Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
I woke up on Beckee's bed. She was on the couch, leafing through a hard bound book. It was black, with a bunch of roses collaged on it. In the center of the book was the word Journal. Oh, shit.
"Remember when I used to play with your sword during rehearsals?" She asked.
"I had such a crush on you. And I knew you felt the same way. If that tramp hadn't showed up at The Shat...." She smiled.
Jennifer was not a tramp. She'd never taken me out to eat with her friends, and had a three hour conversation about sex and swinging. She'd never gotten me drunk and taken advantage me. She'd never...She wasn't a tramp.
"Do you still write?" She asked.
I did. I hadn't written much poetry since high school, but I'd been working on a play, and a few short stories.
"Me, too. It's funny, I started writing this years ago, and I just finished it last night." And without asking if I wanted to hear it, she began reading from her journal. Terrible poems comparing our relationship to Romeo & Juliet's. I tried not to laugh at the audacity to elevate our romantic disconnection to the world's most famous double suicide. Then came the mixed metaphors involving a white picket fence, and living underwater in Poseidon's kingdom. I wanted a cyanide pill, a razorblade and hot water. I wanted to go double Van Gogh. Anything to not have to hear these terrible cliches about our supposed relationship. "So what do you think?"
I put my hand in my pocket, to make sure the business card was still there. "Aren't you dating Harry?"
"We have an open relationship."
"Don't take this the wrong way." And I tried to find something I could say that could possibly be taken any way but wrong. Nothing came.
At some point in our mostly one-sided conversation, Beckee had excused herself to the bathroom. She was in there for a long time. I heard tearing sounds, smelled smoke, and every few minutes I heard the toilet flush. She was burning the poetry book.
I took my copy of the apartment key, and my notebook, and went out to explore more of State Street. I was in one of the music stores, flipping through their used CD section when I found the U2 fan's holy grail, a complete collection of CDs known as The Propaganda Remixes. Five bootlegs of all the non-album tracks from the Achtung Baby/Zooropa era. Each one cost twenty bucks. There was no way I could drop $100, even if it meant very happy new music to drown out Beckee's voice.
"Look," the guy behind the counter said, "Ron's too sick to come in, and that fucken Sarah girl you hired last week didn't show up today. Even with two people, it's going to take all night to do inventory. There's no way I'm doing it by myself. I know you've got a date, but...Fuck you, Alan. I..." He looked up at me. "He fucken hung up on me. Do you believe that?"
"I do. I co-manage a music store in Massachusetts. We go through three Sarahs a month, and I'm always the one stuck doing inventory."
"Massachusetts? The fuck are you doing in Madison."
Freezing. Being trapped into a possible relationship with a delusional ex-girlfriend. "I'm on vacation."
"Maybe." I said. "And maybe you are, too. If I help you do inventory, can you cut me a deal on some CDs?"
His eyes bulged. "You help me inventory this store, and I'll cut you any deal you want."
We agreed that I'd stop by at 9:30, a half hour before the store closed, and I'd stay until the job was finished. In exchange, he'd give me the whole Propaganda collection for free, and tell the owner they'd been shoplifted.
It was only 6:00. I decided to kill some time at The Noodle Factory. I was staring at the huge menu above the register when I heard a familiar voice behind me.
"So many choices, huh?" unHarry. "Welcome to the world of the bisexual."
"You know. Like, the whole world is open to you, you've just got to make a choice. And like, most people only want either noodles or sauce, but bisexuals are willing to get either or both, so there's more choices."
"Uh, right." I ordered rotini with parmesan cheese, that I watched the cook sprinkle strands of cheese over my noodles. It was the most elegant macaroni and cheese I'd ever seen.
"Beckee told me she read you her poetry."
"Terrible, isn't it?"
"Actually," I said, "it's quite delicious."
"I meant her poetry."
"So she sent you after me?" I asked.
He snorted. "Hell, no. She was driving me batshit, so I went for a walk, and I saw you come in here. Figured I'd see how you were doing."
"Fine." I said, and returned my attention to the rotini.
He had a plate of spaghetti with marinara. The world's most boring bisexual.
We ate in mostly silence. But every once in a while, I'd look up and he'd be staring at me, elbow on the table, his head leaning on his fist.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm trying not to stare like an idiot." He said. "If you rest your head on your chin it looks more like you're staring like a genius."
"I saw the way you were looking at me yesterday."
I choked on my rotini.
"It got me so hot that I ended up leaving the party with one of Beckee's mom's friends. I just had that craving for cock, you know?"
Fuck. I did know.