3. Show and Tell


The show starts with a powerful sound, as it always does. The room reeks of sex and violence as the music starts to take hold. The room is bathed in shades of red, yellow, and blue, the shadows accented in their respective shades. I keep working, trying not to get too distracted as the band plays on. Irish stands behind the bar, listening here and there, helping customers when the mood strikes her. As the boss, she can do whatever she wants, and the customers know better than to bother her while she’s listening. I keep working, the other bartender keeping even pace with me. There’s a pair of girls out waiting tables, dancing in place when they’re not hopping around between people. The crowd in front of the stage moves almost as a breathing creature, jumping and screaming as the music intensifies. This is rock and roll.

The show runs for a good two hours before the band breaks down to just guitarists. Jekt and Mason will go back and forth, shot for shot almost, with Lucius chiming in when attention holds him. Red would sing a few songs, nursing a drink in his corner for the most part. Wes was parked on a barstool as soon as he was no longer needed, signaling for Deacon to lend him a smoke. As the time ticks by, the rest of them quit as well, one at a time. As the loud, driven rock music softens, slowly, as the band members drop out one by one. And you’re left with Jekt. And chords so painful that you can feel your heart scream. Jekt plays until his soul is lost in the air, disappearing in the invisible echo of sound. Then it’s done. In its entirety. Over.

I kept filling drinks, thinking to myself as time drifted by. The boys were working on putting things away, unplugging wires and coiling things up. I kept to my work as they broke everything down. It was part of the act, them leaving. The high was slowly wearing down – this was the final act of the evening. Irish was over there with them, helping make sure that everything got done right. She always tried to lend a hand; they never accepted it. She’d sulk back behind the bar, pretending to be hurt and offended. She could care less if they needed her help or not, it was the point that she offered it. I think that she respected them more for refusing. I moved down the bar, where Deacon was sitting alone. I considered asking if she needed anything, but she seemed preoccupied as she counted out film canisters. She was looking into her cigarette pack with a sense of concentration, so I moved in the opposite direction, nodding at Red as he moved to sit next to her. He nodded casually back, more out of politeness than acknowledgment.

I watched the two at the end of the bar, the body language that occurred. How they sat, how she shook her head when he tried to speak, the way he seemed to hold back. I was thinking of moving off when a man caught my attentions. Standing in the middle of the room, his eyes searching. His hair was gray, I’d imagine more from stress than age, though his eyes looked tired and worn out. I followed his gaze to Deacon’s back, locked dead between her shoulders, moving with her as she got off the stool to help the boys pack up. Red remained, looking defeated, tipping his drink back abruptly. The glass came down with a small slam – firm but not hard enough to break it. Irish slid him another without a word, slipping the empty glass off the bar slowly. I looked in her general direction, but she nodded at the guy that was standing stationary. She was indicating that I keep my attention on him, and I did.

He took a step or two, shouting Deacon’s name over the noise of the bar. I looked around at the rest of the customers, frozen. Drinks clenched in hands frozen in mid air, conversations forgotten mid-sentence. All eyes turned to the stranger in the middle of the room, who, I assumed, was Deacon’s father. The place had mostly cleared out, it was just the guys in the band, a few of their fans, Irish, me – but everyone still froze. He took a few steps toward her and words were exchanged. I saw his hand rise up, but Red pulled him back before he could connect with Deacon’s face. I wanted to jump over the bar, drag him out myself, but I turned my eyes to Irish. And she stood, tall and firm, without a word escaping her lips. Her whole body was motionless, barely a breath slipped from her. I watched.

The man got up, Deacon’s hand outstretched to help him. And from the floor almost, he brought a slap so loud that the entire room heard it. Everyone involuntarily jerked as Deacon’s body shook from the blow, her reactions understandable. Her father walked out, as simply as he’d come, without another word. And the room’s attention turned to Deacon, standing there with a hand to her cheek, rubbing her jaw. She looked around at us all, spit blood on the floor, and walked out. She walked at a slower pace, careful not to meet her father outside. She would be going home. She’d tend to her wounds and make due. I looked over at the boys, their eyes locked on her back as she slid out the door, the scraping of her feet the last sound we heard from her. I watched them convene, deciding who should go up and talk to her. Who would check up and make sure she was all right.

If I started home now, I might have heard her door slam as she went through. I would have heard the footsteps behind me as one of the guys crept up to investigate. I would have heard all manner of noises for the remainder of the night, depending on the events that followed. I looked over at Irish, who turned her eyes toward me without moving her body. She shrugged her shoulders, nodding her head towards the door.

“Get out of here,” she whispered. I nodded, without question. Whatever she thought best would happen. Whether she’d talk to the boys or not, I couldn’t be sure. Irish didn’t mind disturbances in the bar. An “incident” would cause talk. And talk would bring the curious forth. And that meant business. She didn’t advertise a calm, quiet place to sit and have a drink. There were warnings everywhere, and all complaints were answered with her pointing at the door. I threw my rag on the bar, nodded to everyone that was left, whoever would notice me, and moved to the back. I grabbed my coat off the hook, slipping it on as I made my way out the door. As I turned to look back, I could see Jekt making his way out behind me. He didn’t have his gear with him. And I knew that my estimations were all accurate.

I went home, as I was told to do. I didn’t have anything else to do, lacking friends; there was no social life to be had. I walked home slowly, taking my time. I kept my head down, my hands buried deep in my pockets. I could hear Jekt’s steps behind me, even and confident. He’d tame the wild beast and we’d all survive another day. The world would sing his praise. It was all part of a great plan, the larger scheme of things. I kept going, knowing that I played no part in the larger scheme – I barely played a part in the smaller scheme. I kept going, thinking vague thoughts along the way, trying to come up with a new project, anything, to keep myself occupied. Nothing came to mind, just this moment, the afterglow of the rock show, the concept of tomorrow as another dreary day. Nothing despite the usual. So I went home, trudging up the stairs in my usual sullen manner. I stopped outside my door, fumbling in my pockets for the keys. I had them in hand then again I’d had them in hand the entire time. But I wanted to see how things worked, how Jekt got through the door. I stood there, trying to look visibly worried. He came sauntering up the stairs, taking his time, a careless look on his face.

There are unwritten rules when it comes to strangers. When guys pass each other in hallways, small talk is strictly prohibited. Anything more than a head nod or a single word, single syllable greeting can be taken out of context. Or considered annoying. Or considered any of a thousand things. The rules are the same for guys who know each other’s names but aren’t friends. The rules are the same in some cases for male friends. When it comes to females, or gay men, or gay women, the rules change, flip, and get blurry. Either way, in this situation, I was only allowed a head nod, which I gave, and he returned. All part of social etiquette. All that thought for something so simple.

He knocked on the door, a good two even raps, nothing extravagant. The door opened wide almost thirty seconds later. I looked over, glimpsing her hand as it reached out and gripped the material of his shirt, pulling him in. I could see the clench of the fingers on the hand that had moved so gracefully over the camera earlier. That would be all I’d be seeing of Deacon for the remainder of the evening. Times like now are when it is inappropriate to take a step over for a neighborly hello. Completely inappropriate. The door slams and I clench my fist around my keys so hard that the teeth of each key dig into my palm. I pull them out of my pocket and open my door abruptly, trying not to slam mine. I’m not angry – at least, I have no reason to be. I decide that slamming the door makes it seem like I’m upset. I don’t want to appear upset. Then again, who’s watching? And who cares anyway? Nobody but myself.

And so the day concludes, in sleep. The welcome embrace of darkness that we all must surrender to at some point. At that point, with all the meaningless nonsense running through my mind, I took my cue for rest. Perhaps tomorrow would be more eventful. However doubtful, there was always hope. And that was enough to survive on.

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