The Silver Year: Chapter 6

Chapter​​ 6

Who is Walter Huxley?

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY/​​ WALTER’S BIRTHDAY 2012

 

Walter turned​​ from Orange​​ onto​​ Main Street​​ and into the Huntington Beach Street Fair​​ which​​ filled​​ Main Street with​​ a colorful,​​ noisy​​ mass of people​​ every Tuesday​​ evening.​​ Flanking​​ the street were​​ two long​​ lines​​ of​​ canopies​​ selling​​ commodities​​ of​​ every​​ kind:​​ food,​​ art, clothes,​​ soaps, flowers. There was a farmers market, petting zoo, mechanical​​ and inflatable​​ rides,​​ and​​ street performers and​​ live music​​ at every intersection.​​ It​​ was also​​ the only​​ time​​ locals​​ came out​​ in as many​​ numbers​​ as​​ tourists. It was​​ a​​ smorgasbord​​ of socialization a lonely person​​ needed on occasion,​​ and​​ Walter​​ was going to miss it dearly.

The label’s advance​​ was​​ at​​ an end, and​​ although they allowed​​ him​​ to stay in the​​ beach​​ house,​​ they​​ stopped paying rent two months earlier.​​ Now with​​ less than​​ two​​ hundred dollars​​ to his name​​ and soon to be living with Grandma again,​​ Walter​​ felt no shame​​ doubling​​ up on​​ all the​​ free samples​​ he​​ could get​​ as he moved through​​ the​​ food​​ vendors​​ and farmers market. By PCH, he was pleasantly full.​​ 

Crossing​​ PCH​​ just​​ before sunset, he​​ walked​​ onto​​ the​​ Huntington Beach Pier,​​ his​​ favorite part of his walk​​ and home to​​ his​​ spot.​​ The​​ pier​​ was the largest in Orange County​​ and​​ buoyed​​ a full-size Ruby’s Diner at the end.​​ With surfers​​ crisscrossing​​ its pillars on​​ near-constant swells, the pier was​​ Surf City’s centerpiece​​ and​​ attracted​​ travelers from​​ all over​​ the world. This​​ daily​​ washing of faces mixed with​​ the​​ fixed​​ tides of Ruby’s waitresses was why​​ he​​ never tired of walking​​ the pier.​​ Every day it was different. And​​ instead of going out into the world, the pier brought the world to​​ Walter.

Reaching​​ the pier’s​​ spear-shaped​​ end,​​ he​​ was​​ happy to​​ find​​ his​​ “spot”, the most seaward-facing tip,​​ vacant.​​ Wedging into it,​​ he​​ imagined​​ himself on​​ a ship​​ bow​​ heading​​ out to sea​​ as waves bowled in beneath. He stayed​​ imagining​​ until the last splinters of​​ the​​ sun​​ were​​ pulled​​ into​​ the horizon.​​ He then turned to people watch.

As they rounded the end of the pier, almost all were​​ nuzzling​​ couples,​​ still​​ drunk on​​ the​​ idealism​​ Valentine’s Day​​ and sunsets​​ seem to​​ bestow​​ on lovers.

Loneliness is such a bitch,​​ Walter​​ thought,​​ but it’s the bitch I love.

It was an apt​​ encapsulation​​ of his creative muse. Without loneliness, creatively, he was​​ dead. Loneliness was​​ his​​ admission inside his head, a reality as real to him as the one outside of it. But​​ as of late,​​ his only pure repository of​​ loneliness was​​ his home.​​ It was why he’d​​ hardly left​​ it​​ the past two months.​​ Outside,​​ he​​ was​​ always​​ vulnerable​​ now​​ to​​ some stranger cauterizing his​​ solitude. However,​​ isolation​​ was​​ costing​​ him his sanity, the very thing solitude was supposed to​​ save. How any artist survived being famous was beyond him, yet​​ his life​​ thus far had been solely dedicated to nothing else. Fame was great when Quinn Quark was perfect. It was a living hell as​​ just​​ Walter Huxley.

​​ Although​​ Walter​​ killed Quinn Quark—arguably​​ after he killed​​ two other people—two months earlier,​​ Quinn​​ was becoming more famous​​ in death​​ than ever.​​ His​​ sharp rise and fall was the stuff of urban legends, and it only fed more​​ interest​​ about the man behind​​ him. It also didn’t help Cirkus wouldn’t confirm any details about​​ Perfect Crime’s​​ breakup, hoping the threat of a lawsuit would change Walter’s mind.

Once​​ the​​ day committed to night,​​ he​​ turned​​ away from the people and​​ back to the ocean.​​ His​​ ship​​ bow​​ was now​​ sailing​​ the cosmos. Black sky​​ sat upon​​ black sea,​​ creating​​ an​​ artifice​​ of​​ twinkling​​ space​​ to​​ wonder​​ and​​ wander​​ about. Lady Stardust—his pet name for the night sky—was the only remedy​​ for a mind​​ as​​ awash in death as his;​​ she transcended​​ it.​​ While​​ nothing​​ compared​​ to her,​​ the same laws that governed​​ her​​ governed​​ him, and the same matter that made​​ her​​ made​​ him, and knowing​​ this​​ calmed him​​ for the same reason prayer calms​​ someone.​​ ​​ 

“Happy birthday Quarky!” a voice roped​​ Walter​​ back to Earth. He didn’t need to turn to know who it was. There was only one person​​ on Earth​​ who called him Quarky:​​ Lola.​​ 

 

“I thought I’d find you in your spot,”​​ she​​ said, snuggling into his side.​​ “For someone who supposedly hates​​ routine, you sure are predictable at times.”​​ In the faint glow from the Ruby’s Diner​​ behind them, Walter noticed some new leopard spots painted into​​ the buzzed sides of her​​ mohawk.

“Everyone needs​​ the support of​​ some​​ familiarity​​ in life,”​​ he said, his face​​ not happy or unhappy to see her.​​ Their meetings​​ were always​​ double-edged now.

“Well,​​ most people find that with family and friends,” she said,​​ “not walks and thinking spots.”

“I like my solitude.​​ It’s important​​ to my creative process.”

“Oh really? I never knew. So glad we got you that beach house. Does this mean we’re finally getting that album you promised back in December​​ then?”

He ignored​​ her​​ and​​ craned​​ his head​​ back​​ up​​ at​​ Lady Stardust.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s your birthday, and if you don’t want to talk about it​​ today, that’s​​ okay. I know it’s also your last day at the house. I’m sorry it had to land​​ on​​ your birthday​​ . . .​​ But​​ still...” she pulled his​​ chin and​​ eyes back to​​ Earth,​​ “…I would like to know what’s going on?​​ I’m worried about you.​​ You​​ haven’t returned​​ any​​ of my​​ calls or texts​​ in​​ the last​​ week, and I haven’t​​ actually​​ seen you​​ in​​ over a month.​​ Look at this beard you’ve grown.”​​ She​​ stroked​​ his face.​​ “I​​ just​​ needed​​ to​​ make sure you​​ were​​ at least​​ living.”

Well...”​​ Walter said, his hands gesturing​​ over himself,​​ je pense,​​ donc je suis.​​ Thanks for checking​​ in, but I​​ was enjoying being alone, especially since that’s becoming less and less of a privilege lately.

“Quinn Quark!” A passerby shouted.​​ 

Fuck,” Walter​​ said​​ under his breath.​​ Lola’s​​ flamboyant​​ fin​​ must’ve attracted eyes that otherwise​​ would’ve​​ missed him.​​ 

It was an awkward intrusion as​​ a​​ teenage boy forced his way between them.​​ “Holy shit!​​ You’re Quinn Quark,” he said.​​ “I’m sorry to bother you, but​​ do you mind if I get a picture​​ with you?”

“Fine,”​​ Lola​​ said​​ to Walter,​​ discreetly​​ wiping her eyes.​​ “I’ll go.”​​ But now​​ he​​ wanted​​ nothing more than for​​ her to stay.​​ Fame​​ was​​ much​​ easier to handle​​ when she was​​ by his side.​​ But out of pride,​​ he​​ let her​​ leave.

The​​ fan​​ asked​​ for a picture again.

“Um... sure,​​ of course,” Walter said​​ to him,​​ his eyes still on​​ Lola.​​ He​​ then​​ held a​​ smile​​ while​​ the fan’s girlfriend fumbled with her phone​​ for thirty seconds before finally taking the picture.

“Is the album​​ still coming out?—What’s it sound like?—Do you have a new bassist?—Perfect Crime’s gonna​​ stay together​​ right?—You gotta keep going​​ man—Your voice was one of a kind…”​​ the​​ fan​​ sawed on​​ and on.

“Um…​​ I’m​​ really​​ sorry,” Walter said, watching Lola grow smaller and smaller,​​ “but​​ I’ve got to go.”​​ He​​ didn’t want to be alone​​ on his birthday​​ anymore.

“Lola!”​​ he​​ shouted​​ running after her. She​​ glimpsed​​ back and​​ tried​​ to​​ continue, but​​ couldn’t.

What?” she stung​​ back. “You​​ obviously don’t want to see me.​​ I’m sorry I ever cared.”

“That’s not true,” he said catching up to her, then kept moving. “Come on,​​ let’s walk and talk​​ . . .​​ I am​​ glad to see you, but you know, it’s…”

“Complicated​​ now?​​ Complicated​​ because​​ I​​ represent your enemy?​​ Yeah, it hasn’t been easy for me either​​ Walter.”

“Quinn! Quinn!...” a​​ group​​ of teenage boys and girls accosted​​ them​​ from the front.​​ Even though he​​ had​​ just left the fan,​​ Walter’s​​ paranoia told him the fan​​ must’ve​​ broadcasted his location​​ online​​ after posting their picture together,​​ and​​ now​​ sharks​​ were swimming in from everywhere.​​ The commotion​​ drew​​ in​​ the​​ rest of​​ the​​ pier’s​​ traffic, and soon everyone was​​ halted​​ around​​ him.​​ He​​ cowered​​ to​​ the​​ pier’s​​ railing​​ as​​ the crowds​​ closed in​​ armed with cellphones.

FUCK OFF!” he​​ lashed​​ back.​​ “I’m not​​ fucking​​ Quinn Quark! I’m Walter Huxley—Walter​​ fucking​​ Huxley!​​ Quinn Quark is​​ dead.​​ Normally he could keep it together better than this, but​​ the inside of him was​​ so​​ fractured, it was getting​​ harder all the time.

Lola’s mouth​​ suspended​​ open. She had never seen him reject fans, and especially so brashly.​​ The crowd looked​​ dumbfounded​​ at one another.

“Walter Huxley?” one of the teenage girls said. “What kind of weird name is that?”​​ People said this​​ about his​​ real​​ name​​ a lot.​​ Like him—and like his stage name​​ for that matter,​​ it was a bit odd.​​ 

“No,​​ he’s​​ Quinn Quark,”​​ one of the teenage boys​​ said. “Look, he’s got the bellbottoms and everything. His hair’s shorter,​​ and he’s got a beard, but​​ that’s him​​ . . . Hey Quinn.​​ Is it true?​​ Did​​ you​​ go crazy and​​ kill Squids?”​​ Obviously,​​ this wasn’t a fan, but a heckler, something​​ Walter​​ had a growing number of.​​ 

Do you think if I killed Squids…​​ Do​​ you think if I killed​​ Squids” …I’d still be walking the streets?​​ was what​​ he was trying to say, but couldn’t, because in​​ exactitude​​ he​​ had​​ been​​ a pivotal​​ actor​​ in Squids’s​​ death.

Seized​​ by frustration,​​ he​​ fell into one of his​​ newly​​ infamous​​ “fit-o’-fucks”,​​ uncontrollable, arm-throwing,​​ fuck-laced freak-outs that began shortly after Squids’s​​ death.​​ This was the show everyone came to see​​ Walter​​ perform now.​​ A video of one he had two weeks earlier went viral, and since,​​ his number of tantrums and taunting teenagers had exploded exponentially.

“Ha-ha, there he goes!”​​ the instigating teenager​​ said.​​ Some people scolded the hooligan, but just as many​​ laughed​​ with him​​ and started filming with their phones.​​ 

It was the first​​ fit-o’-fuck​​ Lola had​​ witnessed in​​ person.​​ Sure,​​ she’d seen much worse in private,​​ but​​ to​​ see him​​ boil​​ out of control​​ for​​ cheap​​ entertainment​​ was​​ a​​ heartbreaking​​ revelation​​ of​​ his​​ degraded state.

“What​​ the fuck’s​​ wrong with you?!” she yelled at​​ the​​ crowd,​​ shrouding Walter in her arms.​​ As she took him away, some genuine fans​​ tried to follow,​​ still pleading for pictures,​​ but her ferocious​​ HE SAID​​ FUCK-OFF!”​​ kept​​ them​​ back.​​ 

“You okay?” she asked​​ him.

“Yeah—thanks,”​​ Walter​​ said,​​ still slightly prideful.​​ He​​ pulled up his sweater hood​​ and tightly pulled the draw strings.

“You know you can’t hide​​ behind a new haircut and beard,” she​​ told him. “Your most recognizable attribute is your pants. You’ve got to lose the​​ bellbottoms.”

“Never.​​ The bellbottoms​​ have been​​ a part of me long before Quinn Quark was—since high school.​​ They’re​​ my homage to rock n’ roll’s classical heyday.”

She​​ began laughing.​​ First, you gave rock n’ roll the middle finger by​​ quitting,” she said. “Second,​​ although Quinn Quark may have told every reporter that’s why he wore bellbottoms,​​ in truth,​​ Walter​​ is just​​ insecure​​ about his cankles.​​ I know Walter​​ Huxley​​ and​​ Quinn​​ Quark​​ far too​​ well for you to try and bullshit me.​​ I guess Quinn Quark isn’t dead yet.

Walter had​​ forgotten he confessed that to her one night on tour after they had too much wine.

“Now, do you really want me to stay,” Lola​​ said,​​ “or​​ do you just want to​​ continue​​ to​​ bullshit me?”

“Yes, please stay,” he said​​ deflated. “I’m sorry.”

“I​​ forgive you,” she said, and pulled him​​ into her arms.​​ “But only because​​ it’s your birthday. And oh yeah, here’s your birthday kiss.”​​ She lightly​​ kissed​​ his cheek. “Everyone​​ deserves at least​​ one​​ kiss on their birthday.”

“Yes,​​ but​​ I’m sure​​ you​​ have​​ much​​ more than just one kiss in mind for my birthday.”

Lola laughed again.​​ If​​ you’re​​ thinking​​ birthday sex,​​ ha, but no.”​​ 

“Not birthday sex,” Walter said smiling.​​ “I’m talking about the laundry list​​ of​​ items you’re hoping I will pay courtesy​​ to as soon as you no longer have to pay courtesy​​ to​​ my birthday.​​ I know Lola Roxy and Josepha Hagerman​​ far too well by now to be bullshitted​​ also.”

She​​ cleared her throat. “I do,”​​ she​​ confessed,​​ “but it’s​​ only​​ one​​ item.​​ I’d say we could talk about it tomorrow on the phone, but​​ since​​ you​​ never​​ pick up, I have no option​​ but to disgrace your birthday​​ with it.​​ So... you​​ want it now or later?”

“I knew it,” he said gritting his teeth. “Now.​​ Otherwise I’ll be wondering all night.”

“Fine,” she said, reaching​​ into​​ her​​ purse​​ and​​ pulling​​ out a manila​​ envelope.​​ “Here, you’ve​​ been served.”

“You’re suing me?!”

“I’m sorry, but you left the band and Cirkus no other choice.​​ It’s not like you didn’t see this coming.​​ However, there​​ is​​ another option they’re​​ willing to entertain, and believe me,​​ it’s more than generous on their part.”

“What?”

“They want​​ a​​ farewell​​ show​​ to make a live record.”

Walter​​ laughed.​​ Ha, but no,” he said,​​ and​​ smacked​​ the crosswalk button at PCH.​​ “No​​ way I’m going​​ back.​​ Quinn Quark​​ is​​ dead.

And he can stay dead for all I care,” Lola said, “because​​ I​​ don’t need him. I​​ just​​ need you. I don’t give a shit​​ who you are onstage,​​ Quinn, Axl,​​ Ziggy​​ fucking​​ Stardust.​​ I’m just asking​​ Walter​​ for​​ one showand maybe three-four rehearsals. Is​​ that really​​ something you can’t handle?​​ It’s not like Squids was your best friend​​ like he was to your bandmates. Think of​​ what​​ they’re​​ going through.​​ They need closure and so do you.​​ And if​​ you won’t do it for​​ them,​​ do it for me.​​ You realize how much​​ of​​ a slap in the face​​ this​​ all​​ is​​ to me, right?”

“Why?” Walter said. “Because​​ of​​ our​​ personal​​ relationship?​​ The way I remembered it, there​​ was a strict divide between​​ our personal and professional relationship.”

Lola closed her eyes and swallowed what looked to be a scream.

“Well...” she said​​ once she composed herself again,​​ “...I​​ guess I broke that rule from the beginning​​ then. Because I​​ obviously let my personal relationship with you—even before we started fucking—influence my professional one far too much​​ when I put that record deal together​​ for you.​​ Even when the label—along​​ with​​ your own band—pressured me to convince you to​​ rerecord​​ some​​ songs from​​ the​​ EPs​​ for the album,​​ I​​ told them no, to trust you.​​ But​​ here we are,​​ seven months later,​​ after I​​ also​​ convinced the label to​​ let you​​ stay in​​ the​​ house​​ two months longer than they wanted,​​ and​​ you tell me​​ through​​ a fucking text message​​ a week ago​​ that​​ you​​ not only​​ haven’t finished the record,​​ but​​ you’re​​ quitting music​​ altogether. Then you up and​​ ghost me​​ without any​​ further​​ explanation. If you can’t see why that’s​​ slapping me in the face​​ Walter, how about​​ you come closer and I’ll put it another way?”​​ 

He​​ looked straight ahead​​ and gave no comment​​ as they crossed PCH​​ and rejoined the crowds of the street​​ fair.

I​​ trusted you,” Lola​​ continued, “fought​​ for you,​​ believed in you so​​ goddamn​​ much that​​ I​​ didn’t realize​​ just how​​ much I set myself up to be fucked over​​ by you.​​ But I never fathomed you​​ actually​​ would,​​ because of all things I thought you considered​​ me,​​ a friend would be one of them.​​ But no wonder you​​ complain about​​ having​​ so few​​ real​​ friends​​ if this is how you treat​​ them.”

He remained silent, but instead of looking forward, his head went down.

Lola stopped walking. “Are you really​​ just going to continue to ignore me and say nothing?”​​ she asked.

Walter shrugged. “What do you want me to say?”​​ he​​ replied.​​ “I know, I’m a piece of shit.”

She​​ grunted and stomped​​ her black army boot into​​ the ground. “No,” she said, “you’re just​​ an​​ asshole.​​ Well, if you’re not going to do the show, I guess​​ I​​ have no reason to be here since you think that’s the only reason I came down here.”

“It wasn’t?” he said.

She grunted again. “I’ll see you​​ in court,” she said.​​ I won’t intrude on your birthday with yourself any longer​​ . . .​​ BYE!”​​ She​​ then​​ grafted herself into​​ the​​ passing​​ crowds.

As​​ Walter watched her colorful fin swim away, guilt rose like a slow-motion upper cut.​​ “Lola stop!”​​ he​​ cried, and again chased after her.

“Only if you agree​​ to do the show!” she​​ shouted back,​​ her fin still swimming.​​ 

“That’s not fair! Can’t we talk about it?”​​ 

“Oh,​​ now you want to talk?​​ It’s too late Walter.​​ There’s nothing else to talk about​​ unless you’re doing the show.”

“Fine, I’ll do​​ it,” he​​ ceded.

She stopped​​ and turned​​ around, unable​​ to hold back a grin.

“But I want you to know,”​​ he​​ said​​ as he rejoined​​ her,​​ “I’m​​ not​​ doing it​​ for​​ the​​ band, the label, or​​ because of​​ the​​ lawsuit.​​ I’m doing it for you.​​ You’re right​​ Lola. You have been​​ so much more​​ to me​​ than just a friend, and​​ really, you’re​​ my only friend other than my grandma.​​ I’m​​ so​​ sorry.​​ I​​ love you.​​ And​​ you know not in an ‘I love you’ sort of way, but in a… well, I’m not sure​​ what kind of way, but I do.”

Lola​​ sighed, still grinning. “Our​​ kind of​​ love is​​ kind of​​ hard to pin down,” she said.​​ “Somewhere between​​ friends,​​ enemies,​​ family,​​ fuckbuddies,​​ business​​ partners​​ . . .​​ But​​ I​​ do​​ love you​​ Walter,” she​​ said​​ clasping tight onto him. “No matter how much I sometimes hate you. But also,​​ thank you.​​ I know​​ this isn’t​​ easy​​ for you.”

“Like I said,” he said​​ into her ear as they kept holding,​​ “I’m only doing it for you.”

“And​​ it’s​​ a​​ good thing you are,” she said,​​ “because that​​ envelope is​​ full of​​ mostly blank paper. You can’t serve papers for a case you’re involved in.”

Walter​​ made a long groan.

“You’re turned on, aren’t you?”​​ she​​ said​​ feeling​​ some added bulk pressed against her​​ leg.

He pulled away​​ and​​ nodded.

“You’re​​ a sick freak, you know that?” she said​​ pulling him back in, then bit his ear.​​ “But so am I.​​ I guess that’s why we​​ love each other​​ so much.”​​ 

 

Back at Walter’s place​​ on his living room floor,​​ cuddling​​ atop​​ his​​ crippled camping​​ cot​​ which had collapsed under the​​ heft​​ of​​ their​​ lovemaking,​​ he and Lola​​ passed​​ a whiskey bottle​​ and kisses to each other while​​ Night Moves​​ rolled out​​ softly​​ from the radio.​​ He​​ had​​ missed​​ her more than he thought. Nothing was more healing to a man’s sanity than the soft hold of a woman who knew him well, even if she couldn’t hold him forever.​​ 

“So,​​ what are you​​ going to do now?”​​ Lola​​ asked​​ once the radio went to break.

“Now what?” Walter said.

“Now that you’ve quit music.​​ You must’ve quit it for something.”

“Do we really have to​​ talk about​​ this​​ right​​ now?”

“Sorry,​​ but​​ I can’t get it off my mind.​​ Plus,​​ I​​ think I​​ deserve to know​​ why you’re abandoning the dream I worked so hard to help you​​ reach; the dream​​ you also worked your entire life for.​​ I understand Squids’s death was tragic, especially​​ right​​ after Amber’s, but​​ still,​​ there​​ has to be something else.”

“I​​ just​​ realized rock star is not who I am, okay?​​ Yes, it’s what I thought I wanted to be when I was eleven​​ and what everyone​​ has​​ expected of me​​ since—with​​ the​​ exception of a few college professors, but I didn’t realize being famous would be so...​​ so intrusive​​ on my art.​​ It’s great onstage, but I don’t​​ want​​ onstage following me offstage. I need offstage for​​ life and​​ art.”

“Okay,” Lola said, “but that still doesn’t answer my question. Are you going back to physics?”

“No​​ . . .​​ I’m​​ going​​ to be a writer.”

“A writer? Like a songwriter?”

“No,​​ like an author. I want to write a novel. However,​​ I’m finding it a lot more difficult than I even​​ imagined.”

“A novel​​ Walter?” Lola said shaking her head. “Is this because of Amber?​​ Look,​​ I understand the incredible guilt you feel, but throwing away your dream for hers isn’t going to make​​ it​​ go away.”

“You’re right,” Walter said,​​ “and that’s not why​​ I’m doing it—well maybe a little.​​ Amber always said I should explore my talents in writing more. However, the real​​ reason is​​ I’ve come to realize writing is​​ the only medium​​ that can truly satisfy me​​ as​​ an artist and as a​​ logician. I think that’s why​​ neither physicist or rock star worked out for me. Both only satisfied​​ one aspect of me. But a novel,​​ it​​ can be a​​ platform​​ for​​ both​​ theory and creativity.”

“I​​ don’t know,”​​ she​​ said​​ still shaking her head.​​ “It doesn’t​​ make much sense to me​​ because I’ve never thought of you as a​​ ‘writer’—well, outside of​​ a​​ songwriter.​​ But​​ I suppose there might be some crossover.​​ Have you​​ written anything​​ yet?”

“Just​​ half a page.”

“Want to​​ read​​ it​​ to me?”

“I’m not sure. It’s really rough.​​ I probably won’t even​​ use it​​ for​​ my novel.​​ It’s just​​ an​​ exercise I found online for new writers that’s supposed to stimulate the creative process.​​ You’re supposed to introduce your writing as if it were​​ you, but obviously I’m still trying to figure out who that​​ ‘you’​​ is.”

“Just read it.”

Walter​​ sighed, then​​ got up and went to the kitchen. He​​ pulled a​​ gray​​ spiral notebook​​ out of one of the drawers, then laid back down beside her.

“It’s called,​​ Who is Walter Huxley?” he said. He took a​​ few deep​​ breaths, then began:

“I am Walter Huxley and I am​​ one of the loneliest people on Earth; I am​​ a writer.​​ But there’s something sacred in a writer’s loneliness: sanity,​​ hence why so many of us writers end up sacrificing our own for our readers’ sake.

“Call me​​ arrogant, promiscuous,​​ sexist,​​ reckless,​​ irrational, contradicting, insecure, indecisive, self-loathing, self-loving, or just down right confusing, and​​ at times​​ you’d​​ be absolutely​​ correct​​ because at one time or another I probably was. But in choosing an identity,​​ one must try on all​​ of​​ the​​ available​​ masks​​ life presents them. And while​​ I​​ always​​ try​​ to​​ wear​​ one​​ that is​​ my own, I​​ often​​ find​​ someone​​ wore​​ me​​ better before me.​​ However,​​ it’s always welcomed to know I’m not alone​​ while looking in the mirror, and that I’m always welcomed to break it also. Great philosophy lies in the brilliance of broken mirrors, not​​ in the​​ reflections of them. But still, once you piece​​ broken​​ mirrors​​ back together,​​ mask or not,​​ it’s still​​ only​​ you staring back.”

Walter’s eyes came up from the​​ notebook. The look on​​ Lola’s face was not one of satisfaction or dislike, but confusion. His eyes fled back down.

“It’s horrible!” he cried.​​ “It’s nothing but a clusterfuck of nonsensical narcissism. That’s what you do when something sucks, inject it with ego​​ and​​ lacquer it over with pretentious,​​ meaningless​​ nonsense​​ so​​ nobody can look into​​ it​​ and see the piece of shit it truly is.”

“That’s not true,” Lola said. “Was it​​ a little​​ nonsensical and narcissistic?​​ I suppose.​​ However,​​ it had moments of promise​​ too.​​ But regardless,​​ of course you’re going to feel​​ like a failure​​ in the beginning​​ Walter. Success is nothing but the accumulation​​ of​​ failure.”

“I know,” he said,​​ but it’s been a long time since I’ve been at the beginning​​ of​​ accumulation,​​ and I just wonder if it’s too late​​ for me, or if this​​ is​​ a big mistake.​​ But no matter how hard I try​​ to​​ quit, something​​ keeps​​ telling​​ me​​ writer.

The waterworks began,​​ and Walter’s voice strained somewhere between a whine and scream—a wheam.

“Two-thousand-twelve​​ just wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he wheamed. “This wasn’t how I imagined​​ my silver year going.​​ Twenty-five​​ is supposed to be the prime of my life, but​​ so far,​​ there’s nothing prime, silver or bright about​​ it, only darkness.​​ But​​ I guess I just like​​ being​​ miserable because every time I manage any sort of stability, I have an irresistible urge to​​ take the legs right out from beneath me.​​ Why​​ do I always do that?​​ Why-why-why-why…”​​ 

He then​​ tore​​ his injected and lacquered​​ piece of shit​​ from his notebook​​ and began​​ shredding​​ it in a puerile fit.​​ “Why-why-why-why…”

Lola​​ held back a smile​​ while​​ waiting​​ for​​ his​​ fit​​ to​​ subside.​​ “Because​​ maybe​​ silver years are for silver linings,” she​​ then​​ said.​​ “After all, you haven’t even been twenty-five for a day yet. You don’t know what this year has in store for you.​​ But seriously​​ Walter,​​ you need to​​ stop beating yourself up​​ so much.​​ I think this show will​​ be​​ a​​ healthy​​ distraction​​ for you.”

“Or it could just cause me another breakdown,” he said.

“Yes, but​​ I think it’s more likely going to save you from another one at this point.​​ I can see you’ve been​​ alone with yourself for too long, and like you always said, you’re not very friendly to yourself. But don’t worry,​​ I’m going to do everything in my power to make​​ this as least stressful​​ as​​ possible. Oh, and​​ I​​ completely​​ forgot to tell you​​ the venue.​​ I was keeping​​ it in my back pocket along​​ with​​ another thing​​ in case the fake court papers didn’t work.​​ It’s​​ the last stop of the tour we​​ never made it to.”

“The​​ Berkeley​​ Greek?”​​ he asked.​​ The​​ Berkeley​​ Greek​​ was​​ Walter’s​​ favorite​​ venue.

“Yes sir,” Lola said. “And for bass, this studio guy named Jason​​ agreed​​ to​​ fill in. I think you might​​ know him from​​ some of​​ his previous​​ work, some​​ band called​​ Metallica.”

“No...​​ No​​ you didn’t,” Walter said breathing heavy.

“I did,” she said​​ smiling.

“I’m going to be playing​​ The Greek​​ with Jason Newstead?!”

“You are—that is​​ if you don’t chicken out.”

Unable to contain his joy, Walter​​ stood​​ and began running around​​ the​​ small​​ house, still naked.

“Oh Quarky,” Lola said​​ looking​​ at​​ his cute little butt,​​ “I can’t tell you how happy​​ this​​ makes me.”