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.