Monday, November 15, 2010

Oliver Keyes

He stood on his balcony, smoking the last cigarette in his pack. The cigarette was probably two months old now. Oliver wasn't a particularly heavy smoker, but when he was in the mood, he had no qualms about it. Why he sometimes got into these “moods,” though, he didn't know. If asked, he couldn't even describe what they felt like. It's not like his life was bad.

Inside their apartment, his beautiful wife was watching a documentary on the 56” plasma screen. When she was done, they'd probably have a stimulating conversation followed by wonderful sex. Tomorrow, he'd spend eight to ten hours doing work he found interesting and meaningful. He took another drag of his cigarette. No, Oliver's life wasn't bad. It wasn't that at all.

Far below him, the city was winding down. It wasn't particularly late, but it was a Sunday. People were tired. Maybe that's what it was. Maybe he was tired. A slow trickle of cars still flowed through the intersections. Several dozen people wandered the streets, and every now and then, a snippet of their conversation drifted up to him. It was like the faint murmur of a lover saying goodnight.

He clenched the balcony rail, his cigarette still clutched between his knuckles. Somewhere out there, somebody was playing music. He could faintly hear it, and when the wind turned the other way, the music disappeared. For brief, irrational moment, Oliver thought that maybe this mood was because of the music. That couldn't be it, though. He'd only just heard it, and the mood had been around for a while a now.

When the wind turned again, the music returned with it. He took a long drag of his cigarette as he listened to them playing. It was some sort of hardcore punk band. From all the way up here, he couldn't really understand their words. Apparently their audience could, though. Every now and then, he'd catch them singing along with their coarse voices. Other times they'd whistle.

Oliver used to go by Ollie. He used to go to shows like that all the time. If he were there now, he'd be one of the guys shouting off-key and feeling like the music represented his own beliefs. Of course, he couldn't show up to an underground show looking like this. They'd stare at him in his sports jacket. He wouldn't belong, and that would spoil everything. People went to shows like that to lose themselves, not to be reminded of how they were different.

In the hills to the west he could see a big bonfire, and he figured that's where the show was happening. Probably, the cops would show up in another half-hour, but until then, that little parcel of the night was theirs. He took another draw off his cigarette, wondering if these days he had anything to wear to show like that. Amongst all the designer t-shirts and couture jackets, no. Not a thing. Even his tanktops wouldn't look right. Neither would his trendy haircut.

His cigarette was almost out. Savoring the last puff, he flicked the butt over his balcony, watching as the little ember spiraled away and finally disappeared. As if waiting for this moment, the balcony door slid open and he felt his wife wrap a long arm around his waist. “You feeling alright, darling?”

“Yeah.” The audience was cheering now, hooting so loudly that their cries echoed across the whole city. Oliver pulled his wife closer. “How was the documentary?”

“It was good. Gave me a lot to think about.”

And as sirens blared toward the western hills, Oliver listened to his wife talk about the movie, society, and its discontents.

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