Fiona, the groupie
If you have to ask, then that means, yes.
“It doesn’t have to be,” I say, “I don’t have anywhere to be until this afternoon.”
We’d met at a reading I’d organized the night before, called ‘The one who got away.” I’d read a story about impotence, the first week of college, and watching girls you liked turn harlot. Fiona said she’d been moved, which meant she was either lonely, depressed, crazy or all of the above.
We walked to a taco stand and got tacos, which I offered to pay for, but Fiona demurred. “You don’t have to pay to prove you’re a gentleman.”
We sat by the river and ate, in dehydrated silence. Despite not showering or brushing her teeth, she smelled lovely, which is more than I could say for myself.
As we prepared to decouple, she gave me her email address. “Phones are for people in a hurry,” she said. She wasn’t joking, so I didn’t laugh, but she did smile and I smiled back. I’ll never write you.
A few days later, I emailed to invite her to my next reading night, “The one who stuck around,” where I planned to read a story about the girl who gave me crabs.
At the reading, at a tiny little performance space, which had formerly been a smog shop, I was relieved to see her arrive, shortly before I read.
After the reading, several cases of Tecate were brought out. The writers mingled with the audience, who were mostly friends of the writers, or writers themselves. There were just enough attendees to make the reading feel like an actual happening, instead of a support group.
Again, Fiona was drawn to me and again I wound up going home with her.
In the morning, we got green smoothies with extra antioxidants at a chain juice joint in a strip mall.
“Would you ever go out with someone like me?” she asked, sweetly.
“I’d have to think about it,” I said. “I’m not sure I’m ready to join a club that’d have me as a member.”
“Well, I was just asking out of curiosity. There’s no offer on the table.” I couldn’t tell how to take that.
I had to go to work, so she walked me to the bar where I worked 2 shifts a week, commiserating with regulars about wasted college degrees and skeptically eyeing randoms that wandered in during our unhappy hours. I thought about her my whole shift. It’s a small town, I figured. Maybe a groupie for a girlfriend wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe that’s just what I needed.
That night, The Hard Feelings, one of the few rock bands in town, were playing a gig at a different bar. I missed their set, because I was still working, but figured I’d hang out for the post-show. Maybe there’d be some sort of jam session.
I ordered a Tecate and a whiskey, and saddled up next a friend, a writer from my reading series. “How’s it going with your groupie,” He asked.
“Oh, you know, it’s up and down.” I tried to do that thing where you look like you’re trying not to smirk, but you can still see the smirk underneath. It looks cool if you get it right.
“I take it tonight’s a down.” He gestured to Fiona, over in a booth by the stage, necking with the bass player from the Hard Feelings.
At least it gave me an idea for the next night of readings. “The one who wasn’t there.”
Photo by Joseph Gray. Used Under CC License
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