So this it, my first official short story. I originally wrote this in 2019 in my journal while listening to This Is Happening with my roommate. Shortly after writing, I actually bought a typewriter. So this is probably more like a memoir. I’ve got like 5 other stories like this, all on A4 Paper, written with that typewriter.
I still have the typewriter and I use it for second drafts. Technically, that makes this version a third draft, but the amount of changes I’ve made for small incidental and structural things probably puts it in the double digits. Anyways, I’m monologuing; enjoy the story about a guy who simultaneously does and doesn’t know what the fuck he wants.
I have not been in a good spot.
This may or may not be why I am sitting here on the living room couch, shelfside, detached from anything and everything except for a pair of headphones and singing, serenading, maybe shouting, “Don’t you want me to wake up? Then give me just a bit of your time.”
I am in a duet with James Murphy.
My body pulses with energy, filled with a Christian eight hours of sleep for once. A half-eaten omelette plate sits at my right. The kitchen was also clean, for once. Koa sits on the couch, fireside, playing, solving, scribbling over Sudoku squares before the clock reaches half-past-eight, unbothered by a voice that cracks in pitch and tune.
It was an occasion of no occasion. For once we were both in a common area. But my cat, Charlie, was resting on my bed. A plastic vinyl record jacket, safe from his teeth, was discarded haphazard onto the floor. The gatefold of This Is Happening leaned in the “Now Playing” position on the vinyl record shelf. A black wax circle, slicked, scrubbed and spun spotless, spins at 33 spirals per minute. This was not the album I was supposed to be critiquing.
Two reviews stood on the horizon. Deadlines like targets in view of my ironsights. Two reviews due like hits, with an interview stalking for daylight until boom. Dead. Done. Dusted. Published. A late Valentines gift, a charcoal portrait piece with a thin film of dust, stood squarely in vision, leaning on that same vinyl shelf.
Murphy croons, cries, comes to the conclusion: “Drunk girls know that love is like an astronaut. Drunk girls, it comes back but it’s never the same.”
I wish I could write a metaphor like that.
“No one is dangerous unless we get a closer view.”
Sorry for interrupting, James.
The tonearm clicks, raises and returns to a resting position. The wax whirs to a slow stop. End side. I stand, move, maneuver the disc in a flip and reset. Click. The tonearms raises. I am back fireside. Headphones on. Bump. Kiss of the needle. Murphy begins again.
Observing this ritual, Koa revisits his Sudoku puzzle. His moment of amateur anthropology is over.
“Damn,” I blurt, “my omelette is cold,” and put the fork down.
“Bad luck, warm it up again?”
Click again. The tonearm raises. Headphones off. The needle hovers over the wax morass like an unidentified flying object. Sound abducted. Omelette absconded, I place it into the fridge with a bowl over top. Plastic wrap is too much effort.
Back shelfside again. I look at the headphones and sigh. They are also too much effort.
“Down to listen to LCD Soundsystem?”
“Sure, but I have to go soon.”
“When you gotta go, you gotta go.”
The needle lands on the dark planet. Tapes, loops, beeps and boops greet the morning remainder. It is a quarter after. Work is calling Koa. “One Touch,” a chocolate factory river, an electronic rock orchestra, bubbles on the stereo with the sounds of party.
“I don’t think that we will be pleased with this.”
I can remember parties like these. I remember parties as something Koa and I did in college. A party for David Bowie buffs and David Byrne geeks. I remember music so loud you couldn’t talk to your neighbor. Music for touch-rare introverts and touch-happy extroverts.
I remember the fraternity house kitchen. Stacks of dishes and an oven with a crust. I remember a bedroom with a loft. I remember hanging tapestries overhead, coating everything in a soft orange light. I remember thinking it was a cozy den. I remember hiding in there, as far away from the kitchen.
I remember shaking green walls with record after record, splaying speakers aside the couchbed. I remember books and medicine spread, sprawled, swimming, mixing with the covers, sleeves and jackets. I remember a shag blanket hugging stoned skin under lights never turned off, and tunes on repeat, drowning out white noise computer hum and mini-fridge ring for the overactive brain. A bass note and tape loop made from scratch.
I remember writing in this room for hours, taking whole hours for a single paragraph. I remember zombie scrolling between thoughts before piecemealing another fleshy sentence into a Frankenstein stanza. Another hundred words before another internet peruse, waiting for another lightning bolt, fearing the sound of thunder. I remember, eight hours later, I would have a prototype monster. I remember the count extending into the thousands, but eh, nobody read my blog anyways. And only professors had to suffer my papers.
I remember always forgetting to call my mother (still do, honestly) or returning texts to friends. I remember when all my friends were right next door anyways. I remember not having to make a plan to make plans. For myself, for what I wanted to do, for being general manager of the college radio station, for being president of the fraternity or what I would do with a major in French studies. I remember the world outside of this room not existing for eighteen hours of the day.
I remember submitting grainy pictures of this chamber to /r/AmateurRoomPorn and being downvoted to oblivion. But for once, I remember, I didn’t care. I remember being broke and the happiest I’ve ever been.
There is no more orange glow. There is no more couchbed. There is no more loft. The tapestry just hangs in the dining room. And Murphy is done pleading for just one more touch.
“Now all I want is your pity, and all I want is your bitter tears…”
I shiver, shudder, shake, my mind tremors back into my head. The log on the fire is dying and Koa is leaving for work.
“Yo, before you go to work,” I call. My hands shift, twist, turn to form upside ok-symbols over my eyes like a Luchador mask.
I give him the goggles, an old college game. He pushes his elbow to the linoleum, raises and resumes preparing for work. I reach, range, retrieve my phone and quickly find a picture I want to share. Keys jangle. A coat rustles. I forage, find and flash Koa with the cover of Sea At Last by Atlas; a naked woman sits on a bed, in pose, goggles up.
“That doesn’t count.”
I tap my elbow to the hallway carpet twice on principle, resolving to send a text to Cheshire. He knows the rule. Koa jostles, jangles, juggles two bags for the door.
“Are you coming to the flow sesh today?”
“Er,” he holds the note, “what time does it start?”
“Chess says it starts whenever we want it to, really. Perks of running the thing, I suppose.”
Koa rolls his eyes, “so when does he decide that it should start?”
“Oh, er, four.”
“Yeah, I can make that.”
Koa opens the door, we give our farewells. I skitter, scamper, scatter back to the couch. The door shuts firm.
The log on the fire is even nearer to death. The last screeching ember of “All I Want” goes low and the last piano passage snuffs it out. I go to the patio balcony and grab another log. Fuck it’s cold. I shiver upon reentry. The sun didn’t help one bit. It might shine likes June, but the air still freezes like February.
Another set of beeps and boops whistle from stylus to stereo. I go back to writing something about a quarter-life crisis. I don’t know anymore. But the obligation to write something for my blog still exists. Probably how I feel spread so thin and how I have no ring to blame.
“Tell me a line, make it easy for me…” asks Murphy.
Maybe it’s just the apartment I’ve crammed myself into. Maybe it’s the crushing treadmill of bills, rent and insurance. Maybe it’s the slew of jobs I don’t want in industries I could not give less of a fuck about or that I’m currently stuck writing music reviews for free because I can’t come up with story ideas. The dread that the creative is not, in fact, creative. That might be it.
Or the reality that culture criticism is more pain than passion. More interest than disinterest. Impossible to spin the yarn without playing with the ball, rather than separating from it. And that this manufactured passion doesn’t keep the lights on.
Lights are maintenance cost and maintenance costs never end. Not until you die at least. You know what the say about death and taxes. You also know what they say about a thousand paper cuts. That’s probably why junk mail will never go out of style.
“So ring the alarm, ring the alarm…”
Who pays people for this drivel anyways?
I’m not asking for money, and loathe the idea of putting pop-ads on my site. I write for free. I interview musicians in my spare time. And perform with contact and fire flow props just for the joy of playing. But time is no longer a game, and if I was really freelance, then I am absolute garbage at it. And the pride is poisoning me.
“Never change, never change, never change…” Murphy pleads.
Who am I really writing for? It echoes through my head. Am I writing reviews for a blog or a publication? Do I write for an audience or for myself? Why write something I don’t necessarily want to write?
Sure, sometimes a record just presents itself as the canvas of ideas for this blank page, waiting for a meddlesome, troublesome, irksome, scribblesome hand to dribble some words out of curiosity or plain boredom. Ready to note every feature and flaw, every beautymark or blemish, every script or splotch, as if an offering for the inner muse to promptly devour.
“But dashing the hopes, dashing the hopes, and smashing the pride…”
I suppose the real question is what do I crave: a public gallery or a personal edition?
“The morning’s really got you on the ropes…”
Is the purpose of a blog to gain an audience, or to explore the inane meandering of the mind through labyrinthine breadcrumb thoughts? Can I just write whatever the fuck I want? It seems as quick a path as any to cut through this downward spiral of an inner chemin. A path away from something I thought I loved.
“And love is a murderer, love is a murderer…”
Perhaps I should scrub the blog clean; remove it of roundups and admittedly poor reviews. Remove what I don’t like and tear down what I don’t want.
Perhaps I can remove myself from the computer. Emancipate myself from the chains of the twenty-first century and spend more time in my books and my journals.
Perhaps I can get a typewriter. Post what I type as images on a blog.
“And love is a curse, shoved into a hearse…”
And perhaps I can write poetry for this sudden burst of feeling for everything happening right now.
“Love is a book open to a verse of your bad poetry…”
On second thought, perhaps not.
“And this is coming from me…”
But perhaps I can still write poetry. Perhaps I can still buy that typewriter. Perhaps I can mock like an old-timey writer, find an old tobacco pipe and smoke that normie tobaccie.
“I can change, I can change, I can change…”
And yeah, perhaps these words are a plain manifesto; that I can, in fact, say fuck it, fuck the blog, fuck the reviews. Perhaps I can take up my contact staff and practice to vinyl records like a new age hippy again.
Perhaps I can pick up my French books and music criticism books and read them. Perhaps I can reply to texts from friends and return phone calls from my parents. Perhaps I can play with Charlie. And perhaps I can actually spend time with my girlfriend.
And perhaps—holy shit the fire is really dying.
“I can change, I can change, I can change…”
I return from back porch, log in hand and set it on the fireplace. I return to the couch, fireside now. I look at my journal. It’s been 10 pages of this inner monologue. Handwritten from temple to page. Koa is still gone. Charlie is probably still sound asleep on my bed.
“I can change, I can change, I can change…” draws from Murphy’s last breath on the side.
I still have records to listen to, and I still need to update my blog and share that interview, if nothing else because I have just written that I am going to do so.
Flow club is in four hours. The fraternity alumni meeting is two hours after that. And to be frank, I don’t know where I am really going with this.
But This Is Happening is only halfway done. There is a whole other disk still left to play. And I want another hit.
This was released last month to my Patreon profile. Subscribers receive early access to all of my writings as well as other benefits. [But some more than others.] The more subscribers on Patreon, the more I time I can commit to writing and editing short stories like these. If you do choose to subscribe, thank you. If you don’t, thank you for reading, nonetheless. I hope you choose to visit again soon.