Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Terrible Love - The National

She slid the planner back to me across the table. Inside she had just marked down her birthday. The entry for October 26th now read, “This Day in History: Lane Medley born in Kansas City, Mo.” Around it she had doodled fireworks and balloons. That date was less than two months away. Then she started studying again. We were in the library.

I tried to study too, but I kept looking at her. Not staring though.

At ten, she closed her books and we left to meet some friends at this 24 hour breakfast place called “Clark’s.” Then we went to my friend’s house and listened to records. She fell asleep and I almost did, so I took her back. On the drive to her apartment she got awake again or at least awake enough to talk. We parked. She laughed and said she might have a thing for me.


I woke up and walked down to Grady’s room. I knocked and we went to go workout. Grady used to be on the baseball team before he decided there was no point in playing division II athletics. He still had a pass to the athlete’s weight room though and we usually lifted there. That morning the girls soccer team had already taken it over so we went to the student gym.

“You know some girls exercise like 2, 3 hours a day?” Grady said as we went past a row of girls and one guy on the ellipticals.

“Who has time for that?” I replied.

“Who has motivation for that?”

“I for real see Jen Crane jogging like ten times a day. It feels like every time I’m driving around campus, no matter what time, I always see her running.”

“But, do you ever see it making any difference?” he asked. Jen was heavier and had a bigger body type. She looked like she was killing herself whenever I saw her jogging around, but she still looked the same.

Today we were doing shoulders and back. We were going a little harder today. I’m not sure why.

“I hung out with Lane last night,” I said between sets.

“Lane Medley?”


“Is that happening?”

“What do you mean ‘happening’?” I knew what he meant, but asked anyway. It was stupid.


My friend Luke wanted to get coffee so I skipped my ten o’clock and met him at “Grata,” this café coffeehouse thing downtown. He was a finance major, but what he really did was art stuff; painting and playing in a band and all that.

“Why don’t you guys play shows anymore? Why doesn’t anyone really play shows anymore?” I asked once we sat down.

“The scene’s not happening.”

“The scene’s happening, just not well.”

“It’s mostly underclassmen bands and to me it feels off.”

“That’s cause you guys either think you’re too cool or you’ve stopped caring.”

“Why don’t you start a band then?”

“Why don’t you just make the scene happening again? Whatever that means.”

“Graham told me Lane and you came over last night.”

“Yeah, we put on some freak-folk records, and then had this really great, deep talk about spirituality and stuff.”

“For real?”

“No, but we did listen to music for awhile and it made us all so chill we were fighting off sleep. Where were you?”

“With a study group believe it or not.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“What are you doing tonight?”

“Nothing I don’t think.”

“Want to check out that new Redline place with me and some people?”

“Yeah, I’m down.”

“You should bring Lane too.”

“Yeah, maybe.”


That afternoon after classes, I went back to that same café. I sat by myself on the street, smelling the smoke and listening to cars brake and accelerate. I brought some books with me, but I couldn’t decide if I wanted to read them. My waitress had read one of the books I had with me so we talked about that for a bit. The café was pretty slow so she stayed for awhile.

Talking to bored employees is a favorite past time of mine. Bored employees have nothing to hide and nothing better to do. I for real think you’ll find no more honest and engaged conversation than with them; even more so than with little kids. At least it’s more intelligent than with kids. These employees will tell you all the secrets of a place and all their opinions on stuff. It’s nice to listen to. I want to find some friends who are like bored employees all the time.

I saw Lane and her friend Kayla walking on the other side of the street. I didn’t feel like yelling so I just texted Lane to look to her left. It took a little while for her and Kayla to spot me. They laughed like seeing me there across the street was the funniest thing ever. They came over.

“Don’t you just look like the cliché college student?” Kayla started.

“You know it’d be hotter if you were writing books instead of just reading them,” said Lane.

“Well you should know I’m not doing either. These books are just props. I got to keep up the look.”

They sat down and the waitress came out and took their order.

“What have you guys been up to?”

“Oh, just shoe shopping,” Lane replied.

“Shoe shopping, of course, I should’ve guessed,” I said. “So only shoes? What if you see other clothing items you want?”

“Just shoes. If we started buying other stuff it would quickly turn from shoe shopping to outfit shopping which would turn into a lecture from my father about my card statements,” Kayla answered.

I’ve never heard of most of these girls having a job. It’s funny cause I hear them complain about money a lot, but I’m pretty sure it’s their parents who are giving it to them. And also, I know their parents will keep funding them no matter what; even if they complain to their kids to be more responsible with their money, they still won’t stop. Neither will. It just seems kinda weird to me.

“So it’s kind of like if you give a mouse a cookie, if you buy a girl a headband, she’ll want a…” I trailed off the implication.

We sat out in the café for more than an hour. We played Name their Fetish where we come up with weird fetishes for the people who walk by. It was fun and I made plans for them to come to the restaurant with us that night.


Kayla and Lane came and picked me up in Kayla’s car a few hours after we left the cafe. We headed over to meet everyone at the restaurant. We drove by and saw Luke standing out front with some people and texting on his cell phone. From the car we said hi to him and then spent a few trying to find a parking spot. Redline was on 7th and Congress and we ended up in a garage three blocks over.

Luke was with our friend Graham and two people I didn’t know named Cassidy and Paige. I recognized Cassidy from a gen ed econ class I had last year. We were seated like a minute after the three of us got there.

“I think I dig any restaurant that has both burgers and sushi on the same menu. So it’s looking good for this place,” Luke said.

“The menus are a little on the large side,” I remarked as I flipped mine up to hide behind.

“I know, I feel like I’m at work in a cubicle,” Cassidy joked and hid behind his too.

This place was trying to be trendy and as long as they make an attempt it’s at least interesting to watch. None of the waiters or waitresses in these restaurants look that interesting though. They’re almost always wearing black. They wore all black here too. That coupled with the low lighting of the place created an affect where it seemed like the waiters appeared out of nowhere. That took some getting used to. I liked the place good enough though.

Sink/Let it Sway – Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin

The rest of dinner was fine. Afterwards we decided to head over to this place “Crustasian’s,” where a new band that was supposed to be good was playing. There’re always supposed to be good so I never really know what that statement means. It was across town so we drove. It took a bit to find a parking spot again.

We went right inside when we got there. There wasn’t much happening inside. The show didn’t start for an hour. Cassidy, Paige, and Graham went outside. They said they needed to smoke. They probably weren’t going to smoke cigarettes or anything typical like that. People like that are usually smoking just the weirdest things: foreign stuff, things that are weeks away from being declared illegal, etc.; just to say they were doing it.

Kayla and Luke went up to the bar. Lane and I acted like we were going to the bathroom, but we just went over by a wall to talk. There were red lights all over the inside and so everything had a red tint. They made me feel like I was trapped in a tanning bed. I’m not sure tanning beds use red lights, but I guess they do in my mind. Actually, I felt more like there was a giant video camera right outside the place taping us all and its red recording light was bleeding in through the window and lighting most of the inside because the camera was that huge. There were Chinese papers lanterns hanging down all over the place with some of the red lights in them too. They swayed gently in response to the ceiling fans that were on full rotation.

“Having fun?” I asked.

“Yeah, you?”

“As far as I know, yeah.”

“You want to go outside for a sec?”


We left through a back entrance and came back in fifteen minutes later. It had gotten considerably busier since we left. I spotted our group. We walked over.

“…called Libertarian Paternalism,” Cassidy was speaking. His face seemed flush, but maybe it was just the lights. “Like people who have gambling problems, in Missouri they sign like a waiver or something and even if they go into a casino, whatever they win, they have to give back to the state. I don’t know, I think it’s kinda cool.”

“But that’s not even treating them like adults,” Paige said.

“Exactly, but what does it matter if they don’t even treat themselves as adults? What’s worse: them submitting to their addictive impulses to gamble or them submitting to the government in order to get over a serious problem?”

“To me if you’re going to quote, unquote submit to something, might as well let it be something that makes you better,” Graham added.

“But, does it actually make you better if you’re being forced to and you’re not really doing it yourself?” Luke asked.

“It at least doesn’t make you worse,” Cassidy replied.

“Still I feel like if you’re an adult you should be treated like one; even if it means digging your own grave. It’s every adult’s right to figure out what’s good for themselves. They shouldn’t be told what’s best for them on something that’s legal like gambling,” Paige joined in again.

“Why? Most of the adults I know are just about as clueless as the kids I know as to what’s good for themselves. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean all that much,” argued Cassidy.

“I don’t know…”Kayla started

I didn’t join in. I just listened. I’m not apathetic, I just don’t really care. I don’t care that much about what I think and I don’t care that much about if I’m right or wrong. I looked at Lane and she was listening intently. She didn’t speak either.

That talk continued for awhile. It was pretty interesting for a bit. Soon enough they were talking in circles though and with lots of vague proclamations and generalities swirling around. So, I leaned over to Lane and asked,

“What do you think of this place?”

She laughed a little, then said, “I’m not sure what to make of it.” It was Asian themed, but in a haphazard, ironic way that wasn’t actually trying to make this place feel Asian. “Some of it’s pretty funny, but some of it annoys me. I don’t even know why,” she added with another laugh. The DJ booth looked like a Japanese steakhouse grill. You could even sit right up around it, just like at one of those restaurants. Lane grabbed two chopsticks that they had littered about on the bar and put her hair up with them. I’m always impressed at how skilled girls are at maneuvering their hair when it’s behind their head and they can’t even see it.

“How do I look?”

“Fab. That’s the only word for it. You really went all out in keeping with the oriental motif.” I picked up chopsticks of my own and reached over to steal a cherry that was in Kayla’s drink when she wasn’t looking. Then I brought it and dropped it in Lane’s mouth. Then I shook my head and started laughing. “We’re ridiculous,” I said.

“I know,” she said and laughed some more. The band was supposed to start relatively soon so we figured since we were just standing around and talking we might as well stand and talk around by the stage. So we stood and talked till they came on.

Something Good Can Work - Two Door Cinema Club

When they came onstage, I checked and saw that I didn’t recognize any of them. It seemed like I used to know everyone in the music scene even though I didn’t play myself. They came out and made baseball signals with the guys in the booth to get the sound right. They moved around and made a few remarks to each other, then took their places and started their set.

My thoughts flowed to Lane though. She was dancing in front of me. 

Dancing is like an exponent with girls. If they’re good, it just makes them that much more attractive. If they’re bad and it’s a negative exponent; it kind of kills it. I kept thinking about Lane though. This whole thing with Lane was different to me.

It was strange for me because I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to talk about it or not; like to others and stuff. That’s not that big of an aspect in a relationship, but I kept thinking about it. I didn’t know why I brought her up when I was lifting with Grady. I didn’t know why I felt weird when Luke mentioned her. If people ask me about someone I’m seeing, I’m pretty open about it and it’s not a big deal to me, but it’s not like me to introduce it. It’s just kinda whatever with me.

I kept thinking about it and I kept thinking about Lane. She was a good dancer and she looked like she has having fun. Actually, the dancing thing with exponents isn’t really about if they’re good or not. It’s a positive exponent if you like to watch them dance. It’s negative if you don’t like watching them, which can even happen if they’re a really good dancer. I can’t even think of a common denominator that explains why you like to watch some girls dance and not others.

Music has a way of exaggerating emotions and I think something like that began to happen with me at that show. I started getting these bursts of affection for Lane that were welling up in me. It was like this bubble that started in my stomach and rose up, getting bigger. It was weird.

When they were at their height though, Lane would suddenly be in slow-motion and everything sounded like I was underwater. Then they would go away. Then they would come back. It sounds ridiculous even to me. It’s what I was feeling though, and somewhere in all that stupid bubble stuff I thought I hit on why I was feeling weird about her. To me, it was because I was uneasy about it. It wasn’t anything wrong with her or me or timing or anything like that. It was just something about the whole thing that made me uneasy. It was like being at a desk and leaving for a few minutes and coming back and feeling like something’s different, but you don’t know what. To me, it then seemed like a very good thing that I was uneasy about it. I didn’t know exactly what I meant by that, but it made a lot of sense to me at the time.

Lane grabbed my hands and we both began dancing around together. The music was the kind that you wouldn’t really dance to recorded, but if you heard it live you wanted to dance. I think the band was called “Yellow Light Dilemma.” It was a little too high-school emo band for me, but I personally found it kind of funny.

I looked at Lane and she was staring at this couple that was dancing all over each other. It was funny how careful they were being to not spill their drinks. She saw me watching her.

“There’s no way we could top them for most obnoxious couple, but you know how we can come close?” Lane leaned in like she was going to whisper, but half-yelled. I took note that the way she used the word “couple” implied that we were too.


“Unnecessary sunglass wearing!” She screamed and put her Wayfarer’s on me. I snagged my own fake Ray Bans from my pocket and put mine on her. We were both laughing and then she twirled. We kept on dancing together. The bubble thing started again and when they were at their apex I felt for Lane the way I felt about life every Friday afternoon in elementary school right before it let out for the weekend.

Expectation - Tame Impala

After the show we ended up at somebody’s apartment. Whose it was I didn’t really care. I’ve found myself in so many random apartments and houses over the years. Sometimes I’m there for only a few minutes, one time I was there for a week. Most of the time they were nothing more than a figurative ottoman to rest your night on for a bit.

Lane had to make a call so she went outside and I found myself talking with Paige. The apartment had a real chill vibe and there were a bunch of muted-toned lights of various colors around. Some had designs, some didn’t, some moved and some didn’t.

There were also more beanbag chairs in there than I had seen since my friend Matt’s 11th birthday party. Beanbag chairs are so weird because I feel like so many people have one that they just keep in the closet till that one time a semester when they need it. I always feel like I’m the one who ends up on a beanbag in the middle of the room while everyone else is on couches; I feel like we’re usually watching a movie when that happens. Not that it matters, but I got preoccupied thinking about them for a bit.

“So what year are you?” I asked Paige.

“I’m a junior…”

There were a lot of lava lamps in there too I noticed. I then started thinking about lava lamps as Paige and I talked. We talked about the show earlier. Then we talked about podcasts. Then we talked about photography. Then we talked about a trip to China she was going on pertaining to photography. She honestly bored me at first, but then I found her more and more interesting.

“So how long will you be gone total?”

“3 months.”


“I know. It’ll be the longest I’ve ever been away from home.”

“How homesick do you usually get?”

“Not very, but I hear you start missing the states a lot when you’re away from here.”

“For real, it’s true. I studied in Spain for a year and I just couldn’t wait to see like a Wal-Mart or something. I traveled to London and about blew my mind because I went to a Chili’s and they have all that stupid Americana stuff all over the walls.”

“I swear, my mom just redid her basement and it seriously looks like one of those places with all that random crap decorating it.”

“I’ve always wanted to gaslight a place like that by going in there and every time I do, I replace something on the wall with some artifact from my room until I’ve transformed it and a section of that restaurant is totally indistinguishable from my room.” She thought that was really funny so I continued. “Those places are so weird, like I’ve seriously seen like little kids rec league team pictures in some. How weird is that? Like who thought that was a good idea? Anyways, I think I could really do it and no one would notice.”

“Let’s do it. I’ll help. It’ll be a good project for us to work on this semester.”

“I’m in.”

Paige was more fun than I expected. Sometimes people like her who are a bit artsy have no real sense of humor. They feel like they can’t laugh because there’s starving kids in Africa or they decide to not actively listen to any sentence without a five syllable word in it. And it’s not in a snobbish way, it’s just in a taking things too serious way.

“Where is everyone else?” I asked. It came into my mind that I hadn’t seen those in our group in awhile.

“Well, Luke is over there with Cassidy and Kayla.” She nodded to the doorway of a bedroom where the three of them were standing around talking to a group of people.

“Uhuh,” I said slowly as I looked at them.

We looked around some more, but didn’t see anyone.

“You want anything to drink?” I asked.

“No I’m good, you?”

“Nope, I just feel compelled to ask to make sure.”

“I see.”

“So you know Luke?”

“Yeah, why?”

“How long have you known him?”

“Umm…I don’t know, a while. At least two years.”

“Huh. It’s weird, I feel like we should’ve met each other before.”

“I know, you would think.”

Cassidy broke away from the people he was talking to and walked up to us.

“Cassidy, I love this kid. Why haven’t we been hanging out with this guy before?” said Paige.

He took a deep breath, looked at me and nodded as if in deep thought. “Well, my theory is that you, my new friend, are not actually a student, but a journalist sent in undercover to get a firsthand report on the wild, hedonistic lifestyle of parties and orgies lead by today’s university student.” He looked back and forth between Paige and I with cartoon shifty eyes, and then started directing his comments at Paige. “Sadly though, his story will be skewed by this little detour to some lame stoner’s apartment.” He leaned slightly towards me and whispered, “Don’t be fooled. Real college parties have many more beautiful people. Though, if you really wanted to have fun, you should’ve posed as a football recruit. They would’ve certainly showed you a good time,” he winked for punctuation. I couldn’t help laughing, Paige too.

He glanced around and started talking before either of us responded, “I bet this person’s a jam band fan. Anyone with this amount of lava lamps has to dig jam bands. I bet if we checked a closet we would find a stockpile of Mexican ponchos. Why are we still here? What is happening? We should go. Oh, but are you a reporter?”

“Would you even believe me if I told you the truth? But sadly no. I wish though, because that would mean I’d have a job; something that’s not looking too good for us when we graduate.”

“I know! Totally! This recession has impeccable timing for our generation. Especially our generation: the laziest, sissiest group of humans ever assembled. This is just what we need, an excuse to not have a job so we can finally have time to find ourselves.”

“For real. My parents had such high expectations of me becoming just like them with a dog, two kids, and a house in a gated community. I’m going to be such a disappointment.”

“Actually it’s 1.28 pets, 3.3 kids, and 2,433 square foot home. I memorized those stats for a class and use every opportunity I can to show them off,” Cassidy grinned as he said that.

“Well I’m impressed,” I said.

“It’s funny though, so many of us acted like that sort of average lifestyle was the last thing we wanted as adults, but I think that for most of those people it’s still what they secretly wanted or at least assumed would happen. Now all that stable suburban lifestyle stuff seems like a mirage.”

“Seriously. I don’t get how average became a fairy tale.”

“Yeah,” agreed Paige. “How can something so boring and mediocre not even be real anymore?”

“Well, there’s always the sweatshop route to gainful employment,” commented Cassidy to break us momentarily losing ourselves in our own thoughts.

Lane walked into the apartment then and came over to us.

“Sorry about that.”

“No worries,” said I. “You’re a busy, important person. I get it.”

She playfully rolled her eyes at my comment before asking,

“So do you guys’ know whose place this is?”

Paige, Cassidy and I looked at each other and shook our heads. Then I asked,


“Just curious. It’s just kind of a trippy place so I was wondering.”

“I was just thinking the exact same thing. Anyways, I think the time has come my little friends,” Cassidy said as he took off to go round up the others.

Lane, Paige, and I ended up talking about the books that were on this bookshelf we were standing by. We left like a half hour later.

Heaven’s on Fire –The Radio Dept.

We next found ourselves at a house party at a way nice place. There were a lot of people there; a lot of athletes too. I waved to Grady who was there with some of his old baseball friends. Lane and I wandered off on our own and eventually sat down on the bottom steps of a staircase. This proved to be a poor decision. The stairs were in regular use and usually by people for whom consistently level ground was enough of a challenge. It was quite distracting and we constantly felt like we were either going to be witnessing or breaking someone’s fall.

“Do you want to walk around?” I asked Lane.

“Not really, but if you do…”

“I don’t, but I don’t want to sit here either.”

We walked around a bit and settled on a window sill that was wide enough for sitting.

“Could you see yourself living in a place like this?” I asked her.

“Umm…hmm, I don’t know. See whenever I do my whole future daydream thing it’s always focused on journalism. A house or an apartment or anything never really factors in. In my mind it seems like I’m usually just running around some third-world country draped in Khaki. Really just thinking of my own place seems like such a distant part of life right now. Could you?”

“Yeah.” Then as an addendum, I said, “Honestly I could see myself living in just about anything though.”

Graham found his way over to us.

“Feeling anti-social are we?”

“Chill. That’s how we like to put it,” said Lane.

“Yeah, if you had your record player, we could put on some vinyl’s and Lane here would be a goner,” I added. Lane laughed.

“I know it’s inexcusably lame to fall asleep on you guys like that, but that thing has some kind of hypnotic effect on me. Everything you guys played last night sounded like a lullaby.”

“It’s ok, I was just about to nod off when you did.”

“Oh! Do you know what I heard about this place? I heard that the kid who lives here, his dad is Craig Drake, the news anchor guy,” Graham said. I just looked at him and started laughing. “What, do you not believe it?” he asked me.

“I mean, I have no idea. I really don’t care whether or not it’s true. It just struck me as funny.” Graham looked at Lane to see her reaction. She looked at me.

“Guess what else I heard about this place?”


“Apparently they have some big Bible study here every Thursday night. So on Thursday nights this house is packed for some Bible thing and then on the weekend it’s the party house. A Bible study!” he added again at the end.

I laughed some more at what he said. He seemed a little annoyed that this was humoring me in an unintended way. He left a little while later. Then Cassidy and Kayla came over. I asked him if he knew anything about the residents of the house. I was pretty sure that Cassidy was the one who took us here.

“Yeah, I went to high school with him.”

“What does his dad do?”

“I’m not sure exactly, just one of those random rich businessmen types. Why do you ask?”

“Just wondering,” I said laughing some more. I then asked him about the Bible study thing. He looked perplexed and I told him, laughing even more, that sometimes you just hear weird things. They left to get something to drink.

After they went, in my mind I decided that I didn’t really want to see anyone else the rest of the night. We didn’t do anything, Lane and I. We just sat there at the windowsill. I thought about how I was glad that Cassidy was there with Paige and I when Lane came back in. I didn’t want Lane to think I was flirting with Paige. Typically, I could care less about that.

We were both a little tired so we decided to leave before everyone else. Lane already had Kayla’s keys, but she wanted to see if Kayla wanted to ride back with us. I stayed at the window as she left to go talk to Kayla. I played with a tassel on the corner of a rug that I could just barely reach with my shoe. When she came back she said that Cassidy was going to give Kayla a ride back. Then she smiled and shrugged.

“Good for them I guess,” I said.


I found myself with Lane pretty much every day of the next week. She left that weekend with some of her friends to go to one of their family’s ranches to ride horses or something ridiculous like that. Luke, Cassidy, and I went to the game Friday night and then drove like two hours to someone’s lake house where we only stayed for a little more than an hour before coming back. On Saturday Luke, Graham, Grady, and I spent a peripatetic night bouncing around from place to place. We were at Luke and Graham’s house for the longest spell, watching a movie and playing video games.

The whole time, I was texting Lane though. Throughout both nights we kept it up. I even called and talked to her a few times before she came back to school Sunday. This was not my usual mode of operation. The few times I had bridged the absence from a girl by keeping in contact with her, it had honestly felt like a chore and I did it as little as I had to.

I wanted to with Lane though and I had fun with it. I even missed her. I even tried to fill those gaps where I missed her by imagining special things I could do for her on her birthday. I even got excited planning out what I was going to do.

When I thought about all the girls and relationships I’ve found myself involved with, there’s something so inevitable about it all. It’s like because I’m young and not in a monastery, it just seems to happen. It’s not just attraction or relationships with people, but the actual involvement with romance and all. Even if you’re not necessarily looking for it, even if you’re not necessarily trying for it, you still find yourself in it. It’s like how there’s 4 pens in the cup holder of my car. I don’t exactly want them there, I don’t really care that they are there, but I do not know how or why they all got there. They still are though. I just looked down one day and consciously noticed them. Things with Lane were on purpose for me. It was intentional with her.

Mtn Song for M Howell– The Shot Heard Round the World

We kept hanging out and that next Wednesday I purposefully caught her as she was walking to her last afternoon class and asked if she wanted a ride. She got in and instead of taking her to class I took off into the country to go for a drive. I didn’t think she’d care about not going class and she didn’t. We slipped our way out of town and careened up and around the hill country.

I don’t know how long we drove, but it was a good amount of time. We played lots of songs for each other, back and forth, and just talked. I took her to this one place I had camped at with my friends a couple times. It was just a little clearing in the trees. Really there wasn’t anything that special about it, but driving up in the hills to this spot had always been my ritual when I was taking myself too seriously and felt overly dramatic things like 'I need to get away from everything' or 'I need to clear my head.' I’m not a fan of hearing people gush about how therapeutic and restorative they find nature to be. Even so, I admit I usually did feel better after going up there. I thought she’d like to see it too.

We talked till the sun began to set. I liked talking to Lane. When I talked with her I didn’t care whether or not we agreed on stuff. I just wanted to hear what she had to say. Talking with her made me want to hear what I had to say too. I said some pretty sappy things to her that afternoon. I meant them too. We talked about lots of other stuff, but the sappy stuff is what I’ll always remember. I didn’t say them to be sweet or to try and be honest about my feelings, I just wanted her to know. I was pretty affectionate that afternoon too.

Sometimes I don’t like to think about it or us in too much specifics. Things like what exactly we said or did or how exactly I felt because when I do it just sounds like everyone else when they talk about their own loves and romances. I wanted us to be different. I felt like we were different. I don’t like it when it sounds like we weren’t.

I don’t want to make that afternoon out to be really cheesy or maudlin or anything because it wasn’t; at least to me. I even feel weird when I think about how I liked the sunset we saw that day on the drive back. I remember it being really red. It was cool though, but to me it’s a little much to think about a sunset in that context. It’s kinda funny, but all my memories of that day, in my mind, look like they were shot on one of those old 8mm film cameras. How’s that for cliché?

Gonna Beg You – The Bird Day

I like to think. Not like problem-solving thinking, but just to let thoughts pass through my mind as I play border patrol and decide what kind of access I’ll allow them in my beliefs. It’s nice because if you like to think like that, you’ll barely ever get bored. Anyways, this one time I was thinking, or I guess musing might be more accurate, but I just remember this particular time being more thoughtful than usual.

When I’m like this and I’m running all these things through my head, I usually don’t even know where all these thoughts are coming from. It’s like they just randomly line up and I run them through an x-ray machine and I’m trying to strain them or scrutinize them. The thoughts will keep coming and passing over me and sometimes they’ll stick. It’s like something in my mind is a magnet and some thoughts seem weirdly magnetized and so they’ll stay in my brain for longer.

So, this one night when I was thinking about stuff a thought came into my mind and stuck right on the magnet and I couldn’t shake it. I tried to, but it stayed. I tried to bring in other thoughts to cover it up, but something about it just seized me. It’s one of those thoughts that only mean something to the person that thought it. It would seem pretty inchoate and inconsequential to someone else. It wouldn’t even seem like that big of a deal. No one else could live the thought though. They could just see the words of it. They couldn’t live it. You have to show these thoughts more respect when you’re the one who has to live them; when you’re the one who knows about how all your senses are attached to it, how your past and future and right now were attached to it. It’s better not to think about thoughts in that way though.

But this particular thought that stuck was not one I necessarily believed was true and I told myself that just because you thought it, that doesn’t necessarily make it true, just because it’s sticking around, doesn’t mean it’s true. It was still.

Since then the thought had been mostly buried and obscured by the sands and winds of my daily routine, but it was the thought that I was thinking as I read the text message from the number I had deleted but memorized, that read “Can we talk?” It was the thought that said “you’ll go to Abigail whenever she calls…no matter what.” And that’s what I did.

I texted Lane that I was busy when she wanted to hang out and I went over to the performing arts center. I met Abigail on the fire escape on the back side of the building. She was still in costume; a yellow Victorian era dress with her hair done up high. I didn’t think about it at the time, but it was probably a pretty funny scene.

She had been crying and her excess stage make-up looked garish from the tears. I met Abigail the year before. I had ended up at a party at her family’s lake house at the start of our fall break from school. That party was where I was introduced to her. I ended up staying there for the week. I even met her family and spent the last part of the week with all of them too. It was pretty weird, but it didn’t seem strange at the time. At the time it made complete sense that I would spend fall break with this girl I had always heard of, but never met; that I’d spend a break with her family like I was a serious boyfriend. I didn’t even like her that much and I didn’t feel like she was even that fond of me. We got along really good, but in a weird way, and it’s not like we had any sort of extraordinary connection or anything. I liked her family pretty good though. Not that it matters. I still don’t understand how that happened or how I lasted there for a week. It was fun though.

Abigail is a big deal at our school. She grew up in the area and her family is way rich and she’s always playing one of the major roles in all of our school’s plays and musicals and all. I don’t have an inferiority complex and I have a more than healthy self-esteem I think, but I never got why she took an interest in me. Something about not being each other’s type is probably what made it seem unusual in my mind. She was blonde and attractive in a predictable way. She was many times annoying to be around, but I rarely got tired of her. I could never take her that serious.

Nothing ever really happened since that week. It was never awkward or anything and we’d hang out from time to time, but nothing regular or serious. I wouldn’t even care if I saw her with another guy. I don’t even know if it was ever really anything romantic. I mean I know it was, but it wasn’t too; if that makes sense. I know it’s an odd situation, I do know that.

So I saw her crying and I went up and sat next her on the stairs and asked what was wrong. She looked at me and started crying some more.

“Hey. Babs.” I called her that from time to time. “Hey, will you take a deep breath? Will you at least do that for me? Hey there, will you just look at me?” She looked up at me. I looked back at her and found it fascinating how I could tell that she didn’t feel the slightest bit ridiculous to be a college age woman crying her eyes out on a fire escape in a very loud costume. These were the types of things about Abigail that I found so interesting.

“Here, take some deep breaths with me.” So I started with these yoga-type in-breaths and eventually she started doing it too. She calmed a bit, so I said, “Alright, so tell me what happened Abby.”

“Oh, just everything,” she said.



“Well, did something happen at the play tonight?”

“It was a disaster. It was an absolute disaster. I don’t even want to talk about it. I was an absolute disaster. I’m not even sure I’m cut out for this kind of stuff anymore.”

“Whoa, that seems a bit extreme. Will you just tell me what happened exactly?”

“Oh nothing, just Dr. Sher went on and on after the production about how amazing and how gifted and talented and how grand and how Maddy Dalton is like the effing second coming of Audrey Hepburn or something.” She really said effing too. I was glad she wasn’t looking at me because I was smiling pretty big and trying hard not to laugh. I tried to get serious again so I could actually help her or something.

“Who’s Maddy Dalton?”

“This freshman girl that went to high school at Kapner and is like the greatest thing we’ve ever had on our stage and we’re all apparently so lucky that she decided to grace our lowly school with her great talent. She doesn’t even have half as big of a role as me. It’s not that hard to nail down a bit part like that.”

“What’s Kapner?” I asked.

“Kapner School for the Performing Arts, have you really not heard of it?”

“Oh, yeah I guess I have,” I hadn’t, but it still seemed like the thing to say.

“You know, I heard she even plays acoustic guitar too.”

Colours– Grouplove

I did laugh out loud after she said that. Something about the way that Abby equated a freshman girl who probably wasn’t even hyped as much as Abby herself was as a freshmen, who got highly praised by the director after the show, and who plays acoustic guitar; as a insult to herself and a sign that she should get out of the acting business, was very funny to me. Especially the acoustic guitar part. Mainly the acoustic guitar part.

Abigail got pretty upset with me after I laughed so I got so serious. I said a bunch of cliché things that I would’ve hated to hear someone else say. They were the only things I thought she’d really understand though. I’m not very good at helping other people with their problems. They either seem kinda stupid or way too serious for me and I have no idea how to actually help them. I end up just saying a bunch of cliché things.

I talked for a while after I laughed. I gave a little speech about how baseball players are lucky to get a hit a third of the time and how basketball players practice shooting for hours just to make half of their shots. I told her that it’s not that big of a deal if she doesn’t give some drop-dead performance every time that the director gushes about backstage to everyone every time. It was a bit of a stretch and I think I heard that same speech about once a year growing up, but it did seem to help. I had the feeling that just about anything I’d say to her, as long as it was in a caring voice, would help.

I then started complimenting her like crazy and then started asking her questions about why she liked the theater so much. Then she went off for a bit and by the end of it, she felt like she had been called to the stage and like nothing short of a shelf full of Tony awards would be good enough for her.

I apologized for laughing and then she, who was still crying a little, starting laughing herself about it. She told me thanks and we kept talking like nothing had happened, like we had run into each other on campus. I’d say we stayed talking on that fire escape for at least another hour. When we left, the theater was locked and so she had to go back to her room in costume. I knew she wouldn’t care or feel weird about it at all. I walked her to her dorm and I felt weird about her wearing a costume.

As we were walking we passed Kayla and so I said hi and then I felt guilty. I felt guilty because I was pretty positive she would tell Lane she saw me. That thought made me feel guilty. It then made me annoyed because I felt like the only reason she’d tell Lane is because Abby was in a ridiculous costume walking with me. I went from annoyed to irritated thinking about Abby’s stupid dress and hair and make-up, and knowing that she was loving the fact that wearing it was probably giving her extra attention. I felt stupid for having been feeling good about myself for cheering up Abby. I felt even more stupid and guilty because I knew I really did feel good about myself for cheering up Abby.

I felt guilty too because I weirdly always felt kinda guilty after being with Abby. Guilty might not be the most fitting word, but I just felt off. I think it was because I didn’t usually talk like myself when I was with her. I talked like someone else. I said the type of things, usually pretty boring, conventional things that I felt she’d understand. It just seemed like the thing to do when I was with her. I really did think it was the only kinds of things she’d really understand and respond to. There was just always an awareness of it after I’d leave her though.

I don’t know, I just remember feeling particularly stupid and guilty right then. Part of me kept wanting to feel more guilty and part of me wanted to remind myself that I was just helping out a friend who was feeling down. Or at least that’s what I was calling it. I really don’t know what I was doing or what I would call it.


It had become an unofficial tradition that Lane and I would talk on the phone every night before we went to sleep. I was laying in my bed with the lights out when she called that night. I had pretty much been in that exact position since I got back from seeing Abby. The light from the cell phone jumped out and lit up my ceiling. I waited a while to answer.


“Hey you.”

“What’s going on Laney?”

“Oh just finishing this powerpoint I have to have done for my 1 o’clock. You?”

“Just laying in bed.”

“Thrilling. I talked to Kayla and she said she ran into you tonight.”

“Yeah, we didn’t really get a chance to talk, but it had been a bit since I’d seen her so it was good to say hey.”

“Yeah, she said you were walking around campus with Abigail who was in like full-costume. Tell me there’s a story there.”

“Well the back story is not as exciting as you would think. She was just feeling a little down about theater stuff so I was trying to cheer her up. She ended up getting locked out of the theater and so she had to stay in her costume. Don’t worry she stayed in character though.”

“That’s funny. I didn’t realize you guys were that close or that you were friends with her at all.”

“Yeah. I mean I’ve known her for a couple years.”

“So is that where you were when you were busy earlier?”

“Yeah. It just seemed kinda weird to text that I was having a heart to heart with a Jane Austen character.”

“True true. Anyways, I should probably get back to my stuff. Thanks for chatting.”

“Sure. Are you doing alright Lane?”

“Yeah I’m fine. I’m sorry I can’t talk longer, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Sounds good Lane. Do you want to have lunch tomorrow then?”


“Cool. Alright well, night Lane.”


I go back to this conversation from time to time in my head. This one, I do think about in specifics. I think about how every time I think about it, I somehow interpret every line of her’s differently. How it sometimes seems like she is totally normal and cool and how sometimes it’s like every word of hers is out of this eerie repressed rage. I think about how I kept using Lane’s name at the end of our talk to try and stake some claim to her or something. I didn’t think about if that was what I was doing at the time, but I think about that now. That conversation really did weird me out. None of the things that happened that night were that significant, but Lane was smart. She could figure stuff out.

DNA – Darwin Deez

Lane cancelled on lunch and so all we did was text that day. It wasn’t the most engaging back and forth either. I knew she was upset. It was understandable, but it seemed a little much.

I was laying on my bed again in the dark when she called that night. While I was laying there before she called, I actually thought about Abigail a lot. It wasn’t good stuff either. I thought about it a lot and I thought about all the times I’d spent with Abby. After going over it all, I just felt like I was scratch paper. It was like I was only there for her when she was down, to draw circles on to get the pen working again, or to just talk stuff through like she was just adding up some figures she couldn’t do in her head, or like I was there to doodle on when she was bored or wanted a distraction. It was like I was only there in the first place because I was within arm’s reach of her and had some free surface for marking.

Then I couldn’t stand her and I just wanted to be doing something with Lane. Something like dancing or going out into the country or putting cherries in her mouth with chopsticks; something kinda corny like that was always real fun with her. That stuff really was corny and so I don’t like to bring it up much, but I really did love it.

Right then, instead of anything fun and corny, I went for sad and corny and just laid in my bed and waited to hear my phone go off and to see the light it put on my dark room. When she did call, I again waited awhile before answering.



“Are you mad at me?”

“No small talk?”

“Are you mad Lane?”

“Mad isn’t the right word.”

“What’s the right word?”

“Ummm…I don’t know…confused, irritated, scared…I’m not sure really.”

“You seemed alright last time we talked so I’m not sure exactly what happened.”

“I just feel like you were kinda being shady about some stuff.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well…ok, I guess I should ask you about some stuff first before I start saying statements like that.”


“I just heard that you and Abby had like a thing or something.”

“Uhuh and…”

“Well, did you guys?”

“I mean I don’t know what you’d call it, so I guess ‘thing’ fits. So yeah I guess.”

“Well, why didn’t you mention that little tidbit last night when we talked about you knowing her?”

“Honestly, that little tidbit really didn’t seem worth mentioning.”

“Don’t get mad.”

“I’m not.”

“Would you mind mentioning it now?”

“I don’t care.”

“Well the fact that you’re getting weird about it makes it seem like it’s more of a thing than you’re letting on.”

“How am I getting weird about it?”

“Because you won’t just tell me about it?”

“There’s nothing to tell Lane. It was a thing. What do you say about a thing? Abigail and I had a thing apparently. It was forever ago. I’m not even sure it was significant enough to qualify as a thing, but it’s not like I still have a thing for her. What else do you want?”

“Nothing. That’s exactly what I want to hear. I’m not trying to make this into a bigger issue than it is. I just don’t know why you didn’t tell me what you just told me last night.”

“Alright, I’m sorry. Are we good?”

“Do you understand why this upsets me?”


“Well then explain it to me.”

“I’m not stupid I know why. I know.”

“Well then it won’t be that big of a deal to explain it to me.”

“I know. You know. What’s the point of explaining?”

“Why won’t you just do it?”

“Why are you making this into such a big deal?”


“Seriously Lane.”

“It just seems really weird because you just totally glossed over what you were doing in your text.”

“We talked about that. I told you about it.”

“I wouldn’t have cared if you just would have told me up front. I wouldn’t have cared that you were going to be spending time with another girl instead of me. I wouldn’t have cared that you were going to be alone with someone you’ve had some sort of romantic relationship with. I wouldn’t have cared. If you just would have let me know, I really wouldn’t have cared.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.”

“It just seems like both when you texted me and then when we talked about her last night, you were kinda trying to cover it up or something. If it truly wasn’t a big deal, then it wouldn’t have been worth the effort to try and cover it up.”

“You’re being insane right now.”

“No. Don’t even act like I’m just being a crazy girl about it. Seriously, most girls would have been so mad at you for hanging out with another girl alone and not telling them about it. You know I trust you and I felt like you wouldn’t do something like that to me, so it wasn’t a big deal at all. The thing is, I know you’re smart enough to know exactly what you did and I know you knew exactly what you were doing. It’s actually one of the things I like best about you is how conscious and sensitive to stuff like that you are…whether you want to admit it or not.”

“Well, I’m sorry. Alright?”

“You know you’re not even being you right now. You’re arguing like a typical guy. It makes me even more annoyed because I know you know you’re doing it too.”

“Please tell me what else I know.”

“I’m trying to give you an out here. Do you see that? I’m trying to give you a chance to redeem yourself for being a bit of a creep because I know that’s not you and I want you to show me that that’s not you.”

“I didn’t do anything with her.”

“How do I know that? How do I know that you didn’t want to do anything with her?”

“Because I didn’t and I’m telling the truth.”

“I believe you, I do, but that’s not the point you know. The point is that I care a lot about you, and I’m caring more and more the more I get to know you, but I want to know that you’re not going to hold anything back on me.”

“Even if I do, I can count on you to call me out and make it into some international incident.”

“Why are you being such a jerk about this? I’m giving you a chance to make this better and you’re like posturing or something. You know you’re not being yourself.”

“This is so stupid. I didn’t do anything. I don’t care. I really don’t care anymore.”

Fa Fa Fa – Sin Fang Bous

I knew I wasn’t being myself. I don’t feel like I wasn’t being myself in the way she meant though. I just felt so stupid and embarrassed and I just wanted her to drop it. I know it was stupid. I felt so foolish about it all. The bigger deal she made about it, the harder it was for me to admit to it. The more she pushed the madder and stupider I felt. She knew how embarrassed I was, right? How idiotic I felt? The way I knew exactly what she meant and what I did wrong? I really did know what she wanted me to say like it was lines in a play and I knew that I wanted to say them, but I didn’t. It’s weird too because if it would have been Abby, I probably would’ve said those words. I don’t understand the new rules we write for dealing with the people we care about the most.

I wished I could’ve explained to her that it wasn’t love or anything, it was just curiosity. That’s why I couldn’t help going to her. I was just curious every time she wanted to talk to me; what does she want, why me, why now? I don’t know why I was so curious or why I was always so desperate to find out whenever Abby called on me. I just found it fascinating that someone could take themselves that seriously or something I guess. I just feel like girls themselves would not understand that explanation. I don’t think they’d understand that it was just curiosity and not love. They’d never understand with Abby; not when everyone thinks she’s so beautiful, not when she’s such a big deal, not when something has happened before with us.

I could’ve at least tried to explain that though. That’s the thing. I could’ve at least tried.

Neither of us said anything after my last statement. We stayed silent on the phone for a good while. I thought about how in the light white noise of the phone I could hear the ocean. It was stupid, but it was what I was thinking.


The next day I wanted Lane more than ever. I felt more than ever for her. I feel asleep while we were silent on the phone. We stayed that way for awhile. I’m not sure how long the call stayed connected for. I don’t know if she hung up or tried to talk again or feel asleep herself. I just knew I felt like an idiot and I ended up doing something really stupid that day. Something really stupid and childish.

I texted this French girl who was an international student here. I had to do a group project with her one time. I met up with her. I did annoying things like I made her laugh by struggling through a few French phrases. I kissed her and stuff. She was cute and all, but everyone thought she was like ten times more attractive because she was French. I never do stuff like that. Then I went and played racquetball with Cassidy and told him all about what I had just done. I told him because I knew he’d probably tell other people, Kayla for sure, and she’d tell Lane. I wanted Lane to know.

I felt sort of panicky for some reason after that and so I went and hung out with Luke, Graham, and Grady. I figured it’d be good to be with my friends and all three were together at Luke and Graham’s place. They were just sitting around talking when I got there and so after a few minutes of small talk, I told them too what I had just done. That led to them having some questions and so I explained the rest of the story. They told me I was an idiot. I agreed and ended up leaving like fifteen minutes later.

Then I went and drove out to that clearing that I like. When I think about how I went there, I get annoyed at myself. I wasn’t really myself that day. I felt pretty miserable, but I was only thinking about me. I mean I thought about Lane too though, but I wasn’t thinking about her if that makes sense. I thought an awful lot of good things about her too. I thought up just about everything about her that I liked. The one thing I didn’t think about though, was how miserable she probably was. I’m sure she was doing pretty bad and I know she didn’t deserve to feel that way at all, but it wasn’t on my mind at the time. I was just feeling terrible and thinking about how I didn’t have cell phone service where I was.

I slept in my car that night. I set the alarm on my phone so that I’d be sure to get up so I could make it back to campus in time to work out with Grady. I have no idea why that seemed so important at the time. I don’t know why it seemed like sleeping in my car was the thing to do either.

That night in my car, I didn’t sleep all that much. It was pretty cold and it was pretty miserable in there. I would drift off for an hour or so without even noticing I had gone to sleep. Then I would wake up and just be so surprised at how much time had passed. Then I would spend the next fifteen minutes conscious of every second of consciousness. The next minute seemed like it’d never come and sleep seemed like it’d never come again either. Then I’d nod off and the cycle would repeat itself. I felt so horrible when I got up in the morning. I felt like how I felt every Monday morning in high school when I’d wake up after staying up too late for absolutely no reason Sunday night. My mom would be trying to get me out of bed and I would feel just disgustingly tired and even worse because I couldn’t get it off my mind that I wouldn’t really get to sleep till Saturday. It’s seems kinda dumb, but it really was such a devastating thought at the time.

That night wasn’t the low point though. Her birthday was the worst for me. It really was the worst. I didn’t get much done or do much of anything that day. Anyways, needless to say I never spoke to Lane again.
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Role of a Lifetime or Born to Play

Clair de Lune - Debussy performed by Alberto Colo

Rehearsals ended and she shed the skin of Scarlett O’Hara and once again became the Anna Jane Saffell her birth certificate denoted. Heading out of the theater to face a world of reported purpose instead of stage props, outfits in place of costumes; she lamented the fact that life was not soundtracked. To her the soft touch of that one French piece she always heard in movies would be the perfect hand on the small of her back for the brisk walk outside to her car.

Around Anna Jane Saffell was an Oregon whose weather had respectfully obliged when Punxsutawney Phil hit spring’s snooze button. The trees surrounding shivered in the wind which had shaken them down to their skivvies. Anna was quite ready for them to regain their lush summer coats; to her there was just too much negative space in the town of Ridgefield.

Her hand reached for her door handle and commanded it to open. Once inside she paused, absentmindedly bringing a finger to her lips before drumming a few bars on her steering wheel. She looked down at the clock; its digital lights relayed the message to her that it was 5:32. That meant she still had two and a half hours before 8.

8. You see 8 PM mattered to her today because at exactly 8:03 that night she would be displacing the air between the bottom of her shoes and the brick walkway in front of the home of Mr. Talbert Calhoun Parcell, to whom that particular moment of time and it’s bookending strokes also carried some significance. For one Talbert C. Parcell, 8 PM mattered as well because at ten to 8 the guests who set their watches fast would begin arriving at his humble abode for one of his trademark dinner parties. And although the evening’s events were officially commencing at 8 sharp, the most significant part of the evening to Talbert would come more than an hour later at 9:30 when he would break open his plans to build a new theater for the performing arts right in the heart of downtown Ridgefield, Oregon. He was quite the proud father of his planned structure which complementarily combined his lives as a heartless real estate developer and a heartfelt art connoisseur.

Anna happened to be very close to Talbert and had already tucked her awareness of his blueprinted plans into her hippocampus weeks ago. And it was this prior knowledge of his future theater that would partly cause Anna, whose car would find its way into park at 8 exactly, to spend three minutes debating whether or not she actually wanted to go inside/manufacturing an excuse for her absence that was suitable for Mr. Parcell’s consumption. It was the same three minutes she spent looking into a mirror before every performance (onstage or otherwise) deciding (seriously or otherwise) if she really wanted to go on. So far she had always digested the feelings and gone on. And so far she had always been glad that she had.

Parcell had first witnessed Anna when he produced her debut in a Portland community theater performance of Peter Pan. Anna was all of thirteen years old for her first pixie dust and hidden wire aided flights as Wendy. Since then Talbert had taken on the role of Uncle in Anna’s life. He took a great interest in her acting career even though it was more Charlemagne lazes-faire than pro-active-stage-dad-pimp. Parcell and Anna had grown as close as a widower old man and a young woman can get without inspiring voices to lower, heads to slowly shake in semi-circles, and tinderbox rumors to flame when their names snuck into conversations. There was no ‘ick’ in their platonic relationship.

The clock struck 8:03 PM and Anna got out of her car and she looked up at Parcell’s looming home. It was a grand bit of wood and stone; full of square footage, vaulted ceilings, and enough features to easily fill a real estate listing without the poetic license and imagination of an agent. The pedicured lawn laid loyally at the house’s feet. The door stuck its brick pathway tongue out across the grass. Along the residence’s facade, lights hung about like ornaments, fluffing up the dwelling to its friendliest countenance. Her knees whispered hello to one another whenever they brushed past at a slow-motion pace that was only slightly above the left together-right together speed limit of the wedding aisle.

Anna’s hand performed the compulsory knock and the door was compelled to open by the evening’s host. The night was put on pause for the two to stare at one another for a 1, 2, 3 count.

“I see that you were unable to synthesize some made up disease that’s certainly all the rage in Paris for you to have magically come down with tonight,” Talbot offered on 3.

“You know I love your parties Tal,” Anna stated, trying to convince.

“You also love sleeping, watching prime time TV, and cooking food in the microwave. So an old-man’s dinner party was facing some tough competition when it came down to how you were going to waste your night.”

Anna narrowed her eyes into a smirk. Talbert starred back from the threshold that gave him a step up on Anna.

“Well, let’s get you inside. You stay out here too long and you’re bound to catch your death.” Talbert said and his arm carried her past the door.

Talbert had made sure his home put on its Sunday best for the dinner-party. The usual trappings that fleshed out the inside were all gone. The innards had all been shooed off into closets like children who were put in playrooms in order to give the adults time to talk. In their stead the living and dining rooms, courtesy of the house’s open floor plan, were laid out finely.

Across the two rooms, large circular tables had been placed about like a giant planetary diorama. Prom and bridesmaid dresses seemed to have been taken apart and flattened to serve through the night as table mats. Their colors were both tasteful and fun keeping with the soiree’s dinner-party moniker. And in tonight’s production, to top off the dress-like table mats, the roles of bracelets, necklaces, and earrings would be played by the crystal and silver dinnerware. Dancing among them were flowers that to Talbert added just a pinch of wistful sophistication to the affair.

Lounging lazily underneath the tables, Persian rugs floated upon the hardwood floors like magic carpets, ensuring the night was rooted in the lavish and luxurious. Above it all rested a charismatic chandelier that flattered the entire scene in its light. In the place of honor, a small film screen was mounted on a large wall. Soon it would proudly puff out its chest as it broadcasted Talbert Parcell’s theater plans to the Ridgefield elite like some exclusive, premium cable news network for the wealthy.

Leaving Talbert to his greeting, Anna finished surveying the set-up, and started the all-important move across the room. An intake of breath suddenly made her conscious of the smells scouting out the nights’ diners from the kitchen. She was unable to file any of the individual scents, but it didn’t matter. They all grabbed hands, and swung in together; blending like the colors being mixed on an artist’s palette. The smell was that blanket that came and covered you when you were cold on the couch, making you want to relax into the night. Talbert was going all out even by his own marked up standards. Investors and spectators would have to fight through a full stomach and vivid aesthetics not to be impressed by Talbert’s theater, whatever it looked like.

It was just as hard not to be impressed by Mr. Parcell himself. Parcell was a wide and varied man. He counted everything from hunting to quilting as hobbies and kept an open range of patchwork friends to match. Assorted low-level employees from Talbert’s companies in addition to random baristas and wait staff he had taken a shine to were allowed to breathe the same filtered air for the evening as the prominent politicians, artists, business people, doctors, academics, and journalists of the area who were the usual starting line-up for his get-togethers. Talbert enjoyed the mix and further catalyzed the class mingling by arranging the seating cards as one might rearrange chess pieces when the opponent is not looking. Mr. Talbert Parcell did not rule the Ridgefield area, but by no means did he adhere to the societal rules of it either; tonight was going to be a caste party, among other things. Talbert’s favorite luxury that his wealth afforded him were his quirks and his quirky friends.

As she continued the pilgrimage to her seat Anna was once again faced with the diverse world of Talbert’s associates and acquaintances. The characters the host had assembled tonight would, as she’d soon discover, conform to the type-casting mold of her past Parcell dinner party productions; unique enough to be odd, but never earnest enough to be eccentric. There was Matthen Riley, a missionary, whose innumerable thrilling stories from abroad, it was mutually decided, would be best staged over a theoretical future lunch between the two that would never happen (as Anna knew and Mr. Riley would eventually find out). There was also Tawny; a local artist who happened to resemble a lamp. She was using the dinner party as a litmus test for her next project. Tawny believed her talents as an artist were being undercut by the limitations and styles of modern sculpting. So, she decided to amplify her creativity into architecture. More specifically, she was designing an enormous, ever-growing housing complex that would be the single place of residence for an entire city. This like the above mentioned lunch would thankfully never materialize. Next auditioning for Anna’s attention, was the serendipitous re-acquaintance of Dr. Mrs. Benjamin Hadley, famous for being the wife of Dr. Ben Hadley; and he himself being famous for plastering an air-brushed version of his face and his family practice unto a billboard that bored the south bound drivers of Interstate 5.

After a delightfully qualm-free chat, the Missus extended to Anna an invitation to the Opera. Anna accepted in a verbal curtsy despite the fact that she enjoys the privilege of saying she is going to the opera much more than the culturally-enriching event itself. These plans, unlike the others Anna had been introduced to tonight, would actually be met.

Another Devil Dies - Badly Drawn Boy

Satisfied with people, Anna searched for her seat. Once more Anna was reintroduced to her true identity as she spotted Anna Saffell, cursively embedded unto a white card. Her hand grabbed and somersaulted the card. She saw a morsel of Tal’s handwriting endorsing the inside of it.

As was his custom, Talbert would adorn the b-sides of Anna’s temporary nameplates with a small note, or a quote, or a nonsensical phrase. It was his way of winking at her to let her know that she mattered more to him than whoever he was currently going over matters with. She staved off reading Tal’s words on the card till the area had been plundered of all sensory interest.

A quick panorama of the rooms did not provide a spark that she was drawn to and Anna figured that she might as well sit for awhile. A couple of her theater friends waved at her. Then she saw a few kindred spirits whose time and company she actually enjoyed investing in. But, she settled on sitting down for now; there’d be plenty of time for talking later she figured.

So she lowered and aligned herself with her chair, docking it into the table. Starring off into the distance she did her best to not cast a lingering glance at any of the surrounding seating cards. If she read them, she was sure she would begin doing an imaginary mental scouting report. Instead Anna, making the same metaphorical dress-table cloth connection, busied herself with deciding that the particular table cloth her seating area was modeling had probably been skinned off of a bridesmaid from a fall wedding. Amusing herself without increasingly morbid thoughts cut from the same vein, she was finally able to come up with one revolting enough that she became self-conscious of the creepiness and put an end to her time-killing.

Feeling that was more than enough for her, she flipped over the card. “Dazzle” it read. Dazzle? That’s it? She was slightly disappointed. She felt it was a little too made-for-TV cheesy and was hoping Tal would’ve produced something a little more thoughtful for tonight. Anna was almost embarrassed to be holding it. She put the card back and sat.

Soon a blustery boredom came and swept over Anna like a pair of cumulonimbus sweat pants and a hoody; she was now lazy and about to give up on the night. Anna really did usually enjoy these big events: the people, the lights, the conversations, the basking. But sometimes like a neurological prima donna she just stopped caring. And her apathy frightened her because she found her portrayal of it to be quite dangerous. She knew she was about to slip into a half-consciousness for the rest of the night. An auto-pilot state full of stock answers and a laugh-track sense of humor. The worst part being that no one would notice and all the party attendees would probably find her quite charming. She would live and breathe the night out with her compatriots while not experiencing it with them at all. Their blinks, smiles, laughs, eye brow angles, itches, tweaks and amendments of appearance; all of it would act as cues for her to play along with. This was achievable much in the same way one could watch a foreign film without subtitles and still comprehend the essential action, emotion, and plot of the story. Anna could be very cordial even when in a robotic state; she couldn’t disappoint an audience, after all, the show must go on.

And so to her stage left and right, and in front of her, and all around the table, the players assembled. Anna was sure they were all nice people and although she couldn’t tell you fifteen minutes from now, ask her tomorrow and she’ll be able to remember enough names and details to fake her way through the pop-quiz of a future conversation. All of this became quite terrifying when Anna thought about it because she realized the potential of her possibly sinking into that act for periods of increasingly extended time. She looked down at the card displaying her name but only saw the other side.

Dazzle…sorry Tal not tonight, maybe next time. Then she mused that perhaps that’s what she should have told Tal anyways. It might’ve been best not to have shown up at all.

With that Anna crossed over. Introductions were made and words trafficked the tables under the guidance of the green, yellow and red lights at the intersection of Culture and Custom. Waiters appeared from somewhere and some edible materials were placed in front of the guests. Anna stole the show from the first course with her woven stories of ad-libs and unexpected turns on the stage. People always relished those tales like they were old war stories. Someone would always remark about how that’s the real drama of the stage. She could narrate those stories with the same precision as whatever current lines she had gnawed into her memory.

Myke Ptyson - Starf*cker

Then, with the inverse formula for plant growth, a healthy applause had taken root and budded as the lights were dimmed to 4 AM, and with the plates and glasses already empty of food and liquid, adding to the now breathless guests silently gasping to hear the words Talbert Parcell was about to spout off as he stood ensconced with the projection screen. The hand to hand contact acted as a slight Pavlovian response to Anna as she consciously climbed partly back inside her mind and body. The clapping trickled into silence like a cup of water being poured full. Anna gazed into the quiet, and there, across two table planets at a silver prom dress, a curious curio was afoot. Or rather still seated, but unmistakably distracting all the same.

A shower of polite laughter revealed that Talbert had just sent up some delightful anecdote which Anna had missed due to the young man in black. For reasons known only to boys in black, this particular dark-coated male specimen had just radiated across his table, and seized some centerpiece flowers by the throat. Then, as if it weren’t queer at all to be the holding flowers, he shook the floral arrangement of superfluous water and raised them out of their vase jail. A couple more shakes from the hand removed any stubborn aquatic stragglers.

Next, with the flowers in his hand and close to his heart he civilly ejected himself from the table. Meanwhile, all the party-goers, save the flower man and Anna, were watching the projection screen play the straight man to Talbert’s enthused presentation. The guests’ eyes followed Parcell’s laser pointer on screen with the intensity of a sniper. No one else had seemed to care about this slightly strange man causing Anna to try and balance her mental books with the theory that he must be a waiter. So her eyes snuck behind him as he distanced himself from the crowd. But instead of exiting at the kitchen, he proceeded to the French doors that blossomed out onto the patio and then protruded his way out of them.

Anna shook her head and thought about all those Nancy Drews she read in middle school as she broke off from her own table to follow him and, of course now, several of her tablemates noticed and stared perplexed at her. She skipped her way across the back of the party area in a mannered speed walk. The door neared and Anna, readying her hand for the knob, was unsure of what dimension awaited her on the other side. Sliding out of the exit she quietly closed the doors with two cushioning hands. Talbert had just brought up the slide that displayed the official announcement of the theater. This sparked a pleasant round of audience reaction that masked her exit like a silencer.

The man was casually lounging on a low brick wall on the other side of the veranda. Anna was suddenly annoyed at the situation.

“What are you doing out here?” Anna asked, this being the most logical, least leading thing to ask.

“Hall pass,” he threw out as he jokingly held up the flowers like a puppy who had just killed a bird, naively thinking its owner would be impressed.

“Those are flowers,” Anna stated matter-of-factly, still trying to catch his wavelength.

“No, these are ‘for you,” the man extended the flowers her way.

“The flowers?” Anna replied are-you-serious-ly.

“No, the ‘for yours,’” he stated, Anna was not a fan of the joke.

“So what are you doing out here?”

“I could ask you the very same question.”

“Well, I asked first.”

“Good for you, I don’t care.” He eased off his black dinner jacket and puffed it into a pillow as he lay back on the low wall with his knees sticking up into an acute angle.

She stared at him, and then said, “Are you for real?”

"Unless my life has been an extremely elaborate prank, then yes I believe I am." She held her silence. “What do you want to hear? That I wanted to gaze up at the stars, that I was bored, that I needed some air? What?”

She shook her head, and turned to head back inside, feeling stupid that she had come out in the first place.

“Hey wait,” his voice grabbed her wrist and held her hand back from turning the door knob.

Hell No - Sondre Lerche & Regina Spektor

“Excuse me.” She was annoyed, but was acting much more perturbed than she actually was; she felt the situation necessitated it.

“I came out here to meet someone,” he finally answered.

“Do I dare ask who?” She was not excited to hear whatever stupid answer he was probably going to come up with.

“I’d tell you but you wouldn’t believe me.”

Anna only responded with a simultaneous arching of the eyebrows, shoulders, and hands that in made-up sign language meant ‘try me.’

“Well you of course.” The stupid response he was probably/definitely going to come up with.

“Me?” Now with only one eyebrow arched, which in the same synthesized non-handicapped sign-language conveyed skepticism.

“Yes you…You; as in these flowers are for you,” he explained, once again vainly offering the contraband arrangement to her.

“So you wait till the lights go down inside and then for the presentation to distract everyone, and then sneak off into the night to meet up with me; whom you have never met before?”

“You forgot about the part where I took the flowers.”

“Well, I’m having a very hard time believing that’s true, so I think I’ll just go back inside and leave you and your flowers alone.”

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it as long as I know it’s true.”

“I would ask for an explanation of what you mean by that if you would actually talk instead of being all mysterious.”

“Yes! Yes! Precisely! Good word choice, but actually I’m not mysterious.” He rose slightly, using his elbow as scaffolding as he restored himself actively in the conversation.

She stared at him and decided she would stay straight on that course till he offered more.

“Like I said I’m not mysterious. I was only pretending to be mysterious or ambiguous...or shady as the kids say now days.”

“Why were you pretending to be like that?” She said humoring him. He wasn’t really talking so she was going to shovel down to an explanation with questions herself.

“’K get ready, I don’t think you’re going to like this, but here goes…alright, the thing is I seem to like the kind of people who are attracted to mysterious people; you know, the kinds of people who aren’t scared of and have made some room for gray areas and such in their lives. Whatever that means, right? Anyways, mysterious people themselves are usually maddening to be around, but the people who like them are always fun because they’re up for anything, you know?” He paused and she didn’t respond to his qualifier. “So, what I do is I pretend to be mysterious myself. Then, I go somewhere and do something abnormally peculiar. After that it’s a waiting game to see who comes after me to investigate. Vertical integration; I’ve cut out the middle-man or in this case the mysterious man...or mysterious woman,” he added as an afterthought, nodding at Anna as if she was the current spokeswoman for all women across the world.

Several valid and equally appropriate questions came to her mind but a particular phrase had created a stain that she wanted to clear up,

“Attracted to mysterious people?”

“Platonically,” he said with verve like a lawyer who was still trying to prove the male gender’s innocence in a case of misogyny to Anna as President of the World Suffragette Association. “People whose interest is piqued by the strange actions of another human being; I should’ve just said intrigued.” he offered up a thesaurus’ed clarification. Appeased, she went down the list to her next query in the quarry for answers,

“You said you came out here to meet me?”

“Yes you. You are the one who was drawn to the mystery. So yes, you.”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly drawn…” Anna shook her head.

“You skipped out on grandpa’s home videos or whatever’s going on in there to come after me. So yeah, I’d agree you weren’t drawn out here.” His sarcastic statement made-over her still shaking head from the acute, short, curt ones of disbelief to the obtuse, long, melodramatic turns of annoyance. “Look I came out here to meet someone and tonight the role of that someone is being played by you.”

A round of applause pressed out from inside. The round apparently being on Talbert Parcell from the mimed thank yous and humble head nods he was now performing. For a few moments the reality of the night once again felt real. Anna was glad Talbert’s theater plans were seemingly going over well, additionally she hoped he hadn’t noticed her absence; or mistook it for her going home.

“It was either going to be you or someone else,” he continued explaining a little slower this time. He wasn’t sure whether or not she was listening since she kept looking inside.

Backyard Baby - rickoLus

“Me or someone else…this or that…” Anna trailed off; playing with and poking at the words in her mouth and tasting them with her tongue as they sunk subconsciously in her mind. She watched Tal peel himself from in front of the giant screen and descend from the podium, it looked like he had just popped out of a TV and was now invading someone’s house, “…this or that…”

“Yeah I guess if you want to put it that way,” he gave her a bewildered look.

“Tea or coffee?” She suddenly burst out, rather enthused.

“Excuse me?” it was his turn to utter the confused’s creed.

“This or that, tea or coffee?” she persisted while he consisted his puzzled gaze, trying to solve her.

“I’m sorry, I…” he continued staring quizzically, unsure of what his multiple choice answer would be.

“Come on, seriously? This or That? It’s a classic car game. I give you two options and then you choose either the first or second option, you choose either this one or that one. Hence the name This or That. Usually, it’s pretty self-explanatory.” He just stared at her so she added, “Try it, it’s fun. It can wind chill a road trip by two hours. Plus it becomes a pretty intense bout of psycho-analysis between the players. I can’t believe you’ve never played.” She explained like it was obvious, like it was 2 + 2 and part of everyone’s first grade curriculum.

He began to say something, but either thought better of it or couldn’t think of anything better to say because before his first primitive syllable could evolve into a word, he closed his cave of a mouth.

“You don’t have anything better to do,” she informed him.

“Oh, well in that case,” he folded his hands together and played along by assuming a thoughtful pose, “tea. I just say no to drugs. You?”

“First coffee is not a drug. And second I am loyal to the Pacific Northwest, and therefore loyal to Starbucks and therefore to coffee,” she let her answer simmer and then said, “Your turn.”

“So all I do is come up with two options that are somehow related, right?”

“This isn’t that hard, but yes that’s all you have to do.”

“Umm let’s go with… Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse? Their assorted entourages being included of course.”

“Good one for a first-timer, slightly off-beat, evocative, ripe with implications. I’m impressed.”

“Your answer please?”

“My answer is Mickey. The Disney Channel was my favorite baby sitter growing up. And you?”

“Mickey for me too. I was always intrigued by his gloves. Why was he always wearing them? Was it poor-blood circulation or was he a hit man?”

“Well, at least I can now see where your fixation with the mysterious started. Sandals or shoes?”

“Shoes, for sure shoes. Toes are fingers inbred cousins and were meant to be kept in their trailer homes in Kentucky. And by trailers I mean shoes.”

“I beg to differ. I like sandals. I actually can’t stand to wear socks. It makes my feet feel like they’re suffocating. Shoes, socks any and all foot coverings are evil in my eyes.”

“And yet, you’re wearing closed-toe high heels,” he coughed out “hypocrite” and then moved on. “And on a lighter note muffins or cupcakes?”

“Interesting…I’m not sure if you’re looking for a potential nickname for me or anything,” she gave him an accusing look, “but I’ll go with muffins. What about you friend?”

“I’m a muffin man. I ate too many of those cheap cupcakes with the half pure sugar, half plastic frosting at a birthday party once, and I was never the same.”

“How tragic. Ok, get ready, this next one will be quite revealing about your true nature, so answer wisely,” she sagely warned. “Mercury or Pluto?”

“Pluto definitely.”

“Pluto? Are you sure about that? Alright well that means that you’re a phony that also likes to sit in the back of the classroom. Not my style, I’ll go with Mercury.”

“Better than a teacher’s pet who sits up front and hogs all the sun’s energy.” He jokingly stuck out his tongue. “And now I have a truly penetrating and revealing This or That of my own: Friends or The Office.”

“I’m going to have to choose Friends. I haven’t ever really gotten into The Office.”

“I can’t believe you don’t like The Office,” he started a tirade worthy of a balcony and a revolutionary crowd, “you have to get into it. The Office is like a quirky friend, the more you’re with them and the better you understand them, the more you like them. Oh, and just for the record I choose The Office…Friends,” he added shaking his head in deep disapproval.

“Sunrise or sunset?”

“I’m only nominally acquainted with sunrises so I feel like I have to choose sunsets, and you dearest?”

“Sunrises, because whenever you see a sunrise, it’s usually because you’ve done something special like pulled an all-nighter or you hiked up early to a mountain or something.”

“Aww, how sentimental, and on a nostalgic note; Ronald Reagan the President or Ronald Reagan the actor?”

“I feel like I have to go with Reagan the actor since I’m a thespian myself.”

“Really? An actress?”

“Well singer/actress/dancer, the S.A.D. trio. Pretty much anything flaky people do on stage.”

“You know, you’re one of the only people I know with the kind of job a kid wouldn’t mind having when they grew up. So out of the three which is your favorite?”

“Wow, that’s like asking a mom to choose her favorite child.”

“My mom would’ve said me,” he responded.

“I don’t know because dancing is so freeing cause you don’t have to think, and when you act you feel like you’re actually connecting with people. And singing,” she shook her head, “singing just launches reality into a place of beauty.”

“You should write Hallmark cards. Come on, just tell me: as of right now in this very moment what’s your favorite? I won’t even hold you to it tomorrow.”

“I don’t know, that’s so hard,”

“Typical girl answer,” he alleged, no longer concerned about being perceived sexist.

“Fine, in this exact moment I like dancing the most. Right now, I feel like a dancer. Earlier tonight I felt like an actress and during the car ride home, I’ll probably feel like a singer,” she laughed.

“That wasn’t so hard now was it?”

“I believe you still need to cast your vote on the Reagan one,” she retorted.

So the game continued and the pair faced off on such timely and topical issues as: khakis vs. jeans, carpet vs. wood floors, hardback vs. paperback, Google vs. Yahoo, and on it went. For two adults they spent a surprising amount of time that night doing nothing. Safe inside, the rest of the eighteen and ups were busy acting more mature as they mingled and socially waltzed around the house.

Stay Golden - Au Revoir Simone

“Alright so I have one now,” Anna said with a crossing glance.

“Shoot,” he answered back with the grizzled confidence of a This or That veteran.

“Me or someone else?” Her pupils fell into his. He paused for a moment trying to convince himself that she didn’t mean what he thought she meant.

“I don’t get it, is this a joke?”

“You said to me that someone was going to follow you out here tonight. And you said that it was going to be me or someone else. So how about it; were you happy it was me or do you wish it was someone else?”

“I didn’t mean that, I only said it. And it’s not like it’s just you or someone else, it could’ve been both. It could’ve been five people and we could have had a glorious old car game triathlon party with 20 Questions and the Name Game,” he answered with a smile buoying his attempt to dissipate her last statement along with the mood that had just taken a turn for the serious.

“Are you going to answer it?” she returned. His words had apparently not appeased her expression.

“Nope, I guess not.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s a stupid question. It’s dumb; it’s like something a 14 year old would ask. Don’t you get tired of asking that question anyways? I mean that’s pretty much what you’re asking whenever you audition isn’t it? You go out there, you try out, you do your best, then you’re done and you’ve all but formally stated the question do you want me or someone else for the part?”

“I played along with your ridiculous little games and acts at first Mr. Mysterious.”

“And that was you decision, you could have just as easily walked away. I thought you, Ms. This or That, of all people would understand the power of choice.”

“Then choose now.”

"No," he said obstinately with the stubbornness and selfishness reserved only for arguments with relative strangers and much loved relatives; the times when you momentarily stop caring about what another feels either because they care nothing or everything for you back.

"You're ridiculous," she said. The statement though directed at him, at that moment, clearly applied to both.

"Isn't it enough that you're here and you're human? Isn't that enough for this to qualify as good enough? Situation and circumstance happen. Like right now, our present circumstances have put you and me outside this huge house while this party thing goes on inside. It’s a chilly, but pleasant sixty some degrees out here and I’m warm, but every once in a while you look kinda cold and I think about offering you my coat, but I’m having trouble deciding if people do that in real life or only in the movies and I just can’t bring myself to do it. That's it, that's all. Shouldn't we just go with it? It's kinda pointless to think about something else or someone different. I don't want to play what if. And it's not about making the best of things, it's just like going with it. It's there, so you know, just whatever."

There was silence after that, and for awhile after.

"Sorry about that," she finally said feeling ashamed about the question. She was embarrassed about it, the same way she was embarrassed about all the love-notes she wrote in middle school. "It was really stupid. I was just trying to like…” she shook her head like she was wet, hoping some applicable words would rain down to her mouth, “like um…" the absurdity of the night twitched her mouth into a slight smile. She tilted her head to the stars, "I don't know, it was dumb."

"Naw, I'm sorry too. I mean I wish I could ask questions like that. I think we all do. I think we’d like to feel strong enough to pretty much just straight-up ask someone what they think of you. The real goal is feeling free enough to ask those questions, while being so free that you don’t care enough what others think of you to ask. Maybe I should be the one to write greetings cards,” he laughed and felt a touch self-conscious about what he had just said. He compressed his jacket between his hands again and then laid his head back on it. “So how did you settle down that acting was what you wanted to do?’

“I guess, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I didn’t feel passionate about any one thing. Acting would at least let me pretend to be a number of things. And I enjoyed it of course too so…”

"Teddy Roosevelt once said that actors get to be everyone, but themselves," he sloughed off.


"No, but it sounds like something stupid that somebody famous would have said during some bygone era that people today would find profound. You really could make up so many stupid quotes like that. “’Heroes cleanse themselves with action, cowards with water,’ that's Winston Churchill of course."

She laughed and then said, "I seriously would have believed you if you wouldn't have told me. I think you just invented a new car game; “Fake Famous Quotes” or “Falsified Phrasings,” or…we can work on the name later or at another random dinner-party somewhere."

“Sounds like a plan,” he answered back.

It's Only A Paper Moon - Ella Fitzgerald

A drip of some piano dusted off the sound waves with a few warm up notes and tapped them on the shoulder. The two of them directed their attention inside as a one of Tal's guests struck up “It’s Only a Paper Moon" and some other party-goers grabbed a partner and allowed the music to nudge that something inexplicable inside all of us which makes you want to move when you hear the sounds.

"Do you want to dance?" she asked.

"Um, no."

"Oh come on. Why not?

"Because I’d rather watch you dance by yourself. You're the dancer, right? You love to dance? So dance."

"What do mean?”

“I mean you’re a dancer, I’m not. I really am not. Why should we compromise? Why shouldn’t you dance like you were meant to and I can sit back and watch like I was meant to. We can both exist together doing what we like instead of us both going half-way just because we’re supposed to. I’d really only bring you down. It’ll be much more beautiful this way.”

“It’s fine, we can just sit and talk. It’s not a big deal, I just thought I’d ask.”

"Why? Please don’t do that. It seems like you want to dance, so would you please dance? Why should I infringe on your dancing abilities? You're the dancer, so you dance. I'm more of one who stares, so I'll stare off into space. It makes no sense for you to have to dance worse or not at all because of me. I'd rather that you move as well as you can without caring if I can keep up. And plus I'd rather watch…if you’ll let me of course."

"Well…ok then," and she then pensively broke up her body that had been previously tied into a ball with her head being embraced by her knee caps. "Are you sure?" she added.

"Don't mind me," he said quite happily.

And so she danced, and she danced the kind of dance that people usually only do when they're alone; the kind of dance that only graces observing eyes through musicals or recitals.

The best part was that she went all out. It's a funny thing when someone does something embarrassing. And Anna's dancing was embarrassing in all of the word's essence. It wasn’t embarrassing because it wasn’t good; if it wasn’t good, you’d just assume it was joke. This was not a joke though and it was good. Anna had just pirouetted off the edge of a fountain in the center of the portico to unintentionally prove the point.

The funny part about it is that it's like diving into water; you float and fly and are free from facing reality until you hit or belly flop or cannon ball into the water and as you sink you're forced to decide whether or not you're glad of what you just did until your body remembers it is supposed to float and you rise back up to the surface. Sometimes, when you dive, it’s like you’ve been let in on this little secret of the world. Like you’ve got to experience something that’s only for the birds and the fish; something that’s a bit unnatural for humans, but totally natural for the world itself. Other times after you’ve dove it’s like gravity has used you to slap the disobedient water. You feel as if you’ve ran into a brick wall and that you’ve done it so hard that some of the red has rubbed out on your chest.

You think about it after you dive; things like that it was too high or too scary or you think why haven’t I done that before? That’s what it’s like after doing something embarrassing. You might be glad you did something that got you out of your monochromatic self or you could feel like being alone in a dark closet would be the ideal place to be for the moment. What’s even funnier about it, is that even though an event is embarrassing, no one has to get embarrassed. Anna wasn’t embarrassed and wasn’t going to be. He wasn’t either; for himself or her. He felt bad though. He felt bad for not telling her he was glad that it was her, and he felt bad that he said no to so many of her earnest requests. He only said no though because he couldn’t say yes.

She continued, and he was left to watch, which he did until the music finally stopped. When it did he spoke…

Tightrope - Yeasayer

"Well, I believe that’s my cue to leave.”

"You late for curfew?" Anna replied with a smirk...

Three minutes later, back inside Tal was pinned in his foyer as if on a lapel; toasting a good night to his guests with hugs and handshakes. Although his soirees were small affairs, he took so much joy in hosting them. He enjoyed almost every aspect of them top to bottom and reflected it with his DIY preparation thereof. It mirrored a small-town airport where the same person you check-in with, is the same person welcoming you unto the plane.

The interior seemed as fatigued as the leaving guests and despite the orderly behavior of the polite company, the place could not camouflage the unmistakable signs of human contact.

Talbert had just patted the back of a Mr. Hatten, prodding him off into the night like a paper boat on the water. The Roger Hattens were flinging on the coats that they would once again take off in thirty seconds as soon as they reached their car. The door closed behind them and Talbert was left more or less alone. He looked back at the tables and saw a few remaining guests posted about the room like crumbs on a plate. There would probably be a few of them who would end up staying over, making good his decision not to convert some of his guest rooms to galleries and billiard rooms. Tal enjoyed entertaining people in his home as much as Anna did on stage.

Speaking of, Tal just noticed her whisking herself inside. Walking back into the climate-controlled interior, Anna’s mind had reminiscent jabs of memories briefer than blinks. It got both stronger and fainter until she finally caught the feeling and placed it. It was the period of transition, the moments after a performance, when each step is like a downward thrust in CPR; reccessitating the world and its innumerable realities to her. It was time sleeping in and then rushing around to put itself together so it could catch up to her, to bring her back from a place where precise, planned words and movements rooted her to the stage; to streets and sidewalks and hallways, lobbies and rooms where everything big or small was up for her to decide on either this and that. Looking up, she saw Talbert voyaging through the galaxy of tables towards her.

“I didn’t see you all night. I was starting to think I had dementia and that you had never actually showed up,” he laughed.

“Oh yeah, sorry about that Tal. I went outside for awhile.”

“You don’t have to say anything, you saw the Batgirl sign and had to go. You’re secret is safe with me.”

“How’d it go in here?”

“Good good. Though I think people would have loved the theater as long as it was embellished at all more than a pure cube.”

“I forgot to ask, have you branded it yet?”

“The Dazzle Theater.”

“That’s what you meant by the card? When I read that, I thought you had dementia too. Are you really calling it that?” Anna replied like a spoiled teenager.

“You don’t like it?”

“It sounds like a Dance Theater for ten year olds. Why don’t you just name it after yourself like a normal person?”

“I never thought I’d become one of those people who lives on through a building. I’d rather not even have a tombstone named after me. It’s hard for me to even imagine naming the theater after myself.”

“Well, I’ll name it after you or get a petition started or something so it’s not named Dazzle. Anything to make sure no one confuses it with a gentlemen’s club.”

“I thought dazzle had some pep to it.” Anna just shook her head in reply. “What’d you do outside?” He turned the spotlight unto her.

“Oh, nothing really, mostly just talked.”

“To whom?” Talbert was curious to see which of his visitors could hold Anna’s attention for the evening’s second act.

Anna’s left eyebrow raised and she straightened up, “I forgot to ask his name…”
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