Tap, tap, tapity-tap, tap, tap, tapity-tap.
Sam's black Converse Allstars are going up and down in a fast and rather annoying rhythm. He's nervous, and so am I. They've put Tommy in another room, since he's the one that rents the apartment. Sam and I are just visitors, although I'm sure that won't stop the cops from throwing us in jail, or fining us, or taking us into the back alley and cutting our nuts off God knows.
Tap, tap, tapity-tap, tap, tap, tapity-tap, tap, tap, tapity-tap, tap, tap, tapity-tap.
Jesus, would you stop that! I snap.
The laceless shoes freeze to a halt, and Sam starts twiddling his thumbs instead.
Sorry, he says.
So am I, I sigh.
Just be glad they took my picks, he grins.
I look at him quizzically, but don't venture further into the subject. Instead I try to make a little conversation:
F--king Tommy; couldn't just ask who it was before he opened up.
Sam stares at the roof. How would that help?
Well, we could of snuck out via the fire escape.
Um, we weren't moving too fast, certainly not you. We would have to pack up our shit and everything. You were having a f--king heart attack
Heart attack, I snort, not exactly a heart attack, just
Whatever, he sighs, let's not play the blame game. Just pray that we get out of here without burning a hole in our bank accounts.
Really? I say hopefully, you think they'll just fine us?
Maybe not even that, hopefully just a warning, he says, as if we don't have anything to worry about. The weed wasn't in our possession.
How do you know all this? I ask suspiciously.
They said so on internet, he says with a tone of voice somewhere in between sarcasm and cynicism. Experience, Mr. Nash. What, you've never been busted for weed?
I mentally skim through my criminal record: Driving without a license, driving without a license under the influence of alcohol, public disturbance, unprovoked violence (asshole said, and I quote; Jimmy Page? British snob with less talent than my twelve-year-old cousin.), public nudity (a drunken bet, the bastard never paid up) Weed? No.
No, I don't think I ever have. Who's Mr. Nash?
Sam rolls his eyes. John Nash? Schizophrenic math genius? Didn't you ever watch A Beautiful Mind?'
Who's in it?
I saw Gladiator. And American Gangster.
Those are good.
We go silent for a while, Sam twiddling his thumbs at warp speed, me shifting back and forth between different positions. Jesus, these chairs are uncomfortable. Eventually the door opens, and in comes a police officer. He has a figure that reminds me of a pear, and his blubber tyres make me think of the Michelin mascot. His face displays a ridiculous goatee and long curly nose hairs. The guy gives a whole new meaning to the term a face only a mother could love.
Alright, boys, he says in a nasal voice, we're letting you off with a warning. You can go.
Told you, says Sam.
My cell phone is in my possession again, my shoes have shoelaces, I don't have a huge bill to pay, and I had a good jam session with Sam and Tommy, although it started better than it ended. But I also have been arrested for smoking weed and that will go on my permanent record, Tommy is still set on university, and I never went to a David Bowie concert. There has been something very strange about this day. God, I'm tired.
I'm at home, in my apartment. The vodka bottle is still out, so I take a good long pull, letting the alcohol calm my baked nerves. I haven't eaten anything all day besides a bowl of fruit loops, so I make a few sandwiches and fry a couple of eggs. My fridge is pretty bare. Time to go shopping. I open my wallet; a ten dollar-bill and roughly three bucks worth of change. Dearie me, next pay check doesn't come until the following week, and it's not a big one. Ever since I started looking for band members, I've been working less and less at the little grocery store where I'm employed; less work means less money.
Instead of worrying about my financial predicament, I throw a Hendrix album in my CD-player and eat my food. After the meal, I start feeling rather sleepy. Flopping onto the sofa, I pick up Cormac McCarthy's The Road and read a chapter before falling into a deep slumber.
There's a red house over yonder
Andrew! Are you there?
Someone's knocking on the door. Highway chile
Andrew! For Christ's sake, open up!
It's dark outside. My clock on the wall tells me that it's around three in the morning, and I usually don't like being woken up at three in the morning. Scratching my balls, I slowly get up and move towards the door.
I'm coming! For f--k's sake, I'm coming
I open the door, and there's Tommy with a large duffel bag over his shoulder, standing next to two large boxes. He smiles painfully when he sees me.
Tommy? What's going on?
Got evicted by the landlord, he explains.
What, for the weed?
Yeah, got a hell of a fine, too. Good thing I have wealthy parents, eh?
I'm not quite sure what to say, so I just stand there, like a French general who after marching through snow and cold for three months, finally arrives in Moscow only to find out that it's early closing day.
Tommy finally breaks the silence; Um, can I come in? Sleep here for the night?
Uh, of course! I stutter. Come on in and make yourself at home.
I feel like I'm in a bad Kevin Smith movie. I pick up Tommy's two boxes and carry them inside, placing them in the corner of my living room. Tommy wanders over to the kitchen counter and starts making some coffee. I don't mind, Tommy's been here a million times before, and I've spent the night at his place more than once. I suppose I owe it to him to give him a place to sleep for a night or two.
I look at my best friend. He seems to be in a bit of a funk. Losing your apartment, your established place of residence, your shelter from everything that belongs to the outside world that you don't want to see, the place you go to when everything feels like shit and you just want to be alone and curl yourself into a little ball and feel sorry for yourself. Tommy looks like he wants to be alone and curl himself into a little ball and feel sorry for himself, but he can't. Instead he has to come to me and ask if he can sleep on my couch. I can't imagine how that must feel.
As Tommy pours coffee into two mugs, I try to make a little friendly conversation:
How did the cops bust you like that? I mean, of all the apartments in this town, they just coincidentally knock on you door right when you happen to be smoking weed?
No, my neighbour ratted me out. He takes a sip of his coffee and I notice that his eyes seem a bit bloodshot.
Well, I used to smoke with him all the time. He's a really cool guy, or was, whatever. Old-ish fellow, was around for the sixties and seventies, Woodstock, all that shit. Has a hell of a record collection. Anyway, he has a daughter, hottest thing you've ever seen, and
I sigh. Knowing Tommy, I know where this is going: And you f--ked her?
Hey, she came on to me, he says defensively, was all over me, wanted to get high together when her dad wasn't around, so we did, next thing I know we're f--king like baboons, and the old man comes in.
Yeah, no more listening to original The Who records in his living room and smoking primo shit from his contact in Humboldt. I tried to apologise, but his daughter did this whole we're in love and you can't stop us' act, and the guy froze me out colder than ice. He stares into his coffee cup, looking melancholy.
Sorry buddy, I say, giving him a pat on the back.
Yeah, well, good to see that I still have my best friend on my side. He smiles at me.
I'm not on your side until you join my band, I say firmly.
I have to admit, that kid Sam is pretty convincing. Hell of a guitarist, and a great guy, at least, to get high with. He drinks more coffee, then puts the cup on the table.
I think I'll go to sleep on this sofa now. His voice sounds melancholy and really depressed.
Tommy? Seriously, are you ok? I ask.
Yeah, yeah, sure. It's just my apartment, you know? He swings his feet up onto the sofa he's been sitting on, leans his head back and closes his eyes.
Right. Well, good night, I say, going to the bedroom and hitting the lights.
I lay down on the bed and fall asleep.
Again, loud noises. But a voice this time, not knocking.
Are you f--king kidding me? It was less than an ounce!
Tommy's voice comes ringing through the walls, although I can't hear a partner in the conversation, so I can only assume that he's talking on the phone.
Oh, don't give me that bureaucratic bullshit! I have a three-point-eight grade point average! You can't do this to me!
What the f--k? That's ridiculous!
Lower my voice?! I'm on a f--king telephone, I can't hurt you! I'm not f--king lowering my voice!
You know what? F--k you all, you clean-record snob f--kers! You hear me? F--k You All!
The sound of a phone snapping shut indicates that the conversation has come to a close. I step out my bedroom just in time to see Tommy scream once more at the closed phone:
Hey, Tommy, relax! I say, what's going on?
They rejected me from the university! Tommy's face is red, and I get the feeling that if I come too close, he'll bite my head off.
Well, relax, it doesn't matter
It doesn't matter!?
Well, ok, it does matter, but instead you can I let my voice trail off.
I know exactly what I want to say, but something tells me that this isn't the time to say it. Instead I go make some coffee.
Sorry if I woke you up, Andrew, says Tommy apologetically. He's standing at the window with the sunshine on his face, breathing deeply.
It's ok, I assure, probably should have been getting up anyway.
I walk over to my CD-player and put on some Led Zeppelin, hoping it will help Tommy calm down a bit. Jesus, what is it with people and these emotional outbreaks?
F--k it, Tommy, let's not think about it today. We'll just hang out for now, like the old days.
Yeah, he says, yeah, that sounds good. But first we need to go back to my apartment and get my drums. And your bass.
I hadn't thought about that; my bass is still over there.
Right, what about Sam's twelve-string? I ask.
He picked it up yesterday while I was arguing with my landlord.
Tommy and I drink coffee and eat some toast for breakfast, before heading over to his apartment. All the time we talk, laugh, joke, just like old times.
We get to his apartment, and go inside to pick up the instruments. I put my bass in the case, and Tommy grabs his bongo drums. I'm just getting ready to walk out the door again, when Tommy starts taking off his pants.
Hold on, Andrew, he says, grinning.
Tommy, what are you oh, sweet Jesus, no! That's disgusting!
Too late; Tommy has just shitted in the middle of the living-room floor. He drops the key in the smelly subject, smiling wickedly.
That will teach that douchebag landlord not to f--k with me again.
I start snickering, then Tommy starts snickering, then we both start laughing uncontrollably. Just like old times. We get down to the street via the fire escape and start walking away, instruments in hands, and I decide to pop the question:
Come on, Tommy, what do you say? Be our vocalist?
Tommy's face goes slightly dark, and he responds sincerely; Look, Andrew; I didn't think I could do it before because I've never been that kind of guy. I don't do things spontaneously, without a plan and a fallback. I don't like the idea of not knowing when the next pay check is coming along, whether I'll be in the unemployment line with no education, standing in a queue at a soup kitchen, hammering on an acoustic guitar in the street playing Beatles and Cat Stevens covers for spare change. That's not what I do. I plan ahead, I wanted an education, and now it seems like I'm f--ked.
I go silent for a moment. Is that a yes or a no?
He sighs. Doesn't seem like I have anything else to do, so yes; I will be in the band.
Just then my phone rings. It's Sam.
Hi Sam, I answer enthusiastically, Guess what; Tommy just took a shit on the floor of his ex-apartment, and he's in the band.
Really? on the other side of the line, he sounds surprised. Well, guess what yourself: I think I've found a drummer.
Robert Ippolito, June 2009