I. "Easy Easy"
Just a week ago, she got laid off from her dead-end job that had been eating away at her life. Five minutes late, one too many times. They didn't offer her a severance package, and the unemployment office denied her benefits.
When she wasn't sleeping or crying or watching Netflix or infinite-scrolling through her cesspool of a Tumblr dashboard, she scoured Craigslist for jobs, and to more interesting effect, gigs. She found one that didn't require nudity or a headshot; she only had to show up and participate in some consulting agency's focus group in the South End, and she'd get an easy $100.
She didn't have a car, so it took her one bus ride to get downtown and another on the number 7—the only bus route in Seattle to have an article written about it in the city newspaper ("A Colorful Part of Daily Life for Riders," the honky-ass headline said)—to get to the Orcas Street stop on Rainier Avenue. She didn't have a smartphone, so she couldn't tell she was walking in the opposite direction for 12 blocks.
More than 3,000 miles from her hometown with a Seattle fall approaching, a court case pending, and the feeling that she would never "grow up" or amount to shit taking hold, she collapsed on the curb across the street from Brighton Elementary School and cried. Hard. Harder than she had cried in years.
She might've stayed there for hours, crippled by frustration and self-loathing, if she didn't have her earbuds in when 6 Feet Beneath the Moon started playing from the old broken-screen iPod in her coat pocket for the first time.
Sparse, palm-muted guitar notes gave way to a thickly accented voice so pained, it seemed to put things in perspective. It assured her: "When positivity seems hard to reach/I keep my head down and my mouth shut/'Cause if you're going through hell/You just keep going."
She picked herself up off the curb, put her head down, retraced her steps, and somehow found a town house with an address matching the one she had earlier scrawled on the back of a Safeway receipt. She was more than an hour late, but they still let her participate.
XIII. "A Lizard State"
He was about two and a half hours into his five-hour Saturday-night radio graveyard shift, which meant every bar in the city was closed. She told him earlier that she would come by the station when she left her girlfriend's birthday thing—to hang out, help pick music, maybe do something unprintable during a 15-minute DJ Screw song—but she hadn't texted all night. Fourteen minutes later, the text came saying she was too tired to make it. Nine minutes later, he remembered that one asshole's shitty punk band had a show in town that night. As suspicion and paranoia crept in, the song playing on-air began to fade out. Snapping out of his building rage, he grabbed the CD on top of the stack closest to him, threw it into the tray, and flipped to a random song to avoid the cardinal sin of dead air.
The album was King Krule's 6 Feet Beneath the Moon; the song was "A Lizard State"—a dynamic change of pace on the record, one of the only songs featuring horns and crash cymbals, the kind of song that bands like Arctic Monkeys have been trying to write for five albums now.
"In my head, I'm getting dead tired of this shit you've caused, you fucking bitch/You don't know when to stop... Well I've got myself trapped in the black of your heart/And now I'm gonna fuck things over 'cause that's a start."
He wouldn't find much solace or consolation from the conversations about this evening in the days or weeks to come, but playing a song so appropriate that contained a paint-peeling storm of swear words on the radio in the middle of the night gave him a childish sort of comfort and satisfaction.
XI. "Neptune Estate"
"Can't you bear just one more night?" the stereo repeated. They nervously glanced at each other, then away, half-chuckling at how stupidly pertinent their favorite song on the tape had suddenly become. The tape he brought home as a gift for her when they were so fucked for rent that he had to sell half of his already-picked-over record collection. At the time, he was proud he'd convinced the shop owner to throw it in with the $250 cash, and at the time, him coming home with a present when they had no money was everything to her (expectations were low, though—he always sucked at picking stuff out for her unless it somehow involved music).
He eyed her swollen duffel bag and suitcase near the door and thought about the last few years. She leaned into his chest and sighed, watching the cassette reels turn as the little equalizer-level lights rose and fell with the foggy thump-kick of the programmed beat. They both wanted to say something to take the focus away from the music, but didn't.
"Can we lose our emotions and still live well?/Can you tell that this faith is changed?/This heart, brain, pain, two separate ways/Can you tell that this face is changed?"
As she drifted off in his arms, the tape played on, then stopped. The audible greens and reds of the cassette deck display disappeared, and he sat in the sudden silence. He looked over at the closed laptop on his desk, now the only light in the room, and watched it slowly glow brighter, dimmer, back and forth in a hypnotic pulse. He thought about Jay Gatsby looking at Daisy's minute and faraway green light, cursed himself for being so damn narcissistic, and fell asleep.