So. How to introduce ‘Telegraph Avenue’?
You remember how I said I would never write anything longer than 25 pages because I didn’t think I could do it? Well, I’m still not sure I can, but it never hurts to find out.
This is part one. There are eight others.
If Seth were going to be honest about it, which really didn’t happen that often because it was hard to convince other people when he didn’t believe himself, he’d always thought that his crush on Ryan was a one-person thing. Not that he’d thought he was the only person who had a crush on Ryan, more that he’d figured that apart from crushing on Ryan, he was completely straight.
Yes, Seth always believed that he was resoundingly hetero, despite whatever Luke had said. Especially since Seth had heard from his mom that Luke had been caught with Miles Patkin behind the Marina main office three days before the start of the fall semester. But the point of all this being that Seth had thought that he was straight, and he *knew* that Ryan was straight. This was why Ryan had dated Marissa, and Seth had dated Summer, and everyone had been very heterosexual during their senior year of high school. For Ryan and Marissa that had stretched well into their freshman year at Berkeley, but then there’d been major breaking up and transferring to Amherst (Marissa) and other stuff. And while Seth had never thought he had a chance in Sinister’s version of Hell of hooking up with Ryan, that hadn’t really bothered him because it was just a crush and it wasn’t *supposed* to go anywhere. In the meantime, Ryan dated casually, Seth just did whatever he wanted, and that was that.
Until Seth met Jamie and his hetero world did a 180.
Strangely enough though, things had started out kind of innocently, as they often did before Seth decided to mess them up.
He had been sitting on the green, reading Grapes of Wrath for his 20th Century American Lit class. It wasn’t a bad book, but if Steinbeck had taken out every other chapter about the rocks and the tumbleweeds, it would’ve been a lot better. Then this body had unceremoniously plopped down next to him, and Seth had seen blondish hair out the corner of his eye. He instinctively linked blonde with Ryan, but Ryan never plopped anywhere so Seth had ignored his new friend.
He went back to reading about the Joads, which tended to make him think of toads and Wind in the Willows, and tried not to think about the strange person encroaching on his personal space. People tended to do that a lot at Berkeley, so Seth was pretty used to it after a year. However, he wasn’t used to people leaning forward until their faces blocked out all the sunlight, and he couldn’t help but notice them.
The back of a head full of short, blonde spiky hair cast a shadow on most of the left page of his book. Seth would’ve hazarded that it was a guy, but he’d learned the hard way not to guess.
Eventually, he had to pay attention. “Did you need something, dude?” he said, switching the book to his other hand and trying to finish the page he was reading.
“I need a lot of things,” a very male voice said, “But sadly, my mom would never forgive me for hacking into Microsoft again.”
Seth snorted and grinned despite himself. After a moment, his curiosity piqued, Seth gave up his reading for a lost cause. He closed his book, and turned to very large blue eyes and a wry smile. The smile and the eyes were attached to what could only be described as an attractive guy; Seth could at least admit that, but the holes in the neck of the long-sleeved white shirt he wore left a lot to be desired.
“Do you know me?” Seth said, shielding his face against the midday sun.
“No, but we could work on that,” the boy said, holding out his hand. “Jamie. Jamie Miller.”
Seth squinted as he shook Jamie‘s hand. Jamie’s fingers were long, and his hand rested warmly in Seth’s for just a second too long.
Jamie’s name sounded familiar, but he couldn’t figure out why.
Seth froze, his hand falling from his face. “You know? Okay, should I be calling Campus Security and reporting some stalker issues?”
“Only if you’re talking about yourself,” Jamie shot back. “I saw you at my last two gigs at the Freight & Salvage.”
Seth’s mouth made a little ‘o’ and then a big ‘o.’ No wonder Jamie seemed familiar. It was the face that completed the puzzle of the voice and the name. “Yeah, I uh...” Seth searched for a witty barb and came up dry.
“You were good,” he confessed, eventually. “I’d never heard The Clash acoustically.”
Jamie shrugged. “It’s kind of hard to do The Clash thing solo, but my ex got the band so I’m stuck doing the wandering troubadour shtick.”
Seth grimaced at the reminder of his ill-fated, relationship with Summer, but at least they were still friends. “Yeah, you have to look out for those exes; they’ll take everything you have. Luckily mine was more interested in clothing than comic books.”
Jamie smiled, again, and Seth found himself grinning in return. “So, tell me, wandering troubadour, do you hunt down all your fans and start up random conversations, or were you just drawn to the freak vibe that I emit?”
“Us freaks have to stick together," Jamie relief solemnly, before winking at Seth. "Actually, no. I only track down the fans I see on my way to the library. I’ve got a major paper for my Philosophy class, which requires me to waste my day at Doe, but I have this procrastination issue that I can’t control.”
Seth picked up his paperback and waved it tellingly. “You too?”
“Why put off till tomorrow, what you can avoid forever?“ Jamie quoted, rearranging his limbs only to stretch out his legs.
He had rather long legs, Seth noticed. Very long, and he wore Adidas. Seth hadn’t seen all of that when Jamie had performed at the coffee house. Mostly he’d just noticed Jamie’s voice, which sounded like a bastardized version of Thom Yorke and Ryan Adams.
The first time Seth had caught Jamie’s performance, he had been at the coffee house trying to read through A Separate Peace, and hadn’t been paying much attention to his surroundings until this voice started rambling about the Electric Company and Michael Moore. Then Seth had given up, albeit very willingly, and started paying attention. He’d been too far in the back to actually see the performer though. When he’d managed to be there a few weeks later for a repeat performance, he’d been late because of a Physics lab and had wound up in the back, again.
It seemed strange now that Seth hadn’t made the association sooner, but Seth was more of a face person than a name person. All he’d even seen before was the top of a blonde head and a plaid flannel shirt, which really didn’t answer how Jamie knew who the hell *he* was.
“Speaking of procrastination, or not, how’d you know my name?” Seth asked, more curious than anything else.
Jamie ducked his head, and if it hadn’t been so bright out, Seth might’ve thought he’d blushed. “I saw you talking to Rusty the other day.”
“Rusty?” Seth’s mind flipped through its mental Rolodex. “Rusty, my TA from Abnormal Psych, Rusty? Looks a lot like Prince Harry?”
Jamie’s laugh was loud and boisterous. It made Seth feel warm and secure, as though he were in on a big joke. “He hates it when people say that.”
“But he does,” Seth protested.
“I know it, you know it, and so does everybody else on campus, but don’t say that to Rusty. He’s got a mean left hook.” Jamie rubbed his jaw.
Seth nodded his head. “I’ll keep that in mind during our next study group.”
The conversation stopped for several seconds, and Seth looked around at all the other people sitting on the green. Boys and girls, and more boys and girls, not necessarily all together.
Some Seth knew, most he didn’t. He wondered briefly how Ryan was getting on in his Architecture & Engineering tutorial, but promptly dropped that thought when Jamie threw a handful of grass at him.
Seth cocked an eyebrow as he brushed the tufts off earth off his shirt and pants. Jamie seemed to have more nervous habits than he did, and that was saying a lot.
“Did you know that conversations lag every seven minutes?” Jamie said, looking at Seth expectantly.
“I did know that,” Seth countered.
“Did you know that an ant can carry more than one hundred times its body weight?” he tried again.
“Knew that too.”
Jamie was silent for a moment. “Did you know I’m playing at the Freight tonight?”
“I did *not* know that,” Seth conceded.
“Are you going to come?” Jamie asked.
“I‘m sure I can fit you into my overtaxed social calendar,” Seth said with a smirk.
Jamie nodded as though satisfied. He stood up, grabbed the battered khaki bag beside him and slung the strap across his chest.
“I should get to the library,” he said. “My mom wouldn’t forgive me if I failed my degree course.”
“You could always get a job as a wandering troubadour,” Seth offered.
Jamie grinned at him. “There’s always that,” he said, before turning away.
Seth watched him walk away for several seconds, deliberately not looking at Jamie’s ass.
He had just turned back to The Grapes of Wrath when he heard someone calling his name. He looked back up, and Jamie was waving at him. “Be there by eight,” he called. “Otherwise, Rusty will have eaten up all the free shit.”
After faking his way through a Steinbeck filled English seminar, Seth swung by Mod Lang on his way back home. Technically, Mod Lang wasn’t anywhere near the apartment he shared with Ryan off of Dwight and Telegraph, but Seth made a habit of stopping by every Tuesday to check on the import situation.
The store itself was tiny, but their selection was vast depending on musical taste. On this particular day Seth picked up an old Stone Roses import for ‘Fools Gold’ and a Roots single that he thought Ryan might like.
Seth had been trying to wean Ryan onto quality music for the better part of three years, but he still had a lot of work to do. Ryan recognized the greats like The Stones, Jurassic 5, Radiohead and 50 Cent, but he wasn’t nearly as open to things like Death Cab for Cutie and Spoon.
The walk back to their apartment took Seth about twenty minutes, and he nearly lost an eye when Erika from 2B came racing out the front door just as he was putting his key in the lock. Her shouted apology didn’t go particularly far, but Seth knew better than to talk trash to someone who supplied he and Ryan with unlimited drinks when she worked at the Paradise Lounge in the city.
Seth’s steps were long and plodding as he walked the flight up to the apartment. His Pumas stuck to the stairs as a reminder of the house party the tenants had thrown two weeks prior, and Seth was mildly surprised that the hallway still smelled like cheap beer. His key stuck in the door as well, which reminded him that he was supposed to pick up some WD-40 to fix the problem since their landlord was for shit.
Seth’s greeting went unanswered as apparently Ryan wasn’t back yet, but there was mail on the coffee table and the light on the answering machine was flashing, which showed Seth that he’d at least left the apartment that day. Ryan was much better than Seth at actually getting to class instead of opting for the too-lazy-to-move option.
There was cold pizza in the refrigerator along with some moderately flat grape soda, and Seth plopped down on the couch with the pizza carton and the liter of soda and turned on Cartoon Network.
The beautiful thing about college, he’d found, was that there was nobody to tell him what to wear, how to eat, or what to do. Not that his parents had done a lot of that in his latter years, but there was a kind of freedom that he’d found in Berkeley that he’d never had in Newport. Plus, he had friends now, not just Ryan, but Marie and Jake and Tom, people he hung out with on a regular basis who seemed to appreciate his company. He still tried to spend time with Ryan, but that wasn't easy with his schedule, and at least Seth finally felt as though he belonged somewhere; that he wasn’t a freak. That meant a lot.
He slumped into the secondhand sofa he and Ryan had gotten with the apartment and glanced at the random stain on the third cushion that neither one of them had tried to identify too closely. Eventually, he turned back to Totally Spies.
Maybe if Ryan were home in time they’d go and get some Chinese food before Seth went to the Freight. Maybe if Ryan wasn’t working himself to death at the library or UC Electronics, he’d come along. They hadn’t gone any place together in weeks. It’d be nice to just hang out, they didn’t seem to do a lot of that anymore.
-On to part II
*The role of Jamie is being played by Ryan Gosling, who won my heart in ‘The Slaughter Rule’
*The university in question, if you can’t tell, is University of California at Berkeley. All buildings, college names, stores, streets, etc. are indeed a part of the university and surrounding community.
Telegraph Avenue is one of the main drags as are Shattuck, University and College. Not terribly inventive were they?
*The betas for this story are serialkarma and ethrosdemon. Remaining mistakes are obviously mine.
*The title song for this section is ‘Come Pick Me Up’ by Ryan Adams.