The Grown Ass Man Club pin one another against a wet tarmac of the deserted parking lot. Pushing brows into oil-changed puddles; grappling sleeveless T-Shirts and cargo shorts. Hair shaven short, to the skin, and at least halfway drunk. Several beers of pushing and shoving.
We’re all sat in Edward’s car, right in the middle of the empty lot. Edward has a limp, and appalling breath and has never been seen in the company of a girl. Not even when there’s been a girl with us. When a girl appears Edward suddenly vanishes. None of us have ever worked out how this happens. Much in the same way none of us have ever worked out how we know someone like Edward. It all seems a little suspect to us. But we’re in his car, the four of us. He parks in the middle of empty lots. It’s his thing. He has a lot of them; only most aren’t even half as endearing as this. The parking annoys the shit out of everybody. Even those of us who Obsessively Compulse.
Like some kind of statistic we’re sat two in the front and two in the back. We’re listening to the first Violent Femmes record, the self-titled one, and it’s not the 1990’s. Edward is smoking somewhat unsuccessfully, and the rest of us- Peter, Paul, and John; we’re biblical born- have already finished our own cigarettes. None of us are yet smoking due to addiction, or even familiarity. We’re still just trying to fit in-- with ourselves. We have conversations about how the word cigarette really implies a Cigar For Girls, and this makes us feel better for smoking in the first place, and we feel smug for not having someone mention it to us before.
The windows are down even though it has begun to rain lightly. We’re okay. We think. We’re bored and damp and hot. We’re parked in the middle of an empty lot. We’re Downtown, which is not like most downtowns, and is more empty on a Friday night than the suburbs. Where we all live. And Peter is finally finishing his cigarette, which he then amateurishly flicks from his finger and thumb out of the window and onto the dark, damp tarmac. That’s when we first notice the Grown Ass Man Club, and wonder how we missed them when we first drove in, and whether hey had been there before we arrived, or else somehow snuck in afterwards. We wonder where they’ve come from: there are still no other cars in the lot.
The Grown Ass Man Club are standing in a circle of howling laughter and plastic cups. Where did the cups come from? None of us know. Paul lights another cigarette and pretends to ponder the situation, he furrows his brow and keeps tapping the ash from his girl’s cigar, which is really only his way of smoking yet more cigarettes without actually having to inhale much of any of them. We’re also still at the blowing out stage. Paul’s cigarette came from Edwards pack, that sits on the dash and looks pathetic and more than a little out of place. Peter leans forward, balancing his elbow on the handbrake and pushing eject on the tape player. You could have just turned it down. One of us says. And Peter replies with a whispered shhhhh. Robert thinks it’s pretentious when writers use anything other than inverted commas for elements containing speech in their work. We’ve talked about this a few times now, it came up in a literature class once, and anytime one of us reads a book that we then recommended to another. We like the right side of pretence.
We smoke in the backs of cars in empty parking lots in the middle of the night.
I’m reading from a magazine that’s paper smells so strongly that I find it hard to concentrate on what I’m reading and instead try to think about what kind of paper, or binding glue they could have used to make the magazine smell like that. I keep repeating in my head: what is that smell? And I vow to look into it further – on the internet most likely - when I return home later that night. Even though I know that realistically in order to find out any of this information I’d have to then call the printers of the magazine, which comes from England and has a contemporary one word title, and ask them to tell me what process they used to bind the pages, and also what kind of paper they were using. It’s unlikely that they’d be overly forthcoming with this information and it will most likely be late by the time I get home, and I will be restless and unwilling to spend hours on the Internet researching something that will otherwise make no real difference in my life.
I will end up on my bed, fully clothed, half heartedly reading some stereotypical classic, or else listening to some obscure band from the Scandinavia, that not only do I have trouble pronouncing their name convincingly enough to drop into conversation, but also have no intention of seeing play when they came through town next month.
I have no idea what is going on, and so when the music comes to an abrupt halt and suddenly there is silence in the car, I start to pay attention for the first time since Edward, Peter and Paul picked me up earlier that night. We’d eaten House Of Pie Special Pie in that time. We’d stopped by three different gas stations. We’d run a handful of stoplights through no fault of our own. We’d talked about which of us had the most realistic chance of getting out of town for the summer, and decided that none of us did, if we agreed not to include going somewhere with our parents.
And now we’re sat in silence, craning our necks, listening to the Grown Ass Man Club as they arrange the next round of their bare knuckle brawling. This round will involve the winner of the previous match-up (a winner-stays-on tournament style) versus pretty much whoever wants to challenge him to another bout. Which, roughly, looks to be just about every other member of The Grown Ass Man Club. Except of course, for the guy that had just lost the previous round, who was now sitting on the curb, drinking from his plastic cup, his shirt stretched to ridiculous proportions and hanging off his shoulders. He looked a little defeated. Not in the sense that he had just lost a round of wet-floored outdoor wrestling but more that he felt that he really should have won. He felt unlucky in his submission. He felt foolish for tapping so quickly. He could have taken a few seconds and tried a better footing. He knew he could have beaten his opponent. He knew he wouldn’t get a second chance. Up comes the plastic cup again. A few more of these he thinks, a few more of these.
Pools of sweat around the temples. A lightly bleeding nose. Loose arms swinging in circles. Dr Martin boots. No socks. A flock of birds circling overhead in the darkness; lost en route to somewhere even further south. The rustle of cans in a clear plastic bag, thrown out in the corner; next to the dumpster where they belong. Our cigarette smoke lingering, our minds drifting away from the lot, and each other, and the rest of the summer.