(for my friend in Seattle)
Walking home from school at seven thirty in the morning to get some sleep before everything begins again, some of the night school kids don’t expect to get beaten up, but Ava and Max know that it’s because they’re new, not yet used to the differences.
“It’s almost cute,” says Max.
“Yeah, in a really fucked up way,” Ava replies.
“If only they protected people more,” says Max, watching a day school kid walk up to a kid holding a Misfits record, take it, break it between his hands, and punch the kid in the face.
“That’s what happens when you don’t get home fast enough,” he says, spitting on the boy and his broken record before Ava walks up to the day school kid and grabs him by the hair as Max punches him hard enough to break his nose.
A horde of kids—day school kids, Ava sees—on their way to school stop at the scene, stare, and run over to help the kid with the broken nose, but not before sending punches Max’s way so that he’s doubling over on the ground, wheezing. Ava takes a small blade from her messenger bag and waves it around a few times, even though she knows that a time will come when she won’t be so lucky. Always gotta be prepared, she thinks, as the boys back off.
The new kid helps Max off the ground. Max nods his thanks, but not before the group of day school kids look at them, challenging stares. Max, Ava, and the new boy take their opportunity to run, and run, and run. They run until they’re out of breath, and stop, and look behind them to see that they’re safe. For the moment.
“What was that?”
“It’s just the way things happen.”
“Just the way it goes.”
They look at each other.
(for people i haven’t seen in a year.)
They plan to walk from Central to Harvard, but get sidetracked because Tom and Jasper want snacks for the ride back to New York, and Adam wants to look at CDs, so Jaime accompanies Zero Zero and So Violent to the Garage, where Tom and Jasper go to Subway, Adam and the five members of So Violent go to Newbury Comics with Jaime, and they meet afterwards near Ben and Jerrys, getting sidetracked by ice cream and a moment to catch up.
“It’s been a few years,” says Adam.
“I’ve missed you guys,” Jaime replies, “so much.”
“We missed you, too,” says Jane, from So Violent.
“Life gets crazy,” Jaime says, as way of trying to explain a dead boyfriend. “I’m sure it gets that way for you, too, right?”
She doesn’t know how to start a conversation anymore, what to talk about. She drinks her coffee, leaning into Alec, who sits next to her.
“How are you guys?” Alec asks.
Tom smiles. “Good,” he says.
“Reading a lot of comics,” Adam says. “And Charlotte…”
Jaime sees him frown, and then smile, but he doesn’t say anything else.
“What about you?” says Jasper, twirling his drumsticks in his hands.
“Thanks,” she says.
“For what?” Tom asks.
“For being around, for holding my hair back when I puked, for not caring when I punched that guy at the funeral,” she says. “For everything.”
“Totally!” says Jasper, giving her a high five.
“Punched that guy?” Cate asks.
“What?” says Jane.
Adam shakes his head and laughs, and Jaime laughs as they walk back to the van, and says that she’ll explain it later.
They plan the car crash so that no one gets hurt, but nothing goes according to plan. Almot gravely injured, after all, is not “the plan.”
Ellie Pomery doesn’t plan to run into Max, the boy who disappeared and came back, and his friend Ava, outside the Cambridge Common that night. Or seeing the girl in the pig’s mask—Emma, she thinks—and her friend, Virginia, and the boy. Virginia, looked after by Blake, who saved Ellie outside the Otherside Café and then shook the Starbucks cup, his Jar of Death, in her face. And the boy, who follows Emma around to the point that she saw he and Virginia outside Emma’s window one night, throwing rocks to get her attention.
The trio of teenagers walks with her in the dark.
She doesn’t expect running into Tom and Cate, from Zero Zero and So Violent, respectively, who need cigarettes and agree to be in her documentary for one each, the documentary that turns into a work of fiction when everyone gets bored enough.
She doesn’t expect anything other than wandering around Cambridge with a video camera at two am, bored out of her mind.
“What if we crash the car?”
Tom, wanting to watch things explode. Emma in the hospital. Burying the body for your friends. And digging it up again. The zombies.
She records the whole thing.
The truth, he thinks as he takes the train back downtown after waking up on it at two in the morning, is that he can’t even remember how or why he got onto the uptown C to begin with.
Like waking up at two in the morning with invisible hands around his throat, feeling like he’s choking, and he knows that it’s Heather, but Jaime is the only person beside him. Or waking up with a notebook in his hands, spots of ink on his hands from planning the comic with Dwayne about the blonde haired girl wandering around the city who can’t possibly be Heather, because…
"Because I sleptwalked onto a train to look for her," he whispers, "but can’t remember what happened because I woke up."
How can I tell other people the truth, he wonders, if I don’t even know if it’s real?
He lies on the gurney, hoping that no one will find him, wondering if he’ll die if he falls asleep.
A part of him wouldn’t mind, not really. He won’t have to explain how he ended up in the hospital in the first place (visiting a friend who isn’t really a friend), and he’s still not sure if he could get away with telling someone that I just couldn’t sleep, I can’t even dream…and drawing this comic. The person who’s writing it, at work at the comic bok store downtown, and that person’s ex— in the hospital uptown.
He closes his eyes. He can always think about it, tomorrow.
She walks through the doors to the store and walks over to the information counter where Alec stands, smiles at him, and suddenly wants to vomit.
“Jaime, are you okay?” he asks, coming around the counter as she sinks to the ground.
“I’m so—“ she begins, trying to keep composure as his friends kneel down to look at her.
Tris. Colin. Jeremy. Marie.
Looking through the bins at Comicazi. Asking Bob how he’d been. Singing along to the Misfits on the stereo. Buying a stack of comics and going to Diesel to read them over coffee.
“—so happy to—“
Jaime, the call on the phone, Theo…he’s…he’s killed himself.
Throwing the phone across the room. Get out. Need to get out.
Running. Down the street, somewhere else, away. To Forbidden Planet, where Alec’s friends found her. Let’s go to the French Roast, Olivia had told her. Alec’s shift finishes up in a few. We’ll get food.
She looks up and tries to catch her breath.
“I’m so happy to see you guys.”
On and on, on and on, everything blurs in low light, and he can’t see where his feet are heading, but he knows he’s going somewhere familiar, lucky enough to know the store even in the dark. I need my space. What kind of decision is that? Who in their right mind would make a decision like—right, he would.
Directionless. Why not get a little more directionless in the meantime, get run over by a car or something? It wouldn’t be the worst. Before he looks up and realizes that he’s at Bergen Street Comics.
And looks through the window to see Jaime and Tom standing around, talking. Jaime, who’s doing merch for the Zero Zero show at Rockwood. He thinks about the glitter bomb that Jaime and Tom made back before the Boston show, and nobody knew until afterwards. Jaime and Theo, sitting on the blanket outside, waiting for doors. Theo, dead. He wonders how she does it, lives, when going through a breakup feels like the end of the world, when they look over and see him through the window.
“Hey!” Tom says, grinning, as he opens the door.
“We were just talking about the show at Rockwood,” says Jaime. “I’m psyched.”
After all, it goes on and on, on and on.
On the way to New York with the rest of So Violent, Jane sits in the van and remembers the house show that they played back in Boston, where they named themselves after she punched someone in the face for talking shit about her and her girlfriend. And their manager had told her that maybe she should act a little less gay, so she walked out, wondering how their manager would like that.
But a familiar fear creeps back in as she sits with Cate, Clara, and Alice. She flips through an issue of Doom Patrol and wonders if their little band from Boston is even ready to play in New York. They’re liked in Boston, and she isn’t sure if she even wants to be liked anywhere else.
She doesn’t want it to matter. She doesn’t want anything to matter but the show they’ll be playing the next day with Zero Zero, and she wonders if Tom ever feels pressured to talk about things. She wants to burn the city down. Maybe nobody would care, then.
This or that. Make us your parlor trick, token queer band, or don’t mention who we are at all, because there must not be any inbetween. She wants to be the band that doesn’t give a shit about giving a shit. Her favorite superheroes didn’t take people’s shit, she thinks, closing the comic, and they always fought back.
Untitled, or letters to different people that I’m never sending, or something
I wrote a story for all of you, but mostly for you.
“I’ve been thinking too much,” I tell you back in April, “about everything. How do I keep writing? How do you keep playing piano?”
You tell me that Beethoven didn’t worry about what other people thought.
I didn’t know why I had spent twelve years playing piano until I learned “Moonlight Sonata.”
You’re always drumming on things, even as we walk around Walmart.
“Remember when, in the middle of that show in 2007, you were singing Britney Spears from behind the drum kit?”
The three of us laugh.
“Listen to Nine Inch Nails,” you said, and I spent the summer on the porch, Year Zero on repeat.
I’m glad I got to know your friends.
A cartoonist and a writer go on a hike.
“I miss our band.”
“I do, too.”
Conversations are filtered through others, walking down Fifth to get to Atlantic.
“Why are you here?”
“To see my cousin play some shows at Rock Shop and Rockwood Music Hall.”
“We played at Rockwood in 2007.”
“Yeah, on that tour.”
We walked around Walmart, shooting the shit for an hour.
Sometimes, people just come back into your life. You’re one of them.
I just saw a trailer for a new movie that your friend is in, something about a kidnapping, and remembered the time that another movie he was in came out. I texted B and M because I couldn’t stop laughing. They couldn’t, either.
A few days before, you and I were talking about things.
“You’ve probably had experience with people using you because of your friend,” I say, “so how do you deal with it?”
“People wouldn’t want to know that other people are doing that to you.”
Variations of keep your head up. You too.
Sometimes, you want to tell people that they’re going to be okay, even if you don’t know. Because you don’t know what to do, otherwise.
All I can do is give you and our other friend hugs, say goodbye, and get back on the train to Manhattan.
“Don’t kick down
The ladder you stepped up.”
I’m glad that we met.