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The fARM

What Happened?

By Heather Egland

What Happened

It had been a number of years since I'd seen him. Was it five? Couldn't have been six, already. He had liked me, or at least I thought he had, and I had liked him—a lot—only not in that way. I think our friendship faded when he finally made the move and I brushed him off gently, or at least I thought the brush-off was gentle. There was some drunken discussion later on in the evening about how I suspected his friendship with me had ulterior motives all along. He said something that I found inordinately offensive (to this day I can't remember what it was), and I slapped him in the face. That's probably where it ended, really. Every time I saw him after that I thought of that moment and the look of utter shock and hurt on his face and wondered just what kind of person was I, anyway? It was too bad, really, because he was interesting and so much fun to be around. A good talker. Good head on his shoulders, given the crowd he ran with.

Maxine had played me the album he recorded. It had all of the songs he had played way back when. When we were friends and hanging out and all that. I had forgotten all about those songs, but it was really good to hear them and it transported me back in time just like certain smells can do.

"Here's the song that was a hit in Britain," Maxine had told me, adjusting the blown-out speaker on the stereo so it wouldn't crackle too badly. Nice. Upbeat. Catchy. I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Then came the show. His band was the opener. I only caught four songs, three of which were pretty mellow but lacked the equipment to carry it off given the crappy acoustics in the place. Or maybe it was just the mood of the music. Didn't matter. The last song was exactly what I was hoping to hear the whole time. Should've played more stuff like that, I thought.

Maxine was up in the balcony in the section reserved only for the coolest of the cool: friends of the band, girlfriends of the band, members of other bands, whatever. Bunch of knuckleheads sitting up there like they think they're really fucking important. Maxine was cool, everyone else could probably just go to hell and like it. Still, I bet it was nice to have a good view of the show, be able to sit down, have a drink, and not be annoyed by the zealots in the crowd—you know the ones, staggering drunkenly, looking at each other knowingly while chanting the lyrics to their favorite song, every once in a while stopping to say something just loud enough so everyone around them will know the depth of their commitment to the band.

"MAXINE!!!" I shouted when I saw her. I had something to give back to her, and God only knew the next time I would see her. I pushed my way up the stairs to hand off the goods over the police tape that separated the cool from the uncool.

There he was. I stepped over the tape and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and gave me a big smile and then a big hug.

"It's good to see you!" I said.

"Likewise," he said, "Maxine always tells me how you're doing! What's going on?"

"HEY—If you want to go backstage, now's the time. Come with me." It was Maxine.

Sure, I'll hang out for a while, I thought. Don't think I've ever been backstage. Not quite sure what this all entails. "I guess I'll see you down there, then?" I turned to him, but he was already talking away to someone else. No biggie.

Backstage there was a paper cup overflowing with salsa and a half-eaten bag of tortilla chips. No beer. Some spread, I thought. Not how I pictured it at all, but then I really have nothing to go on here, do I? I exchanged pleasantries with some people I liked and some people I didn't. It was always hard with this crowd, being so superficial and shallow. All style, no substance. I wished I had their clothes but couldn't stand a discussion with some drummer's girlfriend for more than five minutes. Sometimes I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes for so long during a conversation that as soon as I left my eyes would just roll independently of my will.

A few of these people were great people all together. Friendly. Would stop you on the street to talk if they saw you. Some of them were great people to chat with one on one but couldn't be counted on in a group situation or to show up to your house for dinner if you invited them. They might not recognize you the next time they saw you, but as soon as they realized it they would gush. Most of them were of the "who-are-you-who-do-you-know-and-what-can-you-do-for-me" variety and wouldn't deign to speak with you unless someone they thought was cool introduced you, then they would merely tolerate you. These were the people who would pretend not to see you if they recognized you anywhere but here, anytime but now. Irritating. Not irritating in a self-esteem sort of way—I mean, anyone who needs validation from these fucks really needs something else entirely psychologically—but irritating in a way-to-take-yourself-too-seriously sort of way.

He used to be one of the few. Or at least I thought he was. Here he was standing before me again, visibly drunk and possibly high on something else. I mentioned how I liked the album. He mentioned how it took so long to actually get it recorded. I mentioned something about his hit song and then he started going on and on about different clubs that he was playing at. I didn't recognize the names of any of them and was feeling very out of touch so I asked him to email me the next time he was playing so I could come see him. "In London?" he said, and then gave me a look of utter stupidity. I felt it. I didn't hear him say anything about London. It was loud in there. Whatever.

Whatever was right, because before I could say anything he was already out the door with someone else. Was that a brush-off? I didn't expect any special treatment, but jeez, was that supposed to be some kind of snub or something? He used to be friendly, or at least I thought he used to be. Had he turned into one of those? A pod person? Or was he just fucked up? He had enjoyed some success and I wouldn't begrudge him that—he was talented, or at least I thought he was. Hey, I had said and done some nasty, caustic, and raucous things when I was fucked up and no one held a grudge against me (or so I thought). I had trained myself hard not to hold grudges—it's just bad for your soul—so I wasn't about to start now over something as petty as this. But in the back of my head I still wonder what the fuck happened.

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Copyright©2001 by Heather Egland.

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