26 hectopascal pt. 4

Ben 13:44
yo, ronnie and i are out tonight, theres a kind of beach style rooftop party

Ben 13:45
simon is hosting it, idk if you remember him but anyways would be fun if you were down too

Ben 13:45
semester's over soon, etc

Ezra looked out of the window. The sky was an impeccable blue, not a single cloud and indeed, he did feel like a long drink or two. Things were happening. Outside his house, cars were stopping at red traffic lights. A plane was slowly gliding along the line of the far horizon, and high above the stratosphere, satellites were making their rounds around planet Earth. Ezra sighed. He sure could do with some weight being lifted off his shoulders by the mix of music and chatter, and alcohol's Gaussian blur.

Ezra 13:50
sure, im coming. when and where?


"Good to see you outside the cave," Ben said, slapping his friend's back. Ezra smirked. "Yeah, I got sick of watching shadows of pots so I thought I check out the outside world." Veronica snorted into her cocktail. The festivities in honour of one Simon Trent's access to parental credit cards took place in an open-air rooftop bar right across the beach, with the obligatory tiki torches and several sunshades of straw placed among occasional benches and chairs. Thankfully, the place wasn't too crowded yet, so the three of them could claim a bench closest to the balcony, overviewing the ocean. "Boy, I wouldn't mind Simon's parents adopting me," Veronica said as they admired the location. "He literally doesn't even have an occasion to splurge this hard." "Yeah," Ben nodded, "I think his dad is a lawyer with some tycoon types in real estate, or something." Ezra wrinkled his nose. "How exactly did you two get invited, or where should I remember him from..? I don't recall this guy, like, at all." "Urm, he was in two of our media psychology classes, and we kinda hung out after uni one time, back at Vance's...he was the guy who was ranting about this club closing, Flamingos, or what's the name again..." Ezra's brain still refused to spit out an image, so he just gave a helpless little nod. Ben chuckled. "He doesn't remember, Veronnie. Honestly, do you ever even look at people?" Ezra started rolling up the sleeves of his white shirt, feeling caught red-handed. He tended to skim faces like pages of books, on a quest for whoever would catch his eye. Most people didn't.

Veronica stood up. "Boys, I'll get some more drinks. I feel like after surviving my marketing exam today I can totally drink half this bar and still be standing. I am invincible - I AM HE-MAN!" Ben and Ezra looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Veronica was anything, but not a skilled drinker. Her feet got unsteady after a beer or two. "I'll look after her," Ben said, sighing, as she pranced away. The surface of the ocean was calm, just steady ripples softly splashing on sand. "How are you?" he asked. Ezra shrugged. "Fine. As fine as I can be, I guess. I passed all my assignments. I'm slightly behind on applications. I'm tired. But I am quite content sitting here, staring at the landscape." Ben smiled. "That sounds pretty good, coming from you." "Don't be so ironic. How about you?" "I'm dope. Honestly." Ezra watched Ben cautiously from the side, but he seemed sincere. "Are you sure?" "Yeah. Uni is almost over, Vronkers and I are almost done with the appartment, painting walls and shit - we're doing pretty fucking well, really, the two of us - and I'm interning at my uncle Fred's agency in two months - I haven't told you yet, have I?" Ezra shook his head. "I only got the email today in the morning, he talked to people and showed them my CV and stuff - well, you know what he's like." Ben chuckled, lighting a cigarette. Ben's uncle Fred could talk people into selling their last pair of shoes in the pouring rain. Ezra smiled at his knees. "I'm lowkey relieved I haven't missed out on you being upset, or in trouble or anything, to be honest. I was wondering, the other day. I barely have my mind together for my own bullshit, usually." Ben looked at him, sarcastically wide-eyed. "You don't? I wouldn't have guessed, pal." Ezra punched his arm, but grinned. "Shut up." Veronica was back, gleefully carrying three tall glasses with pretty-coloured beverages. "I forgot what the hell this is called, but it tastes great," she said, placing each glass carefully on the railing beside their rattan bench.

The place was filling up quickly. Ezra glanced around lazily - it was mostly students he found he was vaguely familiar with from his classes, as well as some men and women clearly in their late thirties that he'd never seen before. A group of girls enthusiastically waved at Veronica, who waved back. Ezra recognised the red-haired girl from several weeks before, who had approached him at the wrongest moment possible, and flinched. A quick glance at Ben told him that he'd recognised her, too. "Isn't that your almost-date? The one you told to study some law before harrassing you?" He could barely contain his laughter. Ezra rolled his eyes. "Sure looks like it is." Ben was just about to retort something witty when he spotted the host. "Oh, there's Simon! Simon, hey!" he called and waved his hand. A boy, who Ezra now remembered, was grinning at Ben and walking over. His short, blonde hair that was previously held in place with gel was surprisingly dishevelled for the time being only half past eight. "Hi," he greeted them, "so glad you made it! Ezra, I'm glad they took you along, I didn't have your number saved..." "Yeah, I know, thankfully we've got Benny for that..." Ezra replied, having a vague premonition of impending smalltalk. However, the conversation didn't spiral into a circular exchange of pleasantries - Simon seemed to be in highest spirits. "I actually asked a friend to DJ tonight but he dropped out last minute, so a few playlists I threw together will have to do," he continued, "I was actually really tempted to just have a Phoenix-themed party and blast their last LP all night - I love it! In fact, all I'm gonna do tonight is corner everyone at the bar and have them sit and stand and dance through 'Tutti Frutti' at least twice." Veronica nodded enthusiastically. "It's ear candy, literally - I've been looping it for days!" Ezra did share the sentiment, which he was surprised to realise. "I wouldn't mind," he said, "It's swoony as fuck."

Simon almost stayed true to his promise. Phoenix were interspersed with some alibi jazzhop tunes, enough to please the crowd, but mostly it was the sugary, dizzy sounds of the french bands latest opus. Ezra didn't mind, at all. Everyone was getting increasingly drunk, conveniently decreasing their talkativity. No one would come up to him and talk him into depression about their search for apartments, campus gossip and how the cinematography in the latest Marvel universe installment was actually really something (it usually wasn't.) Several drinks had taken their toll on him,too - his vision ever so slighly blurred, movements of people around him appearing smooth and flowing, not clumsy as they probably were in reality. Several metres away, Ben and Veronica were swaying to the music, holding on to each other, Veronica obviously for stability. She kept stumbling and giggling into Bens neck. Ezra looked out at the ocean. It wasn't bad, losing yourself in the moment every now and then. When everything - people, music, waves crashing - melted into one single bed of white noise he would sink in it. He loved it. It was people with their individual troubles that overwhelmed him, but when an abundance of impressions came crashing down on him, he relished the feeling - it blended out his own persistent, nagging thoughts. It was almost like postmodern meditation: make it too much of everything, so it can equal nothing.

At the bar, several bottles of wine stood untouched. Apparently, the student clientele wasn't very much into alcoholic classics, but Ezra studied the logos on the bottles for a bit. Beaujolais. He'd heard that before, but couldn't assign a taste to it or even remember whether he ever tried that wine. Perhaps today would be the day. Suddenly, he realised that someone was tugging his sleeve - the girl, again. Ezra looked down at her in confusion - didn't he put her off once and for all last time? Maybe, having stomached a decent number of cocktails, she had come for revenge. "Dude, I actually said 'Hi' like three times, are you dreaming?" She was smiling, like they were pals and not actual strangers with a more than just awkward encounter in the past. He was slightly perplexed. "Er, I don't know, haven't heard you - music's loud, etc. Hi." The girl - Tess, he remembered - leaned against the bar, seemingly pleased to have his attention. "So," she said. He felt cornered, like a wild animal behind a trash can in the suburbs, the local wine mom coming for him with a stick and shouting things like "I'll teach you to ruin my front yard...".

Ezra took a deep breath and ran his hand through his fringe. "So, what." "Well, last time was kind of unfortunate, if you remember... let's have a drink, maybe? You looked quite bored, so I thought I'd say hi," she said, playing with the straw in her glass. "That's very considerate of you, but I was just checking out the wine bottles, actually, so..." "Wine it is," she beamed, "which one do you suggest?" Ezra was suddenly very protective of his Beaujolais. "Er, I'm not much of a connoisseur. I don't know. Maybe the Riesling, or something. I don't feel like it though. How about you find someone to dance?" It wasn't that she was particularly annoying or anything - she wasn't. She was just like any other person, and he didn't see why he should follow protocol and engage in chatting and flirting that wouldn't lead to any place he felt any desire to investigate closer. The general public of his environment was often confused by his backing off of people whenever they approached him, but the truth was that, as bewildering as that reaction was to most people seeking acquaintances and company, he couldn't stand it: the walls of empty words moved around for what seemed like ages, all the uninspiring characters who triggered absolutely nothing in him. He wasn't arrogant about it, in fact, he was certain that most people were as uninterested in him as vice versa. He just took the freedom to act upon his feelings - he considered it a progress on his side that he refrained from physically shaking his counterpart, asking them what the hell they were doing with their time.

"How about a dance, then? This song is quite nice," the girl said, kneading her straw and looking him straight in the eyes. It was Fior Di Latte playing, seductively and terribly on point, had this been a movie scene. Ezra sighed. To hell with the niceties. "Pal, you really could do better than waste your time here, ok? I'm trying not to be rude, but it's not happening," he said, locking his fingers firmly around the bottleneck of his newly-found french mystery. She frowned, half embarrassed, half agitated. "But why? Literally, why won't you just give it a try? I don't usually clinge to people, you know, and just really wanted to get to know you a bit - that's it! Why are you so stuck up?" she protested. Some people nearby turned their heads, sniffing the delicious scent of drama. To this, Ezra would't cater for certain. "I am not stuck up. I wouldn't see why anyone should be entitled to anyone else's attention, I'm sure you'd agree if I was the girl," he said in a tone as neutral as possible. Tess crossed her arms in front of her chest. "You don't even know me, don't you think you could change your mind? Why can't we just hang out for a bit?" "Because I don't want to." "That's not a reason!" "It's a perfect reason, now will you please let me through. I've got plans." With the bottle in his hand, he slipped past her and made his way down the stairs, across the ground floor and out the doors, to the beach.

The promenade was a bit of a night club cluster, so even right at the shore, distant chatter and fragments of music were audible against the soft swish of the water. The night air was fresh, the sea a beautiful purple-tinged blue and Ezra was beaming. The almost starless night, the coolness of the wind, stray seagulls - he just let the sensations wash over him, basked in almost-silence and air, and realised he truly wasn't thinking anything. He wasn't analysing. He wasn't considering what to reply to anyone. He wasn't listening. He wasn't rearranging schedules, wasn't worrying about the next day - nothing. His mind was at peace. He opened a few buttons of his shirt, took off his sneakers and sat in the sand for what seemed like moments to him, but in reality was almost an hour. He only moved when the flood made the waves lap at his feet. Grabbing his shoes and the bottle of wine, he obediently retreated a few metres up, sat down again and uncorked the bottle. Beaujolais. It was too dark to properly judge the colour of the beverage, but it was definitely a red wine, though it seemed paler than he expected. A mouthful proved it was also fruitier, and less intense than it could've been. For that night, it was perfect. A breeze ruffled his hair. Soft white noise, the vastness before him, being close to something as pure and primal, and unbothered as the ocean was his oxygen mask in an existence that tended to suffocate him more often than not. He didn't harbour any hopes of being saved or healed by it, he was still doomed to be human, after all. But for now, he savoured the feeling. Slowly he sank into the soft, sun-dried sand that immediately gave in to his weight, and laughed quietly to himself, the sound of it drifting out into the night.

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