Three in the afternoon and it’s sunny out and I’m sitting at a Starbucks on High Street with my sunglasses on. Head feels clear for once, no pain in my body, anywhere. Finally. Scratching on a notepad, sitting in the upper level at a table that extends across the large window that looks down onto the street. Leering at those unlucky enough to fall into my line of sight. Sucking on an iced coffee and picking at a piece of cake that looked good but I was turned off once I realized there were cranberries in it. Thinking about a lot of things. There’s a pub across from the place called Will-O-The-Wisp which sounds familiar but I can’t remember if I’ve been there or not. Next to the pub is a paper store called Pulp which makes me think of the song “Common People” which makes me think of the line “She told me that her Dad was loaded / I said ‘In that case I’ll have a rum and coca-cola’” which makes me smile. Today, I think, will be good. Decide my goal for the day will be to get caught up on homework. To get so far ahead I won’t fall behind again. Just can’t, I reason. Look down at the notepad and see that I’ve been doodling the whole time I’ve been daydreaming and there are little screaming stickmen all over the paper but no stickwomen. There’s a stickman tied to what looks like a cross and supposedly I’ve drawn flames around him. This makes me smile again.
Look back outside and see a boy I met at a party during welcome week named Felix, Austrian or Australian, I can’t remember. Austrian, I think. His English was impeccable and we talked to each other a bit at the pub we were at but I don’t remember which pub it was. He wore a rugby-type shirt that night, I remember. Dark blue. Studies engineering, is nineteen like me. Long blonde hair combed back and he really could be a model. I remember calling Deirdre about him, actually. Tilt the sunglasses up and rest them on my forehead and watch him talk to a scraggly, witchy looking girl with wild bushy hair. He’s wearing tight jeans and ankle boots and a button down shirt tucked in and he looks very GQ. He’s carrying a satchel bag, leather. Find myself beaming and just studying the way he interacts with her, the way he looks past her while she groans on about whatever it is she’s groaning on about. The way he takes his left boot and itches the back of his right leg with it, then repeats it with the right itching the left. Boredom. Could recognize it anywhere. Practically leaning over the thin table with my nose almost on the glass looking down and suddenly he looks up and sees me. Cups a hand over his eyes like a visor and sees me but it takes a second for him to realize he knows me from somewhere and when he does he smiles real big and I remember I liked that his teeth were so white. He waves a bit then holds up a finger to tell me he’ll be a minute and I just sort of wave back and slink back into my seat, unsure if that was the reaction I was going for. Look around behind me and see only a few tables filled with students, the rest empty and stained with coffee spills. Adjust my clothes. Peer back down and they’re still talking. Foot starts tapping of its own accord and I start doodling again and find myself drawing a stickman with an axe chopping the head off another stickman and then a family of stickmen crying nearby with lines coming out from their heads representing their anguish. Smile. Feel a buzz in my pocket, jolting me stiff. Take my phone out and don’t recognize the number but know it’s from Chicago so I answer.
“Yeah?” I say. “Hello?”
“Tony? Is that…are you there?” the voice says and even after only eight syllables I recognize the hoity tone belonging to my sister Dana.
“Oh, hey,” I say. “Can I…call you back?”
“Are you going to the Keys this year?” she says and sighs immediately after. “Dad said you weren’t going to go but you have to, Tony.”
“Don’t call me that, and I’m not sure. Why does it even matter? Paul’s going, right?”
“I just haven’t seen my baby brother in eons, is all.”
“Yeah, is that it?”
“Mhm, I miss my baby booboo.”
“Or…you just need me to score you some pot, right?”
“Will you be bringing some?”
“I don’t even know if I’m going.”
“Well, that’s not fair. Anyway, do you know anyone who…anyone who could hook me up? I’m just looking for a wittle hookup, wittle brother. Don’t you know anyone?” she says, pleading in the way she’s made infamous, asking without asking, and as annoyed as I am I can’t help but giggle.
“Jesus you sound like…I dunno, what Mom would sound like if she was trying to do this. I know you smoke pot, retard. I’ve gotten you pot before. Why are you being so weird?”
“I’m not it’s just…things have been stressful here. Very stressful. Paul’s been busy and we’ve been…fighting. I hate it.”
“Stress makes you wrinkle,” I say.
“Watch it,” she says. “Anyway, I just need to chill,” she says carefully like she’s trying to talk to me on my level. Laugh. Snort.
“Why’s Paul working so much? Figured Dad would like give him a break or something, you know?”
“Things have been tough, lately. Hasn’t Mom been keeping you updated?”
“No, and that’s by choice. I don’t care, Dana.”
“You will, someday.”
“Can you get me the pot or what?”
“Jeeze, whine a little bit more.”
“I just…I just need to know you can get it.”
“Does it matter? I’m not even going to be home for like over a month. Like a month and a half or something. Can’t you…don’t you have other people you can hit up?”
“Aw, poor baby.”
“Oh shut up, Tony.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“I don’t have anyone else, okay?”
“That’s sort of flattering,” I say, sliding my sunglasses back to their original position, the world going dark again. Leer back down to the street and see the dynamic duo still talking. Grit teeth. “Tell you what, even if I don’t go, I’ll get you some, okay?”
“Yes. Is this going to be for Paul as well?”
“Uh,” she panics for a moment, composes herself, then, “No, no. Just for me, thanks. Paul doesn’t exactly approve of this…habit.”
“Christ, Dana. Smoking weed once a year doesn’t constitute a habit. Desire for a habit, maybe. But definitely not a habit.”
“Well, whatever. Thank you. It’ll be good to see you too, you know. I don’t only think of you as my dealer.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not your dealer.”
“I mean it, Anthony.”
“Hey, got it right that time.”
“Oh, whatever,” she says laughing, genuinely laughing, which makes me think back to a specific moment in our youth when we were happy, the same moment I always go back to with her. Parents trusted her to watch me, even though she’s only four years older. I was ten, she was fourteen. Instead of going to bed we stayed up all night and ate strawberry cheesecake ice cream and watched Back to the Future Part III which is my favorite in the trilogy and she talked all night about some boy at school named Brandon Lucas. She was wearing a baggy Gap sweatshirt and I remember laughing a lot. Not like now, when we’re together. Rare when we talk, really. She’s good people, though, and this memory makes me feel good and today I feel good. Great. No pills today. Nothing.
“Alright,” I say finally, realizing we’ve hit the end of our conversational limits. “Call me when it gets closer to Christmas.”
“Why don’t you call me when you figure out your plans, okay?”
“Ugh, I know. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
“Kisses,” she says and makes a loud obnoxious smooching noise on the other end, then silence. Put the phone away and put my sunglasses on the table then run a hand through my hair. Smile. Look back down to the street and see that Felix is gone now. Panic. Turn around and see the top of his blonde hair bobbing up the stairs. Watch him reveal himself to me, one step at a time. Growing in front of me. Long torso, long legs. Smiling. Bag over his shoulder. Runs a hand across his jaw to make sure it’s as square as he imagines it. Sees me and comes toward me, smiling. Happy. Grab my iced coffee and take a sip and it tastes watered down but I act like it’s the best thing I’ve ever had. Smile. Feel good. Great. He approaches the small table and real suave-like I kick the chair across from me out like I saw in a movie once then the lyrics from the Pulp song come back into my head: “I want to sleep with common people / I want to sleep with common people like you” and it makes me smile real devilish as he sits.