The underground music magazine that I wrote for was a gruesome mixture of punk and metal, and I reveled in its delinquency, making friends and enemies across the city’s various Eastside dive bars. There was still a day job, since the freelance underground punk and metal magazine business was not particularly lucrative, and I struggled during the day to be an adequate secretary. The problem was at that point I didn’t really care about anyone other than myself.
I also had no respect for my belittling boss, and because of this couldn’t muster up the interest to accurately take his phone messages, provide daily reminders or even properly work the printer. I think my saving grace was that I had the ability to gain allowances from people. I was just “kind of a space cadet.” A cute-but-dumb persona shadowed me professionally but because it tended to play in my favour, I didn’t bother to do anything about it.
When I started dating my boss’s lawyer, proper protocol became even more of a gray area. I hadn’t any intention of dating the company’s corporate lawyer. I didn’t even like lawyers. But Randon was smitten and, as I am with men who take a keen interest, I was powerless to resist. Well, eventually. It did take a while. We started as polite friends, until I realized how fun he was outside of the office. We took to drinking together at the bar my boss owned, below the offices.
hadn’t any intention of dating the company’s corporate lawyer. I didn’t even like lawyers…
We stumbled out into the streets at 2 am one Wednesday night, partying like it was a Friday.
“I have to buy my mom a Christmas present,” I said, as I lit a cigarette with fingers shaking in the damp air.
“What are you going to get her?”
I shrugged, pulling a piece of tobacco off my tongue. “A gift card probably.”
Randon yanked the collar up on his leather jacket. His thin black hair fluttering in the breeze. “You have to get her a real present. A present with thought in it.”
I rolled my eyes. “Whatever.”
“I’m serious. She’s your mom, you need to spoil her,” said Randon, reaching for my cigarette.
I handed it to him, watching him take a drag and wondering if this strange friendship could be more. “What do you suggest?”
“A bathrobe, slippers, spa treatment, sweater, what does she want?”
I shrugged. “How should I know.”
Randon let out a bark of a laugh, and it bounced off the taxi cab that splashed by in the street. “You have to ask.”
I nodded. Well, that would explain a lot. I took the cigarette back from him then and he watched me under the street lamp. “What?” I asked.
He smiled, it was a goofy little-boy-grin. “I like you, Emily.”
“I like you too,” I replied casually.
“I’m not being casual,” he said, insightfully.
I took a breath, watching him lean in, and closed my eyes waiting for my life to change.
I wasn’t swept off my feet. Not really. I was more in need of companionship, and Randon was there and appeared to care, and he wasn’t afraid to say to me what I didn’t want to hear. In a way it was refreshing. He’s keeping me real, I thought. But that got old.
We fell quickly into the pattern of an old married couple. We bickered, and napped. He put puzzles together and I watched his Nascar races, and thought about writing. I put writing aside at first, because he asked me to, and I wanted to be likeable. But without writing I was even less adept at staying adrift and I spiraled. We did a lot of drugs. Friends called, but Randon would answer, and tell them I was fine. We became absorbed by our world.
One afternoon, walking outside his apartment on Granville Street, we started window shopping for a new bed.
“What kind of bed do you want to get?” I asked.
He winked, and said nothing as he pulled me along the sidewalk. Several feet away we stopped at a window display where an ornate wooden canopy bed was propped in all its overworked glory. “This one.”
“A canopy bed?” I asked, and thinking that he was joking I fell into laughter. When his face contorted in disappointed, I grew serious. “Why?” I asked, scratching my head.
He waved his arms as he spoke, he was a gregarious type that was likely the result of his shorter stature. “Can’t you just picture us having sex in a canopy bed. Eating breakfast in bed on the weekends?”
I tried to keep my face from giving me away. “You’re such a girl,” I told him.
“One of us has to be,” he told me, folding his arms.
I pushed him. “Okay, Gloria.”
We entered a furniture store that had an aura of expensive stillness, a tinkling music playing gently on the stereo, glass bulbs reflecting the metalics and brass décor lining crystal display tables.
“May I help you,” said a saleswomen, peering over her glasses. She had a grey bob and wore a pencil skirt.
Randon told her we were looking at the bed in the window. I felt embarrassed, and moved off to let him do what ever it was he was going to do. I found a brass game that was similar to a wooden version that one of my mom’s friends owned when I was kid. They’d laugh together in the kitchen and I would sit at the window seat looking out over Okanagan Lake, playing that game over and over and over again until I got down to one peg left standing. What happened to that determination, I wondered, pulling at the brass pegs in the store and glancing towards my boyfriend. I got a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.
A few minutes later he approached me, looking gleeful. “They’ll deliver it next week.”
“You bought it?” I asked, in disbelief.
He nodded, puffing out his chest. “Get ready to be bedded, wench!”
I gave him a dead-eyed gaze and he laughed, pinching my side. “Come on, let’s go get a beer.”
On the way out of the store, the editor of the underground magazine I worked for called my cell. I talked as we walked, and Randon’s entire manner changed; becoming gruff, as he impatiently waved me along beside him on the street. I hurried to keep up while trying to focus on Ira’s request.
“The Nads?” I asked, wondering where I’d heard of the band before.
“They were on one of our covers about a year ago,” Ira reminded me. “They’re heading out on a tour of Western Canada to support their new indie album.”
I wondered how I was going to find the time for the interview. I’d have to get my shit together in time for a deadline. This was asking a lot. Until that point, I’d been submitting where and when I felt like. Since dating Randon, I’d not even spoken with Ira.
“Thanks Emily, you’ll rock this interview.”
I grinned, excited about the responsibility. Slipping the phone in my pocket I took Randon’s hand, and was aware of the fact that he did not squeeze it back in return. “You okay?” I asked.
He frowned. “You know I just want to spend time with you.”
I told him I knew this.
“When you do that stuff,” he said, waving his hand, “It takes time away from us.”
“It’s my writing.”
“It’s interviewing bands no one has ever heard of.”
I nodded, slowly. “Music journalism.”
He snorted and glanced at me sideways. “You don’t really think that, do you?”
I was hurt. “It’s what I do.”
He muttered something I did not catch, and so I let it go. I said nothing, waiting for him to realize he was being an ass. He opened the door of the pub for me and I stepped through, into the boisterous interior where it was easy to forget about waiting for him to change my life.
Four days later, the band’s practice space fell through and this put us out of a place to conduct the interview. Since they’d just purchased a 24 pack of Pabst, they didn’t want to meet at a bar. I was troubleshooting with Professor Nopants the singer, who sounded already to be three sheets to the wind. “Where are you now?” he asked.
I glanced from the patio to where Randon was putting a puzzle together under a magnifying lamp in his living room. I took a drag of my cigarette. “At my boyfriend’s.”
“Can we come over?” he asked.
There was a chaotic amount of shouting then, in the background, like they were in the middle of executing kegstands.
“I’m not sure,” I said, biting my lip.
“What’s that?” Professor Nopants yelled, into the phone.
I glanced again at the top of Randon’s head, noticing that he was growing a bald spot and wondering if he knew about it.
“Where does he live?” asked the professor, undeterred.
“Hold on,” I told him and placed my cigarette in the ashtray, stepping to the door and holding the phone between my hands. “Ran.”
“Um. I was supposed to do that band interview today.”
“But the interview space fell through and they are wondering if they can come over here?”
Randon looked up from his patchy landscape and furrowed his eyebrows. “Not seriously?”
I nodded, looking hopeful. “I mean, this way I’m not leaving?”
He seemed to be thinking things over. “Who are these guys?”
“They’re great guys. They’re just gonna drink some beer and I’ll ask them some questions and then they’ll go home.”
“They better be gone by three, the bed is being delivered today.”
I nodded. That would give four hours. Surely that was more than enough time to get what I needed for Ira. “254 Granville Street,” I told Professor Nopants, who said he was coming in from Maple Ridge and would be about an hour. I hung up nervously.
I did not tell Randon that the band had a bad reputation. They were a motely troupe of dingbats known for being immature, hellbent, passionate and careless. They broke instruments, had temper tantrums, and generally rode the thin line of socially acceptable obnoxiousness. The lead singer had dreadlocks halfway down his back, and the guitarist, Burger, looked like he’d not quite evolved as far past ape as the rest of the human population. The drummer was shy and quiet, but had tourettes tendencies when he was drunk.
An hour later, Professor Nopants almost broke down the apartment door, as he stumbled inside amidst a plume of beer fumes and stale weed smoke. His dreads and scraggly beard obscuring most of the face around two very bloodshot eyes.
“Professor Nopants this is my boyfriend Randon.”
The professor put his arm around Randon, pulling him into a sort of aggressive headlock. Randon made a face, and tried to turn away from the professor’s armpit. “Sorry, my sweat smells like cat piss,” said the singer, letting him go. “This is a sweet pad.”
“What do play?” asked the guitarist.
Randon looked confused.
I interjected. “He’s a lawyer.”
Burger whistled. “No shit! Emily. Well done. I bet his wiener is an outie, not an innie.”
“Burger’s is an innie,” explained the professor.
“That’s bullshit,” said Burger. “My wiener is so big I draw abs on it at parties.”
“That’s true,” said the drummer, who was followed in by a girl with electric blue hair.
I ushered them out onto the patio. “I’ll just get my recorder,” I told them, passing out makeshift ashtrays as they immediately began to shotgun their beers, smashing holes in the cans with their house keys. I wondered, briefly, if this was a good idea.
“Oopsie, dropped one!” cried the drummer, dropping a crushed and empty can over the railing deliberately.
Randon watched Burger trying to make a hole in a full can. “The hole is too big,” he said, watching beer spilling out onto his patio.
“You got beer on my socks, dude!” yelled Burger.
“Our training sessions for this interview have accomplished nothing!” replied the professor.
Randon left the room and came back moments later with a tarp, which he began laying out on the ground at the musician’s feet.
The professor burped and then noted, “The hospitality here is on point.”
I focused on getting the interview together, rooting through my overnight bag for my notepad, where I’d jotted down a handful of questions that I’d put together after listening to their discordant album.
My apprehension began to turn into butterflies as the adrenaline of work took over. I had interviewed dozens of bands at this point, and my favourite part was asking questions that had never been asked of musicians before. I’d learned how to do this by trial and error. I was always able to tell when I had fallen into cliché because the band’s answers would have a glazed element to them; a sort of rehashed reporting – like an answer cobbled together lazily from the leftovers of answers they’d given a 100 times before. I could tell the difference between genuine interest and thoughtless repetition and so I worked at extracting the candid elements of their lives to report on; the deeper level stuff that they had to think about before explaining. This didn’t always work out so well if they, or I, had been drinking heavily.
“Ira said you interviewed Alice Cooper, is that true?”
I nodded. “I still don’t know how it happened. I did the interview in Ira’s car, during a break from work,” I said, glancing at Randon. I hadn’t actually been on break. I just ran out of the office. Ira and I drove around the block and parked illegally in a car park while I used his cell to talk to Alice Cooper, in the back of his jeep.
“That’s rad,” said the drummer. “Dude is an epic legend.”
“He was so cool,” I told them, excited to share the story. Very carefully, with a wink to my boyfriend who was watching us from the living room, I closed the patio door. Several beers later, with the patio littered and cigarette buts overflowing out of the ashtray and fluttering to the sidewalk below like dirty leaves, we were all drunk and I’d lost complete track of time.
“I’m going to be a lawyer when I grow up, fuck yeah!” yelled the drummer, before making a series of disgusting noises and spitting a wad of phlegm out over the patio railing.
“I need another beer,” said the professor.
The girl with blue hair piped up to say, “But then you’ll need to pee.”
The professor kicked the ground, “That’s why we have this tarp.”
“I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t pee on it,” I said, giggling at the idea. I chugged the rest of my beer to keep from worrying that they were overstaying their welcome. I tried to focus on the rest of my questions, that were blurring together on the beer soaked page in my lap.
“So, why do you guys live all the way out in Maple Ridge?”
“I don’t,” said Burger. “Nopants and Skiff do.”
“When I walk down the street in Maple Ridge, I’m not scared.”
“Everyone else probably is,” I replied, which got a laugh from the group.
“We have a garden,” said the drummer in a moment of clarity. “A beautiful vegetable garden.”
“Yeah, Toothless Jake, from a band I’m not going to mention, has these idiot kids who came over and were like, ‘check out the garden!’ and they had our newly sprouted seeds in their hands!”
I excused myself and stepped through the door into the living room. I almost lost my balance and started giggling again as I stumbled into the bathroom. There was a series of noises and commotion.
When I re-entered the hallway, I found Randon holding open the door of his apartment, letting in two men with blue uniforms and stacks of cardboard boxes. It was all very awkward. I was drunk, and there was a handful of jean-vested buffoons dropping beer cans off the patio. Then there was my boyfriend, in a white turtleneck, directing the delivery of our canopy bed like some kind of Shakespearean hero.
Pieces of the bed frame were deposited in stacks on the bedroom floor. Randon busied himself by pulling apart cardboard, and kicking clothes out of the way.
“I’ll help you,” I told him.
“You’re busy,” he said, not looking up. “Don’t bother.”
“Are you mad?”
He didn’t say anything. I considered his feelings, how odd and insecure he must feel with a girlfriend who preferred to get drunk with strangers than spend time with him. I saw it all, and while I could not bring myself to blame my own selfishness on him, I saw through his macho anger to the heart of the matter. I was inaccessible, and difficult to control, and that made me an impossible match. But I couldn’t apologize for wanting to live in the moment, for wanting to have fun, be young, and interview The Nads.
And even while he was just putting the pieces together I already hated that canopy bed. It was a fake monument – a testament to a relationship that existed only in idealism. I wasn’t what Randon was looking for, and in that instant I knew it and I knew he knew it. But we said nothing, and I left him in his room as I stepped back out onto the patio to a chorus of cheers.