Keenan opened his guitar case and began to tune it. Oliver strummed a few notes before Chaz came over to help him tune his bass. Theo swung his fingers over the string. a beautiful sound emerged that made him smile. Music filled Theo with a sublime tranquility unlike anything he experienced with drugs or by any other influence.
“Okay,” said Theo once he saw Chaz settle behind his drum set. “Everybody ready?” He received affirmations from both Chaz and Keenan. “Ollie, just try to follow along with the rhythm. If you can’t figure it out or if you don’t know the chords, just sit back and we’ll help you out after, okay?”
Oliver nodded with some trepidation. Theo looked at Chaz and nodded for him to begin. Chaz counted down and began to play. The rest of the group followed in more specific ways than I am capable of describing at this time.
Oliver held back for a while, nodding his head to Chaz’s beat while tilting his head to listen to the notes the others were doing. He watched carefully the way that Theo and Keenan’s fingers moved over the neck of the guitar and silently mimicked their movements. Then, after about a minute, he began to hit the four strings with his thumb.
Theo only heard Oliver play for a short while before stopping the song cold, putting down his guitar, and lunging at Oliver. He embraced Oliver tightly, to which Oliver reacted by freezing and tensing his muscles. Slowly, he relaxed and asked, “What did I do?”
“You did amazingness.”
Chaz tapped his drumsticks together. “You really were. Have you ever played the bass before?”
Oliver shook his head over Theo’s shoulder. “I listened, and I watched.”
Theo pulled away and looked into Oliver’s deep, black eyes. “You just learned how to play right now after watching us for a minute?”
Oliver nodded again. He seemed to prefer to not say words if he could avoid them.
“That’s fucking amazing.” Theo looked over at Keenan, trying to gauge his approval. “That was fucking amazing, right?”
Keenan smirked. “It was a lot better than I thought. I think we’ve got our band. Assuming Ollie wants to play.”
Oliver looked at Theo for a long while. He was less interested in whether he wanted to play and more in whether Theo wanted him to play. Theo, he could see, was convinced–a complete conviction he had rarely seen in people’s eyes. “Yes. I will play if you do,” he said to Theo.
“Well, I definitely plan to play,” Theo confirmed.
Oliver nodded. “Then I definitely will play.”
“Now the only question left is: what do we call ourselves?” asked Chaz.
“Not ‘Theo and the Rockets,’” said Keenan, a silly grin on his face.
Theo laughed. “Shut up!”
“I thought of a few,” said Chaz, “back in the day. But I used most of them already. I’ve been in a lot of bands that wound up not working out.”
“Pigeonhole. Because nobody can pigeonhole us.”
Keenan shook his head. “I’m thinking of a pigeon’s butthole.”
Theo frowned. “Massive Attack.”
“Already in use,” said Chaz. “And awesome group, by the way.”
“Us or them?”
“Both?” Chaz smiled and shrugged. “How about Six Minutes to Six?”
“I kinda like that!” said Theo.
“Why six?” asked Oliver.
“It’s just a name.”
“No. Ollie’s right. It’s too random. Why six? You could say it’s because of six-six-six, but it’s not even that. We’re missing a six.”
“So Six Minutes to Sixty-six.”
Keenan laughed. “You’re stretching it.”
“Fine, you come up with something!” said Theo, frustrated with Keenan’s tendency to naysay.
Keenan sighed. “I’m in hell right now.”
Theo threw a couch pillow at Keenan, which he easily caught. “It’s not that bad. More like Purgatory.”
Keenan put the pillow down next to him. “Fuck. That’s it! I like that one!”
“That one what?”
Chaz hit the cymbal. “I like it too!”
“Like what?!” Theo asked more loudly.
“Purgatory,” said Keenan. “It’s a good name. And it kinda fits both our styles–leaning towards the dark side.”
Theo smiled. “Okay. I like it too. ‘Cuz I came up with it.”
“By accident.” Keenan threw the pillow back at Theo. It hit him in the face. Theo yelped.
* * *
Theo didn’t like being in Chaz’s house alone. He didn’t like being anywhere alone.
Theo can’t live without attention. Look at me! Look at me! That’s why he has so many friends everywhere, and they’re all the kinds of people who love Theo. I’m not angry–I’m just saying. It’s not really fair to people like me, who don’t really need that much attention.
Okay, maybe I’m an attention whore too, but I only really want Ash’s attention anyway. And still Ash is spending tons of time writing this book. This is my passive-aggressive way of saying, “Ash! Let’s go out and do stuff! This book doesn’t have to get done by tonight!” So you almost have 50,000 words. Finish that, then we go get pastries. If not, I’m gonna be really sad, and you’ll get no sex for weeks. Well, hours. I’m not gonna punish myself.
Maybe I should figure out something else.
Oliver left the house at sunset and didn’t return until morning, so Theo went to the French Quarter and hung out with West’s group. It wasn’t only loneliness that brought him there. It was Gabe. Theo wanted to run his hands through Gabe’s dirty hair and kiss his dry lips. That’s why, in the morning, when Gabe woke Theo and asked him if he was hungry, Theo quickly agreed.
Then he realized that he hadn’t brought enough money to buy breakfast for one, let alone two. He had brought only enough for the bus ride to and from the house. He thought about confessing to Gabe, but he was too ashamed. He had no money, but he couldn’t expect Gabe to pay for him–Gabe who had duct taped shoes and ripped pants and a dirty tee-shirt. Theo still had the clothes he had taken from home. They weren’t many, but Chaz washed them with his laundry, and they were still in good condition.
“I don’t have any money,” Theo said finally, expecting his words to end this engagement–Theo wanted to call it a date, but that might be overstating Gabe’s intentions.
Gabe smiled. “I don’t pay for food.”
“Oh,” Theo hadn’t entirely realized that he might be paying for two. He would’ve been willing to, if he had the cash to do it with. He cursed himself for not bringing more out with him, but he was terrified of being mugged. “So we can go back, if you want.”
Gabe laughed. “You didn’t get what I said right. I said I don’t pay for food because I know where there’s free food.”
“Okay, cool.” Theo thought about Gabe digging through dumpsters and trash bins until they found enough spaghetti to pile into a plate. Then they would each take a noodle and put it in their mouths and suck on it until they discovered, to their surprise, that they had both taken opposite ends of the same noodle. Their sucking would bring their lips together, then they would both pull away and blush and have sex.
Theo didn’t share the thoughts he was having.
Gabe led him to a church. It was a modest building that looked more like a two-story apartment building attached to a second building with an arched roof. There were a number of people gathered along the side of the flat-roofed building. A set of double doors were opened, and a small table was set out in front with brochures about God and salvation and the afterlife. A sign next to the table said, “All brothers and sisters in Christ are welcome!”
As they approached, the girl at the door said, “Hi! Welcome to Christ United Methodist Church. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”
Gabe smiled and said, “Yes, I have! Can I have one of those?” He pointed at the brochures. “I want to bring my friend here to the glory of the Lord.”
“Amen!” the girl said. She was so excited. “You’re gonna love it here. We’re very welcoming.” She took one of each brochure and gave them to Gabe, who instantly handed them to Theo.
Theo looked at them and grimaced. “Thanks?”
“Go right inside. Breakfast is just starting to be served.”
“Thank you very much,” Gabe said, a disturbingly fake, wide smile panted on his face. He led Theo inside while Theo leafed through the brochures. Gabe looked at Theo and said, “Don’t actually convert. I was just joking around.”
Theo smiled. “I was worried for a second there.”