This is the last part of a twelve-part story called Ten at the Trio. It takes place in and around the Chicago area in the Spring of 2000. It is dedicated to everyone I have ever gone to an Alkaline Trio show with. For previous parts go here.
Ten at the Trio
On an ordinary humid night in Chicago, kids converged at 2648 W. Fullerton Ave to see a three-piece punk rock band play in an old, dilapidated bowling alley. As the isolated show took place on stage hundreds of stories brushed against one another for a moment, only to disperse back onto the streets and into the night.
Lightheaded from the performance (and the alcohol), Martin and Arthur laughed on the L ride back to campus, talking of their respective plans for the summer and what they would do with their dorm room in the fall when they became roommates. When, ten years later, Martin texted Arthur a photo of his newborn baby girl, all Arthur could think about was this night and how he had never truly left it.
Randy, unwilling to look at his watch because he knew doing so would make his early shift at the Alley an ever-nearing reality, lit the last cigarette in the pack and began walking. He never showed up.
Hawaii, Arizona, DC and Utah went to Denny’s, where all, with the exception of DC, had an entree. He instead ordered a basket of seasoned fries, finished it, and ordered another, of which he ate a third. Arizona pulled four Trio buttons out of her pocket and passed them around. His thoughts drifting between the two girls, DC habitually drank his soda, which was promptly refilled and again habitually drunk. That was it. California hadn’t shown. She knew she wouldn’t go so why didn’t she just tell him that instead of making him waste his time looking for her? He never felt a part of the show and lied when asked what he thought. He couldn’t remember any details, not even if they had played his favorite song. As the party made their way home they divided up, the girls to their place, the guys to theirs. Utah had paused momentarily, expectantly, but DC only offered up a feeble “goodnight.” Hawaii, exhausted, disappeared into the fort while DC sat on the couch, staring at the TV but never turning it on. He could feel California’s building staring at him from across the way but didn’t turn to meet its gaze. There was a knock at the door – it was California. Could she come in? Her hair was unkempt and she looked frazzled. Of course, please come in. He made tea and they talked for an hour before she realized, and apologized for, the lateness of the hour. They parted, him promising to stop by after work tomorrow to help her put together a fan. The group of four never hung out again.
Robbie and John traded insults on the drive back. John wouldn’t let up about Robbie’s cautious driving and Robbie, finally fed up with it, floored the car, speeding through the deserted road at 1 AM. Never registering that they might be for him, Robbie didn’t readily pullover upon seeing the flashing lights, which didn’t help his case. The officer asked where they had been and if they had been smoking. They explained but backup was called in and the two were forced out of the vehicle and frisked on the side of the road as a dog searched the car. The only thing Robbie could think of was the possibility his grandmother had left unmarked medication in the glovebox. John laughed all the more when they were let go with just a ticket, but apologized for the event, which Robbie would recount fondly some years later when John died unexpectedly.
High, Chelsea and Stella turned right out of the Fireside and heard Mike’s voice from the alleyway saying “Caution! Caution!” Turning the corner they saw his face under the yellow glow of the streetlight, an unlit cigarette on his lips. Then they saw the girl on her knees, a heart and skull tattoo on her wrist.
George went back to his empty parents’ house feeling alive, the music still pulsing through his body, his mind expansive and clear, his ears still ringing. Although believing he’d never be able to fall asleep tonight he laid down and was out instantly. An hour later he woke screaming and grasping his pillow, sheets, the wall, the floor, anything solid to confirm that yes, this was reality and THAT was all just a dream. He tried to catch his breath, the vision of Death still hauntingly vivid and the words, “I will keep you warm in hell,” repeating endlessly. In a mad fury he tore down the bible pages and crucifix and fell back to sleep, panting, atop a pile of torn paper, the warm flicker of the TV keeping watch.
Lewis sped back toward the house, alone, visualizing all the foul things he would do to Charlie’s room and possessions, most notably taking a gigantic shit in the middle of his bed, but by the time he had made it back sadness had overtaken anger and he began questioning himself. It was true that he had dumped Dawn, but for Charlie to break the code like that…they were family and family doesn’t do that to one another. He sat on the back porch, smoked a bowl, had a shot of whiskey and went to sleep, feeling justified in leaving them to find their own way home. While he had dreams of them in each others’ arms, the reality saw Charlie and Dawn walking, arms crossed over their chests, blaming each other for the current circumstances. They wouldn’t talk again until years later, when she, Charlie and Lewis were all living in different states.
Annabelle tapped her black and crimson fingernails on the table nervously, smiling at Roger, unsure how clearly he could see her. She had had to lead him here by the arm, or at least that was what he told her, she unsure what to make of the cunning smile he tried to hide when he asked for her help. It didn’t matter – she liked him and he her. Recently moving to the city herself, she had also gone to the show alone. The waitress arrived with the milkshakes that were more than large enough for Roger to see despite any astigmatism. He looked around the small place – the wooden booths, the counter he had never sat at despite always coming here alone. The Chicago Diner was his favorite place in the city and he was excited to introduce her to it. It felt part of his definition of The City – now it would be part of hers too.
A pillow made out of the mound of sweaty t-shirts that he had held for the entirety of the show (he must remember to wait until later in the night next time to buy things), the skinny kid, planning which he would wear to school first, laid on the backseat, unable to believe how well the night had gone and how lucky he was to finally feel a part of something, a belonging, especially something that was so right and true, and how many cute girls had been there and just knowing they were out there somewhere made him feel better about the future and swept thoughts of suicide from his head, if only for tonight.
“I can’t believe this, how could this happen? You promised we’d make it, remember that? Remember? How could you not fill the tank, we stopped at a gas station!”
“I told you to fill it when I went to look at the maps! But apparently you just sat there.”
“I never heard you, you never asked me to.”
“Oh, believe me, I did.”
The girl began crying and he took a deep breath, staring at the sign for “Kunkle Repairs” that stood a few feet from the stopped car. The shop was long closed and there was nothing else in sight.
“Hey,” he said, touching her shoulder only to have her pull away as if touched with a hot iron. “Did you bring your kunkles?”
“What?!?” The seeming non-sequitur was enough to distract her from crying. He pointed to the sign.
“Your broken kunkles.”
Her laugh broke the tension and she and him and the car and the night and the kunkle repair shop stopped fighting gravity and relaxed into the slow spinning of the Earth.
“Babe, I’m sorry. You know I wanted to see the show as much as you did.”
“I know. I just wanted that to be our ending. I’m going to Alabama, you’ll be in Ohio and as much as I’d like to believe otherwise, I know this is it for us. I just wanted it to end up with an unforgettable night so when you’re doing some other girl and put on the Trio all you’ll see is me and miss me and you’ll never be able to listen to them again without thinking of me.”
“We can still make that happen.”
Reaching into the back seat, he rummaged around in his book bag and pulled out a portable blue CD player. Tearing the ear bud cord down the center so it would be long enough to share, he turned it on – Maybe I’ll Catch Fire started as his lips found hers in the semi-darkness of approaching and receding headlights. In her anger she had forgotten about the AAA membership her mother had given to her as a birthday gift – practicality she had rolled her eyes at at the time. As it flashed through her memory now, with their warm breath intermixing, she couldn’t imagine a better time to put it out of mind.
The lovers fell asleep, half naked, the CD player on repeat until 2:47 a.m., when the batteries, despite being labeled “heavy duty,” gave out during the final chorus of Radio.