On Facebook I made friends with Timothy Willis Sanders.
After making friends with him, he LIKED one of my status updates.
It went something like this,
last name EVER, first name GREATEST.
After Timothy Willis Sanders liked this update, we didn’t exchange any social graces.
I did a lot of reading and writing. Yes, I’m an exciting person.
Then something happened significant enough for me to msg Timothy Willis Sanders.
After I finished writing a review for his first piece of literature, ORANGE JUICE, I sent him this,
I just finished my review of ORANGE JUICE.
Thanks for writing these stories.
I was engaged throughout.
Here’s my review:
Let me know when you have some new stories to read.
I’ll be dropping in on your blog until then.
Timothy Willis Sanders responded around midnight, just before I put on my coat and beanie and left to eat some Southside Flying Pizza with Bridget.
Here’s what he wrote,
Thank you for the review. I liked reading it.
I’m glad you enjoyed the book. If you’re out at “5 Things” tomorrow come say hello.
And this is how the story begins.
The next day, at 6:12PM, I popped a weird pimple on the inside corner of my mouth and tamped the eruption with 1 ply of toilet paper.
As I tamped, I looked at the hair growing in between my eyebrows and didn’t have an urge to tweeze because tweezing fucking hurts.
I put on my coat and beanie to keep my ears warm on the 4.8 mile walk to the United States Art Authority.
“5 Things” and Timothy Willis Sanders were going to be there.
I slipped on my AF-1s without untying my shoelaces.
My AF-1s are a little big around the sides, probably because my stepdad got them from a thief.
They just happened to be my size – but not really – when they fell off the truck.
At 6PM I said,
“Goodbye, Honeyed Cat. I love you.”
I locked the door behind me and walked down 3 flights of stairs.
When I passed the community dumpster, I nodded my head to a man leaning against a diesel pickup truck and smoking a fat cigar.
He didn’t nod back.
I was fine with this.
Congress Ave was full of traffic.
I thought about symphorophilia.
I thought about how perverse people must be to depend so heavily on such deadly machines.
The worst kind of addiction.
Migratory birds made noise on the wires and branches above my head. Part of me was concerned about getting shitty.
I walked into a liquor store and saw a line at the cashier.
2 out of the 4 people were clearly hobos. 1 of these hobos was buying a lotto ticket.
I surveyed the back cooler and studied a can of lemon-flavored Four Lokos.
The natural and artificial flavors turned me off to the idea of 12% alcohol.
When only 1 person was left to check out, I grabbed 24 ounces of Steel Reserve and got in line.
$1.94 later I was walking north on Congress Ave.
I cracked open my Reserve and said,
“Party in a can.”
I turned left when I reached Magnolia Cafe.
I started talking with myself about my plans for the future.
I didn’t have much to say.
On 1st St I started walking north again.
The moontower was on, its illumination, like the stars, overpowered by Austin’s light pollution.
Apart from 1 couple sitting by a pallet fire, the trailer park vittles was desolate.
I looked at this couple and imagined them being happy to be alone, as if their world were special, eating next to magical warmth while everyone else did their best to stay cozy in their homes.
4 years into the future, if things go right enough, the girl will update her Facebook status to read,
Four years ago today, I was in Austin and the happiest, luckiest girl in the world. Still am.
And the boy will comment on her update 10 hours later,
What a night. Avocado tacos and then Town Lake Trail to start the walk of my life with my sweet _______. Love you.
Two other people will comment on this sweet exchange, both mutual friends.
One will say,
Aw, time flies! Love u & ______.
And the other will say,
Holy Moly! Four years! Already!
Timothy Willis Sanders goes by Tim. That is how he signed off on his msg to me.
When I reached the middle of the bridge that crosses over the Colorado River, I made a mental note to call him Tim.
The Steel Reserve was about half full and still cold in its brown bag.
I leaned against the railing and looked at the inky waters and thought about calamari.
Quietly a crew team skated along with their hypnotic rowing.
The rower in the bow wore a gray-hooded sweatshirt. The cox in the stern huddled and blew steam out his nose.
They passed directly under me, under the bridge. I leaned over the railing and thought about throwing an enthusiastic word into the air, something like, YEAH, but the Steel Reserve hadn’t destroyed my inhibition yet.
A biker passed. He was going fast and didn’t see me nod.
After surveying the area for people, I started talking with myself again, letting Austin hear my plans for the future.
“I’ll get my novel in book form and start busking everyday.”
“Maybe even drink some Steel Reserve while busking.”
“Everyone likes people who write literature when they’re sober and busk when they’re drunk.”
The last drop of high-gravity lager sat heavy in me, but that didn’t stop my body from flying.
I asked someone what time it was.
“Thank you, sir.”
On the inside I thought,
Sweet. 45 minutes until the first reader takes the stage and I’m only 2.3 miles away from the United States Arts Authority.
I was making time.
Downtown was crawling with mafioso types.
Whenever I passed 4-6 men in black leather jackets and polished dress shoes getting out of a tinted black SUV, I always made direct eye contact with the kingpin.
Invariably, the kingpin would see my eyes and then look at my AF-1s.
There was this one who had on a shimmery Rolex.
When he spotted my AF-1s, I said,
“You know you want to be me.”
The kingpin said,
“No, I don’t.”
Some tall guy ahead of me loped at a good pick.
He wore one of those neat sweaters that had
embroidered into the back, top right shoulder.
Even though I was a good 6 inches shorter, I cruised by him with no difficulty.
Yes, I’m a fast walker, especially when I reach 2-3 miles, my whole body moves with a mercurial swagger that makes me feel like I’m the bad guy in TERMINATOR 2.
I listened to the echo of my footfalls in the temporary sidewalk sheds.
This is the sound of my determination.
At some point I started to run.
The cobalt pedestrian said it was okay to cross 11th St.
I darted northward and saw to my right the State Capitol appear out of the blue like a pyramid.
All that lit pink granite was kind of exhilarating.
Eventually the mafioso types thinned out and burnt-orange student types replaced them.
I thought about my own breathing.
My own b r e a t h i n g.
I kept my back strong and my front soft, like they taught at the Shambhala Meditation Center.
When I reached UT, the clock tower looked like it wanted to be more than a penis.
I found Fruth St.
Maybe I’ll name my first daughter Fruth, after this very street that means nothing to me.
The United States Art Authority wasn’t as intimidating as it sounded.
I was expecting a post office, something that smelled like Kafka, but I found instead a window display of local art and a door that opened into a red bar.
No cover, $2 well drinks.
I walked inside and felt the rush of sudden inertia.
To the left of the red bar there was a girl picking strings on an acoustic guitar.
I stood on the periphery and watched her a little.
Then I saw Mary Miller.
2 hours before leaving for “5 Things”, I made friends with her on Facebook.
No social graces were exchanged, just a simple acceptance.
I was expecting her to be here.
She was standing next to me with a stiff drink in her hand.
I had read 2 of her short stories.
I looked at her shoes and remembered FOXES.
This Pushcart nominee could fucking write.
I looked around the room and saw a lot of people drinking big beers of PBR.
In NYC, this is the drink of choice for hipsters.
A drunken part of me seriously debated over whether or not I should walk across the street to the gas station and get another 24 ounces of party in a can.
I retired to 1 of 2 coed bathrooms in the place and enjoyed the deep relief of emptying my bladder.
Reflected in the scratched mirror I saw my copy of ORANGE JUICE peeking out of my pocket.
Yes, I was going to ask Timothy Willis Sanders for his signature.
I looked down at my AF-1s and made a comical facial expression because I wasn’t the kind of person who knew how to ask for a signature and keep a straight face.
A man in a green ADIDAS sweatshirt.
We looked at each other and recognition surfaced.
“Yes. Michael. How are you?”
I met Thomas at a party 1-2 months ago.
He was working on some critical writing about his foray into the martial arts.
“Doing well. How about yourself?”
“Pretty good, all things considered. I’m in my third week of Jujitsu. Never taken a class before in my life.”
“How’s that treating you?”
“Well, to be honest, I’m hurting. At the moment, I have a sprained ankle.”
I looked at his shoes and saw that he was making an effort to keep his legs static.
“And last week I got my nose broken.”
“It wasn’t too bad. When I got home, I understood that aligning my nose was the most sensible thing to do. So I did it.”
Thomas shrugged his shoulders, his hands in his green ADIDAS muff.
I looked more closely at the ridge of his nose and saw subtle crookedness.
“I’ve had a lot to write about. So far, 30 pages written out longhand. I’m learning to assess calamity, take everything calmly.”
We talked some more about his experiments in the martial arts.
We talked about the abundance of PBR.
I explained why I was at “5 Things”.
When I broke out my copy of ORANGE JUICE, Thomas said,
Off in the near distance, I spotted Timothy Willis Sanders.
I wish I knew the noun for his dapper cap.
If I were more networky, I’d casual flit from my conversation with Thomas over to start a conversation with Tim.
Timothy Willis Sanders looked at me and probably recognized me since we were Facebook friends.
Or maybe he saw ORANGE JUICE peeking out of my coat pocket.
I looked at the eyes astride the crooked nose and said,
“Mary Miller’s reading tonight. She’s a good short story writer.”
Thomas nodded his head largely.
The only space left in the joint was on the concrete floor.
I parked in a spot off to the left of the stage, right next to a Mackie speaker.
Amelia Gray was at the mic. I had a copy of MUSEUM OF THE WEIRD at home, sent by the publisher in exchange for a thoughtful review on The Open End.
I had never seen her in person, but we were friends on Facebook.
She said a lot of funny things, like when Stacey, the other founder of “5 Things” said,
“It’s like the good kind of Wikileaks.”
“You mean like Wikileaks Wikileaks.”
And then Amelia asked the audience if they liked Wikileaks Wikileaks, and everyone made some noise.
I heard each reader’s voice come sweetly through the Mackie speaker.
Mary Miller was third to read.
People clapped for her as she situated herself behind the mic.
She asked Amelia for something to put behind the papers she was reading from.
Amelia gave her a childhood copy of,
THE WHAT’S HAPPENING TO MY BODY? BOOK FOR GIRLS
Mary Miller warned everyone that she grew up Catholic, so this was going to get dirty.
She talked about a girl in gym class who once asked her if her tampon string was hanging out of her vagina.
This girl walked ahead of her and asked,
“Can you see anything, Mary?”
Mary Miller said she couldn’t believe a girl could talk so openly about her vagina.
Mary Miller started talking about how mysterious her vagina was, how it made her want to straddle the legs of desks.
Mary Miller talked about how she developed very large breasts early on in life and how her mother made her wear straps over her shoulders, over her shirts.
Mary Miller called these straps,
When she finished, the girl sitting next to me whispered to her girlfriend sitting next to her,
“I liked that one.”
That one walked off the stage and sat on this nice couch where some other ones sat.
I looked for Timothy Willis Sanders after the reading.
I walked in and out of the United States Art Authority.
He wasn’t anywhere.
I thought a little about talking with Mary Miller and saying we just became Facebook friends, maybe ask for a free copy of her book in exchange for a thoughtful review.
This made me look down at my AF-1s and make a comical facial expression.
I wasn’t going to talk with Mary Miller just like I wasn’t going to find Timothy Willis Sanders.
There was no reason.
I saw Thomas limping unsteadily to the bathroom in his green ADIDAS sweatshirt.
People crowded the red bar and made it difficult for me to work my way around the place to say goodbye.
Besides, I wanted the freedom of outside already.
I put on my beanie cap and felt insulated.
On Guadalupe St (pronounced GuadaLOOP by Austinites), I looked into a window that looked into a room with a Ping-Pong table.
2 guys were playing.
1 tossed the spherical eggshell and was about to serve when I walked out of frame.