Friday, December 20, 2013

Fancy plans

"What did you say?" She was woozy after flushing the toilet to allay suspicion and washing her hands, and didn't quite have all of her sense of hearing back.
"I said get your laptop ready. We're going live now."
It came back to her. He was here to do a business thing, and they were business partners. "Oh really?" She could hardly conceal her disinterest. Instead of calming her down, her little solo episode in the bathroom had actually made her feel more ready. She felt she had crossed some kind of line. Once you were comfortable enough around someone to go get yourself off and act like nothing had happened, you could no longer be just friends, it seemed. "Oh really?" she said again, differently, seeing if Monte would pick up on any change in her demeanor. She hadn't moved from the bathroom door since emerging from it.
"Yes, really. Come on, you're gonna miss it."
This was too much. Is this what she had been anticipating all night? Suddenly there was too much going on. The moment was already getting away from her. She became overwhelmed with the need to be alone, in order to properly take this all in. Had she been blind all this time to the fact that her life was changing before her eyes? Or maybe this was no different than what she had been through earlier, before she ever made any decisions to do anything with her mother's fortune. The difference was, she had imposed these life changes on herself, instead of letting them happen to her. And the fact of the matter was, there was no way she would have set these events in motion if those previous, traumatic experiences had not taken their toll and fundamentally destroyed her world.
So she decided that making her own fate was what mattered, not living up to someone else's legacy or wrangling some kind of monetary gain out of this effort. And just then it occurred to her that this was probably not ever going to make her rich, and for that moment, she didn't mind.
She had turned off her music and opened a browser window. Here it comes.
"And we are.... live," Monte said.
She refreshed her page, and took a good look at for the first time.
It was pretty. The guy that Monte had been paying to create this page was as good as advertised. Making the most of a simple, thoroughly modern design, the site consisted of a small list of links and a log-in bar at the top, all laid out in a neat, organized fashion in tasteful whites, pinks and goldenrod yellows. An evocative graphic adorned the upper left-hand corner of the page, showing the title of the Web site over a sunset beach vista. A couple sat together at a table, unaware of any photographer, shown mostly in silhouette, as birds flew by in the distance and palm trees swayed in the wind behind their heads. It was a beautiful shot in its own right while immediately conveying the site's purpose.
"Oh Monte," she said.
"What do you think? It's not really how he described it, but it's close enough. I had this old engagement photo I wanted to use, but he said this would work better."
"It's perfect," Calisto said. Then she added, "I can't believe you did it!"
She glided across the floor and hugged him around the neck from behind, and he said "Whoa, hey," at a loss for words. It was the first time either one of them had touched the other, and the sudden contact made her draw back almost instantly. She couldn't help herself. Doing an about-face with respect to her previous position, she was now convinced this thing was going to make them both rich, how could it not? Grandiose ideas went racing through her head, ideas of expansion, registering new sites all over the mainland, flooding the marketplace with their brand. Making her own fate with this gentleman, who apparently would not only do anything for her, but would exceed her wildest expectations in the process.
"It's pretty cool, isn't it?" Then he raised his mug of wine and said, "Clink it!" Calisto went over to the kitchen counter and came back with her mug (and the remains of the wine bottle), and they clinked them together. "World domination," he said, as if reading her mind.
"Fancy plans," Calisto said. "And pants to match." They both drank and refilled. "So what's next?" she asked.
"Well, I'm already signed up. You should be next, and then when the two lollygaggers show up, we should get them registered. Hell, you should create a separate account for every e-mail address you have. That's what I'm doing."
"Yeah, I know. I meant, what's next tonight." She had moved up beside him, peering down at his face expectantly, the Web site reflected in his glasses. "Let me ask you something," she said. "How can someone who's in a band have no interest in music?"
He put the laptop aside and looked back at her, finally. "Where do you go to smoke around here?"
"We're not supposed to, but I could take you up to the roof."
"Up on the roof. Will you take me there if I tell you about the void that music has left in my life?"
It was too intriguing to not say yes. They left the apartment and clambered up the decrepit fire exit. City lights formed straight-line constellations below them. Cars turned their yellows or reds in their direction, the echoes of their cranked-up sound systems barely reaching them. The city looked like theirs from the taking, lying in wait like the calm before being taken by storm.
They had carried their mugs up with them too, brimmed and sitting at their feet in the darkness, their cherries the only extant light source. Calisto no longer wanted to hear whatever rehearsed answer he had to his question anymore and instead pointed with her cigarette hand and said "See that?"
"That dog?"
"No, that's not a dog. That building down there, with the swimming pool on the roof?"
"That's where I'm moving, once we make a million dollars."
"You haven't found a place yet?" He was aware that her living situation was becoming precarious, as it seemed to come up every time they talked.
"I found it, I just can't afford it."
"You might want to find a place you can afford then. Is that why you wanted to do this?"
"I wanted to do this for all kinds of reasons. What are you gonna do with all your money?"
"First I'm gonna pour everything we make back into the site. We need to be going big."
"What about something fun?"
He drank, seeming to wave her question off. "I don't need a lot. The money is not important to me. What is important is making something that's bigger than myself. It kind of goes back to that music thing, what you were asking me. Music used to be the biggest thing in my life. I met my wife through the band. Ex-wife, I mean. We met at a show. After that we went to every show together. We thought we were soulmates. I mean we agreed on everything, and I have fairly bizarre tastes, not to brag or anything."
He stopped there, but continued to fix his gaze ahead as if he were still continuing his monologue in his head. She toyed with the idea of placing her hand on his, or on his knee. She wasn't feeling lascivious anymore, just in the mood for a friendly gesture. She didn't know how it would be interpreted though. "What happened then?" she asked in a voice too small for what she was feeling.
"It was my fault," he said. "I fucked around on her. She knows, but doesn't really, at this point. I mean, she has no proof. Anyway, by then we were pretty much already over. Turns out besides the music, we didn't really have that much in common. You ever have someone introduce you to someone else, and it goes badly, and that in turn makes you resent the person who introduced you? It was like that with me and music. It doesn't trigger the same things anymore. Once she was gone, that was gone too, that being the thing that made us seem right for each other in the first place. Do you get what my point is in saying all this?"
"No." She had some idea, but thought it best not to presume.
"My point is, I wanted to do something bigger than myself, and that's always a mistake because nothing is bigger than me. Life is just the process of figuring that out. We are born with everything we will ever need but we trick ourselves into thinking there's something more outside of us. That's why every goal you reach takes you farther away from the target."
That was not at all the point Calisto had thought he'd been making, and by this time she was feeling very good about her decision not to make out with him earlier just because she was in heat and he was there. It didn't mean he had no shot in hell, but for a start he would definitely have to stop spouting so much bullshit before she would let that happen. "I don't believe you," she said.
"What don't you believe?"
"That you really think that. If you did, then why do anything? Why not go live in some Zen monastery and eat dust for the rest of your life? I mean do you really not see the fallacy in your thinking?"
"Because," he said, "if I did that then I wouldn't be creating Lunch Dates with you. You're basically the last thing keeping me from dropping out of society."
"Then I hope this doesn't fail, because I'd hate for you to actually go through with dropping out of society only to find that it leaves you feeling as empty as anything else." She knew he was being insincere, but she bought the line anyway. If it was a lie, at least it was a pretty one. "You never answered my question."
"I was never going to," he said.
"What happened with you and your wife?"
"It's a fairly typical story, I guess. I was the opening act for this girl, we hooked up, and then one day I accidentally called her my wife's name. Turns out she's total crazypants and the first thing she does is call up my wife and tell her we're fucking. In front of me she pulls that shit, before I can stop her."
"What's your wife's name?" Calisto asked him.
"What name did you call this girl by mistake?"
"My wife you mean? Her name was Lise."
"Just Lise. Why does it matter?"
"It could have been accidental. Or you could have told her you were saying something else. What did this girl expect anyway, were you not ever supposed to say your wife's name around her?"
He didn't evince much interest in discussing the subject further. "Well, it just goes to show you. I liked this girl because she helped me with my music. That was a mistake. I don't even like playing music anymore since that mess."
This gave Calisto an idea. She liked to fancy herself a mender, despite all signs pointing to the strong possibility she had no ability to remedy even the simplest of her problems. But focusing on helping others had always appealed to her for the distraction it afforded from the help she herself needed. When her mother would be working through an especially rough time, during those days when the business was on the verge of going under and even Marisa had a difficult time buying into the dream, that was when Calisto could sense it was her time to step up and provide a little spark or show of support to keep them all going. So from that time forward, she vowed to help Monte rediscover his love for music. It seemed like the only thing she could do to repay him. She had no idea how to go about doing this, and was sure as hell not going to let a thing like that get in the way.