The house has a thick atmosphere of booze, not in the miserable, pathetic way of a drunk contemplating suicide, but rather that of a celebration. In case there was any misunderstanding, there is also music playing so loud that you can barely hear all the drunk people celebrating.
Shouts and introductions and hugs and shoulder-claps, the room is a barrage of enthusiastic welcome and good cheer. A large glass is handed my way, followed by an enormous bottle of gin.
“You’re drinking gin, right?”
I pour out a measure of gin. “That’s it? Pussy.” I fill the glass a little over halfway, not looking forward to the brain-puke feeling of shitty that I’ll have tomorrow, but anticipating the drunken shenanigans of tonight.
“I thought you had to pick people up at the airport?” I say/ask. He had mentioned it on the phone earlier.
“Yeah. Somebody does.”
The flight comes in at two in the morning. The only sober people in the house are me, my princess, and the pregnant lady who isn’t allowed alcohol.
“Not me,” she says.
Fuck. Friends of friends. I put the glass down on the counter in the kitchen. He’ll end up going to the airport, or trying to. Three hours isn’t enough time to sober up from the place he’s currently residing.
Oh, well. Being sober at a party isn’t so bad, right?
The car smells like fried things and booze. Fried things because my princess and I stopped at Long John Silvers on the way here, booze because it’s coming from the guy in the passenger seat in waves. From his mouth, his nose, his pores, probably even his eyes. You test his blood alcohol level right now, it’d probably be like one of those thermometers in the cartoons, where the red shoots right to the top and then shatters the bulb and keeps going.
Ft. Worth. What a shitty place to drive. I have no idea where I’m going. He has Google Maps on his phone, but his attention span lasts only long enough for him to pull out his phone and turn it on. Then he forgets why he has it out, puts it away, and we’re still guessing about where the hell we’re going.
Music cranked up so loud that conversation isn’t an option, same song, over and over and over again.
Every time he points at an exit, his drunken-rowdy arm waves back and forth, like windshield wipers set on screw-you. Pick your direction, pick your option, what’s behind exit number one? We somehow manage to make it to the airport—DFW, an airport so big and confusing that it might as well be called Ft. Worth.
Or maybe it makes perfect sense, and it just seems confusing because it’s two in the morning, it’s dark, and there’s a drunk guy shouting directions and insults at me from the passenger seat.
We get our parking ticket stub from the little machine that raises the gate, and then we’re up in the passenger pickup zone.
“Wait here—I’ma go check to make sure their flight’s on time. And get cigarettes. We should smoke cigarettes.”
Several minutes later, he comes back, the remains of a cigarette in his hand.
“Flight isn’t here yet. I bummed a smoke from these two teachers. We talked for a while, but I finally managed to creep them out. They decided they’d rather sit inside the terminal and not smoke instead of talk to me any more.”
“You should have a shot. You deserve one. Settle your nerves.” He tries to hand me the flask full of vodka he poured before leaving the house.
“When we get back home. You better stay awake until then, you bastard. You pass out before you get a chance to drink with me, bad things are going to happen to you while you’re asleep.”
He’s off again, and when he returns this time, he has two people in tow. We load their bags into the trunk, situating them around the hula hoop that was in the back seat for some strange reason.
Once inside the car, he’s immediately pouring shots for everyone.
“Can that wait for a second?” I ask. “You know, just until we get away from the front of the airport that’s, you know, crawling with cops?”
“It’s only illegal if you have an open container in the car, or if anyone’s drinking in the vehicle,” he says, pouring a shot down his throat as we pass by a police car.
“You’re an asshole.”
After much confused driving around—“Where the hell am I going?” “Just follow the fuckin’ signs!” “Follow them to where?” “To the exit!” “None of them say exit, you dick!”—we finally end up at the second little booth. This is the one that lets us out.
“Can you put that booze away for just a second, while I give my parking stub to the lady? Shit.”
“I can’t find the ticket.”
“You lost the ticket?”
“I don’t know—I put it right here in the console. Shit.”
“You don’t have that stub, they charge you like, forty bucks.”
“I had it right here. I have to turn on the light.”
I pull up to the booth. The little old lady inside the booth asks me for my ticket.
“Give me one second, please,” I tell her, searching frantically for the ticket. Losing the parking ticket is bad enough, but it’s even worse when you have an uncontrollable drunk guy in the seat next to you. It’s like lighting the fuse on a piece of dynamite and then running around with your eyes closed hoping that someone will tell you where to throw it before it explodes.
“You lost your ticket?” The lady asks from the booth.
“We’ve just been here for, like, an hour,” he says from the seat next to me. “We were just picking up friends—that’s them in the backseat. Wave, you guys.”
I glance over at him, hoping that he isn’t about to get us all locked up. The guy in the backseat is waving a twenty dollar bill around, I assume that he’s offering to pay for parking.
“Just give me a dollar,” the little old lady says from the booth.
“Thank you so much,” I tell her, genuinely grateful. She probably hates dealing with the late-night freaks at the airport as much as I hate being one. I grab a dollar from the visor pocket and hand it to her with my friendliest smile—which, believe it or not, can be pretty freakin’ friendly.
“No problem,” she says. “You all have a good ni-”
“FUCK YOU, MOTHERFUCKER!” The yell comes from the seat beside me, but I dare not look over to see what’s happening. Even if I wanted to, I doubt I could pull my eyes away from the horrified look on the old lady’s face. The sweet old lady who just helped us out after we lost our ticket.
“STUFF THAT MOTHERFUCKIN’ SHIT IN YOUR MOTHERFUCKIN’ PANTS, YOU FUCK!”
I don’t waste any time apologizing to the old lady, or trying to figure out why my passenger is suddenly screaming fuck you at her. I slam the car into gear and take off. Moments later, I realize that my friend in the passenger seat was not talking to the old lady, but rather to the guy in the back—the guy trying to pass money into the front seat.
No one else in the car even realizes what just happened—they’re already carrying on conversation as if we didn’t just curse out a friendly old lady who just helped us out. I wait for my drunken friend to take a breath and then call him a dumbass.
This is where the story should end. Hell, why not?
“Thanks for choosing that exact moment to start screaming ‘fuck you,’ you jackass. Right as the friendly old lady is telling us to have a good night. Right as I’m smiling at her and she’s smiling back at me. And thanks for being so lazy that instead of turning to face the back seat, you turn just enough so that it looks like you’re screaming into her face. Dumbass.”
That’s where the story should end, but that’s not where it does end. Because we still had a trip home, right? Me driving on foreign roads, my drunken friend making sarcastic remarks each time I ask for directions.
“Get on 35!”
“There is no 35.”
“We came in on 121. Right here, there’s 183 and there’s 360.”
“Congratulations! You can read three numbers in a row!” And then he’s off and talking about some other weird drunken bullshit.
By some miracle, we make it home. His home, where this story will conclude.
But before that conclusion, I must make an interjection: While writing this, I noticed that my friend, my passenger, might seem kind of like a cock. This is not the case. He’s a noisy drunk, obnoxious sometimes, but even on our journey to and from the airport, we were trading insults, jokes, and inventive new curse words. We were talking shit the way friends do. Without knowing him, or without more details than I am willing to give, it seems like I was stuck with this task, and accompanied by an asshole. Again, not the case.
If it could be counted as a favor, it was a favor I gladly carried out. And although the guy probably is an asshole…well, watch any porno movie, and you’ll see that assholes can be a lot of fun.
The only part of the night that truly disappointed me was when we arrived back at home. I sat down, ready to get my drink on. Sure, it was four in the morning, and sure, I wouldn’t be able to get blitzed and be crazy. But some wacky conversation over a short glass of bourbon before calling it a night, that’s not too much to ask, right?
It was—our newly-arrived guests were ready for bed. And because they were sleeping in the living room, it meant my friend and I were also going to bed.
In retrospect, it was probably for the best. My friend, my passenger, he needed his rest, and another drink might have been the one that pushed him into worthlessness the next day.
I wish we could have drank together that night. But as I stood beside him the next day, I was glad that I hadn’t. Sometimes, it’s better to just stand by and watch the action, the adventure, the madness.
And when it all works out beautifully, you just smile, and go, “I’m totally writing about that.”
(The next day, I found the ticket right where I had been looking the night before.)