Without music, they communicated like the typical idiots they could be sometimes. Couldn’t say a sentence unless it was a challenge or a putdown.
Joanna had a fiancé at the time of Andy’s death, a pilot by the name of Cusp. I believe she would’ve married him if not for timing. Cusp had a chipped front tooth, broken at angle as if he had caught it on his harness plunging into some hairy spiral. Actually, a bathroom door accident, he told me one time. He had an easy way about him. He played drums, like Andy and sometimes while Joanna made dinner for all of us, Andy and Cusp would jam on the kitchen counter with wooden spoons, whisks, garlic presses, anything that ranged in pitch and tone and get such a rhythm going that all Joanna and I could do was listen, mesmerized by the way they could talk.
Joanna broke it off with Cusp two months after the funeral. She was a pillar of ash, unmoving, stumbling. Cusp fell to the same level as making a bed in the guest room or throwing a winter solstice party—things she used to do, but no longer had the energy for. One day, after he had idly played on Andy’s kit in the basement, Joanna snapped and told him to go. It wasn’t easy for her, choosing to be that alone. An adult messy breach that I take care to avoid in my own relationships. Sorry did I say relationships? I meant four-day miniseries. I don’t “break up.” I just don’t call.
Cusp didn’t take it well either, and last she told me, flew away to be alone too. Down to Chihuahua, Mexico.
An Interesting girl. An Annoying girl. One of each came into the Someday for Saturday night’s poetry slam. I restocked the bean grinder, refilled the air pots with raspberry chocolate, hazelnut, Irish cream. The place was packed. They came up to the counter, each asking for peppermint tea. Annoying girl with turquoise hair, roots unknown, sipped behind black lipstick, letting me know her intent with her eyes. Her head bobbed to the speakers, a plywood cane under a nickel spring. Interesting girl was less of a peacock in the way she dressed; her wardrobe didn’t scream “Look at me!”; it merely fit her well. She would not look at me while Annoying Girl took every opportunity to come back to the counter for a packet of sugar or a lemon wedge. Her chipped blue fingernails lingered too long near my hand plowing my already slipping mood into a bank of dirt. Five hours until closing and my head ached. The poet on stage punctuated every sentence of his sub-standard prose with the whonk of a bicycle horn.
About two times a day I asked myself, Why am I still here? I started writing accountant software a year ago hoping to make it solid enough, quirky enough to get a big computer company’s attention. Like a freshman at a senior keg party, I squirmed with the other lemmings in hopes of making it big, hoping they’d accept me. SASE letters came back to me in dozens, all addressed to me in my own hand. Unfortunately the library didn’t carry a copy of The Accountant’s Quirky Software Guide to the Marketplace and I lost my motivation. I spent weekends trying to get to the 24th level of Doom. My father, tired of my complaints, snapped at me one day. “What the hell did you expect? Just get out there and find a job you went to school for. You’re never going to “make it big” so get used to it.” And you love your job, I thought, my thumb hurting from hours on the joystick. He couldn’t have painted a more depressing picture for me.