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The New Guy

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Feste stood on the doorstep, and their grin widened upon seeing who answered. Their arms encircled Cesario’s neck before they said anything. They didn’t return the hug. Still Feste went in for a quick kiss, which sent a thrill through Cesario that worked much against their resolve to stay angry. “It’s so good to see you,” they said, letting go.

“You’re two days late,” Cesario accused.

Feste laughed. “I wanna tell you what happened.” They looked excited about the story: their grin widening the more they spoke, and their eyes sparkling. “It was crazy! Great story too: a funeral, a dwarf, a brothel, and a business offer.”

“Did you just say brothel?”

“Oh, sorry, I mean ‘nightclub,’” you could hear the air quotes, “gotta keep on the safe side, right?” Cesario stared at them, and considered just leaving. “What? I was singing.”

“In a whore house?” They would’ve left, but now they wanted the story. How could they not, when the set up was so absurd?

“I didn’t just up and decided ‘what’s the weirdest way I can finish my night?’ No. Let me tell you what happened.” Cesario crossed their arms and kept staring at Feste with one eyebrow raised. “So, monday afternoon I got my guitar and went to the bar, to start fresh, you know. So I sat there and had a beer, and I was playing some, when my friend Nick walks in. You have to meet Nick, he’s an actor, hilarious, just not on stage. Oh, yeah, the story. So Nick and I decide to visit old Robin. Now, he was our teacher, me and Nick’s, but not a school teacher, he taught us music, and how to drink. We get to his usual bar, and there are all those old men there. Old Robin’s pretty old himself, but he’s usually surrounded by people like me and Nick, you know, his fans. And more and more old men were arriving. It turns out Bandolin Mike died monday morning. Ever heard of Bandolin Mike?” They nodded. “So me and Nick are the only people below seventy around, and all those old guys played with Bandolin Mike at some point, and they’re all telling stories about him and his songs, and then they started playing. Man, it was awesome! Very educational too. The ones who still play can’t play more than two songs without painkillers, but the quality of the two songs is something else. But they can’t sing anymore, not one of them. So that’s what Nick and I did the whole night.”

“Is this Bandolin Mike the one I’m thinking?” Cesario had to ask.

“Seventies, early eighties musician? That’s the one. I met him once as kid, but I had no idea. He said ‘let’s see what that no good’s teaching you,’ he meant Robin. I think he liked it, he didn’t say anything to me, but he turned to Robin and said ‘you’re lucky he’s good, cause you’re a terrible teacher.’” They laughed fondly at the memory.

“So Robin Goodfellow was your teacher?” Cesario put the pieces together. “That man’s a legend!”

“He’s always gonna be my teacher. I used to sit in the corner, busting my fingers on my old guitar and he’d give me pointers on his way to the bar, and promise he would play with me tomorrow on his way back. Then he got me to sit with him in the bar, and I practiced while he drank, you can figure out the rest.”

“I don’t think I have enough imagination. So you were drinking with the gods of yore, what happened?”

“We went to Bandolin Mike’s funeral the next afternoon, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of people who showed up. So all these famous performers Robin used to play for invited him for drinks, and he says ‘I’m taking my bodyguards with me,’ so we get in some car, and they drive us to this fancy place that turns out to be Bandolin Mike’s favorite ‘nightclub,’” they gave a lot of emphasis to the last word. “And now the dwarf enters the story,” they announced it like a great feature.

Cesario sighed, shook their head, and sat on the step waiting for the rest of the tale. They just wanted to be angry at Feste, but that absurd story had their curiosity by now, and they wanted to hear the end of it. “So you’re telling me about the time you were in a brothel with a dwarf?”

“A dwarf named Scarlet,” Feste added, sitting next to them. “He was shaking hands with the famous people, then he asked me ‘and who are you?’ and Robin goes ‘that’s my son and heir,’ I swear to god he said that! So Scarlet tells me to show what I can do, and it was just me and this shitty guitar, but you bet your ass I rocked. And now those guys want to buy me drinks and talk to me. So now I have this party invitation slash job interview friday night, and a dj gig saturday night in a rich kids club, pretty great, huh?”

“I thought it was just you and your guitar? When did dj come up?”

“Like I said, we got to talk for a while, I showed them my music. Who would’ve thought funerals were so great for networking?” Cesario chuckled. “Then Scarlet turns to me and says ‘you look familiar, is this you?’ It was my video, the one Curio shot? Famous people have seen my video. All those sempais were noticing me!” Cesario laughed. “Then Nick got in his head we had to see the sunrise on the beach, and no matter how many times Robin said you can’t force that on an elderly citizen, guess what we ended up doing? Yeah. In the end, we left Robin in the same bar stool we found him to begin with, and that was that.”

“Am I supposed to believe that?”

Feste shrugged. “That’s up to you. I promise you I’m not lying. I’d never tell a lie this convoluted and involve so many people in it.”

“You’re telling me I should know you’re not lying because you’re a good liar?”

“It’s a good story but a little too much effort for a lie,” they shrugged. “Lies are supposed to be simpler than the truth.”

“The truth is it’s getting late and I wake up early tomorrow,” Cesario told them, but didn’t move.

“True. But it’s also true you stayed and listened to my story.”

“So?”

“So you must be at least a little happy to see me too.”

“Maybe a little, but now I have to go,” they stood up.

“Please.” Feste got to their feet, and held them by the arm. They didn’t say anything else, but kissed Cesario with persuasion, holding them against the closed door, pressing their bodies together, making it last just in case it wasn’t as convincing an argument as they wished.

Everything else in Cesario’s mind became unimportant in comparison to the passionate desire the kiss awakened. They pulled Feste even closer, kissed them even more deeply, and had to admit they wanted more. “Come,” they said, dragging Feste to the bedroom.

*

They spent the day regretting their lack of will. They should’ve made Feste feel sorry for ditching them, instead of listening to baser desires. And of course Feste left in the middle of the night. Their guitar stayed behind, as a reminder.

They wished Feste would come again tonight, preferably earlier, but they remembered Orsino saying they showed up in ungodly hours to make a mess. But the mess was made. Realistically, there wasn’t a good chance they’d see Feste that soon, but they couldn’t fight the persistent hope that kept coming to mind. Cesario was sure hope would set them up for disappointment, which could only make things worse. Reason was no match for hope, however.

“Cesario!” the surveillance guys shouted a lot louder than usual. “Cesario’s here!”

“Hey, guys, what’s up?” they waved.

“Too much traffic?” Monkey asked, and the others laughed at his question.

“I don’t know, I take the subway,” they said, wondering where this small talk was coming from.

“Oh, alright. Have fun,” he said, going back to watching.

Cesario shrugged it off, and made the climb. Halfway through they stopped at the weird sight of a bunch of children standing in two lines, and they’d have to pass between those lines. They looked up, and saw that Feste was their leader. All those eager smiles were obviously up to something.

Cesario took the next steps carefully, then noticed something all the kids had in their hands. Squirt guns. “Don’t!” they warned.

“Now!” Feste shouted.

Cesario flinched but nothing splashed. They looked, and found themself surrounded by soap bubbles. The kids kept shooting bubbles from their plastic guns, laughing and marveling at the atmosphere they had created. That’s how Feste approached them, surrounded by bubbles and minions. “Ready for our date?” And to the children: “Good job, guys! Now get the hell out of here.”

“What date?” Cesario questioned.

“The one you agreed to before I left last night?”

“You sneaked out!” they reminded Feste.

“Were you sleeping? You said yes, your eyes were open.”

“How am I supposed to remember what I said in my sleep?”

“How am I supposed to know you’re asleep when your eyes are open?” They both laughed at their lack of an answer. “So? What will it be?”

“I don’t know, but whatever you have in mind, I think I need a shower first.”

“I can wait,” Feste said, accompanying them into the house.

*

They had dinner in a restaurant surrounded by woods, on the top of a hill, where they saw the city lights from above. Feste called the staff by their first names, and waved at a pair of musicians playing the flute and guitar on a stage no one would look at on account of the wide windows showing the great view the place was known for. Feste would point at the view and say which parts of the city they were looking at. Cesario had to believe them, their sense of direction wasn’t so good they could tell for themself where they were.

Of course Feste wouldn’t call it night so simply. They drove to an old, well-preserved mansion, which stood behind an iron spike fence that extended around most of the quarter. Several other cars were parked there and the gate was open.

The first floor was one wide room, furnished with the antiques one might expect from a building with that design. The old-fashioned armchairs were turned to a stage where a comedian played a funny character. “Is this a comedy show?” Cesario asked as they both settled on the same cushioned, wooden armchair.

“More like an open mic night,” Feste corrected.

Cesario took a quick look around. It was a little dark, most lights pointing to the stage, but they could see where the smell of smoke was coming from, the apparently floating embers throwing more shadow than light on the smokers faces. What they knew of Feste, including last night’s story, and now this place, made Cesario conclude Feste had a preference for places where ignoring the law was the law.

When the character was done, someone else took to the stage and recited a poem. After that there was music. Cesario shouldn’t be surprised Feste didn’t simply watch what went on a stage, they had to be part of it. So of course Feste got on the stage and offered them a sad song that would’ve made Cesario cry if it lasted any longer. Then they turned to the audience and said: “Too sad, right? Well, if Cesario will join me up here, we’ll play something happier. Cesario?” They just waved their finger, saying no. “Come on, these good people deserve a song to give them back the will to live the first one took away.” Some people laughed. “Stop pretending you’re shy, and give me a hand, maybe two.”

They gave in, and joined Feste, who handed them a guitar and told them to play My Baby Just Cares for Me, which they had played at some point during the weekend but Cesario didn’t think it counted as a rehearsal. But it was good enough for Feste, who balanced their lack of practice with dancing, so the audience was distracted. When they were over, people applauded. And while the singer loved it, Cesario suspected it was more directed at Feste’s dancing than their music.

They didn’t stick around much longer after that. There was a hotel room waiting for them, so that’s where they headed to. Cesario put down the backpack they’d been instructed to pack, since they weren’t going back home tonight. Feste kicked off their shoes, and said: “Before anything happens, there’s one thing I just have to do.”

Cesario looked at them in curiosity, wondering what it was. Feste ran to the bed, jumped on to it, they somersaulted in the air landed on their feet, and kept bouncing up and down. “Does it pass the test?” they asked while undressing.

“You should try,” Feste suggested, still going up and down, now taking their top off and tossing it. When they made it to the bed, however, Feste already had something different in mind.

*

Cesario was tired but happy all day friday. They didn’t get much sleep, but what did it matter when much better stuff was happening? The lingering effect of the previous night’s was enough to get them through work with a smile on their face. A smile that was commented on by their co-workers because it was so persistent. They didn’t reveal the story behind it, but didn’t deny when one of them suggested it looked like they’d had a great night.

Feste wanted Cesario to go with them to the party/job interview they’d been invited to. According to them, that was the way for suburban musicians: they held parties in their backyards where the guests played and sang, and invited more musicians. “It’s like a Gatsby kind of thing, just not great,” they said.

Feste was right about the kind of party they went to. There was no one at the gate, they just let themselves in, certain it was the right place because of the music. They went around the house to the backyard, which was one huge outdoors kitchen made for barbecues, in the center of which there was table for twenty people, all of them singing and playing various string or drums instruments, around that bigger table, smaller ones were spreaded, fitting four or five each. Beyond the canopy of wooden columns and maroon roof tiles, there was a lawn and then a swimming pool, around the property walls, tall fruit trees stood, making for a private little world the neighbors couldn’t peek at, though they probably could hear it more clearly than they cared for.

The host sat at the head of the big table, and sang with his guests. He waved to Feste and Cesario when they arrived but didn’t bother with them any further. He was a mainstream folk singer, Cesario recognized and was impressed. The guests around him, by the big table, weren’t as famous, but anyone who loved music would know them at least by name. Feste pointed them out and named them, making Cesario more and more impressed.

A man waved Feste to his table, where only two people sat, with two more chairs available. Feste shook the man’s hand, greeting him like an old friend. He introduced the man sitting by him as his “good friend,” and even before that Cesario had the feeling they were a couple. To make things even more interesting, Feste said: “This is my good friend, Cesario.” Emphasis on “my.”

The man who waved Feste called himself Dodo, his partner was Harry. They both shook Cesario’s hand, and started a friendly conversation with them. They had a bottle of whisky on their table and invited the newcomers to drink. Cesario only had vague memories of the rest of the night.

*

They woke up the next afternoon, Feste still asleep next to them. Cesario didn’t feel exactly rested, but they couldn’t go back to sleep. They checked their phone and a rush of fear ran through them when they saw thirty unread messages from Sebastian. But they were only comments to the photos they’d sent him last night. They didn’t even remember sending him those. They didn’t even remember taking those. And a video too.

Sebastian’s texts read: “Where are you? Who are those people? Is that Tambourine Joe? Are you in his house? How?” Then he commented a selfie of them with Feste: “Is there anything you want to tell me?” And on the video: “You look wasted! Seriously, how did you get there?” After that it was just hello and question marks for the next eight hours.

They had to see the video before answering, so they took the phone to the bathroom in order not to bother Feste. Sebastian was right: they looked remarkably drunk, but that wasn’t the surprising part. Cesario was playing the guitar, while Feste sang and Tambourine Joe kept time clapping hands. Before the video ended, you could see Joe pat Feste on the back.

Cesario had many questions and no one to ask them. Who recorded the video? When they had gotten so drunk? How they had ended up playing for the host?

“Hello,” they wrote back to Sebastian, “I’m not sure how it happened. There are a few things about last night I don’t remember.” And to answer his other question: “That’s Feste, I’ll tell you about them sometime.”

Sebastian decided it meant he should video call them immediately. And say hello very loudly. Their head hurt. “Man, you look like shit,” he laughed. “Are you ok?”

“No.” He laughed even more. “Can we talk later?”

“No, wait, who’s that Feste? Is that a look alike or is that really Tambourine Joe? What else is going in your life that you’re not telling me?” There was an unusual amount of seriousness in the last question that surprised Cesario.

“Ok, so that guy really is Tambourine Joe. And Feste’s the person I’m seeing. Happy?”

“I don’t know. Are you?”

“I’ll be, as soon as my head stops aching.”

“Sure. You know what they say is good for that?”

“Never stop drinking?” Someone had given them that advice last night, they couldn’t remember who.

“Or never start,” Sebastian completed.

*

Cesario and Feste stayed in bed most of the day. Later, as it got dark outside, Feste started complaining they hated schedules after answering to a call on their new phone. “I have that gig in Bohemian Alley tonight. I just wanna sleep.”

“Is it the Elephant?” Cesario asked, remembering Olivia’s words.

“Yeah. You’re coming, right?”

Cesario laughed, trying to imagine it. That’s when inspiration hit them: “We have to take Orsino.”

“Like you can get that guy to have fun. Why Orsino?”

“Because he said he’s paying for my drinks.”

“You’re up to something, aren’t you?” They just smiled and nodded in response. “Ok, I’m in. What is it?”