Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One Day As A Lion - Chapter Four

It's true that you don't know a person until you've lived with them for a substantial amount of time. I'm not talking about staying with a few friends for a week or so. You college kids will probably attest to the fact that sharing the same breathing space with another person for a year or so gives you incredible insights that you really, really didn't need.

I've learned a great deal by living with Ezek for the two or three years since college began. Just for the record, I don't exactly know why he hates the name 'Ezekial' so much. Well, I know he hates his parents so there's that. I'm really not good at putting two and two together without a great deal of reflection or help, which you've undoubtedly noticed. Also for the record, Ezek is pronounced in such a way as to rhyme with the word 'deck' and to begin with the short 'e' sound. It seems trivial and stupid...hell, it is trivial and stupid, but he's already established that the name will drive him to attempted homicide, so there.

There are some things you should know about him before we light out for this lovely adventure. For one, he's an absolute genius. Yeah yeah yeah, it's an overplayed term. I'm inclined to agree with you in any other case but this one. I've proofread his English papers and some of the shit that comes out of this kid's mind would blow yours with sloppy abandon. We share a bedroom in the apartment that shames some broom closets for its shabbiness, and his entire side is covered in books. The completed works of Shakespeare, Hawking's books on physics and astronomy, James Joyce, even fucking Twilight can be found in the great stacks that are literally propping up his bed. His desk is literally a few stacks of books that are holding up a piece of plywood. He tries to get me to read more, but anytime I try to borrow a book he hits me with a flyswatter. He's read every word in those books, mark my own.

Ezek is brilliant and will probably go on to write the Great Novel of the 21st Century (to my existential terror, no less). That said, there is something fundamentally wrong with the kid. I don't even know where exactly to begin. I refuse to cook things in our microwave because I'm afraid of picking up remnants of all the things he's blown up with the thing. He used to have impeccably thick blonde hair, but somone on our floor last year bet him five dollars that he wouldn't wear an on-fire hat for two minutes. He won the fiver and has since adopted a shiny bald dome. I watched him de-pants a football player who was standing in a line outside of a bar, then proceed to call the guy a fag while sprinting into on-coming traffic to get away.

For all his flaws and...quirks (which really are too many to completely account for here), he's a great guy. He'd always listen to a problem and gave uncharacteristically sound advice. Ezek truly was there for the people he cared about and right now that person was me.

He patiently listened to me bitch on for at least a half an hour about not only the affairs and events of the morning. No, I managed to haul out every complaint and trouble and stressor that I had. I bitched about student loans and a life in debt, I complained about Steph and her cock of a boyfriend, I hollered on and on and on about how I was probably a complete disappointment to my parents. He was courteous and never once interuppted, except to offer a bolstering 'yeah' or 'sure' after I spoke.

I was quite thankful that he decided to put on clothes for this. He still had the nailgun with him for some reason.

After I aired my entire list of gripes and grievances, he looked at me thoughtfully. After a few moments he sat up and jumped over the couch, nicking me with his foot in the process. That was, in all likelihood, intentional.

I spun to face him. He was putting on his coat. "That's it?" I asked. "A kick?"

"Of course not. Now get your coat," he replied.

"Where are we going?"

"You need coffee. And some fresh air so you don't keel over on me."


I usually hate coffee. It tastes like oven cleaner mixed with a heavy dose of ass. I usually drowned the crap out of it with cream and sugar. Fifteen minutes and a very paranoid (on my part) walk downtown later, Ezek and I were sitting in the sparse coffee shop across the street from campus. It was still early, and the lunch rush hadn't quite begun yet. I insisted on a window table for the simple fact that if Jim were to pass by the shop, I wanted to see the fucker coming.

Ezek sipped an iced coffee with whipped cream on top and gave me another one of his thoughtful looks. "Sir, it sounds to me like you've taken a gigantic bite of a shit sandwich. Looks to me like it doesn't taste great."

I nodded at that. "Been a hell of a morning already. Can't imagine this'll be that good of a weekend."

"Oh, we'll find you something to do. Any leads on a new job?"

I sipped my sugar-and-ass water. "I've thought about it, but I've only been unemployed for about an hour and a half. I'll start putting in applications tomorrow morning."

"See! You've got a positive outlook already. It sucks that you can't get me any deals anymore. I'll have to do my business elsewhere."

That was true. Ezek was the shop's best (and oftentimes only) customer.

"Yeah, I'm gonna have to steer a few blocks clear of that place from now on. Jim doesn't know how to let go of a grudge."

"It's almost the weekend, sir. He'll be swimming in the nose candy and you'll be nothing but a bad memory come Saturday morning."

I chuckled at that. The doorbell jingled behind me and I instinctively turned to see who our new guest was.
"Look at this goddamn choad," Ezek said.

I had to agree with him. It was Viktor.

On our first day of Freshman Composition, Ezek and I watched as Viktor strolled into the room and made our lives that much more irritating. He wore a grey dress coat-type...thing that he never took off, even as spring became summer. He walked into class the first day with a goddamn cane, swining it around like he was in an old-timey revival show. It took Ezek and I three weeks (and a great deal of attention that could have been paid elsewhere) to determining that his inch-thick glasses frames didn't have lenses. His right shoe was red and his left shoe was blue and his jeans were always three sizes too tight. What's more is that he would hang onto every word our overworked grad student teacher would say, doing his best to side with her on any and all matters of discussion. The most irritating thing about him (other than his many, many reminders that his name was spell with a 'k') was that, everytime he would raise his hand he would do it as slow as possible. He wouldn't participate in any group discussions and once had a class-long argument over the merits of 'gray' versus 'grey.'

Of course, Viktor didn't notice us when he walked into the coffee shop. He was holding his head at an obnoxious angle and had graduated to wearing gigantic knit scarves of various color. His on this particular morning was a stripped green and fluorescent orange number that gave you a headache if you looked directly at it. Everything that sucked that morning was denoted by offensively-bright bullshit.

Viktor stood in line and twirled his scarf, no doubt blinding every pedestrian that happened to walk by.

"Just what the fuck I needed," I said, sinking back into my chair and letting out a pained sigh.

Ezek chuckled.

"What?" I asked.

The glint in his eyes told me everything. It also scared the living piss outta me.

"I'm dry," he said. "By the way, what does a hipster hate more than anything?"

I thought about that for a second. "I dunno...things?"

"Well, yeah," Ezek said as he stood. "I'm talking more specifically. I'll let you mull it over, but keep your eyes at the counter."

He stood in line behind Viktor, empty plastic cup in hand. Viktor ordered something obscenely specific and decked out in all sorts of spices and creams and additives. He rattled off words that I can't even begin to recall because I can only take so much. The clerk looked exasperated, poor girl.

After ordering, he stepped aside to wait for his order while Ezek asked for another iced coffee with whipped cream.

Ezek made an act of stealing sideways glances at Viktor, who didn't seem to notice much of anything.

After about a minute, he finally spoke up. "Um...I'm sorry, this is gonna sound all sorts of weird and all, but do you run Garage Nights, the open-mic downtown? Vance, right?" Ezek asked.

He, in fact, did. "I do. And my name's Viktor." Viktor replied with the slightest twinge of annoyance, sharpening the 'k' sound as he spoke his name.

"I knew I recognized you from somewhere. I'm friends with Jerry and I've been to a few of the shows."

"That's fantastic."

"Anyway, I haven't really seen Jerry around much lately. How's he doing? Are you guys still having shows?"

With a tone that oozed smug so real you could scrape it off of him, Viktor replied, "Yes, we are. It's a very specific crowd for a very specific type of music, I'm surprised someone like you could enjoy it."

Neverminding that the entire reply meant literally nothing, Ezek continued. "Oh, I just love live music of all kinds. It's good to keep an open mind about those sorta things. You never know what you're gonna miss if you don't."

Viktor took out a clove cigarette and twittled it between his fingers. "I suppose."

"Yep. Anywho, when's the next show?"

The barista called out for the owner of the ridiculous order, and Viktor eagerly took the paper cup from her. "Saturday," he said as he grabbed a stirring straw. "It's this Saturday at 10:30, it's always been on Saturdays at 10:30, and for the foreseeable future it will continue to be on Saturdays at 10:30." The tenuous calm was dissolving by the thread.

Ezek smiled. I was, frankly, stunned at the longevity of this, whatever this was. "That's right. Been awhile for me since I've been there. Although, it is a fantastic venue with a lot of potential. Jerry told me the last time I saw him that he was looking on expanding."'

Viktor froze midsip. "What?" he spurted. From my vantage I could see droplets of coffee spreading through the air as a result.

Ezek grabbed his iced coffee from the clerk and stuffed a few bucks into the tip jar. "Yeah, I was telling him how a bunch of my friends were interested in coming out and checking out the lineup the next time I was going. We're talking like 15 people, Jerry was excited."

"No. We have no plans to expand. We play for a very specific group of people and it won't appeal to the general masses." Viktor couldn't hide the pure existential terror on his face, try as he might to hide it. He actually started fidgeting.

"Oh, c'mon, it's all in good fun? Isn't that the point of music, to get as many people to hear you as possible?" Ezek asked, punctuating the thought with a sip from his drink.

Viktor was making his way to the door at that, a mouse scurrying away from a much larger predator.

"Hey Viktor!" Ezek shouted.

Viktor froze in the doorway and turned toward the counter.

"These lovely ladies work hard here, how about throwing a few extra bucks their way? Or is tipping not esoteric enough for you?"

Viktor literally squealed and ran out the door, his scarf achieving surface-of-the-sun brightness in the stark daylight.

A round of laughter from all the baristas and clerks behind the counter followed Ezek back to our table.

"There's nothing they hate more than a bunch of people who like what they like. It's goddamn hilarious," he said.

I was smiling for the first time that day. Ezek had that effect on you.

"Let's go," he said, putting on his coat.

No comments:

Post a Comment