I think I started this in November. I'm really getting this done too slowly
The things you just do
The band playing was fairly unknown, but their music was pleasant. It was the sort of dull, atmospheric music that melts around you as soon as you get into conversation, and which you forget about until the lull in conversation brings the music back up and you wonder if the piece playing isn’t exactly the same as when you began talking. The jazzy, off-rhythm music gave the bar its contemporary bohemian atmosphere, admired by the regulars: the ones who wore their sunglasses indoors or carried guitars everywhere they went; and the ones who went in there between college classes to try to fit in with the lifestyle they were living to make their stays in the city more bearable.
The whole bar was not badly lit, because that would imply that the level of light that had wanted to be achieved was not, and the limited, almost pointless lighting was exactly what the person had wanted when he set up the lights. The place was smoky and smelled bad, but it was what people expected when they drank at Woo’s. The low light, the slow rhythmless music and the smell.
Jay looked around him at the people in Woo’s. There were scatters of people, some sitting at the bar, some at the various tables placed randomly around the front stage area so people could have a drink and watch the live performers. Of course, there were hardly any live musicians at Woo’s. They cost too much, were far too much hassle, and no one came to watch them play anyway. Woo had decided a long time ago to let people play if they asked for nothing in return. Although he did often give out free drinks to them.
Jay could recognise most of the people; not that he had ever met or seen any of them before, but because he knew their faces. The same sort of people went into Woo’s, all the time. He knew that. He sketched them all the time. Kept a small diary, more or less. That girl on his left, the one stirring her tall drink with the little plastic stirrer that came with it, looking at the people around her nervously, avoiding their direct glances and taking small sips every couple of minutes. Her hair was cut short, and given streaks the colour of rust. Her eyeliner wasn’t applied very well, as if it was done only as part of the show she put on and no longer part of who she was, and he could see faded scars on her arm, where her long sleeves fell back. He flipped through his small book to the pages he had titled “reverting”, and tried to draw her, before she turned her back on him because of whatever it was that was happening elsewhere that she found more interesting. Jay hated it when people did that. At least give him time to finish an outline of the person.
He scribbled it out.
The band changed songs, but this was unnoticed by most of the bar’s occupants.
There was a group of students in front of him. They looked like they were English History or Fine Art or something like that. No doubt they’re looking in the drinks menu for the absinthe, Jay thought. That’s always what they look for. They’re not going to find it, he continued in his mind, and then one of them is going to order the scotch and soda and pretend to drink it with glee.
Jay laughed inside. It was always the same. Woo’s looked like the sort of place where you’d get all sorts of unique Characters, with the deserving capital, and it was true. They were so unique, desperate for individuality that they ended up copying each other.
There was the Man with the Past in front of him. He was alone. Most of the people at Woo’s drank alone. The Man with the Past was always the one who sat and drank a whiskey or a beer, while glancing around him, as if whatever it was from his Past would come back and bug him while he drank. The Man with the Past’s main characteristic was his inability to trust people and his eventual distancing from society’s norms. It didn’t matter what his Past was. It was his Present that was affected, and that was what he shaped himself as. Jay didn't draw people with Pasts much, mainly because he would get too carried away and end up giving them a scar over his eye, running down his cheek.
There was the Couple. They were boring. It was the sort of shallow relationship start where both party members would show their love by making stupid kissy faces to one another, and talk in a way that would get them shunned out of everything else. Jay’s views on relationships were pretty cynical. It was sort of etched into his character. It was just one of those things he thought: Relationships made people act like idiots. No. It was love. It’s always the love, or rather, Jay corrected himself, the need for love. It wasn’t like Jay was socially awkward – he certainly wouldn’t have thought of himself as it, it’s just that he thought love was one of those things which just didn’t make any sense. He had never fallen in love, but he never really wanted to.
He smiled briefly at them and shifted in his seat to see the other people in the room. He couldn’t see anyone else very well, so he reached for his glass of vodka-Pepsi.
It was empty.
Half price vodka singles on a Monday, Jay reminded himself. I could go for another. He debated this for some time before deciding.
Fuck it, he thought. He stood up, put on his coat, pocketed his sketchbook and pencil, and left the bar.
The air outside of Woo’s was fresh, in an unused midnight kind of way. It was cool, and a small breeze made Jay button up his duffle coat – a piece of clothing he felt he needed to buy at the time, when things were a bit easier but a bit more fake. It was all about duffle coats and speaking to the minorities back then. Now it was just sitting in his garage and drawing. It was that sort of thing that made him think. And he had the whole walk home to think.
The buildings loomed over the little girl, walking slowly through the streets she had walked through a hundred times before. Now it was night time, and there were no adults to watch over her. It was her, and the buildings. There was nothing frightening about the buildings, or the trees, or the moonlight.
But Virginia was frightened. It didn’t seem so bad a few hours ago. Now it was midnight and she had nowhere to go, and nothing to eat. She couldn’t see any supermarkets anywhere nearby. She wished she hadn’t brought so little food with her (although she half-congratulated herself on figuring out the combination on her stepmother’s ridiculously small “savings” safe). Now all she needed was somewhere to sleep where she wouldn’t freeze to death, or be eaten by the monsters that were creeping out of her imagination.
She swore, in the strange way ten-year-olds do when they’re not sure what words mean but they probably have some bad connotations.
Virginia was frightened.
Tuesday came and, and to the best of Jay’s knowledge left. Granted, it didn’t help that Jay had woken up at two o’clock and done as close to nothing as possible without becoming part of a dust bunny.
Now it was half past six and a lot of people were in the supermarket with him. Jay thought, for the millionth time, how much they were like sheep they were all coming here after work with their kids screaming at them to buy them some ridiculous licensed confectionary, but it occurred to Jay that everyone was thinking the exact same thing.
We’re all like sheep.
And Jay was in the supermarket with them, so wasn’t it all a bit hypocritical? Oh well. Besides, he needed some breakfast.
Jay looked at various dairy products they had on offer. Full fat, half fat, Weight Watchers, value, and that stuff that looked like the fanciest product you could buy under the own-brand name. And that was only the Greek-style yoghurt.
Jay picked up the tub that was half price. That was always the best one.
Jay turned away from his hell dimension in the form of the yoghurt selection, and turned to face Joe. He had only met him a few times, mostly at Woo’s. He played in the same band as Alysson.
“We got some friends coming over from up north. Load of old college friends. Playing in the Shed. You comin’ with?”
Jay looked at the man. He had met Joe on a few occasions, mostly in the company of their mutual friend Alysson, who was the singer in the band she and Joe had together. Alysson and Jay had been friends since childhood.
Jay didn’t want to go.
“I ... uh, no.” Jay managed. “I think I’ll have a night in or something. Get working on my new piece or something.”
“Oh come on, it’s barely six o’clock!”
“It’s half past,” Jay’s lame comeback may as well have been towards the yoghurts because Joe now had his face attached to his phone, talking to someone which Jay liked to think didn’t exist. It was always funny when people are just talking to themselves.
He took this moment to leave the aisle, pick up some grapes and leave the shop.
“Probably hasn’t even realised I left,” Jay said to himself. He headed home.
And then he was at the party, and his yoghurt and grapes were long gone, somewhere. Why did Alysson have to appear on his way back home? It was going to be a great night in with yoghurt and a pencil and paper but she insisted and Jay in all the years he had known Alysson could never say no to her. So he grunted instead, and was dragged into the car.
Now he sat on the broken faux-leather seat and pretended not to know anyone at the party. He didn’t like talking there anymore.
Probably left to get some drinks and forgot about the party halfway there, laughed Jay to himself.
The silence of a lot of people talking in every direction but hisown crept in on him, and he felt at home.
Virginia was not. She had stopped crying mainly because she had nothing left to cry. She didn’t know where she was, and was certain she had been walking around the same industrial estate for the last three hours. She had asked two people but none of them knew the way to anywhere and a man even offered to pick her up in his car, but she hadn’t even asked for his help so she had run away. She was starving, and had found a small corner shop some time in the morning and had bought two sandwiches but had eaten them so fast.
She pulled herself together for the fourth time that day.
OK, it’s your second day out here and you’re not dead, she said. You’ll find another place to sleep that doesn’t have rats and wake up tomorrow with a plan.
A plan. She wished she had thought of that before she left. Running away from home is such a spontaneous idea though, that there’s never enough time to plan anything.