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A Toast by Ray Printer Friendly

He slams the shot glass down so hard that it sounds like a firecracker. But it doesn't break. You gotta tilt it a little, you want it to break. That's not what he's thinking about right now, though, he isn't doing this for drama. He's doing it to keep us from noticing the tears.

It's the same reason he'll start about a million fights tonight, it's the same reason he'll only pick guys way bigger than him, guys who won't hesitate to break a bottle across his face or a chair over his back.

Like the bruises can camouflage emotion, like the torn flesh and running blood can cover the heartbreak.

I should have changed out of the suit, but screw it. I'll end up bloody and bruised, and maybe in jail, and if you have to go to jail, you might as go in style, right? It's a nice suit--we were at a fancy restaurant a while ago.

"Bitch," he says. "Whore," he says.

The rest of us, we say yeah, and we take our drinks and slam the shot glasses down too, like it's a thing we do or something. Like it's a thing we've always done, so it isn't noticeable that he's trying to cover up his wrecked heart.

Yeah, what's the matter with her, we ask him, and each other.

We're careful not to call her a bitch. In case they get back together, although the chances of that happening are not what you'd call good. You walk that tightrope, of being the supportive friend, but still not saying anything too bad, just in case.

He found her riding his step-dad on the toilet in the men's bathroom, though, at the rehearsal dinner. So the chances of them getting back together are, like I said, not what you'd call good. But still.

"Drinks," he says. "We need another round of drinks."

Yeah we do, we all agree.

No we don't, we all agree, but we don't say that part out loud.

He waves down the chick with the drinks, and he pays her, and tips her way too much, and I cringe because I know what's coming next. As she walks away, he slaps her on the ass.

I glance over at the door and see that the bouncer is already on his way over. He suddenly stops, and I turn just in time to see the waitress shaking her head, signaling him to let us hang out for a while. Money to be made.

I gotta pee, I tell the guys at my table, and two of the guys look at me with serious looks and tell me bring back drinks. They slide money across the table.

I nod and cut a quick glance his way, hoping that he hasn't seen. Drunk or not, he'd still know. Because when friends buy friends drink, you don't exchange money--you just get the next round or whatever. Their money is for something different.

It takes me a minute to find her, she's pushing her way through a crowd of college guys, and they're whooping and making all kinds of jokes and she smiles, playing along, but you can tell she isn't playing along. The smile is like a uniform, something you wear for work, you do what you have to for that paycheck, right?

Hey, I call to her, hey there. Her smile falters a little as she recognizes me, I don't know what she expects from me, but it's probably nothing good. Thinks I'm some grimy asshole who figures it's okay to slap her on the ass. The kind of guy who calls her honey as she drops off the drinks and asks her what time she gets off work.

My friend, I tell her, he didn't mean it.

Sure, she says, and starts to turn.

Hang on a second. Just wait. I'm serious. I could tell you the story, if you want, or I could just give you this money and tell you not to call off the bouncer next time.

She looks at the money. You don't like your friend very much, she says.

He's my best friend in the world.

I glance back and see him looking at me.

Shit. Okay, I'm gonna need another round, too--he just spotted me.

She looks at the bills in my hand for another second. There are a lot of bills--what we would spend if we stayed here for the night instead of getting beat by the bouncers and thrown out. Then she looks up at me.

I'm gonna need the story, she says.

He didn't slap you on the ass because he's a drunk dirty pervert. He slapped you on the ass so the bouncer would fight. He found his bride-to-be screwing his step dad on the toilet half an hour ago, the night before the wedding.

So, what? He needs to work out aggression?

It's more than that. It's a guy thing.

If one bouncer starts on him, the others are gonna join in.

I know.

They'll start in on you guys, too. You and your friends.

I know. If it's not here, it'll be somewhere. The bouncers here are professionals, though. They'll mess us up, but nothing irreparable. That's why we brought him here. That's why I would like it if you would take this money, bring another round, and then let the bouncers go nuts.

You're gonna get your ass handed to you.

I know.

Even if you don't fight back.

I'll fight back.

That'll be worse for you.

Yep. But more convincing.

You married?

What? No.

She takes one of the bills, writes her number down on it and hands it back. Next round is on the house, she says.

I drop the rest of the money onto her drink tray, tuck the bill into my pocket, and return to my table.

When she brings the next round, he tries to feel her up, and you can tell that he feels totally disgusting about it, but we all cheer him on anyway, after she slaps him in the face.

"To friendship!" he yells, and we all yell with him, to friendship, and we slam our shot glasses down just before the bouncers arrive.

posted 10/05/09

Entered By Anonymous From Unknown
2009-10-05 02:56:40

Yeah....I get this.

Entered By Anonymous Ricky From Right Here
2009-11-17 21:35:06

Awesome work, old pal.

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