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Breaking Our Finest China

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001. 2 a.m.

They spend a lot of time together at Stephen and Neil's place - Kim, Stephen, Neil, Scott. Ramona isn't in the picture yet, and they're sick of trying to glue Scott's stupid life back together. Neil is out one night, so Kim and Stephen get drunk and use his computer to try and find Scott a girlfriend on Craigslist.


002. metaphor

Kim and Stephen look at the lyrics written hastily on the back of a flyer for a yoga class in Scott's nearly illegible chickenscratch handwriting. Kim's expression shifts from extreme confusion to mild disgust as Stephen reads aloud, "you're like a vampire sorority girl/beautiful and really horrible at the same time?"

"Ew, Scott, what the hell?" Kim spits out, and Scott scratches the back of his head and tells her, "it's not finished yet."


003. sky

Sometimes it seems like Ramona literally fell out of the sky. Maybe not this sky; but she fell out of some sky, somewhere, and roller bladed through one of those weird doors and into Scott's life. It would be great if he didn't have Knives following him everywhere now. It would also be great if some woman named Linda would stop texting him and asking when he's available to "ride this lioness".

(Kim and Stephen may or may not have found this woman on Craigslist and emailed her Scott's phone number in a moment of drunkenness and poor decision making a few months ago. They do not feel bad about it.)


004. lost scene

Kim hates her stupid roommates. She has had to listen to Tracy fuck her stupid fucking girlfriend in the next room every night this week and she has had it up to here. She hurls one of her Dr. Martens at the wall and hopes they get the point. Tracy screams something about Kim being an unbelievable bitch, but then they're back to fucking. Kim flops onto her bed and groans.

"And that's when I shot them, your honor."


005. degrees

Knives shows up on Stephen's doorstep one night before band practice. In actuality, band practice started 45 minutes ago, but Scott still isn't here yet. It's snowing, and Knives's new red hair is plastered to her forehead.

"Is Scott here?" she asks in a tiny voice. Knives Chau, unstable as she may be, looks absolutely pitiful right now. "I'm sorry, I just-"

"He's not around right now," Stephen says, running a hand through his hair awkwardly. He feels bad about leaving her out in the cold, but not bad enough to invite her inside. "Sorry, kid."

When he goes back inside and Kim asks who was at the door, he tells her, "Christians."


006. seize the day

When Scott finally shows up to practice (an hour late, now), Kim is sitting on the front steps smoking a cigarette. Stephen can deal with a lot of things, but he will not tolerate smoking in his house. It's Neil's house too, of course, but Neil's opinion doesn't matter because Stephen calls the shots around here.

"You smoke?!" Scott is horrified. Kim has been smoking for years. "Isn't that... evil? Can't it, like... kill you?"

Kim shrugs. She doesn't look up at Scott. "We've all gotta die someday, right?"


007. opposite

Hollie Hawkes gets a job at No-Account Video. She is cool and pretty and sharp as a tack, and Kim wants to hate her but... it's kind of hard to because they both really, really like bad anime.


008. passions run / 009. connection

The first time Kim and Stephen have sex, they're drunk again. One minute they're reading godawful missed connections in Toronto, and the next minute their clothes are off. It's just one of those things that happens.

The next morning Kim won't look Stephen in the eye, but she leaves wearing his Johnny Hobo & the Freight Trains t-shirt.


010. lull and storm

Stephen is alternating between pacing the living room and pointing and yelling animatedly at his stupid, fucking flipchart. Kim, Neil, and Scott have all separately wondered why Stephen even owns said flipchart, but no one's ever asked. When the flipchart comes out, Stephen is usually too deep in the throes of an anxiety attack to confront with such a petty question.

"What are we going to do?!" he screams, and the question isn't directed at anybody in particular. He's gesturing at a drawing of their good friend Crash Wilson. "Why did we agree to play this show?! Why are we even in this fucking band?! Why is Kim wearing my Johnny Hobo shirt?! I don't know what's going on anymore but I AM GOING TO THROW UP."


011. animal

Julie Powers sends out a mass text inviting everyone she knows (and several people she doesn't know) to a jungle themed party, whatever that means. She and Stephen have just gotten back together.

Scott shows up in a generic looking safari outfit with a nametag that says "Dan" on it and physically runs into Kim, who is drinking a can of PBR and looking for some means of escape. She's wearing a t-shirt from Goodwill with a tiger on it.

She asks Scott, "what the hell are you supposed to be?" and he tells her, "I'm Skipper Dan! Like the Weird Al song!"

Kim rolls her eyes and Scott asks, "what are you?"

She sighs. "Going extinct."


012. children

A couple of thirteen year old boys walk into No-Account video and try to wander discreetly over to the curtain marked "18+". Kim and Hollie are watching a samurai movie with really bad English dubbing.

Without looking away from the staticky television, Hollie snaps, "you punk ass bitches better step far, far away from that curtain," and the boys scramble out of the store.


013. we all float on

Kim and Ramona go out for coffee one afternoon that Kim gets off work early.

"So... how did you and Scott meet, exactly? You were rollerblading through his brain, or something? Like... physically inside his head?"

Ramona sips her coffee and grins. Her hair is purple right now. "He has this really convenient Subspace highway running through-"


Ramona shakes her head.

"I'll show you sometime."


014. chess

Julie sometimes plays a game called How Loudly Can I Berate Stephen For Really Mundane, Stupid Shit In Public Places. She always wins, too. Except for tonight when Stephen shouts back in the middle of dinner that she should go fuck herself, and that they're done for good this time.

He wonders if he means it.


015. duty

It's a little weird to be told by her boyfriend's teenage ex in a public restroom that he cheated on her, but stranger things have happened and this is Ramona's life. "Nobody else would have told you," she'd said.

Ramona texts Kim the next morning because she's a little worried about it and wants to get together soon. She feels like they're in high school again.

Kim texts back, can't today, dude. was up all night after the gig cleaning up stills's vomit with young neil. do not want to talk about it. all men are pigs.

"All men are pigs" is not really what Ramona wants to hear right now, but she doesn't know what else she would expect from Kimberly Pine.


016. rip

The second time Kim and Stephen have sex, they're not drunk. It's late, and Kim is staying over after band practice mostly to avoid her terrible roommates. It's still just one of those things that happens.

She sleeps in Stephen's bed and the next morning they're able to look each other in the eyes. They drink coffee together and Kim goes home with runs in her new stockings.


017. missing time

They still spend a lot of time together at Stephen and Neil's place. Tracy got a new girlfriend and Kim can't tolerate it, so she sometimes camps out there. Her roommates barely realize it when she's gone.


018. crest

Neil turns in early one night because he has to take a final the next day. Kim is smoking a cigarette on the front porch in her sockfeet, and Stephen comes outside in a Gram Parsons t-shirt and ratty plaid pajama bottoms. Kim says, "seriously?" and arches an eyebrow at his shirt, and Stephen says, "seriously." He has toothpaste in his beard. She sighs and wipes it away with her thumb.


0 19. itch

Kim has to get out of her current living situation or she's probably going to die. Someone is going to die, anyway. She feels weird about imposing on Stephen and Neil all the time, so it's a relief when Hollie says, "as soon as Carla's gone, you're moving in, okay?"


020. explode

Stephen and Julie get back together. Envy and Todd break up, if only because Todd is a pile of coins in Scott's pocket now.


021. rise

"What the hell do you mean Kim's been staying with Stephen and Neil?!" Julie barks at Stacey Pilgrim.

Stacey rolls her eyes and crosses her arms. "I don't know, Julie, that's just what Wallace told me. He said Scott told him that Kim and Stephen and Neil have been playing happy families or something - those were his words, not mine - but, like, she's probably just trying to get away from those awful girls she lives with. She lives with Tracy K. and Sara Margaret Mitchell, right? Do you know Sara Margaret? Because she's tooootally, like... really bitchy. So bitchy."

Julie doesn't care who Kim lives with. She's fuming.


022. crumble

Stephen and Julie break up.


023. range

The next time Kim and Stephen have sex, it's on Stephen's living room floor in the middle of the day. It's still just one of those things that happens, but they both wonder vaguely why it keeps happening.

That night at band practice when Scott addresses the striped panties laying on the rug in the living room with an exclamation of horror and confusion, Stephen looks at Neil playing Gameboy on the couch and says, "dude, if you're gonna bring Knives over here and fuck in the living room, at least clean up after yourselves."

Neil makes a strangled noise of protest and Kim says, "ew, Neil, she's not even out of high school yet."


024. fight / flight

Knives shows up on Stephen's doorstep again, but this time she's looking for Young Neil. She's wearing his Legend of Zelda hoodie and looks just as pitiful as the last time she was here. Everyone has been fighting a lot of demons lately - both internally and externally - and Knives is no exception.

"Is Neil around?" she asks.

"He's not. He's at, uh, that Magic The Gathering thing... at that one comic book store... with Jordy or whoever the hell he hangs out with. I'm sorry, Knives."

She turns to leave, but Stephen stops her.

"Do you wanna come inside?"


025. acid

Joseph is a cool guy but it's been hard for Kim to adjust to living with someone who's an even bigger misanthrope than she is.


026. color

Ramona is showing Kim how to navigate Subspace, like she promised she would months ago. Her hair is electric blue now, and she's holding Kim's hand as they tumble through the starry black. Kim had expected it to be... brighter, somehow. More vibrant. Like Ramona herself.

"So, yeah, this is how I deliver packages and it just so happens that Scott's got a super convenient highway running through his head," Ramona explains. Kim nods and looks a little like she's going to throw up. "It's kind of scary, but you get used to it, I guess."

"Does everyone have it? In their head?"

"What, Subspace? Oh, yeah, definitely. That's why you have to be so careful when you're in here, and why it's so scary. Your state of mind can really affect how you see everything."


027. give

Joseph is going to record Sex Bob-Omb's album so he and Stephen spend a lot of time together. Stephen is always in their house, and one night he catches Kim walking down the hallway just as he's about to leave.

"Kim!" he says, and it startles her.

"What the fuck do you want?"

"This is great, huh? That Joseph's helping us? Helping the band?"

Kim just looks at him. "Are we still a band? Sometimes I forget, because you're so far up Joseph's ass you can't, like, practice with us."

She frowns.

"Go fuck yourself."

Stephen says, "why don't you tell me how you really feel," and then kisses the corner of her mouth without really thinking about it. "Cheer up, Kimberly. See you later."


028. needle

Stephen and Julie get back together, and for whatever reason, Kim feels a pang in the gaping void where her heart's supposed to be.


029. locks

Scott locks himself out of the apartment and stays the night with Kim because she's the only person they know that's dumb enough to have him. He sleeps in her bed, and it's awful.


030. slope

"Why the fuck are you always over there?!"

Fighting words come spilling out of Julie's mouth all the time, but lately it's gotten uglier and uglier. Stephen stares at his phone when she launches into one of her tirades.

"Is it for Kim? Are you still sleeping with Kim behind my back, you asshole? Or are you gay? Are you sleeping with that fucking guy who looks like Zach Galifianakis? Are you even listening to me?! Stephen, wake the fuck up and listen to me!"


031. correspondence

Julie texts Monique, Stephen is SUCH A BITCH, and Monique doesn't respond.


032. linger

Stephen picks up extra shifts at work whenever he can because it gives him a reason to be away from Julie without her asking questions.


033. charm

Knives comes into the Happy Avocado specifically to see Stephen. She likes his company, and she needs advice because she wants to break up with Young Neil and has no idea how to approach it. Business is slow but Stephen looks even more bedraggled than usual.

She can still be a dumb teenager sometimes, but Knives has enough tact to gauge that something is at least sort of wrong here. So she doesn't make it about her today. She puts on a smile and says, "hi Stephen! How are you doing?" and wonders if he'll even talk to her.


034. roads

Stephen and Julie break up again, and the long walk back home is kind of nice for Stephen. It's quiet.


035. hunger

Kim examines the gnarly hickeys on her neck in the bathroom mirror while she's brushing her teeth. The bathroom door is open, and Hollie walks by and whistles, "damn, girl!"

Kim flips her off with her free hand, but Hollie's already halfway down the hallway.


036. reciprocity

Neil is sitting on the couch playing XBOX when Stephen gets home in the morning. His flannel shirt isn't buttoned all the way and his throat is bruised.

Neil arches his eyebrows and says, "shit, dude". Stephen scoffs.


037. kind

Lisa Miller is in town and suddenly Julie is acting sweet again.


038. fruity

Stacey texts Wallace, "do you think Stephen Stills is gay?" and Wallace answers, "maybe".


039. half-life

They spend some time with Lisa for her birthday and everyone is pretending that they have it together for her sake.

Stephen and Julie talk about getting back together.


040. comedy of errors

Stephen thinks getting back with Julie would be a horrible mistake and the thought of it cripples him with fear.

Kim starts dating Hollie's friend Jason.

So it goes.


041. tragedy

Julie sends out a mass text inviting everyone she knows (and a few people she doesn't know) to a "sexy Shakespeare" themed party, whatever that means.

Scott shows up wearing pantyhose. Stephen refuses to wear a costume. Kim does not attend.


042. hope is the thing with feathers

Stephen stands his ground and doesn't get back with Julie. Kim is busy with her boyfriend and his car, so he hangs out with Knives sometimes. He spends a lot of time with Joseph. Supposedly they're still working on the album, but there is question whether or not Sex Bob-Omb is even still a band any more.

They really do to make some music, in the beginning anyway. Sometimes they drink. One night, they kiss.


043. empire

This was not how Stephen pictured spending his twenties.


044. turpentine kisses and mistaken blows

Kim comes home from a late shift at No-Account one night to Hollie and Jason making out on the couch. She turns on the lights, but she doesn't say anything.

The next morning, she goes over to Stephen and Neil's.


045. rings

Kim has dark circles under her eyes when she shows up on Stephen's doorstep in baggy joggers and a moth-eaten sweater. She looks a mess, but she wanted to get out of the house before Hollie started getting ready for work.

Stephen asks her, "what the hell happened to you?" and she just looks at him and says, "people fucking suck."

Stephen surprises them both when he hugs her.


046. dust

Ramona goes AWOL and Scott's life disintegrates.


047. every you, every me

Kim is back at Stephen and Neil's all the time because she wants to interact with Joseph and Hollie as little as possible. She's sitting on the front porch steps smoking a cigarette and Stephen's sitting next to her. Her head is resting on his shoulder and neither of them says much until Stephen breaks the silence with an uncomfortable cough. He's been thinking about something for a long time, and Kim deserves to know.

"Hey Kim?" he starts slowly and picks at a hole in his jeans. "I think I'm gay."

"Excuse me?"

"I think I'm gay. Uh. Not exclusively, but sort of gay. Kind of gay." Stephen pauses. "I also think I'm gonna throw up."

"Please don't."


048. project

Kim feels like she should be hurting more, but she's not surprised. Of course Stephen is hot for Joseph.

It becomes a project trying to convince him that she's okay with it. That everything is okay, and that their friends are not going to care. It becomes an even bigger project trying to come out to Joseph, but naturally Joseph isn't surprised either.


049. adore

Kim has done a fair job of alienating herself from everyone she knows by the time she decides to move back in with her parents, but Scott and Stephen still like her, and it shows.

Stephen kisses her on the forehead the night before she leaves and tells her to "make sure you fucking call me, Kimberly".

Scott apologizes at the bus station, not only for the last year or so of their lives, but for high school too.

And Kim forgives him.


050. landslide

Ramona comes back and things get messy.


051. the beginning is the end is the beginning

When Kim comes back to Toronto, Stephen and Joseph have started a new band with their friend Cole. Stephen pukes on Joseph's shoes fifteen minutes before their first gig, and Kim sees Hollie afterwards.


052. door

Not everyone gets a chance to tumble through a door with Ramona and freefall through nebulae to a new beginning, but everyone does get the chance to start over, whether they know it or not.

And that's exactly what Kim aims to do.