Sam wanted to be inside with the others, to talk to and be seen talking to Selene, but he knew he’d just be let down. Selene was one of the first friends he’d made in the downtown scene, and she was still his friend. But the late nights of watching cartoons and weekends eating dinner and playing cards with her family had grown farther between, and now that her music was taking off, now that she was becoming somebody, it seemed like everyone else was rushing to fill his place as her friend. Inside, he imagined her swarmed by a crowd of friends and ‘interested parties’ while the music equipment was breaking down behind her. If he tried to be her best friend in there right now, he’d just be one of a hundred posturing around her, also trying to be her best friend. He opted instead to sit outside, hesitantly sipping the last of his second beer, putting off the inevitable decision to walk away without saying goodbye. It was better this way, walking off without saying goodbye rather than awkwardly trying to seem like he belonged in there. She’ll still be around tomorrow, or the day after.
Good for her though, he thought, she deserves to be someone. She worked hard, and it’s not her fault that her time was not his anymore.
On the sidewalk around him, people who had been inside were milling about, talking to each other in exaggerated body language. Most were dressed well. Dressed carefully, dressed like they were somebody. A girl ten feet away was a good example. She was wore a black skirt that clung to her calves through the wind matched with black heels, talking to two boys who were dressed as chic boys dress with chic haircuts, the kind that mimicked the fashion of the impoverished, the revolving culture appropriated from people who couldn’t afford to wear better things than plain, weathered tees and cutoff jean shorts, loved so well by middle class twenty-somethings that lived off of their student loan money, either waiting or surfing the scene until they became somebody. He could tell by the tones of the words he didn’t hear that she was talking like she was somebody. He had a confident clairvoyance to what she was saying; oh, you know her, I know that person to, we did this and that together, I hear someone’s doing something sometime.
Sam caught the bitterness creeping back into his thoughts. He reminded himself that sometimes he did the same things this girl did. Sometimes, he went to the bar openings, the big shows like this one, the weekend flings where he knew other somebodies would be, places where he could be seen and heard, where someone might mistake him for a somebody.
Deep down, Sam wanted to be somebody too, and that’s why the bitterness lived in his marrow, sometimes bleeding into his veins when he saw others. A little voice in his head had always told him he would be somebody, and all these little clues surfaced just often enough in his life to keep him believing it was true. Twenty-eight years later, he was still hopping along from clue to clue, while in between each stepping-clue he waited tables, convincing himself that he was somebody as a good waiter in the best restaurant in the city, and he could tell everybody that he waited on this somebody or caught sight of that somebody at work, and when he told strangers about the big someplace they worked, they would say, oh I’ve heard of that place, I’ve heard it’s great, and that would make him feel good about himself.
Maybe if he’d stuck it out playing guitar instead of occasionally looking at the Telecaster knock-off leaning against the wall by his television, he’d be just like Selene, or maybe somewhere close. Maybe he could be playing with her. It’s far too late for that though, he thought, wiping the smell of the nameless girl’s cigarette from his nose. He’d never catch up to Selene, nor could even hope to be somewhat talented before a respectable age at this point.
He looked around. More people were filing out and lighting cigarettes and talking. None of them looked at him. He felt small and unrecognizable, though with the time and talking and money spent on buying shots and beer and drugs for the people in this town, he thought he deserved at least a nod from somebody here. But here they were, twenty-something twenty-somethings around him on the cafe patio who were desperately engrossed in becoming somebody, and beyond them for thousands of miles in every direction were eight billion other people doing the exact same. Eight billion people wanting to be somebody, like him, like Selene. A weight of peaceful hopelessness settled on him through the gentle waves of his two-beer day-drunk. He took the last, warm, malty sip, set down the can on a table and looked at it until he got the inspiration to walk away and back to his apartment. It was better this way.