O WHAT A THRILL
The Stolen Sweets' debut was excellent. They played a really exceptional set, and were very tight for a first performance. The sound was crystal clear, too. I am going to try to make it to some of their other Wednesdays, with a definite for the last night of the tenure. If they are this good now, I imagine once they have gotten comfortable in their skins, the results will be astounding.
I sat at the bar and drank a ton of coffee and read some of Robert Bresson's journals. My favorite quote: "Don’t run after poetry. It penetrates unaided through the joins (ellipses)." I also drank a ton of coffee and scribbled in my little notebook, picking up a short story I've started called "Strange Behavior." I have only finished one short story in the last four years, so who knows if it will go anywhere, but what I have so far is below. The paragraph about the napkin in his breast pocket is where I began tonight:
He stood at the top of the stairs, wearing cat ears and a grin stained with Scotch. He had hoped to see her all night, and this was the third place he'd been. He was a little drunk and was losing faith when she appeared, walking up from the basement, where the bands stayed, where the liquor and food was probably housed. When she saw him, she smiled. He liked her smile. It looked a little wrinkled, and that was charming.
Remembering that he was wearing the ears—just a little band that went around his head, fuzzy and black—he played the part, clawing at the air, "Meow." He wasn't sure if she noticed, because she didn't react.
When she reached the top of the stairs, she crossed to him. He couldn't smell her, but he imagined she smelled like flowers, like soap, like the powders he always found in girls' bathrooms. There was a desire in him to find out, to push his face into her skin, to bury himself in her, and root out the scent. Instead, he stood with his back straight against the wall, like he was holding it up—or was it holding him?
As she got near, she reached out a hand and placed it on his upper arm. "Jean," she said. "I can't believe it's you."
"Why? Had you heard I'd gone completely feline?"
Jean reached up and stroked the ears with his fingers. They weren't as soft as the fur on a real cat.
"No," she said, "it's just been so long."
"I'm easy to find," he told her. "You, on the other hand, are not."
She pressed a finger into his chest. He didn't really feel it, but he saw it, marked it with his eye, imagined a red spot there on his shirt. "Stay there," she told him, pushing, making him sink into the wall, the plaster cracking behind his shoulder blades. "I'll be right back."
There was pleasure to be had in watching her walk away. It wasn't as good as seeing her approach, when her arrival meant that she would land on him, but Jean liked looking at her even from behind, with the symmetry of her gait, the slight sway to her hips. His impulse was to chase, to pounce, not let her get away, but she had fixed him to his spot with the force of her touch.
In his breast pocket, he had a raggedy napkin from the last time he had seen her. One edge had gotten wet from the residue of the drinks that had been on the table, and where once it was moist and torn, the napkin was now dry and brittle.
But she had written on it, drawn a picture of a long-eared rabbit facing the blank horizon. She printed, "Hello, buy me a bunny rabbit" across it. Was the rabbit reading her demand? He didn't know, but he had actually checked at a pet store to see if they had any. Turns out they didn't. It wasn't rabbit season. He didn't know how he would have smuggled it in, anyway. It wouldn't have fit in any of his pockets.
He decided to move, to step off the wall and break her spell. She had told him to wait, but he didn't want to wait. He didn't want to appear as anxious as he was. Jean never liked a crowd.
In a corner across the room, there was a guy he knew who always wore leather pants. Jean had always wanted to ask him if he had just the one pair. The guy waved at him, so Jean walked over to where he was.
"Hello," the guy said.
"Did you see the start of the show?"
"No. I was seeing another show."
"Well, at least you'll catch the end."
"Sure. Hey, I've been meaning to ask you, is that your only pair of leather pants?"
"You're a real son of a bitch, you know that?"
"What? Do you just wear them over and over? How do you wash them?"
"There's a reason no one likes you."
Jean didn't really understand, but it had pissed the guy off enough that he stormed away, looking over his shoulder once to shoot eye bullets at him.
Searching around, Jean saw her across the room, by the bar. She was with a skinny guy in a green jacket. Even though he was looking at him from the front, Jean knew his hair was probably thinning in the back, but he also likely had better teeth. They were standing with two other girls. Jean couldn't tell who was talking. They all looked like they were speaking at once.
He thought he could go over to her, but then he thought better of it. It was smarter to let her come to him.
Only she never did. The quartet streamed out, past the spot where he had been standing, where she told him to stay, and then down the stairs she had come up.
Jean stayed at the club a while and then left.
The next morning, Jean had the epiphany that all of his memories were not his own. He was there, to be sure, when they happened, but they did not happen to him. The trigger was thinking of her, standing with those three others, then walking away. Yes, she had said hi to him before that, but the night only truly began after she departed, didn't it?
It was the same of the night when she had drawn the napkin for him, given it to him. Once it was in his hands, she was not. He was sitting at a table, on a stool, but she had moved to a booth, sat beside another man. That man put his arm around her and showed her pictures on the small, glowing screen of a digital camera. They were pictures of the evening that had just happened, but he was not in any of them. He knew, because he saw them taken. He was always behind the flash. Was it the same guy from last night?
These events were for them, not for him.
The cat ears were on the floor by his bed. He put them on, even before he put on anything else.
It was obvious people looked at him when he walked down the street. You'd think they'd never seen a cat before!
Or maybe they were ears for a girl cat, and Jean didn't know it.
A homeless man gave him a thumbs up. Such dubious validation. "Life can't avoid me all the time," the man said. "Evil must have its due."
Current Soundtrack: The Mavericks, What a Crying Shame