The Loser She Dumped, and Good Riddance
“Did you hear Evan was in the hospital.”
I wondered if my memory was getting worse by the second.
Then she told me Evan’s full name. For a few years, everyone we knew assumed they’d just get married one day. A week later, they’d come back from one of their trips, and she’d show us a ring.
I haven’t talked to him in ages. If he was in the hospital, I’m not on the call list.
“He was in the ICU for a week. He’s out of danger now. He had some kind of infection. Not that.” That being the other word for COVID-19. “He wanted to know about a song from like twenty years ago. He sent me…”
I waited while she played with her phone.
“‘Hey, Stranger. Remember that song you played all the time? I can hear it but I can’t think of the words. The cover was…’”
She was fascinated by his attempt to describe a song he didn’t know a thing about. Since she and Evan were a thing, she’d gone through a string of guys, each one better than the one before, each one screwing around behind her back until they worked it out. A week or three after they worked everything out, they were gone for good. Except for the occassional date.
What’s he doing these days? Besides recovering.
“You never liked him.”
“He’s on some kind of social security. He got hurt on the job, and he’s got…”
He still playing out?
“He does open mic nights around.”
She was mad.
“I’m going to see him next weekend.”
I wasn’t in the mood to get into this again. We were close years ago, didn’t speak for years, and then became one of those horrible pairs–we knew we were friends who just got more friendly when we weren’t seeing anyone, but everyone else thought we were a couple.
She stopped by a week later. We’re the kind of friends who talk about everything, including politics (she thinks I’m evil). As soon as she started giving the work update I said, How’d it go with Evan?
She cackled instead of laughing. I like her cackle.
“I didn’t go. We talked a couple of times on the phone.”
“I just got to thinking. He’s missing something.”
What do you mean?
“He missed out. He missed everything. He’s still like a high school kid, so energetic, always talking about his playing out, and albums he’s heard. But there’s something missing in there.”
She came over to talk about Evan, but once she heard herself and saw my reaction, she wanted to forget the whole thing happened.
A couple of weeks later we hung out. Very late. She drank a lot and kind of smiled when I thought I was being funny. We had a movie playing but we weren’t paying attention.
“Evan’s one of those guys…” She sat on the couch, playing with her long hair, beer in hand, looking at nothing. “He was so cute. And the music. I’ve seen people who are so into baseball, sports. He’s that way about music. He knows every song, he can talk about music, and you just want to listen to him, and watch him be all fired up about a single some guy put out in the sixties, and this awesome album from the seventies that didn’t sell. And then he’d put it on, and he was right, it’s a great record.”
That’s why he always had a girl.
“You could listen to him talking, and playing–I mean putting something on.”
But he plays. Guy wasn’t working, he’d have a guitar in his hands.
“And he was a boring player. Back then, I went to, must’ve been a hundred times seeing him in this band that’s gonna be big, they already planned what they’d do when they toured. Or open mic nights. It felt like I’d never get out of the Middle East or some other shithole.”
You said he still plays out?
“He can’t be honest with himself about how good he isn’t. How bad he is.”
He’s been playing all these years, and he didn’t get to be any good?
“He’s had nothing but shitty jobs. Lives with his mom now. And he’s still thinking he’ll somehow make something happen. He’ll sell some of these discs he burns and puts out on a tray at these open mic nights, but no one buys them. I know they don’t. I went to see him that night, and on the way in I saw a box of these CDs of his. I remembered a couple of them from before. He’s a fucking loser, and he keeps playing, and no one cares. It was a good idea we didn’t get married back then, you know?”
We’re the kind of friends who promise they’ll always be honest with each other. We make those promises so we can fool ourselves into believing a lie when we really need it.
It’s just as well, then.
She nodded, and wiped her eyes, and opened another beer.