Read Streetlights Like Fireworks Online

Authors: David Pandolfe

Streetlights Like Fireworks (11 page)

BOOK: Streetlights Like Fireworks
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“You feel sure about that?”

I’m totally ready to blow her off for just giving me a
hard time. After all, I’ve been staring at people for the better part of an
hour. But then, yes, I observe a little more closely and notice the tattoo on
the arm of the chubby guy. A Halo gamer icon.

“Okay, I see it.” Still, the guy is huge and looks almost
as old as my father. “There’s no way that’s T,” I say.

“Keep looking.”

When she says it, he looks our way like he knows he’s
being watched. As he tries to see us through the windshield, my mind shoots
back to all those photos I’ve seen of T online. Those are the same eyes. It
isn’t the color of his eyes. After all, lots of people in the world have brown
eyes. Somehow, though, the intensity has remained. That fierce quality he
showed as a young, furious bass player shines back at me. Different body, same
soul.

“Yeah, that’s him,” I say.

“I know,” Lauren says. “But good for you.”

Then she’s out of the van and I follow as Trevor Harrison
approaches the shiny glass doors of Gentech Biosciences.

“What are we going to tell him?” I say, catching up to
her.

Lauren doesn’t break her stride. “I’m thinking maybe the
truth.”

We approach him as he steps onto the sidewalk.

“Excuse me, Trevor?” Lauren says.

He stops, looks us up and down, then nods as if that soon
coming to a conclusion. “I know what you’re thinking,” he says, “but you’ve got
the wrong person. Sorry to disappoint you.”

I shake my head. “But you don’t even know—”

“Yeah, I do. Let me guess. You guys think I used to be
that bass player guy.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like that,” I say. “We were just—”

“Listen, I know already. You guys are big Purge fans for
some reason, even though that freaking band broke up before you were even born.
Then you found my name on the internet—hmmm, let me guess, Facebook. Why the
hell did I ever sign up for that shit? Sorry to ruin your little fantasy, but
you got the wrong Trevor Harrison. Jesus, I really should just change my name
or something.” He spreads his arms and pushes out his impressive stomach.
“Seriously, do I look anything like the Purge guy? Why don’t you listen to some
music being recorded now, for God’s sake? I have to get to work.”

With that, he turns his back and walks toward the front
door. Maybe I was wrong about his eyes. Maybe we both chose to see what wasn’t
really there.

Obviously, Lauren doesn’t believe we made a mistake.
“Look, we don’t want anything from you, okay? We get it—that was like a million
years ago. You have a new life now. Just give us a minute and we’ll never
bother you again.”

“It’s true,” I say. “We’re just trying to return
something.”

Trevor opens the front door. Then he lets go of the
handle and the door falls closed again. He turns to face us. “I didn’t lose
anything.”

“Not to you,” I say. “To Jessica Malcom. I found her
guitar.”

Trevor’s eyes widen for just a moment. He opens his mouth
to speak just as his phone rings. He fishes it out of his pocket, his eyes
flicking back and forth between the two of us as he answers the call. “Hey,” he
says. “No, I’m right downstairs. What’s going on?”

While Trevor listens to whoever it is, Lauren reaches
into her purse and grabs a scrap of paper. She starts writing something.

“No, it’s fine,” Trevor says. “That server should be
partitioned by now. We ran the batch last night. Hang on, I’ll be there in
minute.” He puts his phone back into his pocket, then returns his attention to
us. “I have to get inside. I’m late. Good luck, you two, okay?”

Lauren holds out the scrap of paper. “It really is her
guitar,” she says.

Trevor barely glances at the note before shoving it into
his pocket. “Like I said, I’m late.”

A moment later, he’s inside waiting for the elevator and
we’re walking back across the parking lot.

“He’ll call,” Lauren says. “Did you see his eyes? He
really has the most expressive eyes.”

 

 
13

A Photograph of
John Gavuzzi

 

Lauren thinks we should hang around town for a while and it
isn’t like I can think of any better options. So, we find a nearby mall and
take advantage of the Barnes and Noble free lounging experience. We’re still
there at a little past noon, both of us reading graphic novels—
Scott Pilgrim
for me and
Lost at Sea
for Lauren—when she receives a text from Trevor.

Lauren’s eyes meet mine, her expression more than a
little smug. “He wants us to meet him tonight at seven. He sent an address.”

“No joke? Like, his home address?”

“That’s what he said.”

“Wow. Weird.”

“Must be that trustworthy thing you’ve got going on. And
to think you doubted we’d even hear from him.”

The thing is, I totally doubted. Even while Trevor seemed
to show some interest when we told him about the guitar, I still assumed he’d
blow us off and get on with things. If he even is the same Trevor Harrison that
once played bass for Purge, it seemed clear this morning that these days he’s
just some middle-aged guy focused on his job. But maybe Lauren knows people
better, or has more faith in them than I do.

I set my book on my armrest, saving my place with my
finger just in case. “So, what are we going to do until then?”

“I’m thinking Riverfest again, but without the fest.”

“Like, just go to the river?”

“A much less creative way of putting it,” she says, “but,
yeah. Right after I finish reading this and maybe one more. And maybe one more
after that.”

Good thing I saved my place. “So, like two hours from
now.”

“Thereabouts.” Lauren fishes inside her purse and comes
up with a twenty. “Hey, do you mind grabbing me a coffee? You can get yourself
a chocolate milk, if you want.”

“Nice,” I say.

~~~

Despite his evolution from lean, indie band bass player to
portly middle-aged tech guy, I still imagine Trevor living in some artsy part
of town. Probably in a cool old house full of CDs, records, posters and books,
and possibly even recording equipment—as if no time has passed and he’s still
some guy in his twenties jamming with friends at night after work.

As it turns out, the guy who used to be T now owns an
upscale townhouse on a street lined with others just like it. And while we
didn’t spot Trevor getting out of his car earlier, it appears the onetime rebel
musician drives a Lexus SUV these days.

“You’re sure we have the right place?”

“This is it,” Lauren says. “Looks like T’s doing pretty
good for himself.”

“Another rocker bites the dust.”

“Aw, don’t worry, Pajama Boy. You can still be a poor
person someday. All is not lost.”

Even as we ring the doorbell, the weight of the guitar
case dragging at my arm, I still wonder if we might have the wrong address. But
just a few seconds pass before the door opens.

Trevor hesitates, even though he invited us over. After a
moment, he says, “Hey, guys. Come on in.”

We follow him into the living room. Plush sofas, ornate
coffee table, framed watercolor paintings. On the mantel, a picture of two
young kids, a boy and a girl. It occurs to me that our surroundings might have
been the real reason for his hesitation.

As if reading my mind, Trevor says, “So, this is suburban
life in Kansas City. Sort of. Anyway, make yourself comfortable.” He gestures
to the sofas on either side of the coffee table. We take one and he takes the
other.

“Thanks for having us over,” I say.

“I’m guessing that might have surprised you a little.”

“A little, yeah,”  I say, when actually it surprised me a
lot.

“Understandable,” Trevor says. “That thing I said this
morning, about people bugging me. I wasn’t being totally honest. The truth is,
it’s more about how disappointed they seem when they realize I
really
was
T. Like I let them down or something. You know, by growing up and getting a
job. By getting older and fatter. But I kind of got the feeling we already
moved past that part.” 

I’m not sure what to say other than, “No, it’s totally
cool. It’s been a long time.”

“Exactly,” Trevor says. “Things change, you know?”

I nod even though it’s a rhetorical question.

“So, yeah. I kind of got to thinking about what you guys
said. How you were just trying to return Jessica’s guitar. Even if you’re wrong
about what you think you have, nothing like that has ever happened before.
Usually, people want something. A photo, an autograph on some old vinyl cover,
that kind of thing. It gets old.”

“It’s not like that,” I say. “But I do think you guys
were a really cool band.”

Trevor shrugs. “Thanks. We definitely had something.
Jessica
had something. Still, life goes on. Other stuff starts to matter more. Know
what I mean?”

While at first I’d assumed those pictures on the mantel
were probably of a niece and a nephew, suddenly I know otherwise. “Are those
your kids?”

Trevor smiles. “Derek and Sarah. They’ll be back this
weekend. I’m divorced but it’s all good. I still get along with my ex-wife. No
anger. At least, not anymore.”

“That’s nice,” Lauren says. “I mean, that you guys still
get along.”

“Yeah, it is. It’s up to us to keep it that way.” Trevor
turns his attention to the guitar case resting near my leg. “So, I guess that
must be it.”

The funny thing is, while Trevor’s been telling us about his
life I almost forgot about the Telecaster. For the last few minutes, his past
barely seemed to matter. Now, I open the case, take out the guitar and prop it
up for him to see.

Trevor stares at the Telecaster silently for a few
moments and it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking. Then he reaches into his top
pocket and takes out a pair of reading glasses. He sets them on his nose and
hunches forward. “God, that really does look like it,” he says softly. “The
finish, definitely. All that wearing across the top edge. The pickups too—they
look like the same kind Jessica installed. Can you spin it around?”

I do and his eyes lock on those same wounds I found on
the back of the Telecaster that first day.

“No way,” he whispers.  “No freaking way.”

Trevor reaches out and I pass him the guitar. He holds it
up, resting it on his thigh as he examines the front, then the back, then each
again. Minutes pass and it seems like years might be replaying inside his head.

“Yeah, there’s no doubt,” he says. “This has to be it.
Where did you find it?”

“Virginia,” I say.

Trevor raises his eyebrows. “Virginia?”       

So, I tell him about Gary’s store and how I felt like I
had to check out the Telecaster that day. I tell him about our journey, leaving
out the psychic and ghost parts at least for now. As Trevor listens, he keeps
shaking his head as if he’s not sure what to think. Understandable, considering
we’re now in Kansas City after finding a beat up old Telecaster in a small town
music store nearly two-thousand miles away.

“Okay, that’s kind of amazing of you guys,” Trevor says.
“I bet Jessica would really appreciate it.” He passes the Telecaster back to
me, his eyes meeting mine and then Lauren’s. “God, Jessica loved that guitar so
much. Like it was part of her.”

“It’s the only one I ever saw her with in photos,” I say.

“Yep, that was her baby. But the weird thing was those
initials she carved into the back—she did that just before our last show
together.”

Finally, I have the chance to ask about what I wondered
on that first day. “Do you know why she did that?”

Trevor shrugs. “None of us knew what to think. We didn’t
know it was going to be our last show either. Then, just before she left, she
told us she gave it away. Dropped it off at a Goodwill place or something like
that.”

“Seriously, she just gave it away?”

“We couldn’t believe it either,” Trevor says, “but I
guess that’s what she did. Then she was gone. There was a lot going on at the
time. Jessica was really messed up. We all were.” He falls silent and puts his
reading glasses back into his pocket.

Lauren perches forward on the sofa. “Why did she leave?”

Trevor shakes his head, apparently still not quite sure.
“She kept saying she just didn’t want it anymore, that she was just done with
the whole thing. I don’t know, maybe she had other reasons. Honestly, we kept
thinking she’d come back but she never did.”

“So, that was it,” I say.

“That was it. I mean, for the band. Not for me. A lot
happened after that.” Trevor gestures toward the pictures on his mantel. “All
of it in some ways way bigger for me than the years in the band. Like I said,
things change.”

I wait a moment before saying anything. “Can you help us
get it back to her?”

Trevor looks back and for the between us again. “Sorry. I
know what you must have been thinking but I have no idea where she went.”

Lauren and I exchange glances. All of the hype about
Jessica Malcom’s disappearance from the face of the earth couldn’t be true.
Trevor had to know where she’d gone.

“Yeah, I know,” Trevor says, having caught the silent
conversation between us. “It really is hard to believe. Sorry to disappoint you
guys but it was a long time ago. Believe it or not, before Facebook, Twitter
and Tumblr. Almost before email and computers. People could still go off the
grid and disappear. Somehow, Jessica did. I guess she timed it just right. No
way she’d get away with it now.”

I expect Lauren to look disappointed. After all, we just
hit the end. But she keeps her eyes on mine as she shrugs and offers a slight
smile. In that moment, I understand. At least we made it this far. The two of
us, together.

I guess maybe I should feel defeated but instead I think
about that moment when she entwined her arm with mine.

“Are you guys hungry?” Trevor gets to his feet. “I
ordered some Chinese before you got here, just in case. Figured it was the
least I could do after being such a shithead to you guys earlier.”

~~~

We pass boxes of rice, chicken and shrimp around, doing our
best to make sense of the three of us being together. On one level, it feels
weird sitting in Trevor’s kitchen and I’m sure it feels equally strange for him
having us drop in from the other side of the country. At the same time, he
opened up to us before so now we tell him about ourselves.

I tell him about my band and Justin and Doug. Lauren
tells him how she loves reading and writing poetry and how she’s always wanted
to live on the west coast, another thing I didn’t know about her. Trevor tells
us how, after the band broke up, he went back to school and got a degree in
computer science, then ended up being an IT guy at Gentech. He seems happy
enough with that. Kind of like Gary, just pushing on with things, making a
future. Looking back maybe sometimes but not regretful.

After we finish eating, Trevor takes the plates to the
counter while Lauren and I close food boxes and cap condiments. He turns on the
faucet and waits for the sink to fill. “So, people know where you are, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” I say. I feel bad for lying but just can’t
bring myself to open that door.

Trevor submerges plates beneath water. “You must have
cool parents. Have you two been together for a while?”

Lauren’s smirk is so fleeting that I’m sure only I catch
it. “Feels like a lifetime,” she says.

Trevor laughs. “Do you have somewhere to stay?”

I shake my head even though he isn’t looking my way. “Not
exactly.”

He turns around, drying his hands on a dishtowel. “I’m
fine with you guys staying here tonight. It’s not like anyone’s using the guest
bedroom.”

~~~

Once we we’re upstairs, Lauren goes into the bathroom to
change. She meets me in the bedroom wearing gym shorts and a tank top. She’s
tied her hair back and suddenly she looks so young. No longer the guarded,
secret girl from school who everyone, including myself, never approached.
We’ll  be sharing the room but it’s not like that first night in the motel. I
know her now. I feel more, want more, but at the same time we’re friends and I
don’t want to change that. It wouldn’t be worth it.
Lauren checks out the room. “This is nice.”

She’s right and I’ve barely looked around. Trevor must
have other rooms for his kids, but this is a tidy little guest bedroom. Who
it’s meant for is impossible to say but there are curtains and framed landscape
prints on the walls. A well-intentioned space.

“You probably noticed there’s just the one bed in here,”
Lauren says.

I rummage through my bag looking for something to sleep
in. “Definitely noticed that. It’s cool. I’ll take the floor.”

Lauren peels back the covers, then wraps herself in. She
watches me. “No need, as long as you live up to your reputation, Pajama Boy.”

I can’t help smile. “How do you feel about sweat pants
and a t-shirt?”

“On a scale of one to ten—your cabin at camp being a
ten—how bad do they smell?”

I have to think about that. “Maybe a five?”

“Good thing I have sinus issues,” Lauren says. “Hop on
in.”

“So, maybe I need ear plugs?”

“Yeah, I’d grab those if I were you.”

~~~

For a while, we sleep and I’m not sure who wakes up first.
But somehow I know Lauren is awake next to me. Normally, I probably wouldn’t
say what’s on my mind but it’s just us there in the dark and no one will burst
out laughing if I make a fool of myself. Except maybe Lauren but otherwise
there will be no witnesses.

“So, are we still going to hang out after this? I mean,
when we go back.”

A moment passes before she says, “My life’s not so good,
Pajama Boy. You might not want to be around it.”

Which isn’t how I’ve pictured things. For some reason, I
imagined that her life is going better than mine. “I think I can handle it,” I
say. “As long as you stop calling me Pajama Boy.”

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