She doesn't meet my gaze and instead of the spinach bread in front of her, she's chewing on the inside of her mouth. I want to cry for her. But she's done enough crying for the both of us. I haven't witnessed this season of hysterics yet, but I've seen Mia in similar situations before. She's livid. And her anger manifests in tears. But like I said, she's trying not to unravel in front of me. And she's doing a pretty decent job.
According to Mia, the guy she's been talking to is "a jizz hampster." I tell her that sounds adorbs. She doesn't think so. "I mean, how do you share your most intimate secrets with someone and then fuck them without a condom and then bail?" she begs. I reach into my boot and pull out a pack of cigarettes. I light one, lean back in my chair and say, "You're asking me how someone could do that, or how a man who lives in North Louisiana who's still in a three-year relationship with his live-in girlfriend and who you met on Insta could do that?" "Don't be a faggot to me right now," she whines with the onset of tears. "I really liked him and I didn't want any of this to happen." She's unraveling.
Around us on the patio of Artmosphere, couples are passing for psyched or cozy or both. It's nighttime and a nearby outdoor heating lamp is casting a warm glow on a pair of cooing, heterosexual hipsters, bundled together on a wicker love seat. "They're the faggots," I say, nodding in their direction. Mia doesn't look up from her glass. "I'm sorry," I say. "He's an asshole. All men, including me, are assholes. It sounds like he's very unhappy and he used to you fill a void he'll never be able to fill on his own. None of this is your fault. He sought you out." She looks down and squeezes her eyelids shut, pushing out the tears that have been waiting at the ready – one rolls down from each of her eyes. "When will I be old enough to know better?" she asks, her eyes still closed. "I'm so disappointed in myself. And you want to know the worst part? When I didn't hear from him three days after he left, I wrote him a message on Facebook." My jaw drops. "No you DID NOT!" I scream. "What did you say?!" She wipes her cheeks and pulls out her phone, scrolling and tapping before flipping the screen towards me.
"That was brave of you," I say, still shocked. She's humiliated. "He read it immediately after I sent it, see?" She points to the read receipt that confirms this. "I hope he gets dick cancer," I say. "RIGHT?!" she screeches. There's a few beats of silence before a boy in a Merlot-colored button-down and thick, black-framed glasses walks past us and strides onto the stage, which is situated in the corner of the patio and illuminated by lights filtered through pink and blue gels. He says something I don't fully understand. "Something, something, Janky Karaoke, something, something, next up is Woody." A round of very muted applause welcomes a small man with slicked-back dirty blond hair to the stage. He saunters up to the mic and wraps his fingers around it. He looks like he's squinting and he's swaying on the spot. "That guy is fucking hammered," Mia says. I nod. Just then, the roll-down projector screen flicks on. On the yellow field, the song title and artist appear: "Let It Die" by Feist. Woody straightens up when the soft organ music that opens the song begins. Mia and I hold our collective breathe because we love this song, and this guy's about to skull fuck it. Then, Woody starts singing.
"Let it die,
And get out of my mind.
We don't see eye to eye,
Or hear ear to ear..."
All the hipsters have stopped talking and now they're staring at Woody in silence. His voice sounds like it's been sanded and stained. He croons around peaks and dips into deep wells inside of him. He's begging, and I'm buying it. But the irony of Woody's performance isn't lost on me. I turn to Mia and she's looking back at me, too. I ask her to come closer. She leans in, and I put my mouth close to her ear. "The guy from North Louisiana is clearly fucked up and down. Don't let him make you a meaner cunt than you already are," I say. "Hate him, pity him, and then forgive him."
Just then, I feel a hand on my shoulder. It's John. He sits next to me and asks me how long I've been waiting here. I tell him long enough to see Woody burn the house down. "Who's Woody?" he asks. I point to the guy on the stage who's still holding the attention of the entire Artmosphere crowd. John nods and takes a sip of his High Life, then he looks at me from across the table and asks if I was just talking to myself. I look at him like he's crazy. "No. Just working something out," I say. "Why are you drinking wine?" he asks. I look down and realize I am drinking wine. I take a few seconds to think. "It's been a weird day, bruh," I reply. That's good enough for him.
All of a sudden, Woody unbuttons his shorts and lets them drop around his ankles. The black girl behind us drops her glass to the floor and yelps. He squeezes his crotch and sings the last verse of "Let It Die" to a room of standing, hysterical hipsters. Then John looks at me and says, "Looks like it's gonna be a weird night, too. You wanna sing a Tracy Chapman song together?" And then we do.