Do You Need This Adverb?
This short was written for the Original Fiction Ficathon over at Livejournal, where my prompt was Challenge 22. A complete outline of the challenge is at the end of this story. It's complete and will not be added to. I hope you all enjoy this story, thanks for checking in!
Have you guys ever had a night where you were really getting into the swing of some paperwork, and then realise you were missing a crucial piece of paper? Then you put your pen down to look for the paper, finally find the paper after ten minutes or so, and then realise you lost the pen? Or a night where the internet is so slow, and you wait eons for something to load, and right when it loads, you accidentally close the browser? Or a night when you're about to go on a date you've been looking forward to for a long time, and as you head out the door you realise you forgot to fill up the gas in your car?
Well, that night happens to me – in one form or another – on a regular basis. And I'm going to tell you about one of these nights in particular.
I'll tell you right now, not gonna lie, this is some Chasing Amy shit right here. It's probably not as funny, and no one in it writes comics (but we do work in publishing; copywriting is very lucrative business these days, what with the death of print media and all…), and the only thing really in common with the film is that I'm chasing a lesbian (an actual lesbian, not a bisexual who secretly had a threesome back in the day, and I'm not so averse to that idea anyway), but whatever. People like to categorise, and if I didn't do it for you right now, you would've been reading this thinking, "Wow, this is some Chasing Amy shit right here," and gone off on some plagiarism spiel, so fuck you, I said it first.
We should probably return to more… conventional grounds, in which I (summarily) tell you all about who I am, what my life is about, and how I got into this mess. 'Mess' classification: optional. It just makes more of a story if I make it sound like I'm a dreck who suddenly found himself in this heck of a situation.
I am the Holden of this story. I am a copywriter and lots of other things for a fairly large publication company, of which you would have heard, if we'd met before and if I'd told you. The Banky to my Holden is the production director of the same company, which basically means that he makes things look pretty. And other more complicated responsibilities.
The Alyssa of this story is not named Alyssa; her name is Penny. She was named after the Beatles song and given her mother's maiden name to make it even more obvious. Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes beneath the blue suburban skies and all that – as much as you can call New York a suburb, anyway. We met courtesy of Banky who had a conference of sorts out-of-state in a hotel with inadequate heating relative to the weather, resulting in everyone wearing their coats indoors and outdoors (but that's irrelevant), and due to delayed and cancelled flights was late in returning to interview Penny.
According to him, he was falling over himself to get his sodden coat off and she was a day early; according to her, she was falling over herself to get out of the office (which seemed really incompetent to her, after she was there on the right day with the correspondence to prove it, because Banky's secretary was on leave and Human Resources was somewhat unable to help, for some reason or other). Their conversation went something like this:
"Mr Edwards? I have been waiting for over two hours for an interview, and your department has been so disorganised that I cannot in proper conscience even come back at a more convenient time, now. Have a good day."
She walked out the door, nearly bowling me over as I was returning with my lunch. It was like something at first sight, that je ne sais quoi. My coffee spilled all over the floor in the most clichéd manner, and she likened us to two particles colliding in the Large Hadron Collider (with which she has an open relationship on Facebook).
"What, and the coffee's the black hole?" Some of it had spilled onto my (blue) shirt; I scrubbed at it in vain.
"The carpet does look black now," she replied. "I'm so sorry. Let me buy you another one. You really shouldn't be drinking Starbucks, though, it doesn't look like you get paid a lot here."
I feigned indignance. "Thanks! I'll remind you that you were interviewing for a job just now."
Banky, who had by now managed to get himself sorted, returned with a folder in hand. "Miss Lane?"
"Ms," she corrected.
God, she seemed like a bitch. I was very attracted to her.
"Ms Lane," Banky resumed, "I'm very sorry for the mix up before. I'd still like to interview you for the position if you'd like."
She looked at me. I looked at her. No sparks flew. I shrugged and jerked my head slightly in Banky's direction. What could go wrong? You're already here. She stared at me some more (while no sparks continued to fly, but I was still very attracted to her, her and her mousy blonde hair and multiple stud earrings).
"Tell you what," she said finally, "I need to buy…"
"Holden," I supplied.
"I need to buy Holden here a new coffee. When I come back, we'll sit down for the interview, how's that?"
She must be from Chicago. They're all so bulls by the horn in Chicago.
Banky agreed, I went with her to get coffee, which turned into lunch (I'd brought mine, she bought hers). We went to some love-the-Earth coffeeshop, which was actually quite decent.
"Do you think I should take the job?"
"You haven't even interviewed for it yet."
"Well, do you think I'll get it, then?"
"I dunno, I can't read Banky's mind."
She looked – peered, rather – at me. "I think you can," she stated, and sipped her coffee. "You just don't want to."
"You know what I think?"
"I don't know what you think, but you're going to tell me."
"I think you're from Chicago."
She looked impressed. "How do you figure that?"
I attempted a nonchalant shrug. I leaned across the table and whispered confidentially, "I've got the touch." I leaned back in my seat as she rolled her eyes. "Once a girl spills my coffee, I can tell for sure. It's all in the bump."
"Oh, all right then!" she laughed. It was a beautiful sound, all of that clichéd shit about melody and brightness and music. "Does the bump tell you whether I'll get the job?"
I shook my head and raised my arms helplessly. "No way to tell for sure. I think Banky likes girls from Chicago, though. You might be in with a chance."
"Oh, that's a pity, then." I sensed a trap somewhere, but I took the bait anyway.
"I'm from Wisconsin."
"Good burgers, it's pretty much the same. I have every confidence in you."
"Well, aren't you a nice guy."
"Your mother must be so proud."
"She is, actually. I get a card every month."
"A card?" She was smiling now, I could see her trying to fight it. Don't fight the feeling, it's time to unwind… I must have been humming the tune, because she said, "Jesus, you sing that song to girls all the time?"
"Just the ones who can take it."
"Well, I haven't got the urge to get busy, and I just felt that now was the most appropriate moment to let you know that my socks are, in fact, much better than yours." I peeked under the table. They were nothing much – plain white, looked like polyester. I was about to say as much, but she beat me to the punch. "They're thigh-highs. One hundred percent polyester."
I was impressed, not gonna lie. "American Apparel?"
It was her turn to look impressed. "Guilty pleasure?"
"My sister pretty much lives there. No, I lie, she works there. Same thing, really."
My phone vibrated. It was a text from Banky. You're either shagging or madly in love, it read. Make my decision for me, will you? "Banky wants me to know if I'd hire you."
"Handing over the reins, is he?"
I feigned ignorance like that didn't happen all the time. "I'll tell him, 'Why not,' and he'll say the same, and then things happen and you get your very own cubicle, complete with stapler."
"That's it, then?"
"You did buy me a coffee, after all. It's the least I could do."
"Things work very differently at your company," she noted. I couldn't disagree.
We headed back up to the office, contracts were negotiated, papers were signed, all that sort of thing that happens in an office such as ours, and Penny ended up with her very own cubicle, complete with stapler, and I threw in a few paperclips as a welcoming gift.
"Wait til I tell my girlfriend about this," she enthused. "She said I had no chance. Who's the sucker now?"
It was me, apparently, because all up to now I was very sure that Penny was a single heterosexual woman with the hots for me. Or, eventually. You know how these fires can burn slowly.
"Girlfriend?" Banky asked to fill in my astounded silence. Girlfriend. Fuck. The thigh-highs from American Apparel should have tipped me off.
"Yes, she's a musician, playing tonight at Hearth, actually. I'm supposed to meet her after. You two want to come along?" She must have been completely oblivious, or completely aware, and having a fucking good laugh at my expense.
I was more attracted to her than ever. "Yes," I said, like a fucking idiot. Masochist, I believe the word is.
So here we are now, sitting in some fucking den of a club – it can't really be called that, can it, it's a bar with typewriters on the wall and large mirrors all over the place, and I half expect to see that freaky mannequin from Friends (the one that Phoebe gave to Monica who tried to pawn it to Rachel, that one) popping out of one of them at any moment. There's a wall full of bills, all stuck over the previous one until it's a collage of colourful, peeling shit, and tonight advertises a bunch of musicians who I've never heard of. It's "Feministanza," presumably where women talk in couplets about the power of themselves or something.
The first act comes out with a harmonica and a guitar. Her name is Shane, without a last name, and I feel like this is some terrible joke where everyone who ever watched The L Word thought it would be funny to see what would happen if Shane became Jenny, or vice versa.
(I only know about The L Word because I had to edit two thousand words of copy for the women's month of the magazine. That's all. Bette and Tina forever, that's all I have to say. I could well have done away with that fucking other lady, shit, all of them. And what sort of transgender is Max, anyway? Anyway.)
And so the night drags on. Every lesbian (or lesbian-to-be) has tried, at one point or other, to play the guitar or other instrument that will allow her to channel her (frequently angry) folk tendencies. Unfortunately, Janet Strider, headliner of the bill, has become very good at what she plays (guitar), and does not play folk at all, let alone the angry kind.
Fucking fuck, fuck, fuck. Jesus. She doesn't belong to some "Feministanza" night in a hole in the wall bar. This woman needs to be on American Idol or something, except she's too good for that show. Penny's going crazy cheering for her significant other. I'm going crazy, because I'm clapping too, and what began as a polite gesture has turned into a voluntary reaction after every song. She's good.
Later, Penny introduces us. "This is Holden," she tells Janet. "He's the one who hired me. Or told his boss to hire me. Something like that. He gave me a stapler."
"Stapler doesn't come with staples, eh?" She's a funny one, Janet. Their quirkiness rubs off on one another like lint on a lint roller. See how disingenuous my similes are? This blows. I bet the real Holden never felt like such a loser over Alyssa. Then again, Alyssa wasn't really a lesbian.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not homophobic or sexist or looking for an excuse to denigrate the fairer sex, whether or not they happen to be gay. I'm all for the gays. It just that my luck blows and it would be nice if it blew my dick once in a while too, you know? I hate to say that Janet and Penny Lane look like a cute couple, one that you'd expect Christmas cards from, ones with their yearly family photo with their adopted kids or some shit like that. I want a lesbian to adopt kids with me. Is that so hard to ask?
Apparently so, if you're me.