The next day, I took my guitar and amplifier down to Jordan's place in the afternoon. He opened the door, still in his jammies.
"Up all night?" I asked.
He yawned and nodded. "Come on in."
I set up my amp as Jordan went into the kitchen. He came back carrying a six pack of pepsi, and gave me one.
"So, now that the alcohol's worn off and I can think again, I've got some things to discuss with you. First, tell me what happened with that girl last night," he said.
"Did you get her digits?"
He smiled. "Great. Now take your phone out and set up a date."
"Dude, I already asked her out."
His smile disappeared. Clearly, he wasn't expecting this. "And?"
"And she made it clear she wasn't interested."
"Uh... I need a minute to take this in," he said, closing his eyes and rubbing his forehead. "Tell me the whole story, right from the beginning."
I sighed. "Do I have to?"
"Hmm. We walked to her dorm and talked about some random crap. I asked her out. She said no. I left."
Jordan waited for a few seconds. When I didn't say anything, he gave me a disappointed look. "Dude, I could have figured that out by myself," he said.
"Details, man. I need details. Tell me everything. What did you say to her, and what did she say to you?"
"Do I have to?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Okay. I made small talk, asking her where she's from, what she's majoring in, that sort of shit. Then when we reached her dorm, we exchanged numbers, and then I was like... Dude this is embarrassing."
"Get on with it, for f--k's sake."
"Well, at this point of time, I was feeling pretty good, so I said something cheesy like 'D'you want to maybe go for a coffee with me sometime,' and she just gave me this look, you know, the kind you give a homeless person when you don't have any change for them, or a dog, when it wants to play ball but you're tired, or a little kid when..."
"I get it, I get it, I know that look," he said sympathetically. "Continue."
"And then she said she was too busy to date, or some shit like that. Something about working two jobs at once and studying at the same time, how she couldn't handle commitment. I asked her if she had a boyfriend, because I could understand that, but she said she didn't. Then she said she'd love to keep in touch, and then she turned and left."
"Yup," I said. "That's it."
His eyes narrowed. "Nuh-uh."
"There's something you're not telling me."
"Dude, I just gave you the whole scoop."
"Tell me or I'll ghetto stomp your face."
I sighed. "Well... Before she left, she sorta... Kissed me on the cheek."
Jordan's frowned got replaced by a triumphant grin. "Aha! I knew it. I knew you weren't telling me everything."
My face must have turned red with embarrassment. "How does this even matter?"
"Of course it freaking matters," he said. "No girl that's rejected me has done it with a kiss."
"Well, maybe this one likes kissing guys she rejects on the cheek," I retorted. "Maybe that's what girls do in Maine."
"That's where she's from."
"Ha! Hahahaha! That's funny, hahaha!" he laughed for an entire minute. "Oh man, the look on your face right now, hahaha!"
"Are you done?" I asked, indignantly.
With a bit of difficulty, he managed to stop. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. But really, man, this is just weird. It really complicates things," he said.
"No sh-t," I said. "It's all I can think about, man. My head's tied up in knots."
"How long was it?" He asked.
"How long was what?"
"The kiss. How long did it last?"
"I don't know."
"Of course you do."
"About two seconds." I neglected to mention that time might have slowed down in my head.
"Was it like, wet, or dry?"
"I... Sh-t, man, moist, I guess. Like, neither two wet, nor too dry."
"Right in the goldilocks zone?" The grin on his face was starting to annoy me. I gave him a dirty look.
He took a deep breath. "Damn, this girl is either cruel, or just a really, really nice person. This must be killing you."
I nodded again.
"Look, man, I don't know what this means. It's never happened to me, so I can't give you any advice. How you want to go ahead with this is up to you."
"What would you have done in my place?" I asked.
He played with one of his dreadlocks as he thought about it. "I'd do what any musician would. I'd write a song about it."
I smiled. "I'm a terrible songwriter, man."
"I have a feeling you'll do better this time. Maybe you should call it Coffeehouse Girl, or something like that."
"Won't that be too obvious?"
"That's the point," he said, and we shared a laugh. Talking to him had helped. You know how they say talking about something that's bothering you feels like a weight being taken off your shoulders? It's true.
"Anyway, what else did you want to discuss with me?" I asked, remembering what he had said earlier.
"Oh, yeah, I almost forgot," he said. "I ran into an old friend last night. We used to be in a band together."
"What was the band called?"
"Alien Pudding," he said. "Pretty stupid, huh?"
"I think it's the best name anyone could ever think of," I said. "Nice. What did you guys play?"
"Death metal," he said.
I laughed. "You? In a death metal band?" Jordan hated death metal. He preferred to stick to thrash and speed metal. Personally, I had trouble telling the difference between all these genres. I only listened to Metallica, and a little Pantera.
"We've all done shameful things in our life, man. I was in an emo band before I was in Alien Pudding."
"Whoa. Now that's shameful. So what did you and this friend talk about?"
"A gig. He's one of the organisers, and it's in two weeks," he said. "They need another band, so he offered us a spot. I said we'd take it."
At first, this news took me by surprise, and I felt uneasy, because I had never performed onstage before. Besides, I didn't think I had the guitar skills, yet, to pull it off. Only four people had seen me play. However, I knew Jordan and Ruben wanted this. I did, too, even if I was a bit afraid of how it would go. I ignored my fear, and it got replaced by anticipation.
"That's great news," I said. "Shouldn't Ruben be here to hear it though?"
"He was with me last night when this conversation happened," he said.
"Anyway, there's a few things you should know beforehand. It's an acoustic gig, so you're either gonna have to buy an acoustic guitar, or we're gonna have to borrow one from somebody. I think borrowing one should be better for now."
"Nah, I was gonna buy one anyway," I said. "I'll go to the guitar center today."
"Perfect. Anyway, it's also a charity gig, so we won't be paid a dime. Just thought you should know."
"That's okay," I said. I wasn't in this for the money. "Where's it at?"
"At a place called Spinning Tomatoes. Downtown."
"Hmmm. Okay. How much time?"
"An hour," he said. "Which means, like, ten songs. Ruben's coming here at around seven, so we can discuss a set list then."
"Do they expect us to play original songs?"
"They don't. Even if they did, we haven't written that many, so we're going to stick to covers. Not cliche ones, of course."
"Hmmm... There's just one thing that's bothering me. We don't have a singer, man."
"My friend gave me a lead on that, too," he said, grinning. "But we'll talk about it in the evening. I've gotta take a shower and get some work done, man."
"Alright," I said, and got up. "I'll go get that acoustic guitar, then."
"You do that," he said.
I left my gear at Jordan's place. After lunch, I drove to the guitar centre at Northgate Mall. I tried out a lot of guitars, but finally settled on a medium sized Takamine Jasmine. I had saved up around 150 dollars over the past four months by sacrificing easy mac, and now, it seemed completely worth it. Then, I went downtown to Rainn's store to show it to him.
When he saw me walk in carrying my new guitar, he held his hands out, and I gave it to him. He unzipped the bag without a word, and took it out. Then, he played the intro to "Cancion Del Mariachi" on it, which was a song he had taught me a few weeks ago. I waited for his verdict.
"It's pretty, and it sounds nice," he said, and gave it back to me. "What's been up with you? Last time you came here, you wanted my advice on a girl," he said, in his thick Southern accent. "I'm not gonna ask you how it went, because I know how it went. I can tell just by lookin' at your face."
"Just by looking at my face?"
"Yup," he said. "Whatever, man. Chicks come and go. Can't get too hung up on these things."
I waited for him to say something else. "That's it?" I asked, and chuckled.
"I was expecting a long, Mr. Miyagi style speech."
"Well, you ain't gonna get one, not from me," he said. "Ain't no wax on, wax off for dealing with chicks. You learn with experience."
"Hmph," I said. "My band's playing a gig in two weeks."
"That's awesome," he said, beaming. "Where is it?"
"Spinning Tomatoes," I said. "I'll text you the details."
"You'd better," he said.
"Will you atleast give me any advice on this?"
He laughed. "I dunno, man. It'll be scary, but it gets better. Like taking a cold water bath. Don't worry too much about f--king up. Nobody's first gig is ever perfect. I threw up during mine."
"Whoa, really?" I laughed. "That's awful, man."
"If I got over that, you can get over anything," he said, and chuckled. "Just like, chill out and let your fingers do their work."
I nodded. Just then, any residual doubts I had about taking this gig evaporated. I knew I had made the right decision by agreeing to take it.
"Thanks, man. I have to go now," I said, getting up.
"Wait," he said. He opened his drawer and rummaged around in it. He brought out and threw a red capo at me, and I caught it. "You're probably gonna find that really useful."
I thanked him again, and left.
I spent the rest of that afternoon testing my new guitar. I played every acoustic song I knew on it, starting with the Ryan Adams version of "Wonderwall", using the capo Rainn had given me. When my fingers couldn't take it anymore, I took out an assignment and worked on it until six o' clock, when I packed up my acoustic and walked down to the laundry building. We had started playing there again after finding out that the idiot who had reported us to the landlords had moved somewhere else.
Ruben was sitting on a dilapidated stool, and instead of his drumset, he had brought two bongo drums.
"When did you get those?" I asked.
"Borrowed 'em," he said. "I couldn't let you and Jordan have all the fun. I see you've got a new guitar, too."
I brought it out of the bag and showed it to him. "Nice, right?"
"Yeah. Pity it's not the same colour as your other one."
My electric guitar was a soft shade of cherry blossom pink, almost white. It didn't look girly or anything, but Jordan still gave me shit for it. Ruben loved it, though.
"Man, acoustic gigs are the best," he said. "Girls go crazy when they hear acoustic tunes. You don't even have to try."
"Are you sure that's universally true, and not just for you?" I asked, pulling up one of the other stools.
He smirked as he thought about it, then shrugged. "I guess we'll find out, eh?"
Jordan arrived a few minutes later, carrying his Yamaha acoustic bass. "Ahh, I see you guys came prepared," he said, looking at the bongos and my acoustic. "Anyway, I'll get straight to the point. There's an engineering student, same year as us. My friend plays basketball at the campus gym with him. He screws around with the piano after the game, for sh-ts and giggles. He's pretty good."
I knew exactly what piano Jordan was talking about, but Ruben didn't. "Whoa. Why is there a piano at the gym, of all places?" he asked.
"I've seen it too, and I was wondering the same thing," I said.
"It's for music students. They have to go all the way to west campus to practice, and so it's convenient for them. There are five such pianos in really random places on campus. Anyway, this guy's pretty good."
"At piano, or at singing?" Ruben asked.
"Both," Jordan said. "He's not in a band, though he's had offers."
"What makes you think he'll accept ours?" I asked.
"Gut feeling," Jordan said. "I think the Coffeehouse is our lucky charm. A day after the last time we visited it, Ruben answered our craigslist ad."
It hadn't been my lucky charm. Its waitress had rejected me. A bitter taste filled my mouth, but I ignored it.
"I go to the gym every other day. How come I've never seen anyone playing that piano?" I asked.
"It's an early morning game, three times a week," Jordan said. "You go there in the evenings, right?"
I nodded. "What are we waiting for, then? Let's arrange a meeting."
Jordan chuckled. "Already did," he said. "Set your alarm for like, six am."
"What?" Ruben exclaimed. "Can't we just call him here?"
"I thought it'd be interesting to let him audition with his instrument," Jordan said. "So, is either of you any good at basketball?"