Snow is building up outside my window and the white van has already disappeared into the great lonely tumult of a January blizzard. The snow is indistinct, its appearance doesn’t change from day to day even if each individual flake is some unique miracle. Tell crystallized water that each piece of it is unique and wonderful and you end up with a million pieces of it each one trying to out-shine the others. Tell an entire generation they’re each unique and beautiful and you have a generation of failed stars each trying to tarnish the others. It’s all the same.
I was a failed writer by the age of nineteen. I’d tried without success to market my childhood, offering up memoirs of my stolen innocence; forged accounts of a teenage rape. The truth was that I’d invited the rabbi into my Dad’s station-wagon knowing full-well that he was a pedophile and an arsonist. To this day I can’t pass a burned-down building without hearing his voice say “I love you, I miss you, come to Temple.” He was a top-notch guy, I felt bad when I sold all his phone messages to CNN. That stunt back-fired though, in the end he was the only one Barbara Walters was interested in interviewing.
After the rabbi I got involved with my first real boyfriend. His name was Brett and he was a sloppy-kisser and alcoholic-in-training (though he aspires for the big leagues.) We met at a meeting of the ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’. His collar was popped and he’d clearly spent most of his morning getting his hair just-right, but I smiled and asked him for a cigarette even though I didn’t smoke. As it turned out neither did he, completely shattering the James Dean comparisons I was percolating.
“It’s paying to pollute your lungs.” He said reproachfully. I bit my tongue and didn’t mention that the water bottle he’d filled with vodka was paying to kill his liver. Instead, I played the part.
“Yeah, I’m trying to quit.” I sighed, “It’s just hard, you know?” I gave him my pathetic eyes, a boy can’t shrug you off if you give him the pathetic eyes.
“Two of my friends are trying to quit, they’re using these nicotine patches or some shit like that.”
“Oh yeah, I’ve tried the patches.” Let me remind you that I’ve never touched a cigarette, “Those things will kill you faster than the cigarettes will. Do you drink coffee?”
“Yeah, sometimes.” For the first time in the conversation he turned to me, I could see his eyes. They were dull. “It really sucks how they treat their workers though.”
“Totally! I know this great free-trade coffee place though, could I buy you a cup after this?”
“Sure, that would be great!” He smiled and I smiled back, more because he didn’t know the difference between fair-trade and free-trade, but also a little bit because he was cute.
I met up with Brett outside of the high-school the meeting was held at, it was pretty much open all the time since nobody went to school anymore. Everyone was too busy ‘succeeding’ in life to get a formal education. Some people still did correspondence, but it was rare that anyone graduated anymore, there was just no need to. It was too easy to get set for life by learning how to throw a ball or really convince the camera you’re still a virgin. This isn’t to say that the arts were dead, quite the opposite really. Anyone ugly or weak needed somewhere to go so they all flocked to their canvases and their notebooks. They documented every inch of the earth, no matter what angle you looked at something from it had already been painted, printed and pressed that way twice.
“They were still making tapes when this came out?” I laughed, referring to the Beck cassette I found in the cluttered glove compartment of his Dad’s SUV.
“Of course not,” He laughed, “it’s a mix-tape I made after my last boyfriend dumped me.” It was only a little pathetic, but it somehow became exponentially more so when he said it out-loud. “It’s helped me through a lot of hard times.”
“Wait, so you’re gay then?” I mumbled and parked in-front of the coffee house. The sign outside said ‘Java the Hut’, a reference largely lost on the customers.
“No, bi.” He replied, I wasn’t surprised. Everyone was a bisexual these days.
Brett held the door for me and I stepped in. I knew the girl working the counter, her name was Apple. She’d been my girlfriend last-year before I realized that the market of authors was saturated with white, jewish, lesbians. Despite the year’s time between Apple and Brett I hadn’t dated anyone between them, at least me and Apple were still amiable.
“Hey shit-bag, what can I get you?” She spat towards me. “We’re out of espresso since 8:00 this morning, so we can only make flat drinks.”
“Can you make me a tea?” I asked, locking eyes with her. There was an unpleasant tension. She was probably off her meds again. She was convinced they fucked up her menstrual cycle. “This is Brett, by the way.”
“Hey.” He mumbled uncomfortably.
“What did he say? I can’t hear it when people mumble.” Apple hissed, pouring the tea into a cup as she said it.
“I just said ‘Hey.’” Brett said louder but less interested. “I’ll just have water.”
I brought him over to the chairs near the counter where hipsters usually sat and drank their mocha-soy-double-frappe-latteccappacinos while discussing bands that may as well not exist. He sat uncomfortably in the chair, it was a bit too big for him. That’s something I always forget to mention about Brett, he seemed gigantic from a distance, but up close he was pretty small. Not scrawny, but small.
“So what’s your story, Brett?” I asked casually, folding my arms over my chest. “Why are you a ‘Leader of Tomorrow’?” He laughed after I asked him.
“I joined it to meet girls.” He stated matter-of-factly. I laughed, hard.
“What made you think ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ would be a place to meet girls?”