Beatrice stands alone, cooly though self-consciously smoking an American Spirit Light, which she calls a “square” (regretfully not knowing why she calls it that), at the top of the concrete steps that lead to the university library entrance. Furiously texting on her Blackberry, periodically issuing a chuckle, her outfit screams “look at me, I’m more unique than you are”: black fishnet stockings, a short black wrap-around skirt fastened with a gigantic safety pin, layered “beaters” under a ripped black Melvins concert t-shirt manufactured at least 10 years after she was born and 20 years after the band last played a live gig, and a pair of oversized black frame Ray-Bans. As she begins the process of lowering herself to a seated position on the ground, Justin bounds up the steps and stops short of running her over.
“Hey, sorry we got interrupted … that guy’s letting me sleep on his couch this weekend. So I kinda had to talk to him,” he explains.
“That’s cool. I had to text my roommate about graduation weekend and shit. Her parents and my parents want to say in our apartment, and it’s like so not cool, so I’m all ‘Well, I moved in here first, so like I kind of like have like … seniority?’ She like didn’t like that at all. Anyway, I had to deal with her. Oh, wait, she’s texting me again.”
Beatrice frowns as she reads the text message. Within 10 seconds she pokes out a response. During this 10-second period Justin follows suit and lowers his body to the ground and pretends to adjust his iPod. ”Okay, yeah …” Beatrice mumbles.
Justin interrupts: “So where were we … yeah, um, you were telling me about last summer ….”
Beatrice (her friends like her B.B., which she spells “BeaBea” but which she transforms to Be-Be on Twitter but Bee-Bee on Facebook) pounces on the above ellipsis … three dots that always signify to her an opportunity to prevail conversationally: “Yeah, last summer … it’s like … all complicated …”
“Right,” Justin blandly stammers.
”Being that I’m like this like deranged like queer anarchist feminist like revolutionary and all it was like totally ironic that last summer I went through this like ironically crazy semi-traditional like 50s housewife like phase where I was like wearing these like totally ironic house dresses and cleaning the apartment like mad and cooking and doing all this like craft shit. Then, like this year, it was relevant and ironically like … useful … because it turns out that I’m doing my like honors thesis on like the whole idea of ‘the housewife’ (here she forms double quotation marks in the air with the index and middle fingers of both hands, though in representing her commentary I’m abiding by standard grammatical code and using the single quotation mark as a convention to denote emphasis inside of quoted dialogue) … and how it’s changed … and like how it hasn’t changed, like … ironically … over the past like 50 years or whatever.”
“Yeah … irony. That is ironical. Totally. It reminds me of like this Sinatra thing that I went through like a year ago. Seriously. I was all … like going out to like old people nightclubs, like actual nightclubs, and I was going out a lot and drinking bourbon on the rocks and wearing suits and basically like just listening to Frank Sinatra music like all the time.”
Bea-Bea jumps in to add, with a hint of ridicule, perhaps in response to Justin’s obviously erroneous conversion of “ironic” into an adverb, and a dash of embarrassment, perhaps over not knowing who Frank Sinatra is: “Yeah that is ironical.”
Without missing a beat, Justin feebly interjects: “Totally. Irony exists. It’s dripping with it.”
To this observer the “it” in question remains a mystery. We shall continue nevertheless, for the story unfolds with a jerk as we return to Justin’s abject failure to nudge this mating ritual “to the next level” as they say. (Note: To this observer, exactly who “they” are remains a mystery):
“If you werent so busy I’d invite you to dinner with us tonight.” (I warned you about the abject failure)
As though unexpectedly shot by a pellet, B.B. nearly convulses and barks, “YEAH, I’d love to … but I can’t ….” Over the top of “but I can’t,” Justin too barks “but you’re way too busy with shit.” It’s just one segment of a cacophonous two track score to a B-movie romantic comedy unfolding before this observer’s eyes. The observer must look away, but he continues listening as Bee-Bee changes subject, a not uncommon tactic in situations like this one.
“Yay! We’re graduating this month!!!”
Obviously reeling from the rebuff, Justin half-heartedly climbs aboard the train leading away from “bagging this bird” as he might have said during his Sinatra-obsessed summer of last. ”Yeah I can’t really believe it. Worst part is I can’t go to work shitfaced anymore. Last summer I went to work drunk every day. That Sinatra thing …” he trails off, fading into oblivion in the presence of anarchy, queerdom, feminism, revolution, and a cascade of flowery frocks.
Beatrice, now buoyed by her full first name and nearly all of the identity markers to which she so vigorously adheres, replies: “Yeah, like in high school I never drank or smoked. But I’m in this ironic phase now. Drinking but not all shit faced. In the morning I’m all spreading out my books in the library and all like ‘I’m gonna stay here forever’ (again she uses the double quotation fingers, and again I must use the single). But then I’m like ‘This is comfortable,’ and I fall asleep. Nap for like a full half hour. Then I’m all like … refreshed and ready to study hardcore. I can’t believe how high my GPA is going to be. It’s really ironic.”
“Oh yeah, for sure,” says the seemingly disembodied voice whose words seem to have their source in a being that only superficially and ironical-ly goes by the name of Justin, a being so far away now as to be barely visible to the ironically naked eye.