I suddenly realize that the soft crooning of Jim Cuddy is absent, leaving behind only a soft, crackling silence from my speakers. Then I realize that I have absolutely no idea what I'm supposed to be thinking about. I train my eyes once again on the page of my book, giving the bolded question in front of me as much attention as I can, which isn't much.
Will British Columbia experience games-related inflation during 2010?
I don't give a shit about BC, or the Olympics, or inflation. I do, unfortunately, care about passing my first year of college, and economics is a required course for my business administration diploma at SAIT. Every time I think of my 'chosen' form of schooling, I can't not laugh. I never once wanted to end up at college in Calgary. Ever since I was 15, I'd had my sights set on the Journalism program at Carleton University. I even had early, conditional acceptance. Receiving that letter in February of last year had been one of the happiest moments of my life. Then, just like everything else that spring, I managed to f--k that over when my second-semester grades brought my average down about 30%. That's what you get when you go haywire, I guess.
I get up to change Outskirts to the B side, abandoning for good my economics homework. As I pass by the entrance to my miniscule kitchen, I see that the light on my answering machine is blinking. My heart stops for a second, and then I remember that it's probably only Doug, calling once again to invite me down to the bar tonight, for the umpteenth week in a row. After I clean the record and set the needle back down, I wander into the kitchen, hitting the button on the machine.
Hey Taylor, it's Doug... Again. Look girl, we never see you Sundays anymore, not since...
I could hear Andy in the background saying, Shut it, you dumbass
This is typical 'Doug and Andy'. I've known the guys for two years, and the best friends are polar opposites. Doug is twenty-one, wildly intelligent, and has always been a little wild and reckless (with both his actions and his mouth). He rarely thinks before he speaks, which can often get him into some rather... memorable situations. Andy is also three years older than me, and is extremely reserved. He measures every word carefully and speaks with a quiet confidence that unwaveringly holds your attention. Neither Doug nor Andy went to university. Throughout high school, Andy spent a lot of time at The Grill, helping his dad, who owned and managed the dilapidated pub/restaurant. When he passed away shortly after Andy's graduation three years ago, Andy threw himself into working at the Grill and hired Doug to help with the bartending side of the business. Since then, the two have turned the Grill into a favourite hang-out for any musically-informed youth.
Doug coughed and then continued. Well, it's been a long time. The guys and I haven't given up on you yet, and the band misses having you around. The music's not the same. I know you're not at church, and don't try to tell me you're studying, cause I know you're not. Anyways, sooner or later you're gonna have to come around, and we may resort to force. Call me back, please, we're
As usual, Doug couldn't beat the answering machine, and I can't help smiling at the message. Doug and Andy, as well as Andy's younger sister, Marina, have stuck with me through everything. Unlike me, they moved on, so they don't fully understand why I can't go down to the Grill with the gang on Sunday. Any other day is fine by me; often the four of us will grab a pre-dinner drink there during the week. Regardless, they don't give up.
I sigh, and pick up the phone to call Doug back, wondering what excuse I am going to tell him this week. I feel terrible about letting the guys and Marina down, but all three of them are so unforgiving, even in their ignorance of my real reasons for not going down to the Grill, that it makes it easier for me to skive off yet another Sunday.
As I am dialing Doug's number, I hear the door slam, and Marina announces her presence with a sing-song 'I'm hooooome'. I put the phone back down and come out of the kitchen to see my roommate struggling to stay upright as she balances a box of pizza, a six-pack of beer, and a gig bag containing her prized bass guitar while she steps out of her shoes.
"You missed a great jam session today, Taylor!" Marina exclaims as she hands me the pizza and beer. Neither of us have morning classes on Mondays, so Sunday evenings are usually laid-back movie nights, provided Marina isn't at the Grill late with the guys. The new material is really coming along
I haven't been able to pick up a guitar, let alone jam with Marina and the guys, since everything happened. Marina's never pressed this issue with me, but I can tell she's always disappointed when I don't show.
"Sorry," I apologize half-heartedly, "I was studying all day for this economics test I have tomorrow. Maybe next time... I trail off, and Marina stifles a sigh, turning her attentions towards the DVDs she's pulled out of her purse. We both know that what I'm saying isn't true.
"So wait," Jake said with a mouthful of waffle, "you've never heard of The Arcade Fire? I can't believe you."
I laughed and said, "I can't know everything!!!
We had been at Denny's for over two hours and this was starting to become the strangest night I'd ever had. Jake was open and outgoing, but an excellent listener. On the walk to the diner, I'd filled him on the basics of my life. He knew about Scott, my mom, and my difficulties fitting in with the crowds at my high school. I never felt awkward; instead, the conversation flowed between us freely.
I'd learned that Jake was eighteen, and had just graduated this year. He worked at Hot Wax Records in Kensington, and had been playing guitar for six years. He loved music, hated tourists, and had never traveled anywhere farther than Ontario. He didn't talk with his parents, and lived with 2 other guys in a basement suite in Mission.
The subject seemed to be centred on something we discovered we had in common, besides spending the beginnings of our Saturday evening alone in a park.
I'd always been into music, ever since my dad had left when I was eleven. I had no warning of his departure, and instead came home to find three boxes of records sitting on my bed with a note saying, 'Take care of your mom for me, rockstar. These are for you." Later, I learned that he had gone to Ontario to rediscover his youth and become a music producer. This 'dream' of his obviously didn't include me, since I had yet to hear from him. It never made sense to me, but as long as I had the Doobie Brothers or Trooper to keep me company, I felt like my dad was still with me.
Jake's story was similar to mine, except he was the one who had left his family. Born and raised in Edmonton, Jake had lived a less than harmonious life with his parents, who'd placed him in an accelerated high school program, in the hopes that he would continue on to a Bachelor of Science, or a law degree. They'd never understood their son's obsession with music and his dreams to own a record label one day. Once Jake completed his high school courses in early April of this year, he packed his guitar and himself into his truck, a convenient graduation present, and drove down to Calgary to visit his cousin. The weekend away turned into four months away once his cousin offered up the spare bedroom in his apartment and hooked him up with the job at Hot Wax. Jake phoned his parents once to tell him he wasn't returning, and then cut ties with his past in order to focus on what he wanted to accomplish.
I thought I knew a lot about music, but Jake was slowly proving me wrong. The guy knew everything, about every genre, every artist, and every song. Even when I named the most random artist on my iPod, (Grand:PM), Jake could tell me what they played (pop-rock with loads of synth), how many albums they'd released (just the one), and what they were doing now (disappeared into the abyss of Canadian music...) Jake was the most passionate about Canadian material.
"And that doesn't mean Nickelback!" Jake was sure to emphasize this point when he told me about his love of the industry. "I'm taking about the guys that nobody's heard of, the ones who haven't sold out and are still driving their own vans across the country on tour, or who funded and released their EP on their own."
The way Jake spoke about music and the artists who created it fascinated me. All this time, I'd been on the surface of a world I barely knew existed. I was captivated by the passion in his voice, and his intelligence. Despite the sheer weirdness of the situation, I felt drawn to Jake. I knew I was potentially crazy; it was close to one in the morning, and here I was eating waffles and comparing musical tastes with someone I'd known less than twenty-four hours.
A tired-looking waitress trudged over to us, handed Jake the bill, and said "We're closing."
I didn't even get the chance to grab my wallet to pay for my share of our late night meal. After giving the waitress two twenty dollar bills, Jake stood up and stretched.
Suddenly, I didn't want this night to be over. I'd never felt so free. My mom and Scott probably hadn't noticed I wasn't in yet, and I was tired of spending my nights awake in my room while they fought. I didn't want to lose that feeling, or Jake, either.
"Well," he said, "should I return you to Fred and Robbie down in the park, or do you have a home somewhere around here?"
I snorted. "House, yes. Home, nope."
Jake looked at me concernedly; his piercing blue eyes seemed to be reading every line on my face. I looked down and fiddled with the string of my hoody, uncertain of what he was thinking. Then Jake picked up the guitar case sitting beside our booth and said, "I know the feeling, but I really don't want to worry your folks."
"Hah. I doubt they'd believe me if I told them what I did tonight." I retorted.
He looked hesitant, and then a decided expression appeared on his face. "No, I think I should take you home. Would you like a ride?"
I was disappointed, but I knew he had a point. I smiled up at Jake and said, A ride would be nice... it looks windy outside.
Jake's truck was parked about six blocks away from Denny's. It was filled with boxes of records, CDs, books, and another guitar case. He apologized for the mess as the engine stuttered into life.
The five minute drive to my apartment building was quiet but comfortable. As we pulled up to the door, I said, Thanks, I really needed tonight. It was..." I trailed off, unsure what to say.
"Hell, anytime!" Jake said. "We were both in the right place at the right time, I guess." He looked at me, causing my heart to forget how to beat. I reached for the door handle and Jake exclaimed, "hold on! I need to get you something!" and started rifling through the box of records behind his seat.
I waited until he retrieved what he was looking for, a record in a plain brown slip. I looked at him questioningly. "Listen to this." he said, as he scribbled something down on the slip. "Then, call me and let me know what you think."
He handed me the record and I saw ten digits written on the paper. "Thanks," I muttered again shyly as I exited the truck.
"I'll see you." Jake smiled, coaxed his truck into gear, and disappeared.