He’s on a stool in the stages’s middle, just like last night. He’s monopolizing the entire thing, plopping down, acting like the place is his personal studio.
He looks up. I don’t have time to look away, and our eyes meet. Now that I’m trapped, I refuse to look away first. I got the upper hand at the end of last night, I think, but Gavin ran off with his skank, so it’s possible he thinks he won. If I’m weak, he might
come over and talk to me again, and I don’t want that. So I hold his gaze, and eventually he looks down. Not shamefully, though. He puts his fingers on the strings and strums, as if I barely warrant notice, or a nod, or a smile, or a hello, or any kind of acknowledgement at all.
I turn back to my bottle chore, but now and again I sneak glances at Gavin. His bearing is obnoxious. The way he’s sitting, the way he’s holding the guitar, the brooding way he refuses to look up and seems lost in the soul of the music — it’s all so obvious. A show. Nothing but posturing.
I’ll bet he even works on this — not the music he plays, but the way he uses his body to convey an image of the tortured artist. His floppy, vaguely hipster sweater hangs down over faded blue jeans. He’s still unshaven, but the stubble looks exactly the same length as yesterday. His hair is still a mess, but again it strikes me as a contrived mess, like he’s mussed it for effect. He probably takes video of himself then plays it back like a coach reviewing past games.
Was I moody enough? Or could I lift an eyebrow or shake my head slowly, to be more sultry, to get more girls excited?
It’s not working on me, that’s for sure.
I look back. Gavin’s head comes up. Again, he looks right at me as he plays. It’s a mocksad look. Or maybe a dirty look. Something designed to manipulate me.
There was probably a point where he could have made nice. There’s even a part of me, buried beneath a surprisingly thick wall of resentment, that thinks I might be being
unreasonable. Since last night, I’ve had no new Gavin inputs — nothing new he’s had a
chance to do wrong. Still, I’ve grown increasingly annoyed with him, and as I listen it’s
hard not to consider the possibility that he’s done nothing new, and that I’ve been building my case in his absence. All it’s taken for him to seem more repugnant since last night was to know he exists.
But the longer we don’t speak, the further we move from possible resolution. He could have said hello when he came in, before he started playing. I wouldn’t have run to him and given him a hug, but it might have dulled my edge.
He could have given me a smile, without saying a thing. Smiles can say a lot. I’d probably have taken his as, I’m still a weasel and I want to get into your panties, but it
would have been friendlier than this.
What is he trying to prove, rehearsing in the main room? There are only four or five
people in here at any time, and he’s directly across from me, out of all of them. Does he need us to hear his brilliance ? How amazing he is on the guitar, playing his ... his ...
I don’t know the tune he’s been strumming over and over since he sat down. That’s
not surprising. I may have Googled him this morning, and I may have listened to every
Firecracker Confession tune I could find on YouTube — even a bootleg of their
unreleased album, Brutal Design — but I don’t know all of his songs.
I do see, now, that most of what he plays is recycled Firecracker content, though.
But this isn’t any of that. Last night, I’m pretty sure his entire rehearsal and set was just the YouTube songs, stripped of lyrics and played acoustic.
I may have listened to every Firecracker Confession song twice this morning, then hit a few more between shifts. I don’t know everything he’s ever done, but I don’t think his was ever on YouTube.
I have to admit it’s catchy, though I can tell he’s still playing with its shape. There’s
little beyond the hook, but I can sense it fleshing out a bit with each replay. As I stew with my back to Gavin, turning bottles that have already been turned, I find myself wanting to hear it again.
And I can almost hear words, though he’s not singing any. The words are in my head. The kind of refrain my idle brain will attribute to just about any rhythm — a recurring
pattern of footsteps, the predictable drip of rain from a leaky gutter.
The repeated chord progression stops, and the room seems too quiet. I take a few
seconds before I turn to see why, sure that Gavin will be walking over, wanting to bug me as he did last night before and after showing his true colors. Good. I’ve been rehearsing witty, cutting responses all day.
But he’s not even looking in my direction. There’s a young guy onstage with him. A kid in a hoodie with short, bristlecut hair. He looks about my age, maybe midtwenties. But even the motions of his hands as he talks to Gavin tells me that his words have a
maturity beyond his years. And, I suspect, that I’m witnessing a discussion these two
have had many times before.
I’m staring too long and don’t want Gavin to look over and take my look for interest, so I spin and head toward the back room, hoping to find someone to ease my mind of all
this confused, disturbing emotion.
I walk away, realizing I’m humming Gavin’s tune.