Lighten up, Francis
It’s all so fraught, isn’t it? This surfeit of lovelorn intensity within the walls of The March! Gio has a painful crush on Brooke who is oblivious and falling for Teddy, who is dreadful. Fred is in love with Mary who will have nothing to do with him and Rosie only has eyes for how fabulous Rosie will be. And you haven’t even met all the players in this jacked up love story yet!
Lovelorn intensity is the rule not the exception for young people, for first love. And these are all such young people (except for dreadful, emotionally stunted Teddy). We cast about in fits and starts convinced that if we only adjust this or that or try just a little harder this ill-fitting suit will fit better, will fight right. We’ll fit right.
Of course, once the tempest is quieted, sometimes it works out all right. Maybe it will for some of these young people.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to The March, the next night, and join Brooke and Teddy who are about to be interrupted.
Brooke was on her third drink and feeling it. Teddy had long since built up a heroic tolerance and, of an evening, would consume the better part of ten 12 oz. draft beers without appearing noticeably intoxicated to anyone save the most discerning sot spotters, like Caleb. Brooke and Teddy appeared to be deep in conversation; Teddy was holding forth on the Dust Bowl and Brooke was listening wide-eyed and rapt, swaying a bit on her barstool.
“This kind of man-made disaster, you see…” Teddy was saying when Gio and Celia, who’d decided to check in on Brook, pulled up a couple of stools to join them.
Teddy felt irritated and put upon. Gio, at whom he’d only ever grunted on his way into the bar, was holding out a hand and introducing him to a young, obviously vapid woman. Caleb, who rarely said more than “Evening, Teddy,” as he handed him a draft of beer, was grinning as he walked toward them in full convivial barman mode. Suddenly, a cacophony of small talk exploded around him.
- Gio! Drinking here on your night off?
- Did you see my boots? Got them 80% off because of this teensy flaw on the heel!
- Hey, Caleb! Can I get a Bud? Celia what do you want?
- Those shoes are made of leather, Celia! Some poor cow on overgrazed land died for your cheap boots!
- They aren’t cheap – they were on sale. Vodka cranberry please, Caleb!
- Gio, while you’re here, can you pick up a shift tomorrow?
- Besides, the damn cow was already dead.
- I can, but I have class until 8:00. I can be here by 8:30.
- Gio, you sexy Italian! I’m DJ-ing tonight. Stick around and I’ll play that Cure song you like
- Hey, Rosie. This is Celia, Brooke’s sister.
- Oooh! Let’s do shots!
Teddy found the conversations swirling around him banal and irritating. But he liked Brooke. So he cleared his gravelly throat and tried to regain control of his domain. “Please be careful around my papers,” he said. “They represent a great deal of work.”
“That pile of papers looks like my school stuff,” said Celia, agreeably. “I have papers here and there. I always meant to be more organized, like Brooke.
“Well, young lady,” said Teddy indignantly. “What I have here is hardly equivalent to schoolgirl scribblings.”
Celia, nonplussed, did not reply immediately. Brooke filled in the momentary silence. “Teddy is working on a great book! A historical compendium on mankind’s history of environmental abuse.”
“Sounds like a hoot,” said Celia, seething at Teddy’s rudeness.
Gio tried to defuse the situation. “Brooke is a master of organization. Everything is filed and alphabetized and photocopied. Maybe she could help you.”
“I could!” said Brooke. “I would be honored to help you organize your materials.”
“That’s kind of you, my dear,” said Teddy. “Perhaps I’ll take you up on that.”
“That’s two jobs I got you, Brooke,” said Gio. “You may have to start paying me agent fees.”
“I would never take money from Teddy,” said Brooke. I’d just love to be involved in a great project like this. Not everything is about a paycheck, Gio.”
Gio and Celia exchanged a look that anyone with normal social skills would have quickly interpreted as what the fuck is wrong with Brooke? (Un)Fortunately, neither Teddy nor Brooke came equipped with normal social skills and so remained blithely unaware of the other’s bemusement.
Fred, who had pretty goods social skills so long as Mary wasn’t around, walked up to the group. He’d wandered back to the March after getting his car tuned up and eating dinner at a trippy Indian joint on the north side. He decided, so long as his credit card was still active, that he might as well spend some money at his favorite bar. He was happy to see Gio, whom he liked, there. He was even happier to see Gio sitting with two pretty girls. And, perceiving the awkwardness of the situation, decided to relieve it and perhaps distract himself by flirting with a girl who wasn’t Mary,
“Gio,” he said jovially. “I can’t believe I’m seeing you at the bar. Let me buy you a drink – you and your friends!”
Fred’s presence was too much for Teddy to take. He drained his mug, wiped the excess beer from his mouth, gathered up the rest of his change (including the $2 he’d normally have left for Caleb), and shook his head with barely disguised disgust at the young people around him.
“Brooke,” he said. “I shall take my leave. I have your phone number. Perhaps I’ll call you tomorrow as regards your assistance on my project.”
Brooke nodded her head eagerly, a smitten grin spread across her face.
Celia, familiar as she was with Brooke’s weird predilections, was good and freaked out by this nascent crush.
“Ugh,” said Celia, after Teddy left. “Who was hairy eyeball there?”
“Oh,” said Gio, sipping his beer. “That’s just Teddy. He’s this old dude who comes in every night and drinks cheap draft beer and…”
“He’s amazing!” interjected Brooke. “He knows everything and is so committed to our cause!”
At that moment, amidst their incredulous stares, Fred walked up with Rosie behind him carrying a tray of Cuervo shots. “Let’s do shots,” said Fred. “And get this party started.”
And they did. Fred, Gio, Brooke and Celia migrated over to a table where they sat until closing, drinking, dancing, shouting out requests to Rosie when she got in the DJ booth. When Brooke waxed rhapsodic about Teddy, Celia threw peanuts at her. The more she extolled his virtue, the more confoundedly wounded Gio grew. And when it looked like a fight was about to break out, Fred ordered more shots.
All in all, they had a good, if confusing, time.