scenes from a pretentious indie flick
by cimorene



Jay and Kevin accidentally kissed once (really kissed, because counting all kisses of course they kissed more than once), at an after-the-after-party. You know the kind: dark room, alcohol, pot and some less identifiable substances if you knew who to cozy up to; only about ten or fifteen people in the room, about half of whom he knew.

"Shit, if I was sober, I'd know him," said Kevin as some dude in a purple suit jacket and dark glasses wandered in, glass in hand, and immediately dropped onto one end of a couch full of some producer and two nervous nameless actresses.

"Kev, you're so fulla'shit," said Jay, slurring more than could be accounted for with alcohol, a sort of-sullen put-on of the kind of drunk he'd like to be. Recently out of rehab, in a substance-shy stage--he'd only had a couple of tokes of clean weed and not much to drink, either (otherwise he wouldn't have made it to this party--would be on some floor, dribbling and twitching, instead). Kev hadn't said much about it since that time he totally lost it and called him a selfish stupid bastard and some other, less anatomically possible things.

Whether Jason remembered this and his lectures from other people or whether he had somehow started to feel guilty all on his own, he was watching himself without a word to Kev, who had been trying all night to not appear to pay close attention. I don't care, it's not my business was his personal mantra for Jay's drug use, even though it was nothing like what he told Jay. Otherwise you just couldn't. You couldn't anyway. Jay was too dangerous to get that close to, which was why on the inside (but not necessarily the outside) Kevin had been pulling away from him for the past three years and change. No one can afford that kind of emotional damage. It was better not to care, if you can help it. And he could.

The trick was caring, but not too much, and always remembering to stop at none of my business.

"Honey," said an elaborately done-up blonde antique he recognized from some classic Hollywood movies, but whose name he couldn't place. The sad fact was that Kev was drunker than Jay at this point. "Honey," said the lady, "it doesn't matter if you know them at these little do's. You don't need any names."

"I'll remember that," said Kev, and looped an arm around Jay's neck to stop him tipping over the other way onto the arm of the couch and the lady's lap. She laughed and grabbed someone else by the shoulder and Kevin thought she was going and turned his attention to Jason, who had climbed into his lap to make himself more comfortable and leaned his head back on Kevin's shoulder.

"Mm," said Jason, "Did you know I only got two hours of sleep last night?" A giggle.

Kevin blinked and said, "You didn't say."

"I didn't say," Jay agreed, "but I'm so fuckin' tired. Just don't move--" he wiggled a little, kicked Kev's feet further apart to settle his own leg. "--And I'll forgive you for all the... ." What he was saying dissolved in mumbles, or Kevin's ears weren't working right around the loud crashing laughter in the corner.


Jason shrugged precariously, arched his neck a little. "Nothing."

Kev was trying to hang onto a thought--what "nothing" meant exactly, and what it was that he meant to say about it--against a soft voice that might have been his own better judgment telling him to drop it.

"See," said the old blonde broad. She was standing with what seemed to be nothing except a really, really long pair of slim legs with the color and luster of gold plate.

When he remembered to look up--to a sort of long face, with a disappointingly small mouth--he discovered the legs belonged to a petite brunette, nearly flat-chested, wearing absolutely the shortest gold lame skirt Kevin had ever seen. The brunette giggled. "Hi," she said.

He said dumbly, "Hi." He was thinking, "that's some dress."

She seemed to take this as an invitation. The old blonde and the young owner of the legs squished with him and the sleeping Jay in his lap onto the couch--the young thing in the middle, of course, smoothing her non-existent skirt over her ass before she sat down and crossing her long legs smoothly.

The old blonde got the conversation going with "Don't you hate these parties? You can't see, you can't hear..."

"The food's good," shrugged Legs, brandishing the tail of a just-eaten shrimp, "and it's all so meaningless anyway."

Oh God, thought Kevin, one of those. If he weren't drunk he might have been pissed enough to wade into one of those laughably banal five-minute discussions on the meaninglessness of existence. As it was he just felt vaguely disappointed and stole another glance at the chick's legs. Holy shit, he'd remembered right. The things looked freakishly long.

At that point he tuned out, which, as it turned out, was a mistake.

Some indeterminate time later, Blonde had left and Legs had fetched him a cocktail since he couldn't move. He didn't bother to sniff, but sampled with a quick sip. Tolerable. His tongue detected expensive brandy. Some guy in jeans was slumped against the wall a few feet away, barely conscious, and two girls in boring black and blue dresses had their arms around each other's shoulders at the other end of the couch.

The conversation had again ended up with why men find lesbian sex so remarkable, probably because of them, and the anorexic one was laughing in the other's shoulder with no regard for her hairdo.

"No, really, it makes perfect sense," someone Kev couldn't see was saying, "because watching sex makes you hot, that's all. Is it that far outside the realms of probability that it would occur to someone, out of the endless selection of genders on the Earth?"

"I think it's hot," someone else piped.

"I think they'd think it was hot if it were guys too. Like if you could get them to watch it, you know," said Legs. "Because they can't help it. It's just the body's instinctual response, totally Pavlovian... any reminder of sex..."

Kevin said, not really caring if anyone paid attention, "Sex is just sex, and the human animal is obsessed with sex in any way, shape, or form."

"Yeah," said Legs, sitting down in her excitement on the arm of the couch next to him, and forgetting to smooth her skirt down first. It was riding high enough on her thigh to expose certain kinds of underwear. Kevin wondered with drunken detachment what kind she would be wearing with that dress.

The rest of his cocktail seemed to be gone. She took it out of his hand and said, "Another?" dangling it in front of him.

Kevin shrugged and took it, and a long drink. A drink was a way to fidget when he couldn't move much else.

"Like guys kissing," said the girl in the black dress. "Totally gets me hot."

The other girl laughed and said something Kevin couldn't hear, but it had Legs laughing too. He hadn't known the blonde was nearby, but he heard her voice and a sharp pat on his shoulder. "You should kiss him. A demonstration."

Kevin said dizzily, "I think Jay's asleep."

"He isn't!"

"He's awake--barely."

"I'm awake," Jason mumbled muzzily next to Kevin's ear, and turned his head. His breath on Kevin's neck was hot and it tickled. Kev had to stop himself from shoving Jay's head away. Instead he shifted in his seat and shook his head.

Jay chuckled and the girls laughed. And Kevin found himself laughing too.

"Come on," said Anorexic. Blonde clapped her hands. Black Dress whispered in Anorexic's ear again.

"Come on, Jay," Kev heard himself taunt, "if you're really awake."

Jay heaved himself up and slid halfway off of Kevin's lap, tipping his chin up with a deliberate blinding grin Kev knew very well. He could trace it all the way back to high school. "I'm game," Jay said clearly.

Kevin threw an arm sloppily around Jay's ribs and pursed his lips while the clapping from the girls escalated to a wolf-whistle and a cheer. Jay tried to sit up and lean forward at the same time and Kevin tightened his arm thoughtlessly; he slipped off-balance, spilling into Kev's lap again with a muffled, startled, choking laugh that only stopped against Kevin's waiting mouth.

His mouth was soft and pliable and damp, and hot, and open. After a second Jason grabbed hold of Kevin's upper arms, angling his head and slurping at Kev's tongue while Kev realized dimly that a sharp knee was digging into his thigh, and didn't do anything about it. He angled his head right back, a classic romantic comedy shot of their meeting mouths, tipped his chin, opened his mouth and licked noisily at Jay's bottom lip, going for the porny kind of kiss the girls clearly wanted. He could hear laughing and muffled cheering and rhythmic clapping still.

But that sensory information was fading in and out--he was drunk and his focus was necessarily narrow. Jay kept using his teeth and puffing little breaths, like he was maybe talking in another language or just couldn't make up his mind what to say. Kev could feel his mouth stretch into a smile a coupla of times before he dove back in again.

He was a big fan of kissing. Who wasn't? Kissing was really nice. Kissing was sweet. It was good and it could be no-strings, as opposed to--the many other things in the world that could never be no-strings. But you could get a perfectly fine kiss from a perfect stranger, and wipe your mouth on the back of your hand, and have got a really nice thirty seconds out of it all. It was relaxing. There was a science to it, yet you didn't have to know anything at all about it to get into it or to do it. He had never had a bad kiss, in fact. Never a kiss he didn't like. Kissing was like--it went with pizza and beer.

Sometime in there Jason had shifted his weight and now his knee wasn't digging in Kevin's leg anymore. And his head was higher so he was leaning down and he wasn't really holding Kevin's shoulders anymore; his hands wee in the front of Kev's shirt. "Think thass' enough?" He mumbled into Kev's mouth and then bit and licked Kev's lower lip and soothed it all with another kiss.

"Mmph," said Kev, "Probab--"

Jason laughed a little, and took a firm grip on his jaw with one hand as if to say, this is how it's done, and tilted Kev's head back and very deliberately forced Kev's mouth wide and pushed his tongue deeply inside and Kev felt his eyes pop open.

There were whoops nearby and cheering and laughter. Jason pulled back, smirking, while Kev caught his breath. Legs smacked him on the back hard enough to upset his balance; he had to put his hand out on the back of the couch, and met Kev's eyes, smiling open-mouthed and still breathless.

Black Dress and Anorexic were clapping and laughing, Black Dress crying a little and doubled over. It was infectious. There was a disoriented instant and then Kevin found himself laughing too. "We rocked that," he said, winking at her and laughing a little harder.

"Damn," said Black Dress admiringly.

Jason was wiping his mouth on his hand--it was still red and wet. He looked at Kevin, looked at him laughing, his eyes tracing over and taking it all in before his face cracked, split into that same hard blinding grin again.

And then he started laughing.

"Now it's your turn," he said slyly, motioning at Black Dress and Anorexic, "Come on, now."

Anorexic tipped her face up, fluttering her lashes, and Black Dress dropped an ostentatious joking kiss on her lips. Jason, arms crossed at his chest and legs curled under him on the center couch cushion, whooped encouragingly at them, but his eyes might have slid sideways: Kevin could never be sure if he was remembering that right, and whether the whole thing had been so strange, or if the strangeness was in the way he was looking at it.



A girl he hasn't talked to since high school stops him at the supermarket, and she already has wrinkles around her eyes under too much eye makeup. She's with a boyfriend in a puffy pro hockey coat, and a baby in the cart who keeps drooling while they talk. Kevin stares fascinated at the ropes of drool coming from this baby's mouth and plays a guessing game with himself that he always plays with this kind of person: do they know about the movies, or not? Because three times out of five they make no mention of them, but he never got grabbed in the grocery store like this by people he barely remembered before Clerks.

The light over their head is sputtering and making an angry buzzing noise. "Have you heard from Jason lately?" She says, hushed. "I heard he went in rehab a while ago."

"He's out," Kevin confirms. He can still remember when he heard this; it wasn't first-hand either.

For convenience some time ago he had divided Jason into two people--his boy, the one who grabbed him around his neck hard enough to strangle or leapt onto his back or gave unsolicited but very good backrubs sometimes back in school, grinning cheerfully and casually at any and all comers, while Kev thought stunned, I didn't think we were that good of friends; and the one who kept getting arrested, getting almost arrested, getting out of jail, going into rehab, dropping by with two syringes in his pocket but not really caring if you didn't want to get high with him.

The latter one was barely an acquaintance, and in fact, Kevin never knew all the details of what happened to him, was familiar with it all in a vague, bare-bones kinda way, like the stuff you hear third-hand about the girl who has been calling in sick for nine weeks, but it's really because her step-dad sexually abuses her, so she has gone into hiding at her best friend's house, but she can't come to school from there because her mother is still looking for her everywhere, and her father knows where she is but is in Maine so couldn't help, only then there is some confusion and a rumor that he's told her mother where she's at, and she's split with her boyfriend and is really, honestly to God, out of town, and might never be seen again.

"That's good, I'm glad he's alright," she says, twisting her face into a cartoonish mask of sympathy.

Kev shrugs, smiles, and puts a mark in the has-heard column for the mention of Jason.



He doesn't smoke much pot anymore. Kevin and some of his other friends, discussing it, agree that they are like the children of alcoholics that way.

His friends from right around high school are basically divided into three groups: the children-of-alcoholics group is big. The rehab-hoppers group is small. Jay was always close to Kev, but he has other friends in the same situations. There's also a fair group who don't let Jay and the other pathetic cases get in the way of their own partying. One notable example of this is Susan, a girl he could never have dreamed of fucking in high school who fucked him at her own instigation just about a year later. They've been friendly for a while now there's no such thing as popular anymore, and her opinion is that Jason "is a fucking idiot."

Kevin can't say that this isn't true.

"What, are you afraid it's going to happen to you?" She's always saying at parties.

And Kevin always says "No." He really isn't; but it turns his stomach anyway.



On some level Kevin recognizes uncomfortably that it's all, well, sort of pathetic, and sordid. It's really the kind of thing to be made fun of, but he doesn't know where to start yet.

In twenty years he'll probably make a movie out of it; in the meanwhile he couldn't even start to write. He's sat down, thinking about it before, but it just comes out ridiculous and stupid, and he can't even laugh at it

A painful documentary about What Not To Do? And when Jason saw it, God knows, he'd want to kill him. He can't even imagine what Jason would say.

A long string of jokes--it'd fall over under the weight of itself; he can't think how to make it funny.

If he wrote it, he doesn't really know what it would be about, which Kevin thinks is a fundamental failing in a movie. He won't come right out and say you should never make a movie if you don't know what it's about. But that's pretty close to the truth at least.

If he did it now, it would be the kind of movie that sucks so much ass he can't even think of a properly eloquent way to say all the things that are horribly wrong with it. It would be one of those pretentious indie flicks that didn't deserve even as much budget as it had, although if it had had more it could have at least been more palatable. There would be the occasional professor with his head up his ass thinking it was brilliantly understated and insightful, and over the years tons of college students would be traumatized by it, forced to write bullshit papers. Its biggest audience would be pretentious asshole high school students in Advanced English, who would be inspired to write insipid free-verse poetry and win little $25 State Board of Education-sponsored prizes.

Thinking about it actually cheers Kevin up.



In high school, Jay was really cool without realizing that he was. He's one of those sparkling, intense, alive people who draw other people to them. Kevin has come to understand over time that in a way he is that kind of person too. But until 10th grade he never really encountered the effect from someone else. He still has no idea why Jay decided he liked him. He sort of... adopted Kevin, not in any full-time sort of way.

He'd have skipped school three days in a row, and he'd come up next to Kevin and be like, "What are you reading?" Just like they'd talked at any point in the last week and a half. "I hate fuckin' Romeo and Juliet," he said to him one day in the school library.

Kevin looked up, startled, and smiled. "It's kind of a pain to read, but it's got some amazing stuff in it," he said.

Jay just shook his head in disgust. "It drives me nuts. It's the stupidest most pointless tragedy. Why can't we read Hamlet?" But when Kevin shrugged he said, "Do you really like it? Why? I mean I guess I can see--in Act II sometimes I find myself getting into it all, going, aw, yeah--"

It was probably a few weeks after that that Jay started his habit of hip-bumping. It was one of his favorite pastimes. (Kev wrote it into Clerks as a sort of eerie silent dancing to imaginary music; it wasn't like that most of the time, just Jay bobbing his head to the music until the part when he'd step next to Kevin and switch his ass sharply sideways.)

The first time Kevin was standing in the back of the classroom desperately wishing for a terrorist attack or act of God to free him from the clutches of Mr. Anheuser, the most long-winded History teacher ever disgorged from the depths of Hell, who was meandering somewhere between his own experience on a cruise ship in Hawaii and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Jay slunk up next to Kev and started bobbing his head, one hand stroking his chin and one crossed over his thin chest. He asked a single question that set Mr. A. off again for another five minutes, then gave a little wiggle, bobbing his head in time, and bounced sideways into Kev's hip so hard he lost his balance and Jay quickly linked their elbows to keep him from falling over.

He was startled to stillness for a moment, but Jason wasn't even paying any attention to him, just listening to the teacher. He relaxed then, thinking this was maybe part of what friendship really felt like, and he just hadn't known it before. Their arms stayed linked and Kevin pursed his lips to keep from smiling. He felt like a little kid in Kindergarten the first time he decides to be best friends with the kid in the next desk.

Kevin remembers really clearly what Jay's hair was like that day, because the bell rang when they were still standing there, even though it hadn't seemed like that long, so they just turned and he followed Jay out of the room, and his eyes were fixed to his hair. It was pulled back into a ponytail and somehow looped around itself, and it was sort of loose, bobbing from an elastic band around the middle of his head. The fluorescent lights in the hall made these eerie stripes in it, really shiny, dark brown to bits of light blonde. The ends were sticking out the bottom, feathery and uneven, and there were loose baby curls around his hairline in front of his ears that caught the light like prisms from behind until Kevin was mesmerized.



One day when he's been in Hollywood and has just flown home he finds a note pinned to his door that says in Jason's handwriting Hey, guess you're not here. I dropped by . [scribble] Sunday. with some coffee. Maybe we can catch a bite Jay.

Oh, Kev thinks, that's right, he's out of rehab. He really already knew that, but he hasn't seen Jason since. Things usually get back to normal after a while, but it takes a little weirdness at first. Kevin always feels, the first time, like he's talking to the Jason he doesn't know and not his Jay.

Jason has scars on his arms, healed over, but clearly visible, and he's wearing a short-sleeved shirt in the cold--forty-something--when he shows up ringing Kevin's doorbell on Tuesday.

"Hi," says Kevin, and can't keep the surprise out of his voice.

Jason smirks and says, "I didn't bring the coffee with me this time, didn't want to waste the money. Since you're here, you can pay."

Kevin says, "Yeah, sure. Uh." Before he finds his conversational feet, and almost forgets his wallet when he walks out the door.

Jason skips ahead of him onto the sidewalk, hands in his pockets, the wind catching in his hair and lifting it off his shoulders. The sun catches in his hair too. It's darker than it was in high school, Kevin suddenly notices. Energy exhausted, Jay finally falls into step next to him, but there's a whole foot between them, a self-conscious foot.



He was kind of nervous for a while after he and Jay became friends that Jay, who seemed to flit from room to room, class to class, school to back alley, like some kind of butterfly or fairy, would drop Kevin as easily as he'd picked him up, and hardly notice or care, because most of the time Jay did hardly seem to notice or care--about anything.

At house parties, of course, Jay would get high (although none of them realized how much back then), and drunk, sometimes. And he'd get really intense if the lights were turned down in a room, talking so much he couldn't even hear you if you interrupted him until he got to the end of what he was saying. He was very much about the existential angst sometimes, always with a self-deprecating smile.

He still remembers when he realized that for whatever bizarre reason Jay really did consider him a good friend. They were at some chick's house for a birthday, along with forty or fifty other people, many of whom Kevin didn't really like all that much, but he was enjoying the party, and they'd wound down to a couple of couches in the girl's living room. Her mother was there but she'd just gotten up. Kev was sitting on one end of the couch with his hands stuffed in his pockets, talking about whether NYC really sucked or not (no one could seem to decide--except Jay), and Jay was standing behind the couch, gesturing excitedly, about the coolness to be had nowhere but a big city--the lights, the sounds, the anonymity, the "tons of huge dirty old buildings."

Jay spent so much of himself on the argument that then he seemed to get exhausted. He plopped down onto the couch between Kev and Joe, in the space that decorum and comfort dictated be left between two guys sharing a couch at a party. Then he swung his legs up into Kev's lap. He was barefoot, and he wriggled his toes playfully and poked Kev's arm with them, raising his eyebrows.

Kevin couldn't really remember having anyone stick their feet in his lap before who wasn't a member of his immediate family. He didn't say anything and tried to swallow his surprise and an unmanageable, heavy, tremendous rush of warmth. It tingled, it made his mouth dry and his scalp prickle and his palms sweat, and he had to deliberately relax his arm into the ministrations of Jay's wriggling toes and force himself to smile.

It was like the buzz of alcohol--he told himself, the third kind of buzz besides being hot for a girl and alcohol--because even though it felt like arousal it wasn't really the same thing, because he didn't want to get into Jay's pants. But he was wide-awake suddenly, and really interested in a conversation that now he can't remember.

Jay shifted his position impatiently, because he could never keep still. He folded his legs up in front of him and leaned into Kevin's shoulder. At one point he grinned and planted a wet, sloppy kiss on Kevin's cheek and then leapt to his feet: "I'm going to the can," and vanished. Kevin grinned and shook his head at Jay's exuberance.

After he was gone Kev was able to realize that sometimes chemistry happens between people who, for whatever reason, just click with each other; and they have the ability to be friends really fast, and to be affectionate. People are affectionate naturally, he realized, but in high school hormones made most people painfully self-conscious--just not Jay. He realized that people are naturally affectionate because it feels good, that it's supposed to feel good--people are social animals--they need other people.



When he was a kid Kev used to waste whole rolls of film on the stupidest things. Sometimes he was just pointing the camera wrong, but sometimes he meant to take that picture of a quarter, a lumpy off-center pile of broken and unbroken toys, the floor littered around it with nameless black specks. Once, when he was little, they were moving furniture and under a stack of hardback books discovered, flattened perfectly into the pile of the carpet, a small green lizard. No telling how long it had been there. There was the automatic reaction, making him want to throw up, and staring at it in horrified fascination without wanting to get too close. He took three pictures of it, but when he told people about it it was with an involuntary shudder.



The thing is that sometimes he catches Jason watching him.



Someone he barely knows, Jason's friend Hugh's little brother's girlfriend who's visiting, meets him at a party and is really excited, gives him no chance to play the guessing game because she admits right off that she loves the movies, and is incredibly excited to hear about the one he's working on.

After a lot of throat-clearing and two beers, and half of her boyfriend's, she says curiously, with wide bright eyes, "I hear you and Jason Mewes kissed once."

Oh. He says something. It was really probably a mistake to do that, he thinks. Not a good idea. He doesn't say that. You never really knew what Jay was thinking, did you? He let himself forget.

"Had you ever kissed a guy before?" she says. "Was it different? Why did you?"

"Uh, no, not really," he said. "I mean, I hadn't, but it wasn't different. We were at a party... you know. Some people asked us to... we were drinking."

She wants to know, "Was that weird?"

Kevin responds automatically, "Not really. He's my friend, and we've been really close for a long time. Jay was always very physically affectionate." In his mind he hears her asking Jason this question, because how else did she hear about it? And he hears Jason saying, "It was weird. ...Weird."

"But a kiss," she says.

Probably a mistake, he thinks. It was probably a mistake. "Just a kiss," he says.

"Hm," she says, "I guess that's true."