I mentally stab a fork through my eye.
Tyler wipes an incredulous hand over his mouth before exhaling a reverent “Limp Bizkit, dude.”
Across the room, Josh lets out a tiny whimper of pain.
I scratch an eyebrow. “Are we going to be the youngest people there?”
Josh guffaws at this, but I give him a skeptical eye roll. He doesn’t get to play cool kid here. This is a man whose car radio seems glued to KQAC, All Classical Portland.
“Oh, there’s way more than that,” Sasha says from the kitchen, raising her voice against the glug-glug-glug of the wine bottle. Her words and the glugging are followed by the cacophonous crash of the empty bottle into the recycling bin. Two glasses. She took down a bottle of wine in two glasses. I can’t decide if this is impressive or concerning. “Three Days Grace, Simple Plan …”
Josh and I exchange pained looks again.
“My Chemical Romance,” Tyler says, having looked it up on his phone. “Three Days Grace—”
Sasha waves a hand, swallowing a sip of wine. “I said that one already.”
“I’m just reading the list.” Tyler turns back to his phone. “Um, oh! Julian Casablancas will be there. And Jack White.” He looks up at me and I admit, the last two have fluffed my interest somewhat. “Outdoors. Lots of happy people.” He pauses, and smirks at me. “Hippies everywhere, dancing with their eyes closed.”
My interest is officially piqued. From across the room, I can see Josh’s shoulders slump in resignation.
“We’re in,” I tell them.
Dave has the exact response I expect when I mention that we’re headed to Harvest Fest on Sunday: “What’s Harvest Fest?”
“See?” I slap my hand down on the table and look at Hazel, who seems primarily interested in arranging the long grains of her wild rice into even rows. “Even Dave doesn’t know what this is, and he knows music stuff.” I look over at him, explaining, “It’s some all-day concert with a bunch of bands from the nineties and early two thousands.”
“Oh, okay.” He takes a bite of his dinner, chews, and swallows. “Actually, now that you mention it, I did know about it. I just didn’t … care.”
I smirk at Hazel, whose response is to turn and try to engage me in a staring contest. I cup my hand over her eyes and look away.
“Who’s going?” Dave asks.
“Hazel, me, Sasha, and Tyler.”
“Tyler again, huh?” Emily asks, and her tone makes me go limp all over. I drop my hand from Hazel’s face.
She blinks across the table at my sister. “Yeah. He’s probably more excited about it than any of us.”
A strand of her hair catches on her lip, and I reach to free it, but she beats me to it. I find myself pulling my hand back, awkwardly and abruptly. Emily catches my eye across the table, and I offer her a little whatever shrug before looking away and reaching for the enormous platter of meat Dave has grilled for us.
My pulse is like gunfire. Quite frankly, I don’t think Hazel is all that into Tyler, but the fact that she’s giving him this much of a chance makes me think she’s not all that into me, either. I just hope we’ve put an end to this friends-who-sleep-together thing early enough that I won’t be the guy pining after her for the rest of our lives.
“Tyler and Sasha, episode three.” Dave looks directly at me. “So, it sounds like you guys are done with the blind date experiment for a while?”
With effort, I avoid looking over at Hazel. “Oh, for sure we are,” I say.
In my peripheral vision, I can see her poking at her plate. She’s not eating a ton, and hasn’t touched the margarita in front of her. Aside from basically anything my mom makes her, Dave’s carne asada is her favorite food in the world. Usually she eats it as though she’s restraining herself from shoving it into her mouth by the fistful. “You feeling okay?”
Startling a little, she looks up. “Yeah. I’m good. I was just thinking about what Dave said. I’m sort of sad to think we’re not going to be doing any more double blind dates.”
“Really?” I rear back in playful shock. “You actually enjoyed that string of disasters?”
Hazel shrugs, and her enormous brown eyes meet mine. “I like hanging out with you.”
Emily kicks me, hard, under the table, and Dave’s foot reaches diagonally across and steps on mine. I kick at them both, and Emily lets out a little yelp.
“We can still hang out, goober.”
“I know.” She picks up her margarita, licks some salt off the rim, and then puts it down again. “But it was like we were having adventures.”
“Terrible adventures,” Emily reminds her.
“Terrible adventures that never ended in sex,” Dave adds with triumphant emphasis, and the table falls into a nuclear-winter-level silence. “Well,” he amends, “except for that one time.”
Hazel peeks at me and I have to take a long swig of my water to keep from coughing.
Emily plants her elbows on the table, leaning in. “Was there another time?”
My smile straightens at her judgmental tone. “Can I remind you that my sex life isn’t your business?”
“If I remember correctly, I wasn’t the one bringing it up at the front door a few weeks back.”
“That was me,” Hazel agrees, “and only because I am constitutionally incapable of keeping my mouth shut.”
Dave looks like he wants to take a good swing at that one, but wisely keeps it restrained to a gleeful gleam in his eyes when he looks at me.
“You guys really slept together again?” Emily asks.
I look over at her, replying quietly, in Korean. “Ten seconds later, and it still isn’t your business, Yujin.”
She purses her lips but lets it go.
When we climb out of Tyler’s Jeep in the parking lot on Sunday, it seems as if everyone around us is still recovering from whatever debauchery they took part in the night before. There are a lot of man buns, plaid shirts tied around waists, beards, and artfully distressed jeans.
It’s also barely ten in the morning, and everyone I see milling about on the lawn has a beer in their hand. On the distant stage, a pair of roadies strum a few echoing chords before switching guitars for the sound check, and the scattered crowd rustles nearby, beginning to press forward. Sasha packed a picnic of what I imagine is something like bulgur and tofu wrapped in grape leaves, or hemp tortillas stuffed with tempeh, but she looks really happy carrying the basket over her arm so I’ll eat some to be a good sport and then get a giant hot dog with Hazel from one of the vendors. Sasha’s also left her hair down … I’ve never seen it all, and it completely freaks me out. It’s really long—as in several inches past her butt long—and with her window down for most of the drive, her hair ended up crawling all over me. When I closed my eyes to try not to freak out about it, it wasn’t any better; it was like being pushed in a wheelchair through a room of cobwebs. I can now definitively check the no box regarding hair fetish.
This is just as well, because there is zero chemistry between us, and it doesn’t seem to bother her, either. We haven’t kissed, we haven’t really even flirted. I’m not really sure why we went out on Friday. It was almost like … well, Hazel was having Tyler over for dinner, I may as well take Sasha out, too. The fact that I took her to see King Lear when I knew that Hazel wanted to see it was actually unintentional—I’d just spaced about it—but in hindsight I wonder whether my subconscious was stabbing little holes in the Hazel kite.
Beside me, Hazel is carrying a small pile of blankets in her arms. Her perfect-kind-of-long hair is still wet, and twisted up in two side buns high on her head. She smells like some kind of flower I’m sure grows in my mother’s garden every spring, and the scent has me feeling both nostalgic and queasily lovesick.
We reach a stretch of grass, and it looked so much nicer at a distance. Up close, it’s patchy and muddy. Sasha heads out to locate the bathrooms, and Hazel gamely spreads the blankets over the threadbare ground, gestures for me to take a seat, and then promptly kicks off her shoes and jogs a little in place.