“In all good faith and sentiment, I can’t believe somehow, that I haven’t died of grief or something, since you left this town, I’m all undecorated cigarettes, and standard white apartment walls,
At 3 AM and 4 AM, it’s impossible to sleep, I’d do anything to hold you, and feel you next to me, But I’m all sore eyes and beasts at my backdoor, pulling out their claws,” -from “Red Lights” by Molly and the Zombies (Fallon)
You never know when you might meet the most important person in your life. This was the thought I had when I sat down with Cynthia and Chris one day for brunch years ago. We all lived in Toronto then, and my TV show, Astoria, was still being lived and not even a glimmer in my brown eyes. I had just started working at Blood On The Racks, a book store on Queen Street near Bellwoods Park and had met Amy, my inconveniently cool and attractive new co-worker.
Also, on the way to brunch a bird shat on my shoulder. It was great.
“It’s true though! Think about it,” I said after telling them all of the expository stuff I just wrote in the previous paragraph.
“The shit on your shoulder is offensive to me,” Cynthia said. Her eyes hidden behind reflective aviators concealed any semblance of sarcasm.
“Think about it though. If I hadn’t crossed the road because of the light, I never would have read the sign in the window and walked in and talked to Amy and applied for the job and kismet,” I said.
“Jack, go and wash the shit off your shoulder or buy us another round of caesars so we don’t notice it as much,” Chris said. His own aviators worked well with his chunky blonde hair and strong jaw, though his slouch belied a different story. Looking at the pair of them, it was definitely a long night previous.
“Admit it and I will.”
“It’s admitted as evidence,” Cynthia said.
“Go,” Chris said.
I washed up and returned to our table with a fresh drink my dear friends had ordered, waiting for me. I had to dodge the waitress who buzzed around the patio during the busy brunch shift, trying to balance the task of keeping the hangovers at bay and the families satisfied.
“So Streetlight Stu, do you have any other revelations for us? Is this Amy person just a detour from Erica, or a road not taken?” Cynthia said.
“Streetlight Stu. New character. I love it. He was left by someone or someone he loved dies and so he decides to let the fate of the streetlights decide his path. If one turns red, he follows the green to his destinations. He is accompanied by his hetero life partners, Idiot Ian, who is an idiot, and Meme Mike, who jumps on every popular internet trend and annoys everyone in his social media feeds so much that he only has one follower. And of course, that person is Idiot Ian,” I said and sipped from my caesar.
“Am I Idiot Ian in this whole thing for continuing to listen to this?” Cynthia said.
“He might be onto something here,” Chris said. “What if, for a week, we just follow the streetlights?”
“I will probably end up late for work and Janelle will leave me. The restaurant will close and I will start following Meme Mike for something to do,” Cynthia said downing the rest of her caesar.
“Better than following Idiot Ian,” I said.
“Better than being Idiot Ian,” Chris said.
“Better than being friends with you Asshole Aarons,” Cynthia said.
“Better than being dead,” I said.
“Better than being misdiagnosed as terminal and then finding out you have forty years to live, but you spent all your savings and told everybody off,” Chris said.
“Better than being Jack,” Cynthia said.
“Better than being Cynthia,” I said.
“Better than being Amy, Jack’s new crush whom he will idolize and fret over to the point he becomes Psycho Sal,” Cynthia said.
“Better than being anyone who slept with Cynthia before she came out and then slagged on her blog about them all being terrible lays,” I said.
“Hey! That’s me,” Chris said.
“Sorry man. I forgot about that,” I said.
“You are horrible,” Cynthia said, raising her glass in a mock cheers to me.
“You are the worst person I have ever met in my entire life,” I said raising my own glass to her.
“Fuck you,” she said.
“Eat shit and die,” I said.
The waitress stopped at our table as Chris was raising his menu to cover his face in case of potential projectiles. Cynthia and I have never turned our loving, vitriolic words into anything physical – nor would we – but Chris is easily spooked at the safest of times.
“What can I get you guys?” she said.
“I’ll have the huevos,” Cynthia started, “and he’ll have the special with eggs over, bacon, and brown toast,” she said nodding at Chris. “He’ll have the large dose of reality about Amy, with a side of shut the fuck up,” she said nodding at me.
“And another round of caesars on her bill,” I said.
“As long as you don’t write that story about the streetlight guy, the drinks will be on the house,” the waitress said.
Chris and Cynthia burst into laughter.
“What happens to this Stu character anyway?” the waitress said.
“He dies,” Cynthia said.
“Getting hit by a car,” Chris said.
“When it runs a red light,” I said.
She eyed our trio and then smiled, “Good. I’ll get you guys those drinks. And some advice?” she addressed me. “Do leave Stu alone,” she said and walked to another table.
That waitress might not have been the most important person in my life, but she was important. If she didn’t offer her advice, Chris, Cyn, and I might have kept riffing on story ideas and I might have got it into my head to base a whole novel around Streetlight Stu and his best friends. I would have spent years plotting, and planning, and editing, and writing, and pitching, and dreaming, and sweating, and depressing, and loving, and living only to come to the conclusion – the same one I came to after that brunch – that you can’t base a long form story around a character quirk. So if it wasn’t for Awesome Brunette Brunch Waitress, the show might never have been written, and I would be languishing in my own development hell, instead of the personal not-writing hell I am in now.
Maybe I should jot down some notes about this Stu thing just in case. You never know when you might come up with the greatest story idea of your life or be inspired to write a short story based around some Brian Fallon lyrics that you don’t reference until the last sentence.