Rain. Of course it’s going to start raining. I mean, seriously, how could it possibly not rain at this point?
I try to hike my jacket up over my head, cringe as I hear one of the elbows rip. Perfect. Small consolation: it was probably already ripped. Smaller consolation: this entire jacket is probably already ruined.
Those fucks. Fuckin’ jerks. Everybody’s tough when they have six of their friends standing around behind them, ready to jump in at any moment.
Lousy city, can’t even get a drink in peace.
Like, I was just getting off work, right? Figure I’ll drop down to this bar that’s close, sometimes I go there to get a drink, and I notice that girl Cindy from work goes down there sometimes, too. She’s pretty, and she seems nice enough. I don’t know if she’s seeing anyone—don’t really know anything about her, really. Figure I’ll drop in, maybe get a drink, see if she’s there.
If I see her, I decide that this time is for sure the time when I go talk to her. It’s not that hard—I talk to her quite a bit at work. She smiles at me more than she has to, maybe she’s interested, I don’t know. Only one way to find out, that’s what I’m thinking as I head down to the bar.
It’s just a short walk, and the air has cooled down for the first time in what seems like months. I’ll take that as a good sign, it’s the perfect temperature for an evening walk, and maybe if Cindy’s interested later, we could do that.
And then I’m in the bar, and she isn’t, and I get my drink anyways, mostly just to tell myself that I was actually coming down here for a drink, not because I wanted to hit on some girl from work. Just a beer—no reason to get all fancy about things, and with drinks costing what they do these days, I’m kind of kicking myself in the ass for even getting this. I sip it slowly, soaking up the atmosphere, looking around, but not looking around for her.
But of course that’s what I was looking around for, and I think everyone in the bar knew I was looking just as much as I did. They didn’t know for who, maybe, but they knew I was looking, and as much as I tried to hide it, they knew I was disappointed when that someone didn’t show.
I finish my beer, I grab my jacket, I start heading out, and as I push open the door, there she is.
“Oh, hey,” I go, probably sounding more excited than I should. “Fancy meeting you here.” It’s a stupid line, and I can only blame myself. I should have had a better line prepared. And I shouldn’t spend so much time watching shitty movies where they’re all, “Fancy meeting you here.”
It’s cool, though—she doesn’t even seem to pick up on the fact that I’m a complete jackass. She just smiles real big and goes, “Oh, are you leaving already?”
“I was on my way out,” I go, and then whisper like it’s a real important secret, “This place is dead.”
She laughs at my terrible humor. “You should stick around. Some friends of mine are supposed to be here pretty soon, we could have a couple drinks.”
“Yeah.” She seems like she means it.
I don’t do well with meeting new people, though. Get too nervous, laugh too much, make myself look stupider than usual. “Tell you what—how about I keep you company until they get here?”
“That would be awesome—I hate waiting around by myself. Guys always trying to hit on you and stuff.”
We start walking to the table, and I go, “Oh, yeah, I hate it when strange men try to pick me up in bars.”
She laughs again. “You know what I mean.”
I laugh along with her, then ask her what she would like to drink. Appletini, whatever the hell that is. Easy enough to remember, and I pass her order on to the bartender and get a Scotch on the rocks for myself.
I don’t really like Scotch, but it sounds like a tough guy drink, and I’ve practiced drinking it without making a face. I know it’s dumb, but in this city, looks are the only thing that get your foot in the door, you know?
It’s too busy, there are too many people. You can’t just sit around and talk about your good points with everyone you’re interested in. You’ve got to give them a reason to ask about your “finer qualities” to begin with. After that, you can work on a relationship, dating and whatever, but in a city where you pass thousands of people a day, the quickest way to make a good impression is by looking good.
I’m not the toughest guy around, though—in fact, I’ve been described as “a little geeky”—so I have to do other things to look rough. Scotch on the rocks is one of those things.
I take our drinks back to the table, and we sit around talking for about thirty minutes before her phone rings. It’s her friends, saying they’re gonna be about thirty minutes or so late.
She’s kind of irked, and I play along, but I’m pretty happy about it. I’m not sure who all is supposed to show up, but I’ve figured out from the conversation that it’s going to be a mixed crowd. “Crowd” being the objectionable word here.
We get more drinks, and by the time her friends call again, I don’t even mind. Neither does she. She’s giggly and happy as she tells them where we’re at.
“Where are you?” She asks. “I don’t see you. You see me? Where are you?” She stands up, turns around real slow, all wobbly. “Oh, I see you! Hi! Hi! Come over here!”
I don’t even know I’m smiling right along with her until I turn to see who she’s waving at, and the smile just falls off my dopey face. It’s like the varsity football team from my high school just walked into the bar. Big, dumb-looking jocks, so huge that they make the door to the place look tiny. And they brought their cheerleader girlfriends, every one of them looking they just walked out of a playset or something.
And then they’re at the table, laughing, joking with her, hugging her, stealing away her attention. It takes her forever to remember to introduce me, and when she finally does, nobody cares.
I know that I should just excuse myself and leave, but I can’t bring myself to do it. We were having such a good time—I mean, we were really getting along, you know? This could be my one chance to make an impression, and I don’t want to screw it up by running away as soon as her friends show up.
One of the giants goes, “Well, it was nice meeting you.” He’s all, “Maybe we’ll see you around sometime.”
I stand up, start to grab my jacket, and remember I hadn’t said anything to them about leaving. It’s an easy way out, but I’m not down with it. I smile real big and go, “I’m not leaving, man, I was just going to get more drinks. What’re you guys drinking?”
I look at her, trying to figure out if I’m wearing out my welcome. Maybe I was supposed to leave once they got here. I mean, she never came out and told me to stick around, but we were having a good time, and I thought that it was implied that she wanted me to hang out with her and her friends a little bit At one point, she came right and said that she couldn’t wait for me to meet them. “You’ll like them so much,” she told me.
I don’t think I’m too out of line making myself part of their plans, but I want to make sure, and since she’s the first one to throw out another drink order, I feel like I’m good.
I buy the round of drinks, and even through my buzz, I realize that this is a bad idea. I’m not poor, I don’t guess, but buying a table full of drinks can really take a hunk out of your paycheck. I drop the cash on the bar, and I realize that I’ll have to bow out if no one else offers to buy drinks—I’m down to my last ten bucks.
Generally, someone else will offer to help carry the drinks back, but no one comes along, so I end up making a couple of trips to get everyone their drinks. By the time I get back, there’s a super-lively conversation going on about something I don’t know anything about, so I just sit there sipping my drink with a stupid smile on my face.
Her friends all finish their drinks at pretty much the same time, and when one of the guys starts asking everyone what they’re having, he skips over me. I take the hint, and tell Cindy that it’s time for me to be going.
She does that drunk pleading thing where she’s all, no don’t go, we were having so much fun, and I smile and go, yeah, all kinds of fun, and we’ll for sure have to do this again sometime.
It’s all fine and good, everyone’s telling me nice to meet me, and I’m telling them that it was nice to meet, them, too, and we’re all lying because that’s what you do, and we’re really politing each other’s asses off. And then one guy has to be a dick and go, “Gotta get back to your boyfriend?”
He tried to make it sound like a joke, but everyone at the table knew that he wasn’t being playful about it, just like they knew I wasn’t being playful when I shot back, “Does your mom know you call her my boyfriend?”
And alls the sudden we’re out on the street, and this guy’s slamming me against a brick wall, talking about how what’s up now, mother fucker. And because I’m an idiot, I remark about the words he has chosen, which results in more wall-slamming.
I’m not a complete nerd—I spend a lot of time in the gym, you know? So I ask him, does he really want to get into this. And then I hear someone yell stop it, and I look over and see Cindy. And believe it or not, she’s not even the important part of what I see. What I see is Cindy standing there, surrounded by her group friends, lots of big-ass ex-jocks that really miss the adrenaline of knocking someone out on the football field.
I see so many faces that want to hurt me. What am I supposed to do?
I know that if I start with this guy, the others are going to finish with me. I see that she wants me to stand up to them, but I wonder if she knows it means that I’ll get my ass beat down.
I see her face fall, like she suddenly realized her knight had pissed himself and passed out inside his armor.
I go, “Look, I didn’t mean anything by it, I was just joking around, you know?”
And he’s all, “Well you should be more careful about how you joke.”
I go, “I should. I really should.” No reason to beat my ass, no reason at all. But just in case: “I apologize, man—I didn’t mean to offend you.”
That’s when one of the other guys goes, “He even talks like a gay-boy.”
I don’t even say anything.
“Yeah, well you better watch your ass next time,” he goes. Everybody’s tough when they have six of their friends standing around behind them, ready to jump in at any moment.
And then he throws me down into the gutter. It’s not very hard to throw a drunk guy. This guy, what he’s doing is like he’s picking on a handicapped kid. I can hardly see straight, my motor skills are shot to shit, and I have no balance. Takes a big man to toss around someone like that.
I look up at her from the gutter, and she looks embarrassed. I don’t know if it’s because of the way her friends are acting or because of the way I’m acting. She turns away, kind of crying.
All her girlfriends gather around her. All her guy friends stare down at me until I climb to my feet and walk away.
So of course it has to start raining, right?
I’m walking home after a night of utter humiliation, could there be anything better? A ripped jacket, a ruined jacket, because some asshole has to throw me down in the gutter, I don’t even know why I bother to try to duck from the rain.
And then I see him, and I don’t know what to think at first. He’s staggering around drunk, and I wonder how he managed to get lost in the same neighborhood as me, but then I realize that I have no idea where I am—I’ve been roaming around for hours, brooding.
Everybody’s tough when they have six of their friends standing around behind them, ready to jump in at any moment. Nobody’s tough when they get caught off-guard, drunk out of their mind.
He screams like a little girl when I tackle him from behind. I don’t even feel a little bad. I roll him over, I just start punching.
I’m yelling shit, shit like “Where are your friends now?” and “Not so tough now, are you?”
And I can’t stop hitting him. I mean, I can’t stop hitting him. I feel my fists hammering into the kind of bodily shit that they shouldn’t be hammering into, I realize that this has gone beyond just punching a guy. This isn’t a broken nose or even a cracked skull. This is…well, this is destruction.
When I’m done there’s goo all over my hands, and dark clumps dripping from my fingers that I don’t even want to think about what they are. He’s twitching: mostly just his feet, but once in a while his hands do it, too.
And that’s when I see that his shirt is blue. I really thought he was wearing a yellow shirt. And I can’t quite remember, but I think the guy, the guy that was slamming me into the wall, I think he was wearing sneakers, not boots. This guy, this dead guy, this guy I just killed, he’s wearing boots.
I can’t think straight, but I figure the best thing to do is just get the hell outta here. Start new tomorrow.