Revolution Come and Gone
by Tobias Carroll
Timon met Marianne at a Black Halos show in Seattle. It wasn’t the colder season yet, but its arrival was obvious. Jackets and a few bold scarves could be seen on bodies on the streets surrounding the club. These were melancholy hours, a time to have impractical thoughts and ponder ways in and out on walks through the city.
The second opener had ended and the headliners had begun to arrange their gear across the stage. Illumination was enough to see one’s neighbor, be they acquaintance or stranger, but not the clarifying light that signified the end of the night’s music, that stifled hopes of an encore. Through the sound system came the sound of guitars wrapped around one another, sinews evoked through unfamiliar rhythms. Seated at a table halfway between speakers and bar, Marianne wished for a change, for whoever handled such things to make a change, however abrupt the transition. She had hoped for something cerebral, some sort of literate pop, songs with lyrics she could run through her mind and wait for evocation.
Timon waited closer to the stage, beer in hand, poised like a soldier or skydiver.
She was there alone and he was there alone; she had come for the first opener and he was there for no apparent reason, had been out on a walk, had seen that there was a show happening and tickets available as he passed by the club, and so he had forayed inside and ordered beer after beer after beer to pass the time. He had walked here down one hill and up another, and anticipated a brutal traversal of those same inclines on his homeward route. Timon wondered whether this might be the night he slipped and would be able to confirm his own theory of the downward roll, of whether he would tumble until he reached a certain point in the sidewalk or instead overrun the curb and come to a terminal point mid-lane, either to raise himself up and begin his trek once more or to encounter vehicle, for rolling inebriated flesh to collide with decelerating but nonetheless lethal rubber and metal. And so Timon drank and awaited the headliners’ arrival on the stage and, across the room, Marianne stood, feeling compelled to stay.
And when the band took to the stage, garage-rock from across the state’s northern border, Timon took a long drink from the bottle he’d been nursing for the past few minutes and thought of the phrases that had occupied his head for months. His grandfather’s final words, relayed to him across a continent via his parents: “It’s the fear,” he had said and Timon had heard secondhand. “The fear.” And that phrase dovetailing, curling around the title of the album that had occupied much of his stereo’s time recently: I Am That Great and Fiery Force. And Timon thought, yes: I will be that fear, and I will be that great and fiery force, and as the guitars began to roar he rushed into the crowd a dervish, eyes wide, seeking the contact of body on body, not willing destruction but not willing to prevent destruction and so, the spins, the loose arm, the images from the periphery of his vision of forms pushing backwards, retreating from him. Retreating from no others, none yet joining him in this cleared space.
Timon thought of the fraying then, of the days as a child when he’d first been in adult spaces, spaces that had not seen anyone of his age in decades. His parents would be in another room, discussing arcane subjects with the building’s occupants or caretakers. He would be left somewhere to wait, dressed in a style that mortified him: an awkwardly patterned tie and a nondescript blue blazer, always a size too large. He would wait and while waiting he would simply observe. He began to catalog the accumulation of dust in certain houses and apartments and the lack of dust in others; the presence or absence of plastic covers for furniture; the ways in which windowside drapes began to unwind. The manner in which certain colors faded from photographs taken in a certain decade.
As his parents would go about the family’s business, he would begin his interrogation of the less forthcoming photographs, trying to guess as best he could when they were taken. Trying to suppose the period, then the decade, then the specific year. And after he’d done this alone and in isolation for ten months, he finally posed his first question to the home’s owner, and learned that his estimate had been only two years off: 1926 rather than 1924. His parents nodded, never specifically encouraging him in this but never interjecting as he began to ask questions of each of their hosts. And after another year, when his guesses as to the years had become encyclopedic in their accuracy, he turned his attention to location and time: Chicago on a cloudy day; a bright morning in Vilnius; a late-night reverie in Halifax, just after the end of the Great War.
In the club in Seattle Timon swung out again and again, hands moving through the air. As he drove backwards, his body encountered the hands of others, those hands pushing him back into the center of the room, into his emptied center, and he clenched and unclenched and nursed at his beer and began the process again. It was deeper each time, a constant kind of motion, obeying the dictates of the rhythm coming from the stage and coming from the speakers, his mind emptied as long as he could keep from stopping.
And from twenty feet away, Marianne’s eyes drifted from the stage to the spinning, shaking figure to her left, and she thought, Christ, who is this asshole? Thought: this brutalist, making a fool of himself, wasted and stumbling. Thought: imbecile, and edged herself away from him. Over the sound of torn guitars her mind shifted to other topics: forgotten garage bands from steel towns and pulp novels and the lurid taste of drinks assembled by a bartender she’d once encountered in West Texas, on the drive that had brought her to Seattle several years earlier. There was a construction she had in mind, a loose collage of images from atlases documenting an impossible sort of geography. It was a notion that had circulated and inspired her when she first came to this city, during a time when she had sought work and sought disciplines to occupy her time and delay the onset of panic. Soon after she had begun her sketches of the piece, steady work had arrived, and she had shelved the project. More recently, the notion of completing it had returned to her, along with the notion that its construction would return to her a kind of freedom of movement, would unbind her from the city in which she dwelt. A sort of thesis, then, or the end of a journeyman phase. She considered leaving the city more frequently now than she ever had before. As her eyes returned to the drunkard, she thought: this will be the reason for my departure.
Eight songs in, Timon was still careening from body to body, was down to his last sips of the bottle, was earning the enmity of those around him, their faces shifting over time from acknowledgment to condemnation. Epithets and epitaphs hovered on low frequencies, and Timon shifted in and out, hearing only sufficient syllables to comprehend the general mood of his vicinity. He continued to contort until something in his stomach wrenched and his face felt cold and his throat ran bilious, and he was off now, pushing away from the stage, pushing through a section of the crowd unaccustomed to being pushed through.
Minutes later, he stood over the sink, hands cupped to drink. Cue the inspection: was it visible on him? Was he marked? He was not. And so he returned to the crowd, positioning himself towards the back now, assuming the rest of the set with arms at his sides, breathing easily, his stomach still allowing for telltale twinges but overall, settled. He stood there as the band played their final song, stood there as the crowd began filing towards the club’s exit.
Marianne was set to meet friends at a bar nearby to have a drink or two before closing. She looked down at her phone to check the time and joined the dwindling group walking outside. As she neared the bar, she saw the man she’d previously shunned. Now, he looked preternaturally still, like a monument or milemarker or memorial, his skin pale and his cheeks flushed, his eyes bloodshot. She looked at him, their eyes level. “Look, you,” she began, and his attention flared up, his eyes met hers. “That’s not cool, what I saw there. You keep doing that, people will deem you loathsome.”
Timon swallowed, half expecting this to be a drive-by kind of critique. She wasn’t moving, though; she was standing there, looking him in the eye. Daring him, in Timon’s mind, to say something. And standing there in an emptying club, the night’s energy moved elsewhere, diminished by alcohol and the damages it had already wrought to his body, he could only think to absolve himself. “Meant nothing by it,” he said, hoping that this simple phrase might lend him some humanity in her eyes, might convince her that he was not simply the blind thug he assumed she took him for; that he meant no harm in his unrestricted motion. He heard his words fall to the club’s floor and realized that he sounded robotic, and he tried to hold the look of the woman opposite him. It was a conversation that was destined to fail, he realized.
He reached for his wallet and withdrew his business card. He handed it to her. “Here,” he said tenderly, as though displaying a photograph of a newborn child. Then he said something like, “Damages.” She held up one hand, palm facing him, and shook her head. Marianne stepped outside, making her way towards her friends. Timon waited at the bar, wondering whether he should order his night’s final drink.
Tobias Carroll is a Jersey-raised Brooklyn resident and an editor at Vol.1. This story is taken from a novel in progress, currently titled Reel. When not here, he makes his online home at The Scowl. Sometimes, he knows a thing or two about a thing or two.
Brilliant evocation of unremarkable reality. We’ve all been one of the two of them- or both.
Loved this. Can’t wait to read more.