Sometimes I wonder why I'm here. Not in that usual what's-the-meaning-of-my-existence way, I just wonder what I'm doing with myself. I don't really seem to have any specific direction chosen, no paved path, nothing. I'm just drifting like a leaf in the wind. I suppose there are perks to being in such a situation; you don't really have to take any responsibility for your future, do whatever you want. I can only assume my future is totally f--ked, so why not make the best of the time I have now? Wait, does that sound stupid? I never was very bright.
Such it is that I find myself yet again with a killer hangover. I peek out from under my blanket, only to have the sunlight coming from the window set off sparks behind my eyes. Ow.
Slowly but surely, I manage to crawl out of the bed. I look around: It's a barren room, a couple suitcases on the floor. My suitcases. I'm at Doc's place. Stumbling into the hallway, I hear grunts from another room. The noise increases to long groans and then screams of ecstasy.
Oh, come on! Yes, come on! F--k me! Come on! Yes, YEEEESS!
I peek into Tommy's room, the source of the commotion, only to see a topless blond chick thumping on top of what I can only assume is Tommy; the back of the sofa that serves as Tommy's bed blocks my view of whoever is under the girl. I watch groggily for a few more seconds before realizing that I now have a girlfriend and this can hardly be considered an appropriate symbol of respect for commitment. Closing the door, I move down the hall and peer into Doc's room. Doc fast asleep in his bed, an empty bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand.
I make my way down to the kitchen, putting on a pot of coffee and finding a half-empty bottle of vodka. I sit down at the table, watching the coffee drip into the pot and drinking the vodka. I look at the bottle, listen to the screams from upstairs, smell the damp, air of this delinquint house, feel my finger spark up the lighter and ignite half a joint I find on the table among all the empty bottles is this what I've been reduced to? I used to be a decent fellow. I had reasonably good grades, got along just fine with my parents, liked music, hung out with my friends, had a good time, could even be considered relatively responsible by some standards. I was going to study education, become a teacher. I always liked to read. I wanted to serve the people, educate the masses. What am I now? A drunk useless washout of a musician with nothing but a bunch of womanizing druggies for company. No job, no income, no insurance, no propper living quarters I look a the house; a deathtrap with loose floorboards, shaky support beams, rotting wood everywhere This has to stop, I say to myself. Something has to change. If not, I'll go crazy.
I take another sip of vodka and puff on the joint, feeling tears welling up in my eyes. Everything is wrong, what happened to me? I slap my face roughly, wiping away my tears and pour myself a cup of coffee. Pull yourself together, Andrew. What, are you a pussy? No? Then buck the f--k up.
By now the screaming has stopped. I hear someone coming down the stairs, moving towards the front door. Some mumbled voices signify that there are two people there. The door opens and closes, and Tommy comes into the kitchen with a satified grin on his drunken face.
Who was that? I ask.
His face screws into a speculating grimace for a few moments. Stacy. No, wait: Caroline. No, wait doesn't matter, she f--ked like a champ either way.
I frown. You should show more respect.
He grabs the vodka from me. Relax Andrew, she was using me as much as I was using her. It was very much mutual.
Right. I take a long pull at the joint before handing it to Tommy, letting him finish it.
We sit there for a while, drinking coffee and sharing the vodka, trying to piece together last nights events. We're pretty sure that we left The Irishman around eleven, already thoroughly drunk. Then we managed to find the apartment belonging to a dealer Tommy and I know. He's a nice guy, as far as dealers go. He let us smoke some shit with him free of charge, then we bought a few grams for the rest of the evening. I seem to remember Sam talking to him quietly as we were all putting our coats on that must have been around one-thirty. Then we went to a night-club, and things get thoroughly fuzzy after that. Tommy remembers picking up some chicks, I remember doing shots with Doc, I don't know where Sam got to
We'll call him later, Tommy assures, see if we aren't clear-headed enough to rehearse at some point in time.
We both agree on that this seems to be a satisfactory arrangement. Eventually Doc comes down, and makes us eggs benedict. What a guy.
A while after breakfast we try calling Sam, but there's no answer. We keep calling him every ten minutes for another half an hour, before I state that I'm going over to Amy, and they can call me if and when they locate Sam.
Half an hour later I'm outside Amy's apartment complex. It's now two in the afternoon, and I'm hoping she's home. I call her on the intercom, and luckily someone anwers. But it's not Amy.
Hello? says the gruff voice of someone who either smokes ten packs a day or has a lifetime of vodka and whiskey behind him.
Hi, um, is Amy in?
She is. Who's this?
Um, just a friend, I stutter.
Over the intercom I hear someone calling across the room and some muttered words. Then the door unlocks.
Thank you, I say, although to who I'm not quite sure.
Stepping into the elevator, I begin to feel rather nervous. Who is this anonymous Commander Adama (yes, I watch Battlestar Galactica, so sue me: I like sci-fi) impersonator? The elevator ticks off floors, and eventually I'm knocking on Amy's door. I wait a few moments, then it opens. Amy is standing in front of me.
Hey Andrew, she says, giving me a quick hug and kiss and leading me inside. Glad you came right now, I want you to meet someone.
Before my eyes is a man. A man around sixty-something, I'd guess. Old-fashioned glasses, some stubble, graying hair. He's not tall, but could hardly be called short, either. Simple yet handsome clothes, I can tell he's a man of dignity.
So you're Andrew, he says in what I would hardly call a friendly tone, but certainly less than menacing.
That I am, I say stiffly, offering a hand since he neglected the customary greeting gesture.
Henry, he says, staring at the offered hand for a few moments as if it was some foreign object, before grabbing it. His hand is rough and dry.
Andrew, Amy says cheerfully, this is my father and musical mentor, Henry.
And you're the whelp that's been courting my daughter, hmph! he grunts.
I'm slightly taken back. I didn't exactly expect a red carpet here, but whelp?
Relax, Andrew, Amy says, seeing my distress. He talks to everyone that way.
With a simple wave of his hand, Henry gestures both me and Amy into the living room, sitting down in the one easy chair, and motioning me to sit down as well. I take up a corner of the couch, and concentrate on sitting up straight.
Coffee, Andrew? Amy offers.
Sure. She disappears into the kitchen.
Without further ado, Henry humphs a couple more times, lights a pipe, and proceeds with the interregation:
So, Amy tells me that you're a musician. What do you play?
Um, bass, I respond, a little guitar.
Good man! he grins. Wonderful instrument, bass. Perhaps the most crucial yet underappreciated instrument in an ensemble. Is that why you chose it?
What? Oh, um, no, not specifically. It just fascinated me, I explain. I remember when I was a kid, everyone around me was all guitar-happy, but I just saw this instrument with a long neck and four fat strings, and knew that if I ever were to play an instrument, that would be it.
Hm. He goes quiet for a while, as if mulling this information over slowly. Play in a band?
Yeah, just getting it if its feet. We're called The Burnouts.
Um, rock. Hard rock, Maybe a little alternative.
Henry frowns. I don't know about this hard rock bull, he grumbles, I'm okay with the old stuff, Zeppelin and all that, but this new crap; it sounds like cacophony.
Yeah, I can understand that, I say, as if in semi-agreement.
Amy comes out with the coffee, simultaniously commenting: don't let Andrew fool you, papa. He's a passionate Tom Waits fan. He came to our shop all the time, or so he claims. She gives me a wink and sits down next to me.
Hmph, I wonder if I remember you, Henry grumbles. You were skinnier before. No beard.
That sounds about right, I grin. Come to think of it, I think I remember you too. I think I usually delt with that other fellow you must have hired.
I suppose so.
From there on thing seem to loosen up. Henry's an old-timer music-addict, happily rambling on about the good old days, and I listen with pleasure, sometimes telling him about my own experiences. He really is a pleasant fellow, just a bit rough around the edges. And best of all: he likes Tom Waits as well. What can I say?
After an hour or more of good conversation and coffee, my phone rings.
Exuse me, I say, I have to take this.
It's Tommy. What's up? I ask.
Doc and I haven't been able to get in touch with Sam, so we figured we'd go pay him a visit. Want to meet us in town and tag along?
I suppose, I say, mulling it over. I suppose it's about time I get back to the real world.
Alright, should we say in fifteen minutes.
Sounds good, I confirm. Any idea what's up with Sam?
Probably stoned, Or hung over. Or both. Take your pick, I've got more.
Alright, see you soon.
I hang up and look at Henry and Amy.
I have to go. Henry, I say, offering my hand again, it was a real pleasure meeting you.
You too Andrew, you too, he responds cheerfully, accepting the handshake in a slightly more friendly fashion this time.
I kiss Amy good-bye and head out the door, slightly concerned as to what might be holding up Sam. Only time will tell.
Robert Ippolito, October 2009