Ode to MOgren

Non-fiction is challenging because I can’t hide behind aliases and gimmicks. I didn’t get the lead’s number from Hamilton – she performed in a different show – but I couldn’t remember the name. Yes, she ignored me both times I messaged her, though I didn’t see much point in harassing someone with no interest in speaking to me. The restraining order highlighted my desire for a muse, but it didn’t happen, so where’s the story? And if there’s no story, how could it possibly end?

This story begins at a wedding in Scottsdale, my first trip to Arizona. Matt was my pledge master and he married a woman with long eyelashes and a June birthday. She looked beautiful. The ceremony took place on a desert-style golf course. I wore my best suit, but didn’t come close to looking as dapper as either of them. Mary Kate glowed from the altar to the dance floor.

I saw people who knew me way before I invented The Kid, forgetting my Jones-chasing existence in New York. With Hanif’s speech a close second, my favorite part was the exchange of vows; I cried up with everyone else by the eighteenth green. I was so excited to congratulate the bride and groom, nearly ruining Mary Kate’s make-up. I hugged Matt and thought what the best man said a few hours later: I love you and I hope I’ll find someone like her someday.

What struck me was the love. Not in a Jerry McGuire kind of way, but walking across the putting green, seeing folks hugging and smiling, hardly anyone on phones with a trail of champagne leading into the reception, I raised my glass. I felt true as the world had evolved as it should, unlike my friends’ reaction to the time I went down on this girl in Munich.

But they see I use absurdity as a crutch. I flopped on my first interaction with Harry, who not only saw me through the aftermath of being robbed and assaulted at gunpoint, but has also gives me honest feedback. It started with sending him drunken stories of failed female pursuits. The first one I shared was about Ashley, a wonderful free-spirit who I connected with a few years later and told me I’m in love with myself and if I don’t own who I am, then what’s the fucking point?

“Yo, Harry!” I trudged across the lawn as the ceremony ended.

“HoCo!” he called out, trying to gauge my mood. “What’s up man?”

“I’m sorry,” I apologized in advance for monopolizing his time. “I need to make up for earlier.”

A crowd grew around the outdoors bar.

“What do you mean?” he scratched the few hairs dangling from his chin. “You were fine.”

I shook my head, watching an approach shot land fifteen feet from the pin.

“It’s hard being here.”

“Why?”

“I have to wake up every morning and tell myself shit no one else believes.”

“Like what?”

“That I’m gifted. That this site isn’t a joke. That this will eventually work out the way I want.”

“An attestation,” Harry nodded.

I turned away from Jess, so her dress wouldn’t distract me.

“Exactly,” I paused to admire Mary Kate and Matt posing in front of the sunset. “Being here makes me doubt all that stuff.”

Harry laughed.

“Weddings make you think that way, especially after a ceremony like that.”

“And if I’m being REALLY honest…” I considered how to filter myself. “It’s hard not being the center of attention.”

Harry patted my back, leading me towards the rest of our friends.

“You’re alright, HoldCo,” he smiled. “You’re alright.”

I had a similar conversation with Mindy, likening myself to a dog after his family returns from a long vacation. I ordered a club soda and we took a series of group pictures by the lake. Rutter and Pic then told me what I needed to hear.

My podcast sucks.

They weren’t nearly as blunt, but I’m also dramatic.

“HARRY!” I shouted.

Everyone had already gone inside. I didn’t care if we held up the entire fucking reception. He knowingly looked at me and smiled.

“I was waiting for it,” Harry said.

“What do you think of the podcast?” I ignored his sarcasm.

He sighed.

“It’s the worst content on your site.”

My heart sank. I believed I could wing twenty hours across twenty-six episodes and people would want twenty-six more – a solo-act completely off the cuff. I remembered what Ashley said.

“I mean look man… you tried something, right?”

I wanted to shake him.

“What else are you not telling me?”

“That I would never have listened to it if I didn’t know you?”

Can The Kid catch a break?

“I get it!

One of Matt’s older relatives shushed me en route to the bathroom.

“I mean…” I exhaled. “What about the novel?”

I viewed this as the moment of truth. Harry had been reading my stuff for years. If I hadn’t managed something decent by now, I should pound vodka and see if Jess had any interest in speaking with me.

“The novel is good,” he said matter-of-factly.

Of course it is, I said to myself.

“Dickens wrote episodically and I think it suits you.”

I smirked.

“You’re not Charles Dickens, Harrison,” he said.

Harry used my name in the same sentence as Charles Fucking Dickens.

“But it’s good. And that’s the truth.”

I could’ve kissed him as we entered the ballroom. Before finding our tables, we reviewed each genre on the site. I noticed a trend: I’m a writer. What was I thinking? I was soon reminded of Charley’s Revenge.

“What’s Charley’s Revenge?” Holly asked intently.

Jess turned towards me and I smiled at Vicky and George, sitting across from me at our seven-person table.

“You didn’t read it?” Vicky asked, surprised.

At the wedding party the night before, two of the bridesmaids apparently came up to them and asked: “are you guys Charley’s parents?”

“What else is on the site?” Jess asked.

I pretended like I didn’t hear the question.

“It’s all his writing,” Vicky explained. “But it’s weird because I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not.”

Jess announced she was getting a drink, leaving me with Holly and the two other couples.

“Can I nerd out for a second?” I asked rhetorically.

“Sure.”

“It’s all fiction. Nonfiction is impossible.”

“Why?”

“There are certain things people shouldn’t say. If anything, to not make everything awkward as shit.”

“Totally.”

“Like right now, for instance…” I trailed off, weighing the satisfaction of speaking my mind with the social implications.

The Maid of Honor fortunately interrupted my stream of conscience. Our salads arrived and I picked the croutons off my plate. After she finished, Holly passed a pill to Jess under the table.

“It’s not what it looks like!” she said.

I candidly didn’t notice and had given up on anything happening; she’d make it clear if she were interested.

“…it’s what they give people who take too much Tylenol,” Holly explained.

I sipped my wine.

“Like by accident or an overdose?” I said.

“Does it really matter?” Jess teased.

“Interesting you say that,” I smiled. “That reminds me of a sort of messed up situation…”

Cut off yet again and probably for the best. Hanif took the stage and delivered a flawless performance. I’m not surprised, but I never knew the man was so charismatic. But friendship is contagious. Their friendship is one of the main reasons I joined the fraternity.

“Harrison, how’s it going man?” Zach came over to say hello.

And the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor goes to… Zach and I were never especially close in college, but I appreciate how it can take eight years of having mutual friends before becoming friends with someone. As someone who followed the pre-professional herd to New York, I admire folks carve their own paths. I have writing and he has our alma mater and athletics. And he’s facilitating the same-shared experience, which brought everyone together in the first place.

The rest of my night featured usual suspects: Taranto, Hanif, George, Rutter. I called it early given my 6AM flight, which didn’t surprise anyone. I messaged my mom at the airport and she agreed with Harry. For my first visit to Scottsdale, porn capital of the United States, I wish I could’ve stayed longer. Congratulations again to Mary Kate and Matt… I assume we won’t be seeing him at any more parties up north. And honestly… who could blame him?

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