rheostat001 invited me in. this is probably fairly crap. but i'm just getting back on this bike. no more apologies
In 1983, Meyer Lansky, Tennessee Williams, and Buckminster Fuller died. The Dodge Caravan hit showrooms. Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and Return of the Jedi was in theaters. Also, I was born and the world was going right to hell like it was going to the grocery store--it seemed straight-up natural. By 1989, Salman Rushdie had a price on his head, the Exxon Valdez sank, and my parents were divorced--Mom and I were in Atlanta, my Dad and sister in North Carolina.
In 2006, the year that Bradbury, Heinlein and company had us exploring Mars, I was twenty two and trying to be a reasonable, real person. More specifically, I was sitting on the floor of a craftsman bungalow in Savannah drinking warm PBR from a can, holding a girl with nine piercings and a predilection for the Sex Pistols. It wasn’t intergalactic exploration, but I was four weeks off of a breakup; she was four days out of the same and in seemed right. It is amazing what a haircut, a thunderstorm, and a working knowledge of Shakespeare can, quite literally, put in your lap. But I’m getting ahead of myself and will come back to that story.
Meanwhile there were people roaming about my house. Two Asian art students: the guy had never gotten laid (that was my best friend’s project for the summer); the girl had such an easy time of it that she could give a damn. Various and sundry Savannahians in various stages of being Done for the night and a multiplicity of cultural and clique disguises lounged on my furniture. Scanning the rooms from my floor I saw kids with long dreds and sandals, one still hung up on grunge and Kurt worship, a fistful of folks in the corner tripping out on some miracle chemical that comes in a tiny pill, all of them wearing more or less the same clothes: stylishly ripped jeans, tee shirts with scarcely disguised sexual references or pre-faded slogans. In another corner, not talking to anybody was a rookery of damp train-hoppers. As long as they stayed still, they were fine by me. My best friend and roommate, who I haven’t seen in anything but solid colored shirts, cargo pants and flip-flops (regardless of season and weather) in the last four years bounced around cooking giant juicy feisty burgers with lots of cheese. It was my house first but it was Mike’s party. Well, at least I could relax—Mike would keep a good eye on those traveler kids and nothing important would be missing in the morning.
Apparently the lesson most of us had learned was that doing reasonably well in school, not getting arrested for anything serious, and attending college would get you more or less where you wanted to be: provided you wanted to be drinking beer and bourbon, smoking pot, and planning bullshit art, political, and adventurous projects that had no chance of being remembered the next day. All this was ours. Wood floors, loud music, beautiful girls. In addition I had a steady cool job, a summer serious job, impending graduation and the lingering worry that the one thing my generation is proving it has a real talent for is fucking it all up.
This is an account of us. The story is of our important moments, which are not the events our dear parents planned and filmed for us. There are precious few of those here—no weddings, few birthdays, only a couple of graduations. Few of us know the words to Auld Lang Syne, and only the real oddballs care that we don’t.
This focuses more on the things we remember, half-forget, and outright make up. Know that it all happens mostly at night; in back fields, at house parties, on the hoods of cars looking out at the lake. It is beer cans, bowl packs, and raw clutching inexperienced sex. This is altogether fitting and proper. After all, which is more important—that we passed the SAT or that we passed it in spite of the half bottle of whiskey consumed the night before? This is why we think we’re immortal, by the way: we get away with everything. Now imagine if we actually tried.
If the above seems trite and clichéd, that’s probably true too. It’s another thing we do well. Who are We? We don’t know yet. They keep trying to name us: Generation Millennial, Y, Next, the Fucking Pepsi Generation. None of it works. We aren’t lost, we aren’t beat, we sure ain’t the greatest or the best and brightest. So call us Generation Take, Generation Apathy, Generation Couch, Bong, or Boredom. We are the children of Joe Camel and Big Bird. We have the greatest set-up of all time but the best we’ve done so far is ape the cool of the last generations.
This story is more specifically concerned with a triad of friends. You already know us—three guys joined at the hip, our names flowed into one another through most of high school and the years since: DanMike’n’James. For now, know us as The Criminal, The Professional, and The Fuck-Up, like cards in a twenty-first century tarot deck. Just know also, that at this point—a house party at the end of the semester—I am no longer sure which one of us is which. It used to be fairly clear and simple.
The above interjection was preceded by a crash as James, who had been whipping CDs in and out of the player for the last hour, lost his grip on the Seagram’s bottle he’d been slugging off of for the last two hours. His expression was enough to suggest that his anger was focused on the loss of a usable quantity of alcohol, not the mess he’d just created. The following interjection is concerned with James’ discovery that shards of the bottle had sliced his foot down the inside.
“Oh shit. Fucking Christ on a Fucking Bike! Dan, you got band-aids?”
Did I? I couldn’t think what with one thing and another: blood-alcohol content, this chick’s lips behind my ear, Mike unflappably collecting glass shards and wiping up bourbon. I fixed on a reel of duct tape on the kitchen table. I only had to get partway up to snag it with my fingertips.
“James! Heads up, bud.” And I whipped the tape at him. It caught him above the right eye.
“Yeh. Sorry,” I laughed, got the rest of the way up, reached down and pulled Maggie up off the floor. We walked through the kitchen to the back stoop while James crouched on the floor wrapping tape around his foot. One of the hippie-style boys got off the couch and approached the stereo and stack of loose CDs. As we went out the door, there was more of James’ soundtrack:
“No. In fact, hell no. No Marley for at least forty-five minutes. I already played the fucking Grateful Dead for you, right now we’re listening to the Ramones, probably Gorillaz next, but if you don’t shut the fuck up, I’ll put Swordfishtrombones on loop for the rest of the night. What? Aw, man kiss my—“
The door shut.
“Is he always like that?”
“More or less. James cares about appropriate party music maybe too much.” She was trying to find her cigarettes.
“I got it.” I pulled out my pack, separated two smokes, got mine set and held the other one up to her, resting the filter on her lower lip. She gripped it and I lit hers, then mine. It’s really dark in my back yard. The motion-floodlight hasn’t worked since I moved in almost a year ago and my landlords are such a pain in the ass to deal with that it won’t be fixed. So we were just two shapes with little red fireflies in front of our faces, while the wind pushed rain against the pile of Goodwill cruisers and scattered name brand bikes along the fence and shook pecans out of my backdoor-neighbor’s trees.
It is important to note at this point that this was all accidental.