I hear the music before I open the door to the building. Shit.
"Hey!" he yells from his bedroom.
"No, dude. I can't. I have work tomorrow."
"Just come in and have pre-club drinks, then!"
I have to give him some credit—he's learning.
After eleven at night, and I just got home from work. Between working shitty retail shifts and then relying on the train, getting home at a decent hour is out of the question. I know that it’ll be two in the morning before I go to bed—it always is—and that’s not including what time I spend hanging out with the two of them before they go out clubbing.
He doesn’t ask me to go out with them, anymore. He tried. Holy shit, did he try. Everything from badgering to promising a good time to challenging my manhood to challenging my womanhood. For example, not only did I not have a dick if I didn’t go out, I didn’t even have a clean vagina. Because that’s what I was going to stay home and wash, apparently.
None of that worked.
But the pre-club drinks, those were usually the death of me.
Because you get a few drinks in me, I’ll start believing you when you tell me it’ll be fine, we’ll just go out for a couple hours, we’ll be back by four, and that’s more than enough time to get all the rest I’ll need.
“I’m not going,” I yell back to him as I strip down from my work clothes and pull on a pair of lounge pants and a comfortable t-shirt.
“I know you aren’t, motherfucker! Doesn’t mean you can’t be sociable, does it?”
I walk back to his room, sit down on the floor, and pull an ashtray close. I light a cigarette as he pours some whiskey into a glass and shoves it my way. “Drink up, ya home-stayin’ sumbitch!”
He still has his glasses on, and I don’t know how I feel about that. If he already has his contact lenses in, it means they’re about to head out. Which means I can have a couple of drinks with them and send them on their way. Still in his glasses means they might have enough time to break me down before they leave.
They both look nice. Not nice in a proper way. Nice in a sexy, the-sun-is-gone kind of way, and I’m once again amazed at how these people I’ve known for years transform when they prepare for the night.
“How was work?”
“Fuckin’ work.” I take a deep drag, and a deep drink. Feels good. The music is behind me, thumping into my back, rattling me. Between the bass and the booze, I feel like the tension is being massaged out of me.
“You should come out with us,” she says. “You’d have fun.”
“Yeah, right up until I had to wake up and go to work tomorrow.”
“We really aren’t planning on staying out that late.”
“I’m not going.”
I have to piss already and this surprises me not at all. Always happens. Soon as I get on the train, I gotta pee.
“I gotta pee,” I tell them, doing my best to be subtle about it.
Several of the other passengers glance my way and then look away. Apparently, not very subtle. Nobody really gives a shit about your behavior here, but they don’t want you pissing all over them. Even drunk, I’m self conscious. Even in a city this size, filled with people who don’t give shit one. I’m from a small town, where if you go outside acting like an ass, your mom knows about it within ten minutes. I’m gradually losing my inhibitions, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.
I find myself thinking of Lord of the Flies a lot.
“Nice wallet,” she says. The lady at the door. In case you’re wondering, she’s not sincere. “Did it come with the shirt?”
“Kind of,” I tell her, because I can’t think of anything else to say. Anything witty.
The shirt, it has the big-ass Superman symbol on it, and my wallet has a sticker of the same. I made them when I worked at a print shop back home. The shirt transfer and the sticker. I never paid much attention before. Nobody ever looked at my wallet.
I walk up the stairs, slightly embarrassed, and head to the bar. Because I’m at a club now, and if I’m getting embarrassed about my wallet, I’m sure as hell gonna need some more booze before I’m comfortable with dancing.
Good thing I peed before we got here. Some dark spot on the street. Not one of my more civilized moments, but these nights never are.
Knocking back shots that are way too expensive on my retail-job salary, but what the hell—this is a rare thing. I generally stay at home, either nursing a jug of cheap rum and playing a video game, or hunched over a laptop, writing and chain-smoking.
They’re somewhere in here, but I don’t know where, so there’s no one to huddle against the wall with. They never huddle against the wall, anyway.
Drain my cup and move to the floor, trying not to step on anyone, trip anyone. I see her right away—the fat girl in red latex. She’s here every weekend, from what I understand. We don’t ever really dance with each other, but sometimes we end up thrashing around beside each other, and she’s always nice when I stumble into her. I give her a wave and she gives me a nod, and I’m off into the mix.
I don’t come here often enough to be recognized, but I’m pretty sure the fat girl recognizes me. I’m not sure how I want to interpret that, so I just ignore it. Focus on the music, lose myself.
It’s cliché as hell, but it’s how it happens. You just do your thing, let the world fall away, and next thing you know, it’s hours later, you’re so dehydrated that you feel like puking, and you stagger out into the stairwell and see your friends already there.
I’m clutching a bottle of water that I paid six dollars for. Actually, I only paid four—I was two bucks short. Lucky for me, I was two bucks short because I was tipping so heavy all through the night, so the bartender told me just take it. Slightly humiliating, but not much time to think about it, really.
Thinking about smoking.
The stairwell’s where I shine. And by shine, I mean that it’s where I make the biggest ass out of myself. There are stories, but I don’t remember any of them. When the stories happen, that’s when I’ve crossed that line.
I know there’s something about hitting on a girl wearing angel wings. I know there’s a story about lecturing a woman about leaving her children at home, and a story about getting so worked up that I dump my drink over the handrail, onto the people sitting on the stairs below.
Stories, but none I remember. I sit down beside them, not paying attention to what I’m sitting in or on, which is probably for the best.
“How’s it going?” I ask my friends, but I’m too drunk to listen to their response. I light a cigarette, and it makes me feel like puking, but I don’t care.
Right now, I’m in love with life.
Because this is not me. Sometimes I wish it was, but it really isn’t. This kind of life, I don’t handle it well.
Sure is fun, though.
On the bridge. He always says it right when we get in the cab, so that this is how you see it. And he has tried to explain it to me, so that I can say it right, too, but I never do. We’re above the world, and the city is stretched out in front of us like a magazine centerfold full of promise.
Fuck, man, you can do anything in this town. You can do anything, be anything. It’s all right here for the taking, if you’re lucky enough and brave enough.
That’s how it feels when you see it all lit up and stretched out like that.
The dream, baby, you’re living it.
“I think I’m going to throw up,” she says from between us.
“No puke in my cab!” the driver yells.
Yep. The dream.
Unbelievable. I stare at the clock and tell it to quit bullshitting. No way can I still be this drunk. No way is it time to wake up. To go to work.
What the hell was I thinking? Shit!
I hit the shower, and spend the time debating whether or not I should force myself to puke. Sure, it’ll suck, but it might make me feel better at work.
Out of the shower, dressed, choking down some bread and a cup of instant coffee.
He stumbles out in his boxers, a glass of warm, stale water in hand.
“That was a good time, right?”
I have to concede. “Yeah.”
“You can’t be livin’ in this city and lettin’ life pass you completely by,” he says. He lights a cigarette. I light one, too, and immediately realize that it was a huge mistake.
Still, though, I take a few drags, just to make sure.
“Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’,” he says. This is the movie line he quotes the most, right after, “Express elevator to hell…going down!”
“Yep,” I tell him. “I’m gonna go puke.”
“Good luck—I just took a huge shit.”
Note: The above probably isn’t 100% accurate. I wrote it using notes I had taken at the time and memories I have of the time. Neither one of these things are all that reliable, really. But whatever, right?