Failing Upward Ch. 03

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Since the doctor gave me the thumbs up to go back to work as soon as I felt comfortable, I decided to see who my sub in the band was tonight. Not that I’m worried or anything. I was irreplaceable. It’s just that the band, Failing Upward, was my life. While the flower shop centered me, the band excited me. It was important to have enthusiasm in life. I couldn’t imagine going to work every day of my life hating what I did. If I didn’t have the band, my day job wouldn’t be fun. It would be work.

We were playing tonight, or the band was, so I decided to go hang out. Maybe watch a few sets. Maybe I’d feel up to playing– take my Gibson along just in case. Hmmm, well, I still have that guitar. But I knew I couldn’t jump around on stage. Heck, when I bent over for my guitar case, I almost vomited from the pain. Second thought, guess I wouldn’t take my guitar. That’s out. Still I could at least get out of the house.

Watching The Price is Right and Nick at Night got old fast. I needed excitement. I thought, why not pick up the phone and call Lynn and ask her if she’d like a night out with yours truly? Normally I would never go anywhere with Lynn unless I was driving. Lynn had the nasty habit of ditching me or any one else she happened to be with she didn’t want to boink and taking off with the lucky (or unlucky, depending how the sot viewed it all later) guy.

Yeah, my best friend was a slut. Finicky, she wasn’t. Lynn slept with any half-way decent looking guy that was interested in showing her a good time. She’d slept with all members of the band and most my friends. About every one but me. But fucking your best friend was never a good idea. There was this one drunk, sloppy night, we almost did. But she said she didn’t sleep with men prettier than her.

She also said I should save myself for the right guy. That kinda ruined the mood. I was glad it never happened. I don’t need those kind of complications. Or diseases. Besides, I loved her. Not in that way– but as a friend. Sex can strangle a friendship like crabgrass. At least that was always my impression. Besides, I thought of her more like a sister. Incest? That was just wrong.

The shame of it was Lynn was brainy and beautiful. She spoke four languages and had a Master’s in Economics. When she walked into the room all the men knew she was the most beautiful because she knew she was. It was attitude. Why someone who had that much going for her would have so little respect for herself confused me. I knew the Freudian arguments why Lynn slept around– she wanted her daddy’s love or some such shit. I think with AIDS and all she’d be more careful. A person just couldn’t go get a shot anymore and be all-better– this wasn’t the 60s.

She was my sister’s best friend, before she was mine. My sister always loved Lynn for what she was inside. Not the way she looked, or how she acted. I ended up loving Lynn because she was there for me when I needed her most, and I was there for her, too.

But I wished she’d get off her theory that I was a fruit. Sometimes it’d be easier to just make her and world happy and if I said, ‘Yes, you’re all right; I’m wrong. I’m a queer.’

But I wasn’t. I could admire a beautiful woman; I could admire Lynn. And I didn’t look at men on the street and think, ‘hey, nice ass.’ And what was with the double standard? I heard Lynn talk about other women. She’d comment on how beautiful or hot other women were. I didn’t see how my appreciation of men was any different.

I picked up my phone and called Lynn to go out. If Lynn got friendly with anyone, I could get a ride home easy enough from one the guys in the band.

—————

The Road House. A dive built out in the middle of nowhere.

The bar attracted students from two nearby colleges, and during the summer months, the bar drug in locals along with a few of the ‘die hard’ all year college crowd. Built on scenic Pine Lake, you’d think the owners would keep up the property better. Still, taxes would increase if the place looked too nice. Maybe it was a way around the system.

The outside of the building was constructed from old field stone and stained pine planks, now pealing. The sign in front needed repair and paint. The inside was no better– pine wainscot walls lacquered with the quaint veneer of years of cigarette smoke. The ceiling, built of the same dark pine, was low. So low that John, our six foot plus lead guitarist had to crouch when he was on stage. His solution? Jump out on the floor and play.

The locals and college kids loved Old John. When he jumped out, they liked to play air guitar next to him, and it made for a what Ed Sullivan used to call ‘a pretty good shoo.’ John’s odd ball sense of humor got in the way on occasion– like when he said something off-color to one of the campus hotties. Sometimes they get offended. Most times they met up with him after the show. It never failed to amaze me– if you were a guy in a band, you could look like Quasi Modo and still get laid on a regular basis if you wanted. Not that casino siteleri John was Quasi Modo, just that he ain’t that good looking; he was balding and heavy set. Women wouldn’t give him a second look on the street. On stage– or at the Road House off stage–he suddenly became as attractive to them as Orlando Bloom.

Lynn and I got there after the band began warming up for their first set. John was at it already: some cute blonde was sticking her 34C’s in his face, with John on his knees cranking out the jams and inhaling her cleavage. I walked by John and waved. I went and leaned against his amp, scoping out a good place for us to sit. Since there was no “back stage” at the Road House, we were limited to the audience. There was a spot in the front with a group of college boy regulars who were more than happy to ogle Lynn for the evening.

“Hey, Wes,” yelled, oh… what’s his name? After a while they all looked the same– college boys with the perfect white teeth and scrubbed faces. “Heard you were in some car accident. How are you?” Their eyes never left Lynn. Was it Lynn’s fault she was a penis magnet?

“Yeah, I was. I’m better,” I yelled back. The guy pulled a chair out for Lynn to sit down, ignoring me. I pulled a chair up from the next table and sat down, wincing. I had nixed the pain killers today so I could have a few drinks. Maybe I should have nixed the drinks instead.

“You look like shit with those black eyes,” the college boy said and shook his head toward the stage. “They sound great tonight. Of course not as–” I strained to hear. Sitting next to amps wasn’t conducive to good conversation.

As normal, the dance floor was empty during the first set. Only large quantities of beer give most guys the nerve to ask women to dance. The crowd hadn’t reached saturation yet.

I decided to check out the reason why I’d come. My eyes pulled to the stage. I studied the guy who was subbing for me. Not bad. I couldn’t decide yet if I’d anything to worry about, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Shit.

“Want to dance?” Alan stuck his face in mine.

“Fuck you,” I answered. “You’re not funny.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Lynn said. “You don’t have to bite my head off though if you didn’t want to dance.”

I grabbed her sleeve and pulled her head next to mine and yelled in her ear, “I thought Alan asked me. Sorry. I’d dance with you but my ribs are still really sore.”

“Do you want to come sit with us?” Alan asked. Or panted. Every time he was around Lynn, I swear, he followed her like a bitch in heat. I hesitated. I wasn’t up to hearing Alan’s mouth, but I didn’t want to be rude. I thought… put on the top of my mental list… stop worrying about being rude to others.

I looked over at Lynn, and she nodded. Lynn flashed her extra white teeth around the table at all the college boys and said, “Thanks for letting us sit here, guys.”

I looked at their disappointed faces. As we stood up I whispered in the ear of the guy sitting next to me, “Guess you won’t be gettin’ lucky with her tonight.”

For a moment there, I thought he was going to punch me.

We made our way over to Alan and Sid’s table. Damn, it hurt to walk. Sid flagged down the waitress for a new round of drinks.

“What’ll you have? I’ll buy this one,” Sid said.

“I’ll have a rum and coke,” I said.

“Same here,” said Lynn.

“That’ll be two rum and cokes, a shot of Seagram’s, and a coke,” Sid said to the waitress. Sid’s staying sober as usual, to assist Alan in his usual drunken squalor.

I was watching the stage intently for quite a while, studying my replacement when Alan bent over and asked, “Worried? He’s really good, Wes. Great voice, too. I think you should be.” Alan smiled. The fuck. I hated him.

“But does he have my legs?” I asked.

“No, but maybe your tits,” Alan came back. I felt my face flush, and I imagined punching Alan in the face, and seeing that lopsided smile smeared with blood. But I had started it. Bad to mention my legs, no matter how good they were. And I wasn’t sure what made me more pissed–Alan’s stupid comment, or Lynn’s hiccupping laughter afterward.

This wasn’t a good sign. Lynn was being sucked into the Black Hole that is Alan. Time to play Dr. Phil with Lynn. I nodded my head toward the side door trying to get Lynn’s attention. No luck, she was too entranced by Alan. I decided I needed to use a straightforward tactic.

“Need to use the restroom? Come on Lynn. Now.”

“You girls hurry back,” Alan taunted. I ignored that one. Anything to get Lynn away from the bastard.

I shoved Lynn through the crowd toward the back door.

Lynn pushed me back asking, “What’s with you?”

“I have this really creepy feeling you’re going end up screwing Alan tonight,” I said.

“I really do have to pee,” Lynn said. She grabbed and pulled me toward the women’s room.

“I can’t come in here,” I said, and I grabbed the door frame. One hard yank, and she pulled me in. I started to canlı casino run back out, but curiosity got the better of me. I always wondered what the inside of the ladies’ restroom looked like.

“This sure is a lot cleaner than our bathroom. The sinks’ sparkle, and you even have a cute little arrangement that’s not really an arrangement.” I pointed to a basket next to the sink.

“That’s potpourri,” she said. “To make this place smell nice.”

“Like I don’t know what potpourri is? I was just trying to make bathroom small talk. God.”

“Who’s out there?” a voice squeaked from behind the third stall.

“Nobody,” said Lynn. “Not to worry. Just me and a gay guy.”

“Okay,” the voice answered uncertainly. Lynn walked into the next stall and shut the door. I stood, wondering what the Hell I was doing in the women’s room. I needed to sit down, but the counter was so pristine; I didn’t feel right, putting my ass there.

I looked away from the stall into the mirror above the sinks. Man, I did look like shit. The green fading bruises clashed horribly with my blue eyes. I looked kinda pasty too.

Must be bad lighting.

“Man,” Lynn said. “I had to go bad.”

“Lynn,” I began. “You always told me, ‘Please stop me if I try to boink Alan.’ Well, here’s your red flag, baby. I know the script. I’ve seen you do this countless times with countless men.” Lynn responded by flushing the toilet. She stepped out, adjusting the front of her silk blouse as she stepped next to me to wash her hands.

I read denial all over Lynn’s flawless features as I stared at her in the mirror. Her mouth was set. How could she not even know herself well enough to see the signs? Maybe she just didn’t give a shit.

“You’re crazy,” Lynn said. She inspected her profile in the smoke stained mirror and wiped the lipstick from the corner of her mouth with her index finger. “But he does have a great body.”

“Yeah, and he’s the biggest asshole I know.” I knew that would hit a nerve with her. “You keep telling me you’re an asshole magnet– Well, I think you attract dicks, but you pick assholes. You know–the biggest asshole wins. Well, Alan is the Elvis of all assholes.”

Stall number three began laughing— Lynn slammed her foot into its door.

“Hey, this is serious,” I yelled at Lynn, and then pointed to the stall. “See, she probably knows Alan, too.”

“I’m not going to jump Alan. And since when did you care who I sleep with?”

“I don’t care as long as it’s not Alan.”

“What about Sid?”

We stood locking on each other’s reflection in the mirror.

“Now that’s the mother of all blank stares,” Lynn said, as she burst out laughing. “Don’t worry. I don’t think Sid’s preferences lean to the fairer sex. And he’s way too short for me. He is incredibly cute though– big brown dreamy eyes. But, you know, I like tall men.”

“Oh, I thought it was all men. Or maybe men like Alan–yeah, tall, dark and jerky.”

“What ever happens between Alan and me, happens.”

“Enough of your ‘Que sera, sera’ shit.”

“How long has it been since you got laid anyway, Wes? You sure are a bitch–” now that hurt. “You could use a good piece of ass.” More laughing from the stall. I banged on the door this time.

“What the Hell are you doing in there?” Lynn yelled in to the girl behind the stall door.

“Being entertained,” she answered.

“Hmm,” Lynn commented. “A new form of bathroom humor?”

“What do you think?” I asked the unknown woman in stall three. “I’m right aren’t I?”

“No,” said the faceless voice. “You’re definitely gay.”

“That’s not what I was asking,” I said. Was this a world-wide conspiracy against me?

“I think he likes you,” Lynn said.

“Alan? Right. Sure,” I said.

“Honestly, Wes. I mean Sid. You are so naïve when it comes to love and sex. You have over half of the bar panting after you most nights when you play and sing, and you think they are just clapping ’cause they think you’re talented.”

What the hell did that mean? … I had no talent?

“You could get laid by most of the bar,” she continued. “And haven’t you ever noticed how Sid looks at you? Take my advice,” she said conspiratorially. “Take Sid home and jump him good. I think he might even need it worse than you.”

“I thought we were talking about Alan? Don’t change the subject. Hey, where are you going?”

“Going? Going? I guess I’m going to make Alan beg for it for about, say, a half an hour more. Then I’m going take him home and fuck his brains out.”

Wonderful. Best friend and worst nightmare–together. The band stopped playing as we walked back to the table. Lynn gave me an “up-yours” look so I decided I’d be the one to ditch her tonight.

“I’m going to go talk to the guys,” I pointed toward the stage.

“Can I come too?” asked Sid.

Shit. I thought, Lynn was right, but I didn’t want to be rude. I answered, “Sure.” We both walked up to John. He and Smith, who played bass, were kaçak casino sitting on the edge of the stage drinking complementary Miller from the tap.

“You look 180 better than the last time I saw you,” said Smith.

“Yeah, I feel only 90 degrees better, though,” I answered. “Who’s the sub?”

“Some guy came up to us the night of your accident. Said he could play. It was like our 1-800 psychic friend saw you weren’t gonna be here. He even had a guitar out in his car. Talk about a stroke of luck.”

“Yeah, real lucky,” I agreed. Who was this character anyway? Short like me– maybe a bit taller. Not unattractive, but not great looking either. Brown, expressive eyes though. To look at him, he has a sense of humor.

“He’s pretty good, too. Says his brother is some big time manager dude. Name is Les Zante.” This is getting better and better. Maybe his uncle owns Capital Records, too. “He knows all the covers we do and even the originals.”

“He knows the songs I’ve written?” I asked.

“Yeah, weird isn’t it?”

“Where’d he come from? I can’t remember seeing him in the audience– you know, a regular or something? He has to be if he knows our songs.” Suddenly I felt a sharp pain return to my temple. “Hey, I don’t mean to sound cliché but the room has started to spin. Shit. I’ve only had a few rum and cokes.”

“Wes? Are you ok?” Sid grabbed my arm to steady me. I shrugged him off and walked back to our table.

“You turned kind of gray there for a moment,” Sid said. “I thought you were going to pass out.”

“Me too. I’m feeling better now. Must be hearing about my replacement made me queasy. I feel like I got kicked in the head. Not that if they threw me aside for this new guy, the end of the world would come, but Jeez. Bad things happen in threes–isn’t that what they say? Do you believe in Karma? I don’t think I did anything in this life…”

I stopped. No use going on and on. Sid didn’t need to hear my problems.

“I can’t say that I believe in Karma or not,” Sid said slowly. “I like to believe that I mold my own destiny. Or is that an oxymoron? Molding destiny? As for reincarnation, if I lived before, I’d like to think I was someone who had vision–you know–like Dylan Thomas.”

I laughed. He was kind of cute– if I was gay, I might find him attractive. Lynn was right; he had really nice eyes. God, maybe I shouldn’t have had that last drink, I thought, looking down at my empty glass. Damn. Why did she have to put those ideas in my head?

‘”Dylan Thomas, I always thought of myself as e.e. cummings.” Cummings? Now that didn’t come out the way I had intended.

Beautiful eyes, I thought. Must look away. God, I hated rock heavy uncomfortable silences. Always happened when the room got quiet. I looked down at the bottom of my glass, and I heard the rusty nails scraping together in Sid’s chair, creaking as he fidgeted. He cleared his throat and sat forward.

“How much do you remember?” he asked.

“About the night of my accident? Not much,” I said. “I guess you came up to see me.”

“I was worried when I saw that guy coming out of your room at the hospital.”

“What guy?” I turned to Sid.

“You know the guy at the bar that asked all the questions about you.”

Silence. News to me.

“What? He was at the hospital visiting me? I don’t recall that at all.”

“I asked you about him. You told me everything was cool. So, you don’t remember me visiting you at all?”

“I said, I don’t remember a thing,” my voice sounded hoarse. And short. It just came out that way. “I’m sorry. I don’t remember anything right after the accident. The doctor said it was either shock or the head injury. I don’t remember much. I don’t remember anything,” I paused. “You know more than me.”

“To tell you the truth,” he said, “you were really out of it. You talked about a llama…I guess you hit a llama or a cow or a deer or something. At least that’s what the nurse at the hospital told me. You also told me about some roses and an infected finger. I asked you about the guy that just came out of your room, and you said something about Alfred Hitchcock’s sister’s brother and a card. Strange. What the hell was that about?”

“I saw the movie North by North West the day before the accident. And the card, that was off an arrangement I was delivering. I found it on the seat of my car. I must have fallen off.”

“Makes perfect sense– “

The band was beginning the next set. The guy who was playing in my place was starting to piss me off. The audience liked him. He was bowing and blowing kisses. Shit. What a show off.

“Do you want to go out for some fresh air?” I asked. “The smoke in here is starting to get to me.” Sid nodded, and we walked to the door.

Lynn winked at me on the way by.

Bitch.

We walked outside around the back and leaned against the side of the building. I wondered why I really came out here with Sid. Maybe it was the drinks. Sid jangled the change in his pocket, and I picked at the hangnail on my thumb. Maybe Lynn was right. Maybe I did need to get laid. I was so horny. Sid was definitely looking good to me right now.

“What am I missing?” I asked. Sid gave me a long, hard look, biting his bottom lip.

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