Band Geek

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“I was a bandgeek,” Ryan said.

“No way,” I said.

“It’s true.”

The thing with Ryan – the thing that really got to me – was that he lied about the stupidest shit.

“Coffee machine’s broken, no more caffeine for the rest of the week.”

“I joined the varsity football team while still in eighth grade. I was that good.”

He got worse after the promotion. Ryan was always my superior, technically – he started six months earlier than myself – but the promotion made it official.

The waitress came over to our table and placed our empty glasses on her tray.

“Another round?” she asked.

“I’m game if you are,” Ryan said.

“Sure thing.”

We kept to two rounds when we started dart night, back when John used join us. I haven’t heard from him since he quit and moved away. Since then Ryan and I bumped up to three rounds.

“I played the trombone, I started when I was ten,” Ryan said.

“I still don’t believe you,” I said.

The time passed and we watched the bar workers set up the stage next to the pool tables and dart boards. Amps and stools and mics. One worker with a ponytail plugged and unplugged every mic and said “testing 1-2-3” into each of them.

The waitress came back and collected our empty glasses.

“Another round?” she asked.

“Who’s playing tonight?” Ryan asked.

“‘The Bandleaders,’ they’re a jazz band.”

Ryan looked to me, “I’ll buy this round if you stay.”

“Then of course.”

The waitress walked away and I looked back to the stage. The band members were standing around in matching pinstripe jackets.

“You know I tell you what I made up over the past week on our dart nights,” Ryan said.

“I know you do,” I said.

“So why would I lie about being a band geek?”

“Why do you lie in the first place?”

“To keep things interesting.”

“There has to be more than that.”

Ryan shook his head and pointed to the stage.

“Alright, thank you all for being here tonight,” the lead singer said. He wore sunglasses though the bar was in the basement.

“For our first song, I’d like to invite a special guest. He’s a good friend of mine that I’ve known since college.” The lead singer then pointed to Ryan. “Get up here you son of a bitch!”

Ryan looked to me, shrugged his shoulders and stood up. There was a weak applause because there was only me and the bartender left. That’s when I checked the time and saw it was after eleven.

I watched Ryan shake the lead singer’s hand and remove a mouthpiece from his pocket. He wipe it with his shirt. I knew there would be no more dart nights once he put the trombone to his mouth and started playing.

Guys In Their Hoodies

I’m a man of the times. The most popular TV shows? I watch them. I watch them on Hulu and Netflix and HBO Go. I watch them on my own time because I’m a guy who bends his time for no one. Hozier and Kendrick Lamar are my go-to artists on Spotify. I created radio stations for both of them. I deleted my Green Day and Blink-182 playlists because they’re no longer part of the times.

I wear slim blue jeans and I cuff the legs. I typically go for v-neck t-shirts, though the patterned button-down shirts also catch my attention. They’re becoming part of the times and I need to keep up.

I also wear a slim, solid blue hoodie. I bought it when I decided to become a man of the times. The hoodie I own is the kind you see in ordinary photographs posted on Instagram and Facebook. The kind that in twenty years the kids – my kids, possibly – will look back and ask “that was the style then?” and I’d say “Yes, and I owned one just like it.”

I’d also say something like, “I wore that hoodie on the commute to work, because at my office we wore what we wanted. This was when companies grew more and more lax about their dress codes to make up for the expanding work days.” And I wouldn’t be exaggerating. I’d say “I worked with two other guys who wore slim solid-color hoodies just like me. Once I joked we were like Huey, Dewey and Louie.”

Shoot, that was dumb, I wouldn’t say that. I know that reference is no longer of the times.

Instead I’d say something like, “I wore that hoodie when I went with my friends to the bars. I always pushed for college bars since they had the best specials and I’d fit right in because I was a man of the times.” Again I wouldn’t be exaggerating. I’d say “All the guys in their hoodies would play pool and hit on the girls and buy them expensive beers. Myself included.”

I really hope those don’t go out of style. I enjoy wearing mine, I really do. But if the time comes where guys no longer wear slim, solid-blue hoodies I guess I’ll have to throw in the towel. Or should I say, throw in the hoodie. Get it?

Biergarten

Sitting on the other end of the long wooden table was a man holding a pint of beer with his right hand. He drank it all in just a few gulps. I watched him order another, and another after that. I already finished my first and wanted another but that night I was the designated driver.

“Isn’t that something?” Stevie asked. His phone lay on the table and I watched him scroll through his Twitter feed with his finger wrapped in a tan band-aid.

“That guy over there,” I said. “He looks like Christina’s father.”

Stevie didn’t look up. “There was an earthquake in Nepal. 7.8 magnitude. They’re estimating thousands dead.”

“Damn,” I said. I watched a couple sit between us and the man. They sat across from each other. “Where’s all the wine gonna come from?”

Stevie looked up from his phone. “I said Nepal, not Napa.”

“Where’s Nepal?”

“Asia. How do you not know where Nepal is?”

“Never came up,” I said. Stevie was the only person I went out with when I visited home. He changed, but so did I. That’s why the only thing we did together was drink.

“You should read the news once in a while.”

“You should get off you phone.”

“I’m checking the news.”

“You just came across that while checking your Twitter feed.”

Stevie stared at me for a moment before turning over his phone. “Alright, you pick something to talk about.”

“That guy over there, he looks like Christina’s dad.”

“What guy?”

“On the other side of the couple.”

Stevie looked over at the man. “He does.”

“How’s she doing?”

“Married. She lives up in Point Pleasant. She has a kid too.”

I looked over to the couple. They were looking down at the drink menus. The biergarten’s had more beer than food. That’s why people came. That’s why we came.

“I’m going to the grill to order,” Stevie said. “You sure you don’t want anything?”

“Nope.”

“No bratwurst?”

“I’m good.”

Stevie stood up and walked to the grill at the back of the biergarten. I picked up the beer menu, read it, and set it down. I stood up to stretch, to see the man that looked like Christina’s dad. Only he wasn’t there.

“Can I help you?” the girl from the couple asked me. I looked down and realized the way I was standing, she thought I was watching her.

“Did you hear about the earthquake in Napa?”

“Napa?”

“Nepal I mean.”

“Yeah I did, it’s tragic.”

I nodded and looked over to the guy. “You hear about it?”

“Yeah, 6.7 magnitude.”

“Actually, 7.6.”

The guy nodded. I never made a guy nod because I was right before.

I went back to my spot and sat down. I reached over for Stevie’s phone and turned it on. I needed the password. I set it back down and waited for Stevie to come back.

That man, he really did look like Christina’s dad. The last time I saw either of them was a couple weeks after high school graduation. I picked her up to go to a friend’s party. He sat on the porch working his way through a pack of American Spirits.

“It’s gonna be twenty minutes,” Stevie said when he sat down.

“Pick up your phone and scroll through your Twitter feed,” I said.

Stevie looked down at his phone and then back at me. “Why?”

“Just pick up your goddamn phone and keep on reading.”

Sandwiches for Dinner

I was stretched on the couch with my laptop across my chest – knowing very well I should be applying for jobs instead of watching Twitch streams – when my roommate walked in.

“From now on I’m going to make a sandwich every night for dinner,” he said. A storm passed through that night and it looked like the wind tore him apart.

“I’m serious, and I’m starting tonight.”

“It”s eleven thirty,” I said.

He kicked off his shoes and stared at the blank television screen. “Alright, I’ll start tomorrow, but I’m serious,” he said. He then walked down the hall to his room.

Only it wasn’t his room. I watched videos for another hour before I got up and headed to my room, across the hall from his. The light was on but that didn’t stop Tommy from passing out on my bed. The Mario blanket should have tipped him off but it didn’t. He was a Play Station guy.

“Stevie,” I said. I flicked the light on and off a couple times. I took my sweatshirt and threw it at him. Nothing. I wanted to tell him his ex was in the living room ready to make up but thought better of it.

“You want a sandwich?” I asked.

He lifted his head but kept his eyes closed. “It’s too late,” he said.

“No it’s not, I was just fucking with you.”

He pulled my Mario blanket up to his head and scrunched into a pillow.

“Okay, a bacon sandwich.”

“We don’t have any bacon.”

“Okay, a grilled cheese.”

I walked into the kitchen and made a grilled cheese with cheddar. I then made another for myself, using the last two strips of bacon in the fridge. I placed then on their own paper plates and walked back to my room.

“I smell bacon,” he said.

“You’re just drunk.”

He sat up and took the sandwich I set on the bed. I leaned on my dresser and ate.

“Tomorrow night, bacon sandwiches for dinner,” he said.

“Sure thing.”

“Tuna melts the day after.”

“Sounds good.”

“Tuna melts the day after the day after.”

“I guess you had a good first day.”

He stopped eating and wiped his hands on his jeans. “Everyone bought me shots.” He leaned back onto my bed.

I nodded and took the half-eaten sandwich. I finished mine and I felt full, but I ate the rest of his anyways.

I stood up, walked to the doorway and turned off the lights.

“I didn’t finish my sandwich,” I heard him say.

“Yes you did,” I said and closed the door.

Thoughts on a Smoke Outside the Bar

“And what does all this mean?” he asked me before taking a long drag. His voice was calm and contained and I suspected he asked this question to most people he walked outside the bar with.

“How should I know,” I said. I tapped my cigarette over the ashtray because it was next to me. We were the only two outside, the only two that much in need of some smokes. It was ten degrees or so and I remember the way my teeth rattled between drags and spoken words.

This was the first time I smoked a cigarette. I was twenty-three and alone and started speaking with some people at the end of the bar that looked my age. We bought each other rounds of Fireball. Then one of them asked, “You wanna go out for a smoke?” I was drunk and I knew about my father and my grandfather but at that moment I really didn’t give a damn about any of it.

People aren’t kidding when they say cigarettes can make you feel like a man who belongs. This man and I were outside of a sketchy bar in downtown Denver. The kind where all the letters in the sign didn’t light up but that somehow made it more inviting. Simply put, I didn’t feel like myself.

I’m fairly certain the guy told me his name, I just don’t remember. I also don’t remember what we talked about. Only that one question and my answer. I’m fairly certain I talked about Angie and how I needed to get out of New York. I’m fairly certain I mentioned that I got lost and found this bar by accident. He likely said something similar.

Train Whistle

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I waited at a bus stop I didn’t usually wait at because I didn’t usually visit that part of town.

That morning I realized while sipping coffee and sitting next to this older guy with a horrible case of the sniffles that Saturday was my most routine, regimented day of the week.

“Now that can’t be!” I said to myself, or so I thought, because sniffle guy looked at me. The waiter then walked over with an egg sandwich I didn’t order.

“Your usual,” he said.

Sniffles guy sneezed, loudly.

I covered my food, not that he was facing me, or even that close to me. I was just paranoid like that.

I uncovered my food and messaged my roommate, telling him to force me out that night. Otherwise I would have stayed at the coffee shop all day, bought a bottle of diet soda at the gas station on my way home, and watched YouTube videos until I passed out.

“Sure thing buddy,” Tyler wrote back. I breathed a sigh of relief. I could now spend the rest of the afternoon at the coffee shop knowing that the second half of my Saturday would be different.

The bar I was meeting Tyler at was a bit out of the way, and there were at least three or four bus route combinations to take. This was before I had a car. I decided on the 24 up Broadway and waited another half hour for the 19. Lots of construction on the east side of town. I waited outside the Barnes & Noble and next to me was a college student with a backpack. We looked at each other and nodded.

I forgot how close I was to the railroad that cut through town. The train whistle sounded and the kid jumped.

“I used to work out here,” I said. “You get used to it.”

“What did you do?” he asked.

“The warehouses across the street. I worked there until recently.”

Bus 19 arrived and we both got on. We sat across from each other.

“I heard there was an accident out there,” he said.

“There was, but I quit beforehand,” I said.

Tyler and I drank at the bar for hours and then I left. Tyler said he’d be back soon but it was only eleven and the bars in our town closed at two.

Back at home I watched YouTube until three in the morning. Smosh parodies and Honest Movie Trailers. I heard Tyler come home and shut his bedroom door. I watched YouTube some more. Anything to get my mind off the accident. I was there when it happened. The station wagon stalled and the gate slammed on its roof. The driver jumped out just in time.

“Goddamn sniffles guy,” I thought and then passed out.

How I Almost Picked Up a Girl With My Pokemon T-Shirt

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“Love the shirt,” this girl to my side said. She played with her black ponytail while sipping a margarita.

“Birthday gift from my roommate,” I said. I was lying of course. I wasn’t about to tell this girl my mom sent me a Pokemon t-shirt.

She smiled and turned on the stool to face me. “I had Pokemon blue,” she said.

“Me too!” I said.

“Who did you start with?” she asked.

“Let’s say ours together,” I said.

“One…two… three!” we said.

“Bulbasaur,” I said.

“Charmander,” she said.

“Really? I always thought Charmander kinda sucked,” I said. I finished the White Russian in my hand and waved the bartender for another.

“No he didn’t,” she said.

“Of course he did,” I said. “He sucked against Brock. Scratch did shit against Geodude and Onix.”

The bartender set another White Russian on the counter. I started sipping.

This girl looked down to her margarita. “You don’t have to be so rude.”

“I’m just being honest,” I said.

“They’re not mutually exclusive,” she said. I watched her stand up and walk away.

I stayed at the bar and finished my drink. I’m serious when I say this barcade was cheap. The people huddled around the different games – Q-bert, the Simpsons, Caterpillar. – playing for fifty cents a pop. Only the most popular games were a quarter more.

And the girl was playing the Simpsons by herself. I could play second, I thought. We’d be a team, and I could show her that I’m not an asshole. I reached into my pocket and saw that I had fifty cents left. Perfect.

“Close me out,” I told the bartender. He nodded and passed my bill of eighteen dollars.

I walked to the Simpsons game where this girl was still playing. “I can join you, I got the fifty cents,” I said.

“It’s seventy-five,” she said without looking away from the screen.

“Ok,” I said and left.

The kicker of it all – I first chose Charmander. I don’t know why I lied. After loosing to Brock several times I started a new game and chose Bulbasaur. Much, much easier.