Here's Chapter Three.
Kids are bringing me beers. Good beers. From the second I walk in the door with Jesse and Mark, eighteen-year-olds are reaching into paper grocery sacks and handing me bottles. There are no cans, no aluminum silhouettes of mountains, just brown bottles with fancy hand-drawn labels and when I pull off them they taste like iron. I like a beer that tastes like a railroad. These are not beverages people who live with their parents usually drink, unless their parents own this house we’re in. The chandelier count is at three before we hit the kitchen. By that time, I’ve pretty much drank my way across a brewery map of the world. I can barely set an empty down on a stainless steel counter-top or antique end table before it’s replaced by some kid who it’s a surprise he gets the drink in my hand because for some reason he’s averting his eyes.
“So what’d you think of the set, Randy?” Jesse yells, party-tone, in my ear. “And you can be honest.”
“I dug it,” I say, my best “this guy I’m with is joking” face plastered as we become the nucleus of the kitchen.
“He called him Randy,” I hear a girl by the fridge say to another one.
“How’s Erin? You guys still talk?” I ask Jesse.
“How do you know Erin?”
“Erin, dude. College Erin. Herpes Erin.”
“No, I know which Erin you’re talking about, but how do you know her, Randall? You went to Oregon State. I went to New School. That’s all the way across the country.”
“Dude.” The bit’s over. We pranked some suburban hipster kids. I drank for free. I could probably bum fifty cigarettes off any kid at this party. Now I just want to bullshit to my friends I haven’t seen in three months. The place is teeming; with my one free hand I instinctually check my wallet, like I do in large crowds. My wallet’s there, but it’s grown a tumor.
I pull out the lump: someone’s slipped me a baggie of weed. I’m not much a pot guy but on a purely aesthetic level this stuff is beautiful. I turn around. In the doorway, a kid in an orange hoody throws me the devil-horns.
“Say thank you,” Jesse says.
I hold up the baggie and mouth the word “thanks.” Upon eye contact, the kid experiences internal Beatlemania. I think I may have made his year.
“Moving Furniture, man! That’s my shit!” he yells. The joy seems to overtake him and he melts into the living room.
“Holy shit!” somebody yells from across the continent-wide island in the center of the kitchen. “Randall Coats fuckin’ rocks the ganj!”
“No shit, Kyle,” a girl says. “That’s what the song Incense Holding Elephant is all about.” From between her dyed-black bangs and her Buddy Holly glasses, she looks over to see if I approve of her interpretation of a song I didn’t write. I replace the baggie in my pocket and return my attention to Mark and Jesse. Now Jesse’s holding a half-empty bottle of Maker’s Mark.
“Courtesy of our hosts,” Jesse says. Tall scruffy kid in a blazer toasts from by the sink. Jesse does likewise. “Also these,” he says, showing me another baggie, this one with two pills in it.
“Mark’s gonna find out.”
“There used to be four,” Mark says.
“Is it like this in every town?”
“Fuck no, Randall,” says Jesse. “Fuck no, it isn’t.”
He hands me the bottle. I take a swig, and when I bring it down, an Asian girl with an eyebrow piercing and a short skirt has joined us. “Awesome show, you guys,” she says to Jesse and Mark.
“Thanks,” Jesse says. “Glad you enjoyed it. What was your name?”
“Karisa,” she says, extending a hand.
“Jesse. Pleased to meet you, Karisa. This is Mark, and this is Randall.” Despite my stop-it glares, Jesse clearly has no intention of stopping it.
“He’s quiet,” Karisa says.
“He’s shy,” Jesse says.
“So they say,” says Karisa. Nobody looks at me like that. The few people who’ve ever attested to being in love with me never looked at me like Karisa looks at me.
“Where’s the rest of our awesome band?” Jesse asks Mark. Mark shrugs. “Well, let’s go find them.”
“Why?” Mark asks.
Jesse starts off, shoving the bottle at me as he goes.
“Thanks,” I say.
“You’re welcome,” he says, and they’re headed for the living room, where sixteen hipster kids are huddled around a laptop hooked to speakers NASA built, and no more than thirty seconds of any song gets played before it fades into its natural ironic counterpoint.
“I’m so glad they left,” Karisa says to me. “They’re awful, aren’t they?”
“Have you considered that they might be my friends?”
“You would never be friends with them,” she says. “Anyway, I’m glad they’re gone. I have something really embarrassing I want to ask you to do.”
She grabs me by the wrist and drags me through the party. Every other girl there admires her courage, or so I like to imagine, and from the looks on their faces I’m seeing as we rush by I’m getting nothing to disprove it. This isn’t my life, but whoever’s life it is I hope they like my old one because I’m not trading back.
She elbows two kids aside and drags me into a bathroom. The theme of the bathroom is nautical. “I couldn’t let anybody see me do this. Oh my god. So tacky.” I lean against the sink, whiskey on the marble countertop, nudging some potpourri. She opens her messenger bag that looks like it was made out of Che Guevara’s hat, and pulls out a vinyl copy of The Moving Furniture In The Dark EP.
She left all her bravado on the other side of the bathroom door. “I don’t…I don’t just like, carry this around with me, or anything…I brought it into work today…You don’t have to make it out to anybody…” I take the pen and the record and in the washed-out white spot that’s the window Randall’s staring out of, in handwriting that could beat up my handwriting, I sign RANDALL COATS.
“Ugh…I swear I’m not gonna sell it on eBay or anything like that… my god, I’m such a—“ and Randall Coats launches off the counter and kisses her hard to shut her up. His breath tastes like whiskey, hers like cigarettes. The record falls to the floor.