A Slave to Cool

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July 19th 2012  |  0  |  Category: Fiction  |  Author: JoeyB  |  2565 views

He was a slave to cool…

or rather, cool was the attribute that most resonated with Devon Estrada’s self-image. Of course, he took great heed not to think of himself in such a manner, the recognition of one’s coolness offsetting coolness itself. Nor would Dev ever use a self-descriptor so passé, so lacking in guile, as cool. In his most indulgent and unchecked moments of self-reflection, which would happen, for instance, while gazing the changing room mirrors at his favorite boutique thrift stores or browsing his Instagram photo albums, Dev would conjure a self-appraisal of being self-possessed, or individualistic, or progressive-minded; never cool.

This coolness was not so much an trait as an undercurrent, one which, on this particular February morning, buzzed from the brim of his faded Pirates hat, past the Dr. Dre Beats in his ears, drifting down past the whiskers of his nascent ‘stache through the sleeves of his wool pea coat, all the way down to his right hand, which held, in firm grasp, his brand new iPhone 4s.

There were two things concerning Devon as he walked through the frosted Commons on his way to work: the first was to form his own, unique take on this recently downloaded album from one of his favorite Prog-Folk groups, an album that the positive Pitchfork review had pronounced “a mature (though at times strained) step forward for the band”.[1] The other, and perhaps more pressing concern on Devon’s mind was trying to decide the proper wordage and tone with which to deliver this pending message to Billy Meyers’ voicemail.

He had been half-asleep in his apartment when his iPhone lit up with a text from his high school friend Keith Jacobs:


keith (11:23) Dev, you hear about Mr. Meyers?

Me (11:25) no, whatsup?

keith (11:26) He died this morning.

Me (11:34) shit man, thats terrible. how?

keith (11:36) He had a heart attack.

Me (11:53) damn. you talk to Billy?

keith (11:56) Not yet. The service is on Saturday. Are you gonna make it?

keith (12:29) You coming?

It took Devon all of a night’s sleep and a morning shower to determine that no, he would not be attending Mr. Meyer’s funeral service. Even he was surprised at how easy of a decision it was, how many justifications he found not to attend: it was far too short notice to book a cheap flight to Pittsburgh; he had a photo gig next Sunday that he could not afford to miss; he had already agreed to feed his housemate’s pet iguana for the week; et cetera. Going to this funeral was simply out of the question.

He was aware that people from his town might not understand this decision, might view his rational for not attending as flimsy, maybe even selfish. For this, Devon had constructed internal ethical justifications for not being at the service to console his one time best friend Billy. For one, there was the fact that Devon and Billy had not spoken for over 3 years. There was no ignoring the potential awkwardness of this element. It would be the elephant in the room, even a room that included Mr. Meyer’s casket. Secondly, wouldn’t Devon’s attendance reek of disingenuity to all parties concerned? They haven’t spoken in years, but now, simply because Mr. Meyer’s exerted too much energy while shoveling snow, Devon and Billy were going to pretend to be friends again? Just like that?

There wasn’t so much of a falling out between Devon and Billy so much as a fizzling out, a divergence of interests and personalities that inevitably takes place amongst childhood friends.  However, if someone was to be blamed for the relationship’s termination, it was Devon himself, and he was aware of this. Devon would always remember the moment their relationship began to deteriorate, the party during Christmas break of sophomore year when Devon (who was already growing to hate these visits to his hometown) looked at over Billy, lining up his shot at the beer pong table, and thought to himself, “How were we ever best friends? Is there one thing we really have in common?”

Billy Meyer’s idea of conversation was to sermonize about his latest fantasy football trade. Billy Meyer’s idea of a good night was getting “fucking shitfaced with the boys.” Billy Meyer’s idea of a good show was “Two and a Half Men”. Billy Meyers was not cool.[2]

Billy was also the nicest kid that Devon knew- egregiously nice, one could argue to a fault. Devon, who had formerly appreciated this aspect of Billy, eventually realized that niceness was not a sufficient building block for a strong adult friendship. Adult friendships need common aspirations, common ideologies, all things that Devon saw none of within Billy, a guy who, now 24 years old, seemed destined to live in the Pittsburgh suburbs for his entire life.

As he reached the bonus tracks of the album, Devon began to shuffle with his phone, about ready to make that call (making sure to skip straight to voicemail, of course). He scrolled for Billy’s number only to realize, to his surprise, that he still had it remembered. He dialed the numbers, the 724 area code holding his eyes like a familiar face from the past. He listened through Billy’s anxious voicemail announcement and waited for the BEEP.

“… Hey, Billy, this is Devon… Just want to let you know I’m sorry to hear” about your dad… If there’s anything I… He was a great-”

Devon aborted the message, double checking to make sure it was erased. What was he doing, just calling like that? He had gone against his intuition. He had totally jumped the gun.

He immediately realized that a voicemail was not the most considerate approach. Billy was sure to have dozens of messages in the voicemail box by now, and did not need any more messages to elongate the (already) tedious (enough) process of emptying one’s voicemail cache. A Facebook message. That would be the more appropriate medium for his condolences. That would give him plenty of time to word a proper message for Billy.

Freed by this new plan of action, Devon picked up his stride, skipping ahead to the next song and turning up the volume. He himself was leaning towards a positive appraisal of the album, though was also aware of the potential influence of the glowing Pitchfork review on his own personal enjoyment. Did he actually appreciate the sounds that were entering his ear buds, or was he simply regurgitating the reviewer’s beliefs? But as he listened to a particularly impressive and stirring breakdown on the last track, he began to wonder: Was there a chance that the Pitchfork review had actually under valued the album, that it actually belonged somewhere within the 9.2, 9.4 range?

It was something he would really have to think about.


[1] It earned a score of 8.7 (Excellent)

[2] Once again, not Blake’s descriptor of choice; he preferred to think about his old friend Billy Meyers as naïve, or sheltered, or simply, ignorant.


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