Spotify Stalker

Spotify

Everyone at the coffee shop had a Mac except me. This was likely the case all along but the amount of people inside the shop due to the heat wave made it obvious. I bought my PC laptop used on Amazon from guy whose username was a mix of a date – most likely his birthday – and gen one Pokemon. The laptop ran on Windows 7. It wasn’t great in any way but it was mine. I used it to work, play Minecraft and watch porn.

Alex: Enjoying Taylor Swift?

I expected Alex to message me at this point in the afternoon. It was four on the east coast, and I knew by then he’d given up on work for the day.

Me: Maybe I am. I saw you listening to Beyoncé yesterday.

Alex: Yeah, but Beyonce’s done some great stuff. She’s earned my respect.

A man walked over and sat across from me at the back table where I always worked. He pulled from his leather bag a Mac and placed it on the counter. Over the Apple logo was a sticker of a different logo, one I didn’t recognize.

Me: Watch it, buddy or I’ll take you off my friends list.

I watched the man drink a an iced mocha from a large glass he placed next to his Mac. Anything helped, including this back table underneath the AC. I was surprised no one figured this out before this guy.

I wasn’t going to take Alex off my friends list but I did want to see what he’d say. He was the only guy I kept in contact with from high school. This was a recent development. I ran into him at the beach when I was home two months ago. Before then we hadn’t talked in years.

Alex: I’m just fucking with you.

I looked up and noticed the man was waving at me. I pulled out my left earbud.

“Do you mind watching my stuff for a sec?” he asked.

“No problem,” I said.

The man nodded and walked out with his phone in his hand. That guy was like me. He didn’t want to take calls in the coffee shop. That’s just rude, especially when someone’s sitting across from you, enjoying the AC because it’s so damn hot everywhere else.

Me: Yeah I know, sorry about that.

Alex: You haven’t changed since high school. You’re still so sensitive.

Me: Wow man, like you’ve changed so much? Tell your mom and dad I said hi when you go home.

“Thanks man,” the guy said and sat back down.

I nodded, replaced my earbud and looked back to my screen. Nothing. After twenty minutes I saw Alex signed off, or made himself invisible. I scrolled through my Spotify feed and looked at who was listening to what. Most of those I followed I hadn’t talked to in a while.

I stretched my arms and accidentally pulled out my earbuds from the computer jack. Taylor Swift blasted from my laptop speaker. The man looked up to me and laughed, hard. He laughed and shook his head with his eyes shut.

Me: Feel free to jab at me for listening to Taylor Swift whenever.

Whether Alex read my message I wasn’t sure. But that guy’s laughter. It played in my head long after I left the shop and into the heat.

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.

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.”

About a Woman and a Loaf of Frozen Bread

Alright, so here’s a story I think you all will like. Yeah, I said “you all,” but what else can I really say? There are more than one of you, and I’m about to tell this story about a woman and a loaf of frozen bread.

Anyways, I was back home for Christmas and I messaged my old buddy Ian. I’ll admit I only texted him because I was bored and without a car. I was also certain Ian knew this, but he picked me up within twenty minutes anyways. He was probably bored too.

He picked me up in his crappy jeep. I thought we were on our way for pizza and beer at Luigi’s when he said, “We’re stopping at Sean’s place. He’s got some pot brownies and I wanna grab some.”

Of course I was in. A week isn’t long to be home, though it can be without something to get a good buzz or high off of. My parent’s hadn’t kept alcohol in the house since my older brother started going to AA five or six years ago. I was proud of him, I really was.

Sean’s house was out in the woods and it took twenty minutes or so to get out there. Me and Ian talked about high school and brought up the same stories. I’m not gonna go into those stories because I’m certain they’re not far off from the stories “you all” talk about with your own high school buddies.

“So nothing new has happened around here?” I asked. It was unusually warm so Ian kept the windows rolled down and I let my arm hang outside.

“Nope,” Ian said.

“And people blame me for leaving,” I said.

“Nobody thinks that,” Ian said.

We got to Sean’s and he was outside on the porch having a smoke. I saw him stomp the cigarette with his boot before waving us inside.

“I saw the craziest shit yesterday,” Sean said as me and Ian followed him into the kitchen. He was laughing and I knew he’d been eating the brownies all day.

“Like what?” I asked.

Sean kept on laughing as he opened the fridge and pulled out the tray.

“So I was leaving Shop Rite last night with the stuff for these brownies. I hear a woman scream for help in the parking lot. I ran over and saw this old woman beating the crap out of this dude with a loaf of frozen bread!”

Now I know this sounds ridiculous and I thought so too. I thought he was just making shit up. Ian beat me to asking Sean more about it.

“How did you know it was frozen?” he asked.

“I didn’t at first,” Sean said. He was cutting off chunks of brownie and wrapping them in plastic wrap. “But after the man ran away, me and a couple others ran to her to make sure she was alright. Not a scratch. She held up the bread and said it was frozen. ‘Like a brick,’ she said.”

I ate a piece of brownie before me and Ian took off. It hit me just as we were heading back into out neighborhood. I didn’t think much of Sean’s story until then.

“I gotta tell my parents about this. Frozen bread, that’s pretty bad ass.”

“I guess so,” Ian said.

Anyways, that brownie knocked me out and I passed out on the couch when I got home. Mom and Dad were in bed anyways. This was also my last night home and slept through my alarm so the next morning I packed and left within ten minutes to catch the bus for the airport.

So what I’m saying is that I never got to tell my parents about the woman and the frozen load of bread. No offense, but telling “you all” is kind of a consolation prize. I would’ve much rather told my parents about this. My brother would’ve loved it too, but who knows where he is. I mean, at least I come home a couple times a year. Who really knows where the hell is is?

Anyways, I’m going off again. The lady with the frozen loaf of bread, pretty bad ass, am I right?