Where the hell did his gloves go? There was an anathema of things going wrong and things going right. Earlier that day he’d been pulled over for speeding–the third time this week–on account of a wily, suspiciously hard of hearing mechanic who, upon handing our hero a large list of tasks performed or needed to be performed on his truck (brake fluid streamlining? Initial response system upgrade? Flester bolts tightened?) with an exorbitant number at the bottom, seemed a bit too confident exclaiming “She’ll really run now!” and now his speedometer was entirely unpredictable and incorrect, Sean guessing there was maybe some kind of exponential relationship between the wheels and needle with no real way to tell.
“Where did I put my gloves?”
“And that’s why I feel like… you kind of lack direction.”
Certainly not in his pockets, but they couldn’t be far, he just had them.
“You know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I lack direction. Can you help me look for my gloves instead of just walking ahead like there’s no problem here?”
“What’s your five year plan?”
It was below freezing and the sun was out, making the snow even brighter than white. Why did he buy white gloves for the winter?
“Are you listening to me?”
“Yes! Yes, I am! You’re trying to break up with me because I dropped out of college and my hands are cold.”
“I am not breaking up with you. Is that what you think?” He was walking away now, tracing his steps. He was trying to remember if and when he took his hands out of his pockets or put them in or if he grabbed something from his pockets or not but these things are quickly forgotten, like he never did them. “Why do you have to make everything into a problem?”
“I was kidding, Sarah! Fuck.” She stood there sad while he walked away. He was very confused, about more than his lost gloves certainly and started looking into the trees like maybe he accidentally threw them?
Sean knew Will (he preferred to be called William, but no one did, mostly because they thought he was trying to sound smart–he wore non-prescription glasses and this is a 34 year old man) from years ago, they met on the street when Sean asked for a cigarette or “anything else you have” and Will had a cigarette. Will didn’t smoke, though. And neither of them were going anywhere, Will was on his front porch enjoying the sun and crimeless neighborhood he lived in and Sean had been fighting for time off from work and recently received it because he got fired for not flushing and then talking about it, the watery consistency and greenish color, using offensive language to a customer. Sure, it was a customer he knew kind of but that didn’t matter much apparently.
Sean and Will bonded profusely on the porch that day mostly because Will was kind and easy to talk to and too shy to ask this innocent stranger to get off his porch so he could maybe enjoy a few moments of peace before engaging once again in the attritious act of being around his roommates who seemed to always be playing the roles of good roommates which made Will feel ever more like he needed to reciprocate that role. Sean talked a little about himself, but asked a lot of questions too, and Will was kind of delighted to be able to converse without any expectation. So they were both very open, talked a little bit about a certain city they’d both lived in, why they’d left, good places to eat, what they were doing with themselves. And they exchanged numbers because there was going to be an interesting artsy music show nearby which Sean knew about because his ex-girlfriend kept him on this weird art collective of ambiguous membership listserve despite repeated attempts, including a dreaded first phone call after the breakup, to remove him from this list. It was mostly crap he didn’t care about about people hundreds of miles away in Missouri somewhere.
A few days before Sean lost his gloves he was quickly drinking big gulps of wine with Sarah and Noelle and Lucas and Will in the living room of Lucas’s well-kept expensive apartment. Sean didn’t know how Lucas had enough money to pay for all this crap or how he had time to clean (constantly?) and hang up nice pictures.
“But I’m saying that’s not the point. Because in order to even be in office you have to be someone who’s willing to fight to the death.”
“And that’s bad?”
“No, but the way it’s–”
“So don’t even try?”
“No! I’m just saying it’s hard!”
“Of course it is!”
“Yeah, I think politics are important, but I have zero inclination to get involved.”
“Where’s the bathroom?”
“You just want to listen to music all day?”
“By the kitchen.”
“Does Marie still have that CD I gave her?”
“Well, I want to have fun at least.”
“You gave Maria a CD?”
“But it’s not all fun fun fun.”
“Obviously it takes discipline to like… live correctly.”
“Is there any more of this? I like it.”
“Marie, not Maria. I gave Marie a CD.”
“Do people still use CDs?”
Why do otherwise nice apartments always have tiny kitchens? Because the architects assumed only one person will ever be cooking at any given time? Kitchens are where things happen, you don’t need another room. Sean fit as much wine as he could into his mouth. As he brought the bottle from his mouth it revealed a stoic cat sitting serenely on top of Lucas’s fridge. Looking down at him. The bathroom was probably bigger than the kitchen and had a beautiful heavy tight sound-proof door. There was a switch for a fan that sucks and one that blew hot air and Sean turned them both on before finding the one for the light and there were two others he didn’t get to yet. His poop was swift with little worth mentioning. The wine drunk was stirring up some stuff he had been purposefully avoiding dealing with by drinking wine. He wiped to the best of his ability and exiting ran into Sarah and kissed her.
“Did you see the cat?”
“Oh, no.” And then, “Do you want to go soon?”
Okay, so with that goal in mind, a few minutes later Sean abruptly stood up after Will asked a question in a conversation he didn’t really like, that confused him, bottle in hand, and stumbled to the coatrack thing. He felt like Will was leading him along just now, arrogantly but politely trying to get certain answers out of him or criticize him somehow but he was being obscure, like he was using an obsolete form of communication for no reason and then Sean’s keys were absent.
“Whare army keys?”
“Where are my keys?”
“I don’t know.”
Then to the group (third time’s the charm): “Where are my keys?”
Everyone looked at each other. “I have them,” said Will. “You can stay here tonight.” Sean thought Will was making a scene because he let Sean go all the way to the door and grab his coat and address the whole group.
Sarah said “I can drive.”
“I’d like to have you guys over tonight.”
Sean was in Will’s lap rubbing his hair. “Aw, you want to cook us breakfast?!” to instant retaliation. Reaching from the cartoon cloud of dust Will tried to hand Sarah the keys and Sean snatched them but Will held on and they fought and neither was sure how earnestly the other was twisting and punching. “Can we have pancakes!?” And suddenly there was space between them like they were ready to start kung-fuing each other and they laughed out of breath.
“See you later.”
Cassandra was a little bit boring and ugly, but otherwise a really great person to be around and she had an adorable pretentious way of wearing black. They were making a cake for someone Cassandra really cared about and Sean didn’t really but he understood the sentiment and thought baking a cake would be kind of a fun thing to do because he did zero baking in his everyday life.
“Why do you stack your books like that?”
She turned and looked at them like she hadn’t noticed that they were not vertical like most, but horizontal then just piled as high as possible, even though half of them were upside down to read.
“I don’t know,” back to the cake. Sean enjoyed sitting in her bedroom reading whatever book he felt like and would often have five or so books beside him and switch at random because this is what one had to do around boring people, get creative.
“Motorcycles are cool,” he stated having just come across that word.
“Yeah.” She actually absolutely loved motorcycles and wanted one badly, but in order to get a license one had to have a driver’s license first and she didn’t trust herself in a car. To be responsible at all times for the lives of others while in control of a two ton chunk of metal was not something she was jonesing to do. She was too sensitive for that, too kind.
One day Sean left to go start an apprenticeship at a metalsmith’s shop in Vermont so that was the end of that.
A few months in to the relationship of Sean and Sarah, it was a lovely overcast day walking the strip of shops where one could purchase delicious fruits and coffees and pastries and sandwiches and trinkets and clothes and then sit outside and just enjoy them and feel good with whoever you want.
“Do you like these things?” she said.
“Yeah, they’re all right.”
“I don’t know how I feel about them.”
“You don’t have to feel anything about them.”
“It’s not your responsibility to have an opinion about everything… despite social and cultural pressure.”
“Yeah, I know. You don’t think I know that? You think I care about those things?” Here the conversation stopped but Sean felt it was kind of lingering and she was waiting for him to say something to say something back so she was right and maybe make him feel bad for being “preachy” too while we’re at it. Her side itched and she was thinking of how she kind of sounded like her mom who learned in late life that being somewhat drunk all the time was actually pretty cool.
And now that he paid up the ass for his truck to run better (faster in any case) than it was when new he was stuck behind an overcautious driver, presumably far too old to even drive., their senses failing.
“But what do you believe in?”
“Lucas! What kind of question is that?”
“Well, what are your values? What do you care about?”
“Twenty miles per hour is grossly more dangerous than speeding here.” He tried to let it lie, but
“Sean, I want to know… I know you already but I want to hear you put it to words.”
“I’m a white man and things are confusing. There.”
“Oh, come on!”
“You must have some convictions.”
“…everything changes? Is that good enough for you?”
“Because it’s not like I’m some spastic… apathetic irrational thing like afraid to do anything serious. I’m just trying things. And I don’t see the point in putting all this crap to words! It’s hard, it’s convoluted. And words don’t do anything.”
“Words don’t do anything?”
“You know what I mean.”
“The Declaration of Independence.”
“…I want to pass this asshole so bad.”
Will thought of his shoelaces, he needed new ones because on his boots there are pivoting metal hooks for placement of the laces above the holes, only they didn’t really pivot and they cut the lace over time and wore it away. Another thing on the long list that always renewed itself so,
“Oh, can we stop in here?” And they did and when they walked in a man with a fat head and crew cut said “hi” under his breath surrounded by a mountain of cheap cheap products: phone chargers and batteries and thread, you could only see his head behind this stuff 360 degrees around him. Will didn’t enjoy the process of shopping as a pastime, he wanted minimal time in public places as possible, so his eyes entered selective mode which if kept up for more than four minutes made his head hurt like it did in a museum.
“Yeah.” And the guy hit buttons, his hand obscured by products. “You like this job?”
“How old are you?” Who knew why, but he wanted to somehow reach out to this man. Who is that really? What does he like to do? Does he have a family? What’s his shirt say? He felt a need for the little details like Will’s own shoelace situation, to converse totally freely.
“Too old.” And out of politeness Will paid and thanked the man and left.
He sometimes felt like this lifeless thing people made to push around or make do what they wanted, an empty body, and the only thing he could do was try to refute that. Out in Vermont there wasn’t much to do aside from create drama, pour molten metal and do drugs. On a walk one time (drunk) all alone, his feet against dry worm-covered cement he couldn’t stand the brightness of his own reflection because back again back again to this: Everyone he’d known, his memories ceaselessly feeding him and still making more, and cats. If only people were more like cats. But he didn’t want a cat because you have to feed them and that’s expensive and if you move you have to figure out what to do with the thing.
Sean liked Kristin because she was kind and understanding and funny and not too tall like Sarah was. It was warm and damp and the trees looked greener and sagged and there was an unnoticeable fog waiting for them always far off. Sean was somewhat lost in pastoral reverie, his mind bouncing wherever when she said,
They were as wet as they could be, half buried in the mud stomped down for months with some tiny important ecosystem formed on the buried part. “They’re mine. I lost these forever ago…”