Casa Way | Nov 12 | 8:49am
Awake before 9am, that’s what things have come to. A month into the routine of deliveries, dispatch orders started invading even that horrible time of day after digesting the wine that puts me to sleep, before the first drink of the day settles me in.
I staggered into Neary’s office, going through the motions with nothing in my head but hangover, and dropped a pastry on the desk. The smell of fresh muffin oozing blueberries made my mouth water, but I was in no condition to eat.
He kept clicking away. I never saw the computer people look at anything but their screens. The food would be gone when I came back, but not a single one of them thanked me.
“Breakfast is served, you son of a bitch.” I slammed the front door on my way out.
There was nothing in the place I could pocket without getting noticed. If I couldn’t steal anything worth selling, I would be alone in the hatchback forever. I wanted to lie in the back seat, go easy on the knee I banged up, keep drinking and let this day fade from my brain, but the phone had another breakfast order.
Cap’N Crunch, 16 oz. Whole milk, 1 quart. Deliver to Acid Burn.
Maybe the solitude was finally starting to get to me.
have a drink with me harry
I can’t. I have to work.
The Acid Pad | 46 min later
I walked up some stairs with the cereal, past nothing worth stealing, and found the standard scene of a figure hunched over a keyboard, head aimed at the monitor. This one had long hair and headphones blaring music. The morning light slicing through the blinds burned my eyes, but I should have been paying more attention.
Acid Burn shouted. “Fuck! Me!” I turned. She was swearing at the computer.
She was a she.
The girl was in her thirties, caramel skin, vaguely Asian features, thick glasses. Her body was thick too. She wore baggy plaid jammie pants, a stripy purple bathrobe hanging open down the sides of the chair, but from where I was, from the amount she slouched forward, the cut of her flower print tank top made me smile. She was a chubby girl, but she had the tits to match.
She stood up slowly, her hands still on the keys. “No, fuck you. What’s going…” Her body leaned away from the computer, the spiral cord of her headphones falling off the edge of the desk one loop at a time.
She made eye contact with the webcam built into her monitor. “I can’t make this work. I can’t. Emergency mosh.” She stepped back fast and crashed into me. We both froze.
“Oh.” She turned. Her eyes looked everywhere but directly at me.
“No.” I didn’t know what to say. “I forgot I was here.”
She couldn’t hear me with the music so loud in her headphones. It sounded familiar, but I just heard it for a second before she grabbed the cereal out of my hands, turned back and sat down at the computer.
“Noob.” She tore open the box and poured the whole thing into a half dozen cereal-caked bowls on her desk. “Hungry.” She grabbed the milk from my other hand, started to pour it into one of the bowls and froze again. “Wait.” She left the carton on her desk, and her hands were back on the keys.
I backed away slowly. Her attention was back where it started, on the screen where a picture popped up of a crowd watching blurs on a stage. I figured our meeting was over.
She gave an exaggerated yawn, stretching her arms out. The headphone wire popped out of the front of her computer. The room filled with a familiar noise — Casimir shouting. I got chills. I was hearing Effective Disorder.
Acid Burn bent down to get the plug for the headphones, hiding her face under the desk. “Turn around. Don’t let it see us talking.”
I almost couldn’t hear her over my own crashing rhythms. I wanted to run out of there, but I was confused. I turned away like she said. “Who? Who’s watching you guys?”
She fumbled with the wire. “I saw you guys. This says your name is Oscar. You’re his drummer.” That was the first time I heard my real name in eight months, pretty much since Casimir’s funeral.
“Take my card. On the dresser.”
There was a dresser in the corner with a pile of clothes on it. I went over with my back to the camera, like I practiced every day at my storage space, and grabbed at the tiny pile of card stock under the huge cup of a blue and pink polka dot bra.
“Send me email.” All the noise and energy in the room disappeared as she plugged her headphones back in.
“I don’t have a computer.” The card had an email address and something called a twitter, but no phone number, and “Acid Burn” was the only name listed. That wouldn’t help outside the company.
She didn’t hear me. She poured the milk, tapping her foot to the beat I used to keep.
The picture on her screen was Effective Disorder the way I wanted to remember it, a big blur. We moved too fast and with too much energy for a camera to capture us and freeze us in time.
Cameras are too predictable. They can’t capture the feeling of being there and watching Casimir transform a room.
I stood and listened to the tinny canned album version of us that bled out of her headphones, Casimir screaming about freedom and rebellion. It was a lame substitute for reality in the ears of someone who really needed that message, someone more trapped and alone than me.
My phone went off. I didn’t want to leave her like that, but I did. Now I want to know what’s keeping her there.
[Editor’s note: in response to this incident, a connection between Winston and Acid Burn was flagged, and he was never again dispatched to that destination.]