"Aight, I'm plugged in. We're good to go." Jordan said.
It had been two weeks since our first jam. We had jammed in the laundry building seven times since then, and it was Monday now.
Despite these sessions, I somehow managed to keep up with my academic work acceptably. My projects and assignments were always emailed on time, and my grades remained consistent.
My guitar playing also improved steadily, and I could now play songs that earlier would have stumped me. I could now play half of the Smoke On The Water solo now. In the whole online learning process, I was discovering more and more bands, and my rock n' roll knowledge would increase each time a new one would catch my fancy. Wikipedia fed my hungry mind with all kinds of facts and trivia.
March arrived with a bang. The skies cleared and a slight breeze picked up. The university campus underwent a sudden metamorphosis, and the drab ugliness of winter was washed away by thousands of splendid shades of flowers. Chicks started shedding their winter attire. Students could be seen here, there and everywhere, and the campus was soon buzzing with activity.
My playing had improved to a level somewhere between below average and average, and my improvs had started sounding clean, if not creative. Jordan on the other hand was a freaking monster. He had badass skills, and I had wondered several times just why the hell he wasn't already in a band. One day, I asked him the reason.
"I want to be able do my own thing. Bass players like me are played down. We never get solos. We don't even get any spotlight. Don't even get me started on songwriting. Our shit never gets recognised."
He continued this rant for as long as it took me to finish three light beers. We had started bringing supplies with us, as the days were slowly starting to become longer and warmer. There was this open area next to the building, and there were three couches and a bunch of other shit lying there. We would sit out there and talk about random shit, drinking beer, or occasionally, Pepsi.
"Bass players are always pushed around. Always. Name one famous band that actually allows their bass player to contribute."
"Um. The Red Hot Chili Peppers? Their bassist is a beast."
"Yeah. Those guys were huge. Well, now nobody knows what's gonna happen, cuz their guitarist left and all, but the bassist is like a freaking demigod."
"What's his name?"
"Flea." I said.
"Flea like the bug?"
"Flea like the bassist, man."
"Hmm. I'll look them up. I think I've heard Dani California before, but it was nothing special."
"No shit." I said. "I think you'll love em, being a bass player and all."
He thoughtfully took a sip from his beer, then said "Dude, d'you have any friends around here?"
"Not really. Why?
"I dunno, you seem like a lone wolf of some kind."
"Is that a bad thing?" I asked, somewhat amused.
"Naw, but doesn't it bother you?"
"Okay." He said. "I guess that's what happens when you don't live in a dorm."
"You don't live in a dorm either." I said.
"Yeah, but I'm good with PR." He said. "When was the last time you had a girlfriend?"
"Uh. Never. Why?" I was never good with chicks. It wasn't like I was four feet tall or had one eye, but it seemed too much trouble for me.
He cocked one eye. "The Lord gave us gonads for a reason." He said. "Not even in high school?"
"Well, there was...dude, gonads? That word sounds horrible. Anyway, there was this girl I was crazy about, but I never asked her out." I said.
"Ha. Well, let's hear the story."
"Alright. Remember Evelyn Strauss?" I asked.
"Evelyn Strauss? Sure. Blonde, blue eyed, smart chick. Yeah."
"Damn, just how big was your network? Anyway, yeah, well, I had a few classes with her in Senior year. In the beginning, I just thought she was pretty, but soon after that, I don't remember how it happened, we started talking a bit. And boom, just like that, I fell in love. I mean, it was probably because she was the first girl who ever acknowledged my existence. Even then, I could never get myself to do it. I was always like "nah, she'll never say yes to a guy like me. God knows how I plucked the courage, but I asked her to go to senior prom with me." I sighed, taking another sip from my beer. "I was too late. She was gonna go with somebody else. Sometimes, I think about what she would have said if I had actually asked her out." I sighed, and took another sip from my beer.
For a while, neither of us said anything. Finally, he broke the silence.
"Duuuuuuuude." He said. "You really, really need to get laid. That said, it isn't gonna be easy. You look like you haven't worked out in years."
"Up yours, dude. I'm fine the way I am."
"Kay. Suit yourself bro. Anyway, I gotta head back to my apartment, nay, da' crib, and take care of some work."
With that, he walked away with his gear.
When I reached home, I went to the bathroom to take a good look at my abs.
"This is not a six pack." I thought to myself. "Maybe I do need to start working out. Shit, I'm a nineteen year old virgin." I pondered over my sorry state for a while. "Atleast I'm not fat." I concluded.
And on that wondrously positive note, I got to work on my assignments. **
The following Saturday, I paid Rainn a visit. He was busy selling a scalloped Gibson Explorer to a bald guy, who kept scrutinising the antique over and over again.
"Look who's finally here!" He said. "I thought you were down with the flu or somethin'. Great timing, too, but we'll get to that later."
"A lot of interesting shit's happened since the last time we met." i said.
He smiled. "Go on."
"Well, I met a bass player. And he's awesome."
"Really, now? What are the odds"
"I knew him back in high school, and we've been jamming for a while now."
"And how did that turn out?"
I hesitated. "Meh. Sounded like horseshit, mostly."
"Hmm, that's exactly how it should be." "What? Shouldn't it be the opposite of that?" I asked.
He picked up an old Les Paul from its wall mount, and began wiping it with a damp cloth.
"The fact that you can tell your playing sounds like horseshit is a good omen, bro." He said.
"Most guys at your level can't tell if they're screwing up." He continued, deftly wiping off the dust under the strings on the headstock. "They ain't got the ears. You do. Eventually, you'll become better at the whole thing, and you'll know when that happens." He said. He took off his beanie to reveal blonde locks like Owen Wilson.
"This is important. It says you don't have a huge ego, and you have the power to recognize your mistakes. Always remember: if it sounds wrong, it is wrong."
"Damn." I said. "I didn't see it that way."
"If you had, it won't have meant shit to you. It's kinda like karma. If you help someone in need just to get good karma, you won't get any good karma. It'll actually be bad karma, cuz you'll be using that poor soul for your own greed."
"Uh huh." I said.
"Anyway, son, I have a surprise for you." He went to the counter, and took out a box from behind it.
"What's in the box?" I asked, walking up to the counter.
"Rock n' roll. Collected over the past 20 years or something. I want you to keep it for an indefinite period of time. I'm gonna be out of town for a while."
"Out of town? Where? For how long? How?" I asked.
"Well, it's pretty far away. I promise I'll tell you more when we get back. All I'm gonna say right now is that it's somewhere out east."
"East? Dude, we're in North Carolina. There's nothing but the sea out.ohh. You're going abroad?"
"Mhm. Now I'm gonna tell you about some of the artists in here." He said, pointing down at the box.
He spent the next half hour giving me basic information and the names of the best songs by all the artists in the box. "This here box is a sea of music, contained in a cubical, cardboard shape. From Led Zeppelin to System of A Down, as long as it isn't depressing shit like them goth, nu metal, death metal, speed metal, pop punk or screamo bands, you'll find all music that I have deemed praiseworthy with my infinite wisdom, within the confines of this box. It all started with Kurt f--king Cobain. I'm not sayin' he was a bad musician, but before he arrived, people actually liked having a good time. He came and pissed on all that. Thrash is cool, though, and prog too. Damn, these last two decades have churned out some pretty disgusting material."
Finally, when he was done, he took a deep breath and said "Anyway, bro, you should leave now. I gotta close up the shop and all. We have a flight to New York tomorrow morning."
"Aight, then." I said. "Have a good flight."
"Thanks. Remember: It's easy to play the blues, but it ain't easy to feel em."
"Who said that?"
"Hendrix, I think. I'm paraphrasing." He said. "Now get the hell out of my store, fool."
*** "So, spring break's arriving. D'you have any plans?" Jordan asked. It was the 30th of March. It had been around two weeks since Rainn had left on his little trip to the East.
"I think I'm gonna head over to Cary, to my folks'."
"Right. That's kinda sad. You don't have any friends at all, do you?"
"It's not. I and my brother have this tradition of going on a road trip through North Carolina every spring. We buy bandanas and shit from the gas stations. He has a 1972 Gran Torino."
"Your brother? Michael Levine? Wasn't he the quarterback?"
"Yeah, that one." I said. My brother had been the king of Panther Creek High. Chick magnet, quarterback, prom king, you name it.
"That dude was a legend. Damn. Didn't he..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." I said, stuffing an egg roll into my mouth. We were at the Panda Express at the Bryan Center, which was basically this building full of restaurants and stores that gave discounts to students. I had come down here to get something to eat, and had classes in half an hour, and found Jordan eating Chop Suey.
"Dude, me and my friends are heading to the sea. One of them has a hummer."
"A hummer? What about global warming?"
"Who gives a crap about global warming? We're gonna go to Roanoke."
"Isn't that the creepy place where the first colonists mysteriously disappeared?"
"Yeah, we read about it in 8th grade. Anyway, there's a beach nearby called Ocracoke. That's the real reason why we're going."
"Ocracoke? Isn't that like, an island or something?"
"Mhm. You have to take a ferry there."
"Nice." I said, munching on another egg roll.
"D'you wanna tag along?"
"I dunno. I don't even know your friends."
"It'd do you good."
"Nah, I don't like hanging out with strangers."
"Is it cuz I'm black? You think they gangsters? Man, I thought this shit was gon' change now that we have a black president."
"I'll see. Maybe I'll go directly to Roanoke with my brother and meet you guys there."
"Cool. I'll text you when I get there. We're leaving on the 10th. It takes around 8 hours to get there. Anyway, I gotta leave now." Picking up his noodle container and pepsi can, he got up and threw them in the trashbin. I did the same with mine.
"Ciao." "Au Revoir."
We walked off in opposite directions towards our respective institutes.