Pete finds that his phone is a much better source for information on the events of the past few days than his mind. Text messages, photos, call logs, addresses he searched, it's all there. He tries to focus, but can't. The letters smear themselves across the screen when he attempts to make them out. Coffee. That was the solution. Some caffeine would get his brain kick started. He sets out his kettle and dumps some instant into a mug. At his table he starts going through his phone. Ok, Anjela is the first question. Who is she? He checks his voice mail. “You have one unheard message. 'Hey Pete, it's Anjela. I just wanted to call up and like... you know, thank you for this sculpture. It's really beautiful. This may be the coolest gift I've ever received from a man I've known for two days. Call me back.' Next old message. 'Peter, it's your mother. Your father and I have been getting really worried about you. You don't call and there's all this talk of terrorism and I just don't know what to think. Call me back, sweetheart.' Next old message. 'PEEEETE!! FUCKING HELL MAN! It's Jamey! Where are you? We got the- (unintelligible garbled speech) You gotta get down here man! Gimme a ring when you get this!' Next old message. 'Good afternoon Mr. Sartinger, I am calling on behalf of the library. You rented out quite a few films and they are now past due. To avoid incurring penalties-'” Pete hangs up and rests his forehead against his palm.
He almost falls asleep resting on his arm but the kettle begins to whistle. He pours water into the mug and watches black, boiling coffee come climbing up. No milk in the fridge. No sugar in the cupboard. He stares hard at the hot, black liquid and feels it stare back. Steam comes rolling of it and tiny droplets cling to his face. He attempts to absorb the caffeine through his skin. With that failing, he sips at the acidic beverage. Back at his chair, he goes through the messages. The one from Anjela, he takes another look and finds that she is not wholly unattractive. Definitely not classically beautiful, but strangely attractive. Her face is kind of round but her skin clings to her bones as if they were shrink-wrapped. If he had to guess, he would put her in the area of 5% body fat. Her hair shows signs of being dyed, multiple times and then ignored, so now her roots, which are black, are showing. Her hazel eyes stare directly into the camera and it's all done from this teeny-bopper myspace angle. A thought pops into his head: he can't really tell how old she is. She could be anywhere from 16 to 20. And he could have committed a crime by doing whatever he assumes he did with her. He blurts out, “O, fuck my shitty mind!”
Cy peaks out through his door and catches Pete's eye. He asks, “Whats the problem man?” Pete turns his phone towards Cy's direction, “I think I may have fucked a teenager.” He smiles and walks across the hall, through Pete's open door and takes the phone from his hand. Cy's eyes grow wide. He whistles a prolonged whistle that slowly trails off, the kind you hear from bystanders right after you clip a guy's fender in the local super market parking lot. “Jesus man, she looks fifteen.” Pete buries his head further into his folded arms. “Well, maybe you didn't and even if you did... well maybe no one will find out.” Pete can do nothing but groan. The room is silent for a few seconds and then Cy asks, “Pete, why do you owe Chris a new set of silverware?” Pete lifts his head and grabs his phone back, “Don't go through my messages! And I'm not really sure.” Cy turns around and starts to walk out, “Alright man, feel better, drink some of that coffee and think about laying off the booze for a day or two, this lifestyle is getting right on top of you.” He closes the door behind him and Pete is left alone in his kitchen, a phone in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other.
The phone shakes in his hand and Pete almost throws it to the table. He composes himself and checks the caller. The screen reads “Unlisted Number” and nothing else. He clicks it on and warily asks, “Hello?” A deep male voice that suggests advanced years responds, “Hello, is Mary there?” Pete looks at the screen again and puts the phone back to his ear. “Um, no, I think you have the wrong number.” The older man says, “No, no, no, this is the right number, I'm sure. Could you just tell her that I was at the pharmacy and... and my insurance was turned down and I can't get my prescriptions.” Pete says, “Uh, sir, listen, I don't know any Mary, well, I mean I do know a Mary, though this probably isn't your Mary... What I'm trying to say is that you called my cell phone and there's no Mary here.” Notes of desperation come clawing through the phone speaker. “Could you please just tell her that I need to get this fixed? She knows I need my prescriptions.” “Ok, sir, I'll tell her.” “Thanks, just tell her-” The phone is off and lying on the table. He stares at this reminder of his inability to remember, this fountain of fucked up. He leaves it on the table and takes his coffee to the living room. After sipping at it for a few moments, he is overcome with the need to sleep. Within a minute he is snoring soundly, curled among dirty clothes, a throw pillow and a few magazines at his feet.
A streetlight shines directly into his window and onto his face. He rolls over and faces the back of the couch, but it was enough to get him thinking in a vague way of waking up. Thoughts roll around in his head as if they were made of cold, slightly congealed soup. Eventually they collect at the bottom and he might be able to fall back asleep. One thought stands up in the back of his head, the nagging recollection that he has no idea where he's been or what he has been doing for the past few days. A rush of energy and determination flows through his limbs and chest. He sits up, the dark corners of his apartment seem to beg his eyes to adjust to the light, to discover their secrets. He knows they hold nothing enlightening, no revelations, but his pupils grow wide anyway.
He walks in the dark attempting to remember the location of everything in his house and stubs his toe on a laundry basket. With the light switched on he grabs his phone, determined to discover what the hell is wrong with him. He calls Chris, “This is Chris, leave a message.” “Hey, what did I do with your silverware? I may have been a bit drunk.” He calls Anjela. “Hey, Pete. I thought you weren't going to call me back.” Pete shifts in his seat. “Yeah sorry about that, what's up?” “Oh nothing, drinking a gin and tonic, reading this book. I was thinking about what you said the other night.” He winced, “You're going to have to be more specific than that. I say a lot of things. Or at least enough for that to not be enough information to identify the exact thing you're talking about.” She said, “Oh no, I guess nothing specific, just what you said about art and love... and age.” Pete thought to himself, “Shit,” but said, “Hey, I have a weird question. When did we first meet?” Anjela was silent for a while, Pete imagined what the question might suggest to a normal person, “Hmm, three days ago. Monday. Why do you ask? You can't remember?” “No, no, nothing like that. Say, we should meet up for a drink.” She asks, “The same place?” He says, “Mmm, I don't know.” “I thought you loved Walker's Pub.” “Ok, fine, Walker's. Meet you there in half an hour?” She says, “Sure Pete. See you soon.” She makes what could be interpreted as a kissing noise and hangs up.
Pete stands up and takes stock of himself in a mirror. His filthy, greasy, bruised and cut face stares back at him through the mirror. His lips turn down and he walks to the bathroom. Undressing, a large blotch on his stomach catches his eye. A gasp leaves his lips as he looks in the mirror. Arabic. Half the Koran seems to be written on his stomach. He stares at his stomach and back into his own eyes. He does goes back and forth for about five minutes until he remembers his meeting with Anjela. He gently washes his belly even though there is no real tenderness in the area. Washed and dried he dresses and steps out of his building. The night air is hot and slightly humid. The water he missed with the towel now clings to his skin for dear life. Walker's is only a few blocks away.
Entering the pub, silence falls on the normally lively, if not raucous, establishment. Pete looks around at familiar faces, “What?” Walker, whose real name is Carl Sampson, says, “You have a lot of balls walking back in here. Tell me why I shouldn't kick your ass right now?” Pete stares back, “Because... because we're friends?” Carl, who only let's you call him Walker, steps out from behind the bar and slams the bar top back down when he passes through. His thick arm slides behind Pete's back and walks him to the game room in the back. There is extremely sloppy (though he can only real compare it to his tattoo) Arabic scrawled across the walls in red. Tables are broken and there seems to have been a camp out on top of the pool table. The smell of burnt plastic permeates the air. “Walker, now I didn't... I mean who did this?” Walker's eyes pierce Pete's very soul, “You. You and some fucked up Middle Eastern-looking mother-fucker. You two did this. Now tell me why I'm not ripping your balls off and force-feeding you them? Tell me that, Petey.” Pete stammers out, “Because we're old friends?” Walker responds, “Not no more, Petey. Not no more. Now do you want to pay for this damage in cash or flesh? I'm flexible, and since we're old friends, I'll let you decide.” “C-c-cash. Definitely cash. I'll pay you back for this, Walker. I swear it. I fucking swear it.” Pete is learning quickly to handle these little shit storms his drunken self has left around town. “Walker, man, I can't remember anything. I think someone slipped me some PCP or some shit.” Walker is incredulous, “You can't slip someone PCP, Pete.” Pete steps back, “Listen, I'll pay for this. Don't worry. Did you by any chance catch the name of the guy I was with?”
Walker lights up a cigarette, “No, I didn't catch his name, you two ran out the back and hopped the fence when I came in. It was fucking 5 AM. You two broke in here and set my god damn bar on fire. If you didn't make all that god damn noise, I could have burnt to death in my sleep upstairs. If I knew his name he wouldn't be alive, and you would be in jail, you little fuck, if I hadn't known you for the past three years.” He exhales a cloud of smoke dramatically and Pete becomes weak in the knees. The room spins clockwise and he slumps against the wall. “Pete, you ok?” Walker's sausage-like fingers reach out for Pete's shoulder, but he slumps further down until his ass smacks into the hardwood floor. “Pete? Pete, are you -”
The world flashes in an out, two or three times a second as if the bar was suddenly a rave or a shitty basement party. Walker's giant, round face is hovering above him and his mouth forms a crooked smile, “Pete, it looks like life is beating the shit out of you for me.” He hands Pete a glass of water. Most of the bar patrons stand around him in a circle and watch him drain the glass. Pete doesn't even try to talk. He stares at the ground and notices red paint splatter all over the floor. His stomach is performing acrobatics in his torso. The world is way too bright. He vomits on someone's shoes. Someone grabs him under the arms. The floor moves underneath him. He's dropped unceremoniously at the curb.
Once Pete collects himself, he sits up and scans the street. Cigarette butts and candy wrappers. He groans out something that sounds like “Shit.” From behind him a high-pitched, feminine voice says, “Hi, Pete.” He spins around and sees what must be Anjela. She looks different with a majority of her clothes on. She's wearing pink and black striped thigh-high socks, short black shorts and a black Devestaor's t-shirt. Her hair is a short, messy bob with several colors running through it. She's wearing too much eye-liner and black lip stick. Her face betrays obvious concern, “Pete, you look like shit... and I mean worse than usual. Are you ok?” Pete stands up, falters, and leans against a post, “Yeah, no, I'm good.” She asks “Are you drunk?” He shakes his head emphatically, “No, no, just feeling a bit... I don't know, sick, I guess.” When Pete stands, he notices that maybe she's five feet tall, if that. Her tiny hand reaches up and massages his shoulder. She could be his daughter. Pete's mind races, how the hell can he get rid of this girl as soon as possible? She says, “Let's go inside and sit down.” Panic flashes across his face and quickly disappears, “No! No, I mean no let's go somewhere else. This place cards. I mean let's just go somewhere else.” She smiles, “I have a fake ID if that's a problem.” He shakes his head, “No, it's not, I just don't want to go here.” Her face, posture, the air around her seems to grow angry, “What are you embarrassed of me? I'm going in.” He grabs her arm and pulls her back. She says, “Listen, I'm going in there and there's nothing you can do to-” He kisses her on the mouth and instantly regrets it. After a few seconds he begins to enjoy it. Then regrets it again. He starts enjoying it again but she pulls away before he can cycle between lust and disgust a third time.
“Did you just throw up?” Her eyes are accusatory. “Mmm, kind of, sorry.” She smiles, “It's ok. You want to go home and clean up a little bit? You really do look like hell.” He doesn't want to think about what he looked like before the shower. “Yeah, my place, sure.” He was all too pleased to get out of that situation, but now he's bringing a teenage girl to his apartment. He prayed that none of his neighbors were around to see this. They crept up the stairs to his apartment and he stuck his key into the already unlocked door. He let her in and shut the door quietly behind them. “Oooh, nice place, Pete. Is this your studio?” She goes skipping into his studio. Pete mutters below his breath, “Oh please, for the love of God, please don't skip.” He speaks up, “I'm going to shower and change, ok?” From somewhere in the back of his apartment he can hear her practically sing, “Oooh-kaaay.” He grabs some reasonably clean clothes and steps into his bathroom. The front of his shirt is covered in watery vomit. As he scrubs himself for the second time in an hour all he could think was a single word, fuck. He would repeat it as a mantra. After a while of cursing, he hears a knock on the door. “Pete, what are you doing in there?” He shouts back, “Nothing, I'm almost done.” She replies, “Want me to help?” “No! I'm fine. Really.” He washes off any remaining soap and starts drying himself off. His mantra runs through his head at incredible speed. He should be planning an exit strategy, but he's too nervous and to be honest, horny, to think of anything else.
He steps out of the bathroom and she's sitting at his counter, sipping at a beer she found in his fridge. He hates himself for feeling attracted to her. She stands up, walks over to him and wraps her arms around his neck. He feels how small she is, how fragile, and can't bring himself to throw her out. She kisses him, which he enjoys despite himself. He pushes her off. “Listen, I don't know if this is right.” She rolls her eyes, “What? I'm too young? I'm turning 16 this month.” He almost vomits again. He looks her in the eyes, “Anjela, I'm 29.” She stares back, “So? I like older men, the boys in my school are so stupid. I think that painting in the back is awesome by the way.” He smiles, “Well, I mean I got the idea from- No. I am twice your age. This is illegal.” Her eyes light up, “So I guess you don't want anyone finding out about us.” Pete's brain scrambles, “I'm not going to be blackmailed by a 15 year-old.” “Who said anything about blackmail?” Pete grabs the beer off the table and begins to drink it. Soon, the bottle is empty and he looks back at Anjela. “Ok, I want to talk, I just want to talk.” She nods, “That's fine.”