By Rena Robinett
The night DeK met Tyla was not a good one for him. DeK, as he’d renamed himself after a desperation-filled adolescent idea had morphed into a company that became worldwide slang, was a half hacker whose one creative thought had made him very rich. After his former nerd buddies refused a deal from his lawyers to buy them out of his new life, he stopped having any thoughts except how to keep from being bored. After slamming down the phone call from his lawyer, he wandered around his ocean front condo in Dana Point in his boxers, waiting until it was late enough not to seem desperate so he could drive his custom Mini Cooper down to Harp’s, his own private club in Santa Monica.
Harp’s was a place he’d bought to have somewhere to meet chicks and be cool. The atmosphere was artfully contrived to make patrons feel like they’d arrived, without giving the impression that having arrived was important. Long wooden tables with bench seating, low ambient lighting, and a few cozy couches were scattered against Asian material lined walls. Vague art pieces stuck out haphazardly around the place. The stage was barren and intimate, with a few seats up close. A classic English pub style bar dominated the back of the room across from the stage. There were no hanging plants or pool tables. This bar was about chilling out, picking up, drinking and music. DeK would roll in the place in his oldest Dockers and the staff would practically salute. Like a lot of the people he surrounded himself with, he had taken pieces of this and that to create his idea of a whole person. He was a cipher human. It wasn’t that he couldn’t figure out where to find the missing pieces, he just never noticed there was anything not there.
When he walked in, he was ushered to his favorite table in the corner where he could track the door. The place was packed and the drunk guy everyone raved about was singing some crap DeK could never understand. DeK ordered a Jameson on the rocks, not because he liked it particularly, but because it was the first cool drink he’d ordered on his own in a bar.
Tyla watched DeK walk in. He’d tried several times to buy her drinks, but something about him made her cringe. She was seated, as she always was when Mick played, in the front row on the side. She was a ragtag, broke-down girl who wandered around wherever anyone would let her. She could find no good reason for existence save that her mother fucked her father. She wasn’t especially pretty, smart, or funny. Her grace was feeling the cracks in people. She couldn’t repair anyone, being too fragile herself, but she could see a persona past the dents they patched over. She was like a mirror of brokenness. She was young enough to be in the anti-tat stud hardware movement, rebelling against her mother’s inked body and multi-pierced face. When you first looked at her, your eyes slid away in search of something more interesting. If you did glance back, and if you had a bit of perception, you would notice the green in her brown eyes and the fine line from her cheekbone to her brow or the touch of rose on her lips. She was a subtle taste that rarely captured the jaded palettes roaming her universe.
Mick sang songs he wrote, while she stared up at him as if he’d created the words right there in front of her. He sang of a lost world, a world that could have been but was frittered away. He sang of humans pissing away the wonder of life, blown on pods and pads and instant nothingness. He sang about where to go from here, with the planet cluttered with oldies trying to stay young, crowding space, mimicking ideas, stealing the future after having fucked off the past. There was bitterness in his songs and fear and anger honed down into a funny, Mr. Roger’s goes Columbine kind of humor for on-stage consumption. His songs touched her everywhere she lived. Tyla want to infuse herself with all of him.
Suddenly, her vision of Mick was blocked by something tall, the owner geek everyone laughed about behind his back. He slid into the chair next to her, with his back to the stage. She tried to stay with Mick’s performance over the geek’s shoulder.
“Hi.” The limit of his ability to chat up a girl.
“Hi.” The limit of her wanting to encourage this geek in any way until she remembered he was rich, and she was poor. She had enough money for one more drink. She forced a smile and a look at him, leaning over the table. She lowered her voice so as not to disturb the only real person in the room, doing the only real thing.
“Aren’t you the owner?” She cooed. He nodded. “Wow. It’s a great place.” She prodded, gently, not wanting to spook him.
He seemed paralyzed by her response. The waitress automatically brought her a fresh drink and sat another short glass in front of him. He stared at it, looking up at her with his “edgy” hair and his sunken gamer eyes. Being sensitive, she realized he was a person, not a cliché or a Wikipedia explanation, but a real person. She imagined the pudgy baby who never got held enough by busy parents, the lonely toddler building Lego worlds by himself. An awkward boy, who became a frustrated teen and then grew up too clueless to be a grown up. She decided maybe she could save him, or maybe she could use him to save herself. She didn’t think all this out in words, and she wasn’t sure which path she’d take. It happened in that weird place between her quiet mind and pure need…that place we try and tell ourselves doesn’t exist, but still makes our most important decisions.
Tyla focused on the stage while the nerd sat there paralyzed, like a bug on a window. She could tell Mick was irritated by the raspy sharpness in his voice. She knew who Mick was. He made music. That’s all he did. He sat around in cafes, on people’s sofa’s, in airports, on trains staring out wide windows at flashing scenery writing music, and unknowingly, looking cool. He rode trains because he hated flying. He was a sarcastic, brittle, little man who no one would have liked at all except for the fact that music poured out of him like moonlight on snow. He drank too much, which most of his peers didn’t notice. Those who knew high-strung creatives knew that if he kept drinking too much, he would either end up drunk and famous like Tom Waits, or just another might have been in a large slush pile.
He cut off his last song, gathered up his guitar and a glass of JD and shuffled backstage. Tyla drank her drink in no hurry to decide which man she would bet on. After a while Mick came out front dragging his guitar case. He walked over to the Tyla and the geek. “Man, I want a raise if I am going to keep playing this gig. I’m spending a lot of time here and I have a following.” The geek looked like someone had shot him.
“Okay. Sure. No Problem. Just tell Juicy I said fine.” Juicy being the place’s bartender/manager.
Mick sank into a chair and put his guitar case on the floor next to him, “Good.”
Tyla looked hard at Mick. For all his poetry, he had a mean streak. Over the years, his heart had gone feral and bloodthirsty. A simple miracle might change him forever. She sat there, while Mick sulked and DeK fidgeted, until she knew what needed to be done.
Tyla was born in Sarajevo in 1996. Her mother was a Bosnian, and her father was one of a group of Serbian militia men who raped her mother. Tyla’s mother lost her mind, wandering the city until she gave birth. Tyla was given over to a group of refugees’ who raised her in various UN camps. How she survived was a ghost memory to her, and a box in her brain that she kept tightly closed. She remembered fear and hunger, running away, pain and dark places. Then a couple came to a shelter she was dumped in and took her home with them. Eventually, they took her to America. Becoming an American, she learned to forge; but forgetting doesn’t heal the wounds. It only gives them a reason to hurt us later.
Tyla had been living in the apartment with DeK for several months. She’d moved in shortly after their first night together, when she’d prodded him into taking her home from the club. DeK was still in shock that he had a real live girl living with him. Sometimes she woke up and he would be propped on his elbow, staring over her while she was sleeping. He was a strange man/boy, but easy to move around. After she had been with him a month or so, she suggested they help Mick put out an album. He helped set up a website to promote Mick’s music. They started having dinners with friends of hers and she’d invite Mick. It was strange, having them both in the same room. With him and his money, she had blossomed. Everyone liked talking to her. She became the one making decisions. DeK just seemed to slide along with whatever she said. Him and Mick ignored each other, having no common ground. Tyla knew that didn’t matter. She knew what it took to survive, and she knew the only place she’d be safe was in a cocoon surrounded by DeK’s money.
One night, after she’d cooked an elaborate Spanish Paella dinner for a bunch of the club’s patrons, she cornered Mick on the balcony overlooking the blue Pacific. She’d spent a lot of DeK’s money on herself in the past few months. She was a brighter version of herself, with highlighted hair and carefully made up eyes. She also wore clothes that fit her, that she didn’t have to hide in. In a soft blue cashmere top and tight black jeans, she had fit herself into money.
“I was wondering if you want to go for a walk on the beach.” She felt Mick’s eyes on her, appraising. She could smell the animal in him when he smiled at her. She looked back. DeK stood in the main room surrounded by acolytes, showing them how to play something on X-box. Mick took her hand and they ran down the stairs by the side of the house and onto pale sand. She got him to roll up his pants legs and walk barefoot in the cool waves. Covered by the pale moon, they scurried backwards across the sand, kissing, into a small dark inlet down the shoreline. She unzipped his pants as he pushed her down to her knees where she took him into her mouth until he drew her up and pushed his fingers into her and then they fucked, tearing into each other like mad, feral cats.
Months went by, until DeK finally stumbled around the let’s get married dialogue she had been prompting him toward, so they did. No big deal. Just a private ceremony with a few of her friends and his parents, who behaved like they were at the wedding of a work associate rather than their son. They had the reception at the ocean front apartment where DeK walked around like he’d won the lottery with everyone overlooking the Pacific Ocean toasting champagne and eating the hor d’ourves his new wife had picked out. Tyla and Mick were busy fucking in the bathroom.
Mick’s first album became an indie hit. His website grew fans, fans grew reviews, reviews grew gigs, and gigs made more fans. He went on the road doing festivals for a while until he had enough material for another album which, of course, DeK would pay to produce because now it was like Mick was his creation, his one successful foray into real creativity, proof that he did have a soul and therefore could actually be, like, cool.
Tyla was impatient. She wanted to be sure before the next step. She held her desire in as much as she could and satisfied herself with the occasional mad fuck here and there. She knew she had them both right on the wire where they needed to be, but she also knew the slightest nudge could throw them all off path. She needed to be sure. She had figured out, that first night and in the many nights after, that she could only save herself and one of them. It took her a while longer to figure out which one of them it should be.
It was at the release party for Mick’s second album, Turn to Tyla, that she realized she couldn’t wait any longer. They were outside the Forum in Hollywood surrounded by media. She saw Mick basking in the attention and DeK puffed up proud, squirming around to fit in. She had gently led DeK to believe the album was all his idea, his tribute to their love. She looked out on the crowd full of mini versions of her old self, the self before she’d found her purpose. Tyla knew all it would take was someone like her to move in and all her work would go up in ether. She couldn’t wait any longer.
She decided to do it at Comic Con in San Diego. It was a funny, logical place. DeK had rented a hotel room at the Marriott, right near the Convention Center, and Mick was coming down to hang out with them and his fans. She’d learned a lot about electronics, Xboxes, and gamers in the months with DeK. She’d encouraged Mick to smooch DeK by learning how to play with him. They all went swimming together in the hotel pool. They were in the room mixing drinks when Mick asked DeK if he wanted to play War Games. She’d rigged the box just the way DeK had explained to her when they were in bed one night, and he was trying to impress her with how dangerous gaming could be in some alternative universe.
Mick and DeK sat on the couch, wrapped in hotel towels with wet hair. She stood in the doorway in her orange kimono smiling at both of them. DeK picked up the controller and hit a button, still staring at her. Zap…a very large surge into a very small heart. She watched DeK’s body spasm until Mick got up and came over to stand in front of her. They wrapped their arms around each other and stood there until the room darkened. She could feel the music in his head as he ran his hands down her back like he was soothing an ancient beast.
Bio: Rena Robinett currently has ten short stories published in various magazines, ezines, and anthologies with international and national publications; and has self-published one Science Fiction novelette, BREED. Rena has a BA in English Composition from California State at Fresno and has attended, by invitation, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop summer session and the Napa Valley Writers Workshop. Rena is currently working on a memoir in two parts and a short story collection. Invitations: Napa Valley Writers Conference, June 2014 Chesapeake Writers Conference, 2013 University of Iowa Summer Writer’s Workshop, 2010