I’m outside after the show. Some kids scatter down the sidewalks of the old lower basin, where all the warehouses sit like tombstones. Cigarettes, mohawks, we’ve played the old shoe factory before, and I love it because of the sound, but the river smells like week old fish sticks.
“Hey,” Zach calls out, opening the back door. He sets Holli’s bass in the backseat. “You going to help or what?”
“I am helping.”
“Oh yeah, silly me. I didn’t see those two mic cords.”
Drummers. I come around and open the back tailgate to my grandmother’s Buick Roadmaster Estate station wagon. Hey, say what you want, but it’s the perfect roadie car for a band.
Zach opens the back, starts loading his kit. “You gotta let it go, man.”
I give him a shrug. “It’s gone.”
“Like hell it is. Either tell Holli how you feel or get over it. This in between shit has got to end.”
I roll another mic cord. Zach sets his cymbal in with practiced delicacy. He treats his set like fine china, when he isn’t beating the hell out of it.
“Hey,” he says, changing up his tone. “Look, some friends and I,” he nods over his shoulders. “We’re going to hit up a party over in Boonsboro.”
“I’m kind of tired.”
“Myles. It’s like eleven o’clock, Friday.”
And Holli and her d-bag boyfriend come waltzing up the sidewalk. They look like a couple—probably because they are a couple. I roll the cord tighter as Holli breaks away from him. “Okay losers, practice tomorrow, right?”
I find something to do in the back of the wagon. “Dude, you’re a beast on those drums.”
“Ah, thanks.” I hear Zach and d-bag slap hands. They go on about the show and how awesome we were. How much we rock. We’re bound for greatness. Blah. Blah. Blah.
While this lovefest goes on, Holli stands behind me. Waiting. But I’m not about to turn and look at her, to see her post show glow, the messy frizz of hair, the pouty lips. Lips I actually kissed one hundred days ago.
“Myles, you lost in there?”
“Huh,” I say, wishing I were, wishing this was a portal to another world. Instead I’m left pretending to organize drums already organized impeccably. Instead, I knock them together.
“Dude.” Zach shoves me out of the way.
I’m yanked from drum duty, and stand facing them. Them. Holli’s eyes roaming over me, asking questions. D-bag boyfriend, his confidence flexing, his right arm draping itself over his prize. More ownership than affection.
“Great show, my man.”
D-Bag tips back his chin and laughs. He always laughs that way, maybe so he can look down his nose at people. It’s annoying. “This family truckster cracks me up.”
Holli smacks him, kind of viciously. “Do not, make fun of Barbara.”
For a second he’s taken aback. But shouldn’t he know not to make fun of his girlfriend’s favorite car? The car she named Barbara? Holli grins at me. I wonder if this was weird for her. It doesn’t seem so much. Then again, nothing is weird or difficult for Holli Tomas. She’s invincible.
She nods at me. “So, you guys headed out?”
“No, I’m sort of tired.”
D-bag–fine, his name is Derek–scoffs. “What, you need to get home to your Mommy?”
Holli’s eyes shoot daggers. But it’s fine. I never want to be tight enough with Derek to where he knows about my mom. Instead, I turn away, look off to the distance at the brake lights, the groups of stragglers hanging out. I always hope we left them with a good show in mind. Holly knows it, too. She watches me, silently, until I start to think maybe I was wrong. Maybe some things are hard for her.
Either way, it’s all I can do but bow out. I throw my hand towards the car. “Okay, well. I think that’s it.”
I turn but Holli steps forward. “I think we should—”
I spin around, hopeful. Too hopeful. Holli looks left then right then smiles. “I mean, we should probably work some more on my song tomorrow. Will you help?”
We do make a good team. We write songs like poems, sometimes lying on our stomachs, Holli with a pen between her teeth, her eyes popping wide when we come up with something decent. How she has to belt it out just as soon as we can write it down.
“Yeah, sure.” Then, so I don’t look too desperate. “I mean, it could use some tinkering.”
She doesn’t miss a beat. “Whatever, you know it’s good.”
I’m still laughing when D-Bag scoots in, turns Holli so she’s facing him. “Yeah, it’s good, babe. It’s real good.”
It takes some work to hide my disgust. The guy is lame. He graduated last year and is going to Guilford this fall, about an hour up the road. He talks all the time about pledging a frat. He’s one part Gap, one part poser. He’s all parts cheater and a liar. And even if he wasn’t, he doesn’t have the good sense to appreciate Holli. I do.
And look where that got me.
She starts off, with her perfect little boyfriend. I’m left with Zach, the drums, her bass guitar. The remains of our band.