IV. Unpatriotic Dick Faces
The sun set and only a handful of staggering keg bugs remained on the patchy grass. Steve had filled a kiddie pool with the hose water and was now sitting in it clothed, with a red cup in one hand and the hose in the other.
Over the past few hours he had periodically doused himself with the water and was soaked completely. I'd pulled a foldable chair next to him and sat comfortably now, unnerved and audacious from the uncountable red cup refills, but by no means drunk. My tolerance for alcohol the day after a good blackout was of impressive caliber, so I drank carelessly to no avail.
Steve on the other hand was a sloppy display. A few hours back he'd begun to repeat tangents. Then he started to sweat profusely, hence the idea to retrieve the neighbor's kiddie pool and sit in it fully dressed. He did however pull the bottom of his beater through the neck's scoop, making it 'more like a bathing suit' according to Steve, and exposing a hairy little gut for all to see.
Someone had turned on a mix of indie rock, proto-electro punk, punk peppered pop, and alternative; categories designated by Steve who knew the words to most of the songs that came on. It played neither too soft nor too loud from speakers just inside the apartment's open windows.
Some people in hats sat in chairs a few feet away and talked about music. Two of them were dating perhaps, as they kissed passionately from time to time, in between sentences about last years' Lollapalooza and disagreements about Radiohead, who the hatted boy loved and the hatted girl hated. They kissed anyway though, despite the discord.
The sky positioned itself in a five minute window of pink and blue contrast, just on the brink of shading into black. The air was warm, and soft wind felt like bedsheets on my sticky skin, or tiny breathing particles swimming south. Now the allies and sidewalks resonated with clanking heels and elevated voices of clean careless movers heading towards the Wrigleyville bars.
It was crisp, and it felt like someone somewhere should be playing baseball. I don't understand the game, nor do I care about the rules or statistics or World Series results, but baseball games make me feel so American. The actual game is arbitrary to me, but the experience of going is like being connected to history or something.
Our generation doesn't have the same sense of zeal and duty that existed during World War II, or the same sense of activism that fused Americans together during the Civil Rights Movement. We do still have baseball though. The songs haven't changed. The chants haven't changed. All of the baseball snacks are the same. The uniforms even look the same. Baseball fans have a connectivity to their teams' past. 1908 or 1976, the year is relevant and remembered if your team won the series.
I suppose I should feel more American on Election or Veterans Day, rather than during baseball season, especially because I don't understand the game. I don't want to understand either. It's just the same way I feel about cars. I like cars that are nice but I don't care to know what elements make them distinct or fast. It's just a piece of machine. And baseball's just a game. I like watching it though, whatever the fuck is going on out there, it sure is American.
The cubs were away in LA tonight though, and the loud sidewalk movers were probably off to beer gardens on Clark to watch the game on big screens and buy pints of light beer for $8.00 a glass. Caitlin was inside the apartment, and I could hear her arguing with someone about the music.
"Why can't you play Flag Day music? I don't understand this hipster shit," she said, her voice reflective of how sloppily drunk she was at this point.
"What the fuck is Flag Day music?" answered a raspy male voice.
"You're a grand ol' flag, you're a high flying flag, and forever in peace may you waaave. You're the emblem of, the land I love, home of the free and the brave," she sang loud with a mock 1940's voice, low toned and accented, like Katherine Hepburn.
"Really? Is this girl serious?" said the raspy voice. Caitlin sang louder and the music amplified, drowning her out.
A new song played from the mix and Steve raised his hands up from the kiddie pool. It progressed and he sang intently with his eyes closed.
"I want it back, well yes I, want it back, I want you back... please.." he sang like he meant it. It was quite the performance and I stood up now, part curious, part startled by his intensity.
"You okay down there?" I said.
"I always cry a little when I hear The Kooks," he said, pouring more hose water on himself.
"We all do," said the hatted boy.
"I don't," I said.
"What moves you?" said the hatted girl.
She'd smoked earlier and was annoyingly high. She was stupid already anyways, as far as I could tell, and she hung on the hatted boys' shoulder as though she thought she needed to because I was a girl. It was like she was showing me that they were together. In reality she had nothing to worry about, and the strategic PDA was just obnoxious.
"Once I cried when The Black Eyed Peas were on Oprah. You know, when they blocked off Michigan Avenue and sang, "Today's Gonna be a Good Day"? I don't really like them though. I think I was about to get my period," I said. I was lying, but I figured the spiel would make her uncomfortable. Not because I mentioned my period, but because she was pretentious to mainstream things like Oprah and pop music. I was right, too.
"Interesting..." she said. One of her eyebrows was raised higher than the other. She looked at me intrusively, like I was vain for wearing mascara. She wasn't wearing any makeup at all. Or a bra. Her boobs were big and sloppy and I felt a little sick each time I noticed this.
Steve sang on, "So how did you do it angels, always you do it females, you always keep me on the run.."
"So real," whispered the hatted boy.
"So you watch Oprah daily?" said slop boobs.
"Oh yeah. I can't miss it. I read all the books she recommends too. And her magazine," I said. I felt my sarcasm was obvious but she declined the conspicuous joke.
"Huh," she said.
Truly I resent Oprah. She's jovial, and a good philanthropist, but she rules the world. She dictates popular culture, politics, and even empathy. Also it's sort of fucked up to me that she's on the cover of her own magazine every month.
Caitlin flailed out of the door, butt first, with bags of chips in her arms.
"Fuck you and your hipster bullshit, you unpatriotic dick faces! I'm takin' your chips!" She screamed and stumbled backwards a few steps. The diaper was now replaced by long basketball shorts, and she'd put a kids size t-shirt on top.
"Let's go Laur!" She ran.
"Steve, call me!" She yelled from outside the fence.
"It's been lovely," I said, exiting the conversation.
Steve constricted the hose and sprayed me when I walked away.
"LONG LIVE LUKE PRITCHARD!" he screamed.
"Easy man," I heard the hatted boy say.
The ally was damp and bright and I walked towards the busy street feeling elated now from the hours of drinks. A potato chip hit me in the face and Caitlin popped out from behind a dumpster on the right side.
"Hey hey hey, we gotta go we gotta go," she said. Chips were in her hair and crumbs were stuck to grease on her face. She was anxiously moving and her eyes were wide, nervously scanning the ally.
"Cait it's fine. Those guys are idiots, just calm down," I reached into the bag and ate a chip.
'No you don't understand. I took a shit in that hipsters bed," she said. Her face lit up intensely. I paused in disbelief.
"No you didn't," I said.
"Did. We gotta hide. Let's just go out on Clark. Those guys aren't 21 so they won't be able to find us," she walked fast towards Clark street.
"Of course they're not 21," I said, "why would you do that?"
"Why wouldn't I do that Laur. Why wouldn't I. It's Flag Day and I hated that kid."
"You did call him an unpatriotic dick face."
"Stone cold truth," she said.
We walked through passing drunks. Cait held two more big bags of chips in her hand.
"Let's just take a cab," she said, opening another bag and discarding the empty into the trash.
"It's like 3 blocks."
"I'll pay. I keep money where the eyes can't see," she said, hailing a cab. She opened the front door and sat down. Before I even got into the back she'd jumped out of the cab already.
"Out! Laur lets get the next one!"
I closed the door and stepped back to the curb.
"It smelled like a meat sandwich in there," she said.
We hailed the next passing cab and she directed the driver to Clark. It was a meat-free car and Caitlin pressed the driver in the short trip about his American citizenship.
"Happy Flag Day, amigo," she said, paying and slamming the door behind her.