvious tell like the rest of us.
We followed Ronna and Tracy down the street, promises of their apartment and illegal drugs a few blocks away. Everett remained passively at Alanna’s side, not saying much of anything, while Joel and I rounded out the back, Amanda a few paces in front of us. It was almost one, the wear and tear of the day having a supreme effect on my liveliness. I was ready to regretfully decline all invitations including those from Alanna. I couldn’t have handled sex or even the sweetness of simply messing around. My hands were unresponsive to the majority of my brain waves. I simply wanted the night to end, and to start fresh the next morning, all of us having headaches as casual reminders of what wasn’t said.
Amanda stopped to fix her heel for what must have been the twelfth time that night. Joel and I waited, while the others pushed on, walking more upright as police cars passed in slow motion. Their eyes were fixed on all suspicious activity, and yet we were all just looking for a place to settle.
“So why didn’t what’s his name come with us Amanda?” Joel was putting in his two sense, which would have seemed unnecessary if I hadn’t been seeing double since the second shot.
“He was there with his girlfriend.”
“Are you serious?” I was in a strange drunken awe.
“Yeah, she was talking to her friends or something. I doubt she even noticed.”
“How could she not notice?”
“Because things like that happen all the time. I mean, cheating isn’t really that difficult. Most of the time it’s right in front of their eyes.”
“She’s right.” Joel sighed as if he was thinking about some grandiose mistake or random thought on something he hadn’t noticed before. I would never know the difference.
“Yeah, I guess.” I started to watch each individual step I took. I could feel myself slightly faltering, my balance having passed with all other forms of clarity sometime earlier. I could vaguely see Everett grab her hand as the two of them rounded the corner. She seemed a bit restless over the whole thing, as if it wasn’t necessarily anything huge, but rather yet another half-hearted attempt at allowing for things to sink in. He knew that she knew everything, and yet with each rational thought that passed through Everett’s head, I could tell there was still a dead sense of hope lightly breathing inside of him. I didn’t know which was worse, pretending like it didn’t matter or allowing myself the time to think of ways to steal her away. I was new to the series, all the reoccurring characters taking the time to warm up to my particular brand of flattery. They would never completely understand.