In the tip of the week, I spill the beans about a pen name I’ve been using for much of 2015. And my results with Twitter promos.
Brian watched a brilliantly dramatic sunset behind the mountains from the platform at the top of the stairs in the unfinished building next to his apartment complex. It had been a fantastic day. Last night had been his first sexual encounter in quite a while. After Megan left so late, he got little sleep, but woke up feeling rested yet energized. The sex boost. He had not experienced these sensations since his early courting of Heather, and that was a long time ago.
As Brian stared at an unlit cigarette he was rolling in between his fingers, from down the stairs came the sound of approaching footfalls. A dark figure walked up the unfinished stairs, methodically, a single step at a time. A quick glance and Brian recognized the cyclist from Walnut street. The different-colored eyes gave the stranger away. For some reason, this visit did not seem abnormal to Brian.
“Hey, it’s you. What are you doing here?” Brian said.
The stranger stopped short, several steps from the top. “My name’s Justin. Justin Wallace. I live in that apartment right there,” the cyclist said, pointing at a building diagonal from them.
“No kidding?” Brian said, raising his eyebrows. “What a small world.”
“Yeah, it is. I’ve seen you from my balcony before, I just thought I’d come over here and say hi.”
“You remember me, from Walnut street, with the bike?”
“I do,” Justin said, “that was kind of a rough day. Not exactly my shining moment, am I right? So how are you doing?”
“I’m doing great. But how are you doing? It looked like you got all kinds of messed up when that car hit you. Are you okay? Anything seriously wrong?”
“No big deal. I had a concussion, couple broken ribs.”
Brian gauged Justin through the dim light, and he appeared to be uninjured. “I thought a lot about going to find you at the hospital after that happened, but I didn’t know your name, and I’ve been busy, and…”
Justin waved it off. “It’s okay, not the first time I’ve been hit by a car. College towns, am I right?”
“Wow, I guess. I take my bike to class and all, but I’ve never been hit by a car. The way you got thrown across the street like that… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That’s some serious stuff, but I’m glad you made it out okay.”
“Yeah, the Goddess watches over all, Brian.”
“Excuse me?” Brian said.
“I came out here to find you.”
Something did not feel right. “You came out to this building to find me? How do you know my… what do you mean you came out here to find me? Came from where?”
“I came from Denver to find you. You don’t remember me, do you? I went to high school with you. Two grades under. I was friends with your brother Jimmy.”
“Oh, okay,” Brian said, feeling no less relieved.
Came out here to find me? What the hell does that mean?
“You know my brother? I’m sorry, I don’t remember you from high school.”
“I said I knew your brother.” Justin picked at a section of drywall and tore a strip as though it were string cheese. scritch-scritch-scritch-scritch. Justin threw the drywall strip onto the floor below them, which made a strange thonk reverberation as it hit the ground. The noise seemed much louder than it should have been.
What is going on here? Something is majorly wrong with all this.
Justin continued. “You still haven’t figured out what happened to Jimmy, have you? You still think he’s in Utah.”
A rumbling in the pit of Brian’s stomach. “How the hell did you know that?”
“You ask too many questions. You and Alex Britton are roommates now, right? Do you think he is trustworthy? You remember what happened at the Adams County bridge, but do you know why that all happened? Maybe you should ask yourself if Alex ran with Wiles back then.”
“How could he…. I just met Alex right before all that.”
“Just be careful, Brian. That’s all I’m saying.”
Brian stood up, dusting off his hands. He wanted out of this conversation. He placed the cigarette behind his ear, intending to walk away as soon as possible. “Alright, that’s enough. You are seriously creeping me out. Stay away from me. Stay away from my friends too.”
Justin got to his feet as well, and moved up the stairs. Each step was completely silent. “You think Alex is your friend? You think Wiles is your friend? You actually don’t see what’s going here.”
“Wiles isn’t my friend.”
“But you tolerate him,” Justin said. “You let him push you around.”
The sun had set, and Justin, previously hidden in the shadows, stepped into Brian’s full view. The eyes were not two different colors, they pulsed red and black, a violent storm in each eyeball. And Justin’s shirt was covered in blood, making it a burgundy mess. “You think Wiles wouldn’t carve up your little brother as payback for messing up that deal under the bridge? How fucking stupid are you, Connelly?”
A loud, blaring sound filled his ears, like an air raid siren. Brian raised his hands to shield them from the cacophony. When he did, he realized that he was not sitting in the sawdust, he was lying in his bed with his hands cupping his ears. Outside his apartment, a car horn honked. Not nighttime, but daytime. He opened his eyes, threw off the bed sheet, and looked down at a thin film of sweat covering his body. It had been a long time since he had a nightmare, and never one so brutally vivid. He sat upright, trying to shake it. Before he could regain his poise, he happened to glance at the clock on his bedside table, which displayed 11:53. His fuzzy brain did some math.
He jumped up out of bed and ran to the closet. He leaped into a pair of jeans and pulled on the first clean shirt he could find. “Damn it, damn it,” he muttered to himself as he fixed his hair and swabbed deodorant under his armpits. The last thing in the world he wanted was to be late for lunch today.
Thirty minutes later, he sat in the restaurant, staring at an empty chair across the other side of a table for two. Clean white tablecloth, perfectly arranged silverware. He had eaten two of the four pieces of bread from the basket. He sighed, and glanced at the time on his cellphone again.
Most of the dream had now faded; only flashes of a memory of what happened remained. He could remember Justin’s blood-red eyes, and the thonk of the strip of drywall. Something about not trusting Wiles? That part was too murky to remember.
He began to accept that his lunch date probably would not show. Only twelve hours ago he was with her, in his bed, and that seemed more of a dream than sitting with Justin at the construction site. He thought about discovering Megan’s full tattoo; his excitement when she had peeled off her top. The design looked something like a sun but with wavy tendrils jutting out from an epicenter in an intricate circular pattern. Brian figured the needle must have hurt like mad. While she had been on top of him, he traced the edges of the ink with his fingers, fascinated.
Brian drained the last of his glass of water and closed his menu. The waiter approached. “Would you care to go ahead and order, sir, or would you like to wait longer?”
Where are you?