60 :: the worlds we choose :: 7/27/01
Fletcher pushes through the door into Tympanum. A basic alternarock / indiepop store like Tympanum is not really the world he frequently inhabits. His parents raised him on classical (dad) and jazz (mom): in junior high, when other kids were listening to Madonna, he was playing the clarinet in junior high band. By the time he was a senior in high school he was playing alto sax in the jazz ensemble. And his friendsmost of themwere also band geeks, with a relatively faint interest in contemporary pop or rock. When he was in college the predominant musical flavor in the air was grunge, which he never really got. He hardly partied during that time, either. He was happy to spend those years at his desk, reading books, with Ornette Coleman or Anthony Braxton pouring in through the headphones clamped over his ears.
Freya's been his one connection to that other musical world. He met her in high school; she played drums in the band for a year or so. (She quit, Fletcher remembers, because the music teacher at the schoolthis skinny Italian named Mr. DeNardogave Freya a lot of trouble about playing the drums. He thought they weren't feminine enough or something Fletcher can't recall the exact details.) Freya was the only person he knew back then who liked punk rock. (He detested it at the time, but now he lends it a crumb of grudging admiration, mostly because he's noticed how the outer edges of free jazz intersect with the fringes of the hardcore punk scene. When he went to see John Zorn's Masada Project play in Grant Park two years ago, there were a ton of punks in evidence.) But, despite their differences in taste, Fletcher and Freya ended up becoming friends anyway he spent a lot of time in high school developing a personality built on advanced irreverence, and this intersected well with Freya's fledgling antiestablishment stances. He would imitate their teachers and bandmates and get her to crack up, to the point where she'd be gasping for breath, tears streaming down her face.
Hey, baby! Freya says when she sees him. She is at the register, ringing up a pile of CDs for some guy.
Hey, he says. I was in the neighborhood and I thought I'd stop in and say 'hi.'
Hang on one sec, she says.
She's glad to see him. She's been hoping he could give her some insight about what's going on with Jakob. In particular, she's worried that Jakob thinks she's stupid. She can pick up on it in subtle ways. He doesn't seem to like to talk to her about books sometimes, when she's over at his apartment, she'll do something like pick up a book lying out. There'll then be a conversation that goes like this:
Freya: Are you reading this?
Jakob [takes it out of her hands]: This? Oh, yeah.
Freya: What's it about?
Jakob: Oh, I don't know, it's it's theory.
This has happened, almost identically, twice now, and variations on it have occurred maybe a dozen times. She feels like he doesn't think she could handle the books. She feels like he doesn't think of her as a reader. She didn't finish college, so she doesn't have the questionable benefits of a liberal arts backgroundbut she does read. It's true that she doesn't have a lot of books around her apartment: her sprawling record collection has taught her the hassles of building a personal library, so she mainly borrows books from friends, or buys them used and then sells them back or gives them away. But she does read. And she doesn't read crap. She's read One Hundred Years of Solitude; Manufacturing Consent. She reads The Baffler when it comes out. (She's got a copy of the new issue sitting in the break room.) She has smart friends, and she listens to them talk about the books that they think are good, and she pays attention and will actually make the effort to track the books down. But Jakob never seems to want to make recommendations to her. She feels like he doesn't want to let her see his more intellectual side, and she feels like he's holding back on that because he thinks he would outpace her. And this drives her nuts.
She rings up the last of the CDs of her customer. That's $35.72, she says.
Fletcher watches her. He still thinks that she is beautiful. He had a crush on her back in the Mr. DeNardo era, but he never told her about it. Her boyfriends at that time were all older guys with like mohawks and shit, and he knew that he could not possibly compete. So his sixteen-year-old mind reasoned that if he could not have her, he could at least come up with a way to bask frequently in her presence. He chose to be the confidant, the asexual friend: he sensed that that would be a way for him to get close to her and remain there. Andthe truth isin the intervening years, living out that role has brought him a great deal of comfort and happiness. The residue of the crush has never completely disappeared, but he no longer wants to act upon it: the relationship that they currently have is more important to him than the pleasure of sexual release or the consummation of long-running desire: he is not willing to make any trade. All the same, he felt a pang of vicarious joy when she got involved with Jakob, because he felt like she had chosen Jakob because he is a guy with Fletcherlike qualities. He felt, finally, as though he had won out over the guys who Freya had been involved with in the past.
What's new? she says to him.
Nothing, he says.
Further Reading ::
Information Prose : A Manifesto In 47 Points ::
A manifesto, outlining some of the aesthetic goals behind Imaginary Year, can now be read here.