It was the birthday of Sylvia, Matinee, and even Jeremy - so it turns out, even though he's having a party in a week. The Facebook invite has a picture of David Bowie's face on it. He sent me one. They all love me so much there. They all miss me so much. When I was riding the train, which was a G to the L going in the opposite direction of The Page, I knew that I was merging with the dream world, kingdom come.
"I must face these demons." I said, meaning my coworkers and the arch of them all, Clementine, whom I didn't know would be there, but had a correct feeling about.
It was a Florida themed bar. I couldn't believe my feet were taking me there. I had put my jacket on just to please Sylvia. It would be the bow on the present of my presence to her. Into the mirror, I said, "Agent Moreau reporting for duty." There was a mural of Homer Simpson faces on one of the buildings. There were a lot of murals in the area. A lot of bars. The bouncer squeezed his fingers together, wanting to see my id.
Clarice was the first person I saw. She observed me warily. The connection I have with her is strong as she contained my death spirit, which now blooms through her, an embodied ghost, into this Florida themed bar, summoned through Facebook. Nicholas gave me a hello and Jr gave me a hug. A big long hug. So happy to see me. Me so happy to see him. These were the friends I was supposed to have.
Sylvia bangs against a wall of windows.
"She seems so excited." said Nicholas.
"That is what I want."
I approach her. She is sitting in a couch square. She hugs me. I hug her back.
Someone hands both of us a piece of cake. Matinee made it. It has lime in it and coconut flakes on top. I eat my piece but Sylvia does not eat hers. I can't stop eating my piece because I am nervous. Sylvia is wearing a floral crown. She introduces me to her friend in the publishing world whom she says she is always bragging about.
"I've never heard of you." I say.
There are many publishers here. Many of the people who work at The Page want a position in the publishing industry.
"I want to be positioned in your publications." I say.
"But where would you fit." asks one of the publishers who is Asian-American. "You can't even fit on The Page."
Everyone is talking about my suit jacket. Redbeard says he thinks I look so good in it. I can read his envy. He's got admiration in his eyes. One time Sylvia told me that he runs the writer's group at The Page.
"You should ask him about it." she had said, and I ignored her even though Redbeard was standing right there, listening.
He always smelled so good. I couldn't tell if it was the smell of his sweat or a cologne. It reminded me of the scent of my sweat. Maybe it's the scent talented writers give off. Maybe I should have given him more credit. Maybe we could have been really good friends. Maybe through him Currentivism would have really taken off.
The Asian-American publisher said that I remind her of an editorial person who wore a full suit to work before she made fun of it and he never wore it again.
"Admitedly you appear more casual." she said. "I would like to wear a suit with overexagerated shoulder pads."
"Like that confident Jersey Girl in Working Girls." Sylvia says.
"Amy Schumer?" asks the Asian-American publisher.
"I think we're talking about two different movies."
Clarice has cigarettes in a metal case. Her boyfriend holds the case open while she picks one. I join them outside. My lighter isn't working. There is a piece of lint jamming it.
"Here, use mine." says Clarice.
I'm worried about her boyfriend. I flash my wedding ring at him as often as I can.
"We're just friends, with simmilar interests who could be soul-mates, if I wasn't bound by the crown of love."
I go inside and meet back up with Jr who walks me straight into Clementine. I had told him that the awkwardness was so much that I was probably going to leave.
"Hi." I said, hugging her. "I don't want this to be awkward."
Jr gets a water. He doesn't drink. I order a Lionshead beer because it only costs two dollars. Everyone besides Jr is drinking it. The bartender pops the top and hands me the can. I hand him my credit card.
"Just open a tab, please." I say.
"It's a twenty dollar minimum." he says.
I ask him if there is an atm here. There's not.
"How much is it?" Jr asks, pulling out his cash and paying the two dollars.
We sit on a wooden bench. He asks me what I've been up to.
"Do you have another job?"
"Honestly, I'm not even looking."
"So, you're not doing anything? You're just lounging?"
"I mean, I've been writing."
"You need to embrace that." he says. "You're living the dream. You're doing what everyone here wants to be doing."
He starts telling people that I've been writing. And then I start telling people that I've been writing. They all seem happy about it.
There is this one girl, Christie, whose name I had forgotten until somebody said it. She is in a band. She plays the mandolin with a couple of saw grinders. Her band is going on tour to Chicago and to the South. She says she'll probably quit The Page by the end of the year if she can sell enough merch.
She also makes Zines about San Fransisco. That's where she's from.
"Do you want to go back there?" I ask.
"No. I know that if I went back I'd be happy for like five minutes before I became bored, wishing I was here."
Jeremy wants a cigarette.
I tell him I've only got two left. I don't usually smoke."
"Really? I took you for a chain smoking, typewriter clacking son of a bitch."
"Generally I just use this."
I pull out my e-cigarette.
"is there weed in there?"
"No, just blueberry."
"I used to have one of those, but it gave me emphasema."
"It might not have been the e-cigarette. It could have been from all of the people I let use it. Back when I first had it, everyone thought it was so wacky."
"I feel like we should be able to smoke in here." I say, ruffling the astroturf with my toe.
"You could probably get away with it if we were in Paris."
"What do you mean?"
"When I was there, in a cafe, smoking, the owner came up and asked me to put it out, but once he saw that I was working on a short storyhe not only did he no longer cared that I was smoking but he asked if I wanted to stay in his place for free."
"I really do need to start telling more people that I'm a writer." I say.
Nicholas and a girl named Chelsea are talking. Chelsea was a florist at one of the remote locations that The Page operates. Nicholas works there sometimes and he and she used to hang out while they were there together. Somehow I get pulled into their conversation.
"He's a Page veteran." Nicholas says.
"I'm like a second cousin." says Chelsea.
I'm leaning against the glass for support. I have to take my jacket off. Chelsea is very attractive. She keeps looking into me. My jacket is draped over my wedding ring. I want to have my heart played by her. I can't even imagine playing her vagina like a harmonica. She has spots on her face. I wonder where else she has spots. There was a girl on Girls Do Porn who had spots on her belly. Musette has spots on her belly. I wonder if Chelsea has spots on her belly. I check her thighs but she is wearing leggings.
Nicholas says how great Sylvia is.
"Like, she just brightens your day."
"Like the sun in the Sky."
"I love it when she visits me at the kiosk."
"I am going to invite her to my studio." I say, leaving the conversation and approaching Sylvia.
"Sylvia," I say. "I miss you. I miss the way you brightened my day. I'm not going to invite you to my studio but I would appreciate it if you visited me on Facebook."
"I never use Facebook."
"If you message me, and we develop a digital raport, then I will consider giving you a copy of my digital estate."
"I'll consider it." she says.
Clarice leaves. I follow her out for a smoke. We are standing next to trash that stinks. It reminds me of Ectypia. Let's go over here. I say. We move to a further side of the bar but the bouncer tells us to come back. Clarice tells me that she likes using Medium but that she doesn't publish on it.
"I just like it more than Word. I use it as a Word Processor."
"I use it mainly for Manifestos." I say.
She tells me that she is currently writing a piece about a person who moves from a rural area to the big city.
"I don't normally delve into fiction but I've come to wonder who cares about my life?"
Her boyfriend is not interested in Medium even though she has told him about it before.
Jr comes up and tells us that he is leaving. He has a white shoulder bag on. Clementine approaches but nobody talks to her because we are too busy talking about plays like Death of a Salesman and The Flick.
"I just didn't like the main character." says Jillian.
"But you're not supposed to like him." says Jr.
"I have to get back inside." I say. "Chloe is holding the bottom rung of the beer you bought me."
Jr and Clarice leave.
I take the beer from Chloe and toss it down my throat.
"I'm sorry I made you hold that. I just really wanted it after being out there."
Mathew asks me about what happened."
"Yeah, what happened, if you don't mind talking about it." says Chloe.
I tell them the story that I've told far too many times now. Chloe says that she can't believe they fired the most perfect person to ever work there.
"What did they say?"
"They said that I didn't show enough initiative."
"That's bullshit! Were you approaching union?"
"Well, that's why."
"I totally get that, but I just don't understand why Lisa had to go and call me lazy..."
They talk about how they all hate Craig.
"He called me the mistress of science fiction the other day." Chloe says.
Mathew says he keeps him at arm's length.
"Well, don't expect him to be going anywhere anytime soon. He's my opposite."
I prepare to leave, but decide that I need to talk to Matinee before I go.
"I haven't had a lot of time to talk with you," I tell her. "but I just wanted to say happy birthday."
"Thanks." she says. "How have you been?"
There is a certain coldness about her. I can't tell if it's because she is ashamed that I would be here, or if she is drunk, or if it has something to do with her Australian love interest, Bach, who consistently causes her pain.
"I'm okay." I say. "There is something honorable about getting fired."It's like being killed rather than just walking away."
"Oh, jeez. I'm sorry."
"No, no, no. You don't get it. I dramatize things."
"Like in your head?"
"Onto The Page."
"Cool dude. Well I wish you well."
"I'll see you never." I tell her.