Monday Afternoon: Ethan’s Quest

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Two hours later, YKM onboarding painfully completed, I slumped down in my seat on the bus. Ethan had disappeared since promising to bail my guitar out of pawn-shop jail, and I needed to know what was up. I texted.

PurC: u thr?

No response, no indication he was online on any of the social media sites. Shit. He’d gone radio-silent. That could not be good.

I looked around at the other passengers, noticing the general boredom, apathy and magnetic-repulsion that kept us all shut down and shut off from each other. I watched a mom who couldn’t have been older than me, with a snotty knee-high boy (blue, plaid shirt) and a baby girl (pink, pink, pink) crying in the battering-ram of a stroller, while Mom ignored both kids to fiddle with her phone. I wondered how she would handle the dismount from the bus with those two, and hoped she’d at least put the phone down.

The racial diversity on this particular bus comprised approximately 90% in various shades of brown; I was one of two peachish-coloured people, the mom being the other. I noticed that it felt weird to be in the minority. I checked my privilege, but since there was no action to take, I shrugged off my sense that there was something inherently racist in noticing the racial diversity in the first place. It dawned on me that I’d been in the minority at Timeless, too, but hadn’t noticed in the same way.

The ages on the bus ranged from baby-girl-battering-ram up to Grandpa Moses, who perched on the seat right behind the driver looking fragile and nervous. Several teens lounged in the back, caught up in their own world of giggles and show-me’s, the girls displaying a little too much cleavage and the boys laughing a little too loud. The center of the bus comprised primarily working-class people of various descriptions, some in uniforms to announce their jobs – kitty-cat scrubs, dirty painter-pants, Drive Thru Associate name-tag (MALVA – trainee), heavy work boots and overalls. A couple of men looked too rough for a job, and I wondered where they were headed looking like that. Two guys my age sat primly, side-by-side, in full suit and tie, clipboards on their laps. Door-to-door salesmen? Mormons?

I read the ads that ran along the entire length and width of the bus, subsidizing our transit system and giving us something to look at besides each other or the city driving by. Hooray, capitalism! Ad by ad, I began to notice a pattern. Debt consolidation. Cheque cashing. Education Savings Plans with Tax Bonuses. Help Lines for kids, for women, for new immigrants, for victims of various social maladies. $2,000 a month working from home, guaranteed! Every message directed to The Poor to exploit, help or educate them. I guessed it made sense.

Sigh. This bus was not interesting enough for how long the ride took. My phone dinged a text and my heart leaped with joy for a distraction.

Ethanalogy: here now

PurC: got Nell?

My phone range. Uh oh.

“You’d better be calling with good news,” I answered.

“You don’t know how much I wish that.” Ethan sounded so sad and beaten-down that I almost couldn’t feel angry. Almost.

“No! Say you’re playing with me! You didn’t get her back?”

“Look, I tried, okay? Some guy got it at closing on Saturday night. They wouldn’t tell me who, but then the guy behind the counter followed me and offered up a name, Buzz, and an address for twenty bucks. I had to borrow my mom’s car and drive three towns away and it took me all day on my only day off, you know. But I get there and there’s no one there, so I wait and wait and then finally someone comes home but they don’t know what I’m talking about and I figured the guy ripped me off twenty bucks is what happened. But then the wife says I must mean her brother Buster, who just uses her address, I’m not sure where he went she says, but check down at this dive bar he likes to play at, in another town, of course. But then it was already late and my mom was expecting me back with the car… ” He trailed off.

“So you gave up?”

“For yesterday! I promise, I’ll be right back on it today. Or tomorrow. When I’m not in class or work…” I’d heard this kind of promise from him before. He was always saying he would, but then it turned out, he might, if it worked out, and then again, he might not. That’s why we were in this situation in the first place – or at least, partly why.

“Sure. Of course,” I shot back. “And if you find this Buzz-ter, then what? What if he won’t give her back?”

“I don’t know. That won’t happen. I can’t think about that. I just have to follow through.”

Follow-through. At least he recognized that was the need. I breathed in, and imagined picking up my grief at losing Nell, placing it gently in a “for later” box in my mind. The grief was dark blue and purple, lumpy and soft like playdough, and I didn’t have time to sink myself in it right then. I closed the lid, and came back to the situation. Ethan was just being Ethan at every step. My own careless and abrupt handling of things had led to all this bad behaviour, and I could have predicted it if I’d been smarter and better. This was really my fault. Like everything always was.

“I guess I can’t really use her right now, anyway,” I conceded.

“You’re not freaking out at me?”

“What’s the point?”

“Okay, Chrissy, what’s wrong. I know you’re upset about the guitar, but it’s not just that. What’s sent you hiding inside?”

No way. He was not going to know me so well and put his fingers right into my pain. I couldn’t allow it, not now, not him. But somehow, it came spilling out anyway, in spite of myself.

“Shut up. I don’t know. Yes I do. I sucked at practice yesterday. Everyone said so.”

“Everyone?”

“Well, one guy, and another guy agreed with him. And no one said I didn’t. Because I did. Suck. I felt it. Only, now maybe my new teaching job depends on doing it, but if I
can’t pull it off it won’t help anyway. I’m on my way to Timeless, I think I’m gonna say I’m done. It’s too much too fast, you know?”

“So, let me get this straight. Your very first practice, two nameless guys thought you sucked, and you agree. So now you’re quitting.”

“You make it sound…”

“Whiney and premature.”

“Did you just call me immature?”

“Premature. But same difference.” I felt a wave of despair as we started falling into one of our communication patterns. It seemed inevitable with us. That was another Why.

“We’re fighting again. How does it happen?” I wailed. He waited before answering.

“Look, Chrissy, you went there to try your luck and now you’re giving up, first push-back. Frankly, I’m disappointed. You left me for this, so do it already. Make it worth breaking my heart.”

And there was the pull that made me confide in him even though we were broken up. He loved me, he really did, and he wanted for me what I wanted for me, even when I thought I didn’t want it. This was why he was always going to be my best friend. But we weren’t there yet, and I wasn’t about to give him more of my inner soul today. Instead, I unconsciously picked a fight.

“You’re just trying to distract me from the fact that you failed to get my guitar back. You know, even though I’m not freaking out, I am upset, and hurt. Like, really. I can’t
pretend my trust in you isn’t shaken.”

“That’s rich! Fine one to talk. Listen to her, I’ve shaken her trust! What did you do to me, then? Blew away my foundation!”

“Babe, I can’t keep going in circles with you. Please get my guitar back, and if you can’t, you’d better send me the money because I need a new one. If I’m going to try my luck and make it worth breaking your heart.”

“That’s my girl.” I could hear him smiling over the phone, and I couldn’t let that go.

“No, I’m not.”

“Right, you’re your own girl.” And he hung up.

I looked at my phone in annoyance, then smiled. I muttered under my breath: Point for you.

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