She looked up and stared blankly for a split second before recognizing me. "Oh, hey," she said. "Was your name Nate?"
I smiled. "Yep. I just wanted to come over and call bullshit on you."
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Excuse me?" she asked in a stony voice.
"I wanted to call bullshit on you," I repeated. "You gave me a hard time last week for liking Lou Reed, but there you are." I pointed at her chest. Inside her green sweater she was wearing a black t-shirt featuring the ghostly white image of Reed, taken from the cover of his "Transformer" album.
She looked down at the t-shirt. "So?"
"So you said you didn't like Lou Reed after "The Velvet Underground", but you're wearing a t-shirt with one of his solo albums on it. I'm calling bullshit on the contradiction."
She stared at me with an open mouth for a moment, and then just shook her head. "You're a f--king idiot," she said and shook her head in disgust.
"I'm just f--king with you," I said.
"You talk like a six year old that hangs out with adults too much," she said.
I smiled. "Is that a fact?"
"Yes," she said, looking me in the eye. "Like you know all the big words but you're still a little boy who doesn't know what he's talking about, or how to talk to people."
"Where the f--k do you get off?" I said. "Are you always like this?"
"Only when people I hardly know leap out and start swearing at me," she said. "Where the f--k do you suppose you get off?"
"Well, I hardly leaped," I said.
She held up her hands. "Fine. So, can I do something for you? Or did you just come to swear at me?"
"No," I said. I didn't know what to do next. I didn't actually have anything more to say to her, but her sharp attitude interested me. I suddenly wanted to have another drink and chase the possibility of an entertaining argument. Her pint glass was almost empty. "I was just going up for another pint," I said. "I was going to ask if you wanted another."
"I don't need another," she said.
"Were you planning on leaving?" I asked and sat down, facing her across the little table.
"In a while," she said. "I have to work tonight."
"You work Saturday night? Where do you work, in a bar?"
"Yes, I work in a bar," she said, nodding her head with... What would you even call it? Defensive irony?
I grinned. "So you go to the bar before going to work at the bar? Look, hang on for a minute, I'm just going to go get the pints. Hold tight." I went to the bar to order and then stood waiting while the server poured. The blonde, whose name I still didn't know, had gone back to reading her book.
I brought the pints back to the table, and set the black one in front of her. She closed the book. "Thank you," she said coolly, and she took the glass and had a sip of the creamy foam.
"You're welcome," I said. "So. I've forgotten your name."
She laughed. "You're hilarious."
"Was I ever actually told your name?"
"Yes, I looked you in the eye and told you my name, Nate," she said.
I nodded. "And?"
I nodded again, with a serious look on my face. "Yes, right, Megan. And I'm Nate."
She laughed. "I know! Seriously."
I shrugged and had a sip. She followed my lead. We'd had a bad beginning, and now the scene was getting boring.
"What are you reading?" I asked, leaning forward to examine her book. "Devils, Dostoevsky. Cool."
"Have you read it?" she asked, picking the book off the table and slipping it into her bag.
"No. I read Notes From Underground. It was cool. Funny."
"Yeah, this is funny too," she said. "What do you read?"
"Not much these days, not books anyway," I said. "I do a lot of my reading online these days. I've been reading some rock biographies."
"Oh yeah," she said. "You're a music writer. What do you do? Reviews?"
"Sometimes," I said. "I do a lot of interviews and band profiles. I like talking to random musicians and new bands. If I wrote a book it would probably be called 'Brief Interviews With Terrible Bands.'"
"Like the David Foster Wallace book?"
"Yeah, like that. Or probably not actually. I haven't read it."
Megan smiled. "It's good. You should give it a try." She took another sip of her Guinness. "So you and Carrie Anne used to go out, right?"
I nodded. "Yeah," I said. "Something like that."
"And now you guys are hanging out again?"
"I don't know if we're hanging out. I'm just... I'm just around, I guess."
"Right," she said, and took a drink. "Well, I'm sorry I wasn't able to stay and finish the pint you bought for me, but I did say I have to go to work. But since you say you're around, I'm sure I'll see you so I can get you back some time."
"No problem," I said. She put on her jacket and her bag and disappeared.
* * * *
On Wednesday night I was upstairs at Terry's apartment. As promised, he introduced me to his project partner, a fortyish punk named Paul Takowski. He was a skinny-framed guy with shoulder-length hair and a goatee. He shared a certain vibe with Terry, although Paul had clearly not lived the miles as hard as Terry had. Paul looked soft.
Paul had his bass guitar there. They were going to practice some of Paul's stuff, and I came up just to hang out while they worked.
The arrangement they'd made was an interesting one. Although Paul had never made a living as an artist, he'd hung around the scene for a long time, occasionally producing work. He wasn't a great painter himself, but he had a basic understanding of how the city's art scene rolled. Paul was going to try and help Terry transition to a second artistic career by both helping him with some painting fundamentals, and also helping to arrange for the eventual display and sale of Terry's work.
In return, Terry was helping to enable Paul's fading rock dreams, by co-writing and helping to record Paul's own solo project. Paul was capable on bass, but he was musically ordinary. Even though the "album" was supposed to be his, Paul's songwriting contributions were minimal. I sat and watched them work for a while, and I watched as Terry basically taught Paul how to play the songs he was trying to write. Paul's stuff was Ramones type stuff, very straight lines, very basic.
Terry glanced over at me while they were working. He looked almost embarrassed, but then gave a little shrug to say, "What the hell, right? A job is a job."
They didn't have their amps up very loud, and I heard my cell ringing as they played. I pulled the phone out of my pocket and checked the display. It was Charlie.
I got up and went out into the hallway. Terry and Paul kept playing.
"Nate! It's Charlie."
"I see that. What's going on?"
"You should come out, man. We're at the Green Room. There's a bunch of us here."
"I'm not heading up there, man," I said. "I'd have to get a bus, and it's already late."
"Naw, you gotta come, man," he said. "Megan's here, and she's asking about you."
"No, for real. She was like, is Nate coming, and I was like, I can call him if you want, and she was like, do whatever you want. I'm serious, you should come. We're having a good time."
F--king weird, I thought. "Okay, calm down, Charlie," I said. "I'll see if I can make it up there later."
I grabbed my stuff from Terry's apartment and said goodnight. I went down to my apartment, got myself ready, and went out to catch the bus to the Green Room.
The idea that Megan was there didn't matter to me, but the idea that Carrie Anne was there did. I still wanted to figure out how this open relationship she had with Charlie applied to me. If there was a way for me to possibly slip back in with her, I wanted to explore it.
The Green Room is a dark space, full of wood. It's a bar and Thai restaurant, and because it's cheap and near the university it can get pretty loud. I found Carrie Anne's crew at a set of couches organized around tables against the back wall of the main room.
I arrived without fanfare. Charlie, Carrie Anne, Megan, and a dozen other twenty-something people were strung around the tables, and I ended up in a seat on the corner. I wasn't close to anyone I knew, and the guy sitting next to me was drunk out of his skull. He'd apparently come from another party where there had been no limits to the whiskey shots, and now he was pants-pissing drunk and ranting like a madman, talking about putting the rich to death.
"I'm not saying I like killing people, like actually killing people," he babbled drunkenly, "all I'm saying is that like royal weddings and stuff, if they wanna get married and stuff and it costs a billion dollars, all I'm saying is... That... They should be dead, that's all."
I acted as uninterested as possible, moved around the bar, but I couldn't seem to get away from the killer socialist guy. When Charlie got up to go outside for a smoke I was finally able to slip away and talk to someone I actually knew.
"Hey man," I said, stepping out into the winter's cold. "What's going on?"
"Hey, thanks for coming, man," Charlie said, lighting his cigarette.
"Are you having a good time?"
"No, man, not at all," I said. "That guy sitting with me is a complete idiot. He won't shut up about killing people."
"Oh yeah, that guy is really hammered. He's not really a friend, so much as a friend's stupid boyfriend. Hey, have you talked to Megan yet?"
"No. She's been sitting down at the other end with you guys all night. She doesn't give a shit that I'm here. I don't know why you told me to come."
"Oh. Well, she did ask about you. That's true. And I think you should talk to her." He looked around, checking to see who might be listening, and then he stepped near me. "You'd be interested in her, Nate. I think she might be the kind of girl you'd go for."
"What are you talking about?"
"Well," he shrugged, "she's a stripper."
"That girl," I said. "She's a stripper?"
He nodded and took a drag. "I thought that would interest you."
"Carrie Anne said you like strippers."
Shit. Not only was Carrie Anne talking about me behind my back to her new dude, but she was also choosing ridiculous things to tell him. And he was attempting to exploit the information she was offering, presumably so I would chase Megan instead of interfering with his open relationship.
"I used to like going to the strip club," I said, "when I was twenty years old. That doesn't mean I want to date a girl just because she's a stripper. You wouldn't date someone just because of their job."
He shook his head. "No. Sometimes you do."
I was wasting my time. I went back inside to see if I could squeeze in closer to Carrie Anne, but the scene had shifted in our absence and she was still surrounded.
The mass murder advocate showed up next to me with a slightly less drunk guy. "Hey, you're a music writer, right?" he said. "We want to tell you about our band." And the two of them explained how they played political hardcore acoustic folk as a duo. They admitted they were not great guitar players, but they were hopeful they might have some success.
"You're not going anywhere," I told them.
"Folk duo and you can't play well? No, you're not going anywhere. And why would you bother anyway? Playing that stuff isn't going to get you laid."
I left them there. I was too bitter to bother with them anymore, and since everyone else I knew in the bar was occupied, I didn't bother saying any other goodnights. I just left and went to find the bus home, sadly aware that what I was doing wasn't getting me laid either.
|I Sing When You Shut Up is the fourth novel Nolan Whyte has written for Ultimate-Guitar.com. Find him @nolanwhyte.|