“Not at all!” he says. “It’s not David Bowie.”
“Then what is it?” I demand.
An exhale hisses out of him. “Saxophone.”
“Saxophone,” I repeat.
“Yeah,” he says. “I just . . . really hate the saxophone. Any song with a saxophone on it is instantly ruined.”
“Someone should tell Kenny G,” I say.
“Name one song that was improved by a saxophone,” Alex challenges.
“I’ll have to consult the notepad where I keep track of every song that has saxophone.”
“No song,” he says.
“I bet you’re fun at parties,” I say.
“I’m fine at parties,” he says.
“Just not middle school band concerts,” I say.
He glances sidelong at me. “You’re really a saxophone apologist?”
“No, but I’m willing to pretend, if you’re not finished ranting. What else do you hate?”
“Nothing,” he says. “Just Christmas music and saxophone. And covers.”
“Covers?” I say. “Like . . . book covers?”
“Covers of songs,” he explains.
I burst out laughing. “You hate covers of songs?”
“Vehemently,” he says.
“Alex. That’s like saying you hate vegetables. It’s too vague. It makes no sense.”
“It makes perfect sense,” he insists. “If it’s a good cover, that sticks to the basic arrangement of the original song, it’s like, why? And if it sounds nothing like the original, then it’s like, why the hell?”
“Oh my god,” I say. “You’re such an old man screaming at the sky.”
He frowns at me. “Oh, and you just like everything?”
“Pretty much,” I say. “Yes, I tend to like things.”
“I like things too,” he says.
“Like what, model trains and biographies of Abraham Lincoln?” I guess.
“I certainly have no aversion to either,” he says. “Why, are those things you hate?”
“I told you,” I said. “I like things. I’m very easy to please.”
“Meaning . . .” I think for a second. “Okay, so, growing up, Parker and Prince—my brothers—and I would ride our bikes up to the movie theater, without even checking what was playing.”
“You have a brother named Prince?” Alex asks, brow lifting.
“That’s not the point,” I say.
“Is it a nickname?” he says.
“No,” I answer. “He was named after Prince. Mom was a huge fan of Purple Rain.”
“And who’s Parker named after?”
“No one,” I answer. “They just liked the name. But again, not the point.”
“All your names start with P,” he says. “What are your parents’ names?”
“Wanda and Jimmy,” I say.
“So not P names,” Alex clarifies.
“No, not P names,” I say. “They just had Prince and then Parker, and I guess they were on a roll. But again, that’s not the point.”
“Sorry, go on,” Alex says.
“So we’d bike to the theater and we’d just each buy a ticket to something playing in the next half hour, and we’d all go see something different.”
Now his brow furrows. “Because?”
“That’s also not the point.”
“Well, I’m not going to just not ask why you’d go see a movie you didn’t even want to see, by yourself.”
I huff. “It was for a game.”
“Shark Jumping,” I explain hastily. “It was basically Two Truths and a Lie except we’d just take turns describing the movies we’d seen from start to finish, and if the movie jumped the shark at some point, just took a totally ridiculous turn, you were supposed to tell how it actually happened. But if it didn’t, you were supposed to lie about what happened. Then you had to guess if it was a real plot point or a made-up one, and if you guessed they were lying and you were right, you won five bucks.” It was more my brothers’ thing; they just let me tag along.
Alex stares at me for a second. My cheeks heat. I’m not sure why I told him about Shark Jumping. It’s the kind of Wright family tradition I don’t usually bother sharing with people who won’t get it, but I guess I have so little skin in this game that the idea of Alex Nilsen staring blankly at me or mocking my brothers’ favorite game doesn’t faze me.
“Anyway,” I go on, “that’s not the point. The point is, I was really bad at the game because I basically just like things. I will go anywhere a movie wants to take me, even if that is watching a spy in a fitted suit balance between two speedboats while he shoots at bad guys.”
Alex’s gaze flickers between the road and me a few more times.
“The Linfield Cineplex?” he says, either shocked or repulsed.
“Wow,” I say, “you’re really not keeping up with this story. Yes. The Linfield Cineplex.”
“The one where the theaters are always, like, mysteriously flooded?” he says, aghast. “The last time I went there, I hadn’t made it halfway down the aisle before I heard splashing.”
“Yes, but it’s cheap,” I said, “and I own rain boots.”