“What the fuck is that,” Nolan said, his voice flat. He and Kevin were both slumped on the couch in the living room, exhausted after work. It was Friday night and Kevin had automatically put on The Replacements while they waited for the pizza to arrive. Later, Kevin would probably pack a bowl and they’d watch baseball until they both fell asleep on the couch.
But for now, Nolan could barely hear the movie over the noise coming from outside. Kevin went over to the window and opened it. Immediately, Nolan heard a high, thin voice and a guitar, amplified too loud, the sound bouncing off the sidewalk and into the apartment. A second voice, flatter and rougher, joined the first. They were singing Wonderwall.
“Two guys with guitars. Look about your age.” Kevin winced as the lead singer tried to hit a high note and missed badly. “Out in front of the ice cream place next door.”
“Shut the window and give me the remote,” Nolan said, his voice flat with fury.
Kevin banged down the sash and flopped on the couch, the remote held high in his hand. “Mrs. Fitzpatrick upstairs complains when we play movies too loud.” The music was still blaring, even through the closed window.
“I’ll deal with Mrs. Fitzpatrick,” Nolan said, snatching the remote and cranking the volume. “Maybe I’ll sic her on those idiots out there.”
Travis was just winding down his set in front of the ice cream shop when a tall man charged out of the building next door.
Travis looked up at him and plastered a smile on his face. “Do you have a request?” The guy was twice his size and looked like he wanted to murder him.
“Uh yeah,” the guy said. “I’d like to request you stop.”
“C’mon man,” Travis said, trying to keep the smile on his face. He was pretty sure the guy wasn’t going to punch him but Travis hated just the idea that anyone didn’t love him.
“There’s no one out here!” the guy practically bellowed. Travis looked around at the empty sidewalk and then at his watch. It was almost 10pm. He had been out all afternoon and there were only a few coins in his guitar case.
“Alright, just one more song,” Travis said. “Any requests?” And then Travis winked at the guy, who clenched his fists at his sides and marched back toward his building.
“Who was that?” Lawson came up behind him with an ice cream cone in one hand. He picked up his bass guitar with the other.
“The man I’m gonna marry.”
Nolan stumbled out of his bedroom, eyes bleary from his early-evening nap.
“Hi Patty,” Kevin said loudly when he entered the living room. He was sitting cross-legged on the couch and had a huge bucket of popcorn in his lap.
Nolan grunted back at him. He stood in the doorway and scratched his stomach. “Where did you get that?”
“Remember Janet from last week?”
Nolan nodded. He did remember Janet, the tiny goth chick that Kevin had introduced him to in the kitchen before they disappeared into Kevin’s bedroom to make embarrassing sex noises for the rest of the night.
“She works at the movie theater down the street,” Kevin said through a mouthful of popcorn.
Nolan frowned at him for a moment and then he heard the music outside. "Oh, not again," he seethed as he went over to the window and opened it. "I'm gonna kill that guy." The guitarist’s thin voice blasted through the window and as he sang love me love me saaaaay that you love me.
Nolan turned in surprise as Kevin started singing along from the couch.
“Fool me fool me, go on and fool me! ” Kevin warbled, quite out of tune. “This is a great song!” he said at Nolan’s affronted look.
“What- who?” Nolan watched the guy with the guitar as he sang and shimmied his way across the sidewalk as far as the cable for his guitar would let him. When the guy turned, he looked up at the window and right at Nolan. “Shit ,” Nolan said and ducked below the windowsill.
“Whatever happened to The Cardigans?” Kevin said to himself, ignoring Nolan.
Nolan peeked over the windowsill and locked eyes with the guy, who was singing I can’t care ‘bout anything but you directly to him. After the last chord, the guy blew a kiss up toward the window. Nolan slammed the window down and turned away. “We have to move.”
Travis loved playing out in front of the ice cream place on Saturday afternoons because he could do all of his best kids songs. Right now, he was starting his fifth (or was it sixth?) rendition of Baby Shark for a crowd of preschoolers and their parents. Before he could really get into it, the angry guy came out of the building next door. He looked gorgeous when he was angry.
The guy shoved his way through the kids so he could shout in Travis’s face. “I will give you,” the man rooted around in the pocket of his skinny jeans and pulled out a handful of bills, “I’ll give you seventeen dollars if you never play Baby Shark again.”
Travis smiled at him. “I don’t know, man. Baby Shark is pretty popular around here.” The kids started singing the lyrics on their own, almost on cue. Travis waved his hands in the air, conducting them.
“Play anything else,” the guy said, looking defeated. “Please.”
“Alright, we’ll take a vote,” Travis said. He looked down at the kids. “Who agrees with- what’s your name?” Travis pointed at the guy.
“Nolan,” the guy said reluctantly.
“Who agrees with Nolan here that I should stop playing Baby Shark?”
Nolan raised his hand. “This isn’t fair. They’re not old enough to vote.”
“And who wants to hear Baby Shark a few more times?” Travis said to loud cheers and squeals from the kids. He laughed as they jumped around him in joy. He clapped his arms together with the kids as Lawson started playing the song.
Nolan turned on his heel, his shoulders hunched, and started back toward his building.
“Nice to meet you Nolan!” Travis shouted gleefully while he danced with the kids. He launched into the song again, even louder than before.
Nolan was coming home late from work when he found the guitar guy in the lobby of his building, squinting at the mailboxes.
“What are you doing here?”
The guy jumped. “Oh, hey Nolan,” he said, looking sheepish. “Your first name isn’t on the mailbox so I didn’t know what apartment you’re in.” He ran his fingers over the labels: Chen/Lugano, Hayes/Patrick, DiMario, Shah/Fitzpatrick.
“I’m that one. Patrick,” Nolan said, pointing.
“Ah,” Travis said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I’m Travis, by the way.”
Nolan shifted his messenger bag onto his other shoulder. “Can I help you with something?” He was deliberately trying not to be helpful, not that Travis noticed.
“Well,” Travis said, a smile playing on his lips, “I know you love my music so much.”
“Oh, sure,” Nolan said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“I got a gig at the coffee shop on Monday nights so I thought you might want to come by.”
Nolan frowned. “Because you didn’t think I had enough with you playing right outside my window all summer?”
Travis shrugged. “You don’t seem to like ice cream so maybe you like coffee?”
Nolan considered for a moment and then looked away from where Travis was staring at him intently. “I like ice cream.”
“Yeah?” Travis said, tilting his head and grinning. It was a little cute. “Do you like coffee?”
Nolan pushed past him to the interior door. “I might,” he mumbled as he unlocked the door.
“My gig is at 7 on Monday,” Travis said, grinning ear-to-ear as he opened the lobby door. “See you then?”
Nolan narrowed his eyes at Travis and closed the interior door.
“He’s not coming,” Lawson said.
Travis was fiddling with his guitar and trying to put off the end of their set. He looked at the clock on the wall. It was 9:45. Almost time to go.
“I know you think you’re in some love-hate thing with this guy,” Lawson started.
“His name is Nolan.”
“But I think it’s just hate-hate. All he’s done is yell at you.”
“I’m growing on him,” Travis said stubbornly. “He’s gonna fall in love with me so soon, you’ll see.”
Lawson shook his head. “I don’t know man. I think this whole thing is in your-”
Lawson’s voice faded as the door to the coffee shop door banged open and Nolan stepped inside. His cheeks were flushed bright red and he was wearing a tiny pair of sunglasses, even though it was dark out.
Travis waved at Nolan (who frowned in response) and then turned to beam at Lawson. “He’s so in love with me.”
Nolan unlocked the door to the apartment and then paused, his hand on the knob. “You’re going to be cool, right?”
“When have I not been cool?” Travis asked, incredulous.
“Literally every interaction we’ve ever had,” Nolan grumbled but opened the door anyway. “Let’s go.” He directed Travis to the shoe rack in the entryway. He was hoping to get Travis into his bedroom without running into Kevin and having to explain himself.
“Hey,” Kevin boomed from the living room.
Nolan froze and watched in horror as Travis bounded away from him.
“Hey!” Nolan heard Travis say from the living room. “I’m Travis!”
By the time Nolan followed into the living room, Travis was settled next to Kevin on the couch and was busy showing Kevin pictures of his dog on his phone.
“Patty, Travis knows Janet!” Kevin said with delight.
“Yeah,” Nolan said, his voice faint as he watched his nightmare come true. He’d never get Travis out of his apartment after this.
“She’s really cool and she lets me come behind the concession counter and mix the ICEE flavors,” Travis said, leaning over to hold his phone out to Nolan. “That’s my dog Daffy.”
“I ordered pizza,” Kevin said. “You both sticking around?”
“We were going to watch a movie in my room-”
“Nolan, can we?” Travis whined.
“Sounds like he’s hungry, Pats,” Kevin said, smiling innocently at Nolan’s angry expression.
“Fine,” Nolan said, sitting down on the far edge of the couch. “But then he’s leaving.”
Travis poked Nolan’s thigh with his toes. “You don’t want to hang out in your room while we wait for pizza?” Travis said, waggling his eyebrows at Nolan.
“Fine!” Nolan sighed. He stood up and started leaving the room. “Are you coming?”
“Right behind you!” Travis called. He turned to Kevin. “He’s super into me.”
Kevin nodded seriously. “I can tell.”
“Let’s go!” Nolan yelled from the door of his bedroom.
“What’s your favorite pizza topping? Mine is jalapenos,” Travis said, voice muffled by the shirt that Nolan was pulling over his head.
“Do you ever shut up?” Nolan said. He tossed Travis’s shirt on the floor.
“Kevin’s a cool guy,” Travis kept talking as Nolan kissed down his neck and fumbled with his belt. “How do you know him?”
“We work together,” Nolan said. He bent down to slide Travis’s jeans down his legs.
“What do you do?”
Nolan stood up and put his hands on his hips. “You get one more question and then I’m going to put my dick in your mouth.”
Travis opened his mouth and then shut it again. “Hmm,” he said to himself, considering. “Give me a sec.”
Nolan pulled his shirt over his head. “What are you doing?”
Travis sat on the edge of the bed and threaded his fingers together. “If I only get one question, I wanna make it a good one.”
Nolan rolled his eyes and reached down to take off his socks. As he was working on his pants, Travis finally hopped up. “Okay,” he said, excited. “What’s your favorite color?”
“That’s your question?” Nolan asked as he moved Travis toward the bed and pushed him back onto it. Travis laughed as Nolan tackled him. “Blue,” Nolan said, his face buried in Travis’s hair.
“Oh yeah,” Travis said, gesturing to the walls of the room with his free hand. “Blue.”
Finally, Travis was quiet as they made out, the only sound in the room the little gasps Travis let out as Nolan cupped his ass and pulled him close. “You’ve got a hot little body,” Nolan whispered in Travis’s ear.
“It’s not little,” Travis said, pulling Nolan’s hair .
“Fine,” Nolan gritted. “See if I compliment you again.”
“No, c’mon,” Travis whined. He pushed Nolan onto his back and started inching down his body. “Tell me how much you like me.”
“Pass,” Nolan said, pushing away Travis’s hands and taking off his own briefs.
“Cmon,” Travis crawled back on top of Nolan. “One thing you like about me.” He hovered his face over Nolan’s, keeping eye contact until Nolan rolled his eyes away.
“You’re really good with kids,” Nolan admitted.
“Aww,” Travis cooed and kissed Nolan sweetly.
“Enough,” Nolan grumbled, pushing Travis’s head down. “Get to it.”
Travis was strumming his acoustic guitar on the couch while Nolan played video games.
“Shouldn’t you be out in front of the ice cream place with that?” Nolan mumbled, gesturing toward the guitar.
“Nah,” Travis said. “I think I’m done being a street musician. Plus I have my regular job."
"You have a job?"
Travis scoffed. "I told you. I'm a social worker?"
“Hmm,” Nolan hummed. And then quietly: “I kinda liked when you played.”
“What?” Travis said, leaning forward and snatching the controller out of Nolan’s hands. “What was that?”
“Nothing,” Nolan said and got up from the couch, abandoning his game. He looked back at Travis, who was clutching the controller to his chest and grinning. “Are you coming to my room to make out or what?”
“Okay,” Travis hopped up and followed Nolan through the kitchen. “Can we get ice cream after?”
Nolan took Travis’s hand and pulled him into the bedroom, slamming the door shut after them. “Fine.”