since i'm back to dealing with fucking literary agents after taking about 4 months off from whoring myself out, i figure i'd let you guys read the YA Novels too. so i'll be updating this first with the Hipsters and then with Slide Away.
It began because I was lonely.
They were both across the bar. Calvin was waving frantically for me to join them. His face was almost orgasmic. The thin blonde next to him looked both amused and frightened at her situation. But she was beautiful. She was youthful with fair skin, an elegantly pointed chin and nose, and blue eyes. Amanda Evarts. I knew her by reputation. She had been Calvin’s outright obsession for nearly a year. I mean he always talked about her, and in an epic manner. Amanda this. Amanda that. Amanda slew dragons. Amanda slew men. She peaked Everest, and still had time to turn on all the guys in the break room. Amanda Evarts was Calvin’s grand muse. I wish I had one of her for myself.
But there were no other girls for me at that moment in my life. School was done, and I’d pretty much used up whatever girl-chasing time I had on Sarah Browne. Three wasted years. But then she dumped me right after graduation. She said she wanted a clean slate for when she went to college. Sarah said she wasn’t actually sure she loved me at all. Nice. The fact depressed me a little, just a little. Anyway, I put on the last remaining shreds of my charm and winning smile, and got ready to walk over and join Calvin and the waiting girl.
“Javorski! Hey, Javorski!”
I looked toward the bar, and Noah was standing there staring at me. He was leaning over the bar with his long, thin hands outstretched. He looked kind of pissed. I guess I should tell a little something about Noah. Noah was older than anyone I hung around with. He was twenty-one, and when he wasn’t bartending at the Cage, Noah could be found fronting about three different bands in Pittsburgh. His primary band was this real avant-garde group call The Constructivists. I didn’t like their music very much. Sarah always said that it was too cerebral. I just thought it was noise. Noah was sort of the God of the hipster scene, this class of intellectuals and artists that lived in this commune of stone cottages in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. Noah was also a Philosophy major at Pitt, and he had a minor in English Writing. Noah had brooding good looks, blonde jagged hair and piercing blue eyes. He was rail thin, and his shows brought down a Pittsburgh house.
Anyway, I met Noah through my buddy, Karl Rudolph. Karl and I both worked at the library, and he was the drummer in The Constructivists and in about ten other bands. Karl was a hipster too. He was always at rock shows and art openings. He knew the best and brightest bands, and he knew the best bars to go to. Karl was pretty cool, but he wasn’t as cool as Noah. Frankly, I don’t know why Karl or Noah liked me or kept me around. They were unlike any of my other friends. My friends were plain and dull. They could talk about nothing but baseball and football, and girls. Karl said they liked me because I was a pretty good writer. I wrote poems that I never showed to anyone but Karl...and then Noah. Noah said he liked me because I was tan and broad and looked like a running back. He said it was because I didn’t look like anyone else in their “pretty little scene” of pasty, thin guys and emaciated girls with thick glasses and tongues full of ironic wit. He said, I added color and a certain level of balance to the scene.
“Oh...hey Noah,” I said.
“Do you know those kids?” Noah pointed over to Calvin and Amanda.
“Did you tell them to meet you here?”
“Yeah. Is that a problem?”
He laughed. “Yes. They’re underage. You’re underage.”
“I didn’t know...I...I just thought.”
“Come here, Alex,” Noah said. I went over to the bar, and he leaned in close with those piercing eyes. “I let you and Karl drink in here underage, get it?”
I nodded. “What should I do with my friends tonight?”
Noah backed away from the bar and looked over at my table. “The blonde is pretty cute. Tell you what, Javorski. I’m going to pour you guys a pitcher of Iron. One pitcher. You’re gonna give those kids the rock star treatment tonight, and then I don’t want to see them back in here until they’re twenty-one. Are we cool on that?”
“Yes,” I answered, thinking Noah was the greatest guy in the world for going out on a limb for me, yet again.
He got me the pitcher and three mugs. “Here you go.”
I took the pitcher. “I owe you one.”
“You owe me a lot, Javorski, but you can make it up to me by coming down to The Constructivists show at the 31st Street Pub. It’s an all-ages show, but we can probably get around it.”
“Oh, and Javorski. I read those new poems. Good shit, man. You’re very plain spoken, like Bukowski or Robinson Jeffers.”
“Jeffers. I’ll let you borrow some of him when I see you on Thursday.”
“I’d like that,” I said.
Then Noah shooed me toward Calvin and Amanda. “Don’t keep your little blonde waiting.”
My little blonde.
I went over to the table and sat down. Calvin was rambling on boastfully to Amanda Evarts without even introducing the two of us. I was used to it. Calvin was my best friend, but he was absent-minded most of the time. I’d known him since we were nine-years-old, and Calvin was never altogether there. He was sort of on to the next thing, before he finished the last thing. That’s why his parents used to hop him up on ADD meds. So I let Calvin talk to Amanda, and I poured us all a beer then fixed my gaze on a lackluster Pirate’s game playing above the bar on a cattycornered television set. I watched Noah flirt with a set of hipster chicks at the bar. They were drinking these dark lagers and running back and forth to the jukebox. Then Amanda got up.
“Amanda Evarts.” She extended her hand.
“Alex Javorski.” We shook.
“Oh jeez! I’m sorry!” Calvin shouted, fumbling all over himself. “Alex, Amanda. Amanda, Alex.”
“We’ve met,” I said.
Amanda laughed softly. She had a light weariness in her eyes that made them look humble and tired.
Amanda’s going to the university, too,” Calvin said.
“You look about fourteen,” I said to her.
“How do you like this place?”
“It’s all right.” Amanda looked around the Cage. He eyes fixed on Noah and the set of hipster chicks. “You come in here a lot?”
I pointed toward the bar. “When Noah lets me. It beats going to a mall, or some pointless Starbucks.”
“This doesn’t seem like your kinda bar,” Amanda said.
I had to laugh at that. “How would you know what kind of bar I’d go to?”
“I wouldn’t. But those people, over there, don’t seem like you. There all, like, heroin-chic, like strung-out looking.” Amanda suddenly got flustered. “I mean I don’t know. Maybe you do go to these bars. I don’t know a thing about you.”
“I think Amanda’s just trying to say you look kinda straight-laced for this bar,” Calvin interrupted. “We all do, you know?”
“I know what I mean,” Amanda snapped.
“Sorry. I was just tryin’ to explain.”
“Well, I don’t need anyone explaining anything for...”
“Guys,” I broke in. “It’s cool. I come here because I’m a friend of the bartender. But it doesn’t matter.” I pushed new mugs of beer toward them. “Come on, let’s drink!”
They grabbed their mugs. Peace was restored. Calvin started talking about baseball and I listened to him, but I mostly stared at Amanda Evarts. She was looking at me a little bit, too. Amanda really was beautiful. I’d heard a lot about her from Calvin, about how smart she was, how sarcastic and slick Amanda Evarts could be. Calvin was practically in love with her, but was reluctant to do anything because Amanda was the evening and weekend secretary at Roadwise, the trucking company his dad co-owned with Steve Scanlon’s dad. Cal said dating Amanda would be a conflict of interest, especially now that he was working in the warehouse. To hell with conflicts of interest, I thought. If Amanda Evarts wanted me, I wouldn’t let much get in the way. But I think that’s about where Calvin was at this point.
“Amanda is going to be a math major,” Calvin said out of nowhere. His voice woke me from me a drooling stupor. Amanda seemed jarred too.
“I never got on with math,” I answered.
“What does any of that matter?” Calvin asked, laughing. “I was just trying to start up another conversation.”
He took a generous pull on his beer, and looked toward the Pirate’s game. Amanda kept her eyes on me, and I kept mine on her. Christ, there we were, flirting, kind of, right underneath my friend’s nose. Nothing could come of it, though, because Cal and I were so tight. It was kind of funny, really. I mean this sort of romantic thing happened in the movies or on television, in tangled dramas or stupid high school comedies, or whatever. It didn’t happen in a bar in Pittsburgh where three underage people shouldn’t be in the first place. Then I felt someone’s feet rub my leg. Yeah, it could’ve been Calvin, but they were bare feet and Calvin never joked about anything that could be construed as possibly homosexual. He also wasn’t wearing a smile like the one Amanda Evarts was wearing. It was my cue to exit the Cage for a moment.
“I need a pack of smokes. Do you guys need anything?” I said. But then I got up and left without waiting for them to answer me.
I was out there a minute, having a smoke, when Noah opened the Cage’s door.
“You okay, Big Al?” he asked.
“Yeah. I’m just blowing off some steam,” I said.
“That blonde’s got you good, right?”
“Shut up, man. My friend is in love with her.”
Noah nodded and lit a smoke. “Love is fleeting,” he said. Then he went back into the bar.
Calvin was alone at our table, when I re-entered the Cage. He looked haggard. Amanda was doing him in little by little, just like she’d started working on me. But poor Cal was farther along this path. I looked at my friend. He looked old and tired. Calvin was already losing his hair. He had bags under his eyes, and he had this pencil-thin moustache, the kind that old men wore. Amanda was too good-looking a girl to put up with all of that. He had to know he was batting out of his league. And despite her indiscretion and groping of my leg, Calvin and I both had to realize that we were a couple of lucky fools to even be sitting at a table with the likes of Amanda Evarts in the first place. But I had to hand it to him. He was still upright and conscious. He was still a fighter, and he’d let this chick burn him before he’d give up.
“Where’s Amanda?” I asked
“She went to the bathroom.” Calvin was playing with a drink coaster and watching the Pirate’s game. He took a long drink on his beer then set it down, hard and empty, on the glossed wood of the bar. “Alex, do you think I got a chance with her?”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?”
“She seems to really like you already.”
“She doesn’t know me.”
“I guess not.” Cal turned and fixed his gaze back toward a hallway. It led to the bathrooms. “She was asking about you when you went outside.”
“That’s just curiosity.”
“You see her almost everyday,” I said.
“That could be a good or bad thing.”
“She came here with you.”
“Yeah, because I promised her beer in a bar. What teenager wouldn’t come along?”
“Girls are different,” I said. I was running out of options. Truthfully, there weren’t really any options to run out of. “Girls don’t go out with guys that they don’t like.”
Calvin turned back to me as soon as the bathroom door swung open. “Amanda sort of makes a habit out of doing that.”
“Well, then let’s break her habit,” I said. “Be funny or something.”
Amanda sauntered back to our table. She sat with us for another hour, sipping on her beer, and laughing as I played awkward straight man to Calvin’s grating jokes. It was my favor to him, because he didn’t really have much of a hand for humor. Amanda asked me a lot of questions, though, whenever Calvin got silent. It was awkward because she’d hardly said a word to my lovesick friend. But that wasn’t my fault. Was it? I mean I tried my best to brush off Amanda’s queries about my life and interests. I tried to be dark and brooding, like Karl or Noah thought I was, but it seemed to turn her on even more. How was I supposed to know that she liked guys like that?
So then I opened up. Talking to Amanda was torture and bliss all at once. It was a sad science experiment into the division between temptation and loyalty. It didn’t help that Calvin eventually chose to become a mute. He said nothing. He just gave up. Someone had to talk to the chattering blonde, right? Someone had to keep the night going. If you don’t talk to a woman like Amanda Evarts, or make her laugh, then you might as well dry up inside. I was doing it to light a fire under Calvin’s ass. I kept thinking talk to her, Cal. Talk to her. I didn’t want him to fall away from his goal, and wilt. But talking to Amanda Evarts made me realize that I wasn’t quite ready to shrivel either.
I said goodbye to Noah, and he winked at me, smiling at Amanda as we left the Cage. Outside in the night, I stumbled behind Calvin as he walked her to her car. I tried to keep my distance to let them have some space. I thought I was doing the right thing by my friend. But she continuously looked back to include me in their conversations. Although I wanted to keep talking to the girl, humility and thoughts about the damage I might have caused overtook me, and I feigned ignorance. I faked a pre-mature and sudden deafness. I walked slower. It did no good. By the time we reached Amanda’s car we were an uncomfortable chain of three people, chattering away in the Pittsburgh night.
“So, what are you guys doing tomorrow night?” she asked.
“We’re all going down to the Metro,” Calvin answered for us. I gave him a look. He shrugged. I shrugged. “You should come down with us.”
There you go, Calvin.
“An under twenty-one club seems a step down after a night in a bar, doesn’t it?”
“The Metro is fun.”
“I’ve been to the Metro before.”
Amanda looked at me. “Don’t you find the Metro to be a step-down, Alex?”
“I’m not much for clubs.”
“Not much for clubs, not much for math. What do you like?”
“Robinson Jeffers,” I answered.
“Didn’t he play for the Orioles?” Calvin asked.
“He’s a poet,” I said.
Amanda smiled. “You should read him to me sometime.”
“Are you sure he didn’t play for the Orioles?” Calvin asked again.
“Anyway,” Amanda interrupted, “you’re coming tomorrow night, right?”
“I’ll be there,” I said.
I looked at Calvin. I don’t know why. He looked sour. He looked even more tired and defeated. He kept his gaze on the ugly pavement. Amanda hugged him lazily, and she and I hugged. We held on too long for good taste. Then she got in her car and rode off into the night, as if straining friendships was par for the course on a Friday. Calvin and I went over to his Mini Coop without a word. But drama hung between us as sure as Amanda Evart’s blue eyes. I felt guilty and full of myself. I’d fractured something that Calvin had worked so hard for, and I wasn’t even really sorry, if I had to admit it. I was under Amanda Evart’s spell now, too.
“Are you sure that I got a shot with her?” Calvin finally said.
“I’m surer than I was the first time you asked me,” I answered. “If you take the chance and ask her out I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
“She seems to really like you a lot, you know?”
“I’m new blood,” I said. “She probably forgot me already.”
“I think Amanda just wants to be friends with me.”
“Most of them only want to be friends.”
“But you think I have a chance, right?”
“Cal, make me a promise and don’t worry about any of this until tomorrow night. Then get Amanda out onto the dance floor, and woo the pants off of her.”
“I think I can do that.”
“I know you can.”
We shook hands kindly, our fractured friendship restored. Calvin got in his car and pushed it out and down Forbes Avenue, until he was a faint blur of red light and bass. I stood in the quiet of the night and had another cigarette, and thought an awful lot about Amanda Evarts. Then I went back inside the Cage and sat at the bar, until Noah pulled himself away from his pack of hipster girls and came down to me.
“Can I have a draft of Iron?” I said.
“You’re pushing your luck tonight, Big Al,” Noah said. But he got me the draft anyway. “Say, who was that guy?”
“That’s Calvin DeFlino. He’s an old friend of mine.”
“Funny, he doesn’t look like someone you’d hang out with.”
I laughed. “I think I’m in between my taste in people these days.”
“But that girl,” Noah said, letting his sentence hang.
“That’s a dangerous name. She seems to like you.”
“You could tell that from over here?”
“Who couldn’t tell she liked you? It’s gonna get rough for you, Big Al, if you keep hanging around that duo.”
“I’m seeing her tomorrow night.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“Well, I’m going to sit here and have this beer while you tell me everything there is to know about Robinson Jeffers.”
“That could take all night.”
“That’s cool. I’ll just have to break curfew.”
“Curfew? What an archaic concept.”
I had a pull on my draft. “Just start talking, barkeep.”