FICTION – Erika and Klaus Mann Walk Into A Bar by Rachel Kincaid

1.

It’s daytime, and the darkness inside the bar is startling. Erika orders two gin and tonics while Klaus rifles through the electronic jukebox selection. She squeezes a lime wedge while he proposes playing a full hour of Bowie, all the weird stuff no one really likes.

“It’s not worth the five dollars,” she tells him. “I’d rather spend it on drinks.” Instead they just buy the one song, “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” and rock back and forth to it with their arms around each other’s shoulders in the middle of the bar.

 

2.

Klaus and Erika never watched Cheers when it was on, but are feeling nostalgic for something they can’t name, so they watch the first three episodes.

“Are we supposed to like Diane?” Erika asks. “I sort of hate her.”

“That’s because she’s too much like you,” Klaus says. “I like Diane, but Sam is so self-centered.”

“What if I had his haircut?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. Is that what you want?”

“Not really.”

“I wish they didn’t have to end up together. Why does everyone have to end up with someone?”

 

3.

Erika is on a date. It’s 3 AM and she’s not home yet, and at this point she’s probably she’s staying over their place, but it’s cold in the apartment they share and Klaus can’t sleep. He calls her 37 times without leaving any voicemails. When she comes home in the morning, neither of them mention it.

 

4.

Klaus has plucked out all his eyebrows again; they’re now wispy arches that are barely visible, like Drew Barrymore’s in the 90s. Erika crouches in front of him and pencils them back in with eyeliner: short, quick strokes.

“I thought you learned your lesson last time,” she says.

“Me too. But I guess not.” He shrugs carefully, trying not to move his head. “It’s just so hard to stop.”

 

5.

Erika and Klaus are gchatting even though they’re both in the apartment, because neither of them want to get out from under the comforters of their respective beds in their respective bedrooms. They’re talking about the people who live downstairs, whom they sometimes run into when en- tering or exiting the apartment and whom you can sort of hear through the vent in the bathroom if the shower isn’t running.

I couldn’t hear what they were saying but they sounded mad. Or one of them did.

Do you think they’re breaking up? Or getting divorced? Are they married?

Probably not. It’s just the winter. It makes you cranky when you think you’re going to die alone snowed into a dirty apartment.

They wouldn’t be dying alone. They’re together.

Well, someone has to die first.

Which of us do you think it would be?

Probably me. You would eat all the expired canned beans, and I would rather just starve.

 

6.

Klaus and Erika walk out of a bar. It’s dark, past midnight, and it’s starting to rain.

“Should we just get a cab?”

“It’s only two blocks to the subway. If we run, the water won’t even hit us.”

“I’m too drunk to run.”

“Come on. We’ll be there before you know it.” Erika starts to trot, boots heavy on the ground. She listens for echoing footprints behind her and hears nothing. When she looks over her shoulder, Klaus is standing at the curb, chest flung out towards the pavement, waving his arm into the night.

 

7.

Erika and Klaus catch the last bus of the evening. One of them has remembered to bring earbuds and the other still has a charge on their phone, so they listen to David Byrne as the bus takes wide right turns all the way home. Erika falls asleep on Klaus’s shoulder, and he hates having to hold still enough that her head won’t slip off his body, but he does. David Byrne sings that there’s something he should tell you, but we’re never alone.

 

8.

Klaus and Erika are done with bars, for the moment at least. They are staying in, saving money. They are finally going to work on that play they’ve been talking about; they are fact-checking all those urban myths about people eating whole turkeys while doped up on Ambien; they are going back over their father’s novels and crossing whole passages out. Yes, this is definitely better than the bar.

 

9.

Erika will die first. Klaus tells her this as she leans her head out the kitchen window to smoke a cigarette, because it’s late and she doesn’t want to go all the way down to the first floor of the apartment building.

“You don’t know that,” she says. “I could quit any day now.”

“You won’t, though.”

She pulls her head back in, closes the window. “But I could.” She runs the cigarette butt under the faucet before throwing it away; Klaus always worries about a fire starting. “I’ll be here longer than you. I like being alive more.” She is right.

Rachel Kincaid is a Boston girl getting used to the Midwest. Her work has appeared in Forklift, Ohio; The Chariton Review; The Awl and elsewhere; her favorite X-Files episode is “Detour.” 

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