Short story by Michael Botur
Black ocean, orange fire. Taxis beaded with rain. Traffic. Bottles screaming as they smash. Droplets steaming on heat lamps. Skinny cheekbones shivering in wool coats. Fog breath. Fedoras, cigarettes, black ties, white shoulderpads. Youngsters in clusters of five and six, arms folded, standing with you round StraightShooter under a heat lamp with people who aren’t really friends, though they might become Somebodies in future, which is why it’s essential to Friend them.
You laugh about the same shit, complain about the same shit, and when there’s a thin spot in the conversation you rummage in your handbag, acting like you don’t know how many tampons you’ve got in there. Your temporary friends, they all play in bands and this one girl has a necklace and brooch designed by the same Moroccan artist who does brooches for Azealia Banks. You add six friends on your phone within 12 minutes, then when the conversation starts to get slightly weak and they look at you funny for guffawing at one of their in-jokes, you say, ‘Well, drinky time,’ and leave for the bar before they make you leave. You’re low on oxytocin. Low on vasopressin, cortisol. Low on alcohol. Same as everyone else out tonight. Needing peptides you can only top up by rubbing shoulders with your true family.
Your money’s all gone on new tights and data for your phone and white menthol Marlboros and breath mints and bourbon and Lorazepam and all that’s in your purse is taxi chits and free download vouchers and business cards of Somebodies and the asshole at the bar won’t trade those for drinks, but you tell that dreadful bore Spittle, the rapper-slash-poet, that you like his hoodie and let Spittle wrap an arm around your neck and stare at your chest and as soon as he pushes a drink into your hand (oh my God that’s refreshing, the sting of cranberry, the roar of vodka) you tell him you have to go to the bathroom and you’ve almost lost him when you spot – is that? Yeah, you’re 99 percent– yes it fucking is, oh my God, James Fucking Murphy from LCD Soundsystem is at StraightShooter. Because your day job is all about handling the social media for people like James Fucking Murphy from LCD Soundsystem you know he’s obsessed with vintage 80s Nerf water guns so you get talking about those and you hang just off the edge of his elbow until there’s a break in the conversation then you have to drop in a mention that you’re the Social Media Coordinator for a certain massive label and the Somali model with the shaved head who was in that David Bowie video in 1991 crosses the circle and gives you a hug and says ‘James said to give you something,’ and lets you follow her to the toilet and crush a Molly on the toilet tank. It’s funny to hear him called James because underground he is James Fucking Murphy, underground where you’re safe and warm and protected, and as you’re trying to hold onto the entire bar and tell the Somali model from the Bowie video that James Fucking Murphy should never be referred to as James, Ashley Bradley Coyle arrives in your perimeter.
Ashley works in your office putting discs in digipaks and special editions, couriering flashdrives with album promos to influential people, copying autographs onto CDs with a silver Sharpie. Your desks are across the room from each other. His wife and two year old kid come to pick him up sometimes, always looking needy, tired, waiting in the foyer, heavy and damp like airport luggage. They drain Ash. He once told you he tried to make his baby watch Marlon Williams Live In Spain and his wife pulled the TV power plug out of the wall. He spends as much time being an indie rocker outside of work as he can, to revitalise himself. Tonight, breathing celebrity air, he’s very nearly Somebody. Ash is like you by day – lonely, quiet, pissed-off, hungover and anxious – but the Ash at StraightShooter is huuuge on Band Camp, not to mention he’s got 2300 likes on Facebook. Ash – who’s been tagged in photos with Michael Stipe, Q-Tip and Lana del Ray – could really be somebody if his stupid partner would let him. His band M.O.R., formerly Middle Of The Road, formerly the Ashley Bradley Coyle Project, opened for St Vincent at the Powerstation one time. He’s talented on the guitar and people adore his lyrics, which reference early 90s childhood nostalgia.
You’re trying to think up a way to talk to him when you lose your purse then someone hands it back to you, dropping some reference you can’t remember sharing. E is melting your mind, your thoughts have overflowed, trickled to somewhere you didn’t want ‘em, and James Fucking Murphy’s groupies are breaking up, there’s that guy who everyone says is secretly Banksy is in conversation with Del the Funky Homosapien, but now there’s talk of Dizzee Rascal getting beaten up at Calendar Girls and you slot your arm into the arm of that Peep Of The Week columnist and she says, ‘Oh, hey,’ and asks you for a white menthol Marlboro which means an opportunity to jump in her taxi with the chain of Somebodies she’s attached to – including Ashley Bradley Coyle – and you find a seat on Skrillex’s cousin’s lap and someone tells the driver to take you over to The Venue where Fleet Foxes are doing a private birthday party gig for 200 people only, but Ashley Bradley Coyle reveals in the taxi – with shoulders mashing his face against a tinted window – that he’s Facebook friends with Billie Joe Armstrong who’s friends with Lawrence Arabia and he comps you all into the private Fleet Foxes birthday gig and fuck, what’s her name, from The Deliverance Project calls out ‘Oh, sup, Ashley,’ and in the part of your mind where you register people’s importance, you make a note: Ashley Bradley Coyle just became a little bit more of a big deal. When everyone spills into the convenience store to buy chips and smokes and hot dogs, you pay for Ashley Bradley Coyle’s ridiculous bag of 5a.m. candy floss and he says thanks and you register the Thanks because when Ashley Bradley Coyle becomes HUGE in three years, everyone will need to know that one time he THANKED you, but hang on, he’s fallen on his bum and there’s a bouncer standing over him with an afro and earpiece and you’ve got one of your high heels off and you’re smacking the stiletto heel right into the bouncer’s skull, hoping it connects hard enough to kill that bastard so you can be The Somebody Who Saved The Life Of A Guy Who’s Friends With A Guy Who’s Friends With Billie Joe FUCKING Armstrong.
Your feet are cut and dusty and cold. You’ve walked from the police cells straight over to work, a good two kilometres, maybe three. You make it into the office and limp to the lockers without anyone fucking with you. You have more clothes at work than you do at home. A little foundation and some lipstick and mascara and you’re good to go. You collapse into your chair, groaning. Fuck daylight. Too bright. Sunglasses on.
‘Whoa,’ your manager says, leaving the web designers’ table and approaching you. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Yeah. James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem hung out with me for a bit. He’s sweet but it was like, ‘Gimme some space,’ y’know? Like seriously clingy.’
Your manager puts both hands on your shoulders. ‘I saw your tweet about… actually, you shouldn’t joke about that if you didn’t really go to jail. We thought you were locked up. You’re two hours late.’
‘Lots of famous people get locked up. I’ll stay late to make it up.’
‘But honey, that’s the problem. How come you’re wearing shades? Did somebody hit you?’
‘What can I say? I’m a vampire. Daylight sucks.’
You open Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. There’s a queue of emails. You search the list of senders’ names, select the most important people to respond to. Adele’s agent needs you to try and find her a good Cambodian vegan restaurant in the city, somewhere small and dark where Adele won’t get hassled by nobodies.
Halfway through the morning, you look across to the desk of the boy known by day as Ash. He’s wincing. Seems like his partner is on the phone and he’s in trouble for going out last night. Your eyes meet his. Having a family must be like wading through glue all the time. You invite him to meet your tribe. The two of you can commiserate.
That’s the first 1000 words.
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