NaNoWriMo Day 7

Austin

Sixth Street is the cultural center of Austin, and therefore by extension the world. Should your preferences run towards drinking, listening to excellent music, or simply watching weird people go about inexplicable business, it’s a good place to be at night. For someone who was hearing voices and felt like he was teetering on the edge of a breakdown on top of quite possibly getting fired tomorrow for insubordination and general craziness, it was maybe not the ideal environment.

On the other hand, Phil was finding the the constant flood of music and revelry did a pretty good job of silencing or shutting out his imaginary friend. The voice had been getting louder, angrier, and more and more insistent. Work couldn’t divert it, the car radio couldn’t drown it out, TV had no effect on it. Phil tried playing Halo, and that got profoundly weird. He started reacting faster and more accurately than he ever had before, but felt a numbness in his hands and a sense of satisfaction in the back of his skull.

He was in no state to party, or to meet people, but he was getting scared that he’d come apart at the seams if he stayed alone. So here he was.

He maneuvered around a pair of rhinestone cowboys in ten-gallon hats, stepped quickly past a guy selling T-shirts, and got hit by three musical genres in twenty paces. Eventually, he found the small bar where Amir had said to meet him.

It was a narrow establishment, but deep, made of dark reddish woods and highlights of tarnished brass, the ceiling high and decorated with UT memorabilia and signed photos of notable musicians. Phil suspected the autographed 8×10 of Robert Johnson was a forgery. The bar ran two thirds of the length of the right-hand wall, and opposite it was a tiny stage where a two-man blues operation was getting their Stevie Ray Vaughan on as hard and loud as they could. There was a postage stamp of dance floor between the band and the door, and past them the left-hand wall was lined with booths and the floor was salted with small tables. A couple of young ladies with unusually short shorts, aprons and high-held trays threaded through this area swapping full glasses for empty ones. The long room somehow felt smoky even though smoking in bars was illegal.

Phil found it all somewhat soothing, and up close the band was too loud for him hear himself think, which was absolutely perfect. He let himself unratchet some of the tenseness in his joints. He moved in deeper, evading the waitresses, and found Amir and three people he didn’t recognize at a table near the back. At this range from the band, conversation was reasonably possible, and was being engaged in. Amir smile when he saw Phil, but on seeing him better began to look concerned.

Phil! Glad you could make it! Hey, come sit down man, you look like you could use a drink!”

That was definitely true. He’d been sweating, not blinking much, and twitching excessively for most of his day.

On Amir’s right was a weedy guy with a shaggy moptop hanging down over his eyes, wearing a baggy UT sweatshirt over jeans. To his left was a slimly pretty girl with thick dark hair and a crooked nose that looked to have been broken at some point and set not quite right. Across from her was a broad-chested man of at least thirty sporting horn-rimmed glasses and slicked-back hair. They all had drinks, the girl and Amir each had an empty glass still at hand, and the older guy had a couple of empty glasses his own. Phil took the empty chair next to the hornrims guy and ordered a double whiskey sour when a waitress swooped down by him.

Amir made introductions. Phil absolutely failed to retain anyone’s name, but he managed to stay polite and relatively normal. The drink seemed to steady him some. Amir’s coworkers were getting into some office gossip and Phil just kind of let it wash over him. The guy on guitar honestly wasn’t very good, but he had some enthusiasm. Son of a bitch, Phil was actually starting to feel pretty ok. Another whiskey sour later, and he felt outright good. He noticed the others were looking at him, and realized he’d been asked a question. He thought it was probably something about his job.

“I’m probably fired,” he said cheerfully.

The strangers didn’t seem to sure of how to take this. Amir frowned. “You do something crazy?”

Phil chuckled. “Didn’t quite manage to keep everything on the inside during today’s chat with my boss. Wasn’t really myself, I guess. I’d just had enough.”

“Wow. What’d you say to him?”

Phil told the story, omitting everything about hearing voices and seeing reflections and he like it told that way, really, because in addition to leaving out all the stuff about him being crazy it made him look a little more like a badass who played by his own rules, sticking it to the man. He had another whiskey, began desperately trying to remember or figure out a way to guess crooked-nose-cute-girl’s name so he could ask her to dance. He really did feel like a new man.

Which probably should have been his first warning.

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