a drink, a phone and a divorcee

I looked around the table quickly and pondered telling the story but opted instead to say they would join us soon. We then discussed the game and the plans for the night. Our agenda consisted of a few more pitchers and then a bar later on that boasted giant fishbowl cocktails.

After about an hour of drinking and swapping stories, my mobile rang and it was Alex.

“Yo, Ike came out of the bathroom and passed out.”

“Wow – is he still alive?”

“He seems fine but he is sleeping now. Text me the address you guys are at and I will join you.”

How Ike could manage to sleep after snorting an entire eight-ball was completely lost on me but as long as he was still alive and breathing, I didn’t really care. About twenty minutes later Alex arrived in a cab and the conversation at the table resorted back to the game, the day and what the plans for the rest of the evening were. We ordered another pitcher of margaritas and put on our big boy pants. This party was going to be one of those we wouldn’t remember.

It did occur to me to ask whether Alex had left Ike instructions as to where we were going to be and what the plan was. Alex said he had left a note and included each of our mobile numbers. This wasn’t the first time we had left Ike somewhere alone. In fact, each of us had been left behind for one reason or another and so this wasn’t necessarily something outside the bounds of normalcy for us. We each had a bit of the cockroach in us. Some people, with a more teleo-functional concept of the world, might say that kismet had brought us together but as you age it becomes easier to find the people who share an affinity for everlasting nights. This wasn’t really a matter of fate or even chance in our group; it was merely the product of social behavior that’s easily identifiable by others with similar interests.

So went boldly forth with the remainder of our night. We stayed on the makeshift patio, ordering pitcher after pitcher of margaritas until the night was a soft moving blur of stars and crisp night air – where jokes passed with hearty laughs and toasts and cheers were made on behalf of everything. We entered the slippery world of smiles given freely and people who had just met, talking like old friends. Our universe was exploding into a tequila infused, nighttime magical realm and everyone at the table was along for the ride.

We eventually closed our tab and walked down the street to the place famous for its fishbowl cocktails. We still had not heard a peep from Ike. I assumed things were fine but Alex felt compelled to call and check on him repeatedly and each time bore a look of slight concern on his face. Again, I was sure he was fine. We were all fine.

We found the place with the fishbowls and immediately ordered three for our group. Each bowl arrived decorated with plastic fish sitting around the rim and a grouping of long straws in the middle. Ours were blue and red in color and everyone took a straw and began to sip. The rest of the evening would be fueled by Kool-aid looking cocktails and we would all have slightly blue tongues.

The night was quickly sliding into an oblivious fast forward of party antics.  Conversations became bogged down with the staccato of drunken attention spans and lapses of memory and then blurred together in a soggy mess. We made a critical decision to hit up one more nearby bar. Alex texted Ike the new location and we walked off down the street.

We actually had a few blocks walk and it gave some time to breathe fresh air and clear the head slightly. I was nearly at that tipping point where the inexorable blackness of a Mr. Hyde formation would start creeping upon me but the break in the flow of drinks and the cool night air exorcised those demons and I began to feel somewhat in control again by the time we reached the new spot.

It was nothing more than a trendy restaurant with a long bar that turned into a hotspot at night, but the scene looked good. I stayed outside the doors with Alex for a few more minutes while the rest of our party walked in. Alex wanted to give Ike another ring just to make sure he was ok. Ike still wasn’t answering. We shrugged at one another after Alex left yet another voice mail and I opened the door for him. I could see a mild haze in his eyes, indicating that the night was wearing on both of us.

Bird and his crew had saddled up to the bar about midway up. As I walked in, I felt my phone vibrate and pulled it from my pocket expecting to see Ike’s name on the ID but it was from a name I had changed at some point to ‘Do Not Answer,’ which meant it was likely an ex-girlfriend of some sort and I had made the sagacious decision at some previous point to rename her, and nameless others, with a moniker that was more instruction than identifier.

As I was putting my phone back into my pocket, I felt a soft hand on mine and very sexy voice purr at me, “Ooh, nice phone. May I see it?”

I looked up toward the body and face attached to the hand that was gently placed on mine. The hand belonged to a savagely beautiful brunette with long hair and a bright-colored, low-cut blouse that accentuated her chest. She had small pursed lips that were already locked into a smile and brownish green eyes that were fixed on mine. I gladly relented my phone into her delicate palm.

“Is that the best you can do?”

She was looking at my phone but then broke back to my eyes and grinned a little wider. “I’m sorry – how do you mean?”

“I mean, if you want to hit on me, asking to see my phone seems a little odd – don’t you think? I feel like you could have done better.”

She was about to reply when another girl, with shorter light brown hair and a square mannish jaw leaned in front of her and interrupted.

“Dude, she just got a divorce. She needs to get laid but has been out of the game for a long time.”

The intruding girl said the last part with the unmistakable closed-eyed clumsiness of a very drunk woman. I could see the brunette feverishly blushing behind her and decided to do away with the intruder and end the blushing. I placed my hand lightly on the shoulder of the intruder and softly pushed her back to her original spot to the brunette’s right. I then smiled at the girl holding my phone.

“Well, then – you simply should have said that. That would have been more than enough to stop me in my tracks.”

She still looked embarrassed and was sheepishly handing me back my phone, seemingly resigned to letting me go on my way when I decided to change the topic.

“Ok, this wasn’t really fair – I showed you mine. Now you should show me yours. Go ahead, where’s your phone?”

The brunette laughed and began to dig through her purse. As she did I caught the eye of the bartender and ordered her another martini and placed an order for a Grey Goose up martini myself, with two olives.

She smiled at me appreciatively when I placed the order and then thrust her iPhone into my hand. I gave it a cursory once over and handed it right back.

She looked surprised, “I thought you wanted to see my phone.”

“Not really, I just wanted to talk to you. I’m Jackson.”

I extended my hand to her once again and she placed her delicate hand inside my grip.

“Hi, I’m Stephanie.”

“Pleased to meet you Stephanie. So what should we talk about now?”

She began to laugh and blushed again. Over her shoulder I could see Alex looking my way and raising his eyebrows. I was going to be detained for a while – that was clear to everyone around.

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cocaine clouds and eight balls of delerium

We followed Ike into our hotel room and Alex immediately called dibs on the shower. As I had showered that morning, all I wanted to do was throw on some jeans and a clean shirt and brush my teeth. Ike was still in the bathroom so I took my toothbrush to the kitchenette in our suite and cleaned up in there.

Alex walked into the kitchen dressed and ready for the night. At this point all we were missing was Ike. I walked over to the bathroom and knocked on the door.

“Hey buddy, you all right in there?”

I could hear Ike snorting loudly and so I assumed he was making a dent in the eight-ball and trying to rally himself. I then heard the distinct sound something chopping against a hard surface, quite likely Ike cutting up lines on the marble counter around the sink. Ike didn’t respond and so I knocked and called out to him again. He still didn’t say anything but I heard the chopping and the snorting continue so I assumed he was fine.

I cracked open a beer and walked over to the sofa where I had slept the night before. I sat down and relaxed as Alex joined me. He was staring at the lip of his Tecate somewhat vacantly and then looked up at me before taking a sip.

“What’s he doing in there?”

“I have no idea. It sounds like he is trying to finish off that entire eight-ball.”

“Glad he asked us if we wanted any.”

I looked over at Alex and laughed, “Did you really want any?”

He laughed and raised his can to me and we toasted the remainder of the day. Despite all the adventure it was only about 6 o’clock but we did have people waiting on us and so there was a slight sense of urgency to get motivated. We sat on the sofa talking bullshit for a while before I decided to check back on Ike.

I knocked, again, and I asked him if he was okay, again, and the only answer I received was the sound of snorting and chopping again. I looked back to Alex and shrugged.

“Fuck it – I think he is actually trying to finish off the coke. Christ, he still has the ecstasy taped to his balls I bet. I say let’s get out of here and meet up with Bird.”

Bird was what we called our friend Robin. For some fucked up reason his parents had named him Robin and he had gone by Bird since I gave him the nickname our freshman year at Tulane. Bird recently married his pilates instructor and they were waiting for us at some trendy spot near downtown Dallas. They had been there for a few hours and judging by the diminishing quality of their voice mails they were thoroughly enjoying the margaritas they were drinking.

When I party, I am like a shark – I keep moving. I don’t want to sit still for too long else I will get sleepy and tank. If I keep things moving then I am good for the night; it’s only in the lulls that I start to crash.

Alex looked at me and then looked back to the bathroom. He was sort of the patron saint of drunkards in our group. He looked over the boys when anyone went a step too far and, though he could tie one on himself, he would take charge and watch over the group when things started getting a little too wild. He had a solid head on his shoulders and apparently wanted to stick around and make sure Ike was going to come out alive.

I had enough faith in the cockroach-like unkillability of Ike not to worry about his survival. I had waited an additional 45 minutes for him to resurface from his cocaine bender in the bathroom and since it showed no signs of waning, I decided to move on.

I walked over to the front door of the hotel room, opened it and looked back at Alex, “You sure you want to stick around?”

He was still on the sofa drinking his beer, “Yeah, we’ll catch up in a little while.”

I shut the door, walked to the elevator and hailed a cab. My night was just beginning.

I gave the cabbie the address Bird had texted me and we wove through an upscale extension of downtown Dallas off of McKinney Boulevard. We pulled up to a large building with several restaurants and bars nestled inside it, with patios spilling out into the street and tables packed with 30-something yuppies drinking and eating.

As soon as I stepped out of the cab, I saw Bird sitting at a table near the center of the action and holding court amongst a group of six or seven people. Bird was a charismatic guy who could charm the habit off a nun if he chose, but he was mostly interested in mountain biking and making money. He was my only close friend enamored with the almighty dollar but it didn’t bleed over into some kind of obnoxious personal materialism. He just had a keen mind for business and was intrigued with the different ways he could make money.

He stood up in mid-conversation and waved to me with his right hand while still clutching a pitcher of margaritas in his left. The table turned toward me momentarily and smiled. I walked over and joined what already promised, from thirty feet away no less, to be a rowdy crowd.  The night was looking good.

Bird introduced me to the group and then insisted I take a seat next to him as more chairs were added. His fiancée, Melody, gave me a kiss on the cheek and I shook hands with the rest of his friends, most of whom were on his soccer team.

Bird poured me a margarita, handed it to me and then looked at me somewhat inquisitively, “Where are your friends?”

f@ck the dallas police

As soon as the police car behind us turned on his lights, the party in our shitty SUV rental died a quick and painless death. Ike had on his possession an eight ball of cocaine, Alex had taken a joint off of Miguel and I was operating a vehicle, mildly intoxicated, mildly high and with a suspended license due to a DUI from the previous year. This was not the moment to be having a face-to-face conversation with the Dallas police department. However, our situation was actually far more interesting than I was aware of at the time.

“Guys, guys – this is bad.”

I looked at Ike through the rear view mirror as I began to slow down and pull off to the side of the road. His eyes were red and big as Frisbees in head.

“No shit, Ike. I’m not supposed to be operating a vehicle at all. Just try to be cool.”

“Jax, fuck Jax. It’s not just that. I brought some ecstasy with me for tonight.”

This was the first I’d heard of ecstasy on this trip but it didn’t surprise me, nor did I have time to process what one more illegal substance was going to do to us as we got pulled over.

“Relax, Ike. Just be cool. Let me do the talking. If we’re really lucky then we can pull this off unscathed and if we’re just slightly lucky maybe I will be the only one to take heat for this.”

Ike said something else in the back but I didn’t make it out as I was fixated on the police car behind us that was pulling us over. At the present moment there were cars parked all along the side of the road and we couldn’t pull over so I had to wait another block or so before I could stop. While I was scanning the street for a potential spot, I heard Alex repeat something Ike had just said but the only part that really stood out was ‘intent to sell.’

I snapped back to attention, “What do you mean intent to sell?”

“Ah, man – I thought we would have a good time and I brought a few hits to share. I taped fifteen hits of ecstasy to my balls before we went through security at LAX.”

I could finally see a block up ahead where I could make a right turn and pull over but my head was now swimming with what Ike had just said. Ike had fifteen hits of ecstasy taped under his balls. If we were removed from the car and patted down then, once they discovered the ecstasy, the shit we were in was going to get a fuck ton deeper.

Alex turned to face Ike in the rear seat. “Ike are you telling me you have the E taped to your balls right now?”

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

I could see Ike in the mirror start to fidget and it looked like he was going to reach down his pants so I stopped him.

“Dude, whatever you’re doing stop. Be cool. That cop behind us is watching everything we’re doing right now. He might not search you if you don’t look like you’re trying to get rid of something.”

For the first time in our friendship Ike looked up at me helplessly. He was out of his mind at this point and the wild-eyed look I saw in the mirror screamed for assistance. I locked onto his eyes and he nodded at me. I then started to make the right turn.

At that precise moment, when we were all weighing possible futures and we were all too acutely aware of Ike’s balls and the ecstasy taped to them, another police car went screaming past our shitty SUV on the left. As it did, the one that was pulling us over took off in pursuit with it, leaving us alone on the right turn we had just made.

I kept the car moving at the slow pace, taking a deep breath and making a second right turn. I immediately decided to make two more rights and double back behind where we were originally. The car was as quiet as a funeral. Ike was staring straight ahead, a shade or two paler than he normally was and Alex was fixated on some point in the far distance, stoic as the morning we left for this trip. I had to take another couple of deep breaths and pounded my chest once to get my heart moving again.

“Fuck, guys! Fuck!”

I wasn’t the most articulate person in the world at that moment but I was the only one capable of talking and then the laughter overcame me. I began with a chuckle that rumbled into my belly and eventually poured out in bellows and tears.

Alex looked at me as if I had lost my goddamn mind and Ike was still in shock from the moment. The tears were flowing freely and I was then beating on the steering wheel.

“Fuck, that was close guys.”

I instinctively brushed more of the cocaine off my shirt in between laughs and then I caught Ike’s stare in the mirror.

“You okay back there?”

Ike only acknowledged my question with a nod.

“Good. Good – then answer me this: have you really had the ecstasy taped to your balls since we flew out yesterday morning?”

Alex began to laugh slightly and then it started to crescendo into a laugh equal to my own.  Alex doubled over and put his head on the dash of our shitty SUV rental, Ike however still looked dead to the world. With Ike lost to the zombie world, Alex and I relived the moment over and over and each time the punch lines of cocaine cloud and ecstasy on the balls forced us into peals of uncontrollable laughter.

I parked the car in the hotel garage and we made our way to our room. Alex and I were still laughing and were, overall, in very high spirits, slightly elevated from the post-game sublime perfection and wide fucking awake due to the adrenalin rush of our near police encounter. As soon as we opened the door, Ike darted toward the restroom then shut and locked the door. We were supposed to meet some old friends of mine who had recently married and so the plan was to clean up, change clothes and head out for a night on the Dallas town.

Something about the way Ike looked when he bolted for the bathroom made me wonder whether he’d recover in time to go out with us.

have 8-ball will travel

We left Ricky and Miguel in the garage and walked back over to our car. Once we were out of earshot of everyone I launched into Ike. “Ok, brother, what the fuck was that? Look, I was already a little uncomfortable with you making this transaction but to send the shit back like it was a bottle of wine in a restaurant was too much. That’s reckless, man – real reckless.”

Ike had a quick laugh at my expense and then slapped Alex on the back. “Guys, it’s cool. Luis knew he was bringing low-grade shit and we called him out on it. Everything is cool now.”

“Cool? He looked like he wanted to punch you.”

Alex swiveled toward me with a smile, “To Ike’s credit, people look at him like that all the time? Didn’t you punch him once, Jax?”

Ike busted out laughing. Sure, I had punched Ike once and had thought about doing it again a few times since. Ike has that affect on people. He smiled his casual Ike smile and told us everything was going to be fine and all we had to do was wait.

It took almost an hour and another three beers, but finally Luis returned. We all went back into the garage and Ike was handed a different brown bag, containing a different eight-ball wrapped in a different plastic baggy. While Ike went back to the table to sample his wares, Ricky broke out a blunt – maybe to ease his nerves or maybe just to calm everyone the fuck down. The booze, the grass and Luis’s less menacing demeanor this time was a far better combination for making this transaction work. Ike looked up from the table and smiled. This coke was the coke we were looking for. “Luis, this stuff is good!”

With that pronouncement there was nearly an audible sigh in the room and a fresh round of beers were opened. The blunt made its way around the circle two more times and we were good and saucy by the time we decided to make our way back to the hotel. We shook hands with the garage boys and even Luis smiled this time. We dropped all of our empties into the trash and walked back to our shitty SUV.

Ike immediately went for the backseat and Alex for the passenger side. Apparently I was the designated driver.

Here’s a little back story. A few months prior to this trip, I was pulled over by the Santa Monica police department after leaving a work party and was given a DUI. I spent an uncomfortable night in jail and about $10K later, I was on probation for a few years. I did have a suspended license and so I was not cool driving and definitely not cool doing it after all we had been doing that day. If anyone should not be drunk and high and driving, it was me. However, if anyone was going to be driving, it was going to be me. We argued about it momentarily but somehow I found myself the least intoxicated of the three of us. We were only about 12 blocks from the hotel and I decided I could probably get us there without a problem but I thought the same thing the night I got my DUI.

As we’re pulling out of the lot into traffic, I made the mistake of commenting on being drunker than I originally thought. Ike took this as a cue to put another bump of coke, a very large one, on the end of his key and offer it to me as a wake up. He should have announced his intentions though, because our arms collided, sending a shower of sparkling cocaine into the air and raining down on my shirt. I was now driving with no license in an unfamiliar city but at least I was drunk, high and covered in cocaine. Some people think marijuana makes you paranoid but that is nothing like having a lap full of cocaine and seeing a police car behind you turn on his lights.

“Guys.”

Alex and Ike were rolling in peals of laughter.

“Guys! Cop! There’s a fucking cop behind us!”

The laughter suddenly stopped.

you want drugs with that?

After a few awkward moments waiting in the hot garage bay, the guys returned and said they had made a call and our stuff would be arriving soon. They introduced themselves as Ricky and Miguel. Rick was tall, with a shaved head and a wispy black mustache. He was obviously the guy in charge and was the guy Ike first hit up about making a coke purchase. Miguel was rail thin, darker skin tone than Ricky but shared the same shaved head. Miguel couldn’t have been any older than twenty. Both of them were decked out in navy short sleeve shirts and pants. So the four of us stood there in the garage, sipping at our beers and sizing the situation up. Finally Ricky piped up with a question. “So you guys flew in for the game?”

Small talk can actually be a welcome reprieve from the tension inherent in any drug buy. Ike answered Ricky’s question by telling the entire story, from skating to my apartment so he could pitch me on the trip to the all-nighter he and Alex pulled before the flight, including the pre-flight screwdrivers he ordered for us. The story was zany enough to make Ricky and Miguel laugh, which made the whole situation a little more relaxed. Alex came looking for us in the garage with a cold six-pack in his hand and we all cracked open another beer.

From there, various stories rolled forward about other antics we had been up to in Los Angeles and Ricky regaled us with a couple of tales of mischief he and his garage buddies managed to find in Dallas. We were all enjoying the impromptu party until a very serious looking man in a white t-shirt and baggy jeans walked into the garage. He was about 6’1” , lean and muscular. His arms and neck were covered in tattoos. He could have been Ricky’s more athletic cousin, but there was a menacing quality to his posture that Ricky didn’t possess. The air immediately solidified into a nervous tension. He nodded to the guys and they welcomed him and introduced him as Luis.

Luis’s eyes narrowed at the mention of his name and he acknowledged us without a smile. He then, in Spanish, asked Ricky to join him in the office. We were left alone with Miguel in the garage. Miguel smiled nervously and made a half-hearted attempt to roll his eyes. Apparently this Luis cat was even more serious than he looked. I exchanged looks with Alex and Ike. Alex had a clear look of his concern on his mug but Ike seemed fairly casual about it all. Of the three of us, Ike had far more experience with drug buys and he also seemed to be still drifting along with the drunken buzz he had put on during the game. I did however, notice him stand up a little straighter when Ricky and Luis returned to the garage.

Ricky had a brown bag in his hand and gave it to Ike to inspect. Ike looked in it and then back at Ricky and nodded. He then turned his attention to Luis who was lurking in the background. “Luis, I would like to sample it, if that’s all right. I just want to try it out to make sure it’s what I want.”

As I mentioned, Luis’s eyes were already somewhat narrow but they squinted closer, locking his gaze onto Ike. There were a few pregnant beats before he replied. “What, man, you think I am trying to pull something over on you?”

Ike was fairly nonplussed considering the temperature in the room had just jumped up 15 degrees. “No, Luis, I don’t think you’re trying to pull anything but I never buy any drugs I don’t sample first.”

Luis looked at Ricky and Ricky seemed to shrug ever so subtly. Then Luis looked back at Ike. “Sure, try some.”

Ike opened the bag and walked over to a table at the side of the garage. He pulled out a plastic baggy that was tied in a knot. He opened the b, removed one sparkling eight-ball of cocaine, pulled his keys from his pocket and broke off a tiny piece. He used his key to crush it slightly and then pulled a credit card from his wallet to smash it, cut it and put a small bump on the end of his key. He lifted it to his nose and with a mighty snort, inhaled. He snorted again for good measure and then thumbed his nose.

He looked at me, expressionless – something I hadn’t seen on his face before, he then turned back to Luis. “Luis, this stuff is no good. It’s too cut. I wanted an eight-ball of cocaine, not whatever the fuck this is that you brought me.”

I could hear the sweat drip off my face and hit the floor. Ike was still expressionless in front of Luis and Ricky, Miguel and Alex were standing behind me. Luis looked at Ricky with disbelief and started laughing. Ricky smiled, but it was the nervous smile of a man who didn’t know what was about to happen next. He then started to say something but Luis cut him off.

“Look man, you don’t come in from out of town and try to tell me my shit is not pure. See? This is what you wanted to fucking buy so you’re fucking buying it.”

Ike didn’t seem concerned as to whether he had offended our drug dealer. I was real fucking concerned because Luis didn’t strike me as a the kind of man who had a problem dealing with problems. I wanted to grab Ike and ask him what the fuck he was doing but frankly things started happening too quickly for me to react.

“Luis, I meant no offense and perhaps I wasn’t clear enough up front. We want good shit, not the stuff you sell to frat boys at the local college. I assume that will cost more so we will pay more but this stuff is not what we want.”

Einstein theorized on the relativity of time. If you really want to see a few seconds protracted out into what feels like agonizing hours, have a drunken standoff with a drug dealer who looks like killing someone might all be in a day’s work. Luis didn’t smile outside of the laugh he gave after Ike’s first comment. He was a deadly serious guy in a deadly serious occupation. He was standing a few feet from me and was staring us down. I didn’t want the fucking coke and I sure as hell didn’t need to be in a confrontation in a garage with an angry dealer. Finally Luis made his move.

“How much you want to spend, man?”

“Whatever it takes to get a good eight ball of some quality shit. I have money and we can wait if you need to go somewhere else and get it.”

My anger aside, I was impressed with his calm demeanor. He had the casual tone of a man in a supermarket asking whether there was any more salmon in the back. Luis turned to his friends and muttered something inaudible in Spanish and then told us he would be back soon. He bolted out the back door and then I suggested joining the people who were still drinking outside in the parking lot.

game day, game on

The hangover from Friday’s revelries ached a little bit when I woke up on the sofa of our suite Saturday morning. Texas-OU weekend kicks off the Texas State Fair and the city was already starting it’s party at 7am. Despite knowing that, I was surprised to hear someone in the bathroom. Usually I’m the first one awake in our group but one of the boys beat me to the shower. Ike’s unmistakable voice was coming out of the shower, singing a Willie Nelson song.

Alex walked by right around that time, already showered and dressed in a white shirt with a burnt orange longhorn logo on the front.

“Yo dude – good morning.”

“Fuck Alex, when did you get up?”

“I’ve been up for about an hour. I ordered some coffee and Bailey’s from room service. It’s in the kitchen.”

“Anything to eat?”

“Nah, I thought we could just grab grub there.”

I stood there blinking at Alex for a moment. He showed no wear for what was now his third day of heavy drinking. He smiled at me. He actually looked fresh as a daisy. The guys seem to click into another gear when we’re on safari and clearly Alex had brought a spare liver and some extra brain for the trip.

I walked to the kitchen area, poured a coffee and cut it with Bailey’s. The day had officially begun.

On the way in from the airport the day before, we had loaded the car up with enough beer and booze to intoxicate an army of gorillas. The plan was to tailgate for a few hours before stumbling into the game. Ike actually had one more ticket so we planned to offer it to the first ticketless pretty girl we met, with the caveat that she sit next to us. We are diabolical like that.

All the local establishments around the Cotton Bowl, where the game is played, sell their available parking on game day for a king’s ransom. We found a local body repair shop with a sizable lot that let us park there for the day for a mere $40. We pulled our shitty little SUV into a spot, popped open the back and cracked our first cold beers of the day. It was going to be a good one. The guys who worked at the shop were in the garage doing a little work and hanging out. They were mostly Latino and in their twenties. We gave each of them a couple of beers and made small talk while waiting for the game to start. With our bellies empty, we filled up with beer and a few shots of whiskey.

By the time we were ready to make our way to the stadium, we were more than sufficiently lubed for any social interaction. It was about a ten-minute walk to the stadium from where we parked and we cut through the masses of people mingling for both the state fair and for the game. The air was already full of the aroma of any manner of things being fried. Supposedly the corn dog made its gloriously fried debut at the Texas State Fair. It only makes sense, as we passed long concession stands upon which they fried everything from the standard tomatoes and onion rings to Snickers bars and Oreos. Apparently, if it can be eaten it can be fried.

We stood outside the gates for a bit, trying to pawn off our ticket on desperate college girls but we were a little too drunk, a little too creepy and a little too impatient to give it a real college try. We ended up giving it to a woman working the concession stand outside the stadium and we made our drunken entrance to one of college football’s greatest rivalries.

The game was exciting but I won’t bore you with any kind of play-by-play. We never actually made it to our seats, but decided to stand on the concourse, close to where they were selling Shiner Bock beer. We had another 5-6 beers during the game and devoured some BBQ and nachos while watching Texas beat Oklahoma.

We joyously exited the stadium after the thrilling win, some of us far more hammered than others, with arms locked around each other’s necks. It was an unabashed display of male bonding, drunken male bonding at that. We felt the trip wouldn’t be complete without at least trying a corn dog and so we tracked down a proprietor of said fried treat and washed it down with more cold Shiner Bock beer.

I was dipping my dog in the pile of spicy mustard on my paper plate when Ike spoke up with some alarm in his voice.

“Holy fuck, gents, I am drunk.”

I should say he slurred most of that, versus actually speaking. I was surprised; I had never seen Ike in this state. It took a moment for it to sink in. How did he get so drunk? I thought we were right in step, other than his larger pulls from the whiskey bottle and his double-fisting brews for most of the game. He stood in front of me, slightly wobbly and his eyes glazed over with a whiskey cloud. His smile clumsily slithered about his chin. He was drunk. He was wasted. I was more than a little curious as to what would happen next.

He threw his arm around my neck and leaned into my ear and started laughing. He put his head down on my shoulder, knocking off the ballcap he had bought as a souvenir.

“Jackson. Jax – I gotta get out of here. I am unfit for human consumption. Let’s go back to the car.”

I looked over at Alex who had a grin draped over his face, his eyes chuckling with amusement. Neither of us had ever seen Ike this dismantled before.

“Ok, brother, let’s head back to the car. Can you walk?”

He laughed again and I could feel his weight pulling down a little more on my shoulder.

“Maybe. I think I need some help.”

I looked back to Alex, “How did he get this way?”

Alex just shrugged and laughed. We each put an arm around Ike and helped him back to the parking lot. For the most part he walked fine, outside of the occasional misstep. We had to weave through the thousands of vehicles trying to leave the fair grounds and while doing so, we made the decision to hang out in the lot and wait for traffic to die down.

We piled Ike into the backseat of the car, popped open the tailgate and started a fresh new round of brews. The traffic was brutal and more than a few other cars had the same idea, so we started a little tailgate party there in the parking lot. The guys working the shop joined us and we supplied with them some cold suds as well. Ike, reinvigorated by the party building around us, joined the fracas. There we were, in the Texas autumnal sun, drinking cold beer with strangers and reliving an amazing game. Soon a joint was being passed around and then a blunt. Our little gathering of twelve people was thoroughly enjoying life.

Ike then put his arm around one of the Latino guys who worked at the shop and whispered something in his ear. The guy looked surprised but then recovered and nodded to friend. The two of them headed for the garage and Ike punched me in my arm and motioned for me to follow. We walked into the garage and shut the door behind, leaving everyone else in the lot. The two Latino guys were facing us and one of them pointed to Ike, “How much do you want, man?”

Ike shrugged nonchalantly and said, “I don’t know. An eight-ball, two if you can get it.”

“You have the cash?”

“Yep.”

“Cool, I have to make a call. It will be a few minutes.”

With that, the two guys walked through another door that led from the garage into an office area and we stayed in the garage bay.

“So, Ike, you decided we needed some blow?”

“Yeah, it sounds pretty good. I just hope they don’t try and fuck us around.”

“Me too.”

It momentarily struck me that my recent scrape with the law meant I really should behave, but we were several states away from my last infraction. That shouldn’t be a problem, right?

head ’em up and move ’em out

We ended up booking an early flight for Friday morning, the day before the game. The plan was to arrive in Dallas and spend the day feeling things out and joining the revelry around town as it swelled with fan bases from both Austin and Norman. What this translated to for Ike and Alex was to meet up Thursday night for an all-night bender that would leave them sauced up for the flight into DFW. I couldn’t go out with the boys Thursday, and by couldn’t I mostly mean I refused to start the weekend with 24-hour drunkapalooza.

I told the guys I would meet them at the gate, figuring that would be the easiest way for us all to get together. They were surprisingly early and were seated, staring ahead vacantly and both sporting sunglasses at 5:30am. My arrival was acknowledged with the faintest nods of heads and a synchronized ‘yo.’ Neither of them appeared to be anything more than zombies. If this was how the trip was beginning then I had legitimate concerns as to how it would end.

Ike had his blond mop tucked up under an LA Dodgers hat with big Ray Ban wayfarers on. He looked okay to the casual observer but was not his usual effervescent self. Alex on the other hand looked like a soldier who had taken a fatal shot to the belly and was merely waiting to die. Alex was of eastern European stock, tall with dark hair and pale skin that looked a little too pasty in the early morning light. His hair was a mangled mess of blackish curls and there were tiny beads of sweat threatening to run down the side of his face. He was as stoic as a statue.

“You boys look like a hot mess. I guess operation up all night wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped?”

There were no answers coming from the peanut gallery. They were basically shut down. I took a seat beside Alex, pulled out my Kindle and read until we were asked to board. No one said a word for the full 45 minutes we were waiting.

When we sat down on the plane though, Ike suddenly came to life. Perhaps he had been hibernating during the pre-flight wait but once his ass hit the seat he began scanning the plane, craning his neck back and forth. As the rest of the passengers were storing luggage and sitting down, Ike flagged down a flight attendant, a tall thirty-something woman with a bob haircut and black glasses.

“Miss, excuse me – could we please pre-order three screwdrivers?”

The woman noticeably blanched at his request and quickly looked the three of us over. I was in the window seat and smiled sheepishly and Alex leaned forward, extended his arm and two fingers and said, “Utah, get me two.”

Ike looked at Alex and then back to the surprised attendant.

“Sorry miss, can you make that four screwdrivers? Pre-order.”

The woman stared at Ike through her black glasses and scrunched her face up slightly.

“I’m sorry sir. We don’t do pre-orders.”

Ike laughed softly and gave her his best smile, “Of course you don’t normally but if you were to do it this time we’d be very grateful. Four screwdrivers – pre-order.”

Alex had leaned back into his seat again. He was still wearing his shades. The attendant registered Ike’s request and then looked to me.

“Has he been drinking?”

I paused for a moment as I crafted my response and decided to feign ignorance, “If he has, I haven’t seen it.”

She gave me a slightly ironic looking smile. “Well, he’s now your responsibility if he starts to misbehave.”

“I’ll try to keep him in line.”

With that she seemed satisfied and was about to move down the aisle of the plane when Ike raised his hand to her with four fingers raised, “Four pre-orders, miss.”

This time she actually laughed and walked off toward the back of the plane. Ike smiled and settled himself in his seat, no longer craning his neck or looking about.

“I have never seen anyone pre-order a cocktail before, not in coach at least.”

“I’ve seen him do it several times.”

Alex was talking but nothing, including his lips, seemed to be moving.

Ike nudged Alex with his elbow. “Sometimes the flight attendants will be accommodating. Of course, what we have going against us at this point is we’re obviously intoxicated.”

Ike was smiling at me through bloodshot eyes that concealed the fine mist of drunkenness behind it. I nodded to him and sat back in my seat.

“Well, you heard the nice lady. You’re my responsibility now – so keep it together, will you?”

Ike scoffed at my request, “Please amigo, she likes us. I got $20 that says she brings our drinks.”

“I wouldn’t take that bet.”

Once again, Alex had chimed in without moving as much as a muscle. I looked over at Ike who was sporting a grin that all but dared me to take his bet, but I had already learned not to bet against the kid. There is something completely enchanted about Ike’s existence, charmed I suppose is the more common phrase. He stumbled onto a plane, barely cognizant of the world around him and lodged deep within the stupor of a post-bender fog, and orders a screwdriver the moment he sees our flight attendant. His eyes were red and puffy from a lack of sleep and he was wearing the unmistakable dishevel of a man who had spent the greater part of the night nursing a bottle. He bore every earmark of someone TSA wants to escort off their plane immediately but he marched blithely forward and within a few moments we were sitting there with three screwdrivers in front of us, pre-flight.

I was glad I hadn’t taken the bet.

The nice lady smiled at Ike but shook a playful finger at him when she placed our drinks down. It was 6am in the morning and the three of us were toasting our next adventure with vodka and orange juice. We had another round of screwdrivers before landing at DFW. I had the cool ease of an early morning buzz settling over me and Ike and Alex were brought back to life by the elixir’s magical healing properties.

We exited the plane and were making our way to ground transportation when we passed two young women in tight-fitting sweats that matched, each wearing a pound of make-up on their face. Alex looked over at me and smiled, “I guess we’re in Texas now.”

I was about to reply when another group of women in matching sweats and similarly caked on faces came giggling by. I turned and followed the gaggle of Texas beauties and recognized the star on each of their backs. We were passing the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders who were dressed in baby blue sweats and were all headed out somewhere, presumably for work. The impossible proportions of their bodies were not lost on any of us, regardless of state of sobriety. We took it as an omen that the gods were smiling favorably upon us.

We made our way to Hertz and picked up our rental. It was some sort of shitty mini-SUV that you only drive as a rental. We had a moment of arguing in which each of us made a case as to why we shouldn’t be driving. I was probably in the best shape for driving but had my own reasons for not wanting to do so. Besides, the car was in Ike’s name and it was only fitting that he should be driving.

Ike was good-hearted enough to roll with it and we were downtown and checking into our hotel within 30 minutes. The hotel was already a madhouse with swarms of crimson and burnt orange mingling about in the lobby, restaurant, bar and every floor. It was as if Austin and Norman had both completely relocated to Dallas. As we walked down the hallway to our suite, we passed dozens of empty bottles, presumably from the night before, sitting on the floor. The party had already begun and we were joining it with our pre-flights buzzes still intact.

From that point on, Friday was mostly uneventful. I mean this only to say that the drinking and the food that filled up the remainder of the day paled in comparison to the shitshow that was going to take place the next day, complete with guns, gangs and a smattering of cocaine.