Ryan and I hung around at his apartment for a while and he showed me a few other simple tunes on the bass. It seemed like fun, so I agreed to meet him after class on Monday to talk more about forming a band.
It was two in the morning when I staggered out to walk home. Ryan was kind enough to give me a beer to drink during the walk, and he said thanks about ten times for breaking it up when he was getting his ass kicked in the bar parking lot. I told him not to worry about it and left him in his messy apartment to sleep off the beating he took.
I opened the beer and started walking. It was snowing, and I was thinking gloomy thoughts about my ex, Sash, and the little weasel that she had been kissing in the bar. It made me feel sick to think about. She and I had only been going out for three and a half months, but it felt a little bit like love, especially after she'd dumped me.
Thinking about the guy with his stupid handlebar moustache, combined with the adrenaline of seeing the fight earlier made me start daydreaming about bumping into him as I walked home. I took a big gulp of the cheap beer and envisioned a whole scenario: he hops out of a cab to go into his shitty, sleazy apartment building when he sees me coming up the sidewalk. He sneers and says something like, Look who's here. It's the loser that Sash just dumped. Well, guess what, pal? I'm humping the bitch now. Until I get bored, anyway, and then I'll throw her away and find something sweeter. And you can just keep jerking off into your dirty socks.
I would say something like, You talk like a tough guy. Can you back it up?
He would laugh. What are you going to do? You might be big, but I know Aikido, Judo and Hokkaido. That last one is an island and not a martial art, but I figured the guy was probably full of shit and doesn't know his ass from his appendix. He would assume a phony combat posture and dare me to come at him.
Too bad the stupid, moustache-wearing douche wouldn't know that I come from a boring little town where there were only two things to do when you were growing up: play hockey or take karate. I was a terrible skater, so I ended up taking ten years of punch-kick classes, and I know how to take smart-ass loudmouths absolutely apart.
From that point on, my little fantasy became one hundred variations of me kicking the living shit out of Captain Eurotrash. Needless to say, I didn't notice the police car slowly cruising alongside me until they gave me a little beep with the siren.
I stopped walking. They were two young guys, the flat-topped, square-jawed type of cops who always seem to get the night shifts. Evening, said the cop leaning out the passenger window. Nice night, isn't it? On your way home?
Um, yeah. Yes I am.
That's not an open bottle, is it?
Um, yes. It is.
And you know that's illegal, don't you?
I guess I forgot.
The one in the driver seat leaned forward. Were you dancing? It looked like you were punching and kicking.
Yeah. I mean, no. I mean, yeah, I was dancing.
You mind pouring that bottle out? said the one in the passenger seat. It would be a shame to have to give you a ticket. You head home, all right? And make sure you recycle that empty.
They waved as the car pulled away from the curb. I felt too dumb to even give them the finger as they turned the corner two blocks down the road. I just tucked the empty beer bottle in my back pocket and kept walking.
* * * *
The lights were still on in the living room window of my third floor apartment. I walked upstairs and found Dustin and Kara, two of my roommates, snuggled up under a blanket on the couch watching a movie. I came in, shook off the snow, and took off my shoes and coat.
Hey buddy, Dustin said. Have a good time?
Fuck no, I replied. I ran into Sash. And she was gracious enough to make out with some weirdo with a handlebar moustache right in front of me. I walked into the kitchen and dropped the empty beer bottle into the recycling bin.
A handlebar? Kara said. That's so cool!
I gave her an evil stare and grabbed the milk out of the fridge. I drank a glass and came to see what they were watching. It looked like some shitty art-house thing. One guy was dressed like Andy Warhol.
The night wasn't all bad, though, I said. Some guy wants me to be in a band.
That's cool, Dustin said. I didn't know you played anything.
I don't. He wants to teach me to play bass.
Fierce, he said. If you guys are any good I'll get you to play one of the shows at the Ballroom.
Yeah, sure, I said, and left them to watch their movie. I brushed my teeth, took a long piss and headed into my bedroom, which is actually a walk-in closet.
Perhaps this would be a good time to talk about where I was living at the time, and why I was sleeping in a walk-in closet that was only large enough for me to stretch out to full length if I slept on an angle from corner to corner.
When I came to Garrison Valley in the fall of my first year of university, I answered a roommate needed ad for a two bedroom apartment. It was Dustin's ad. He and I met up, and we got along okay. The apartment was fine, so in I moved.
A month after classes started, Dustin told me that his best friend had decided to enroll. The guy, whose name was Nick, had no place to stay in town, and since Dustin had told him several months earlier that they would room together, Nick showed up on the doorstep of our apartment with his bags. I protested, but they bought a whole bunch of beer and over a long night of drinking, they managed to talk me into it. Nick set up a makeshift sleeping space in the living room, and that brought the number of people in the apartment to three.
Two weeks after that, Angie showed up. Angie was Nick's girlfriend who had stayed in their home town, but now she missed him too much to be separated from him, so suddenly there were four of us. It didn't seem cool to have Nick and Angie doing it in the living room every night, so Dustin and I drew straws. I lost, and the next thing I knew I was sleeping in the living room and Nick and Angie were doing it in my former bedroom.
Meanwhile, Dustin had started dating Kara, who had a nice little apartment of her own in what Garrison Valley laughingly calls its downtown district. Dustin fancied himself a hustler and event promoter (which is why he said he would have a not-yet-existent band play a show at a hall called the Ballroom). He hosted some kind of performance-art scavenger hunt party at Kara's apartment and it got out of hand, with about a hundred people going in and out until four in the morning carrying all sorts of ridiculous shit. Kara's landlord had a first-party-is-your-last-party policy, so suddenly Kara was evicted and it was Dustin's fault. So where would she move?
It took only seven weeks for us to go from two roommates to five. Nick and Angie had one bedroom, Dustin and Kara had the other, and suddenly it didn't seem cool to have me sleeping in the living room. So they bought a whole bunch of beer, got me loaded and spent a long night convincing me to move into the walk-in. After all, Eric, you don't have much stuff... Come on, Eric, you don't need a big room to sleep in. Who cares how big the room is if you're asleep anyway? Blah, blah, blah... I eventually gave in. That was the end of my self-respect, but at least between five people the rent was cheap.
I nestled down in the tiny space, changed clothes lying on my back, hung my jeans on the hook on the back of the door and switched off the light. It wasn't a bad place to sleep, although I had coffin nightmares for the first week. And the fact that I lived in a closet likely contributed to the breakdown of my relationship with Sash. But other than that, it was mostly fine. Depressing, but mostly okay.
I could hear Nick snoring through the wall, and I let the rhythmic sound lull me to sleep.
* * * *
I pissed away Sunday in The Bean Machine, the coffee shop across from campus, working on my assignments. The shop had become my usual hangout. A few regulars asked why Sash wasn't with me, and I managed to smile each time and say we weren't together anymore. C'est la vie, right? They all nodded sympathetically. Oh, too bad, and that kind of shit.
The homework was dull: reading theory for Economics class, poems for English with explanatory paragraphs, and a few pages of verb conjugations for Introductory German. All standard first year courses. I hadn't selected a major yet. All I knew for sure was that I wouldn't be majoring in Germanic Studies. Mein Gott, diese Scheise ist verwirrend. My God, this shit is confusing.
By early evening no girls had shown up and there was no one interesting to talk to, so I packed up and went home, picking up a box of pizza pockets and a six-pack of tall cans on the way. Nick and Angie were hogging the couch in the living room, so I ate my pockets and retired to the closet to drink beer, read Nietzsche, jerk off, and eventually go to sleep.
But as I lay there in the darkness I found myself wondering what Ryan and I would talk about the next afternoon at the same coffee shop where I had just spent the day. He wanted to form a band, but what did I know about being in a band? What did I even know about music? Could I actually envision myself up on a stage with a bass guitar, playing, maybe singing, without looking like a total jackass?
I decided that there would be one simple rule to follow, no matter what Ryan said he wanted to do. Even if he was the one who knew more about music, I would have to be absolutely firm not to do anything that seemed silly or fake. No stupid, bullshit theatrics. No ridiculous costumes, no phony nonsense, no posing, no strutting or falsehood. If it's going to be about music, then that's all it's going to be about.
And if he didn't like it, he would just have to find himself a new sucker.
2009 Nolan Whyte