It’s strange that in just 10 short years, an ostensibly modern era can feel so separate. There’s a generation of people who can now say they’ve grown up with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the anointed New York early-2000s indie-rock scene had a defiant, exciting sense of nowness. But in 2013, with Karen O in her mid-30s, Fever to Tell has become something we can look back on. Those songs don’t just hold our attached memories, they represent an entire bygone world. Whether these feelings are invented or organic, Fever to Tell already seems so distant, and up for our interpretations.
Feature artwork by Cap Blackard
Click the arrow to continue to the first story…
BY LUKE WINKIE
Man I’ve got a fast car. You don’t even know. It’s got spikes and chrome and big black wheels, I soak up the asphalt like a bruise. That’s ‘cause I’m rich, I got the stars and the moons jingling from my keys. I feel them on my leg, and I feel you getting smaller and smaller in my mirrors. I pump up the volume and shift back the seat, drink a little something from a Styrofoam cup. Don’t even start with me, bro, I’m rich.
That inheritance is coming. Just a couple more years man, it’ll all be mine, at least it’s gonna be. Those other cats think they got a fortune delivery, but those other cats ain’t rich like me.
Got my girlfriend now. She’s all dusky and red and full of flirty little chemicals, I like the way she looks at me, she likes the way I mold her skin. She keeps scratching on my thigh with her baby index finger. She likes those other boys, but she loves me the most. That’s because I’m rich. I make her rich all day and night.
Haven’t moved for the last 12 hours. Took a mulligan today, curled up in the darkness and blasted off. Need to remember to close my eyes. Need to remember to touch the water. Need to remember to breathe. Roommates making a ruckus, they’ll be first against the wall when I’m rich.
A rough couple of nights, a rough couple of days, hard to feel my face. Toes are tingling. Hazy where I fell asleep, a total mystery where I woke up. Can’t wait for that inheritance, gonna stack my coins like pillars on the table.
I’m in the club, I’m always in the club. You just gotta be rich – shrink down and slip on by. See my girlfriend doing her thing. She ain’t looking at me right now, but she will be soon. Order a coke and rum, spend $16, it don’t matter I’m rich. Wait for the girl to come over. Still not looking at me. I wave. Still not looking at me. It’s cool, she’s doing her thing. Sometimes that’s just how it be.
Walk out of the club, feeling dizzy and clean. Sky opens up and speaks to me, get down on my knees. I’m the commissioner of this alley, it’s holy matriarch, I say a few prayers and watch the world smile back. I get these blessings on the regular, I deserve them, I’m so fucking rich.
Scream bloody murder. I don’t got a gun but I look like I do. Can’t get the register open so I pull the whole thing out with me. A handful of sweettarts too. A handful of glazed donuts too. Hands are goddamn freezing. Throw the cash machine in the side door. I’ve got a fast car. You don’t even know. Blaze through the streets. Heading to Johnny’s place. Turn up the radio, Johnny’s dead. Things are popping off now. Things are getting tense now. Chopper looking at me weird, lights all around. Cuffs around my wrists now. Headed toward the impound.
Don’t know any phone numbers, don’t have any friends. Can’t believe that Johnny’s dead. Little concrete box and a shrinkwrapped bed. I’m so rich though, they don’t even know. Blue-suits passing by, they can’t take my inheritance. Just thing about the inheritance. Always thinking about the inheritance. Curl up in the darkness. I’m so rich.
“Date With The Night”
BY ELI WATSON
Gloria Morris stares at a fire she helped create. Pieces of burnt paper ascend into a night sky. Gloria inhales slowly, as if these breaths were her last.
Maybe they were.
Maybe they were the final breaths of an adolescent girl coming into her own. Introspection is interrupted: “Gloria! Come on girl!” This voice, calm and assertive, was not familiar to Gloria. Where was the girl whose timid voice often disappeared in crowded hallways where lockers slammed, chiseled-bodied athletes bragged about their “fuck of the week” and teachers cheered on students “to finish the year off successfully”?
Gloria jumps in the backseat of the girl’s blue and white Mini Cooper. The girl steps on the pedal as another girl in the passenger seat smiles at the orange and red flames roaring in the still night. The tires screech, the speakers pop — not a word is said. “The night isn’t over yet y’all,” yells the girl in the passenger seat.
It’s 12:00. “Usually I am asleep by now,” Gloria thought. Pages upon pages of class notes and assignments, along with her mother’s sternness, had essentially made Gloria a recluse. But this was not involuntary — Gloria never found herself curious by the weekend recaps discussed every Monday morning. Even the most detailed retellings of a friend vomiting on a party host’s parent’s luxury car, received unenthused responses from Ms. Morris. However, curiosity had finally presented itself: what would the rest of this night hold?
The Mini Cooper rolls to a stop before a red light but Gloria’s mind continues to race. Scattered parts of the day disappear as quick as they appear.
“Fuck, finally this year is done. Graduation and summer time bitches!”: Clark Madison, all-star quarterback, high school superstar and “sexting” mastermind. (It’s rumored that he has nude pics of every senior cheerleader on his phone.)
“Gloria, I expect greatness from you. Your mother must be so proud of you graduating valedictorian, and going to college on a full ride. I look forward to hearing all about your successes.”: Mrs. Hill, English teacher, devout optimist and diehard Radiohead fan. (“If you think about it guys, Hail to the Thief is essentially a dedication to George Orwell’s 1984.”)
“Glory! Come to my party later tonight. You never go out–always have your head in a book. You’ve worked your ass off, now it’s time to celebrate!”: Elias Pitt, weed enthusiast, “the guy everyone is cool with” and my crush since freshman year.
“All right girl here’s the plan. Lily brought her car 2 school 2day, so you’ll tag along w/us once the bell rings. Ask ur mom if u can spend the night at my house. We’ll just hang out until it’s time to go to Elias’ party. Girl…U KNO HE WANTS U RIGHT? LOL JK OK NOT JK’ING!”: Eleanor Reese, competent speller (her text messages can be misleading), mischief maker and one of my best friends.
“Of course you can spend the night, darling! You have earned it. What time should I expect you home tomorrow? I bet Lily and Eleanor are so excited to finally get you out of the house. But you’re living proof honey–hard work does pay off! XOXO”: Danielle Morris, slow (but getting progressively better) texter, my greatest enemy and my greatest friend. (And my mother, obviously.)
“Hello Ms. Valedictorian! Come on! We got some thangs to do before Elias’ party.”: Lily Ruth, soft-spoken angel, occasional drinker and my other best friend.
The light flashes green; Gloria is welcomed back to the present. The wheels begin to roll again, just as Gloria’s mind finally comes to a stop. She looks at Eleanor, who’s on her phone sending a picture of the fire they made, to some guy named “James Babe.” (Gloria correctly assumes that James’ last name is not “Babe.”)
Eleanor’s phone screen flashes, illuminating her cherry-red lips. “It all happened so quickly,” Eleanor thought to herself. It wasn’t planned. It just happened.
“PARK CLOSED BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 10 P.M. – 4 A.M.,” read one park sign.
“NO CAMPFIRES,” read another.
Leaves and small twigs broke underneath the weight of the Mini Cooper, as Lily drove to a more-secluded part of the park.
Lily parked the car. The girls stepped out. They took several steps before sitting around a self-made fire pit. (James is quite the handyman.)
Pieces of burnt wood took up the pit’s center, most of it still burnable. Lily remembered she had a half-full container of lighter fluid in the trunk of her car (“Thanks, Senior Ditch Day”) and went to get it. Once Lily returned she sprayed the fluid on the wood. Eleanor immediately lit up the wood with a match, the fire crackling loudly as if to express its sovereignty over the pieces of lumber.
They talked: “I am going to miss you guys so much,” “Oh my God, Eleanor! You did that in class,” “Remember when we shared the same profile song on Myspace?” They laughed, staring at each other with admirable eyes. Eyes that provided a much deeper and unspoken conversation. A conversation of worries, fears and uncertainties about the future. Will we always be friends? Blink. Will we never grow apart? Blink. Will we still call on each other when life becomes too much to handle? Blink. Will we ever have a moment like this again? Blink.
The fire began to die out. “Yo, I’m not ready to leave yet,” said Lily. “Do we have anything we can burn?”
Without thought Gloria stood up, ran to Lily’s car, grabbed her backpack and returned to the fire. Inside her backpack were those pages of class notes and assignments, that took precedence over her social life. (And took refuge in her school locker.) She started from the bottom, throwing about 20 papers in the fire, papers tainted by large and blood-red A’s and B’s. The fire could care less about the grades; the sacrifice was enough to keep it going for 10, maybe even 15 minutes.
But Gloria could not stop. It was as if she was possessed: one, two, five, 10, 18, 29, 35. The papers fell gracefully into the mouth of the fire, overwhelmed by the relentlessness of the flames. Lily and Eleanor ran to get their backpacks and immediately joined Gloria once they returned. Valentine’s Day letters, class doodles, documents with forged parent signatures, crude drawings of teachers, incomplete assignments–nothing was not fed to the fire.
It almost seemed as if the paper genocide would never end. But what began with Gloria would end with Gloria. In her hand was the final paper: a letter from her school declaring that she was this year’s valedictorian.
She hesitated. This document essentially encompassed all that she had worked for, and all that she had sacrificed. It was worth it, right? Right? Gloria’s indecisiveness frightened her. She had adhered to the rules bestowed upon her by her mother and teachers. And in her hand was the result: this paper that several years down the road no one would probably give a shit about.
Gloria couldn’t understand where this newfound skepticism came from.
But Lily and Eleanor knew. They could see the answer in Gloria’s troubled eyes: devotion. Gloria had devoted all she could to receive what was in her hand. In four years she had learned about everything that didn’t matter, and nothing that did matter: herself.
But a solution began to present itself in a smile appearing on Gloria’s face. She let the paper go; not out of anger or frustration, but curiosity. She watched the final paper burn, remorselessly engulfed by the dying flames. The paper was gone but she continued to stare into the fire. “What’s next,” Gloria asked herself. “Where do things go from here?” There were no answers to these questions. No book, no class, nothing that could provide an answer for Gloria’s existential inquiries. And yet, the 18 year-old, soon-to-be college student found comfort in this. Comfort in questions that would take her entire life to answer. Comfort in the unknown.
“Gloria! Come on girl,” yelled Lily.
“And now we’re here,” Gloria said aloud, smiling at the image reflected in her mirror: Elias’ house. It was quiet. A few rumbles from speakers inside the house would occasionally escape to the outside, and some conversation from the backyard could be heard. But for the most part it seemed pretty tame. (Which made sense. Elias’ neighbors were notorious for reporting parties. “Most of them are old ass people that probably just eat Raisin Bran,” was how Elias described them on more than one occasion.)
Eleanor knocks on the front door.
A few seconds pass. Then, reluctantly, Elias opens the door. “Well, look who it is,” Elias says with a relaxed smile. “And here I thought you were a group of party-crashing cops.” The girls laugh and enter. Gloria enters last, batting her eyes coyly at Elias. The inside is fairly full: seniors from our school and other schools talking and dancing. Elias leads the girls outside. Everyone looks up but only Clark is brave (or drunk) enough to say what is now on everyone’s mind: “Holy shit! Gloria is at a party? Ms. Valedictorian is here?!” The addition of several I’s, A’s and N’s in “valedictorian” confirms to everyone that Clark is drunk.
“Yes, I am here,” says Gloria coolly. “This is history in the making. Cement it in your memory, or right next to my picture in your yearbook. Take your pick.” Everyone laughs; Elias hands Gloria and her friends a beer. The eyes of many are still on Gloria as she sips from her can. Her presence was a distraction; the recluse had emerged from somewhere unfamiliar to her peers. They knew something was different. But what?
“It’s her look,” said Penelope Jones (the school’s cheer captain) to Jane Smith (the school’s co-captain and Jones’ gossiping cohort). “The black boots, the charcoal black pants, the band t-shirt (it’s the album art for Sonic Youth’s Goo), the red lipstick, the hair down and no glasses. She cleans up well,” evaluated Penelope.
Gloria was unaware of the eyes watching her every move. She was only focused on one person: Elias. Of course she found Elias handsome: semi-long black and straight hair, hazel eyes, a semi-muscular build and dime-sized gages. But she always enjoyed their conversations, whether they be amusing (“Who do you think Madonna preferred kissing more? Britney or Christina?”) or mundane (“Fuck this invasion of Iraq.”).
Tonight’s topic: “Have you ever thought what comes after this? What comes after high school,” Elias asked Gloria. Gloria, who drank her beer quickly (and was requesting another) turned to Elias in a surprised manner. Did Elias know? Was his intuition that great? Am I only thinking like this because I’m drunk? Am I drunk? I might be drunk. Whatever.
Outward, Gloria kept her cool. “I actually thought about this before I came here,” she responded. “Ideally, success will come after this. A life of happiness and prosperity. The stuff people usually want, you know?” She must have said something correct; Eleanor handed Gloria another cup of beer while making a “ding” noise.
Elias laughed. “Honestly, I’m a little bit scared. I mean, the real world is a horrible fucking way of describing this next part of our lives. But whatever it is, I’m actually nervous about it.”
“Me too,” replied Gloria. “Me too.” Before the two could continue Clark and his “fuck of the week,” a girl by the name of Jamie Ross (supposedly a first-year college student), asked them if they wanted to play beer pong. “Are you game, Elias,” teased Clark. “Sure. Just hope you’re ready to get that ass whooped,” responded Elias confidently. Elias grabbed Gloria’s hand and followed Clark and Jamie inside to the kitchen.
After this the rest of the night became a blur for Gloria. According to Lily, the most sober between Gloria and Eleanor (and probably the most sober person at the party), Gloria did the following in no particular order: lost to Clark and Jamie at beer pong (who becomes a beer pong MVP after drinking the “right” amount, apparently), snatched a cigarette from Eleanor, kissed Elias, drank eight beers, told the DJ to put on some song by some band named the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs,” kissed Elias and almost threw up in Lily’s car.
Of course pictures would end up on someone’s Myspace some time today. And conversation of Gloria’s night would be retold and discussed through hazy memories. But Gloria wasn’t worried about that. And even if she was, the early symptoms of a hangover would serve as a distraction.
“But did you have fun though,” asked Eleanor, handing Gloria a cup of water.
Too weak to talk, Gloria motioned her head back and forth, which only added to the pain in her head.
The world is a fucking hangover waiting to happen. The thought made her laugh.
It was a laugh like none she had before. A painful and joyful laugh. A real laugh.
BY ANDREW UZENDOSKI
Sometime between Everclear and the Decemberists, Jeff Hartnett booked concerts for various regional record labels throughout the northwestern United States. A couple of the labels are still around, but I don’t think he has promoted anything since an ill-fated Dwarves tour in the mid 2000’s. These days he mostly distributes wine to regional Costcos. In his off time, he curates his Portland home as an archive of orphaned, out-of-print, mid 90’s college rock CD and Vinyl catalogs, the forgotten cousins of the Silver Jews and Yo La Tengo. But he still sleeps with baristas and bike mechanics — an indie rock pension of sorts — which, I guess, includes me.
Jeff insists he still has contacts. This spring he convinced me to let him book a tour of the “Northwest,” my first solo tour as Hannah Cass, while skipping Washington and Oregon completely. My Facebook bio says that I am a steward of a supposed Northern Pacific coast tradition of folk singers spawned by punk parents. Somehow, Jeff says, it sounds more punk than “punk rockers spawned by folk parents.” (I guess by being less accurate.) So Jeff and I embarked on our GREAT MIDNORTHWEST TOUR OF AMERICA: Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, and then back around through Omaha, Denver, and Salt Lake City.
The long flat stretch from the city limits of Billings to a couple hills just above Fargo must be the worst straight line that the Federal government ever commissioned. At least the desolate stretches between Nebraska and Nebraska have Bruce Springsteen songs named after them and the occasional large boulder to look at towards the west. But on Interstate-94, you drive through — not past or around or underneath — but right through Theodore Roosevelt National Park and you don’t see a thing. Not one tree. Not one, I don’t know, prairie dog or prairie dog hole. Not even one stump. You just see a sign off of I-94 that says “Welcome to Theodore Roosevelt National Park” and a few mounds of rolled up soil. That’s it — and a national park passes by your window somewhere behind junior glaciers of dirt.
But we didn’t make it to Denver. Not even Bismarck.
A series of knocks against our car woke us up early in the morning after our show in Dickinson, North Dakota. We had slept in the parking lot of “Legends of the North” the venue we played the night before. It was billed as the premier hole-in-the-wall bar on the outer margins of the Bakken Shale oil reserves. The knocking was all in stereo: multiple fists against both passenger’s side and driver’s side windows.
“Don’t move,” a man directed at us from outside the car. He repeated the words: “Don’t move.”
Jeff was sleeping behind the driver’s while I was lying in the back, my legs curled beneath his reclined seat. My face was buried in the crease of the back seat, avoiding the sun’s early morning bleach.
“Who’s there?” I asked into the crease.
“I said don’t move,” the man said again, POLICEMANlike in his agitated patient repetition of authority. “Do not move.”
I remained there with my head buried in the seat when I heard the driver’s door open and Jeff was forced out. I then felt the reverberations of his body pressed against the outside frame of the car. Finally the back door on the opposite side of the car opened and the voice asked me to show him my hands and then exit the car.
There were half a dozen policemen in the parking lot. A couple of them had Jeff’s body splayed against the side of the car while a few others searched the car. POLICEMAN, the one who had been doing all the “do not move” talking, was standing next to me.
“So, what was he planning on doing with that gun?” He asked with his hand was on my back. He was looking at me as I looked through the passenger side window at a gun lying naked on the seat. POLICEMAN explained that some old man had called the Dickinson police department to report a suspicious car outside of “Legends of the North” with a man sleeping inside of it with a gun. The gun was usually out of sight — in the glove compartment or underneath the seat or in the trunk — but on nights where we couldn’t find accommodations, Jeff kept it close to him while we slept in the car.
Jeff looked over at me from above the car’s top as a policeman interrogated the lower half of his body. “It was for protection,” I answered.
POLICEMAN walked me into “Legends of the North,” not more than seven hours after I finished my set last night. Apparently they served breakfast as well as beer. He offered me a seat at the bar, where he instructed me to remain patiently. POLICEMAN said they would likely have to take Jeff back to the department and hold him at least for the night. No permit, carrying a gun in public, some other minor offenses. But we might still be able to work something out, he added as he left me at the bar.
The bar was almost completely empty.
“He’s going to ask you to fuck him when he get’s back.” I looked up at the bartender. She was the same one who was working behind the bar during our show last night. “But maybe you’ll just have to suck him off.”
She didn’t need to put it in writing for me, not this early in the morning.
“What, do you sleep here in the back of the bar?” was all I could say in response. I ascribed her unsolicited assessment of my POLICEMAN situation to lazy provincialism and an off-white tank top worn three days in a row.
“You should know how things work here,” she countered. “Most of the local cops left the department to work for the gas companies. And now we’re stuck with Frank.”
“And I sleep in the Green Room.”
The “Green Room” at “Legends of the North” was the back seat torn out of a Dodge van placed in a storage room full of discarded kegs and milk crates.
“You sleep in a closet.”
“I painted it green.”
So I drank the rest of my coffee to fill the silence. She refilled my cup.
“Do you sleep here every night? Or just on doubles?”
“My Dad rents my room out to a pair of Oklahoma state graduates working for the gas company.”
“Does he share your cut?”
She shook her head. I thought about gulping down another gulp.
“Did you at least like my set last night?” I offered.
“I don’t know. I didn’t hear much over bar. What style was it?”
“You know, punk folk…folker rock…gypsy folk rock.” God, that last one sounded horrible out loud. For some reason it looked better on Facebook.
“Yeah, we don’t get gypsy folker much around here.” She said, paused, and then pointed across the room to the only other patron in the bar that morning. “That’s the man over there that called the gun in. Said the gun was just sitting on the seat, the man completely passed out. The cop cars scared the rest of our customers away this morning.”
“Thanks, old man,” I yelled across the room. He only looked me in the eye for half a second and then returned to reading whatever looked like what the Dickinson local paper of record would look like.
FRANKTHEPOLICEMAN reentered “Legends of the North” and sat back down beside me. He brought Jeff with him. “How’s the morning, Miranda? Sorry about the commotion. I’ll tell the boys to tip you extra well today.”
Then he turned to me. He took his time setting the stage for his proposal. FRANKTHEPOLICEMAN pushed a spare set of silverware aside and placed his badge on the counter. “Mr. Hartnett says you might be willing to make a deal,” He said while nodding to Jeff.
Jeff was staring at a coffee mug that Miranda had instantaneously instinctively poured for him.
He gripped the coffee cup without bringing it to his lips. I couldn’t bear to read the font happily brightly spread diagonally on the cup’s side. Welcome to Dickinson! Or Theodore Roosevelt Park! The World’s Largest Fracking Nature Reserve!
“It’s up to you,” is all Jeff said.
“I’ve got a room in the back,” FRANKTHEPOLICEMAN eagerly added. The Green Room.
“I don’t think sucking him off is going to do it this time,” Miranda said, prompting FRANKIEPOLICEMAN to pound his fist on the table while the old man in the corner kept reading his paper.
FRANKIEPOLICEMAN looked between Miranda and I: “Look, we risk our lives here everyday. I had a friend, John — Miranda, you remember John Larsson, right? He got hit by a drunk driver last month while giving a ticket to a snowmobiler. A fucking drunk snowmobiler. He was standing there in the snow writing that ticket when — bam — out of nowhere, get sideswiped by a pick-up truck. The drunk snowmobiler had to call the fucking thing in. He had two kids, John that is…not the snowmobiler…we didn’t have to time arrest him…All I’m saying is I’m willing to let this minor offence slide, but we got to work something out…Look, the other day I got a fucking knife pulled on me over at the Terminal Bar. No, it was two fucking knives!…all I’m saying is we could handle this like a couple of decent human beings.”
If there was any logic at all to his monologue, FRANKTHEPOLICEMAN was the only of us that knew it.
I turned back to Jeff, who just his line to repeated himself: “It’s all up to you.”
Over breakfast the following morning at “Legends of the North”, Jeff and I were back at the counter bar. A young man refilled our coffees for what must have been the fourth time.
Jeff had been almost completely silent the whole morning, beginning with the ride from police department back to the bar. He was waiting to say something, but he had never known how to ask questions.
“Did you have to sell the car for bail? Did you really have to sell my fucking car?”
“You needed two grand for bail. How else were you planning on paying it?”
After breakfast, I gave him his bus ticket as I walked out of the bar. Miranda would have more than enough time to make it to Portland in her new car and load up more than a few trunks full of valuables from Jeff’s dead Indie Music emporium.
BY JONAH BROMWICH
The prospect of missing anything makes me nervous. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to miss a single one of the previews at the movies, who gets to the airport with more than an hour to spare.
We were supposed to go uptown, to see one of my friends who was visiting. She was a difficult friend, the kind who wanted everyone to work on her terms, despite being a guest in town. So I was kind of nervous about seeing her and I was happy that John was already at my house. Our natural inclinations would counteract each other and we would get there on time and Jess wouldn’t throw a shit-fit and would be her best, most fun self. And everybody would be impressed because my boyfriend really was the cutest. A good night was ahead.
He was still napping when I got up to get ready and I shook him awake, made sure he was speaking in complete sentences.
“John! You’re up, right?”
“You need to get up, we’ve got to go in like twenty minutes.”
“I am going to start tickling you and will not stop until you say, ‘yes, I am up.’”
Potent threat. He sat up in bed, green eyes wide open, though partially concealed by his hair. “Yes, I am up.” He was enunciating clearly. Satisfied, I went to go get ready in the bathroom. He appeared to still be sitting up when I snuck a glance at him from the angled bathroom mirror where I was doing my makeup.
My phone buzzed. Get REady NY, IM HERE!!!!
A text like that meant: get to 93rd street now. I decided to forgo mascara and ran back into the bedroom.
John was still sitting up in bed, naked. He had fallen asleep.
“Never let anyone say you don’t have your talents,” I muttered. Then I yelled his name.
He came to again. “I was up!”
This was so annoying. Maybe I hadn’t warned him that I was going to be stressed, but I clearly was.
“John, I’ve told you about Jess. I really want to have fun tonight and it won’t be if she’s pissed. Could
you please get ready? Like, now?
“Ok lady.” He was making a cloying effort to be cute now. Without moving his lower body he leaned over the bed and rustled through his backpack and grabbed a T-shirt and pulled it on.
“Absolutely not,” I said.
The T-shirt was neon yellow. It said LEAVE ME ALONE in large block letters.
“This is my lucky shirt.”
“It’s not lucky to put that kind of energy out into the world.”
He smiled at me. “You’re sexy when you’re mad.”
Shut up, I hate you, I said in my head. “You really think so?”
Twenty-five minutes later I had missed five texts from Jess. The last two just contained ellipses.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, she is so mad at me,” I said, hustling back into my clothes. “Do you have any other shirts? What about the one you wore over here?”
He held up the undershirt that he had been wearing when he had arrived. It had yellowish stains in the pits and pen doodles on the cuff of one sleeve. I put it to the jury: At what age is it still appropriate for an adult man to doodle on his shirtsleeves?
“I’ll raid Ryan’s room, I said. “Brush your teeth.”
“Don’t tell me what to do,” he said, in a monotone, picking at his teeth absentmindedly.”
“Sry, coming now!” I texted Jess. “#slowboyfriendissues”
Ryan, my roommate, liked to keep his clothes on the floor of his room. He had exactly one (1) button-down hanging in his closet. It was a pink American Eagle shirt.
“I don’t wear shirts with logos,” John said, when I tossed it at him.
“Since when do you take a stance on anything?”
He didn’t answer.
“Fine. You know what, I’m leaving. Feel free to stay here, or whatever. I don’t care.” I was glad I hadn’t put on mascara. It would have been dangerously close to running at this point, given how close I was to angry tears. The last thing I needed was to look like some deranged starlet, though at least it would grant credence to my hashtag once I showed uptown. The only thing that could satiate Jess’s anger was drama—if I appeared upset, she’d get to be angry on my behalf.
John had gotten up from bed, and had found some jeans. He passed me on the way to the bathroom, holding the shirt in front of him like an alien specimen. He closed the door behind him and I spent thirty seconds deliberating about whether or not to leave, before he called from the bathroom. “Hey!” he said. The door opened. “I look pretty good in pink.”
Ugh, he fucking did. Even in wrinkled pink, with a stupid eagle logo. Shit.
I think that when you’re happy with someone, there should always be a fear of loss, that fear that they might break up with you. If that’s gone, then maybe you should start thinking about breaking up with them. After a few months I had quit worrying that John was going to break up with me. He would never do anything that strenuous. I had thought about breaking up with him half a hundred times since that revelation.
I didn’t talk to him in the cab, because I was worried that I would just scream gibberish at him. I just stared at the little tv, as if I had never beheld the wonders of NBC programming. He didn’t seem to take the silent treatment as a sign that anything was amiss; at one point, he looked like he was about to drift off again but I whacked him in the stomach with the back of my hand before that could happen. He muttered a protest but I ignored him.
When we got uptown, Jess was already too drunk to be mad. She threw herself at me when I walked into the apartment. This was acceptable behavior when we were eight years old, but Jess was like 5’10 now. I was already trying to recover from six flights of stairs, though I’ll admit that pounding up them had been a good outlet for my anger. But Jess’s body was an almost insurmountable setback for my lungs. Her dyed black hair whipped me in the face.
John appeared in the doorway. He had not hurried up the stairs. I wondered momentarily how he had known which apartment to go to.
I was still panting and Jess was still clinging to me. “Jess, this is John.”
“Hiyee John,” she sang without actually looking at him.
“Hey,” he said.
“Oh my god, so glad you guys are finally here! Come meet everyone!”
I was still waiting for that moment when Jess would take a good look at John, but she had already raced back into the main room, to hug some of her other friends and take more shots and be loud. (Jess and I were old camp amigas and I didn’t know her other friends at all.)
I had been relying on John taking Jess’s attention. Her being infatuated with him. Me getting to preen while my pretty friend admired the best looking guy I had ever been with. The whole night was supposed to just be me relaxing, smiling and impressing everyone in sight.
I turned to my left to say something to John, (something funny? something cutting?) but he had left. I found him rooting through the refrigerator, in the kitchen. The kitchen, where no one else was, in a stranger’s house.
“There’s beer in the living room,” I said. “Come on, let’s go meet Jess’s friends—I think there are some guys watching basketball in there.”
“Not looking for beer.”
“What are you looking for then?”
“Food. I haven’t eaten today.”
I swear, I’m not a dramatic person. I try not to let my being uptight affect people. And I haven’t lost my temper since Darren McFadden pulled down my skirt in front of everyone in seventh grade. Or at least I hadn’t.
“You can’t do that,” I said.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” he said.
“Get the fuck out of here,” I said.
“What did you say?”
I heard the chatter in the other room die, as the person who was also me who existed outside my body watched the person in my body shriek at my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. Caps lock is so undignified, but it went sort of like this: “GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE. GET OUT. GET OUT. OUT.”
“Jesus,” he said. “Calm down. You’re embarrassing yourself.”
I was out of breath again. “No,” I hissed. “No. You’re embarrassing me. Just leave.”
“Fine,” he said. “I don’t like basketball anyway.” He left the kitchen, trying feebly to conceal a hunk of cheddar cheese against his stupid pink shirt.
A couple of Jess’s friends had gathered at the door of the kitchen. They were wearing blank expressions and a lot of make-up. I could see Jess looming behind them, looking shocked. “Poor guy just sleepwalked into that one,” one of them said, and they all laughed, but they stopped laughing when I turned to stare at them. They were obviously scared of me. I smiled, enjoying my brief role as someone totally unhinged and I walked out of the apartment, waiting until I couldn’t hear John’s footsteps anymore before I started back down the stairs.
BY ANDREW WINISTORFER
When I was a senior in high school, this sophomore got dumped by his girlfriend. He was pretty broken up about it. He was probably punching above his weight class — she was way hotter than him — and after he tried for a few weeks to get her back, he decided his life was on the downward slope. So he got his dad’s gun, and shot himself in the mouth. But the gun bucked, and he ended up blowing off half of his cheek.
He was in the hospital for two months, and after he got plastic surgery, he ended up coming back to school like nothing happened. It was really weird; he was like a celebrity. The cynical amongst us wondered how much of a fuckup you could be to shoot yourself square in the mouth and miss. He carried himself in a weird way; he sort of seemed like a ghost. A dude who should have been dead was alive, taking English 3.
But here’s the thing; this guy’s girlfriend took him back. She felt so bad for him, she gave him another chance. And according to my Facebook timeline, he is married to this woman now and they have kids. This guy got everything he wanted by trying to kill himself. It was maybe the most successful message of his life. She understood how sad he was, and how much she meant to him, and he got everything he wanted. And that seems fucked up and unfair to me for some reason.
Why does it seem fucked up? That seems like a really sad story to me.
It is kind of sad I guess. But that kid won in the end. He got everything he wanted by taking a gun and shooting himself. Life shouldn’t work out that way. It doesn’t seem right somehow.
Because of what happened the year before.
When I was a junior, there was this kid in my class who wanted nothing more than to be accepted into the “popular” kid clique. Circa 2003 — which is when Fever To Tell came out, coincidentally — this meant wearing Hollister and going to Homecoming with a cheerleader. It’s all that kid wanted; he followed the popular kids around, he carpet-bombed the cheerleaders with date requests, and he wore his one Hollister shirt all the time. But nothing he tried worked and he was rejected daily; I remember seeing the star basketball player call him a bitch in front of like 200 people in the commons. It was brutal.
So this kid went home one day after getting rejected for the millionth time, and decided his life was on the downward slope. He took his dad’s gun and shot himself in the mouth. Unlike the other kid, he didn’t miss. He didn’t live, and the cheerleader didn’t go with him to Prom. The principal announced it on the announcements the next day like it was part of the lunch menu.
But the weird thing was that when the school found out, all the kids that didn’t give him the time of day when he was alive claimed he was a “really great guy” and “it hurt so bad” to know he was gone. They had an assembly where kids could go talk about him and “get out the feelings,” and it turned into how all of those people were affected by him killing himself. No one mentioned how the kid was picked on daily, and how he got made fun of for wearing the same Hollister shirt everyday. They acted like they knew him, accepted him, and were his dearest friends.
So, his message—that you people have made me miserable and there is no other option for me than to kill myself, and that he was lonely and didn’t think his life could go anywhere—was a failure. He tried so hard to make them understand in the end, and all they did was make sure people saw them cry in public. That kid’s life was a real tragedy, and no one noticed.
Why did that kid fail so miserably? He was unlucky in life, and he was unlucky in death. His suicide made me think that no matter how hard you try, people are never going to understand you the way you want them to. The medium can be the direct message, and people will still fail to understand you.
But then this other kid is out here, living a seemingly happy life, married to a woman he killed himself over. I don’t know the connection between them, but I feel like there’s something there, you know?