Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hipsters Chapter 7


The next evening I was sitting in my bedroom. The house was empty except for me and the cat. My dad was still at work. My mom was either off volunteering here or volunteering there. Or she was out with friends. They were probably drinking white wine and bitching about living in Squirrel Hill and having husbands who worked late, and kids that never came out of their rooms. I was eating another pre-packaged dinner. It was eggplant parm this time. I was eating it and missing the home cooked smells of our house back when I was younger. I was sitting at my computer too. There was a blank Microsoft Word page staring me in the face. I was trying to play writer again, except I had nothing to say about anything. I didn’t want to be any kind of artist in that moment. I just wanted to be what Amanda Evarts wanted me to be. Then I heard Calvin’s car roll up the street and his crappy rap music assaulted the evening air.

“Amanda left a message for me,” Calvin began, when I got in the car. “She wanted me to call you and for us to get together tonight.”

“Come again?”

“Amanda wants to hang out with us. She told me to call you and see what you’re doing tonight.”

“Did you see her today?”

Calvin shrugged. “Briefly. I’m not too cool with Amanda right now because she blew me off last night, and I had to eat it on both Pirates tickets.”

“Sorry about mine.”

“It’s okay. At least you were up front and said you weren’t coming. But Amanda was all down with the game from the start, you know?”

“She probably had woman problems.”

“How’d you know?”

“Lucky guess.”

“Anyway, me and Steve tried calling you last night, but we couldn’t get through.”

“I had my phone off.”


I pictured Amanda moaning beneath me, as our lips and bodies touched. “I just had a long day at the library, and I was sort of done talking to people when I got home.”



Then Calvin and I grew silent. Just tell him, Javorski. But something held me back. I was scared. Calvin wasn’t an intimidating guy or anything, so I wasn’t worried about him acting out against me. Well, at least I wasn’t worried about being able to defend myself. I just didn’t want to have to. I looked at my old friend, as he drove down Phillips. Poor Calvin whom I’d known since nine years old, who was the only other kid on the playground still into baseball cards. Poor Calvin DeFlino who was so hapless with girls even though his family had money and a nice house in Shadyside. Poor Calvin who was thin and going bald at eighteen, who was in love with Amanda Evarts, a girl I’d practically seen naked in less than a week of knowing her.
And what was Amanda’s deal anyway? She had no right calling Calvin. Telling him was my deal. Setting things up was my operation. Something about Amanda calling Calvin made me not trust her so much in that moment. But I knew, even sitting there, that once this was all over and I came home and called Amanda and told her that the deed was done, she’d come over to my house. She’d come to my bedroom. And I’d be her slave again for as long as she’d have me.

“So are we seeing her tonight or what?” I asked.

“Maybe later,” Calvin said.

“Then where are we going?”

“The Metro.”


“Before you get pissed, check this out. Steve got us fake I.D.s!”

“Why would he do that?”

“Alex, man, you don’t know the half of it. But you know how Steve’s mother is a big high roller in Atlantic City, right?”

“Yes. At least I know Steve’s father sends her there quite often.”

He nodded at this. “Well, Mrs. Scanlon has all of this complimentary stuff coming her way. Free room, free meals, free shows, all this stuff.”


“So we’re all going to Atlantic City!” Calvin said, excitedly. He slammed his steering wheel and turned the rap music up a notch. The car vibrated.

“When?” I shouted.

“Like two weeks from now.” I didn’t say anything. He turned to me. “Alex, you don’t even seem excited!”

“You just told me,” I said, turning the music down.

“I know. But now you know, and you’re still not excited.”

“I am...I...”

“With the fake I.D.s we’ll be able to gamble. And drink! Do you know that Atlantic City has strip clubs where the chicks can get completely least I think they do.”


“It’s totally cool. Please don’t back out on this. It’s like the last thing we’ll do before we all start college.”

“But we’re all going to college in Pittsburgh. And you’re not even going to college,” I said.

“Not yet. But I will. Anyway, Alex, come on. It’s Atlantic City.”

“Let me think about it,” I said.

We pulled into the lot across from the Metro. We got out of the car, and walked into the joint without a word. It was Monday night. Hardly anyone was in the place. The world was too exhausted from the weekend; only fools and diehards were out. But the Metro continued on in perpetual Saturday. Loud bass played and rap music wailed throughout. Mostly there were just packs of guys in the joint with their hats on backward. They were hoisting sodas like they were beers. They were loud and white, and called each other nigga. They talked about how high they always got. A few girls milled around too, trying to attract the guys. What fools.

Steve was sitting at a back table with Tom McDannen and George Rubio. What a trio they were. Two guys who couldn’t be more out of place at the Metro if they tried, and one who thought he was the godfather. Steve was sitting there with his oily black hair slicked back. He was squinting because his glasses weren’t strong enough, or because the steroids had completely taken over his brain. Steve was wearing a blue polo shirt and white jean shorts. He looked like he was going on a golf outing with one of his dad’s cronies. I looked at him and he nodded and grinned. If things went down badly with Calvin, at least I wouldn’t have to suffer Steve Scanlon anymore.

“There they are!” Steve shouted, in his grating voice. He stood up and slapped Calvin five.
“Jav-or-ski! ‘Sup bra!” Steve put his fist out for a real cool guy pound. I did it, but I felt like a moron.

“Show him,” Calvin said.

Steve whipped out a little stack of slick cards from his back pocket. “Check these out, Javorski!”
He handed me one of the I.D.s. It wasn’t badly done. At least it had my picture on it, albeit my graduation picture. I was in a suit and tie. I guess whatever bouncer carded us in Atlantic City would either be a functioning moron, or would have tales to tell about the group of evangelicals casing the casinos and strip clubs.

“These are.... well done?” I said.

“Damned right they are!” Steve said, taking the card back. “One of the warehouse truckers has a business on the side. Dude, I even made sure it said we were twenty-three so we wouldn’t be so conspicuous.”

“Gimme mine,” George said. He reached with one of his stained, fat hands.

“Hell no! You think I’m a fool? You get the I.D.s when we get to A.C.” Then Steve turned back to me. “So are you in?”

I said nothing at first. I thought about the guys going to Atlantic City, and the freedom I’d have with Amanda. It was only two weeks away. Heck, I could just let things slide with Amanda and not tell Calvin, or at least not worry about it for another fourteen days. But Amanda wouldn’t have that, would she? She’d already called Calvin behind my back. No, it had to be tonight. Everything had to be tonight.

“Javorski!” Steve said to wake me. “Why the hesitation, dude?”

“I was just thinking about things,” I said. “About getting off work and stuff.”

“To hell with work!”

“Easy for you guys to say.”

But then Calvin’s cell phone rang. My heart stopped. He and I both looked down at it. Amanda Evarts. I could feel the sweat start to pour out of me, even in the air-conditioned nightmare of The Metro. I could feel the bile rise too.

“Excuse me, fellas,” Calvin said, standing. He had a wry smile on his face. “It’s Amanda. She’s been jockin' me all night.”

Then he picked up his phone and headed toward the lobby. I watched him go. I looked back every few seconds to see what I could see. Tom talked to me, but I didn’t care. George teased me, but he didn’t exist. Steve laughed and talked about Atlantic City, but really those three guys existed in a void for me. It was Amanda, Calvin and I, and no one mattered at that moment. Neither did any of my hipster pals. Noah could have his apartment.

Calvin walked back in the club. I couldn’t gauge his expression. Then my cell phone rang. I looked down at it sitting there on the table. But I knew whom it was. I grabbed the phone quickly so that none of the other guys could see that it was Amanda Evarts. I got up. I headed toward the lobby. When Calvin passed he made a motion for me, and I flinched like nobody’s business. But it was just a friendly tap on the shoulder. Still, my reaction made him laugh out loud.

“What did you tell Calvin?” I asked.

“Well, hello and good evening to you too,” Amanda answered.

“Come on, what did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Then why did you call?”

“I was curious where you boys were at.”

“The Metro.”

“Duh? Calvin told me. Interesting choice of places to have such a profound conversation.”

“I haven’t said anything yet.”

“I gathered that. Why not?”

I sighed. “Because Steve Scanlon and the rest of the moron crew are here, and they are all planning this big trip to Atlantic City in two weeks and Steven got everyone fake I.D.s, so we’re all here and he’s doing that and....”

“Alex, you sound flustered. Just tell Calvin and go home, and let the rest take care of itself,” Amanda said.

“I didn’t drive.”

“Well, then tell Calvin, call me back, and I’ll come and get you.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Couldn’t it just wait until after Atlantic City?”

“Not if you want to keep seeing me, it can’t,” Amanda said. “I don’t sneak around. And I don’t want to put up with any worry or guilt.”

“I know.”

“Cool. So go tell Calvin and then call me back. We can go back to my place. My parents are in Nashville this week. They’re on some kinda lame honky-tonk tour.”

“Why didn’t you say anything about that?”

“I wanted it to be a surprise,” Amanda said. Then she made a kissing sound and hung up her phone.

I went back in the club. The guys were all at the table mesmerized by their fake I.D.s. All eyes were me when I sat down, but I wasn’t so nervous this time. I knew Calvin didn’t know anything. I wasn’t going back toward a den full of lions. I’d just pull him aside. Calvin and I would go into the lobby, and I’d finesse the situation. Everything would turn out all right. And then I’d be at Amanda Evarts’ doing God knows what, but enjoying every last morsel of it.

“So are you in or out, Javorski?” Steve asked.

“I’m in,” I said. But I wasn’t sure if I was or not. I just didn’t want to keep this strand of conversation going. “Cal, could I talk to you outside?”

He gave me a strange look, but got up from his seat all the same. “Sure.”

We went outside. Smallman Street was dead, except for workers at the fruit packing plant showing up for their long shifts. I lit a cigarette and watched as sad, worn men got out of beaten cars with bags full of food, and made their way toward rickety, old garage doors. It seemed like such sadness to have this be your fate, to load crates as the beautiful city glowed behind you, and young women prowled the night. My father told me that if I didn’t do well in school, I’d end up working a job like one of the ones at the fruit packing plant, instead of going to college. Well, I did well in school and it didn’t seem to matter. As for college, who could think about college with Amanda Evarts around?

I chose to be direct. “She came to see me yesterday.”

“Who?” Calvin asked.


“She came to your house?”

“She came to my work…and then she came to my house. We’re just friends,” I continued. “Nothing really happened. But I did want to talk to you about her, before things started to happen.”

“You want things to happen?”


“I don’t get it.”

I said nothing. I looked away.

“Well, that’s just great,” Calvin finally spat. “I...I feel like a fool. Amanda played me.”
I turned back. “Amanda didn’t play you, Cal. She was never your girlfriend. You never kissed her or took her out on a regular date, or anything.”

“No, you got to do that.”

“Nothing happened.” Again, there were visions of Amanda Evarts in my room. Her shirt off and on my floor. Her bra hanging above her breasts. My jeans unbuttoned. Her jeans unbuttoned.

“You’re lying to me.”

“I’m not,” I said.

“Jesus.” Calvin walked a few paces away. It was silly but I braced myself thinking he’d charge right back at me. I thought maybe I watched too many movies.


“Alex, just shut up a moment. I...I need to process this.”

He was silent about a minute. The dead air drove me nuts with worry, and concern that my friendship was over and done with. Nervously, I stubbed out my cigarette. I continued watching the fruit packing workers arrive for their night shift

“Calvin, I need to know if you’re cool with this,” I finally said. “I need to know where you stand.”

“And if I’m not cool with any of this?”

“Then I’ll call it off with Amanda. I’ll call her right now, and tell her how you feel. I’ll tell her my friendship is more important.” And I would’ve done it too. I couldn’t be too sure that I wouldn’t be calling Amanda Evarts the next day, but I’d at least make a good show of it for my friend.

“You never should’ve started it.”

“I know. But it’s a little too late now.”


“I really like her,” I said.

“Me too.” Then Calvin left me hanging longer. He paced then stopped to stare out at the city. I was done looking at the night. “It’s cool,” he finally whispered.

“Really?” I asked. “Me and Amanda?”

“Yes.” He looked at me like I was dumb. Maybe I was, but I wanted to hear him say it. Me and Amanda. Alex Javorski and Amanda Evarts. “That’s what you wanted to hear, right? You like Amanda and she likes you, and you want to....”

“Something like that,” I interrupted.


“I’m sorry.”

He shook his head.

“I don’t want your pity. I mean me and Amanda are probably just friends anyway, right?”
“Probably better friends than you think.”



“I knew this was gonna happen. I knew it from that night at the bar,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized again. “I didn’t plan on this. But I really like her, and I think she feels the same.”

“I’m sure she least for now.”


He nodded. “Well listen, Alex. I’m gonna go back inside the Metro. When you come back in, just don’t say anything to the guys, okay? I’m kinda embarrassed right now.”

“I won’t,” I said. “But I’m not coming back inside the club. I’m leaving soon.”

“Where are you going?” Calvin said. “Oh.” His fine sleuthing deductions saved us another painful moment. “What should I tell the guys?”

“Tell them my dad called, or something.”

“Yeah. Anyway, tell Amanda I said hi.”

“I will. Hey, Cal? Are you sure about all of this?”

“I really don’t know,” he said. Then he went back inside the Metro.

I paced around the club’s ramp way a little bit. I was still feeling nervous in a thousand different ways. Amanda was mine, but at what cost? Calvin said he was fine. He didn’t seem so fine. I wouldn’t sound fine either if I thought I had a girl like Amanda Evarts, only to lose her to my loser friend. It all seemed so easy too. Calvin had to be harboring some serious pain and anger toward me. I felt guilty. But after a few minutes of it, I couldn’t contain myself. I pulled out my cell. I found Amanda’s number. She answered on the second ring.

“I talked to Calvin,” I said. “He’s fine with us.”

“Bet you feel a little silly about cooling things down last night?” Amanda said.

“I don’t know what I feel right now.”

“Am I coming to get you?”

“When can you be here?”

“I can be out the door as soon as we get off the phone.”

“Sounds good.”

Amanda hung up. I paced some more. I lit another smoke and it hung out of my mouth. I was unsure of what to make of anything. I didn’t feel too safe in what had transpired this evening. It was all too much to think about. I didn’t care to think. I didn’t want to think. I was in too animalistic a condition to offer any deep reflection. I wanted warm flesh and youthful sex. I even quit feeling guilty about Calvin as I took my place on a stoop to wait. I was like a hungry animal, ready for his feast.

Hipsters Chapter 6


Noah, Amanda, and I were all in Karl’s car. We were driving away from the depressing neon smear of Bloomfield, and the BT. We were laughing hysterically at the events that had happened, as the Shadyside section of the city turned into Squirrel Hill. I had my window down. There was nothing to see except for blurs of streetlights and blackened storefronts. But the night air felt good. It felt heavy from the rains that had finally passed. I felt calm and more at ease than I had in a long time. Amanda and I were in the back. We were holding hands. Occasionally she rubbed my thigh.

“What in the hell were you doing on that stage?” Noah asked. He lit a row of smokes, and then handed one to each of us.

“I was just trying to spruce things up,” Karl answered. Then he laughed. “Everyone looked so sullen. I just thought I’d give them something to talk about.”

“I think you broke Gene’s microphone,” I said. “He looked pissed.”

“Oh yeah, he is pissed.” Karl reached on the floor. I could hear plastic and aluminum shaking. He produced two cans of Black Label beer. “Beer?”

Noah took one of the sweating cans and opened it. He turned back to face Amanda and I. “Beer, children?”

“No thanks,” Amanda said.

“Nah, I’m cool too,” I said.

“Suit yourselves.”

“Yeah, so anyway,” Karl continued. “Gene’s mad and I’m sure I’ll hear about it for as long as I live.” Karl opened a beer with one hand, as he navigated with the other. He took a good long sip as we swerved up Shady Avenue. “I don’t think Killian was too pleased either.”

“What makes you say that?” Noah asked.

“The way him and his girlfriend just split after the show. I was watching their table. It was all I could focus on while those guys yelled around me.”

Noah laughed. “Yeah, well Killian is uptight. He was moaning to me about Clara tonight, like every single chance he could. He wants to break up with her again. He thinks he’s moving into the cottage in August.” But then Noah turned back to me and Amanda again. “Of course, we all know who has first dibs on that, right Alex?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what to say. This time Amanda looked at me and rolled her eyes.

“What’s with the eye roll?” Noah asked her. “You haven’t even been to my place yet.”

“Do I need to be on the short list to come inside?” she asked.

“No. But you need a better attitude.” Noah took a slug on his beer.

Then my phone rang. Calvin.

“God, will you just shut that fucking thing off already!” Amanda shouted. Her anger caught me off guard. “Is Calvin in love with you or something?”

“Actually, I thought it was you he was in love with,” Noah said.

“Shut up.”

“You’re a naughty girl.”

“Anyway, I shut my damned phone off, all right,” I said.

We took Shady Avenue recklessly. Noah clutched his door handle, as Karl flew past the gated, expensive homes that lined the serpentine of a road. He was reluctant to put his beer down but did so, after a near miss with an old oak. I sat white-faced, saying a silent prayer to myself. Amanda pierced my knee with her nails. I don’t think any of our parent’s would’ve approved. Then we made a right down Forbes Avenue, and took the business-laden stretch of land at a crawl. We drove by restaurants and coffee shops. People were all over the place because the rain had stopped. I slumped in my seat, hoping my parents weren’t out on the avenue having a late dinner or something.

“I should’ve drove us here,” Amanda whispered.

Soon we were across the street from Noah’s apartment complex. Karl opened another beer and drank it down. I could hear music and celebratory voices coming from the various cottages. There were people hanging around the outside in loose packs. Some of the music seemed recorded, mostly a jangling rock band, or whatever ancient or cerebral hip-hop act of the month had captured the attention of the hipsters. But some of it was live, raw, and unpracticed. It emanated from basements. The music oozed into the Squirrel Hill sky. How did anyone get to sleep around this place without a bottle of aspirin?

“What are we doing?” Amanda asked.

“We’re having a party,” Noah said.

“I have to go home.”

“Can’t stay just a little while?”

“No. Even if, I don’t think I would.”

“I understand. You don’t like me. Lots of people don’t at first.” Noah pointed at me. “Big Al here, he was almost afraid to speak every time Karl brought him over. Now look at him, all dark and sad-looking, and ready to room up with me.”

“I’m a shy person,” I said, bashfully.

“All the same,” Amanda said. “I do have to go home.” She looked at her watch. “Actually I should’ve been home a while ago.”

“Ah, the perils of youth,” Karl sang.

I looked at Amanda. “I’ll walk you back to my parent’s.” Then I looked at Karl and Noah. “Then I’ll come back here, all right?”

Noah laughed. “If you know the secret password.”

Karl got out of the car. He made way for Amanda and I to get out. The noise from the cottages was booming now. Novels were taking place in there. Poems were begging to be written. I really wished that Amanda could stay, and that she and I could go to Noah’s and have a good time. She’d see. She’d see beyond Noah’s gruff exterior that he was an awesome, thought-provoking guy. He was a fun-loving, brilliantly honest guy. She’d see that I wasn’t wasting my time with these people, and that art and substance could be happening in those cottages, despite the downfall of nights like the BT fiasco. I wanted to show Amanda some of my poems, too. I wanted her to see that I was more than just some dumb, teenage fool from Pittsburgh, hanging out with losers, and going to college just like everyone else. I wasn’t a hipster but I was hip. Sarah Browne couldn’t see it, but maybe Amanda could.

“Hello Kitty,” Noah said. He was looking at Amanda’s butt. On the back right pocket of Amanda’s pants was a Hello Kitty patch.

“What?” Amanda said, as if she didn’t know.

Noah pointed at her backside. “Hello Kitty.”

She turned. “You’re so crass.”

“Come on, let’s go,” I said.

Noah winked. “Catch you next time, kitty.”

I said goodbye to the guys. Amanda and I walked back to my house in silence. She seemed pissed. When we got to there it was dark. Of course it was dark. I invited Amanda in, even though she said it was past curfew. She said yes.

She stayed well into the deep of night. We tried going back to being friends, but soon we were rolling along the width of the weak futon kissing, half dressed, as our hands groped each other. It had been too long since I’d touched a girl like that. Basically Sarah and I had stopped fooling around a few months before we broke up. Our sex became boring. With Amanda, I almost couldn’t control myself. But then, on a dime, we would stop and say nothing. We’d just listen to whatever happened to be playing on my stereo, while we straightened ourselves out. It was hard being honest and loyal. It was hard to wait for something when you weren’t sure what it was you were waiting for. Then we’d begin again.

“Hang on,” I said. I looked at Amanda. Her lips were chapped and covered with a white film. She had a contented smile on her face, and a look that wasn't so innocent. She rested her hands behind her head and waited for what I had coming. “I have to talk to Calvin before we really get into this.”

“We’re not really into this?”

“You know what I mean.”

“I do. And I'm starting to hate Calvin.”

“That’s a joke, right?” I asked, getting off of the bed.

“Of course I don’t hate him. Maybe I’m just a little annoyed that Calvin’s playing such a factor in my love life. Honestly Alex, there have been moments tonight where he felt like an invisible third party.”

“It’s me. I’m the one who’s worried.” I walked over to the bedroom door. Amanda followed with her blue eyes.

“It is you. You and Calvin’s ten thousand phone calls.”

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“Yes it was. That was bad. And Noah what’s-his-name saying something was bad.”

“Don’t bring Noah into this.”

“Why not? The guy’s a jerk.” Amanda looked at me. She smiled. I didn’t like her smile at that moment. “But at least he’s a confident jerk. Noah wouldn’t care what Calvin thought.”
That stung. “Just let me talk to Calvin and smooth this all over, okay? I’m seeing the guys tomorrow night. Don’t be annoyed at Cal. If you want to be annoyed at anyone, be annoyed with me.”

“Oh, I am.” Amanda walked over to join me. She put her arms over my shoulders. “Personally, I don’t understand this code of ethics you’ve got going, but I’m a patient girl.”

“He’s my friend.”

“And you’re too cute to say no to.” She leaned in and kissed me deep. Our tongues intertwined and our teeth collided into one another. “Just give me a call when you boys have it all worked out.”

Then we went outside and I walked her over to her car. The sky was finally open completely. You could see a few stars and the blurry half-moon hanging in the sky. They were mingling with the pink hue of the downtown Pittsburgh lights. Amanda looked luminous and beautiful in it. I kissed her again. And then again. Then we groped and it became this silly ordeal right up against the side of her old, used cherry red Dodge Neon. We let go and laughed. I forgot what it was like to fall in love, or at least to be heavy in lust.

Amanda opened her door. “See Calvin and straighten this out. I’m done work at nine tomorrow night. Call me on my cell and let me know how it went. If I can, I’ll come and meet you.”

“Aren’t you nervous about working with Calvin after this?”

She shrugged. “That job sucks anyway.”

“Yeah. You know, you could get a job closer to campus this fall. And just think with me living at Noah’s, we could basically see each other whenever we want.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”


Amanda kissed me full on the lips. “Fine, let’s get ahead of ourselves.”

She got in her car and pulled away without waving. I waited until her taillights turned toward Murray Avenue and oblivion, before I began the long walk down Phillips toward Forbes and everything that was going on at Noah’s. I found myself feeling good, secure, and newly in love.

When I got to Noah’s, Gene Oldham was standing with Karl. He was holding a stack of records. He looked bewildered. When he saw me, he waved me over. “So what was your take on the performance tonight?”

“It was.... interesting.”

Then Gene looked angrily at Karl. “You know that microphone is broken.”

Karl giggled as if it were all a joke. “For the hundredth time, I’m totally sorry.”

“What was that anyway?”

“Iggy Pop.”


Gene turned back to me. His Beatles via hipster look seemed freshened by the evening’s performance. “So Alex, where’s that cute blonde you were with?”

“She couldn’t be here.”

“Curfew,” Karl added. “Although it did take you a long time to get here.”

“Curfew can mean a lot of things,” I said.

“Our little boy is growing up,” Gene added.

Then Noah came over. “Did you tap the blonde bombshell?”

“Funny, we were just talking about that,” Karl said.

“Hello Kitty!” Noah slapped me on my belly. “You better watch out for her, though. Chick has got mean streak a mile long.”

“Amanda’s all right,” I said.

“I’ll bet your buddy Calvin won’t think that.”


Noah clasped my shoulder. “I didn’t mean to bring it up, but the truth is the truth. I don’t like the way this Amanda looks. She’s untrustworthy.”

“She said the same thing about you”

Noah smiled and laughed at that. “Maybe I’ve misjudged her then.”

“Maybe great minds thinks alike,” Gene said.

“I like the sound of that!”

“At any rate,” I broke in. “I’m fine. Amanda’s fine. And when I talk to Calvin this whole situation will be fine.”

“We’re sorry, Big Al,” Noah said. He put his arm around me and we started walking into the living room where the masses of hipsters had congregated. “We just dig you so much, man, we want to protect you.”

“Like a baby,” Karl said.

“Just like that,” Noah added.

Gene steered the group of us to his small kitchen. The refrigerator was stocked with imported bottles of beer. Noah grabbed a couple for he and I. Karl got harassed by almost everyone standing around in there. They all wanted to know what exactly he was trying to accomplish on the stage. What exactly had his motivation been? Karl toyed with them all. He wrapped each inquisitive set of partygoers up in whatever psychobabble came off the top of his head. What bores they all were to him. What a joke everything really was. Mostly I just stood there and thought about how good Amanda Evarts’ lips tasted. And then my stomach would sink when I thought about telling Calvin. Karl tried his best to cheer me up and introduce me to as many people as he could. He tried to work me into his conversations. But I had other ideas. I simply hung behind him, mysterious and silent. No one cared about me anyway.

Everyone at Noah’s wore their art on their sleeve. Musicians could talk of nothing but music. Painters could say nothing of the world, unless it involved paint. The few writers that were there talked about nothing but the latest literary darlings, agents and advances, even though none of them were writing a thing. It was decidedly older talk. I could only laugh. I was surrounded by a multitude of people who shared a common interest with me, and I was mute. I almost wished Amanda were there so we could laugh about it all. Or that Steve Scanlon would show up and call one of these hipsters a homo or something. But then I didn’t because a part of me wanted to connect with this new people, and really assimilate into their world. I wanted to be right about them. I wanted art and an old fashioned art scene, even if it meant putting up with a little bit of bullshit from the upper echelon. But I just couldn’t mix with anyone at Noah’s party that night. We had no groove.

So I got drunk. I wasn’t used to getting drunk. And when I did everyone at the party seemed to come alive. Their conversations became monuments. The guys and girls there became sculptures of intellect. All of their references made sense suddenly, even though I didn’t know what movie or band they were talking about. It was just beer, beer and conversation, think about Amanda, and get another beer.

I thought I was the belle of the ball. And at some point I fell asleep on an old recliner with frayed brown arms. Noah and his roommates had abandoned the thing in the dining room. And as my eyes began to drop, I saw Noah, his thin hands resting on the knees of a blonde that I mistook for Amanda Evarts. I went to rise but I was too gone. I fell back. Then the next thing I heard was a giggle. I opened my eyes to see Karl and Gene alone at the maroon colored dining table. They were sharing a bottle of whiskey.

“Are you all right there, Alex?” Gene asked.

“I can’t believe you assed-out.” Karl laughed. He slapped his knee wildly. “You went and passed out on all of the self-important artists.”

“I think I saw enough of them,” I said. My head was throbbing. I clutched it.

“I think our boy has a hangover,” Gene said.

“Better get a bucket and the aspirin,” Karl said.

“Where’s Noah?” I asked.

Karl and Gene looked at each other. Then they shrugged.

“Out?” Karl finally said.

“Who was that blonde he was talking to?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Some girl named Gennifer with a G.” Karl took a short drink of his whiskey. “They date off and on.”

“She looked like Amanda,” I said, slowly rising from my seat.

“Blonde girls all look the same.”

“I guess,” I answered. “But still.”

“Might I suggest giving the topic a rest? Really, Alex, there’s a world of women out there and they’re not all Amandas. Or Sarah Brownes for that matter.” Gene patted a seat next to him. “Now, pull up a chair and have a glass of Jameson. We’ll toast the end of high school or something.”

“You guys did that for me last month.”


I did as I was told. Then I stepped outside onto the front porch and lit a cigarette. The night air had turned damp again. The courtyard walkway was speckled with the droplets of new rain. What Gene had said was true. I was also sick of hearing myself bemoan the gains and losses of girls. It had had become a recent pastime, and I seemed reluctant to give it up no matter how at odds it would make my demeanor. Amanda Evarts. I laughed at myself just thinking about her. Then I thought of talking to Calvin and my stomach got tight. The world didn’t seem so funny. I looked at the rainy courtyard again. I couldn’t wait to move there.

Karl and Gene came out of the cottage with another small glass of Jameson. I was grateful for it. The three of us stood and talked in the summer air. Music still drifted out of some homes, but for the most part everything was quiet and dark. You could hear a streetlight buzz. Gene even found a subtle humor where the destroyed microphone was concerned. Karl seemed relieved at this. I was sure it was the whiskey talking, and that by the next morning Gene would be wailing to himself within the confines of his cottage bedroom. I wondered where Noah really was.

An hour later, Karl dropped me off on Phillips Avenue. My part of Squirrel Hill was desolate. No one was around playing music, or having mad conversations about art. There were just dark living rooms and dark bedrooms. There were just illuminated rooms with the silent, blue of an insomniac’s television. My head was beginning to hurt again, from the booze, so I carefully navigated my way inside. I crept up the stairs to my bedroom. I did my best not to wake anyone, but my mom stirred. My dad’s snores resonated throughout.

When I finally got into bed I couldn’t sleep. I kept running everything through in my mind. My hipster friends. The past and loving Sarah Browne. Amanda. I wondered what Calvin would have to say when I told him about her. Could this be a final break? Would he understand? Was I really ready to risk one of my old friendships over some girl I just met? What were these old friendships even worth? There were too many questions. Yet, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room, I smiled. Amanda Evarts came to me again. My stomach jumped at the vision of her standing under the rainy floodlights of a city night. I felt for the first time in months that things were beginning instead of ending.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hipsters Chapter 5


Raindrops began to fall harder, the further Amanda and I made our way down Liberty Avenue. Bloomfield was liter-strewn from the wind and rain that blanketed the Pittsburgh sky. It had been such a nice day, though. But now the storefronts were empty, and the cracked sidewalks swelled. I could never understand how things could change so fast. How something beautiful could turn so ugly. But I guess beauty was in the eyes of the beholder. And I was looking at Amanda Evarts. Even somewhat wet, she was a vision. Maybe more so then when she was dry.
The only refuge we could find was underneath the blowing maroon, cloth awning of an Italian grocery. Its lights had dimmed to the bare essentials because of the storm. We stood there smoking cigarettes, and watching the few brave shoppers race from store to store. They used their waxy white bags as umbrellas. Then we gave in and found ourselves making out hard against a glass window full of ads for pork chops, steak, and chicken. Calvin must’ve called my cell about three times. The sound of the ring just made Amanda kiss me harder.
“Do you have a fake I.D.?” she asked, when we came up for air. “Because I don’t.”
“No. But Noah will be there. He knows everyone. Besides, he told me that he was gonna take care of me on Thursday anyway, so I guess he can do it tonight too.”
“What’s Thursday?”
“Another show.”
The phone rang again. I checked it. Calvin.
“Can’t he take a hint?” Amanda said. “Don’t answer it.”
“I won’t,” I said.
Then we waited for a break in the sky by making out some more. So much for just being friends tonight. Man, I hope Calvin enjoyed that baseball game because he was surely missing out now. Over the horizon, downtown Pittsburgh gloomed under a light gray cloud, but no light was breaking beyond the Ohio River. So Amanda and I made a break for it and raced the length of the avenue to its end. We bound breathlessly to the Bridge Tavern. We stood for a moment at the front door and watched the whole scene. The BT was a Polish Bar and red and white streamers ran along the wall. The Polish coat of arms was tacked up behind the bar. There were faded pictures of dead Pope John Paul II framed in various locations, alternating space with maps of Poland and Polish cities. The BT’s heavy metal front door had airbrushed American and Polish flags crossing one another, as if the two were intrinsically linked. In Pittsburgh they were.
“I.D.s?” the bouncer said.
“Oh, there they are!” I heard Noah shout. The boy had perfect timing. And then he was right over with us. Noah’s hair was the perfect streak of blonde, and the way the jagged bangs went to one side over his right eye, gave him sort of a skater look. Come to think of it, Noah didn’t really look like a lot of the hipsters either. I looked at Amanda to see what she thought, but she didn’t seem like she was paying much attention. “I was wondering when you were gonna show.”
“We...” I began.
Noah looked at the bouncer. “They’re with me, Len.”
“Okay.” And just like that the bouncer stamped our hands and let us pass.
“Thanks, man,” I said to Noah.
Noah turned to me, but he didn’t look so happy. “Yeah, man, no problem. But next time you gotta let me know you’re bringing someone, all right. I’ve already let my quota of people in tonight. Any more and Len is gonna give me a real problem.”
“I’m Amanda Evarts,” Amanda said, to break the small tension.
Noah looked at her. “So?”
“So I’m just telling you.”
Noah nodded then he turned back to me. “Get some beer. Karl isn’t here yet, but Killian and Clara are sitting at a table.”
“Who’s playing tonight?” I asked.
“Gene Oldham,” he said. Then Noah was gone.
“He’s kind of a jerk,” Amanda said.
“He was just kidding around with you.”
“Sure he was.”
Gene Oldham. Killian and Clara. They were all names, faces, and personalities that I was getting to know after spending so much time with everyone at the cottages. Gene was a good guy. He was one of Karl’s best friends. He was an English Lit major at Pitt. I liked Gene because he was soft spoken and had this Beatles bowl haircut, and unlike most of the hipsters up in Squirrel Hill he treated me with a level of respect and maturity. Gene was always trying to turn me on to new music, and older music that I’d never got around to listening to on my own. Killian and Clara were all right too. I mean, Killian was moody a lot of the time. He was a poet who managed an online magazine, and he worked stock in a book warehouse. Killian told me that if I ever gave him any writing he might publish it on the web site. I wasn’t sure I had anything that good yet. As for Clara; I only really knew Clara as Killian’s girlfriend.
Around the bar, there were a lot of people I knew from Squirrel Hill. They were taking up a good deal of the BT’s frayed seats. Some sat up at the bar. They talked in loud, drunken voices about music and guitars. They were little chic boys in Izod shirts and tight jeans with tousled hair and thick glasses. The girls wore t-shirts that barely covered their bellies, and many had barrettes in their hair with small, cat-eyed glasses. Hipsters. Every one of them was there to see Gene’s band play and to hang out in their big, intellectual scene. All of them put back dark thick beers with expensive sounding names. In my blue short sleeve shirt and baggy jeans I felt noticed, like a big, brooding clown at somebody’s funeral. I was just a high school boy standing with his high school girlfriend. Was Amanda my girlfriend? I hated feeling this way.
“Do you know all of these people?” she asked.
“Some, but only by sight or slight.”
“You stick out like a sore thumb.”
“Thanks for noticing.”
Then Amanda leaned up and kissed my cheek.
Killian and Clara were sitting at a small table in the corner of the room. Killian was dressed in a tight t-shirt with some band’s name that I’d never heard of before, and Clara had her hair slicked back and her thick, red glasses on; her pink Chuck Taylor tennis shoes glowed in the BT’s soft green lighting. The sight of them relieved me a little bit. Clara caught my eye first and she waved enthusiastically. Then Killian raised a hand, meekly registering himself in this silly scene. His long thin legs looked burdened underneath the small table, and he had shaved off his beard since the last time I had seen him. I looked around again. It was summer. Most of the hipsters in the bar had shaved their beards. Stubble was where it was at now. I had neither. I had a small goatee and moustache that made me look like a street hoodlum.
“Hello, chiefy,” Killian said, when Amanda and I sat down. It was his pet name for me.
“Amanda Evarts meet Killian Cromier, and Clara...Clara...”
“McDowell,” Clara said, waving at Amanda.
“Sorry,” I said. “Killian told me your last name, but I have a terrible memory.”
“Think nothing of it.”
I lit a cigarette and leaned back in my chair, trying to make myself seem like I belonged there more than I did. “Is the whole world here tonight?”
“It appears so,” Killian said. “ It also looks like Gene Oldham is at the epicenter of all the action.”
And he was. Gene moved from crowd to crowd. His thick bowl cut shook like a shaggy dog as he spoke. He looked like the chairman of the scene. Not a table was missed. Not a person was made to feel they weren’t important. Gene worked the dank insides of the BT like a young and idealistic politician. I’d never seen so much glad-handing and backslapping in my life. Noah was hanging around too, but it was different. He wasn’t seeking people out. They were flocking to him.
“He looks like he should have a martini in his hand,” Amanda said, noticing Noah.
“And a long, dangling cigarette in his mouth,” I added. “He’d look like one of those decadent guys in a Fitzgerald novel, only with a cooler haircut.”
“More high school reading?” Killian asked.
I blushed. I couldn’t tell if Killian was joking or not.
Clara got up from her seat with a smile. “You guys keep joking. I’ll be in the bathroom.” She walked away toward a set of smeared metal doors. Then Killian quit laughing and turned glum.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Ah, nothing.” He ruffled his thin brown hair, “It’s just that Clara and I are going through some shit again.”
“Aren’t you two moving in together?”
Killian looked at me sadly. He took a big pull on the dark bitter beer in front of him. “Well yeah,” he answered. “Maybe. I just don’t know how I feel about her.”
“She seems nice,” Amanda added. Killian gave her a look but he didn’t respond.
“You felt good enough about her to back out of moving to Philly,” I added. “That has to account for something.”
“I know. But... I really don’t know. All is know is that things with Clara have taken an unexpected turn and Noah has a spot opening up at his cottage in August. I’m on the short list to get in.”
I could feel Amanda Evarts looking at me.
“But none of that matters right now.” Killian shifted his eyes toward the bathroom doors. Soon Clara came out wearing her same sweet smile.
Then she was back at the table, and Clara and Killian started this big long talk about Philosophy. I didn’t really get the gist of it. It seemed like a conversation right out of a college class. It seemed a bit dishonest. But I’d heard dozens of these people talk this way, this sort of studied, educated take on everything that generally expressed no clear and consuming joy for subjects as thirst quenching as philosophy, art or music, or writing, for that matter. Sure, I ingested what they typically said. But alone with one of their suggested novels, or looking at Picasso or Van Gogh at a museum, I couldn’t help but be overtaken with the beauty of art in such a sad, cruel world. How could it be discussed so dispassionately at times? Oh, where did I belong? One look at Amanda Evarts and I knew.
“Do you want to get a beer or something?” she asked.
“Yeah.” I looked at Killian and Clara. “Excuse us.” But my words didn’t register. They were on to Russian novelists now, and fighting about them as well.
“Well, this place is a far cry from Pirates games and the Metro,” Amanda said.
“I know,” I answered. But I had nothing else to say.
“You’re an interesting guy, Alex Javorski.”
“I’m sure you’re further along on the short list than Killian is.”
I shrugged.
At the bar I ordered Amanda and I a couple bottles of Iron. Gene Oldham was there yapping away to Noah. He was telling Noah about a paper he had written on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Somehow Gene had connected the laborious prose of Joyce to the lyrics of Sonic Youth. The paper was written for Gene’s Irish Literature class. I’d listened to endless tales about its inception during the long and trying nights at work when Gene would visit Karl at the Circulation Desk. Joyce didn’t interest me. Neither did Sonic Youth. As for papers, I did an English Class term paper on Anthony Burgess, the writer who did A Clockwork Orange. I faked most of my sources, and my English teacher caught about half of them. I got a D on the paper, and a B- in the class, and that term paper killed the solid A I was sporting. I was pretty much done with hearing about papers. I was pleased that Gene had found himself another audience for the story. But then Noah looked at me and rolled his eyes, and it made me laugh.
“What’s so funny?” Amanda asked. I pointed at Noah, who was now making lunatic faces to try and distract Gene. Finally Gene got the hint, and he gave Noah a comical shove. “What’s that guy’s deal anyway? Sometimes he seems cool, and sometimes he seems like a jerk trying to be too cool.”
“You just don’t know him,” I said.
“I don’t think I want to.”
“Noah truly is a cool guy.”
“Cool doesn’t always mean nice,” Amanda said.
“Do you want to leave?”
“Yes. I want to leave and take you back to your futon, and have my way with you.”
Amanda laughed. “Eventually. I think we’ll stick with beers, hipsters, and maybe some petting in my car a little later.”
Then someone tapped me on my shoulder.
“You drunk yet?” Karl said, when I turned to him. “I hope so because you totally need to be, to be here amongst these people.”
“I’m stone sober,” I answered. “Karl this is Amanda Evarts. Amanda this is Karl Rudolph.”
“A pleasure,” Amanda said. Karl took her hand and shook it. He was grinning and he looked like he didn’t want to let go.
I ordered Amanda and I another can of Iron. I bought Karl one, too. Then the three of us looked over the scene.
“Man, I can’t even believe I’m here,” Karl said. “Look at all of these people playing cool.”
“I thought you knew everyone here,” I said.
“I do. That’s why I don’t want to be here.”
Karl shook his ragged head of long black hair. He fixed his glasses. “Just wait, Javorski. You’re new to this scene. Hell, you’re an outsider. I wouldn’t mix too much with this bunch.”
“Didn’t you introduce him to them?” Amanda asked. She seemed to ask a lot of question. It was like she was trying to navigate every angle.
“Yeah. I’m kinda not that nice of a guy.”
“At least you’re honest.”
“Anyway,” Karl began. “I’ll bet Gene’s gonna crap in his pants tonight. But stick around because around every corner is a surprise.”
Soon Gene Oldham was at the foot of the stage, plucking away at his un-amplified guitar. He looked okay. The other members of his band were all plugging into the amps and microphones. Then Gene stepped onto the stage, plugged in, and his band rose to take their places in front of the instruments and microphones. They were a tight unit of drums, bass, and two interlocking guitars. When they began playing, heads dipped back and forth in mass hypnotic revelry.
I liked Gene’s band enough, but what a sham the whole scene seemed to be right then and there. It was all a fake, a rouse done by these fancy idiots all in an effort to feel a part of something great, vital, and of their generation. It didn’t even matter that you couldn’t hear Gene’s soft voice and lyrics over the racket of guitars and youth. I felt angry just being there. I felt like a fool, too. Amanda was right. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I belonged at stupid baseball games and clubs. Sensing this, I think, Karl patted me on the shoulder and then paid for another round of beers. Amanda and I weren’t even close to done with the one I’d just bought us. Then we ducked through the crowd. We went back to Killian and Clara’s table.
“Ah,” Gene began addressing the crowd. His face was full of sweat. His mop-top was matted to his forehead. “I’d like to thank you all for coming down tonight to see us. Sorry we still don’t have a name yet. Any suggestions would be great.”
“HOW ABOUT, JAMES JOYCE!” Noah shouted
“ULYSSES!” Someone shouted from the group of cronies Gene had surrounded himself with earlier.
“Very funny,” Gene deadpanned. He pointed through the glare of the lights into the audience. He played a few sarcastic riffs on his cheap red guitar. “Go have another beer.” The crowd laughed. Hipsters laughed the same. They laughed monotone and slight, like humor hurt their soul, but they were forced to respond to it. “Right now, we’d like to bring up a good fellow, and a close friend of mine, Karl Rudolph, to play drums on a few songs.”
Slight applause rang over the crowd, and the drummer got up from behind the kit. Karl rose awkwardly from our table to stand amongst his peers. He made his way to the stage. He was their black sheep, a low class kid from Swissvale, mingling in the mud. Karl whispered something in Gene’s ear, and he enthusiastically agreed with whatever it was. Then the drummer was suddenly motioned to sit back down. From the sopping floor, I gauged the murmurs of the audience. Perhaps it would be something they could discuss at all of their shabby, chic dinner parties. Killian snickered at the sight.
“Actually everyone, Karl is going to sing a song, or two.” Gene looked to Karl for reassurance. “Hopefully I know all the chords.”
“Oh this should be good,” Killian said, sarcastically.
Gene began playing Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division. He started the song a bit faster and harder than it should’ve been played, but the band quickly caught up. Karl bounced his head a little, and then began moving spastically. He screamed the lyrics, occasionally smacking into various members of the un-amused group. Karl flailed himself on the ground. He snaked along the wooden stage, and then wrapped the microphone chord around his body. I looked at Gene. He slowed his guitar until playing a rudimentary version of the song. He looked scared and agitated. Gene’s eyes were fixed on the flopping singer.
“I’ve heard this song before,” Amanda said. “I don’t think it’s played like that.”
“What in the hell is Karl doing?” I asked, aloud, and to no one. “I think Gene is going to cry!”
Killian laughed. “God, this proves so many things to me tonight.”
Karl got up off the ground with the microphone still wrapped around him. He was shouting incoherently, kicking away at the drum kit. At first, the poor drummer laughed, but then he backed away. His grin vanished, and he stood at the corner of the stage. Gene looked devastated. Hipsters booed and shouted. Karl tried unsuccessfully to sing into the microphone again, but it was dead.
“Christ, I think he broke Gene’s microphone!” Killian laughed. Clara and I looked up onto the stage, dumbstruck.
There, Karl stood alone. He was smiling angelically. I think he winked at me. The band circled around him, ready to snap. Gene was furious. He picked up the limp chord, and held it like a dying lover. People rose from their seats. The great spectacle suddenly ended, their catty topic of conversation brewing inside a multitude of thick heads. No one clapped. They all cleared out of the bar, like a pack of lemmings. A new shunned legend was born into the hipster universe. Killian and Clara said goodbye and made for the exit with little more than a wave.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hipsters Chapter 4


The next day Amanda came to see me at work. Somehow I knew she’d be there. She came from across Schenley Drive, while I was outside battling with an overstuffed book depository. She was wearing a dark blue skirt, and a half-open oxford shirt. Under it she had on a navy blue bikini top. Her hair was pulled back, and on Amanda’s face was a pair of glitter-covered sunglasses. She had a can of soda in one hand, and a paperback book in the other. Amanda had been sunbathing in Schenley Park, and now she was sauntering up the walkway toward where I was standing, coming for me.
“Here.” She handed me the book.
“What are you doing here?”
“This is a public library, and I’m here to return a book.” Amanda took a drink of her soda. A small amount of it rolled down her chin, and it soaked into the fabric of her shirt. “Drink?” she said, offering me the can.
I waved it off. “I just didn’t expect to see you here today.”
“You were expecting me?”
Yes. “No....I mean with the game and everything, I didn’t expect to see any of you until tonight.”
“I don’t think there’s going to be a tonight.”
Amanda laughed. “I told Calvin I wasn’t feeling well. I told him I was having girl troubles.”
“Are you?”
“You’re pretty forward!”
“I mean...I don’t really know what I mean,” I said.
“Calvin was pissed. He started whining because he’s out two tickets now.”
“That sounds like Cal.”
“I meant what I said yesterday,” Amanda suddenly stated. “Friends are boring. But I don’t want to have to wait on Calvin to call me in order for the two of us to get together.” She motioned for my cigarette, and took a good drag on it. “Do you want the two of us to get together?”
“Do you mean date? Or, like, just hook up?”
“I’m not sure yet. But I want something.”
Amanda held on to my cigarette and made it hers.
“It’s not that simple,” I said. “You have to know it by now, but if you don’t, Calvin really likes you. And although he’s not the brightest guy in the world, I think after yesterday he might finally be on to our flirting and such.”
“Yeah. Well, at first I didn’t care what Calvin thought, but I’ve been knocking you and I around in my brain last night and all morning, and I just don’t know if I can hurt one of my oldest friends that way. Calvin has a good heart.”
“That’s a lot of thinking over one girl.”
“What can I do? My hands are tied.”
“Fine,” Amanda said.
She turned and walked away. What a sight that girl was! She was beautiful, yes, but Amanda had a mean, possessive streak in her that was both frightening and intoxicating, and completely sexual. She was like nothing that I ever saw saunter down the hallways of my high school. I could get drunk on Amanda Evarts just watching her storm away. I felt drunk, too. I felt like everything was bubbling over in me, and like I was ready to explode. I felt dangerous and most of me just didn’t care about the repercussions of anything at that moment. But still, for the sake of whatever was left of decency and loyalty in me, I let Amanda go half way down the crooked walkway, before I shouted to stop her.
“What are you doing tonight?” I blurted, setting down my book bin. My fate was sealed.
She walked back toward me. “Paper and Pen?”
I handed her a slip of paper with a poem I’d written on it, and one of my trusty blue pens. Amanda leaned against the hot metal of the book depository and wrote down her phone number. Then she asked for mine. The sound of the pen scrapping the metal added to my tension. I wanted to stop her because the whole ordeal didn’t make good sense. I felt adulterous. But I let the moment pass because I really wanted Amanda Evarts.
“Here.” She handed me back my pen, and then ripped the paper in two. Bye-bye, poem, I thought, as she handed me my sliver.
“I’m done at five,” I said. “And then I’m hoping to go see this band play tonight.”
Amanda began to stroll back down the walkway. “It’s a date.”
My house was empty when I got home. All that was waiting for me was a note from my mom telling me to fix my own dinner, and a small gray cat that I had taken in as a stray back in April, because Sarah wanted me to. The disheveled, un-neutered beast and I were like soul mates now. I called him, Champ. And Champ roared a deep meow at me whenever I came home. He lightened my load a little, and made me chuckle. He was good to have around, especially on a night like this, nights weighed down by thoughts of Amanda Evarts.
I took her number out of my pocket, and set it by the phone for good measure. Then I fixed myself a small dinner of frozen pizza. Champ ate a can of cat food on the floor next to me. Then I went to my bedroom with Amanda’s number, and blasted this jazz CD that Karl had given me. Miles Davis. Kind of Blue. But no matter what I did, my thoughts were consumed with Amanda Evarts, her sexy sarcasm and attitude, and that little bikini poking through her top. Deep in my gut, I could feel the bile rise. Finally I broke down. I called Amanda. She arrived forty-five minutes later.
“So, is this a futon?” she asked.
“It’s nice.”
“It’s a piece of crap.”
“Why do you have it?”
“Well, my bed broke and....”
“That sounds interesting.”
“It’s not what you think.”
“A shame.”
“Anyway, my bed broke and I figured since I was going to college anyway in the fall, I might as well get something easy and convertible, you know?”
“But aren’t you just going down to Pitt?”
“Well...yeah...but...Okay I’m going to tell you something. Remember my friend, Noah?”
“Yeah. The bartender. The party at the cottages.”
“Right. Well, one of Noah’s roommates is leaving there in August. Karl told me I’m on the short list to get the available room.”
“There’s a short list to get an apartment with a bunch of guys?” Amanda asked. She wrinkled her nose at the idea.
“It’s a pretty popular place,” I said, realizing the short list idea actually was kind of lame.
“So you’re planning on being out of your parent’s house by August. Are they cool with the idea?”
“No. Hence my working today. I’m trying to save up enough to get a head start. I figure I could work thirty-thirty five hours a week during school to pay my rent and stuff, and still go to class full-time.”
“And not have a life,” Amanda said.
“There’s always time for everything.”
Then she picked herself up off of the futon, and walked over to where I was sitting on an unused radiator below the window. She was dressed in a pair of brown pants and a black t-shirt, and she smelled of strawberries and heaven. She had let her hair fall back down so that it grazed her shoulders. We were a far cry from sunbathing and banter, and I couldn't keep my sunken eyes off of her. Then Amanda straddled my body and draped her arms over my shoulders. She tilted her head up and kissed me. Her lips felt warm and dry on mine. And as quickly as we'd come together was as quickly as I pulled us apart. Regret and loyalty almost choked me.
“That’s probably good for now,” I said.
“I've wanted to do that since the night at the Cage.”
She lifted herself off of me. “So have I. I mean who are we fooling? I just want to talk to Calvin and smooth this all over before we take this any further.”
Amanda walked past me and grabbed a cigarette from my pack on the desk. I gave her a light even though I wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house, and then she sat back down on the futon to smoke and study me. “And if he's not okay with this?”
“Calvin will be fine,” I said. But what did I know? He could hate me forever. “Let’s just be friends for tonight, and then we’ll see.”
“Okay,” Amanda said, sighing. She looked at her watch. “So when’s this show?”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

hipsters chapter 3


“Alex, you surprised me,” Sarah said.
“Seriously, you did.”
“I’m full of surprises, I guess.”
“I mean I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“I don’t see how,” I answered, really looking at her. Fair skin, Auburn hair; it was Sarah Browne in the flesh and blood for sure. “I mean we used to come here all the time with my friends, and the witches that you call friends.”
“Heather and Dawn?”
“The very ones.”
“But still...”
“Maybe you just didn’t expect to see me tonight, while you were out with some guy,” I said.
“His name is Evan,” Sarah said.
“Of course it is.”
We were standing in the lobby of the Metro, and there really wasn’t a lot to say. There were certain sparks, I’ll admit, when I saw Sarah. Maybe they weren’t sparks. I mean how could you have sparks for someone who dumped you, and told you that they were never in love with you? They were more like pains when I saw Sarah. They were pains in viewing the physical presence of something that had passed. Sarah and I. A Saturday night at the Metro.
Only we weren’t together this time. This time there was some Evan character taking my place. Sarah and I would never have this time again. This little run-in was probably our last connecting point before we went off into our own worlds of college and the future, and we each became an anecdote in each other’s lives. Hell, I wasn’t even Sarah’s first. Some guy named Rick Davis beat me by three months. I might not even get anecdote distinction in Sarah’s future life.
“So what have you been doing with your summer, so far?” Sarah asked, although I had no clue why she was interested, or why she told Evan to go back to their seats so that we could talk. It seemed so useless.
“Oh, I’ve been living off the land. Hunting. You know, killing a lot of game for sport.”
“Reading Hemingway stories I bought you, again?”
“No, I burnt those books.”
Sarah pursed her lips. “Be serious.”
“I’ve been hanging around, I guess. I’ve been hanging with Noah and Karl, and spending time with all of those people at the cottages.”
She smiled. “You’re becoming quite the hipster.”
“Pretty soon you’ll be all emaciated, too. We’ll have to get you thick glasses and a fauxhawk, and maybe some tight jeans and an iPod. We’ll have to get you subscriptions to all the latest magazines. Maybe you could start a blog.” Sarah laughed. It wasn’t a mocking laugh. But still...
“I don’t think I’ll be getting or doing any of those things. And we won’t be getting me anything, remember.”
“I do,” she said, quietly. “I never wanted to hurt you.”
“I know,” I said. “And I kinda hate myself for realizing that.”
“Because...because it’s like realizing that you weren’t good least I wasn’t good enough for one person.”
“But it’s just one person, Alex. And it’s not about good enough, it’s about what’s right, what fits.”
“But it was you,” I said. “It was three years of you.”
Silence again. I had revealed too much. Really I wasn’t even sure what I felt about Sarah at that moment. I was sad more than anything. I was sad, hurt, and embarrassed. Seeing Evan, wherever he came from, made me feel replaced as well. I couldn’t even throw Amanda Evarts in Sarah’s face because she was technically with Calvin. Of course it wasn’t like I didn’t have the choice to do so. Amanda kept passing by the entryway to the dance floor, and a little bit in the lobby the whole time Sarah and I were talking. Finally, she took to hanging around about ten paces away. She looked like she wanted to say something. I was afraid of what Amanda Evarts wanted to say.
“Do you know that girl?” Sarah asked, after she caught me looking at her.
“Amanda Evarts,” I answered, blankly.
“The Amanda Evarts?”
“She’s with Calvin.”
“How is Calvin?”
“He’s Calvin.”
Sarah looked back at Amanda. She waved at the two of us. “She’s cute. Are you sure she’s here with Calvin?
“Well, I didn’t bring her, Sarah,” I said, angrily.
“Okay, calm down. I was just being polite.”
“Can we be done being polite for the evening?” I asked.
“Whatever you want, Alex.” Then Sarah and I were silent again. I counted ten seconds and not a word had passed between us. We just stood there, as if caught between the past and present of our lives. It was so awkward and not right, and it was even worse with Amanda standing off in a corner, waiting, doing whatever she was doing. “Look, I’m going to head back to my table now.”
“Wouldn’t want to keep Evan waiting too long,” I said.
“No I wouldn’t. It would be rude.”
“You were always one to consider someone else’s feelings first.”
“Goodbye, Alex. If I don’t see you, good luck at college,” Sarah said.
“You too.”
And then Sarah walked back into the club, and I was left with the ringing remnants of our last, trite conversation together. I was there losing her all over again. Why couldn’t I be more human? It always had to go down for me and people that way; the bridge always had to be burnt instead of just a little fractured. I looked at Amanda. She looked like she was trying to figure out the proper time to come over to me.
“Are you okay?” She asked, finally taking the plunge.
“Oh, you saw all that?” I said, sarcastically. Amanda was cute, sure, but damn if she wasn’t eavesdropping on my conversation.
“I wasn’t really paying attention. Is that the ex-girlfriend?”
“She’s pretty.”
“If you say so.”
“You don’t think she is?”
“Yes, I guess I do.”
“Anyway, the reason I’m out here is because Steve is missing.”
“Missing?” I said. “Steve’s an adult.”
“Yeah, I know that. But no one has seen him since he was on the dance floor with that girl in the red dress.”
“Maybe he doesn’t want anyone looking for him. Maybe Steve finally got lucky.”
She smiled a little bit at that. “Calvin’s worried about him.”
“Is Calvin looking for Steve?”
“Everyone is,” Amanda said. “That’s why I’m out here. I thought maybe you could help me.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, thinking of Sarah Browne with some fucking Evan guy, thinking of Amanda Evarts not being out in the lobby for me. “I probably could.”
Amanda and I went back into the dance floor portion of the Metro. We combed inches upon inches of the dance floor. People were groping and sweating all around us. Girls brushed up against me with the slick sweat of their bodies, and guys tried to grab at Amanda’s behind as we waded through them. Occasionally, I popped my head up, scanning the scope of the club, looking for Steve or for a girl in a red dress. No luck.
So I continued through the crowd, wondering why in the hell I was doing this in the first place. I didn’t owe Steve my friendship the way Calvin did. I felt like I didn’t owe any of these people anymore. In the sweaty, neon gloom of the dance floor, I was beginning to feel like a stranger to all of them. I stopped and I thought about hanging out with Noah and talking poetry and music, and how that stuff seemed to fulfill my needs now. And in the midst of a daydream I lost Amanda Evarts in the swirl of the club, and I found myself back out in the lobby, a greasy mess of teenage flesh and fabric.
“Al-ex Jav-or-ski! There he is!”
Steve was sitting alone on a round bench. He was pointing at me, and moving his body to the faint music coming from inside the cockles of the club. He looked wasted. His eyes looked small. His pupils looked heavily dilated behind his glasses. Steve was practically jumping out of his seat.
Where have you been?” I asked.
“All over, brutha! This place is hopping!”
“Where’s that girl you were with?”
Steve didn’t answer. He looked around incessantly. “Green Day?”
“This is Green Day playing!” Steve shouted, pointing up at the speakers. Then he rose and started jumping up and down, pounding his fist into the air. “Dude, I love Green Day!” But then just as quickly, he stopped moving. “Mushrooms?”
“That chick I was with brought in a jar of mushrooms.”
“And you had some?”
“Only a few. She said they’d make me feel good, but I didn’t see how a mushroom could get somebody high.”
“If they were drug mushrooms they could.”
“Drug mushrooms? Are they like smoking pot?”
“In a round about way,” I said. I sat on the bench. I took out a cigarette and lit it, gazing at Steve’s confounded face the whole time. “They’re more like psychedelics.”
He pounded his chest. “I don’t put stuff like that into my body.”
“You did tonight.”
Steve shrugged. “At least I’m not seeing pink elephants or something.”
Then he laughed. Steve had the most grating laugh. It was like rubbing sandpaper on a wet window. He began bouncing to the music again, as packs of girls howled and egged him on. Steve must’ve thought he was a God. He bounced and pumped his fist until the Green Day song ended. Then he fell onto the bench and continued to fidget.
“Will you do me a favor?” I asked. I got up from the bench and looked around the lobby for his red-dressed drug pusher. “Stay here while I go and get Calvin or someone else.”
“I’m not promising anything, brutha.”
Nobody was at our table when I got back to it. Another group of people had taken it over, and pushed all of our drink glasses to an unused corner. There wasn’t a Tom or a George in sight. They had all abandoned me in their search for Steve Scanlon. But then I saw Amanda and Calvin dancing slowly, as if the night’s energy had been seeped from their bodies, as if there was no one to look for in the first place. Was Amanda lying to me? Was I supposed to catch this scene and feel something? Jealousy? Oh, it was there. But what could I say? So I weaved through the various cliques of people, and walked back into the lobby to keep an eye on Steve.
But Steve was gone. There wasn’t a trace of him anywhere. I decided I didn’t care where he ran off to, or what other drugs he might get duped into taking. I didn’t care to walk back into that packed club to round up everyone, and set up a real makeshift search party. Let them all shake their asses, pop mushrooms, and go to hell. I felt truly and honestly tricked by the world. So I planted myself in the exact spot where I’d left Steve. I took a drag on my cigarette. I thought about Amanda Evarts and her sex-stomped gyrations, her coy glances, and even the brash ones. I thought about kissing Amanda so long and deep, that it would make everything else disappear. She was such sweet poison. I settled in to wait. And it took them an hour to find me.
I got forced into driving Steve’s Lexus, so that Calvin could sit with Amanda in the backseat. Steve talked nonstop the whole ride along Liberty Avenue. Back in Bloomfield he bragged about the Metro, mushrooms, and his elusive girl in red. She’d simply vanished after giving him the psychedelic mushroom, and Tom and George found him bouncing around on the second floor. He was in the above twenty-one club. Tom said the jerk was hanging around bothering an angry group of twenty-two year old administrative assistant types, dancing and pumping his fists, moving dangerously close to the railing. Calvin did his best to placate Steve’s exuberance along our ride. He joked badly and said dumb things, looking over at Amanda to see if she was amused. But from what I saw in the rearview mirror, Amanda Evarts stayed silent and looked worn-out.
We got to Steve’s giant house. I refused to do anymore to help, after undertaking the horror of driving some pampered kid’s luxury car through the Pittsburgh streets. So Calvin helped Steve out of the Lexus with the sort of laughing helplessness that begged for me to get out and assist. I didn’t. I thought Amanda might relent and help Calvin, but she stayed parked in her seat. And my two friends staggered the long weave of the Scanlon’s walkway. They looked like an old, romantic couple bathing in the moonlight. It was almost a comforting scene. Then the backseat rustled, and Amanda opened her door to get in the front with me.
“So, did we have a good night at the Metro?” I asked.
“It was all right. It would’ve been better had you come out and danced.”
“Sorry.” I looked at her, but she didn’t offer a smile. She remained steely and honest in what she had just said. “I’m not much for dancing.”
“Then I wish I hadn’t lost you on the dance floor when we were looking for Steve. There’s a lot more we could’ve done in that club other than dance.”
I swallowed hard after she said that. “Was Steve really lost?”
“As lost as anybody else,” Amanda said, with a smile. “You should’ve danced.”
“I know.”
“I would’ve made it worth your while.”
“I know.”
“Amanda, I think we should probably stop this bantering tonight.”
“Resume it at a later date?” she asked. “Like tomorrow?”
“I don’t know if that’s possible.”
“I don’t really want to get into it.”
“Because you’re still hung up on your ex, right? Well, Calvin told me all about her, and what she did was wrong. She should’ve never said the things she said to you.”
“I’m not that hung up on my ex. I mean I am a little.”
“It looked more than a little from where I was standing,” Amanda said.
“What can I say?”
“The truth.”
“It’s not even Sarah. It’s just.... It’s....” I tried to think about what to say without giving away Calvin’s feelings about Amanda, “just be my friend for now, okay?” I said. “I’m going through some strange stuff.”
“Friends are boring,” she said. “People have too many friends.”
Then she looked away angrily, for a moment. Amanda looked back at me. She grabbed my hand quickly, squeezed it, and we held on like lovers. I was consumed with her. Amanda’s strawberry and sweat scent filled Steve’s car. I wanted to open both doors, and take Amanda Evarts off into the Pittsburgh night. What was loyalty and friendship? She was right. Friends were boring. They were boring and needy, and people had too many friends. Then it startled me when Calvin knocked on the door. Amanda and I quickly let our hands go and she opened her car door. Had Calvin seen us?
“That damn Steve,” he said, as I got out of the driver’s side. “He still thinks he’s going out tonight. I had to have his mom and brother help put him to bed.” The three of us walked over to his Mini Coop. We got in and Calvin started the car.
“Steve’s a real winner,” Amanda said.
“I just hope he’s cool for the baseball game tomorrow.”
“What baseball game?” I asked.
“Pirates versus the Astros,” Amanda said.
Calvin turned back and smiled. “I got us all tickets.”
“You should’ve told me, man. I have to work.”
“You can’t get off?” he asked.
“Not now.”
“Call off.”
“If I call off, I don’t get paid.”
“Don’t worry, Alex,” Calvin said. “Calvin has you covered. Whatever you need, Calvin supplies.”
“It’s just not that easy for me, man. You’re gonna have to eat my ticket.”
Calvin laughed to himself. Amanda laughed too, but I stayed silent. I was pissed. Calvin supplies? What an insult. The whole ride back to Squirrel Hill I kept my mouth shut and my eyes closed. I think I fell asleep. I had great forgettable dreams. When I opened my eyes the whole of Phillips Avenue was looming around the car. I yawned and Amanda smiled at me. Calvin leaned back across his seat and grinned at me with his horse-like smile. The two of them looked like cackling jokers in the hazy wild blaze of a summer’s moon.
“Why don’t we come by after the game?” Calvin said.
“Maybe.... I might’ve made plans with Karl or something,” I said.
“He can join us,” Amanda butted in. “Come on, Alex. Maybe just coffee at the Eat’n’Park.” She looked to Calvin for confirmation.
“Coffee and sundaes!” Cal shouted
“All right,” I said. “I’ll see what I can do. But call me first, okay?”
“Okay,” Calvin said. “But if you change your mind about the game, call me by eleven tomorrow morning.”
“Don’t bet on it,” I said. “With college coming, plus a few other things, I have more expenses than time right now.”
“See you tomorrow, Alex,” Amanda said, as if all I’d laid out hadn’t made a dent on her. Cal was looking at me, so she blew me a kiss.
Then I stepped out of the car like a zombie, and the warm dampness of the night beat around my weary body. I swayed in a rare summer breeze. Where to now? I thought. I went to the other side of the car, and Amanda rolled down her window and we gazed at each other too long. She winked. Then Calvin blew the horn, and in an instant they were gone. Until maybe tomorrow night, they were gone. Then I began walking down Phillips toward Murray Avenue, Forbes Avenue, Noah and the Cage, thinking the saddest vision was the sight of red taillights as the people you cared about left you alone in the darkness of the night.