Realize it’s time to forget about Rachel.
Go out; meet new people—even though you’ve never been good at meeting new people.
Tour the art galleries in Indianapolis’ Fountain Square.
Go into the Murphy Art Center. See Joanna, the lead singer of Hurley’s Flying Hot Pocket. She is with a friend, a 20-something punk girl whose hair explodes in black jagged shards. She wears an Iggy Pop t-shirt and ripped black jeans.
See odd beauty in the punk girl. You went to high school with Joanna. Go talk to her.
Joanna remembers you, embraces you. Small talk about her band. When there is awkward silence introduce yourself to her friend. “Oh,” Joanna laughs. “This is Ann. Sorry.”
You see Ann alone later in the night, staring at a blurry glob of red paint splattered on canvas. Walk up to her. Say hello.
She examines you. Recognition slowly crosses her face like a lazy heartbeat on a monitor.
Ask her what she thinks of the painting.
“It’s ok,” she says. “I’m more into street art.”
“What artists do you enjoy?” you ask, having no idea if street art means graffiti.
“Ellis Gallagher, Above, Basquiat, Swoon, Clet Abraham,” she says, her voice rising like it’s a burdensome litany to recite. Her eyes draw imaginary lines between each person in the gallery, making a mental picture that is not you.
“I really enjoy…” you start to say.
“I see a friend I need to talk to,” she interrupts and walks away.
When you get home decide you need to know more about Ann in order to connect with her. Find her abandoned MySpace page. Examine her musical tastes. She likes late 70’s punk. Set aside your Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, and Dirty Projectors albums. Go download Patti Smith’s Horses, Radio Ethiopia, Wave, and Easter from The Pirate Bay. Download The Ramones Anthology, Television, Talking Heads. Rent Basquiat from Netflix.
A week later go to the Hurley’s Flying Hot Pocket show at The Melody Inn. Ann is at the front of the stage harassing Joanna between songs. Joanna takes a swig of beer, smiles, gives Ann the finger and the band starts rocking again. Decide to move closer to the stage. Push past the drunken girls who reek a rancid concoction of perfume and cigarette smoke. Stand patiently and wait for the woman with barbed wire tattoos crisscrossing her biceps to allow you to pass. When people leave for beer slide into their vacant spot like a red chip in a Connect Four game. The burly fifty-year-old bald man with a gray beard and gauged ear lobes will dance in a circle and block you from advancing.
Wait until the music is over. Ann steps outside for air. Count to ten. Go outside for air.
Look to your right and left. There she is, standing alone, smoking a cigarette. Say hello.
“Hello,” she says, smiling. She remembers you.
Stand awkwardly. You did not consider how you would filter your new knowledge about late 1970s punk into a conversation. Think of something to say while she stares off into space and cigarette smoke coalesces with the night sky. “Did you like the set by that woman from Ohio?” you finally ask.
“It was ok,” she says.
“She kind of reminded me of Patti Smith,” you say.
“I don’t see that at all,” she says, inhales on the cigarette.
“Oh. Do you like Patti Smith?”
“I used to. About three years ago I was really into her.”
“What do you listen to now?”
“Mostly Nick Cave.”
When you get home Google Nick Cave. Go to The Pirate Bay. Find a torrent of his collected works.
Scan the local alternative paper for the next Hurley’s Flying Hot Pocket show. It’s on Saturday, the 21st, at Locals Only—the band’s CD release show. Write the date down on the back of an old receipt and tape it to the wall above your computer monitor.
Go to Locals Only. Stay focused on the door but Ann doesn’t enter. Maybe you missed her.
Scan the audience as Hurley’s Flying Hot Pocket performs.
Hover by the merch table after the set. Say hello to Joanna. “Is Ann here?” you ask.
“Nope,” Joanna says. “She went to Chicago with her boyfriend.”
Slouch out of Locals Only. Get in your car. Go home. Go to bed.
Think back to that night with Rachel at Monon Coffee. You were the only customers in the café. She had just returned from New York City and as she told you about the trip—hunting down locations of iconic album covers, hanging outside 30 Rock hoping to see Tina Fey, looking for the Squid and the Whale exhibit at the Museum of Natural History—the male barista kept interjecting himself into the conversation, asking her if she’d visited The Dakota or the old CBGB site. You had never been to New York City and could find nothing to add but dirty looks at the barista and deep annoyed sighs whenever he spoke over you.
You went to the restroom and when you returned minutes later he was leaning over your table, laughing with Rachel. As you sat down she pulled a pen from her bag and wrote down her phone number on a napkin and handed it to him. After eight months you realized you and Rachel were never going to happen.
Photo by Amadeus Sepúlveda Yáñez from Malmö, Sweden (. . . Vs Punk) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons