Mix Tape Vol. 2
By B.J. Hollars
Da Art of Storytelling, Part II- Outkast
You broke up with a girl and I broke up with a girl, only you laughed, and I skipped world history and hid backstage and cried. I stayed there for most of the afternoon, missing the drosophila flies of biology. You called me in the middle of eighth period Spanish. “Hola, Señor Skipper, where the hell are you?” “Not feeling so hot. Think it was the fish sandwich.” “Uh huh, never trust the fish sandwich. Listen, meet me in the parking lot after school, cool?” “Okay.” “And also, while I have you, what’s the ‘yo’ form of hacer? Irregular or something?” I said “hago,” and you said, “Damn, man. Where the hell would I be without you?” Later, I met you there, in the parking lot, and you high-fived my hand till it hurt: One high five because you passed your bio quiz, and one because I did too. A high five because you said you “found” ten bucks in Bradley Snyder’s locker. Windows down, you cranked the music in your Tahoe. When I asked where we were headed, you said, “We’re celebrating,” and when I asked why, you said, “For shedding our old skin, homie!” You were the whitest white guy I knew, but that didn’t keep you from rap music or bandanas or the gold chain around your neck. First, we tried celebrating at the liquor store because you said you knew a guy. But you didn’t (or the guy you knew wasn’t there), so we tried KFC instead. You ordered a bucket of extra crispy, and we gnawed on the bones till the napkins stuck to our fingers. “Thank God we bailed on our chicks,” you laughed. “Or ten years from now, we’d be buying the family-sized bucket.”
Big Yellow Taxi- Counting Crows
I joined the swim team because you joined the swim team, and you promised it would be fun. Parts of it were, though not the 4:55 alarm clock buzz or the drive across town in the snow. The roads were ice-lined and empty, yet every morning, our cars converged on the edge of Rudisill Street. You honked a greeting and I gave a wave. We rendezvoused in the locker room. We were, by far, the biggest pussies on the team. This came to our attention quite early. “Water’s as cold as balls,” you whispered.
We stood on the lip of the pool, shivering in goggles and swim caps. We stood, scoping out the chicks just two lanes over, how their asses breached during the butterfly stroke.
Finally, after the coach blew her whistle at us long enough, we mumbled, “Shit, shit, shit!” and jumped in. We jolted through the 200-meter warm-up, but we never really warmed up. Every morning, the natatorium played the same damn song. We couldn’t even tell where the music was coming from, but we could hear it underwater. On the side of the pool, the coach stuck the day’s workout plan:
200 Your Choice
None of the above.
Sometimes when we shared a lane, we shaved off a few hundred meters. Not so many that anyone would notice, just enough so we wouldn’t drown.
Every morning after practice, we’d eat yogurt and granola at Missy Evans’. She was a sophomore, and the whole team met there for breakfast. One morning, I lost you for twenty minutes and sat alone by your half-eaten bowl of granola while the others crammed for the vocab test. When you returned, grinning, you no longer smelled of chlorine. You just reeked of Missy Evans.
* * *
Whose party was it anyway?
You drove, and I wasn’t paying attention, and the door was unlocked, so we entered. It was a mansion, all columns and ivy again. A fox terrier named Bozo the Dog came out to greet and lick our hands. Downstairs, the music thrummed from the basement, but as I reached the stairwell, you called me back to you.
“Reconnaissance,” you said, but what you meant was, “We need to steal some booze!” All those mansions were stocked with liquor cabinets and beer in the fridge, and you just had the nose for it (and the taste for it).
When your hand reached out to a cabinet, it was always the one that you wanted. You pulled a shot glass from your pocket and poured us two shots each. Who knows what we drank exactly. Something brown that always turned warm in our throats.
In the basement, half the grade danced to the music, while the other half stayed home cramming for SATs. We shook a lot of hands that night, and patted a lot of backs. I was cool just being there with you. There, by the big screen TV, I saw my ex-girlfriend for the first time. I asked how she was and she asked how I was, but we talked about swimming mostly. I lied about my times to impress her. “Wanna dance?” I asked, so we did. Not because I wanted to, but because I wanted my body to bump close to hers and remember.
She never said no, and this, you said, was the mark of a good girlfriend. We danced, her thumbs in my belt loops and my hands adventuring out.
I thought you and I’d had a hell of a time, but on the ride home, after you’d taken Betsy Chambers into the storage room beside the Soloflex, you said, “What kind of stunt did you pull in there?” “What kind of stunt?” “All that slow dance bullshit.” “Slow dance?” “You know what you did. And with who.” I felt sort of terrible and the booze was wearing off.
I guess you felt bad that I felt bad, so we pulled off at a gas station and smoked cigarettes near the pumps.
You said you liked the risk.
Fill Me In- Craig David
I was forever passing out in your basement. A week before swim sectionals, and we rented six movies and a video game because your Mom handed us a twenty. That night, we ate all the Snickers ice-cream bars in your freezer.
Your father drank Ice House and Steel Reserve, and you swore that one of those had the power of two. So we drank one each, and then, paranoid that he’d find out, volunteered to burn the garbage for him.
The burn barrel was near your father’s garden, and at midnight, we tossed everything in and lit a match and tried to stay upwind. When nobody looked, we tossed the cans in too. Your father had that cabana beside your pool. And in it, a sauna. While the trash burned, we stripped to underwear, poured water over rocks, and listened to the hiss. Your dad kept a radio there, and we turned it up so we wouldn’t have to talk. It was a good song, I thought, though you thought it sort of girly. In the cabana, beside the 2x4s, we discovered your father’s Playboys. We paged through them, exposing their bodies as our bodies sweated out Icehouse. Each page was pearls and bearskin rugs, and had these girls ever even existed? And then, hours after I’d passed out on the futon in your basement, I woke, and it was suddenly morning. 5:00a.m., and my internal clock said it was time for swim practice, though it was not. Not on Saturday. I wandered your house in the dark, stumbling into your belt-wallpapered bedroom. The John F. Kennedy carpet square still hangs beside your self-portrait. On your floor, a pile of clothes, and I’d seen them all before. I knew which shirts were your favorites and which ones I liked the most. A few gutted tennis racquets beside a 13” inch TV, dog tags from the army surplus store. In your bathroom, your cologne and your deodorant, and I sniffed each and made mental notes to purchase the brands that you used. Moments later, your three-legged dog began scratching at the bathroom door.
“Fine, Buddy, Jesus, just let me just grab your leash.”
At 5:00a.m. Buddy and I went for a walk in your backyard. We watched the burn barrel crackle. Peering down, I noticed our beer cans still glowed orange in the bottom. Your dog took a piss, and then we walked toward the sounds coming from the cabana. Like idiots, we’d left the radio on and the Playboys exposed on the still-warm benches. It was all so careless, so obvious. Like we wanted to get found out.
We didn’t make sectional cut-off times, so you rolled your eyes and made jerk-off motions. Instead, we watched from the stands, and the worst part—paid a five-dollar entrance fee. Missy crushed in the 200 IM and Betsy took second in the 500. The funny thing: Missy held Betsy’s lap cards in the water so Betsy could find her pace. You’d been with both girls, and those girls didn’t know it. I wanted to ask you about it. But you had your earbuds wedged deep in your ears, nodding to the music. The boys did okay and some advanced to the finals. Not many. When the relay took fifth and didn’t move on, I said, “What kind of bullshit was that?”
“Hey, listen to this song,” you said, “it’ll make you feel better, I promise.”
It made me feel a whole lot better, made me hate everyone else in a swim cap.
Afterward, the whole team met at Pizza Hut. Some of those guys were serious as hell, shaving their legs and refusing to eat anything but salad. But you and I, with no upcoming events, ordered a large meat lovers and finished all but one piece. Lou Boiden, our team’s best chance at a state title, was in mid-speech when you said, “Hey, who wants to check out the black light in the Tahoe?”
And even though it was illegal, you never feared the cops. The whole table rose and followed us out to the parking lot. I claimed shotgun beside you. You flicked on the purpled light and blared your new favorite song. Everyone marveled at how cool you were, and by extension, how cool I probably was too.
“So can we get a ride?” asked Missy and Betsy, and you looked at me, your eyebrows raised, like I had all the answers.
Cleaning Out My Closet- Eminem
There was a bonfire out on County Line Road and they told us to bring sticks.
“Sticks?” you asked.
“You know,” they said, “for the fire.”
We didn’t know these people with the fire. A friend of a friend. From another school.
On the way there, we parked at a park and trampled the woods searching for sticks. You kept saying, “Do you think there’s poison ivy here?” and I kept saying, “Do I really look like a botanist?”
Finally, we came across a giant limb and hauled it to the Tahoe. And then, once we pulled into the empty lot where the bonfire burned, we showed our generosity in kindling.
It took both of us to pull the thing through the yard, and when we laid it beside the flames, no one even bothered to notice.
“We brought the biggest damn stick off all,” you whispered, “so where the hell’s our fanfare?”
Someone’s car blared music for all of us. People sat in small circles around the fire and smoked cigarettes and hookahs and weed. I’d never even seen weed before, but you had, and you marched right over and helped yourself to a joint.
The fire expanded and the crowd expanded too. At 11:45, as we drove away, we saw the squad cars creeping toward them.
“Close call,” you laughed as we passed the cops.
Nine got arrested that night, but we never knew their names.
Zephyr Song-Red Hot Chili Peppers
You kicked the shit out of Bradley Snyder. I guess I never knew why. I sort of walked in on it after gym class. Mauch kept me for pull-ups, and when I entered the locker room, you had your knee on his chest, your hands crushed into his face. I’d never seen a nose explode like that
We had first period gym—the worst—and we hated smelling like sweat for the rest of the day. But at last we wouldn’t have a broken nose to deal with. Poor Bradley Snyder, spread out across the concrete, dealing with that nose. When he started crying, you took his school clothes and tossed them under the showerhead. The other guys laughed because they were afraid of you too.
After class, in the hallway, Denny Kelp told me what he witnessed: you rifling through Bradley’s wallet and pocketing a twenty.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Denny, are you sure you saw what you saw?”
After school, we drove around for a while, just listening to music. When we made it to KFC, you ordered about seven different sides. When I pulled out my wallet to pay for my part, you shook your head no, no, no way.
“My treat,” you insisted. “It’s on me.” And even after I insisted, you said, “Trust me, kid, we earned it.”
Waiting for My Ruca- Sublime
Your new friends smoked a lot of pot, so my brother and I watched MacGyver. Sometimes I called you, but even when you picked up, you always said you’d have to call me back. One night, after MacGyver, I wandered the mall by myself. I had to return a sweater for my mother, but she said I could use the credit. When I saw you there, with your friends, I hid behind a gumball machine. It was stupid, I know. And it was just about the worst hiding spot in the world. I pretended to peer intently at the green apple gumballs as you and those guys walked right past.
I followed you, past the food court and into the music store. I placed the headphones over my ears and listened to whatever song was playing.
I stayed attached to that wall, to those headphones, and I clicked through all the songs. You guys must’ve stayed in that store for an hour, fingers flipping through all the 4.99 used CDs in the racks. Those boys slapped your back and hit your arm and it was friendship.
I could only pretend to listen to music for so long, and I left first, while you hunched over the lowest CD rack.
I returned my mother’s sweater and I took the credit. I bought myself a shirt I never wore.
66-The Afghan Whigs
It was summer then, and we smelled exactly the same. I’d bought your cologne a few months back and I wanted to use it all up. Your new friends were still there, but not always, and that night, in Shiva’s basement, we discovered the most amazing song and listened to it six times through. “Jesus!” you cried. “Holy Christ!” Everyone else played ping-pong and watched MTV while you and I huddled beside a CD player and pushed our ears to the speakers. We didn’t know whose song it was, or whose CD. We just found it on the floor in his basement, so we popped it in to the player. We weren’t drunk or anything, not yet. Though later, I’d end up passed out in a racecar bed. But we were sober as we listened, and we memorized the words to that song and sang a little duet. You said we were acting “awful, awful gay,” but I think we both knew it was just about the music. Later, that night in Shiva’s basement, after hearing the song for the sixth time, we found our SAT scores online. You were the math guy and I was the English, but you beat me in both sections. “Whatever man, cheer up,” you said. You handed me a beer. From the racecar bed where I passed out, I heard you bragging until morning.
Don’t Turn Out the Lights- Enrique Iglesias
It was your party, so I said cool when you invited the potheads. “These guys are hilarious. You’ve met them, right?”
I nodded. Yes, I’d met them.
Your parents were visiting your sister in Ohio, so you and I cleaned your house. And we skimmed the pool, and we filled the coolers with ice from the nearby gas station. An older brother bought for us, and we invited the entire tennis team. The losers did not come. Early August, and we had tennis practice at 8:00a.m. the next morning. “So we won’t drink too much,” you promised. “In case we have challenge matches.” You played doubles and I played doubles, but we never played as a team. I partnered up with Marty Paulson and you took Alex Chase. I guess we were always fighting for the number one spot, though I knew that you would get it. Earlier that day, after I aced you, you said the ball was out. “Just a smudge off the line,” you told me, and what was I to say? The funniest thing happened that night, do you remember? You asked Betsy for a screwdriver. And she was so drunk she overlooked the orange juice and vodka and handed you a philips head.
“What in the world is this?” you asked.
“Screwdriver,” she shrugged, “from your dad’s toolbox in the garage.” All your potheads went crazy, but poor Betsy looked so sincere. That night, you entrusted me with the music. And though we listened mostly to rap, around two a.m., when the dozing began, I tried out a different song. I guess I really liked that song more than I’ll ever admit.
But your potheads thought it hilarious, so you laughed too. And though you all hated the song, you knew almost every word.
I ignored all of you and took a quick dip in the pool.
Missy was there, crying over some boyfriend or another. I asked, “Wanna race?” and though she didn’t, she didn’t want me watching her crying either. So we raced from one end of the pool to the other, and she won, but I took second place.
That night, you fell asleep in a lawn chair by the pool and I slept on your basement futon. In the morning, when my alarm went off, after I walked your dog, I tried to rouse you for practice.
“No thanks, man. Go on without me, okay?”
“Never leave a soldier behind,” I joked, tugging at your shirt. “No, man. Leave my shit alone, all right? I mean it.” So I left you alone and you baked in the sun.
I held your number one doubles spot until you took it back.
B.J. HOLLARS of Fort Wayne, Indiana is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama where he’s served as nonfiction editor and assistant fiction editor for Black Warrior Review. He is also the editor of "You Must Be This Tall To Ride" forthcoming by Writer’s Digest Books in May 2009. He’s published or has work forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Mid-American Review, DIAGRAM, Fugue, and The Bellingham Review, among others and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.