Chapter 15: My Birthnight
My breakfast in the lounge was great: eggs, bacon, orange juice, and toast with strawberry jam. And yes, of course I thought of Alice’s lipgloss when I tasted the jam. The scent of strawberries seemed to envelope me.
The day went by strangely. Not only were things in front of me, but also things were following me. Red cars for example. Once I walked out of Abbot, there was a red car parked right at the entrance of the residence. And when I zipped up my green coat all the way to my neck, a couple as if by magic appeared around the corner and headed towards the red Volkswagen Golf that I was staring at. They were holding hands and the boy was wearing a blue p-jacket while the girl was wearing a neon yellow Billabong coat. The boy opened the passenger’s door and closed it once his girl was inside. Once he was in the driver’s seat, he started the car and backed the Golf out of the parking lot before driving off around the corner the couple had entered from.
I was outside because I was heading to Kelly O’s. Since I had turned nineteen, I had formed this tradition with myself that I would buy a beer as a treat for turning a year older. Of course, I had just begun this tradition last year.
As I walked to Kelly O’Bryan’s, I had a six sense that someone was following me. When I turned around, I noticed that the Golf was almost cruising beside me as I walked on the sidewalk and headed to Kelly O’s. When I arrived at the doors, the car parked itself in front of a white Toyota. But I didn’t wait for them to get out; I just proceeded to the bar once I was inside.
“One Okanagan Springs, please,” I said to the bartender. He looked like one of those guys from a biker gang with his red handlebar moustache.
“Free of charge,” grunted the guy as he placed my cold pint on a Kelly O’s coaster.
“Huh?” I uttered, a bit shocked.
“Free of charge,” the bartender repeated. “Some girl with brown hair told me it was your birthday. What’s your name?”
“I thought I got it right. Enjoy the beer.”
Then the bartender went to help the couple that was sitting a few seats to the right of me. I couldn’t help but notice that the girl had brown hair and extremely blue eyes that almost seemed to glow in the dimly lit room while her boyfriend had curly red hair just like mine.
The girl smiled at me as she noticed me looking at them. I just shyly smiled back and raised my glass in silent cheers. I took a sip and tried to think what was going on. So Alice had ordered me a beer, but where was she? I really had two friends in this university and they were Alice and Joe, but Joe was barely a friend. I couldn’t help that everything that was occurring she was responsible for and that maybe I would be having some huge party in the evening. I checked my watch. The longhand was on top of Woody’s hat while the little hand was covering Buzz’s eyes. This meant that it was three forty-five P.M.
I had never liked drinking alone, but last year I had drunken one beer and had left the bar and I did the same thing that year.
When I got outside, I noticed it was colder than before and the Golf was gone and had been replaced by a blue Mazda. Hey, it could have even been a 6. But I was not completely sure and didn’t check the back of the car. But the paint was a shiny metallic blue and it made me immediately think of the girl I had seen in the bar and consequently I began thinking of Alice. But I had no idea what any of this meant. In front of the blue Mazda was a yellow Ferrari and I basically just pictured the couple in Kelly O’s.
I zipped up my coat and wasn’t sure where I was going to go next, but knew I didn’t want to go back to the dorm just yet. I ended up wandering into the movie theatre to see what was playing. They were showing When Harry Met Sally... in Theatre 3 so I bought a ticket to that even though I was alone. I knew it would pass the time while I waited for my big birthday surprise.
The movie started at four-fifteen, but I arrived at four o’clock so just watched the preshow. Three girls: one blonde, one redhead, and one brunette sat in front of me while the preshow began and it just so happened that I was soon staring at the back of the brunette’s head as she sat down in the seat just in front of me. I looked down at my Chuck Taylors as a picture of Alice’s face came into my memory. We were sitting on her bed and she was holding my hand as she flashed her teeth at me. I knew this was some daydream as this had never happened, but it still made my lip bend upwards a bit.
When the movie was over, I got up refreshed and the girls got up just after me. The brunette flashed me a smile almost similar to the one I had pictured Alice make, which made me look down at my shoes again. But once I looked up, the girls were gone so I walked out of the theatre while Harry Connick, Jr. sang, “It had to be you” behind me.
Once I was back outside, the cars had changed again. In place of the Mazda and Ferrari was a red Ford truck and a burgundy Chrysler. The Ford truck was in front of the Chrysler. I just smiled and began to head back to Abbot before I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner and now it was almost six-thirty. So instead, I continued walking down Bernard Avenue until I reached a restaurant called Memphis Blues Barbeque House. I walked in and ordered a pulled pork sandwich and a root beer. When I sat down to eat my dinner, I was amazed at how delicious the food was. The meat was cooked just right and even the beans on the side tasted good. And my root beer was the perfect drink to wash it all down with.
Back outside after my meal, I decided to scope out Abbot finally until I ran into a jogger wearing all blue. I swear he ran into me, but we both fell down on the concrete ground and the lanky man extended a hand to pull me up with. “Sorry about that, buddy. You came out of nowhere.”
I nodded as if I was accustomed to people colliding into me and watched him continue westward down the sidewalk. But as I looked behind me, I noticed a bright red Honda Odyssey flashing its caution lights at me. Then I did something stupid: I approached the vehicle.
No one was inside, but there was a blue Post-It pasted on the driver’s door, which read, WET PAINT. I found that to be quite funny. I mean, who paints their car with regular house paint? I thought the Post-It was so stupid that I pressed my right index finger against the door and was surprised to see a red dot appear on the tip. I guess someone had actually painted their car.
With my index finger stained, I walked away from the culprit and then noticed a red Dodge going south down Water Street. I followed the Dodge until it hit Lawrence Avenue and turned left.
“Spare change?” asked a homeless woman as I contemplated if I should continue following the Dodge. I was waiting for some kind of sign to direct me towards where I should go next, but I knew that there was no party. Alice, not even Joe, had arranged anything. I was alone and on my own and I knew I should stop fooling around.
Just go back to your dorm, I thought.
“Spare change?” repeated the woman, so I reached into my blue jeans pocket and pulled out a handful of quarters.
“Here,” I said as I gave her four of them. The old woman in the yellow beanie toque nodded as she continued north down the street.
What am I doing? I thought to myself. I was about to follow some strange car and I didn’t even know where its destination was. I was losing my mind. I knew I should go back to Abbot, but then do what? sit on my bed and contemplate how alone I was? No. Tonight was my birthday and I had to do something fun. But it’s not so fun to do things alone. But I wasn’t tired and I wanted to try an experiment. So when the next red car passed, I followed it and I followed it until it parked itself in the Abbot parking lot. It was the Golf from before and it ended up facing the entrance to Abbot and the couple that I had seen at Kelly O’s got out. I ducked behind a green Mercedes and watched them through the tinted glass as they walked off and passed Abbot. All the residences were close so they could’ve gone to any one near by. But I didn’t really pay attention to where they disappeared. As soon as they were out of eyeshot, I crept out of my hiding spot and approached the Golf. Alice was sending me a message or something. I knew it. Maybe this car was the key to my party.
I approached the driver’s door and yanked the handle. It didn’t budge, so I went over to the passenger seat and gripped that handle as well. It also didn’t move from its secured state. But when I approached the trunk, it opened! I was surprised. The lock was covered in rust so it was possible that the trunk couldn’t lock or it was very hard to lock. I was also considering the year the car was made. It was an old Golf, but I thought the seventies was pushing it.
When the trunk was open, I looked inside but not before I glanced at the building. Anyone could walk out, but how would they know that this car wasn’t mine unless they knew me? And no one really knew me.
I thought I saw someone quickly shut their curtains on the third floor, but it could’ve been my imagination. I looked up at the night sky and noticed the crescent moon. It wasn’t exactly glowing in the evening as the sun was still setting, but it didn’t matter. Its smile was almost mocking like the Cheshire Cat’s.
“Alice in Wonderland,” I whispered to myself and then smiled up at the moon.
I looked at the inside of the trunk. There was a roll of Happy Birthday giftwrapping paper that exposed different coloured birthday hats and streamers, a paintbrush with dried red paint on it, and a book of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
The roll of paper and the paintbrush I understood, but the book confused me. I didn’t believe this was the twelfth night of Alice’s artistic journey. But then this had been occurring for a few days and I hadn’t been counting the days of strange activity. But for some reason I felt there was more meaning to this book than just its title.
I tried to think back to what I remembered of Twelfth Night but all I could think about was She’s the Man, which was based on the play. Was I supposed to behave like a girl (reverse the roll of the play?) or maybe a specific girl: Alice Sterling?
I had been listening to a lot of music lately as these strange events had occurred and one of the songs on my iTunes (or maybe it really was Alice shuffling my songs. I was beginning to think everything was a bit too coincidental to be random chance) had been “Could I Be You” by Matchbox Twenty and I thought about it now. The song was simple and the title explained it all. It was about wanting to be someone else. But not just anyone else, your lover or whomever Rob Thomas was thinking about at the time. Maybe she was just a fling.
When you’re in love, you do crazy things. One of those things you can do is lose yourself. But sometimes you’re not really losing yourself; you’re just developing characteristics of someone else. It’s like when you hang out with the same friend for a while: you start acting and even speaking like them. It seemed that I had to behave like Alice or think like Alice. But I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t smart enough. But maybe I didn’t actually have to become her, I just had to think of her in regards to this artistic game so I could prepare myself and maybe even be ahead of the occurrences like a detective who knows when and where the next murder will be before its committed.
With this new thought in mind, I quickly closed the trunk of the Golf and rushed into my room. Joe wasn’t there so I opened up my MacBook, opened up iTunes, typed in “Could I Be You” in the search bar and once the song popped up on the list, I commanded it to play, heightened the volume so all the bars were filled, and connected Joe’s speakers into my computer so it was even louder. As the opening piano blasted through the room, I sat back and let the song shake the space around me.
Before the song was done there was a loud knock on my door and I opened it to find Jake standing behind it. “ART!” he screamed, “PLEASE TURN DOWN THE MUSIC! SOME OF YOUR ROOMMATES ARE TRYING TO STUDY!”
“Sorry,” I said as if I was actually surprised by this statement.
Once the door was closed, I lowered the volume bar until it was half its previous volume as “Wonderland” by Taylor Swift began playing.
I guess it worked.