Originally written during my…Junior?…year of college. Been meaning to go over it for edits again…
“Ci-grr-ettes. Fucking Marlboro, Jesus Christ.”
True, Abi was never known for her tact. She was, however, pretty well renowned for being the only girl with homemade X’s on her hands and a tattoo on her back that said “My body is a temple,” who also found pleasure in leaving puddles of cigarette butts and spit in every parking lot she met. Occasionally, some new kid would confront her about it, but it always produced the same response.
“I only smoke when drink,” she’d say.
“Oh…so you’re drunk right now?” the kid would ask.
She’d take another drag, and just say, “No,” through the smoke.
The same kid would find himself bowing down at her feet in a matter of days, worshipping her as some kind of unconventional Atheistic Goddess. That is, until the black widow deep inside her bit his head off for questioning her British accent. This routine ran in approximately three-week streaks, meaning that tonight she’d find her newest victim.
Abi left the convenience store, cigarettes in hand. She rounded the corner, and drove into the parking lot of the local Knights of Columbus, cutting across diagonally and blatantly disregarding the crowd of kids standing in the way of the Camry that her supposedly un-loving parents had given her a year ago. She parked out back, the only passenger ride amidst a fleet of refurbished junkyard vans. After making sure her rear fender was still in place, she made her away all the way around to the front of the building.
“Five dollars, gimme your hands,” said the guy at the door in painful monotony. His right hand moved forward with a Sharpie marker, while his left hand stayed behind, palm up, waiting for the cash.
“Carl, you fucker, it’s me!” Abi said as she walked past him.
“Oh, hi Abi. Yes, it’s five dollars tonight,” he responded with the same monotony.
Abi laughed, removed Carl’s glasses from his eyes, and began to massage his shoulders with a little more pain than passion. She gave him a kiss on the top of his shaved head, and said “C’mon, Carl, I never pay.”
Unaffected by her advances, Carl simply told her, “I know, and I’m sorry, but we need the money to break even. We had to put down an extra deposit after that kid kicked a hole in the men’s bathroom wall last time, you understand.” Abi gave him the cash, and stormed away.
“Hey…I need to mark an X on your hand!” he cried after her.
“I already got ‘em, hot stuff,” she snarled back, as she headed inside.
Carl muttered something to himself before getting back to work, collecting money at the door. “Five dollars…gimme your hand…Five dollars…gimme your hand…” His actions were almost mechanical, like a veteran factory work, as disillusioned as he was dedicated to his job.
Sixteen X’s and eighty dollars later, a fresh face interrupted Carl’s routine of collection and entry.
“Hey…uh, I’m looking for Jenks…Chris Jenkins, I’m an old friend, umm…do you know where he is?”
Carl didn’t even bother looking up from his tally sheet. “Jenk’s inside. It’s five dollars…gimme your hand…” he said, with the same impersonal disdain he addressed everyone else.
“Sure…do you know what time his band goes on?” asked the patron.
“Yes, there’s a set list hanging up on the wall right…there…” In that moment, Carl finally realized that Abi had stolen his glasses. “Goddammit…that fucking whore…” he cried, pounding the table at which he sat and throwing his chair backwards into a crowd of people. He turned around, slammed his fist into a wall, and screamed, “Abi! You fake little bitch…give me my fucking glasses back!”
As the obscenities and fists continued to fly, the patron left five dollars on the table and slipped past Carl’s violent outburst, heading into the show. “I need to X your goddamn hand! Get back here,” he heard Carl scream afterwards. More than moderately concerned for his health, he chose to ignore Carl’s cries and keep walking. He looked straight ahead, carefully avoiding all eye contact in the room.
“Holy shit…is that Bobby Drake!” The voice came from behind him, at the merchandise tables. He pretended not to hear his name, hoping that to use the volume in hall as an excuse, until he realized that there was no band playing at the moment. Apparently, he hadn’t done such a good job of staying below the radar.
“Hey Jeffries…” Bobby said as he turned around, making his lack of enthusiasm entirely too obvious. “How ya been?”
“No man, how have YOU been! I haven’t seen you in ages, aww man…The scene’s just not like it was, all this fucking kids keep comin’ here, and they’re so young and lame, ya know man? They just don’t…get it, ya know? Like, we got it. But whatever, I mean, the kids are comin’, so that’s cool I guess. Hey, are you still dating Tori?”
“No, we broke up almost two years ago…”
“Oh. That’s cool, man. She still around? I used to think her little sister was cute, too, but I mean, that’d just be weird, if the four of us were all dating. Well, not like, dating each other, like, all four of us, but you know…”
Bobby had to find an exit, fast. This was exactly what he didn’t want to happen. “Yeh, hey, listen…I need to find Jenks, so…”
“Oh, yeh dude, totally. Look out back, by the load-in doors, where all the vans are parked. He’s probably in the van or somethin’. You remember what the van looks like?”
“Wow, they still have it? I’m surprised it hasn’t exploded yet…well, thanks a lot, Jeffries. Take it easy.”
“Peace, dude.” As Bobby walked away, he could faintly hear Jeffries mention his name to the girl signing the mailing list.
“Bobby Drake! This dude like, invented you. If not for him, we’d never have shows here, we probably wouldn’t have half these bands. The man is a God! How have you not heard of Bobby Drake!?” Jeffries heckled the girl; apparently, he was better at selling people’s egos than he was merchandise. She didn’t particularly care; she was just picking up free stickers. Naturally, being the Merch Guy, Jeffries considered himself part of the band, and, by extension, believed he possessed the same delusional seductive mysticism of the rock star ethos. He adjusted his stance, deepened his voice, and got to work.
“So, I, uh…I haven’t seen you at any shows before. You know, I, eh, went on tour with these guys this summer.”
“Yeh…so who are you here to see?”
“I’m here to take care of my little brother. He’s thirteen. He loves this…shit.”
“That’s…that’s cool. Ya know, I’m just here ‘cause these guys are my friends, and I wanna help out…they’re like…they’re like a fucking family, ya know? And we gotta support each other, support our scene, ‘cause like, that’s what we got, ya know?” Less than one minute in, and he’d already blown it.
She gave him a pity smile, blinked once, and walked away in silence. She headed towards the bathroom, hoping it would offer her some kind of refuge from the loud, obnoxious noise that reverberated all through the hall. Before she even reached the door, the bottoms of her shoes were drenched in some kind of liquid that faintly reminded her nose of bleach. She decided not to think about it, mainly because she realized that any acknowledgement or affirmation of what it was she stepped in would pretty much ruin her already-lousy weekend entirely.
As it turned out, the bathroom was far from a refuge camp. She was greeted by a thick cloud of perfume and cigarette smoke, the scent of which only faintly covered up the smell of fresh vomit in the sink. There was a lone dark haired girl, sitting with her legs spread on the sink counter, taking a slow drag from a cigarette.
“I fucking hate them,” she said. “Cigarettes. They make me sick. The smell. The taste. Everything. It’s gross.”
“…So why are you smoking in here then?” asked the other girl.
“I’m not,” the first girl replied. She took one last drag of her cigarette, and it put it out in the pile of her own vomit that lay in the sink. “My body’s a temple. A goddamn temple.” She stood up from the counter and extended her hand. “My name’s Abi.”
“I’m Laurie…” the other girl replied.
“That’s nice. We’re both whores,” Abi said, looking to her recently extinguished cigarette with anguish and longing. “Funny how these things work out.”
“I am not a whore…” Laurie argued.
“Baby, we’re all whores. Some us are just a lot more fucked than others.”
“I don’t even know what that means…are you alright? Are you upset or anything?” Laurie had never felt so uncertain about a situation in her life. This entire night she had felt out of place and awkward, but this was, without a doubt, the most uncomfortable encounter she’d had in quite a while. “Do you want to talk or anything? Or I can leave…”
Abi threw her head back and cackled. “I’m just fuckin’ with you. That vomit was there when I got here. I just came in for a nice, peaceful smoke.”
“Oh…well, why didn’t you just go outside with everyone else and smoke out there?” Laurie tried to wrap her head around Abi’s riddles and logic, but she didn’t even know where to begin.
“Because the only thing I hate more than the insipid shit these kids call music, is the people,” Abi replied as she headed for the door.
“So why do you even go to these things?”
“’Cause this is the only place that I belong,” Abi said with a sigh, storming out of the bathroom and letting the door slam behind her. She continued to walk through the hall, through the crowds of people that she hated, and the people that hated her back. She heard them talking about this band, and that band, and who was breaking up, and who sold out, and who else just got hired at Subway. She lowered her head, and, breathing heavily, she marched towards the stage, feeling the thundering, rhythmic blasts of the bass drum stir vibrations all over her body. Her eardrums wanted to bleed from the incessant mic’d screaming, and the trebly thrash of talent less guitar playing.
She pushed her way into the middle of the room—there was a circular clearing in front of the stage, right in the center of the crowd. She stood there, angst dripping from her face, her lips curled up in a snarl. She slowly turned her head from side to side, surveying the crowd—these motherfuckers are all scared of me, she thought. They’re all a bunch of scenester scum anyway, they don’t even get it. They don’t know what this is even about. This is my fucking hall. These are my fucking bands. And I hated them first, just like I hate you.
She turned her head to look over her right shoulder, shooting even more death glances at every kid she could connect with. She noticed a man in the back corner of the room, by the load-in doors. He was tall, and clean-shaven, with short, un-styled hair, wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a zip-up hoodie. Nothing in particular stood out about his appearance—there weren’t even logos on his clothes. It was his face that caught her eye. He was attractive, sure, but that wasn’t it—he was about as attractive as anyone else in the room. But he looked familiar, like someone she had known once. Or someone she had known many times. There was something different about his face, and his expression. He couldn’t have been more than a few years older than her, but something in his eyes made him look so much older, so much wiser. He looked out into the crowd with equal shots of longing and disdain.
“…Bobby?” As her jaw dropped down, spilling out a name that had long been forbidden—or was it forgotten?—she tasted blood on her lips, and a fist in her face. The last thing she saw was an elbow flying towards her; the last thing she heard was the crash of cymbals and the screams of boys imitating men.