Spot the Travesty

When the car stopped, Memphis held out his hand to help me out.

The thing is, we’ve never been that sort of friends. Ellie, my best friend, she’s a touching friend. She punches my shoulder and hugs my head. She jostles Dylan when they ride the bus together and holds hands with her sister when they shop. When she first met my mother, they hugged.

But Memphis and I are not that sort of friends. In fact, I’m not sure we are friends at all.

When he held his hand out to me, it took me a long moment to take it. It happened three times, is why it took so long. Once in my head, me reaching out out to grip his palm. Twice in my head, me shaking my chin and getting my own self out of the car. Third time, in reality.

I took his hand. He was wearing his brown t-shirt that shows off his shoulders and the knotted bracelets that show off his arms, and when he took my hand, the bracelets slid down and touched my thumb.

I’ve been the violinist for Spot the Travesty! for three years. That makes them my whole world. What that makes me to Memphis, I’m not sure. What that makes me to the rest of the world is the travesty, easily spotted — a senior high girl in a band made up of twenty-somethings.

When Memphis took my hand, he gripped it like I was drowning, then pulled me out of the car so fast that our bodies were propelled together. It had just begun to rain and so his shirt was speckled darkly. It was light enough that it looked like an intentional pattern on his brown shirt, marbled and flecked like a wild bird’s egg. Behind me, the other car door’s slammed as the rest of the band climbed out.

He was the only one who wanted to add me to the band all those years before. I’d been fourteen, the gangly sister of one of his friends. Back then, in my memories, I’m two people: the amiable girl with violin cricked beneath my chin and the raging beast that stomped her thin brown limbs off to sulk behind the van parked in the driveway. There was nothing in between, back then. I was either a musical prodigy or a pending tantrum. Memphis called me in to play along with one of Travesty’s songs. She brings us up a level, he’d said. She’d make most of our pub gigs illegal, replied Brown, my brother. It had been a fight, then, the first of many, the first about me and gigs and whether that should be a major bridge on the lead guitar or a minor interlude with the keyboard.

Brown told me: do not talk to anybody at gigs. You’re going to get some guy arrested.

Pulled from the car, pulled to Memphis, my ribs pressed into his ribs. We were balanced on the very edge of the curb and I had my violin case in one hand and he kept ahold of my arm in the other so that I didn’t stumble. As rain dusted over my face, so light that it felt very dry instead of very wet, I could feel my heart beat tripping unsteadily, surging and slowing, trying to keep pace with his. His other hand caught my arm, and I felt how tight his fingers were against my skin.

As the only girl member of Spot the Travesty! and often the only sober member to boot, I got hit on a lot. Either guys didn’t realize that I was under eighteen or they didn’t care. But I loved the band, the snarling, simmering, fracturing band, and there was no way I was going to risk getting thrown out of the band because of something so stupid. At first, with the other band members watching me pensively, I shook my head and looked at my feet. The year after that, I added a laugh after the head shake. By this year, I’d learned to toss their numbers jotted on receipts in their faces and plant my hands on my hips. I told them all no. No one was getting in trouble because of me.

When Memphis helped me out of the car, he didn’t let go of my arm. I started past him, but he still had me caught. He turned with me, his face pressed into my shoulder, and I felt the burst of his warm breath through my sleeve, the press of his mouth against the bend of my elbow. Though it was nothing at all, his breath through my sleeve was indecent. It put his mouth on my mouth, his hand curved round the back of my neck, my fingers pressed against his cheekbones. But of course, no, it was just his breath on my sleeve and my face turned away from him, making it nothing at all. I could sense Brown’s gaze on me from the car.

I tell myself, now, it is only a year until I am eighteen. I tell myself, a year is not that long. Just twelve months of gigs, just fifty-two Friday nights, just three-hundred-and-sixty-five two a.m. in the mornings thinking of Memphis and his brown t-shirt. I tell myself that I’ve known him since I was fourteen, the kid sister of his friend, and he doesn’t even see me that way. I tell myself that I am creating something that doesn’t exist.

When the car stopped, Memphis held out his hand to help me out.

The thing is, we’ve never been that kind of friends.

21 thoughts on “Spot the Travesty

  1. Liked it very much. Conveys some thoughts and feelings I can relate to (: Including those bubbly/clenching feelings around the stomach when you know it’s love. – Also, I’m really excited about your short story in Kiss My Deadly, can’t wait to read it. (PS: Memphis reminds me of a friend of my brother’s – fate or what?)

    • @Julia – how many brown t-shirt wearing band boys can there be in this world? NOT VERY MANY.

      And thank you. I hope you love reading about Sullivan in Kiss Me Deadly, too.

  2. That thing with the naughty breath?! I must go to my husband and tell him to breath on my elbow…. Lovely. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow, I’ve been reading your Goodreads blog for months and I never seemed to notice you had a short story blog. 0_0 how depressing.

    anyways…
    I loved this!!!!!!!!!ahhhhh!! I’ll remember this every time I see a guy with a Brown Shirt on.( “excuse me, do you happen to be Memphis from Maggie Stiefvater’s short story? eh? no?”)

  4. Getting caught up on Merry Fates stories and just read this. I think I like broad-shouldered boys who wear brown t-shirts too. And all of this hot elbow breathing in you and Tessa’s stories is quite tantalizing. Too bad Lover is in D.C. or else I would try it out (where he also felt the earthquake while squirreled away in a classified area somewhere downtown). 😉

    • At first, I didn’t see your name and thought you meant MY Lover and I got all “NO ONE BREATHES ON LOVER’S ELBOW BUT ME” and then I calmed down and reread and the world made sense again.

      I’m glad that Super Secret Lover was okay.

      • Hahaha. I am absolutely sure that your Lover is worth coveting, but I am very happy with my own. I think I’m going to have to call him Super Secret Lover from now on; that’s fabulous!

        And very odd about the puzzle. Maybe the earthquake just wanted to see you have to crawl to get it?

  5. DUDE. I saw this story, and I have the exact same picture in my foyer right now. My dad said we have to give it away because it doesn’t have a frame. But it’s so beautiful. Anyways, I’m slowly working on your guys’ collection since I’ll be seeing you at the upcoming event in St.Paul (*doesn’t know if she should keep it vague). Looking forward to seeing y’all!

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