My glass was half empty and the conversation was waning so I excused myself and made my way to the bar. The entire event was wearing on me, but Rogers hadn’t arrived yet and I promised I’d be there to meet his new girlfriend. I’m not sure why I promised. It wasn’t going to last more than two weeks. Nothing against her, I’m sure she’s fine, maybe even great. But Rogers hadn’t been with anyone for more than sixteen days in nine years since his wife left him for his executive assistant.
The champagne was shit. But, the bartender was young and I didn’t trust him to make a quality old fashion, so I grabbed another flute and downed it. A girl at the bar made a joke to her friend that I overheard. It wasn’t funny. But, I hadn’t felt a woman’s skin in a long while, and I thought maybe that was the answer. So I pulled up a chair and feigned laughter. She turned, startled, and I offered a mock apology for eavesdropping; I’m not the best at flirting, but I know how to open a conversation. Her friend was cuter, but married. And while I hold few things sacred, getting involved with married women always leads to bullshit I don’t need.
I offered to buy them a drink, and they laughed, because it was an open bar. She asked what I did and I didn’t tell her. I hate talking about work, especially at charity events. I turned it around on her and asked why she felt strongly about Muscular Dystrophy. She didn’t but faked a good answer. Her lie turned me on a bit and I thought about inviting her to the bathroom. But, Rogers walked in with a sexy twenty-two year old on his arm.
“Samuel, you son-of-a-bitch. How the hell are you?” He introduced me to his date – not his current fling. Apparently that had ended earlier in the afternoon when she said something about him buying her a new dress. He drove her to Barney’s, pulled up in front, told her to go inside and start looking while he parked the car. He then drove to The Skylark and ordered a double Macallan. That’s where he met Cindi, which I assumed was spelled with a C and two I’s, but I never confirmed it. She was a USC grad who was looking to network and eventually “make waves in the business world.”
Those are things that get said to guys like me a lot. And every time, I hate it a little more. I tried to introduce them to the girls at the bar, but they had shifted to another conversation and I couldn’t remember her name.
Rogers had a business idea he wanted to share with me. He said he’d been thinking about it and planning it for years, but also said Cindi with a C and two I’s gave him the idea. I nodded and he started his pitch. I didn’t listen to all of it. There were a lot of “it” words being used. Rogers should know better. But, he was drunk and trying to impress Cindi with a C and two I’s.
Thankfully, Rogers didn’t want to stay long and we drove to a dive bar. I love being in a tuxedo in a dive bar. Everyone makes a different assumption about you. I ordered a vodka on the rocks and the bartender squeezed the lime into it. I’m not big on fruit and gave her a hard time about it. She winked at me and I wondered if she’d be down for a trip to the bathroom. Then I wondered if I had a bathroom fetish or if it had just been that long.
Being single usually didn’t bother me, but Rogers’ date was particularly affectionate and without being too graphic, I was getting pretty turned on. I wanted Rogers to leave so I could use my name and title to fuck the USC grad that spelled her name with a C and two I’s on each one of my newly renovated kitchen counters. I wanted to pull her perfectly combed hair and scratch her perfectly tanned skin. But, I’d never do that to Rogers and even fantasizing about it gave me a slight tinge of guilt that manifested in a gas-like bubble below my solar plexus.
I diverted my attention to the bartender as Rogers reached his hand between her thighs and told a joke about Jesus and a motel. I’d heard it before but it was still funny. Rogers always tells a good joke. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t mind hanging around with him. That and he saved my life nine years ago. A lot of good that did.
“Should we hit a club?” The question was a knife to my skull. Of course not, Rogers, you twit. There was nothing I wanted to do less than “hit a club.” I wanted to bend the bartender over the bathroom sink and forget about Cindi with a C and two I’s. But, Rogers was dead-set on dancing, and while it’s all right to be one of a crowd wearing a tux in a dive bar, being alone in a tuxedo in a bar where you’re afraid to lean against the wall by fear of contracting an STD is a bit far off for my taste. Plus, the bartender had started making kissy faces to some twenty-something actor at the end of the bar.
Rogers wanted to drive, but I called a cab for us. I wanted to get drunk. I needed to get drunk.
The line was long but Rogers slipped the bouncer a fifty I gave him. My first vodka was too warm, but that’s what happens when you’re in a rush to get drunk. I switched to gin and felt the rush of blood start moving towards my head. I found a group of twenty-six year old ex-cheerleaders who were having a reunion. The one brunette of the gaggle offered to let me join her for a joint. I hadn’t smoked in a while and her lips were perfect, so I followed her outside.
She tasted sweet and young. And her hands moved quickly. She told me to meet her in the bathroom and everything I had wanted that night was about to come true. She walked in before me and I followed, suddenly nervous and afraid. Was I this guy? Was I this kinky? I liked to think I was, but in that moment discovered differently. She stared at me and unzipped her skirt. She hiked it up and slowly walked towards me. The words coming from of her perfect lips, which should’ve been sexy, only made me more intimidated. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t do anything. I froze and hated myself completely. The gin turned. And I suddenly felt sick.
I’m not sure when she left. I stayed in the bathroom for a good long while. I didn’t throw up. I stared at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t breathe. I was overwhelmed with anger and loss and misunderstanding. I unbuttoned another few buttons and slid my cuff links into my pocket. I splashed water on my face and returned to Rogers and Cindi with a C and two I’s. She was running her fingers through his hair and complimenting his strong jawline. I’d had enough.
The cabbie dropped me off at the diner on the corner. Beatrice commented on my tuxedo as she brought me my blueberry pie. It was disappointing as pie goes, but even disappointing pie is good. I wondered about the bartender and the girls from the bar and the ex-cheerleaders. I wondered what held me back and why. I wondered about Rogers and what his fling did at Barney’s that afternoon. I wondered about the young bartender and if he’d ever make a good old fashion. I wondered about Beatrice and if she’d ever hiked up her skirt in the bathroom of a club. Beatrice was sixty-four and worked six days a week at the diner. She was the strongest person I knew.
I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to do anything. My pie was long since finished and Beatrice had dropped my check, knowing I don’t drink coffee. I looked down at my tux and couldn’t help but laugh.
Rogers called me on my way home wondering what had happened to me. I realized I hadn’t said goodbye. He said Cindi really liked me. It didn’t make me feel any better or less alone. He asked if we could do dinner the next night. He was worried about me. His worries were valid. I was home. I told him I’d be fine. I wouldn’t be. I told him he was a good friend. He was. I told him I’d see him the next night. I wouldn’t. I told him I was going to lie down. I didn’t. He told me not to do anything stupid….