September 1, 2014 by The Citron Review
by Michael Nagel
It’s pint night at the Filmore and I am meeting Ezekiel and Tamar for drinks. On pint night all beers are three dollars, including Velvet Hammer, Guinness and Maritzu 8, which is normally seven dollars and fifty cents. It’s been months since I’ve been to pint night. I’ve been taking night classes, finishing a bachelor degree in literature. Last week, after nine years of college, I finally graduated.
The Filmore is dark when I walk in. The Filmore is always dark, even in the middle of the day. Ezekiel and Tamar have a table in the back and they wave me over. They introduce me to their friend Matt, who they say is a writer. I shake Matt’s hand and he slides out of the booth so that I can slide in. He says they’ve already been here awhile and he’s about to leave. The waitress comes by and I order a Velvet Hammer, which is practically the only beer I drink anymore, partly because I like how it tastes and partly because it has double the alcohol content of a normal beer. A Phoenix song comes on the hi-fi, a song from their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which I sometimes worry will be the last great album they make.
I ask Matt what he writes and he says he writes everything. Poetry, plays, young adult novels, you name it. He’s currently working on a non-fiction book of love stories that he thinks is finally going to get him published. He says his agent believes in him, and I think, Agent? Matt is wearing a corduroy blazer, just like a writer would wear, and I decide that I hate him.
You’ve never been published? I say.
Well, he says. My poetry. And my plays.
Ah, I say. Your plays.
My beer comes and I chug half of it down. The Filmore is getting busy now, and loud. We have to shout. Matt is thanking Ezekiel and Tamar for meeting with him and they are telling him don’t worry about it, he’s welcome. No really, he says, thank you. Ezekiel and Tamar smile. I wonder what the big deal is but I don’t ask. I look down at the tattoo on my forearm, three chevrons pointing away from me. I rub them with my thumb. They’re raised and a little bit sensitive. I got them last week to commemorate the end of school. I spent nine years getting my degree and now I can’t remember why. Matt goes to the bathroom and when he comes back he shakes our hands and leaves.
I flick Tamar’s empty glass and say, Long island? No, she says, Franconia.
A group of guys sits down at the table next to us and they all have different accents. Australian, English, French, American. I say it’s like we’re in a real English pub, but then I think it’s more like we’re in the international terminal of the DFW airport. Tamar tries to imitate the French guy. She says she needs to work on her accents.
So, Ezekiel says, How’s life for the graduate?
I say life is good but I’m coming unglued.
Ezekiel lifts his glass and says, To coming unglued, and we all take a drink.
I’m telling you man, Ezekiel says, there’s nothing wrong with coming unglued.
I shrug. How are things at your parents’? I say. Ezekiel and Tamar laugh.
A few months ago Ezekiel and Tamar broke the lease on their rental house and moved in with Ezekiel’s parents. It was only supposed to be for a few weeks but now it’s looking like it’s going to be longer. Tamar is an actress. Ezekiel is a musician.
My parent’s don’t understand our lifestyle, Ezekiel says.
I laugh but sometimes I don’t understand their lifestyle either. Even though we’re the generation that has been raised to follow our dreams, it’s still surprising when somebody actually does.
Another Phoenix song comes on the hi-fi. I wonder if they’re playing this album straight through. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix came out when I was twenty-two and I’d just gotten my first job at a marketing agency. I’d never wanted anything so bad in my life. Now I’ve worked in marketing agencies for four years and all I want is to get out. I thought that finishing my degree would help but now I know that it won’t. I’ve been thinking about working at a bookstore, or maybe a homeless shelter.
Tamar points to my tattoo and asks if I’m happy with it. She’s thinking about getting one too. I ask what she’s thinking about getting and she says a semi-colon on her left wrist and an ampersand on her right. I ask what it means and she says it means that life goes on. She asks what mine means and I say I haven’t decided yet but I think it might be a reminder to be generous.
When the waitress comes by I order another Velvet Hammer and tell her congratulations. I heard she finished her master’s degree. I say, Does this mean you’re leaving the Filmore? She says, I wish. She got her masters degree but she still has two semesters of internships before she can apply for her social work license. She’ll be at the Filmore at least another year. I say I never realized how hard it was to help people for a living. She says, Try impossible. The waitress points at Ezekiel and Tamar and they both order another beer.
It’s so funny, Tamar says after the waitress leaves, how everybody is doing something.
Our drinks come and we don’t talk for a while. The bar gets louder until it sounds like white noise, which also sounds like silence. A woman is going table to table giving people hugs. She looks like she’s forty years old. She’s wearing a dress without any straps. She is exactly in between being attractive and being unattractive. From across the bar I can see the freckles on her shoulders. And then she’s standing at our booth with her fingers on our table and she’s telling us that she’s moving to California tomorrow and she’s asking people for hugs.
Can I get a hug? She says.
And then I am hugging her and she smells like Champagne. My hand is on her back and her skin is a little bit sticky.
Go kill it in California, I say. Make us all proud.
I’ll try, she says.
I hug her like I’ve known her for a long time.
It’s 10pm when we leave the Filmore. We’re all a little bit sloshed. I’m walking toward my apartment when Ezekiel calls out to me. Michael, he says. I stop in the middle of the street.
There’s nothing wrong with coming unglued, he says.
I say I’ll try to keep that in mind.
He says, Everyone comes unglued once in their life.
I nod and put my hands in my pockets. It’s getting cold. From out here all the sounds inside the Filmore are muffled, like they’re coming from a couple blocks away. The streetlights are orange and yellow. I walk back to my apartment in zig zag lines.
Michael Nagel is an advertising copywriter. His essays have been published by The Awl, Apt, Curbside Splendor, The Bygone Bureau and elsewhere around the Internet. He and his wife live in Dallas, Texas.