His profile picture is of him playing the drums, a picture echoing one he had when he was sixteen except his hair is shorter and the beard is more pronounced; his casual scruff has turned into a neck beard that’s always there, turning from effortless to negligence. He looks older, leaner, more weathered. He seemed special once a long time ago, holding joints with shitty weed and mastering the cool, troubled soul with ripped jeans and shoes beat up with toes poking through various holes. He still has them but it’s not clear why he doesn’t just get new shoes because it’s been going on for long enough. That’s the aura around him. This has been going on for long enough. He’s started smoking cigarettes because he says he was starting to get addicted to pot, which isn’t hard to believe because he’s been smoking it every day multiple times for six years, but now he smells like tobacco and can’t stop even though this might kill him.

He goes into the city, drumming on his legs with big headphones on as he stares out the train window, trying to be edgy or blanketed in an aura of successful alternative grunge instead of just plain grunge because it makes him feel better. He walks along streets during rush hour with people in pressed three-piece suits and fitted dresses and high heels walking tall with purpose while he’s going to take drum lessons somewhere on the West Side.

He meets up with her after the lesson, getting the text to grab Shake Shack even though he hasn’t hung out with her in years, and he walks down to Madison Square Park. She’s going to order food and pay for the two of them because she doesn’t have time to wait for him to get there. What does he want? Something big with bacon, he says. When he gets there, he calls her and she’s waiting by the side of the shack to get the food, buzzer in hand. She’s wearing heels and a dress, she’s almost as tall as him, she just came from work, she asks what he was doing in the city, and he mutters about his drum lesson and has a hard time meeting her eyes because he’s kind of nervous or embarrassed and has always had trouble maintaining eye contact and asks her about her job to be polite. It sounds complicated and he says that’s sweet. She agrees.

They sit together in the park eating their burgers and he finishes his instantly while she watches, taking small bites and swirling single fries in ketchup before transferring them cleanly into her mouth. She asks about his band and he says they had a show recently and she says she meant to go but didn’t and he wants her to come to the next one, maybe to show off the band, maybe to prove to himself that he’s doing something credible that he wants to invite people to. He asks her about her job and she tells him, complicated and financial, and then What’s he doing? Just playing music… Hanging out. You know. She’s too polite to say anything but he’s still blushing, feeling like he’s making a fool out of himself, suddenly self-conscious of his grungy black T-shirt and ripped pants and feels like it’s way too hot and thinks he has pit stains.

She’s nice, gives him a hug, says she’s glad they got to hang out for a moment, they should hang out again, and he agrees, definitely, totally, and casually she says hey, she just remembered, do you have ten dollars? He falters. He doesn’t. Can he run to an ATM to pay her back? She checks her watch again and says she doesn’t have time and he can just pay her back later, and he nods, and she disappears across the street to the Q train after pointing him in the direction of the 6 train that he wants to take back to Grand Central. He turns and leaves, surrounded by people like her in dresses and suits with obligations and things to do and thinks that he just wants to smoke and walks away in his old sneakers and T-shirt, but he has to remember to pay her back ten dollars, because she’s kind but he knows that he’s never going to remember and he’s going to let her down again because that’s just who he is and he can’t change it.

Leave a Reply