It's Sunday afternoon again. I'm alone, sprawled across the shaky ottoman in my living room, making a half-assed attempt to focus on the economics textbook in front of me. From the corner of the room drifts the lazy melodies of Blue Rodeo, interrupted regularly when the needle of my phonograph scrapes over the huge warp in the record. Every time I hear the music skip, I can't help but glance over at the old machine, which has been my best friend since I'd moved into the loft six months ago. Then, against my will, my eyes fall on the guitar resting gingerly against the wall, gathering dust. Jake's guitar. I hate that guitar. It's the only reminder around here of who I used to be, but I can't bring myself to get rid of it. I hate Sundays.
* * *
I was sixteen when I met Jake. I was just another reject, someone who didn't fit in between the Abercrombie models and Roxy whores at my high school. I hid behind my glasses and lack of identity, slipping through the halls at school and at home virtually unnoticed. That was how it had always been, and I was just fine with it.
I can still remember the night that changed. It was Saturday night, late in July. I had just managed to escape my house like I normally did every night, so I could avoid the alcohol-induced tears and arguments that always occurred when my stepdad came home. It wasn't completely dark yet; it was maybe about ten o'clock. Usually I'd go crash at a friend's house, but that night, I felt different. Although I knew it was probably foolish, I weaved my way through downtown Calgary and across the river into Prince's Island Park.
I was worried about my mom. The fights between her and Scott, my stepdad, were getting worse, but she insisted she was okay every time I asked her about it. I still don't know what she saw in that crackhead. Scott was a tool, and I hated him. He hated me too, and I knew it. He never hit me, but there were always the times when I was afraid to be in the same room as him. Tonight had been bad - the argument was about me. Scott didn't like how I was allowed to come and go as I pleased. Until he came around, my mom and I got along fine that way, but Scott wanted rules, he wanted control. So I left.
The park was empty, save for the drunken homeless men passed out here and there under the fir trees. I found a bench and sat down, wondering whether or not I'd be able to go home the next day. I could hear music coming from somewhere, an acoustic guitar. It was a song I knew well; I loved Jack Johnson.
Funny, I thought sarcastically as I listened to the intro to Taylor, someone's singing a song about me. I wandered down the path towards the music. What the hell? It's probably just some old hobo trying to make some extra change.
He was sitting on a bench with his back towards me. Now that I was closer, I could hear his voice softly mouthing the words as he strummed the chords to the chorus. He looked young, with long, unkempt hair, and a flannel shirt. I walked timidly closer and sat down across the path on another bench. I kept my head down, but my eyes kept flicking over to the boy. He noticed me but continued to play.
When he finished, he looked over at me inquisitively, but didn't say anything.
That was nice, I mumbled, eyes down. I was embarrassed.
Thanks, the boy said brightly. I always come down here and play at night; no one really seems to notice.
He seemed nice. I looked up at him. He looked to be about eighteen, and was unbelievably attractive.
Shouldn't he be at a party with some gorgeous cheerleader or something? I thought, conveniently forgetting that cheerleading had long ago left Calgary. Figuring I should say something, I opened my mouth again, but he beat me to it.
Who are you? he asked, bluntly, but not unkindly.
Uh, my name's Taylor, I half-whispered, blushing.
Taylor, he laughed softly. It seems I picked a good song to play tonight.
I smiled, starting to relax. Yeah, I was just walking and I heard you playing. I really like Jack Johnson.
He's pretty incredible, isn't he? the boy agreed. I'm Jake, by the way.
It's nice to meet you.
Likewise. Jake turned around to put his guitar in the case, so what brought you down here tonight? Normally I don't see anyone when I'm playing.
I paused before I answered. I was confused. For some reason, I wanted to tell Jake what was going on. Instead, I settled for saying, I just had some thinking to do.
Jake straightened up. Thinking? he asked, What about? Then, embarrassed, he said, sorry, I don't mean to pry. I just met you, after all.
I couldn't blame him. Who wouldn't wonder what I was doing down in the park at night, alone?
Well, I said slowly, do you want the long version or the short version? There's a Denny's just across the river. How would you like to grab a late night coffee with me and you can tell me all about it.
I must have looked hesitant because Jake quickly added, Only if you want to. Look, being down here alone isn't exactly the smartest idea. I'd hate to leave you here with only Fred and Robbie for company! He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at two motionless figures sprawled on the grass a ways off.
I couldn't help but laugh.
Why not? It's only coffee. And I don't have anywhere to go tonight. This should kill another hour or so.
Aloud, I said, Sure. Let's go.