―As a teenager I would often have these grand thoughts, like, that people would discover my notebooks and pull me out of the obscurity I’d left in death. Suicide seemed like a very normal thing to think about. Like for the better part of a year I assumed I’d just get up one day and do it. But I didn’t have any notebooks. I had a lot of unfinished little ideas for things typed up in Word documents. But they didn’t amount to anything. Not even, like, a clear direction of thought. Nobody would know any substantial thing about the person who’d written that stuff. Other than that he was very scared. Very scared and emotional about every aspect of living and increasingly obsessed with women.
―And where exactly do I fit into that? Katie was sitting on the edge of the bed. She’d stopped looking at Tyler through his speech, as he was making himself more comfortable, propped up on her pillows, taking them out from under the duvet and repositioning them around his back. For a moment they sat in silence. The sounds of her apartment, the people outside the closed door. The music. Because there was a party going on, Tyler remembered.
Katie stood up. ―Why are you telling me this?
―Because, listen Katie, I am probably becoming obsessed with you. To be honest, I am, like, almost definitely not crazy. I really don’t even want to die anymore. If I can avoid it, I don’t ever want to die, but I’ve fashioned myself to act in a way that will make it seem like I am crazy. You know, in hopes that you’re the type of woman who responds to that stuff.
―But see, like, you have to understand that impulse is extremely unsound. Like that makes you seem to me that you are crazy. I feel on edge around you.
―Yeah I mean, I get it. But it’s not like that. I’m so normal that all I want to do is watch TV and be normal. Love a woman. Take a walk. Everything else is, like, an act.
―I don’t really care what it is. She wasn’t looking at him. ―It’s… It’s a distressing attitude to have to engage with.
―Like I said. It’s an image thing. When I was a kid and people would say I acted weird or something, I would just act weirder. Or dress weird. I would try to make myself look ugly to see if a girl could still be interested in me, and if they were, it’s a small personal victory. Like as a way to feel more in control. It’s both a sabotage and, like, the ultimate exercise in actualization.
―I feel really uncomfortable you’re telling me this shit right now. My friends are out there. Like, they came over to my house. I’m supposed to be being a host.
―You think I don’t have stuff going on? I don’t have my own people in my life who act this way and stuff?
―I guess… I really didn’t think about it. It takes so much for a day to be even coherent right now that I really almost never get a chance to think about how other people must be feeling. Is everyone fucked like me?
―I thought you said you were normal.
―That’s very good. He was laughing. ―See, we have great banter. I’m more attracted to you than ever.
―Tyler! He stopped trying to kiss her. ―Okay well. No. Just, you can stay over if you really need to, but I don’t think maybe you should in the future… If you agree…
―How could I not agree? I just want us to communicate about everything. This might be the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had!
―What we… You… Stop it. Two nights of doing blow and hooking up in a bathroom is not a relationship.
―I will remember you fondly, I can’t even imagine life without these memories. We’re, like… it’s a word… Kismet. He opened her bedroom door but continued to look at her, walking backward, through people. Walking backward and saying, ―My new haircut makes me look like a girl on purpose, by the way. That was the point, it’s like what I was describing earlier. Like, I mean… Never mind. But if you ever want to get a drink sometime…
On the subway, Matt watched Tyler sit down, get up and move to another seat. Matt leaned against the doors watching his friend fidget with a tote bag, then sat down next to him. Matt said, ―Do you ever feel like everywhere you go you run into the same people?
―There is an increasing feeling like that isn’t there. It wasn’t always this way.
The subway stopped. It started. ―Maybe we’ve lived here too long.
―We’ve definitely lived here too long. We should leave. Go on a trip. Lately I can’t stop thinking about the Myrtle Social Club. How they opened it again after all these years, what are they trying to prove? What could it possibly be like in there?
―From what I’ve heard, it’s all cleaned up. Like, has a real bar or something. They’ve probably got those, like, light bulbs that look pre-industrial or whatever. With all the filaments showing.
―Is filaments the right word?
Tyler looked at his phone. He thought for a second maybe there would be reception, but there was no reception. ―It was like, riding the bus into the city. Like I had a girlfriend here in high school and anytime you wanted to go out there was always some show or something. Someone always had drugs, you could buy tall boys from Warner’s for like a dollar twenty-five and go and do whatever. It felt endless.
―You can’t get shit at Warner’s anymore. There’s no reason to even be in the neighborhood. Everyone moved. Everything moved around. Have you been in there? A six pack’s like nine bucks, and I’ll bet you anything you can’t bring your own into Myrtle anymore. Who do you think even plays there now?
Tyler was turning his phone on and off. The screen of it. He dropped it in the tote bag. ―They said they can’t have live music there anymore. It’s probably like a person with a laptop. Or an online jukebox. Or metal. Why do all the bars play metal?
―I just want my son to grow up in a world where there’s a city where he can go to cut his teeth on some gritty scene and run into some cool girl and end up like Lee Ranaldo or something.
―And one time. I saw two rats fight outside there once. They were giant, like the size of small dogs. They had big furry tails and whiskers and were howling. You couldn’t really see them.
―Are you sure they weren’t cats?
―No… And they sat in silence. Stops went by the window. A man sang Michael Jackson and walked away. A person wearing a robe sat down. ―It feels like wherever you go, it’s always the same people.
―All the parties, the openings. Anything you have to RSVP to. And everyone, everyone, it’s them! That guy with the long hair and the tattoo on the steps of that building nobody used to know what it was called. Like on Bowery, but now they’re selling it or whatever.
―I think his name’s Tommy Suicide.
Matt tried to laugh. ―Every time I go out I think I’m going to see my best friend from middle school’s little sister who I made out with after running into her at a bar three months ago.
—And I do! I see her all the time, it's inescapable! The train made a stop. A woman of indeterminate age got on and sat next to them. Matt saw her smile, then roll her eyes before the train started to move again. ―And whenever I’m at this station I think about the first time I came out here. To see… You know, like, Esther?
―I don’t think so.
―Her name was Esther. No, I mean, I’m sure it still is. Maybe if it was a different name it wouldn’t have, like, fucked me up so much, but it just. There’s the story of Purim and whatever. She’s Jewish and nobody knows. It’s a secret, and she becomes the queen of Persia and stops, like, a Holocaust-type thing. Like this guy wants to kill all the Jews and Esther, this character in the bible, stops that from happening.
―Okay. Tyler was looking at his phone.
―Anyway, so I met this girl named Esther. We were like sixteen on a trip for Jewish youth to, like, lobby for environmental issues in Washington or something like that. She’d gone to camp with a friend of mine and was, like, really hip before anyone I knew was. We held hands in the Holocaust Museum and it seemed like we were going to meet up in the hotel everyone was staying at, like to hook up later that night. But then she said she couldn’t risk it with the chance that she’d get caught or whatever. She said maybe the next night, but then the next night came and she was giving me the same shit, so I was like, Jesus I can’t hold out, and so I made out with her best friend. So I screwed myself. She was pissed at me, and we didn’t stay in touch even though I thought she was really cool and more attractive and intelligent, you know, than the other girl. But then I’m on the subway two years later, my freshman year of college, and she just comes out of nowhere and touches my arm. She says she’s staying in Brooklyn for a while. So she invites me over on a Tuesday night, right around the corner from here. Like, right off that last stop, and we get all drunk and she’s really flirty, but I’m with this girl at the time and it just feels like such a lost cause, and on the train home, just like this… I just know I blew it years ago because of her stupid friend, and now she’s got a boyfriend she loves and is getting her MFA at RISD.
―What’s her MFA in?
―Man, I don’t know… Like, she does, like, multimedia stuff? Who cares, she has a pretty cool website. You should check it out. God… We could’ve been together. Esther… The woman laughed. She was wearing a yellow blazer and yellow jeans. Tyler looked up and laughed. ―I’m sorry?
―No, no. It’s true. It’s all so true. You really did fuck it up. She probably doesn’t even think about you.
―Really, though? At all? Sometimes she likes my stuff on Facebook.
―To her, you’re just another guy who didn’t think she mattered much. Who couldn’t have the time to prioritize what made her seem special to you. You didn’t want to understand her. Your biggest concern was just to be with someone. Anyone. You didn’t care who, it’s not like you tried any harder for what you saw in her. To try and see things like she did.
―But I’m not just another guy. Shit. I love the same things she does. I like art. I’ve kept up with her life. She affected me. Like ever since we were kids. And what if I hadn’t been with that girl? When we were at her place, she did this thing where you sit in a chair and tilt your head back and you, like, pour vodka and orange juice into the mouth. She called it a haircut.
―I wasn’t there. I can’t say.
―And we played this game called Roxane. To the Police song. We…
―I know the game.
―But this was in the days of Four Loko. Remember Four Loko?
―I still have some in my parents’ garage fridge that I salvaged when they announced it was illegal or whatever, Tyler said.
―Every time I’m at that stop, walking around, I hope I’ll see her. Like fifty times I think I see the back of her head. I think maybe she’s come back.
―She’s in Rhode Island. She’s not thinking about you.
―You’re acting like an idiot. I mean, if you want a woman’s perspective…
―I have something I want to say. Tyler interrupted. He looked at the floor, at the woman. This didn’t concern her. He looked at Matt.
―Well what is it?
―Never mind… Something about my cat… I’ll say it later.
Chapters 3 & 4 >