My phone buzzed.
"Sorry man, something came up, I won't be coming over tonight."
"What's her name?"
"lol how'd you guess. It's Helena. Fuck, Elena I guess. The brunette from karaoke."
I put the phone back. I guess I'd hit up the music solo. It wasn't the first time Eric had flaked on our weekly house show date.
Everything came easy to Eric. He splashed through life with this simple joy that seemed so foreign to someone like me. Women? Adored him. Jobs? Always there when he needed them, always easy to leave when he inevitably got bored. I felt blessed to have even found a part time job doing what I liked -- a small column on local music in the Oregonian, our city paper, while also working as a shop assistant at Powell's Books. Eric, on the other hand, managed to find enough DJ gigs to avoid a day job. He was attractive. A rough, bearded blond who seemed like he had just finished baling hay or hunting deer or whatever lumberjack fantasy his onlooker was concocting. More than that, he oozed confidence like pheromones. He looked at men like he could out-spit, out-piss, and out-fight any one of them. I knew he had never been in a fight. He looked at women like he was taking their clothes off, and they looked back like they didn't mind.
I turned on the stove. The show started in an hour, so I probably had time for a quick dinner. Eggs and toast would have to do, seeing as that's all I had left. I threw on some coffee to complete the breakfast-at-dusk theme. Thinking better of it, I poured the remainder of the bulldog whiskey into the coffee. The concoction was truly abysmal, but would have to serve as a necessary pregame to attending a show alone.
I hated walking into the house shows the most. Once the music actually began I was happy enough to hide myself in the crowd, anonymous, just another awkward observer with a notepad in one hand and a cheap beer in the other. Everyone would be high anyways. If I was lucky, perhaps on something stronger, no one would notice me.
I waited for the eggs to finish. I always either undercooked or burned them. Today I was determined to outsmart this crusted skillet. While I waited, I turned to watch the darkened street below the apartment. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the darkened window -- lanky, awkward. I had always struggled to look women in the eyes, let alone talk to them. I turned back to the egg. It was burned.
I arrived at the house show at 10:30. A dilapidated craftsman in Northeast. Cars lined the street, and I struggled to find somewhere to park. I entered feeling jittery. The line of stoned hipsters on the porch scanned me up and down, but said nothing as I paid my recommended donation of $5 and entered the house. I found my cheap beer and settled myself in the back of the concert room. The band, an indie rock group called "Whale's Tears", was still setting up. Suddenly, three girls stumbled towards me.
"Hey! You're Eric's friend, right?" began the tallest one, a pale thing with those silly spock bangs and a "vintage" leather jacket.
"Yeah, my name is Sasha." I tried to shake her hand, but she didn't seem to notice.
"Is he coming tonight?" chimed in her small friend with pale pastel purple hair.
"No, I don't think so."
"Awww. Tell him that we miss him. In fact, I'm having a house party next weekend, do you think you could give this to him?"
She handed to a flier, wished me a good night, and sauntered away with her backup dancer pals. Mercifully, the music started shortly afterwards and I was spared any further interactions.
It was that night that I started having the dreams. The first one was odd. Eric and I were driving somewhere. It was dark, looked like the interstate between here and Vancouver. No other cars were around. We had been sitting in silence when Eric suddenly turned on the radio. I asked him to turn it down. I don't remember why, but I felt like I had to concentrate, as if something horrible were about to happen.
"Please, Eric, just turn it down."
He had only laughed. "Sasha, don't be a pussy. We are the only ones on the road. What are you afraid of?"
Just then we had rounded a curve. A curve I knew didn't exist on that interstate. There was the bridge, but I didn't point at the bridge. I pointed the car at that sickening gap to the side of the bridge.
"I'm not afraid of anything." I turned to Eric with an odd smile as the car careened into the darkness.
I woke up and went through the day still feeling detached and shaken. I tried to toss it from my head, but I saw that gap over and over. "I'm not afraid of anything."
That next night I dreamed again. Eric and I were at the gorge. He was out on the ledge over Multnomah falls. He had crawled past the mossy fence with its rusty sign reading, "Do not go past this point." He turned back with his boyish smile, "Come on Sasha! The view is great."
"Eric, I'm not really a fan of heights."
"Don't worry. I'll hold your hand if you want it."
He stood then. Just at the edge, silhouetted by the sinking sun, he looked like a god. And here I was, crouched in the mud a few feet behind him. I crawled under the fence and stood behind him. I put my hand on his corner. He turned to me with his smirk, "Wasn't so hard, right?"
I smiled back and pushed. I saw his eyes widening as he tumbled backwards down through the falls. His blond hair in all that pouring water looked like a flash of sun.
I woke sweating. I shook it off and headed into work. By midday I had already scanned three people's orders wrong, placed graphic novels in the poetry section on accident, and almost set off the fire alarm with the toaster in the breakroom. I told my manager I was feeling ill and clocked out. I wandered down burnside. It was starting to mist. Or perhaps it had been misting for a while -- I hadn't been outside since the morning. On 5th street I saw a homeless man shouting at pigeons. I could relate. I wanted to scream at the pigeons too, or perhaps just a lamp post, what had the pigeons done to me?
But what had my best friend done? Yet, twice now I had dreamed of his death. I would have put it off as odd dreams, the mysterious subconscious at work, but even now, in the gentle midday light, I didn't mind the thought. I was just so colossally bored, so hopelessly average, that even murder seemed better than my usual activities.
The next Friday, Eric was busy again. This time he was heading to a Flume concert. At midnight he sent me a picture.