I Like All Their Pretty Songs

Previously, on A Young American…

Over the next few days I felt bland and bored with my life. Maybe I needed a vacation, or a change of scenery permanently. It’s not like I had any family anyway, and Britney would eventually realize she could do better. As much as I loved sitting around and watching the world go by, I didn’t wanna watch it from the middle of nowhere. I wanted to be somewhere where shit actually happened, but I didn’t want to actually be somebody, and I was in a rare position where I could do both. Green Acres filled the background while Britney messed around on the computer.

My phone rang. I looked at the ID: it was Zach. Zach was one of my best friends in high school. He could have written a book on serial lady-killing back then. Unfortunately, he suffered from whatever disease it was that transformed him once high school ended.

His formerly smooth, slick, thick black hair had thinned out and receded into a severe widow’s peak, and his post high school diet was not his friend. He was also a trust fund kid. Therefore I sympathized with him. “Hello?”

“Hey dude. I was thinking of hitting up the Dark Bar tonight. You in?” This creatively titled club was where all the Goth kids flocked. It was the only place Zach ever wanted to go. He was under the impression that young girls looking for aging Goths were the only people interested in him. Zach’s entire wardrobe consisted of black and brown pants, with black t-shirts of varying neck sizes. His last day in high school he wore all white to throw everyone off, and truthfully I wish he had kept it up.

I pulled out my pirate mini-golf coin I got for a hole-in-one when I was 10 and flipped it, tails always being the choice that would result in moving. Tails was where it landed. Arrrgh. “Yeah, I’m in. You want me to drive?”

“If that’s cool. I’m planning on drinking too much to drive anyway.”

“Okay, I’ll swing by your place then.” I hung up and Britney stared at me.

“What?”

“You’re going out?”

“Yeah, it sounds like Zach’s in another slump.”

“I don’t understand why he beats himself up all the time.” She said, moving to my chair almost before I even got out of it.

“You didn’t know him back then. He’s one of those people who peaked in high school, as far as society is concerned. He was teased for being a slut. That doesn’t really happen to guys.”

“So he’s depressed because he doesn’t get laid as much anymore?”

I took my shirt off and explored my closet for the gothiest thing I could find. I didn’t want to stand out in a crowd of non-conformists. “As much? Try four years.”

“Four years?” She shouted, which told me I should have never said anything.

“He treats it like an anniversary.” I found a dark red shirt that advertised Spy Vs. Spy. That’ll do, I thought. When I exited the bedroom with merely a changed shirt I posed for Britney. “Whaddya think? Doesn’t it scream ‘leave me be’?”

“Oh yeah,” she smirked, “you’re gonna be fighting the ladies off left and right. All you need is your signature ‘boxer’ dance.”

“You’re just jealous because you can’t hustle and flow like I can.” I put my dukes up. “Besides, I can’t outclass Zach. Wingmen by nature are supposed to look subpar.”

“Whatever.” She waived her hand, “Have a good time getting your boyfriend some.”

“You’re not jealous?” I snatched the keys and snuck a shot of Scotch when she wasn’t looking.

“Please. You couldn’t cheat on me if you tried.”

“Challenge accepted.” I teased. She jerked around. “Okay, I’m gonna go pick up Zach now.” Her eyes followed me out the door and probably through the window. I started up the car and headed to Zach’s. I always offered to drive or go to his place because his punctuality meter was way off. I’d say meet at 8:30 and he’d show up around 9:00 calling it early. If I was in control of picking him up, though, things seemed to run smoother, so I accepted the burden. I knocked on his door, which almost immediately swung open. “Hey, come on in.”

For being a trust fund kid, his apartment was incredibly lacking in luxury. He had a decent TV, but his couch was hard as a rock and the apartment itself looked like the yellow lights were so powerful that they stained the walls. He ran to the bathroom to do all kinds of shit to his hair in an attempt to make it look less like it did. “Mind if I grab a drink?”

“Sure. There’s Kahluah on top of the fridge.” Khaluah. Ugh. It was the only thing, though, so I poured some. I thought about mixing it, but the result would be awful no matter what. On his stove was a pot with what looked to be day and a half old Velveeta shells turned hard by the miracle of exposed processed cheese. I downed my thick liqueur and sat on the arm of the couch, pulling out my coin for examination.

“So what made you pick tonight?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s Wednesday. Nobody’s gonna be out tonight.”

“I don’t know. I figure it’s the middle of the week and people are anxious for some pre-weekend relief.” He had a point, although it was a weak one. Most people didn’t have our luxury of money being no object, so going out twice in one week proved expensive for them. I fell back onto the couch, immediately regretting that decision. He’s a masochist.

He stepped out of the bathroom with his hair looking like Einstein’s, all dressed in black. “How do I look?”

“I’m worried I’m gonna lose you once we walk outside.” I said. Thankfully whatever skin he did have showing was practically glowing. He was like some science fiction monster putting on a human disguise. I rattled my keys as the torso-less figure stepped into my car. “So what’s your goal tonight?”

“I just wanna meet somebody who’s cool.” He liked to call himself a romantic nihilist. He claimed he invented the phrase. We pulled up to the Dark Bar. The Cure poured out of the doors as we stepped in. My main issue with this bar wasn’t the atmosphere or the crowd; it was the five-dollar cover. What a rip-off.

For a Goth bar everything was awfully wooden, and a spiral staircase to the right lead to a DJ that played certain music videos upon request. It was a cool 65 degrees and the dance floor was bathed in laser light. I always liked to hang out on the balcony and watch the dancers from above. There weren’t too many people drunk enough to let loose, however. Zach got himself some kahluah drink while I ordered a Jack and Coke. I caught Zach eyeing some lovely lady in black hanging over the balcony. “You gonna say something?”

“Like what?”

“Who cares?” I gave him a friendly nudge. Zach took a long gulp and approached her. I saw him wave, which looked pretty bad. She turned slightly to the right, and when he leaned against the rail next to her she put her back to him. He shrugged and returned. “Well?”

“I asked her how she was doing and she just turned away. Then I asked if she liked the music here, and she just fuckin’ ignored me.” My brows furrowed and I took my drink over to miss priss.

“Hi, how are ya?” No response. “You know, you’re kind of a bitch.” That got her. She swung her 42-inch hips around to me.

“Why? Cause I wouldn’t talk to your creepy friend?”

“Because of the way you handle yourself. You don’t have to talk to every drooling slob that comes up to you, but you don’t have to be a blanket bitch to everyone around. Filter your shitty fuckin’ attitude for the ones who deserve it. ‘Hey baby’, ‘Nice tits’, shit like that. Not ‘Nice weather we’re having’. Have a little Goddamn class.” Her mouth dropped and her arms folded, which I took as my cue to return to my friend. Zach tried to hide the smile on his face.

“You shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Fuck that. It’s principle. Now what?”

“I don’t know. It looks like people are starting to move to the dance floor.”

“Good luck, buddy. I’m not going down there. You wouldn’t want me anyway.” He ordered a shot and left my sight. I moved to the balcony where Esmeralda once was and watched as he swung his arms and hips around in some fashion. The beginnings of a buzz reminded me that my drink was nearly empty. After being unable to figure out what Zach’s strategy was on the dance floor, I decided to return to my previous seat at the bar. I ordered a shot and washed it down with what I had left in my cup. Out of the corner of my eye the lip of a beer bottle appeared. Following that lip I saw fingers that were slender and frail with blue polish and a matching blue boyfriend tee, and finally I noticed the woman in it. Her long, uninteresting brown hair covered about 10% of her face and her glasses suggested she may be a librarian. Her eyes were either dead or fixated, the difference between the two being minor. I nodded out of politeness and raised my plastic cup to her. She held the beer out, arm extended like a board. I stretched out my hand, “You want me to take this?” She nodded slowly and I traded her ,air for Bud.

A poorly controlled hand stroked the back of my head. “Um…” I leaned forward, “What are you doing?”

“I love your hair!” She said, approaching my personal space.

“Why don’t you let it grow out?”

“Too much work. I’m not cut out for it.” Her face puckered and she head butted my shoulder.

“Where are your friends?” She jerked her head around the room and when she turned back to me her glasses hung low on her nose.

“Over there.” She pointed to an empty table in the corner, but I assumed she was just a few degrees off from the full one next to it. The people there were staring at us and laughing. I took another sip of my flat beer as she went for my neck. I pushed her off. “Seriously. I have a girlfriend and you’re Birthday Drunk.”

“It’s not my birthday!” She snorted and went in for another kiss.

“Lady!” I shouted, sliding back on my stool.

“Oh, grow a pair!” She grunted.

Then she grabbed my cock.

It wasn’t even a loving grab; it was like “Where are your balls? I know you’ve got some!” Just then her friends came up with what I thought was the intention to take their embarrassingly drunk friend back with them. Of course, this being the digital age, they pulled out their phones and snapped a photo. The flash blinded me and I slipped from my stool, smashing the beer bottle on the floor beneath my hand. “God, damn it!” I screamed. I looked over to see Zach staring at me. My hand had numerous cuts of various length and depth. Before I could really get a handle on what just happened, the bouncer pushed past everyone, lifting me to my feet. “That’s it, buddy! You’re out!”

“What!” I asked, genuinely confused about the whole situation. The son of a bitch didn’t even let me grab some cocktail napkins to wrap myself with. I was dragged out to the street, and when I tried to lean on a patio table, he took it from me. I sat down on the curb and a few minutes later Zach approached with some napkins. “What kept you?”

“I was making sure that girl was okay.”

“Aren’t you a fuckin’ gentleman?” I put layer upon layer around my hand until the blood stopped seeping through. “I’m gonna head home, man. Are you staying?”

“I guess. Might be able to catch a cab home. It’s expensive from here, though.” I groaned. “What?”

“Expensive? You don’t get to call a 15-dollar cab ride expensive. If someone makes 12,000 bucks a year then yeah, that’s a little steep. But for us? You’re constantly putting on this sheep’s clothing that you’re poor! You’re not! Stop hiding from that.”

“Oh, so I suppose I should just throw my money out left and right at whatever I want? No restraint?”

“You shouldn’t need restraint! You don’t want a 12-bed 7-bath mansion on the coast! You want normal stuff that people of our tax bracket can easily afford, like a couch that doesn’t feel like a bench. People like us are in a rare position to enjoy life, not suffer through it! Our punishment is to be ridiculed and shunned for it, but you seem content on the worst of both worlds. Do you have any idea how insulted a poor guy is when you say ‘No, man. I can’t afford to.'”

“Hey, I’m being responsible!”

“You’re being greedy! You’re the kind of person who treats dollars like they’re Goddamn trading cards. I don’t give a shit if you buy a new sound system or build a home for orphans! Just do something!” I squeezed my hand and blood spurted from the napkin. I wrapped another around it.

“Fuck off, dude.” Was all Zach said to me before heading back inside. I tried to stand, but the loss of blood combined with my inebriation made that quite difficult, so I sat back down. When my spins subsided I returned to the car. It took a lot for me to be able to squeeze my hand tight enough on the key to start it. Alice in Chains blasted through the speakers as I wrapped another napkin around my hand and drove home. When I walked inside I heard the sound of Britney throwing up in the bathroom. I knocked on the door with my good hand, hiding the other. “You okay?”

“Oh, I feel like shit.” She moaned.

“You should take some medicine.”

“I’m not gonna do that. It’s all chemicals and toxins. I don’t want that running through my body. Besides, it doesn’t even help you get better, it just hides the symptoms.”

“Yeah but the better you feel the better your rest will be, and that will help you.” I said. My logic flew right by her.

“I just want to let my body run its course.”

“Well maybe some herbal pills will help.” I said sarcastically.

“Yeah, maybe.” Dammit. “I was actually wanting to try this one kind that’s supposed to help with your immune system.”

“Oh, Christ Britney.”

“Please. I just wanna try it. Worst thing that happens is it doesn’t work. Here.” She wrote the supplement down on a piece of paper and gave it to me.

“Fine, I was looking for a creative way to toss five bucks anyway.”

“Thank you.” She moaned, facing the open toilet bowl.

Herbal Supplements. It’s as if people think we’re characters in a video game, and we can take certain things here and there to increase our stats. I went down to the grocery and picked up the shit Britney wanted, which turned out to be 10 bucks. “Natural” remedies and cures.

I went to the real medicine aisle for some bandages, cough syrup and a small box of those dissolvable tablets. While browsing I saw some cans of soup. Perfect, I thought. I bought three cans. I bandaged myself as best I could in the car and when I got back home I heard the bathwater. “Hey, I bought you some soup. You want me to bring it in there to you?” I asked through the door.

“That would be nice, thank you.” She said. I put the soup in a bowl and microwaved it. When it was done, I put the fizzing tablets in it, but that quickly proved to be a mistake when it started to bubble over the sides. I dumped it out and put a new can of soup in, then poured half the recommended syrup in, and tried it. I felt like I could still taste it, but I convinced myself that it was only because I knew it was there.

I fixed a glass of water and grabbed an herbal pill, then made the attempt to juggle them all into the bathroom and hand them off to Britney. I handed them to her through the closed shower curtain. She took the pill and a sip of the soup. I crossed my fingers, “What kind is this?” She asked.

“Standard.” I said. “Chicken noodle or whatever.”

“It tastes funny.”  

“That’s probably because you’re sick. Your taste buds are all fucked up.” I said. She shrugged and continued to eat it.

Success. “Well, I’m gonna let you finish the bath and get some sleep.” She leaned back and put the soup on the floor. I kept it as quiet as I could while I walked to the kitchen to grab some Scotch before taking my seat to enjoy a nice late night run of game shows and really bad news anchors.

Next Chapter.

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