Mr. Brightside by The Killers
James wears a white button down to work everyday. He works in an office. At 19, he swore he wasn’t the type, but ten years later, James sits at his desk staring at the keyboard. Five obituaries have to be sent to his editor before the noon hour. It’s 10:00 a.m. on a Friday and a very hung over James cannot even begin to wrap five new deaths around his head when the girl from last night is the only thing on his mind. Her faded number on his arm stares back at him.
Sara sits down to breakfast with her boyfriend at their favorite place for brunch. She orders a coffee and grilled blueberry muffin. He gets the eggs Benedict. “How was your night in with the girls?”
“Fine.” Sara adjusts herself in her seat, ready to lie without hesitation to all of Micky’s questions. No problem. She does this every week.
“That’s good. Things are okay between Megan and Fran now?”
“Oh, yeah. It really wasn’t anything to fight over. They’re fine now.” Why does he care so much? Sara thought. He treats her like a princess and she has no idea how to handle it. She knows he deserves much better. Sara stares at Micky’s face as he rambles on about some conversation he had with a taxi driver. She can do better. She grabs his hands and he stops talking. She smiles and says, “I love you.”
Micky leans over the table and kisses her lips. She feels better already.
Last night, after a day of writing obits, as they call it in the newspaper industry, James was ready for a drink. He called Craig, his last single friend. Craig of course agreed to go with James to the new trendy bar whom Leslie from Restaurant Reviews said was “absolute gold”. James had no idea what that meant but at this point he was up for anywhere that served alcohol.
Truthfully, girls’ night in was the very opposite of what Sara and her friends did. In no way did the girls bake cookies, drink wine, and gossip about guys while sitting in one of their apartments. They went to the bars every Thursday and instead of gossiping about guys, the girls made bets about how many guys will buy them drinks, hit on them, try to take them home, actually attempt to have a smart conversation with them. It’s all just a game.
James, freshly showered, has on a plain black shirt with a slight v-neck and a pair of jeans his mom bought for him last Christmas. Craig, with a beer belly at the age of 30, wears a plaid button down and a pair of faded Levi’s. The two men walk into the bar on Thursday night and head for the counter immediately. They sit down, order two beers, and after chugging half the glass, both men put their drinks down with a slight bang and let out a sigh. “So what’s going on, man?”
James sits in silence for a moment before he finally turns to Craig and asks, “Do you ever have one of those days where you just wonder when the hell your life is going to start?”
“Oh. Well, I’m having one of those years.”
“Dude, you need to lighten up. Just lighten up, man. Live a little! You want some weed? Let’s go smoke some weed.”
That is why Craig is still single, thought James. James shakes his head at his friend’s suggestion and downs the rest of his beer.
“I’m serious, man” continues Craig. “Let’s find you a girl tonight. Let’s get you layed.” James looks around at all the 20-somethings standing in circles with all the other attractive 20-somethings before he returns to his drink. James, although still in his 20s, has always felt much older.
“What about him?” Sara’s friend nods her head over to the bar.
“No, the guy next to him.” Sara looks over and watches this skinny young man finish half a glass of beer. “I don’t think he’s looking to talk to anyone right now.”
However, it only took a few words of encouragement from her other friends for Sara to stand up. She pulls her dress down, readjusts her bra, and heads for the bar with an empty glass in hand.
Craig scans the room for girls while James faces the bar. When Craig spots Sara strutting her way over, he gives his friend a nudge. James looks up at Craig and then hears a glass bang on the counter next to him. “Jay?”
Sara waits for the bartender to look over. She shakes her glass in the air suggesting he make her another. She looks at James. “You want one?”
Before he can respond Sara turns to the bartender and holds up two fingers. She sits down and turns toward James. “This place is pretty cool. Let me guess, you’re a writer.”
“New York Times.”
“And how’s that working out for you?”
“I’m sorry, but who are you?”
“James.” They shake hands and make eye contact for the first time. James quickly looks away
“Pleasure to meet you, Craig.”
Jay brings over the two drinks. Sara looks over at her friends and gives them a wink. “Cheers” she says, “to the beginning of the rest of our lives.”
After 30 minutes, Craig has managed to finish two cups of coffee and type the name of one of the deceased at the top of the page. She had the best legs. She could make him laugh too. Perhaps he was too drunk. No, there was something different about this one. She made him feel something different. He didn’t hate it either. And that good night kiss. No kiss had ever left James wanting so much more. He watched her walk into her building wondering if that would be it. She wrote her number on his arm, though. That must have counted for something.
James snaps out of his daydream and decides he simply cannot write about the end of a person’s life with the feeling that his life was only just beginning. He packs up his papers and walks out of the office. He would give his editor an explanation later.
On the walk back to his apartment, James goes over all the key moments of last night and the protocols for something like this as if he were a teenager again. Don’t call her now. Don’t call her tonight. Don’t call her with nothing to say. And definitely do not google her. She had fantastic lips. James notices a slight jump in his step, or maybe he holds himself a little taller. Suddenly, seeing all the couples sitting at the cafes doesn’t sicken him. He feels like he is one of them, or at least on his way, until he catches sight of Sara sipping on a cup of coffee.
Sara throws her neck back in laughter. She feels as if she’s listening to Micky talk for the first time. She can feel herself falling in love all over again. She catches her breath and stares into his eyes. Micky shakes his head wondering how he got so lucky to date such an incredible person. The waiter comes over and gives them the check. Micky pays for it right then. Sara stands up to put her coat on and that’s when she sees James staring at her through the window. They make eye contact but she quickly looks away.
James watches Micky help Sara finish putting her coat on and then kisses her neck. James walks back to his apartment with his head down, watching his feet move underneath him. After five years of writing obituaries, there’s one thing James knows for sure: we all die alone.