Patrons at the Bowery Electric
John picked her up from work. He was dressed like any Brooklyn hipster and lingering outside her fishbowl. This would be the first time they had been alone, or as alone as one can be in midtown walking along the edge of Central Park where the horses are as still as statues. She was coming off the mania that only work can induce, though she could be induced into mania under many circumstances. She wasn’t quite sure what to say to him so she filled her fingers with a lit cigarette and pretended that she knew how to be a person talking to other people.
Catching the train, talking about insects, and she had always felt that they were fine so long as they stayed outside of her space and she knew where they were. There was nothing so worrisome as losing track. Having her eye on a spider for one moment and in the next, not knowing from what corner of the room they will reemerge. Deciding that frat-bros existed outside of the idea of the fraternity, that it was a way of being, a type of person.
They picked up Mark from work, lingering outside his theatre until he came out with a greasy fork and leftover Thai food. His boss had called him a Gem and there was no better name for being on the run than Gem Wackadoo, mostly because it seemed too false. No one would believe you were truly trying to hide from anyone.
There was a literary bar across the street, mostly called a literary bar because of the pictures on the walls of all the so-called greats, think of people like Shakespeare, those big names that everyone would have probably picked up in a high school lit class. Those last fifteen minutes of happy hour were not filled with drinks named after scholars but instead mixed drinks that were two thirds warm, one third whipped cream and the last one, which was her’s called The Godfather and only chosen because she had a love of amaretto. They decided that a literary bar was defined by the people who frequent, not by the place in and of itself. She and John conferred and came to the conclusion between them that Mark was the type, dressed for the role of literary bar patron. The kind of man who might sleep in the corner and discuss philosophy. It was so much better to be a person who was not defined by their job, unlike a financial bro, where all she wondered came back to the question of what do they have outside of their identity as a worker. Who you are as defined by what you think versus your occupation. They couldn’t help themselves and descended into the role gladly, becoming the denizens of the bar before closing out their tabs and taking the straight walk to the Bowery Electric to see John’s brother play.
At one point the front man of the band introduced a song by saying it was about child molestation but all she could hear as they sang the chorus, or the hook or whatever one calls a singular repeating phrase, was “are you ovulating”. Over and over Mark and she sang “are you ovulating” at the top of their lungs. She could picture herself whispering it into the ear of the next person she slept beside as they were about to drift off to sleep. It seemed all the better if that person was a man. That moment of confusion and the smile tucked away behind her face, behind her hair, unseen in the dark that would only be lit by pink lights or blue. After the set ended and they were standing near the bar waiting, and waiting for the crowd to change over John told them that they were wrong and somehow not knowing the real line seemed inconsequential.
She didn’t know the next band and the age of the crowd felt like parents were watching them as they three danced to far too many guitars, dad rock at its best. The twist never felt so relevant. Using their limited ASL to communicate, deciding to go upstairs and pass a vape pen between them and not go back.
“This seems like a night for smoking.”
“I’m feeling it too.”
The park was warmer than it had a right to be for a night in February, and where there was supposed to be a fountain there was instead a box. Climbing over the lip and looking closely, each side was a political message, each she agreed with and wondered what protest brought it there, and why wasn’t she the one who did? One side asserted that it was now harder to join the military.
“I thought it was something anyone could do.”
While she was only a somewhat recent transplant to the city both Mark and John had grown up there, leaving for college and returning as adults to feel like tourists in a place that had been home. They no longer felt like they lived there anymore, just more drifters on the subway, and feeling less tangible for it.
They were interrupted by the incense man asking for a light and willing to trade a cone of sweet warm incense for the privilege. He looked the part, alone and picturesque in his rainbow bandana, jean jacket and patterned socks. John lit a cigarette and she told him that that was the other incense of the park. After the incense man left they did as well, stopping at a playground structured like spider webs. Singing childhood theme songs John and Mark climbed a horizontal ladder across a depression in the ground. The depression was gross and grimy and people had probably peed in it, laying flat on their stomachs and letting their urine stream directly below them in a straight line, perpendicular to the ladder and their bodies hanging above. It was much harder than it looked to climb across and she didn’t feel the need to try. She wondered how children did it. The gaps were even wider for them and they seemed all the more likely to fall.