Good riddance to 2015.

Well hello, blog. You’ve been sorely neglected. I would say that I’ll do better in 2015, but I’m not the New Year’s resolution sort. However, I’m just sitting around cat-sitting, so I figured I’d try to put the year into words.

What I’ve struggled to express to people in the past six months was how this summer overshadowed he rest of the year. Dislocating and breaking my shoulder (and arm, and possibly collarbone) was more than just painful physically, emotionally, and financially; it was isolating. Two of my favorite things in this world are attending concerts and writing, and I found myself unable to do much of either. Even holding up a book on the train to read on my commute was nearly impossible. I didn’t feel like going out much because I was exhausted and grumpy all the time. Even with insurance, my medical bills were in the quadruple digits. Besides, the subway was a gamble. Would I be able to sit down and hold my arm close, safe as long as the car didn’t jostle along the tracks? Or would I have to stand, my left arm going numb as I cut off circulation from reaching up to hold the pole while balancing my purse on the same shoulder? Would someone run into me and not even apologize? That happened frequently. Nearly daily. There was the woman who wedged herself on an already-crowded seat. There was the man who decided that playing solitaire with two hands was more important than holding on during a bumpy rush hour. A couple of times a week, someone (usually a woman) would offer me a seat. Usually, though, I was on the defense constantly.

The bills are still trickling in as my lovely insurance company takes its sweet time in paying up. I still get random aches in pains in my shoulder. I like to joke that I now have the Old Person superpower of predicting the weather. I’m now 30% more likely to dislocate my shoulder again, and as my doctor told me first thing when he met me without even bothering with a hello, I’m a likely to suffer osteoporosis later in life because of this. I know I’m lucky that my head didn’t hit the concrete too, that I didn’t need surgery or a cast or anything more drastic than a sling, but I don’t ever want to ever again feel the pain of trudging a mile with dislocated and fractured bones only to find out that the Urgent Care couldn’t treat me. Thinking of all the pain, the physical therapy, the loneliness, the hard work that I put in to regain my dexterity still fills me with sadness. I’m not going to pretend it’s a blessing in disguise like one of those Simple Reminders you see reposted all over Facebook and Instagram. It fucking sucked, end of.

Of course, I have to remind myself that not everything about the year was horrible. I got to spend some time with wonderful friends from across the country and make new friends at concerts. A member of my favorite band treated Cari, Lauren, and me like old friends and gave us a pleasant surprise. I got to see bands that I’ve been waiting 10+ years to witness live, including Blur, Ash, and Idlewild, and I was in the front row for all of them. I was also front row for THE original Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell. I got to attend a day of Governor’s Ball for free as a friend’s guest. I got my own cat. I took my birthday into my own hands and shelled out for tasty cocktails and Sleep No More. I sat at Glen Hansard’s feet while he played new songs in a bookstore past midnight, and he even wished me a happy birthday (thanks again, Scott). I met one of my favorite authors, and he was cool as hell. (John Connolly. Go read all of his novels now. You’re welcome.) I went to New York Comic Con and got to see The X-Files’ premiere months early. I wrote a novel in November that I didn’t hate and actually feel compelled to fix up. I did a hell of a lot, even if sometimes it feels like I just survived these past months.

Still, I’m ready to see the back of 2015. 2016, do better or I will have serious complaints.

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Blur, or on post-teenage fangirling.

When I was in school, social media did not exist as it does today. We had passive-aggressive AIM away messages, Angelfire midis, Geocities fansites, shameless fan fiction. It was a good time to get into a band because you could track down interviews from overseas, order rarities from eBay, find friends who had a tape copied from a tape so you could see a low quality concert video. I had favorite bands before Blur, but they were the first to really send me down the rabbit hole of self-discovery.

First of all, there was the culture. Blur were a very specific sort of English band in the Britpop scene, and they wrote about English characters, English politics, English existence. Damon Albarn didn’t bother to use a generic American accent for his singing. They wore their influences on their sleeves, from The Kinks to J.D. Salinger, astronomy to computer animation. They were curious and cheeky, and they made me be the same. I had a copy of A Clockwork Orange that was passed around my high school so much that it became dogeared and battered from all the friends who read the novel. I don’t know if I would have picked up that book had it not been for the video for “The Universal.” The band inspired me to write and to draw. Through them, I connected to fans online who are still my friends to this day. We give girls a lot of grief for band obsessions these days, particularly on social media, but I don’t want to know what I would have done with Twitter back then. All I know is that because this band clicked with me, I took in so much culture and became a smarter person.

Of course, the years intervened. Graham left the band, and then they went their separate ways. I tried to keep up with the side projects, particularly Gorillaz and Graham’s solo albums, but sometimes other things just caught my attention more. And that was fine. I accepted the fact that I had gotten into Blur too late to ever have a chance to see them live, and I told myself that it wouldn’t be quite right with Simon Tong in Graham’s place anyway. It was the risk of falling for a band that was far more popular on the other side of the Atlantic anyway. (Of course that didn’t stop me from mostly favoring non-American bands to this day, but that’s another story.) I’ve been through a few computers and iPods since my teen years, but there have always been Blur songs there. Each revisit to their music reminded me that they weren’t just of an era. They were part of my history as much as old friends.

Last year I had a chance to see Damon Albarn play Irving Plaza in support of Everyday Robots. I love this record, and I managed to get myself in the front row. I told myself not to get my hopes up too high since I was used to seeing the high leaps of Starshaped, and this material was far more introspective and experimental. I must have set my expectations a bit too low, because I was blown away. Damon had even more charm than I remembered from old videos. He made eye contact and sang directly to you. He uncapped bottle after bottle of water to drench audience members. People were whipped into a frenzy, and he sometimes just stood back to admire his work. He wasn’t smug though; if anything, he was humbled by such a reaction from the American audiences that had been so elusive to Blur’s early days. I had the time of my life that night. He played a couple of Blur songs, and Damon grabbed my wrist to haul himself up on the barrier for an electrifying version of “Clint Eastwood.” YouTube can back me up around 3:36 in this video. Swoon.

That would have been a lovely end to it, but came The Magic Whip. It’s an extraordinarily layered album for coming out of jamming for a couple of weeks. Then Blur announced an intimate free show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The original four. I was at once thrilled and horrified because I sensed I would not get a ticket. Sure enough, they were gone almost immediately. My friend Heather, who I met at Damon’s Irving show, got through but only nabbed one. I was happy she’d get to go, but it was hard to keep listening to the new album knowing I’d be missing out on the band in my own borough. I could accept missing a tour when I lived in West Virginia with no license to get myself to another city for a show. A few stops away on the L train? It was gutting. I even resorted to prowling Craigslist, where these free tickets were being scalped for $100+.

I got up for work and felt deflated since it had been a tough week. I didn’t put much effort into getting ready since I was exhausted and might’ve stayed up too late the night before drinking tequila and watching Deadpool clips on YouTube. Then I had two strokes of luck. Heather had managed to see someone offering a ticket on Blur’s Facebook page for free. She would let me know if it was legitimate. In the meantime, a friend Lindsey let me know that her friend had a spare. No matter what, I was covered. My body was bruised and scratched from a week of packing, unpacking, and even shredding boxes for an office move, and I was running on empty. But I was elated. I was listening to “The Universal” in the Union Square station and nearly burst into tears at the chorus. It felt cheesy even to me, but “it really, really, really could happen” just hit home in that moment.

Heather’s spare turned out to be the real deal. And free! After days of considering parting with a huge chunk of change, I got in free of charge, the way it was meant to be. The opener Honduras was definitely more Converse’s style, a kind of punk rock with surf influence. They did their style well, but it didn’t really fit with Blur’s aesthetic. That didn’t matter though. Heather and I could not stop laughing hysterically about being there. I’ve never had that kind of giddiness before. It didn’t matter then how bad my week had been, how much pain I was in, how I hadn’t even had time for a cup of coffee that day. As soon as the band stepped on the stage, it really sank in. I was seeing the band that had so inspired and challenged me as I transitioned from youth to adulthood. The tears came then, and they refused to stop through the first song, the wonderfully energetic “Lonesome Street.” I knew I probably looked crazy, but I was overwhelmed by emotion. Judging by the screams after every song, I could tell I wasn’t the only one.

This was the first show Blur had put on since releasing The Magic Whip, and they played the album in full minus “Ice Cream Man” (which Damon said they hadn’t arranged to their satisfaction yet, but they’d play it if they came back). Each time the crowd roared, Damon oscillated between feeding the frenzy and just looking on in delight. You would think they were playing only their greatest hits from how engaged people were with singing along, dancing, screaming. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more excited audience in New York, and I go to a hell of a lot of shows. The entire band seemed to be in great spirits. Damon was pogoing like he was half his age, throwing water on us yet again and soaking Heather’s glasses. Graham got in on the action later and threw Red Bull on my friend Ken, which might’ve been even more exciting. Alex made his aloof looks that were so amusing. Dave’s face was hidden from me, but I’m sure he was enjoying himself. At one point, Damon spontaneously hugged Graham, caught up in the energy of the show. After a moment’s pause, he hugged Alex as well. By the time he made it up the drum riser to hug Dave, the drummer laid a kiss on him. This was the sort of behavior you only get from a band genuinely in awe of the love around them.

As good as The Magic Whip is as an album, it works better live. I wasn’t fond of “There Are Too Many of Us” before, but it had a sinister build that delivered a punch at the end. There wasn’t a single boring point. “Ong Ong,” the delightful singalong toward the end of the record, even got some people moshing. The wait for the encore was deafening since we all knew they could only play old songs for us. The first was “Beetlebum,” a song I never thought I’d hear live. I teared up again and held it together, mostly because people were getting rough with their dancing again. The full  guitar outro came through with clattering energy, overwhelming the cheers that had started before the band was even done with the song. “Trouble in the Message Centre” was next, which I haven’t listened to in years. I know they played it in London, but I was shocked by the deep cut appearing on a US setlist. People ate it up, and that was how you knew that the room was filled with genuine Blur fans. The ending track was “Song 2,” and the push forward toward the stage was overwhelming. Nearly everyone was screaming and jumping. There was nothing to be done but to give in, to become part of this chaos. We stumbled out into the night on stiff legs and laughed again, wiping away the water and the tears. I read in a recent Rolling Stone article that the band was uncertain about touring America for this album. The demand needed to be there. If they don’t tour The Magic Whip on a full US tour, this gig was still worth waiting half my life.

M Is For Amazing.

The first thing I remember noticing about her was her eyes. Even behind rectangular frames, they had a way of standing out, the blacks of her pupils darker than expected, blue irises sharp, crisp. We were a long time coming, kindred spirits of the sort who meet and bond through common interest screen-to-screen. As much as people are able to conceal their true selves thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, you can just as easily be more yourself when you don’t have to look someone in the eye and be held accountable. In the latter sense, we connected through loving the same music and a bit of writing. Most of us are tethered to our electronics on a daily basis, so we can keep up with distant friends in a way that seems easier than staying in touch with those a few miles away. But it’s also easier to get into a new band, obsess over a new podcast, lose yourself to the new identity and leave that old digital life (or digital life in its entirety) behind. She came into my life at a time when I’d moved to a new city with no job, little money, and only two acquaintances. She was a bit of snarky sanity when my life felt closest to veering off the rails. I was desperate for work, lonely, and heartbroken after the death of my grandfather. I needed to lose myself, and there is no shortage of that on the World Wide Web.

People can outgrow each other so quickly, especially without face time. Even writing this now, it’s hard to believe that that  meeting was five years ago this autumn. She brought me Earl Grey cupcakes, and we wandered around Union Square looking for tea and buying gel insoles when the soggy weather made our feet hurt too much. We ate falafel on the street and split Belgian fries. I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard with someone or said so many tastefully (or tastelessly) offensive things in conversation. She has a way of throwing looks that speak as much as words. There’s always that worry in the back of your mind (or, well, maybe at the back of my mind) that someone will be different in person, more awkward or less authentic or something. She was unapologetic, boldly herself, realer than most of the people I’ve met in my years here in New York.

In most cases, that would be a fond memory, a chapter of place and time isolated in the past. We’ve gotten into a bit of mischief since (*smooths eyebrows*), but the important thing is keeping in touch constantly. If I need to vent about my day, I know she has my back. If I need a hard truth, usually she’s not shy about putting me in my place. She’s gotten me to sit through Love, Actually more than once, and I probably never would have given Pitch Perfect a shot without her. Her name appears as “Bad Bitch” on my contact list for reasons that I’ve long since forgotten, but the monicker is too amusing for me to change.

Why am I going on about all this? Because my friend is one of the smartest, most lively people I’ve ever known. Even though she’s a year younger than me, she’s been to more countries than broke, playing-it-safe me will probably see in my lifetime. The stories she’s told me from college have more adventure than I’ve had ten years removed from my freshman year. She’s done paddle board yoga, so she’s also a little bit crazy. But this year, she confronted the very real possibility that she could carry a BRCA gene mutation and an almost inevitable risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer. When the test came back positive, she didn’t decide to retreat from life and ignore it until she was out of her twenties or settled down into a more “secure” life. She faced surgery, she started a blog, and she pushed forward. That should have been the end of the beginning of her journey, but life’s not as smooth as a TV movie montage. Recovery has been difficult, infections are an unfortunate reality, and the healing process is not as empowering and flattering as motivational speakers would have you believe. Of course when you’re beset by pain and faced with wounds and sunken features, it’s not going to be easy. Your body not cooperating with the reconstruction process? I can’t even imagine going through it, having to make those choices and push forward and go back to work and plot basically a year of life around this nebulous but all too real threat of Cancer, capital C.

So, even though things hurt and may never look the way you wanted them to, know that your friends will always be there to look you in the eye and take you to ridiculous concerts where you ruin onstage moments because you can’t stop laughing.  The future isn’t something we can know for certain, but what you’re doing right now is buying yourself more of it, more time to write and travel and take photos and chase passions and befriend more people who will love you for being the firebrand you are. Just like your blog says, M Is For Amazing.

Albums, Books, and Films of 2014.

Hi, blog. Sorry I’ve neglected you. I’d blame NaNoWriMo, but that only covers November. Anyway, another year is coming to a close, and end of the year lists are being published every day. Why not add to the chatter? 2014 has been a strange year in that there have been a few albums/books/films that I have adored and obsessed over, but then I struggle to think of other entries to round out the top ten. I don’t know if that’s a sign of being incredibly passionate about my choices or just apathetic about most things this year, but if you’re reading this, you probably trust my taste anyway. Or you’re just really nosy.

Music

1. Hozier – Hozier. No church puns here. I downloaded the “Take Me to Church” EP back when it was free (hipster), and when I saw that he was coming to New York in March, I snagged a ticket. I hadn’t been to a gig in a while, and I was curious. For $10, worth the investment. I was blown away and immediately started to bother everyone to check him out before he blew up. Proof you should always listen to me.
2. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy. Rice has been a soundtrack to my frustration and a source of inspiration for years. Was this album worth the wait? Absolutely.
3. The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave. I have been listening to this obsessively the past few weeks. I can’t really put into words what it is about it. Each time I listen, it gives me a certain twist in my stomach like reading a great Iain Banks novel. It’s a lovely sort of nostalgia, looking back to move forward.
4. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots. When I was a teenager, one of the first bands I got really obsessed with was Blur. Like tracking down Japan-only releases, in the fan club obsessed. There’s not much Albarn has touched that I dislike. Not only is this a great record, but I finally got to see him live. He touched me. It’s on YouTube.
5. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything. Beautiful, romantic, heartbreaking, sad. Guy Garvey is like the occasionally drunk uncle we all wish we had.
6. Ed Sheeran – x. Sheeran could have settled for doing some samey acoustic business for his second record, but instead he stretched out, collaborated, and did a bit of everything. There are a few songs that I always skip, but the good songs are really, really good. And most of this record is good songs.
7. David Ford – The Arrangement. Ford could have sold out and made a bigger name for himself ages ago, but he makes the music he wants on his own terms. Thank God there are still guys like him. It’s acoustic, it’s orchestral, it’s lovely. This may be more EP length, but it’s my list and I do what I want.
8. Little Matador – Little Matador. Sometimes you just want big, dirty riffs and musical venting. Here’s the soundtrack for shaking your hair out and getting your rock boots on.
9. James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical. I almost forgot this came out this year because it came out so early in the year. Here’s the case of another artist starting out on the acoustic path and then experimenting. The electronic elements only serve to augment how lush McMorrow’s arrangements are. Plus that voice? That falsetto? Damn.
10. Taylor Swift – 1989. Stop rolling your eyes. I am far too old to deal with people getting pissed off because music is popular or “overexposed,” particularly since 99% of those people will spend their next breath praising Beyonce or Katy Perry. We like what we like, and I like Taylor Swift. I don’t care what you think about that. 1989 is fun, ’80s throwback goodness, and let’s face it: Swift could work with anyone, and she chose Imogen Heap. That in itself is cool as fuck.

Books

I didn’t love love love many books this year, particularly books published this year. I’ve read 85 books so far this year, so that’s a bummer. Here I’ve tried to scrape together ten from 2014 worth reading (based on Goodreads publication dates, so if their listings mislead me, sorry). Insert “you tried” gold star here.

1. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
2. The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce (An author lost far too soon. His novel The Silent Land is probably my favorite read of the year.)
3. The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh
4. The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly
5. The Final Silence by Stuart Neville
6. The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
7. Revival by Stephen King
8. Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler
9. Outside by Barry Lopez
10. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Yep, repetition because I’m flailing.)

Film

I feel like I went to the movies a lot this year. Books and music obviously have genres, but I don’t have a problem picking out my favorites. Film I find much more difficult to weigh. Can I really justify three comic book adaptations? Apparently I can. Caveats: these are by US releases, so I know there are a few that came out ages ago overseas, and I know there are a lot of great films I just haven’t seen yet (like Boyhood).

1. Filth
2. Good Vibrations
3. Frank
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
6. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
8. Birdman
9. X-Men: Days of Future Past
10. Under the Skin

The only television show you needed to watch this year was “True Detective.” Rust Cohle thanks you for your time.

perfect ending

I’m Not a Secretary.

I don’t really talk about my job in these parts because I work in a law office, so a lot of stuff is confidential. One might call me a legal assistant. You might also refer to me as an office manager. At a stretch, I’d accept Master of the Universe or Khaleesi, but understand that you’re misapplying the word “universe” or the implied khalasar.

But for the love of all you hold dear, do not call me a secretary.

The following scenario happens to me nearly every week. Someone calls our firm asking to speak with an attorney, and for one reason or another, we simply cannot help them. Usually they’re looking for a different sort of lawyer, or they simply do not have a case. Rather than accept my suggestion to look for another attorney, they get indignant and demand to speak to someone else. “Are you a lawyer, or are you just a secretary?” they snap. Just a secretary.

Let’s break this down, shall we? First of all, I’ve worked here for over two years, so I am far more familiar with the work that my firm handles than a first time caller. Even if I were “just a secretary,” I’m experienced. But just a secretary means that I am incapable of processing information, making rational decisions, or really doing anything other than answering phones and pushing buttons. We “secretaries” have but one goal in life, and that is getting rid of very important calls from needy clients who could have benefited us greatly with an epic win. God, there is nothing more satisfying than getting rid of windfalls of cash just to avoid a little extra work! We really don’t know much of anything, but if only we’d gotten a higher education, we’d know how to identify our societal superiors by voice alone over the phone.

The word “secretary” is sexist, plain and simple. If that’s how you think of yourself with pride, then more power to you, but I’ll go ahead and think of you as an assistant or administrative staff. I don’t think any man would be snottily referred to as a secretary in the first place, let alone just a secretary. If men answer phones, clearly they have other duties. They wouldn’t be confined to a desk staring at the buttons for hours, waiting for a single ring to provide momentary respite in a game of “Screw Around the Caller.” Ladies, however, keep on breaking into the work force and leaning in and whatnot, even though we’re totally unqualified to handle responsibilities like talking and breathing at the same time. Holding a phone as well? Jesus, slow your roll!

When you throw in that “just” bit, you’re condescending. No, excuse me. You’re fucking condescending. There is no reason to think that you know better than someone who has managed to acquire a job at the place with which you are communicating. This “secretary” holds a degree from an esteemed university, has membership in multiple honor societies, received plenty of scholarships due to academic achievement, and at last testing held an IQ of 139, which is high enough to qualify for Mensa. On occasion, I have even been known to puzzle out how to tie my shoelaces.

So please, do not call me a secretary. At best you’re reducing the scope of my actual job to something incredibly rudimentary, and at worst, you’re knowingly insulting me in the hopes I will be humiliated enough to pass your call on to an attorney who will deliver the same news I did. Kindly remove your head from your ass and/or the 1920s, hang up the phone, and try another firm.

Primal Music: part two.

Gordon woke to the sensation of his pulse throbbing in his temples. Too much tequila, not enough water. His throat felt dry, the taste clinging to his tongue unusual. He rubbed at his eyes roughly and swung his legs over the side of the bed, then nearly staggered due to the shortness of the bed. He had to find a bathroom so he could gauge how much he resembled a human being.

His clothes had moved from the floor sometime in the night. They had been folded and neatly placed in a chair. He shuffled over to at least grab his boxers to avoid traumatizing her roommates. He could feel every vein in his eyes throbbing, and the pink walls didn’t help him feel any more comfortable in his state of distress.

Pink walls.

Photographs had been hastily tacked up on most surfaces, showing girls smiling together in clubs, in parks, in school uniforms.

He backed up slowly and expected to trip over a teddy bear any moment, but no stuffed animals jumped up to attack him. Still, the girl looked just the same as she did in those photos. She was old enough to work around liquor, at least unless there were exceptions being made for her to get by. He didn’t know what to think, but everything about her room cried out young, and it scared the hell out of him.

As did the knock on her door as a voice bellowed her name and then turned the knob.

In their haste, they hadn’t thought to lock the door. He felt the blood drain from his face as he uselessly held his boxers in front of his naked body, trying to will himself invisible because there were precious few places a man over six feet tall could conceal himself at a moment’s notice.

Lizzie stirred, and with the energy of someone who had long since learned to protect her privacy, she launched herself at the door. Sometime in the night she had slipped into his t-shirt, which fit her like a dress. “Dad,” she growled, confirming the worst fears in Gordon’s mind, “you know you can’t just come in here like this.”

The man on the other side of the door didn’t sound impressed. “It’s my home. Why shouldn’t I go where I please?”

“Because I have someone in here.” She threw a glance over to Gordon, her eyes refusing to meet his.

“You mean in addition to the two who were crashed out in the living room?”

“Yes. They’re in a band. They didn’t have anywhere to go last night. It wouldn’t be right just to leave them sleeping in a van outside work. Look, just give us a minute, and then we’ll come down for breakfast.”

Gordon couldn’t make out what the man said, but he could only assume that the man had acquiesced because the door drew shut under her touch. She sighed and leaned back against the wood, her hand reaching behind her to engage the lock this time. “Fucking tequila,” she grumbled beneath her breath.

“Your father? That was your father?” he yelped. He wanted to get dressed and beat a hasty retreat, but he wasn’t alone in this. He had his bandmates to think about, and oh god, had he fucked a teenager? No matter how he turned, she’d see him naked as he put his boxers back on. And really, she’d seen a lot more, even if they hadn’t bothered to turn on the lights. He fumbled with the material, keeping his gaze on his ankles. “My shirt. You have my shirt.”

“Oh. Right.” She gave him a modest smile and peeled off the faded blue t-shirt, revealing the fact that she had nothing on underneath. She looked just as good as she’d felt beneath him, her breasts full and her hips just broad enough to give her curves. She sat down on the edge of the bed and crossed her legs before patting the spot next to her. “I guess there are some things we need to talk about.”

 

“Like the fact that I could go to jail?” he asked, his voice a forced whisper. He writhed into his shirt inside out, then struggled to correct the error. “After the sort of day that I went through, I can’t believe you’d just let me. I mean, those guys at the bar. They knew, didn’t they? And they let it happen, Christ, to laugh at me again.”

 

Her face grew red, but she at least choked down her anger because she knew that she had misled him. “Relax, would you? Okay, so I guess I kind of lied about the roommates, but would you really have come home with me if I’d told you that I live with my folks? I’m not some kid. I’m almost nineteen. My uncle owns the bar, so he lets me work there and pays me under the table. I’m just trying to get my head around things, maybe find out if there’s something I can do with my life that’s more than waiting tables or pulling pints before my tits sag all the way down to my knees.”

She sounded remorseful enough that he could at least let himself sit down. It was better than pacing when his heart was hammering and his breath was shallow. “So you’re eighteen.” It was all he could come up with to say under the circumstances.

“I’m eighteen.”

“Siblings?”

“I don’t know how many are around right now. Three older, one younger. The youngest is probably the only one about. His name’s Gordon too actually. So is my dad’s.”

In spite of himself, he couldn’t hold back a smile. She pressed her lips together to stifle the reaction, but she did the same. “Freud would have a fucking field day with you, you know that?” he asked.

“I know. My family’s really fucked up. I guess I am, too.” She looked over at her clothes, then reached out to find her bra. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t things would go like this. I don’t know what I was thinking last night. There was just something about the way you carried yourself, like the world was against you no matter what. It made me mad. It made me want to show you that sometimes, the world can just be nice. And I wanted you to want me more than you wanted to be pissed off about everything. I guess I just wanted you to want me.”

Tears were brimming in her eyes, clinging to the dark lashes. He felt his heart drop in his chest at the thought that he could upset a young girl like this. “Come on, none of that,” he said. He hesitated, then put his arm around her shoulders. She curled into his body, ducking her head to avoid his gaze. “You’re a beautiful girl. You could have anyone you want. Maybe everything’s confusing right now, but it won’t always be. And at least you don’t want to be a musician so you can spend half your twenties baring your soul in front of ungrateful bastards who want nothing more than to have you shut up.”

She laughed quietly and swiped at her eyes. “You’re just different. You’re not like the boys around here. I guess I was kind of pretending that you’d like me enough that you’d take me with me and get me out of here. I’m so afraid I’m going to die here, some granny in sweatpants with five divorces under my belt and not enough money to feed everyone.”

“Well, I’m already in that position with one mouth to feed. Minus the sweatpants and granny scenario.”

She gave his chest a playful shove and then moved to the edge of the bed to look for her underwear. “You’re awful. I don’t know why I wanted to see what it was like to be with an older man.”

“Pity, perhaps?”

She gave him a firm glare and then rummaged around for a dress that she could easily slide into. The baggy clothing combined with her lack of makeup made her look younger, more innocent. “None of that. You’re going to be pitying yourself after my dad makes you stay for breakfast so he can give you hell in a completely passive-aggressive fashion.”

He gritted his teeth but took it as his cue to slip back into his jeans. “I’m sorry I was such a shit yesterday. And about your dad. I just kind of crashed into your life, but regardless, you were the best thing that could have happened to me.”

“What a fucking liar you are.” She blushed, but when she smiled, he could see those crooked teeth that made her all the more endearing.  “Whatever. You’re a musician. You probably get into weirder situations and sleep with more beautiful women all the time.”

“You’d be surprised.” They were back in their clothes, and with the blankets draw up over the bed, it was easy to pretend that they were back to owing each other nothing. There were a few one night stands in his past, but he couldn’t really remember one that was awkward like this. He was torn between self-preservation and protecting this young girl’s confidence. He probably wouldn’t have slept with her had he known her age, but the deed was done, and he couldn’t pretend that they were strangers. “Come on, let’s go endure the Inquisition while I’m still hungover enough to be suicidal and charge into it.”

Gordon’s bandmates had flown the coop at dawn, leaving behind a message that they were going to find junk food and wait for him at the van. This left him alone with his young lover and her father. Coffee had already been set out, toast at the center of the table. Gordon would have given away the shoes on his feet to get some greasy sausage, bacon, and eggs into his system, but the dry toast would have to suffice. He took a seat and offered a hand to the other man, who seemed exceptionally young to have a teenage daughter. He couldn’t have been much beyond forty yet, with a full head of light brown hair and a mostly unlined face. “Nice to meet you,” Gordon said, resisting the urge to add “sir” to the end of the statement. “Thanks a lot for the breakfast.”

“Well, it’s not a problem…” He paused, no doubt to demand a name.

“Gordon.” His voice felt thick in his throat. “I hear you’re called the same. Small world.”

“Yes. Small world.” Gordon Senior stared at his daughter a moment, then set about buttering his toast. “So, our Liz says that you’re in a band?”

“Yeah. We’re called Smile of Winter. We might change it since it’s a bit ubiquitous, you know? Tough to pin down. But we play indie rock, I guess. We’re from New York. Well, we all live in Brooklyn now. Same difference, really.”

“You’re a long way from home then. Big tour?”

“Hardly, but you take the paying gigs wherever they crop up, as long as they pay enough. Not a lot, but enough to justify buying the gas and a few drinks, anyway.”

“But not enough for a hotel room.” There was no room for the sentence to be a question, and so Gordon could only nod in affirmation.

“We’re not at that level yet. Too many other expenses. But we’re hoping it happens soon. We’re giving our all to everything.”

The older man nodded and picked up his mug and toast. “Right. I have some stuff to sort before I go to work, so I’ll leave you two to it. I don’t suppose you’ll be here when I’m leaving, so safe travels home, Gordon.”

“Same to you. I mean. Take care.” He flushed but at least didn’t look away as the older man left the room, his footsteps retreating up the stairs. “Jesus Christ,” he whispered.

Lizzie leaned over and kissed his cheek, though he could only read innocence in her touch. “You really got off lightly. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Probably because you’re leaving and we won’t see each other again.” With those words, her lip stuck out a little. He knew she was trying to be playful, but there was something regretful in her voice.

“We might see each other again. We never really know where we’re going to head on tour. But hey, if you ever get up to New York, you ought to visit me. I mean, if it’s a night I’m not behind the bar batting my eyelashes for tears or getting fired from a temporary job, I’ll probably be at The Fritz. I’d give you my phone number, but I’m pretty sure that’s the utility that’s been shut off this month due to non-payment.”

She elbowed him but shook her head and did her best to choke down any emotions she might’ve had. “Fuck off. I really don’t know what to think about you. One second you’re sweet, and the next you’re absolutely infuriating.”

He gave her an absent shrug. “I usually opt for infuriating. It’ll keep you from missing me too terribly.”

“I think I will miss you. I’ll always pretend that you were the one who could take me away from here, even if you’re living on the streets of New York.” She tore at the toast on her plate, the butter making the bread fall apart in jagged creases. She had had her night of excitement, but she knew that she would have to go back to her everyday existence, thinking about what might have happened. “Do you think you might write a song about me someday?”

“Maybe. But I won’t share it with anyone until people stop telling us how shitty we are.”

 

“I’m sure you’re not as bad as it seems. People just need a reason to care.”

Her words resonated in a strange way within him. Had he thought too little of others’ opinions, dismissed them and just accepted as a given that they wouldn’t care? Did he need to look outward more? He could have fallen into the inquiries more, but she was finished with her coffee and moved to put their dishes in the sink. “And you should lay off the drugs. Fucking ruined my brother’s life. I’d hate to see that happen to you.”

“Does that mean you’ll keep up with my band?”

“Only if your music doesn’t suck. It’d be a shame if it did after all you put me through.”