I felt like freedom was just around the corner, but we had chosen to cheer on some products instead. I was seized by an ill-timed burst of conviction….”
by mike sauve
I used to love eating wings with my old buddies back home. The Lions Club offered great meaty ones for .20 cents each and $2 pints of beer. You could have a hell of a good time for under $20 and still leave a generous tip.
Those friends and those wings were long behind me, so I Googled a fast food restaurant to see what the daily dollar menu had to offer. I hit the rainy streets, alone in the big city, but with new friends out there somewhere, just an instant message away.
I walked two blocks to get two Whoppers and added extra condiments at home. I felt pretty good about things and decided not to look at the computer. A basketball game began. If the action was compelling, the psychic bombardment of the commercials might be tolerable. The commercials could make me feel terribly alone.
I made coffee. Caffeine speeds up the mind–hello to the starry night of possibility, goodbye Whopper lethargy. I spent a jittery hour waiting for a wrestling movie to finish downloading. I should have been out looking for the action, so this produced a guilty discomfort.
I instant messaged a functioning social group and invited them over en masse. It was pleasant at first. Everyone commented on what they’d seen on each other’s Facebook pages. These individuals had trouble paying attention to each other in real life, but were quite diligent about “liking” each other’s status updates, and that’s what counted.
Soon the inevitable discussion of TV shows commenced. If two people watch the same TV show they must break off into a group and discuss it. The others are left to generate their own topics. Often the first thing will be, “Do you watch…”
I was working through some serious delusions at the time: the idea that I was, as I phrased it in one journal-entry, “born with some virtue of coming into the mist.” I felt like freedom was just around the corner, but we had chosen to cheer on some products instead. I was seized by an ill-timed burst of conviction.
“By the night and this tune, oh, let’s pledge ourselves to something better,” I suggested, putting on Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey. An uncomfortable silence permeated the small apartment. My old friends might have laughed, even if skeptically.
“I want to check the score of the game again.”
“I just need to see who wins on Retard Can’t Dance…just the last ten minutes.”
“Just put the TV on mute if you have to play this music so loud. Some of us want to see what’s happening in the world.”
I had been looking for a way to acquiesce, but the cretinous nature of their remarks fuelled my mania. I picked up the TV and raised it like The Undertaker about to deliver a tombstone piledriver. The chord tightened and knocked some DVDs off a shelf.
“What are you doing?”
The LCD screen cracked as I let it fall to the floor. They stood in horror and left with ugly sneers on their faces.
“He’s really lost it,” I heard from the hallway. The gravity of this mistake set in. I was heretical now, and would need them again soon.
The music wasn’t so inspiring anymore. I felt like a fool. I sent them all an apologetic message on messenger to explain my actions. None of them came online. Blocked already? A manager at a call centre had once told me something that seemed to fit the situation, “You’re burning through the leads.”
Ever resilient, I queried a guy who’d just moved to the big city from my hometown, asking “What’s up?” We hadn’t been very good friends back home; his nickname was “The Stomper”–beggars are not choosers.
“Nothing, few peeps over, want to come and chill?”
A Facebook event page promoted a big house-warming party, but only a few people had bothered to come, and it didn’t seem like any more guests were on the way. He kept asking if everyone was having a good time and apologizing for the lack of guests, which made everyone uncomfortable. Four guys and one girl were sitting in front of the west coast Lakers game. It was halftime so it was mostly commercials for chicken wings. “Hey want to order some wings?”
We ordered some wings, breadsticks and two bottles of pop and somehow it came to $20 each even though we only got five wings per person. It should have been about $16 each but we only had 10s and 20s and no one wanted to seem selfish so we ended up giving an enormous tip. The wings had been microwaved at least 30 minutes ago and had since gone cold. A pocket of blood near the bone made me gag, and after I felt very ill–the hormones. A beer commercial came on and someone said, as if they’d just thought of it, “Beer run?”
They went and brought back six premium beers for each of us, and expected $13 from me. I wished they’d bought a discount brand so I could have given an even $10. I drank them and my mouth kept getting more and more dry. I wanted a glass of water but there were no clean glasses. The game was a blowout. I asked The Stomper if I could check Facebook on his laptop. Fiendishly checking messages himself, perhaps trying to drum up interest in his lagging event, he grudgingly relented.
No messages from the group who’d witnessed the TV smash. I would have to make do with these people.
“Hey could I spend the night?”
“Ya, you’d have to sleep on the couch though.”
The couch was second-hand and quite dirty, a frat-house couch. The Stomper and company still had a frat-house mentality in their late 20s. The last person would probably stick around way too long or buy more beer and it would stink like empties and I wouldn’t be able to brush my teeth in the morning.
“Okay sounds good.”
An ad showed a teenager in a bikini. “Hey let’s go out and find some bitches,” the drunkest guy said. The one girl shifted in her chair and fidgeted.
“If you guys are going out I’m going home,” she said. Her boyfriend looked disappointed. Thus, the one guy who wanted “some bitches” imposed his will until we were forced to go. After waiting in line for 30 minutes we entered the hot club filled with enthusiastic, dancing youth. We ourselves had little enthusiasm. We just seemed exposed. We stood in a corner together, periodically going to the bar and waiting for a long time to buy a drink for $8. No one looked at us, and when we tried to smile at girls they looked away.
My group started boasting of their many sexual accomplishments, which seemed like farce in the face of our current position. One guy claimed to have received a text from an interested female and left. Once he was gone The Stomper said, “He’s not banging her, she has a boyfriend. He just wants us to think that.” Nobody said anything for quite a while.
“What time you guys want to get going?” another guy inquired.
The guy who’d wanted to come had been drinking doubles, and ordering two at a time. “What you want to pussy out?”
No one said anything. No one wanted to be the one to pussy out. Ten minutes passed with minimal talking. “Check out that broad,” the drunken guy said too loudly. We all cringed. She looked over with massive disdain for us.
“I’m going to get going soon,” said The Stomper, then to me, “So, you don’t still want to sleep over do you.”
“Oh God no,” I said.
“Thank God,” he said.
The drunk guy grabbed hold of me, probably because we knew each other the least, and this allowed him to envision a good time that really wasn’t possible, through some miraculous bonding and bitch-finding. “C’mon man just stick around for a while, let’s do some shots.”
“I don’t have any more money.”
“Fuck it, don’t worry about it.”
He gripped me by the shoulder and walked up to the pretty girl he’d noticed, “Hey you and your friends want some shots?” She was with two girls and three guys. She looked at her friends. They nodded slyly. I made eye contact with one of the friends and he crinkled his brow at me. The drunk noticed none of this and said with great camaraderie, “Fuck ya, let’s go to the bar” and theatrically pulled out his lone $100 bill.
As the shots were set up he tried to ask the pretty girl her name. She was busy texting. The shots came; our new friends drank them and immediately dispersed. We sat for a minute without saying anything.
“You want another shot?” he asked me.
“No, not really.”
“Come on, one more round.”
“Four shots of Jack,” he told the bartender.
“Can I have two glasses of water?” I asked.
When it came I took a big drink of water, and then poured one shot into the water.
“What the fuck are you doing?” asked my companion, having drained his first shot. “Are you pussying out?”
“I’m dehydrated. I’d rather drink it with water.”
“Fuck I can’t believe this,” he said, “I spend $70 buying you shots and you won’t even take a shot with me.”
“You spent most of that on those strangers.”
“Oh ya where are those bitches let’s go hit that up.”
“I think I’ve got to get going, I left my cell phone back at The Stomper’s. I should get it before the guy goes to sleep.” I don’t own a cell phone.
“Oh ya…” his eyes revealed a profound sorrow.
“You going to stick around?” I asked suggestively.
“Naw, I don’t know man.” He followed me to the subway and began to reinvent the night. “Fuck that was awesome those guys will be pissed we met up with those broads the minute they left. Those guys were just holding us back right bro?”
“If someone asks me to corroborate that I’d be uncomfortable doing so.”
“Man what the fuck you talking about.”
I went home. I was relieved to find an instant message from one of the friends who’d been around for the tombstoning of the TV.
“What are you doing now?” he asked.
“Nothing, I wish I could watch The Daily Show.”
“You’ll be able to watch it on the internet tomorrow.”
“You want to come over for that?”
There was no answer. I checked Facebook. On the newsfeed one of my old friends from back home-the place I had left because I felt the people there were holding me back, because they were boring, because they could not venture outside the shallow ideas of their own isolated community–wrote with simple exuberance: “Best wing night ever @ Lions Club. Fine times with greet peeps as always.”
(illustrations: kurt eisenlohr)
A graduate of Ryerson Journalism, Mike Sauve has written non-fiction for The National Post, The Toronto International Film Festival Group, Exclaim Magazine and other publications. His fiction has appeared online in Rivets Literary Magazine, Forge Journal, Candlelight Stories, Straitjackets Magazine, Eastown Fiction, the humour journal Feathertale and elsewhere. Upcoming stories will appear in print in Palimpsest and Infinity’s Kitchen.