Before you embark into the depths of darkness where avocado toast goes to rot, you’re required to put on the MILLENNIAL UNDERGROUND SPOTIFY PLAYLIST.
IMPORTANT: Put FOG AND FEAR on REPEAT for the duration of this chapter.
That night, the rain gave way to a rare covering of November fog, slinking into the streets like a sultry ghost as we drove to Amoeba.
As the fog crept across the pavement, distant memories crept into my mind, like a black-and-white film, the flicker of nitrate and condensed water blooming into specters of the night.
“Will this feeling go away?”
Tear-stained, I asked my best friend this question in-between throwing up into a toilet in the Barney’s Beanery bathroom stall, which was covered floor-to-ceiling in stickers. In the background, we could hear the drunken strains of midnight karaoke.
My best friend sat on the floor beside me, brushing my hair out of her face. She was my oracle: she always told it to me straight.
“You drank too much. You’ll get over that. The other stuff? I’m happy to put a hit out on him if you’d like. But it’s going to hurt for awhile.”
In that moment, the shame of my heartbreak and the fact that I was trying to fill the void with shots of cheap vodka in scratched plastic glasses made me burst into tears.
“What did you even see in that loser? He didn’t deserve you. He’s a caricature of a caricature.”
I sat back, leaning against the stall behind me. Now was good a time as any.
“That fucking idiot saved my goddamn life and now he’s gone.”
She could tell something was wrong. She gently brushed the hair out of my eyes, wiping away my smeared mascara. “What happened, Misty?” She asked, softly.
So, on the grimy floor of that dive bar, I told her about the worst night of my life.
In the meshes of the dying afternoon, it was raining as light bled into night.
I had just moved to Los Angeles and was learning to navigate the concrete maze all by myself. No one from my hometown had made it out: I was the lone survivor attempting to plant a flag in the soil of opportunity.
I had been invited to a jam sesh in Venice by a musician I had met at a coffeeshop who had been scrawling lyrics on the back of a napkin:
you were soft and gentle and I was so misled
what do I do when you have my only heart?
letting you take it all wasn’t very smart
The words gently dug claws into my heart, and I found myself agreeing to meet him at the party.
The streets were rain-slicked when my Lyft dropped me off at an unassuming house on the dark street. I didn’t really know if I was at the right place, but I pushed open the front door…
…and immediately found myself in a room pulsing different color lights, a hodgepodge of booze laid out in front of me.
I heard the music now, deeper in the house. I snuck past hipsters lounging in the tiny kitchen, went down a set of tiny stairs, and found myself in a garage covered in Persian rugs and amps with guitars and mandolins and odd instruments strewn everywhere, the room stuffed with people sitting in every corner as the musicians shuffled in-between sets on the makeshift stage.
I squeezed into a corner next to two friendly and very high humans as the musical chairs of the jam sesh continued: people swapping instruments, picking a song to cover or picking their own, and then just diving in.
As the musicians continued to joyfully riff off one another, it was like I was witnessing a magical entropy of the heart.
Eventually I made it out to the back of house, where people were playing beer pong or doing shots by the airstream trailer parked there, the smell of weed gently wafting over us like the fog was.
“Ya made it!” I turned and was almost hit by the musician as he stumbled into me. He reeked of booze and sweat.
“I– yeah,” I said, taken aback. “You invited me.”
“I invite lotsa girls to these things, doesn’t mean they actually come,” he said, slurring his words.
My heart sank. Oh. The crassness of him didn’t line up with the poetic soul I’d met in the coffeeshop. Alcohol had ruined his poetry, exposed his base desires where women could be swapped out like variables in an equation as long as the output was one of them leaving with him at the end of the night.
“Let me getcha a drink,” He said, sweeping a heavy arm around my shoulders, and I stumbled under the weight.
“I don’t think so,” I said, trying to disentangle myself.
“What?” He turned to me, confused. “Don’t you drink?”
“She doesn’t,” I looked up, seeing a new stranger eclipse the spotlight creeping out from the half-open garage.
I recognized him. The boy from the bodega. The boy from my bed. Jedi.
I pulled myself away from the musician, who looked hurt. “Well, fine,” he said, put off. “Find me when you get fun.”
The musician stalked off, leaving me with Jedi, again.
“So, want a drink?” he asked with a smile.
“I guess I could break my many years of sobriety just for this one night,” I said, smiling with relief.
We wound our way back inside, and sifted through the jungle of booze until we concocted our own combinations of chasers and hard liquor until we found our way to the porch.
The rain had stopped, leaving the air thick, damp, and dark.
“How have you been?” I asked. It had been awhile: he had gotten busy with work, and we’d stopped hanging out or whatever we’d been doing for the past few weeks.
He sipped his drink, his gaze going to the flickering street light a few yards away. Figures shifting through the night, pushing shopping carts or stumbling home drunk.
He thought about his answer as he always did — never just responding “good” or another automatic pacifying response, then turned to me.
“I feel like I’ve been asked to hold my breath and just keep swimming and I’m about to run out of air,” he said, finally. “And when that happens, I’m afraid I’m just going to sink to the bottom of the ocean. But instead of feeling fear, I’m looking forward to how quiet it’s going to be.”
I stared at him, processing. “Jedi…”
He laughed, trying to break the sudden heaviness. “Maybe that’s why I like being on-stage so much. Feeling the bass in my bones. The vibration of the soundwaves so strong that they keep my heart beating so I don’t have to.”
“You need to see someone.”
“I don’t need to see anyone as long as I can hear the music, and others can, too. One day I’m going to create music that heals people the way we need to be healed.”
Jedi, I realized, was someone who was willing to bleed out for the sake of his art. He’d strap his feet to weights and wade out into the soft shore until the tide took him under if it meant he could create the vibrations that recalibrated someone’s soul.
If you were in this city, you were desperately trying to create a gift: a gift to help someone else heal the way you were never able to.
“I worry about you,” I said, at last. I know it wasn’t “cool” — it was never cool to show the cards in your emotional hand. But I did. I thought about him as I sat on the floor of my apartment, sketching the designs of my next neon creation and dreaming how the light would flow through the glass… and how I hoped he’d maybe get to see what I created.
“Don’t,” he told me. “Live a life worth telling stories about later.”
“I… I was actually thinking we could go on a proper date sometime,” I said, mustering up the courage. I never asked anyone on a date — perks of being a woman, I guess — but there was something special about him. An intangible uniqueness I couldn’t quite name. We had started to collect memories together: at parties, between the sheets, but they were memories created at an arms’ length required of these LA flings.
In that moment, I wanted to bridge the gap. Be more than a passerby at parties. To let down my guard.
But when I looked over to see his reaction, I felt my gut twist into a knot.
“Misty, I just started seeing someone.”
“Oh,” I crumbled, suddenly starting to feel out of place at this party
“I had fun with you–“
“No, don’t,” I said, standing, swaying. “I don’t want to hear it.”
I didn’t want to hear all the ways I was wrong for this man, wrong for this city, wrong for this life. I didn’t want platitudes or promises of being called back or anyone to try and soften the blow of
And I was stumbling off the porch, down the street, feeling my way through the dark shadows as I tried to get away from here, away from my disappointment as he was running after me, calling my name as I twisted around corners around rundown houses around fences —
And then I was running through an alleyway, so dark and damp I slipped.
I cried out, tumbling to the ground as my ankle
That’s when a shadow shifted a few yards ahead of me.
I looked up, and the shadow was suddenly hurtling toward me —
— and I saw what looked like to be a glimmer of a knife in the foggy night —
— I pushed myself backwards, trying to get to my feet but my ankle giving out as I collapsed again on the slippery pavement —
— the shadow coming closer, a man with eyes wide in a drug-induced frenzy, anger stirred by a city that had left him to die —
Jedi slipped as he turned the corner into the alleyway, and the man stopped.
His eyes flickered to me, and I saw him contemplate lunging at me, diving for my bag on the ground beside me…
…but as he looked up at Jedi, he saw something that made it not worth it. He turned and ran away, in the opposite direction, slipping back into the cold night.
Jedi ran to my side, and I burst into tears that I hated myself for. I hated myself for not being able to fight off the dangers of these streets by myself, hated that Jedi was seeing me like this, hated to be reminded of how helpless I really was.
“Let me get you home–“
“No.” I fumbled with my phone, my shaking hands calling a Lyft to get me out of here. Jedi waited by my side, putting an arm around me which I didn’t resist.
I wiped away my tears and hobbled into a car that would whisk me into the night, back to my shoebox, back to brief memories of intertwined bodies in the glow of neon and affection. Back to the fleeting feelings of being wanted by what you want most.
Jedi kept calling me but I kept silencing it. Watching the shadows and the streetlamps pass by my windows.
I need love, but love is what brought me here…
Will this feeling go away?
Will this feeling go away?
Will this feeling…?
…I know I’d do it all again…
Eaten Alive by the Millennial Underground is a multimedia fiction series written daily by writer Amy Suto for National Novel Writing Month. Check out the rest of her blog here for more about her nocturnal excursions and writerly pursuits. Read the full Millennial Underground series as it’s coming out in the month of November at: AmySuto.com/underground, and be sure to subscribe via email so you don’t get #cancelled.