Title: Metronome (Chapter 1/?)

Rating: R for language and adult content (for entire story)

Summary: From hence emerge the prior stories of our heroes. Pre-RENT.

Disclaimer: You know they're not mine; I know they're not mine. I promise to clean them after I use them. I make no money from this. I apologize if I have stolen or caused any sort of bodily harm to anyone through the production of this written material.

JUNE 29TH, 1985, 7:16 AM, EST. Mark Cohen.

"You know, Marky, if you tuned into this reality once in a while—and I mean front in front of a lens or whatever, you might actually make some friends."

As is the case every time Cindy speaks—especially when she borrows my mother's phrasing—I ignore every word she says. My mother looks at me in the rearview, obviously hoping I'll take this sage advice to heart. It is too hot—even this early in the day, even this early in the summer—to be fighting, and I refuse to acknowledge that my lifestyle is being trashed—again. The leather seats of our Volvo are sticking to my thighs where my shorts have pulled up, and if we weren't bound for the train station, and thus bound for the train that would deliver me from Scarsdale to 721 Broadway, where my special "Arts Bound!" program begins in a little under two hours, I might cry. But it is, so I shut up and count my blessings. One, no Scarsdale for, like, the next twleve hours. Every day for the next thirteen days. Two, seeing "Mishima"—possibly the most amazing film ever—two nights ago with Jason. Three, not getting caught sneaking back in to "Mishima" the second and third times. Four—

"Now don't kill each other on the train ride in, kids. And Cindy, please make sure your brother gets all the way in the door before you take off. And Mark, for goodness' sake stay with the others, and don't leave until your father comes to pick you up. And don't talk to people, if you insist on taking the subway. And don't—"

For once, Cindy says the right thing. "Mom, you know I'll take good care of him, you know he'll be responsible, and you know you raised us right. We'll all be on the 6:53 train home. We love you. Have a great day." And with that, we are out of the car and gone, gone, gone.

721 Broadway has a cement step and a wood door and it is cold inside—probably because they have nice equipment in here. I think I saw a JVC GR-C1, and I think it might have been love at first sight. I have no idea what propelled these other kids to be "Arts Bound!", but I'm almost hoping it's not film. I want that baby all to myself.

"Please don't tell me you're mooning over a fucking camera." I have no idea who this suave-looking kid is, but he's certainly not shy. "You look like that shit could give you a boner. Damn!"

"Um...have we met?"

"Benjamin Coffin the Third, man," he says, pushing a hand at me. I blink. "But you can call me Benny, I guess." At this we both smile and I take his hand and shake it.
"Mark Cohen. Are...are you here for film?"

"Nah," he says, turning to let his eyes roam over the room, finally returning them to me. I wonder if we meet the par. "Music production." At my apparent confusion, he continues, tucking one arm up and gesturing professionally with the other. "You know, learning about tracks and layering and recording and all that funky shit. I really love music—I really love a whole shitload of artistic stuff, but I'm really not," and he holds his arm at a forty-five degree angle.


"Inclined, stupid. As in, artistically." Oh. Well. Okay.

"You know anybody else here?" Just. Make. Small talk. I wish I were better at this sort of thing. I wonder, fleetingly, if maybe my mother and sister are right, and just the thought of it makes me flip my bangs from my eyes angrily. This is Benny. Benny will be...an acquaintance.

"No, man, I don't. These geeks seem like losers." He turns and sizes me up. "No offense." I think he just insulted me, but I'm not sure, so I just shrug my shoulders. We stand in companionable silence for a minute or two, looking out over the small crowd, listening to the occasional twangs and screeches of untuned instruments. My mind starts to wander, and I wonder if I'll be too cold in shorts in this chilled room. I wonder about the staff for this program, who in large part have failed to show up yet. I wonder about the amount of electricity it takes to power all of that equipment, and I wonder if our costs include the suspected electric bill. I am finally getting around to wondering if our silence has turned awkward when Benny turns to me. "When we get our lunch break, wanna come smoke a little grass?" And I think about saying that I've never smoked and filmed, I think about saying that my dad's coming to get me at the end of the day, I think about saying that I don't know, but then I think about how Benny's offering me something, about how I'd really like to have someone to chill with. About how it would be kind of nice to be fifteen and an artist in the city and make my own decisions about whether I wanted to smoke a little damn pot when I felt like it.

"Maybe," I tell him. He sizes me up again out of the corner of his eye and grins.

"Okay, man," he says.