Chapter 2: Thursday

Fifteen minutes later, Kate sat at her desk. The drive was only 10 minutes to her job in the cube farm. Over time, her attention to beauty and perfection had been replaced with an interest in sleeping late and under-achieving.

Today’s beauty tip: Wear a Baseball Cap and go Heavy on the Eyeliner. It looks alluring and distracts from the circles and bloodshot eyes.

She opened her laptop and stared at the screen. Cranked up email and instant messenger, pulled up Facebook and checked the phone to confirm that there were no messages.

Good. A nice, easy morning.

Within 2 minutes, Anita’s instant messenger popped up

Anita: So? What the hell? You go drinking last night and don’t call me?

Kate: I never went to the bar – I was at Eric’s.

Anita: wtf? I thought you went to Bar None to do some drinking.

Kate: Hunh? No. Eric texted me around 1:30, and I went over there. Woke up up 20 minutes ago and here I am.

Anita: So you never made it to Bar None?

Kate: No. Why would I?

Anita: You posted on facebook that you were headed there at like 2 in the morning, and asked if anybody else was up for a late night social.

Kate: I guess I posted that while I was with Eric? Sorry. Nope – never made it.

Anita: So? Eric? What’s that?

Kate: I don’t know. I’m not meant to find the love of my life. I’m meant to have good stories on Monday mornings.

Anita: LOL.

Kate hated the LOL. Hated it. Anita sat one row over, Kate heard the very mild chuckle, so no, that was no laugh out loud. We’re grownups here. Just write ha. or Haha. Or if you’re feeling sophisticated, remark, “now that IS funny!”

Out of curiosity, Kate opened her browser to Facebook and checked her own profile page.

There it was, at 2:00 am:

Kate Taylor: Bar None bitches? I’m heading over. Join me?

Exactly at 2am?

Going over the previous evening in her mind, she knew she was with, on, around, or next to Eric at 2am. However, that post was in fact something she’d write. Hell, she probably says it 4 or 5 times a week out loud. So then, it appeared that Kate posted a status on facebook and didn’t remember it 7 hours later. It happens.

Right?

She looked at the screen a few more minutes before deciding it was time for a smoke break.

Her morning work would just have to wait.

Kate took a pull on the cigarette and stared at the cars passing by.

The outdoor smoking section was located on the side of the building. That way you had two choices for a view: there was the dumpster nudged up against the building, or a view of cars flying by, just beyond the parking lot. Kate liked the cars. It soothed her, watching the cars always moving.

3 minutes into her break, her phone vibrated in her back pocket. It was Eric.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Hey! How are you feeling?”

Kate chuckled. “My eyes are on fire, and if I could sleep 4 more hours, I might feel human.”

“So you’re doing good for a Thursday then!”

She nodded. Which Eric didn’t hear. Duh. After that awkward pause, he continued.

“I’m going to be out on the town tonight, ending up at Bar None. Wanna meet me there? Probably around 8 or 9?”

Kate took a drag from her cigarette. “That sounds good I think I can do it. Give me a call after work and remind me.”

Eric paused a moment then said “Call you after work. Got it.”

Talking through an exhaled cloud of smoke, Kate said “okay later then? Eric?”

He was already gone.

“Haaaay bitch!” Anita called out, lighter and pack in hand.

Anita had a smile that seemed to stretch around her face to the back of her head.

Like Kate, she had a don’t-give-a-fuck beauty, and she also grew up in Atlanta. She was thinner than Kate, shorter than Kate, and her brown smooth skin had also graced the pages of magazines. They met 20 years earlier when they were both starting out in modeling, and they’d remained friends throughout the years. In fact, Anita was the one who helped her get this job at the ad agency.

Kate stomped out her cigarette and reached for another.

“Hey ‘Nita. So what the hell with accounting up on the 9th floor last Fri—“

“Stop talking about work Katherine Taylor. Tell me about last night.” Anita didn’t even pretend that was a question — more like a parent asking for a date night re-cap.

Kate paused the lit flame in front of the cigarette dangling from her mouth. “I went home, had a bottle of wine and fell asleep.”

After she lit her cigarette, a grin crept on her face.

“Eric woke me up with the ‘u there?’ mating call, and, who am I to say no? I wouldn’t say I’m easy, but … okay yea. Yes I would.”

“Whew! All that, and you had time to stop and invite people to Bar None on Facebook? Damn girl. Was he that boring?”

Kate shook her head. “I never posted that.”

Anita lit her own cigarette, looked sideways at Kate and said “Riiight. Sure you didn’t.”

# # #

Kate returned to her desk. Three emails later she checked her cel phone and saw a notification from facebook. 4 replies to her post. What post?

She pulled up Facebook and clicked the link to see the replies:

– “Sounds good! I’ll see you there!” – from somebody in the office.

– “Can’t make it tonight, what about wed?” – from Anita.

– “Damn girl your out all the time” – from a cousin.

– “wow invite everybody? see y’all there.” From Eric.

After downgrading her cousin to an idiot who doesn’t know when to use the correct version of “your”, Kate was puzzled. She didn’t make a facebook post today. And not one last night.

Well.

Maybe she posted it last night. But she didn’t remember it.

She checked her own profile. The most recent post made 10 minutes ago:

“I’m thinking about hitting Bar None again tonight – join me?”

Sure. Just ask anybody and everybody. That’s something I’d do. But again, this isn’t something I did. What the hell? I’m being hacked and the posts are helping me, instead of offering a chance to win a free iPad?

Kate continued to stare at the screen another 2 minutes until Anita popped her head up and asked if they were doing lunch.

Ahh, “lunch.”

In a dull job like this — a job for a monkey with one arm — “lunch” meant liquid lunch. Miller’s was a bar just 2 blocks over in another crappy strip mall. It was dark smoke-filled hole in the wall, and nobody from the office ever went.

It was perfect for a beer or a cocktail.

“Yes. Lunch. Yes. I’d love some appetizers“.

Lunch. in 90 minutes. 75 if she slipped out at 11:15.

# # #

“Sit still Michael, it’ll be done in a minute!” Eric insisted.

Michael hissed through gritted teeth. He was seated at a table in the back office at Bar None. He had his head down, his arms crossed in front of him, like he was about to take a nap at the table.

At the base of Michael’s clean-shaven skull was one of Eric’s parasites. The alien was using its tiny mandibles to open a slit in the skin there. Occasionally Michael would flinch and hiss. Eric stood behind him and held his shoulders still. Soon, the slit was big enough to let the alien wriggle in.

“There. There it goes. Your pain should go away in a few minutes, and you’ll feel normal again.” As the thing worked it’s way under his skin, Michael felt Eric’s grip on his shoulders lessen.

“Just sit still. Just a few more minutes.” Eric said.

The alien worked from the inside on closing the incision like a caterpillar sealing its cocoon. After a few minutes, the skin would look completely normal. No scar, no nothing.

From across the office, a woman with tattoos covering both arms looked up from Kate’s facebook page and said “Don’t worry Eric, I’ll take good care of him.”

Misty was one of the bartenders at Bar None. Once a week, she came into the bar during the day to manage inventory, update the online calendar, and surf the web.

She was bouncing between three Facebook accounts. In all three, she clicked the JOIN button to indicate attendance to Kate’s event tonight at the bar. After this, she’d repeat the process up to ten more times for ten other people’s events around the city.

It was a common practice with the aliens; pretending to join in on the fun.

By being the first to support an event, these “first adopters” made it okay for more people to join in. Nobody wants to be first in line, but everybody wants to be part of a crowd.

Misty flipped over to another Facebook account and created a new event for tonight.

OWP

TONIGHT, 9PM:

A Silent Vigil In Remembrance Of

Our Fallen Brothers and Sisters:

Greg R, Melissa P,

James and Amanda R.

Meet at the big tent

From across the room, Eric asked “are you sure 9pm won’t be too late?”

Misty looked at the screen and changed it to 8. Eric nodded and looked at his watch. “Alright. See you guys tonight. Shit. I’m late.”

Eric exited Bar None through the huge service doors in the back.

# # #

Meanwhile across town at Millers, over the stereo, Jon Bon Jovi was singing about the million faces he’d rocked. The bar was dark: dark wood, dark posters with fading neon lighting, dark chairs, dark brass plaques to congratulate the 1987 Miller’s Softball Team, and dust-covered plastic ferns.

Anita lit her smoke, and then Kate’s, while waving at the bartender. He nodded as he was already filling a pitcher with the cheapest shit they had.

They sat in silence, staring into space, smoking, waiting for the pitcher.

Now, me, I don’t understand how people do this. Or why. You sit at a bar, with a person, no conversation. No TV, nothing to focus on at all, just smoking and drinking and letting time escape. Why. Why does anybody do this? We are a social civilization. I don’t get it.

The pitcher arrived with two plastic beer mugs, already filled. The ladies tapped their ashes and lifted their mugs, did a half-toast, and took sips. Kate enjoyed the cooling beer across her throat and let it continue washing by a few more seconds.

“Damn, Kate slow down!” Anita laughed.

Kate looked at the glass, and pretended to be surprised that it was half empty. “I’m sure it wasn’t full when I started.”

After one more sip, Kate said “What about this thing tonight at Bar None – when did I post that on Facebook? I was on the phone when you saw me, we walked back to our desks, I sat down and see that you’ve already replied to a post I don’t even remember writing?”

Anita shrugged, sipped her beer and took a drag.

“Well. It sure looked like yours and – “

“But it wasn’t me.”

“It’s something you’d post. So then – if you didn’t write it, but you’re going to go tonight, and it looks like you wrote it, what do you think happened?”

Kate looked at her, blinked slowly, and asked, “what are you saying, I don’t even know if I did something or not?”

Anita was saying exactly that.

Kate had a tendency to do strange things occasionally.

Months ago Anita was supposed to meet Kate for dinner. Kate said she just wanted to swing by the house first to change. Three hours later, Anita ended up having dinner solo.

Over the next two days, Anita called and even went by Kate’s to knock on the door a few times. Nothing. Kate wasn’t at work, she’d practically disappeared.

On the third day, Kate returned to work like nothing had happened. When Anita asked her about it, Kate dismissed the entire thing as miscommunication, and she was probably asleep when Anita called. All ten times.

That kind of shit happened more often than Anita was willing to dismiss.

While she wanted to chalk it up to Kate being a flake, she was pretty sure Kate was a barely-functioning alcoholic. But because they were friends, Anita wasn’t about to do the intervention thing. It was easier to just let Kate be Kate.

Now, staring at Kate’s empty plastic mug, she wondered what if Kate hadn’t posted it? Why would somebody hack an account, just to post the exact same shit that person would have posted?

She took a sip and said, “Whether you posted it, or somebody posing as you posted it, it’s there. I dunno. Change your password if you think somebody’s fucking with you.”

Kate finished her cigarette and refilled her mug.

“Change my password. That’s a good idea. I’ll do that. And how come you’re not coming?”

Anita lit another cigarette and took a sip from her half-empty beer. “I can’t, I’m meeting Amir for a beer.”

“Amir. The dude at work Amir or are we talking about a cool, handsome, interesting Amir that I’ve never met?”

Anita shrugged again. “They are one and the same, smart ass. He asked me this morning before you got in, I said yes. Shut your hole. Order some food.”

Kate wasn’t hungry. “He’s a gabby one. Dude can’t shut up about the walk out last week. And when he’s not talking about that, he’s telling me about the mess up on 4. Nobody’s running the ship he says. Nobody can get shit done. How would he know that shit? He’s on our floor.”

Anita laughed and said, “He’s in good with all the smokers. And smokers tend to talk a lot. Kaaaaaaate.

In the middle of lighting another cigarette, Kate managed to raise her middle finger towards Anita.

“Nice Kate. Really nice.” Anita laughed.

Kate got back from lunch, changed her facebook password to “kingofbeers”, and posted:

“Sorry guys – I didn’t post that invite to Bar None today. Somebody hacked my account!”

Right before she closed the browser, she saw that four more people had responded to the phantom post from earlier, with all four saying they’d be there. Her phantom was a trendsetter at least.

She closed the browser window and stared at her monitor. The desktop was a photo of her from 20 years ago on a runway, shot from a low angle. She was in some flashy designer thing, her makeup was flawless and she had to be half the weight she was now. And not in a good way – in that coke-anorexic way.

Say what you will about the coke-model look, but that was a great life. She never made a cover, never did a commercial, but got to go to all the clubs, get the best drugs, and spin that job into a better job at an ad agency, while working the door at a New York nightclub.

It was a dream life. Until things got a little out of hand. And then a lot out of hand. One morning she woke up in a cab with no idea where she was and no money. The cab driver said he was told to take her to the bus station and buy her a ticket home.

Clearly she’d lost control back then. But what she could remember would fill a book. Not this book. A better book. One of those kiss-and-tell-and-damn-I-should-be-dead books.

When she returned to Atlanta, she moved back in with her mother. She spent the next 18 months flipping between getting clean and falling off the wagon.

Eventually she cleaned up enough to get out from under her mom and get an apartment. And then really clean up. She no longer did drugs. No. That’s not right. She no longer did a fuck ton of drugs. There’s a difference. If the drugs were available, she’d consider it. But she wouldn’t buy it. And if a weekend went by and all she did was coke, the following Monday would scare the clean back into her. It was an early warning system of sorts.

She blinked, and realized fifteen minutes had gone by. Staring. Remembering New York, Mom, Lost Weekends, and Mystery Cab Rides. Without realizing it, she was smiling.

Kate’s mind came back to this moment. She opened up Facebook again – wanted to look at her two posts a second time. COULD she have posted them and then blanked on them?

5 more responses already – four of them were friends saying that they wanted to get out and play tonight. Another one was Anita: Okay we’ll drop by since you need the love.

Kate said, “Anita what the hell. You’re sitting right there.”

“I know. I just wanted to show you some love online. Me and my friend will come by after dinner.”

Kate looked at the responses to her invitation to Bar None tonight, and then posted “Okay bitches. I’ll see you there tonight!”

And closed the browser again.