“I mean, Bruce and Demi got back together, so it’s definitely possible,” she twirled her napkin around the table with the long of her index finger. “they were apart for what, a few years?” Carla had an unusual tendency to speak of famous people using only their first names. As she talks, my eyes wander around the cafe stopping on the ceiling fan. It’s black and has 4 props. It’s stalled. Carla still speaks. “unless Richard and I are an Angelina and Billy-Bob story, but I don’t think so. What do you think?”
“I think you’re going to miss your exam. it’s 3:30.”
“Shit!” she snaps. We pay for our coffees and twist out onto the street. Carla naturally takes the lead- practically skipping toward the quad- with me several paces behind. At one point she jumps in the air and lands with both feet on the sidewalk right in front of a mangled paperback, orphaned on the concrete. She stoops down robotically to pick it up, and gestures. “A gift for you,” she angles like a prim butler and presents me with a copy of The Odyssey with the back half missing.
“Well, I guess this prevents me from reading the last page first,” I thank Carla and wish her luck on her psychology test. We wave our goodbyes and I turn down Capitol Street, passing a little boy in an oversized Scooby-Doo t-shirt gawking at the himself through a video camera display in the Radio Shack window, then a girl with an open umbrella but it’s not raining. I’ve got nothing to do until my chem class at 7:30, so I do what I always do on Wednesday afternoons: steal cigarettes.
I have it down to a science. I duck into the Osco and walk right up to the cigarette stand and grab a pack. Then I head back through the aisles and pretend to take interest in a box of Wheaties or something similar. I slide the pack of cigarettes into my pocket in order to pick up the box of cereal with both hands. I inspect the design on the front, its nutritional value, etcetera. It’s quite a charade. I put the cereal down, and walk out of the store past a mount olympian rack of tabloid magazines, making sure to extend a hearty hello to the security guard at the door. Now let me be clear: there is a crisp fifty-dollar bill in my pocket. I’m choosing to steal the cigarettes. I’m not sure why.
Safely out of Osco, I amble over to the Musicland. Each window of the store contains a jumbo version of a new album cover. I’m not going to buy (or steal) anything. I just want to waste some time. After a few minutes of perusing I’m approached by a store employee, whose laminated ‘backstage pass’ around his neck proclaims that his name is Bob.
“Are you finding everything okay?” Bob asks dutifully.
“Yes, Bob.” I reply as I flip through rock/pop letter D. I look out the windows and can see that it’s beginning to rain. Not wanting to get caught up in the thick of it, I make one quick spin through the store and then head back to my dorm to take a nap.
I arrive at the Sci/Tech building 5 minutes late for my chemistry class. There are a few students milling around the door including my lab-mate Bryan. He’s likes to think he’s a dead-ringer for Jack Black. “Dude- you’re not going to believe this.” Bryan spins and points with two fingers at the classroom door. Scotch-taped there is a piece of lined yellow paper declaring in black magic marker “Chem 102 is cancelled due to a family emergency”.
“Time for KO’s, dear chap!” Bryan exclaims in a mock-English accent. KO’s is a tiny bar right across the river from Sci/Tech. I’m not much in the mood to get sloshed, but I agree to tag along for one or two drinks. We venture through the downpour to the bar, Bryan blessing every puddle he can find with his stomping black Vans.
“You look like that guy from Hi-Fidelity,” shouts a beautiful young bar patron to Bryan over The Smiths. “SchwaPING!” Bryan shoots her with an index finger and thumb gun, and the girl giggles enough to send some of the beer off the top of her pint glass and onto Bryan’s long maroon leather jacket.
When somebody resembles a celebrity they have a few options. The most common tack is to do everything humanly possible (via hair style, dress, and accessory) to avoid the comparison. Bryan chooses the other option. I’m not positive, but on one occasion I think I heard him tell a girl at KO’s that he was somehow related to the actor.
I squeak around on my barstool and grab a handful of mini-pretzels from a small plastic dish on the bar and notice Carla and her dorm-mate Heidi meandering through the crowd toward us. “SAAVVEEE MEEE,” mouths Carla who’s a few steps ahead of Heidi. Bryan picks up on Carla’s distress call, furrows his brow, darts his eyes left and right then says in a stage whisper: “Divide and conquer!”
“Hey Carla- how did your test go?” I arc around her as Bryan asks Heidi a question about her Cure tour shirt. Carla and Heidi are excellent examples of the random roommate assignment system. “The Geek and The Goth.” commented Carla once, pondering the possibility of network sitcom fame for the both of them.
“Totally cool, totally aced it, I think.” Carla voiced as her eyes become trained onto the butt of some guy walking by.
“Trolling at KO’s huh? Aren’t you on the hunt a little too soon? Richard’s body’s not even cold yet.”
“Richard’s body was cold the whole time,” Carla says, eyes returning to mine in confidence. “But I miss him madly.”
“You miss somebody madly. Let me get you something. What are you drinking?”
“Absolute and cran.”
“Coming right up, my fairest.” I grab a twenty from my wallet and begin the wait for service.
Carla grabs a pretzel from the dish and puts it up to her mouth and speaks into it as if it’s a mini-microphone. “My mom left another message about Wayne. He’s still in the hospital.” About a week ago, Carla’s brother Wayne had a truly bizarre accident while attempting to fix a TV. Somehow, something blew-up quite literally in his face. Carla puts her microphone into her mouth and munches “Apparently he’s doing better.”
“Well that’s good to hear.”
“The good news is that he’ll probably be able to keep his right eye.”
“I suppose that’s also the bad news, huh?”
“Yeah,” Carla looks toward the floor licking salt from her top lip. I hail the bartender and order her a drink. “The left eye was like, really bad apparently.”
“No Absolute- how about Skyy?” the bartender queried with one hand on the cranberry juice jug.
“That’s fine,” Carla answered.
“That totally sucks.”
“Skyy is fine.”
“No- about your brother. I can’t imagine losing any sight. Is he going to have a wake for his depth perception? Is he still able to drive?”
“I don’t know,” Carla’s drink arrives. She abandons her straw on the bar and attacks the cocktail fully with her lips. She wipes her mouth. “We haven’t even gotten to stuff like that yet.”
Bryan and Heidi both turn to us, and Bryan asks “what’s the name of that Bauhaus song…”
“Bela Legosi’s Dead?” Carla and I answer in tandem.
“No… the other one.”
“Love Will Tear Us Apart?” Carla offers.
“That’s Joy Division,” clarifies Heidi.
“Why?” I ask while my eyes get lost in Carla’s long, impossibly curly hair. Carla is so fucking beautiful. A few years ago she and I got plenty drunk and messed around a bit. We were a quarter way through proceedings when she dealt me the news “I’m sorry. I can’t do this. You’re like… my brother,” which turned out to be a symphony of cosmic irony later on when I found out that Carla and her brother actually had had sex regularly until as late as junior high. Anyhow.
For the past semester and a half, Carla had been dating a wrestling coach named Richard-for no particular reason other than he asked her out one time when she was working at the university library. She somehow managed to get really attached to the guy and had even mentioned the word ‘marriage’ to me on more than one sober occasion. About a month ago, Richard dumped her on her ass for a body-building chick. Naturally, this threw Carla into a self-introspection tailspin about her own body, which I need to tell you is completely perfect as far as I’m concerned. Nice legs, perfect handful breasts, and a face that doesn’t quit. And her hair.
Her ex Richard was the kind of guy to take a girl out to dinner and constantly joke that he didn’t have enough money to pick up the check, consistently underscoring the fact he was paying for their meals. I hate to be cliche but I really don’t know what she saw in him. Other than he was perfectly unlike her brother, apparently.
I look toward the bar and see 4 shot glasses filled with what looked like
“Jagermeister, friends!” Bryan empties his cash onto the bar and counts out twelve dollars. I notice that he does not tip anything, despite a train-wreck of single dollars left over.
“I can not do shots tonight,” I explain as Carla shoots hers back without waiting for any kind of a toast.
“Awwwww, c’mon man! See, everybody’s doing it.” Bryan pushes the syrupy brown shot in front of me.
“Bryan, forget it. If you like shots so much, why don’t you…” Carla slams my shot before I can finish my sentence.
“You guys had better drink those,” I warn Bryan and Heidi “before the street sweeper gets them.”
“Street sweeper?” Carla wipes her mouth again, this time with her sleeve. “I prefer… ‘libation liberator.'”
“To uhh… Peter Murphy.” Bryan and Heidi quickly toast and down their shots seriously and somewhat afraid Carla would steal them if they didn’t.
“Carla, you look a little green. Do you want some water?”
“No, I’m totally fine.” Carla jokes “whoop whoop!” and her hands mimic the diagonal back and forth wipe used by early 80’s sitcoms to convey cause and effect. “then I’m like puking in the KO’s toilet!”
We all laugh together right as the power goes out in the bar. The crowd goes bananas. I feel Carla’s hand on my knee and I imagine that she’s about to kiss me. I close my eyes in ecstasy. I see through my eyelids that the lights have snapped right back on. “Awwwwww!” says the crowd in unison. I open my eyes. Carla wipes her mouth with her sleeve again and slurs “Bruce and Demi got back together, right?”