Suchen und Finden
“I wish more people had been here to hear for themselves what you just said.” Grayson hoped his voice carried to Pretty who was saying dumb things on the couch in the living area of their loft, dead in the middle of Bushwick, Brooklyn.
He flipped an empty cream-colored cardboard box that was not hiding a blue t-shirt into an unimpressive stack of hardcover books, leaving it like the ruins of a toppled column from a forgotten empire. The shirt was close. He could feel it.
Grayson began to lift the torn corner of the futon mattress that passed for his bed but dropped it immediately, feeling like a dope for even thinking the shirt could be under there. He eyed the three clean, folded shirts that posed on the corner of the faded silver record player and grabbed the top one and threw it as hard as he could out the door, hoping it would reach the landing to serve as a reminder that he needed to bring it with him when he left.
He stood on his bed and made weird sounds with his lips, saliva and air mixing in his mouth, a scribble-scratch symphony of impatience. Grayson jumped as high as he could and kicked out his legs, bouncing off the bed and bounding towards the beer can on the floor, landing with his arms out for balance. He grabbed the can of beer and drank from it to applause that wasn’t real. After the alcohol soothed his mind and soul, he took a deep breath and pushed his dark hair out of his eyes and looked around again. It wasn’t that he couldn’t have worn a clean shirt; he just wanted to wear the same blue t-shirt he wore yesterday because it made him feel good. Duh. He just couldn’t remember where the hell he threw it after he ripped it off. At least, that’s what Grayson assumed happened. He didn’t remember getting home last night.
The morning sun crashed through his only window with an obnoxious amount of light, making it painful to stare too long in any one direction. He said fuck it, and was about to check downstairs again but as he was walking out the bedroom door he saw it, the blue shirt, behind an upside-down burgundy milk crate full of vinyl records. Right where he left it.
Grayson slipped the shirt over his head and brought it down his pale, randomly tattooed body before crouching and lifting the can of PBR. He cocked his head to the side and wondered why in the hell his denim jacket had the words “hi motherfuckers” written in big letters on the left sleeve in permanent black marker, when he was certain that no such language had been there before. A confusing fog always throttled him when he had to get out of bed and do anything important, which was annoying because Grayson couldn’t think of one thing that made getting out of bed worth it, and that’s exactly what he had been saying to Pretty before he ran up the stairs to get dressed.
Grayson picked up a tattered gray hoodie and his marked-up jacket and walked out of his room, tripping on gaffer tape and kicking the black roll out the door and down the stairs where he knew he’d just trip on it again. “Like, if I’m not gonna contribute, then what good am I?” he said, coming down the first few steps and pausing to drink some beer.
Pretty was wearing white underwear made for little boys and a black t-shirt long ago imprinted with a yellow smiley face, sitting cross-legged on a beige, cracked and worn leather couch, just down the stairs from his room. The New Yorker was open and face down in her lap where scissors balanced on the binding. She had a lace ribbon in her left hand and was measuring it against a pair of granny panties, trying to wrap it around the waistband and pick up the scissors at the same time. Her black hair, parted in the middle, was full of static and flyaways, unwilling to be tamed. She pushed her bottom lip out, trying to blow her hair off her face, but just tickled her freckled button nose instead.
“Can you hand me these scissors?” Pretty asked, tilting her head to the side and staring at Grayson, who had been staring at her from his perch in the middle of the stairs.
“Can I finish my beer first?”
“Aren’t you coming down here anyway, or you planning on drinking all day on the stairs again just to make another one of your half-baked points?”
“I’m good at drinking on the stairs. And since there are so few things I’m good at, maybe I should stick to the basics,” he said, jumping the last four steps and crashing down as loudly as he could, creaking the floor and kicking up dust. He walked over to her and picked up the scissors, making like he was going to cut her ribbon. Pretty instinctively jerked back.
“I swear,” she said, “I’ll kick you in the balls if you fuck this up right now. Just put them right here—no, right here...look at my fingers—see the one moving? There you go, OK, you can let go now. Jesus. Are you smashed already? It’s eleven,” said Pretty, maneuvering the scissors into place on the beige lace ribbon and cutting it an inch longer than she thought she was going to need, just in case.
“Nope, this is my first beer,” Grayson said, sloshing the lager around in her direction and plopping down on the brown couch opposite her. He grabbed his ratted-out orange Converse from under the glass coffee table, careful not to cut himself on the razor blade lying across the dirty white laces. “Maybe if somebody made coffee this morning, I’d be drinking that instead.”
“I know you’re not talking to me,” she said, pointing her scissors at the coffee mug on the coffee table with the coffee in it. “There’s practically a full pot over there.”
“Swing and a miss,” he whispered, craning his neck to look towards the stove, fridge, and sink at the far wall. “I haven’t made it to the kitchen yet. I found a PBR in the back pocket of my jeans, right next to my bed, so I figured fuck it. It’s kinda still cold.”
Pretty tuned him out, folding a piece of cotton lining against her chest, the scissors in her mouth and hair in her eyes. The left side of the fabric refused to line up with the right and it was pissing her the fuck off. She held it up to the window, trying to get a better angle in the sun but light wasn’t going to solve her problem, so she dropped the material to her lap and sat back into the couch and sighed.
“Is that your pack or mine?” he asked, pointing to the cigarettes next to her coffee mug and cell phone.
“Not mine,” said Pretty, tucking her hair behind her ears. “You have people over last night?”
“Um...good question. Hell if I know,” Grayson said, reaching for the pack and popping a cigarette into his mouth. “You got a light?”
“So. Annoying.” She threw her lighter across the room and he caught it in one hand, lit his cigarette and blew into the sunrays, where dust and smoke became one.
He flipped the lighter onto the seat next to Pretty where it bounced off the cushion and into her sewing kit, rattling around on pins and needles. “You’re such a tool,” she said, reaching for the pack of cigarettes and fishing out her lighter. “I’m taking one of these.”
“How’s your wedding dress coming?” Grayson asked, snorting.
“Did you just snort?” Pretty asked, laughing at his face, smoke slowly trailing from her nostrils. “Isn’t it sad that you have to laugh at your own jokes since no one thinks you’re funny? What’s that like, being an unfunny person? Do you cry at night? Like right after you get done loudly jerking off, is that when you cry yourself to sleep?”
“OK, that’s not funny,” said Grayson, “I do not loudly jerk off and can you please stop saying that’s a thing I do?”
“Don’t you feel better now? You’ve had your morning beer and your morning cigarette and have literally come up with two things you’re good at: drinking on the stairs and lying about jerking off.”
Grayson held up his hands in surrender. “You win. I won’t call it a wedding dress any more.”
“It’s called a romper,” she said, pulling on her cigarette. She raised her eyebrows at him. “Do you want to say it with me?”
“Rommmperrrr...” they said together, off pitch and out of sync.
Grayson drank some beer and they sat across from each other in the silence of Saturday morning, smoking, until he remembered the point. “See, I don’t think I can have this conversation with you. You’re the only person I know who is doing anything successful.”
“I sell handsewn rompers on the corner of Bedford and North 6th, and only when it’s sunny out. Aren’t you setting the bar a little low this morning?”
“I don’t know. I woke up having a mid-life crisis.”
“Yeah, but I feel like I’m running out of time even, to like, figure it out. What? Am I still gonna DJ late-night happy hour when I’m thirty?” asked Grayson, pretending to hold headphones between his shoulder and ear, scratching at air.
“Stop being a weirdo. You hit your head at the bar or something?” she asked, as she took her pincushion that looked like a baby duck out of her sewing kit and strapped it to...