Long-necks to Swallow: A Day in the Life of a Busboy
Walking into work, which would have been my fifth day in a row working 5:00 PM until 3 in the morning, and I head straight for the restrooms. My office is in much need of toilet paper, liquid soaps, and paper towels. Which is some annoying whatchamacallit since the boss had installed (I really installed them, but no one gives credit to the bus boy) these new paper towel dispensers that evidently require the use of much smaller paper towel rolls – more going in and out of that sauna-like cave.
Anyhow, I was just about to leave the restroom after my duties when a man taking a piss at one of the two undivided urinals flushes the toilet and dipped straight through the door.
Without a second thought, walking through the door, I groan, rolling my eyes. “You’re not gonna wash your hands?”
“ No,” he says with a drunken stutter.
I walk from behind him onto the restaurant side of the bar. “That’s pretty nasty.”
A few months back I had started taking these pills for my anxiety to better combat the crowds that would form at work and just as soon as I had swallowed my first prescription I learned that the filter in my cerebellum had moved out, taking residence elsewhere, so I immediately halted taking anymore. Unfortunately, it is now months later and I have yet to revert to my kinder, gentler, quieter self. The anxiety is there, albeit somewhat cured when speaking in public. Inside, though, I’ll be echoing screams and panicky nonsense, while outside I’m chillin’.
So I go about my prep work for what I hope will take at least an hour. Prepping includes emptying and setting trash cans at the bar, carrying the bar three or more buckets of ice for drinks, restocking the beer and kegs in the cooler, sweeping, dusting, bus tub placements, the ice in the kitchen needs filling too, and in the ungodly humidity of Texas, breaking down boxes outside of the building.
Twenty whole minutes later – with nothing else to do – I say hi to the first server in uniform that I run into. “Hello, Ricky.” I think she added new extensions to her hair.
“ Okay,” she said. “Now you say hi.” She gives me a quick jab to the stomach. She once told me that she liked touching my skinny kid ab muscles. “Well?”
“Well, what?” I push her slightly, she acts as though a rock slide pulled her down with it.
She suavely glided against the wall, coming back to reality. “You’re not gonna say anything about my hair?”
“Oh! I didn’t notice. Looks nice.” I did notice her boyfriend storming off through the front door. He’s a pretty cool guy, if I remember correctly.
“You jerk!” She wrestles with me for a moment until a bartender walks near us. We then stop. She whispers, “I’ll be saving you for later.” She leaves the POS stand to attend her one table.
Jack the bartender throws himself into my face with a humorous scowl. “Did you hookup with her, wey?” He already knows the answer, which, in my defense, I was drunk as hell. Jack grunts as I try my very best to mask my grin. He puts out his hand for dap and walks away laughing. “You’re awesome, bro.” My reputation is bigger than the facts. I’m not exactly helping the matter any.
Also working today was this older Mexican lady. Well, most of the staff is of various Spanish descent, but we all call her the Mexican Lady because she doesn’t speak a lick of English. The boss made her the co-head server to irritate the other head server, a white woman named Kate.
I know this juiciness because I partied with the boss one night and that man cannot drink without talking miles of shit about the staff, especially Kate and the older woman (her name is Michelle – pronounced like me and shell).
Kate is working cocktail at the bar side today and I promise you that she’ll have some long story to tell me about her life. But first I run into Jack again. “Hey, bro,” he says. “I’m growing my beard again.”
“Cool. How long?”
“I don’t know. For a while.”
“I’ll do it with you, bro. Support and whatnot.” I already have a slight reddish-brown Abe Lincoln beard across my jawline anyway to go along with my aged Gerber baby look. Jack looks like a giant monster baby. He’s bald, filled with jagged teeth, and a gray and black beard. Bad muthafucker, if I ever knew one. I look over at Kate while Jack is speaking still, she waves me over with her finger, guiding my spirit into an obsequious scent of tobacco and whiskey. “Be right back, Jack.” I walk over to the window connecting the bar and restaurant side for serving drinks and food. “What’s up, girl?”
“Did I tell you what happened?”
“No.” I should have said yes and winged it.
“Well, she was late again.”
“You know who.” Kate won’t say her name. It’s Megan, a pretty girl with the insides of a man, as many have told her, meaning she knows how to use herself to get what she wants.
“This is her fourth time being late with no excuse and I can’t say anything because of our past.”
“Did you hear her excuse for why she didn’t show up for our meeting?” There was a meeting this morning requiring the attendance of the entire front staff, which sucked if you worked last night and were schedule for the following night as well.
“Nah, what was it.”
“She had a school thing.” Kate licked her teeth.
“Wasn’t it Saturday?”
“Yep. Fuckin’ skank bitch.”
I laugh and try to act like I have more laborious circling of the bar to do. I just had to escape. It would have went on for no joke an hour or more if I stayed.
Hours pass with barely two handfuls of people filling the seats. A regular whom I’ve never partied with off the clock pulls me over to the side. We dap, slapping and bumping our palms and fists, respectively.
“Oh,” I say with surprise at what he just handed me.
“Hey, buddy. Hard workin’ fool over here.” I think he said, with his tequila smelling saliva and sawed-off teeth. Cool guy, surrounded by his buddies.
“Yo, bro.” I say. “You sure?” Setting a lightweight plastic in my front pocket.
“I owe ya.”
“You don’t owe me a thing. Get outta here.”
“Thanks.” I counterclockwise set around the bar, picking up a few glasses and plates that the servers were unable to do themselves. Doing their makeup takes a lot of time and care. I put the glasses at the bar window. I then find myself within my office, entering an unlocked stall. I lock it as I stand within. I pull out whatever the gift may be. Turns out it’s a ten, maybe a fifteen of coke. This guy tends to have good stuff too – I mean, he’s always on it. I hesitate. What to do. Nike check marks were printed across the little bitty baggy. “Just do it,” I say.
Obeying the incantation, I take a quick bump with my key from my chain filled with mostly bottle openers. Straight to the brain. I use my sniffles and tilt my head back to get it all down. I land in front of the restroom mirror to find my nose sugarless. “Here we go, back to work.”
I got here at 5:00 and now it’s 11:30 PM. The fifteen Ziploc is now a nine if I had to guess.
Good shit, plus I’m addicted to the free energy drinks from the soda gun. Drinking that and the white don’t exactly mix well, so this white boy is sticking to his whiteness from then on. My heart is racing.
On the restaurant side, where the DJ had set up his equipment an hour ago for Thursday karaoke night, Michelle runs into me.
“Hi, Tristan.” That’s me. She pronounces it like tree with the second syllable rhyming with con. Her first words sent my way all day, likely the last.
Standing at the front host stand amidst all of the drunken peer pressure and horrible rendition of over played pop songs is a short and wide man with a lawn mower baldness atop his frame. This is Mr. Lazarath, one of the three owners. Well, I give him the ol’ fist bump, expecting to be on my way. He’s not exactly a hands on owner or anything.
“Is it too hot in here?”
I spin around. “A little.” I’m ball sweat hot up in here.
“Turn the A/C up.”
“I honestly don’t know how to do that, sir. Plus I’ve always been told not to touch it.” Being from Illinois before moving to Texas, refreshing to me is ice-cold to these valley folk.
He shot straight through me, bumping my side. He finds Bob, the assistant manager. This guy has worked here almost as long as I have unless you count the period he left to work at a steakhouse. They offered him the assistant job after the last guy was fired for sexual assault. Tonight he’s both managing and bartending, so I’m expected to pick up some of his slack. I bet he got chewed out for the temperature and some ridiculousness about the servers breathing without permission.
Making my way through the bar, avoiding the conflict, I hear someone scream the nickname that just won’t die. “T-dog!”
Turning my head toward this tall white guy that we all call Dandy. He’s another regular. The bar is starting to fill up. This guy wears an XXL yellow polo to hide his stick figure.
He says, “T.” First making the letter with his hands before he waves to me in a roundabout way, leading to his crotch. “You like that?”
“That’s funny bro.” I give him dap. “How ya been?”
“Good, T-bone. My friend got out of jail, so in three weeks we’ll be heading back to business.” He’s referring to an experimental drug that I bought off of him a few weeks back called C2E. That was wild. It had me seeing shadows from my life a few hours before as they spoke to me in the passenger seat. Yes, I was driving. It didn’t take effect for two hours, so I thought I was in the clear. I know, excuses. Anyway, it was like rolls mixed with LSD – not like I’ve taken the latter or anything. The thing about Dandy’s buddy was that he got caught transporting illegal contraband across the state borders.
A woman interrupts our conversation.
“Well,” he says. “Ooh, baby!”
“Just chillin’ with my friend, T-bone over here – isn’t he a handsome guy? And his hair! Oh, wow. That natural, T?” He says with a straight face knowing damn well that my long blonde hair is dyed to reach this shine.
“Oh yeah, more natural than spring water.”
He laughs. She stares blankly.
I use the barfly’s confusion as a means to escape, walking passed the two.
I turn back around to Dandy.
He places his pinky to his chin and his thumb to his ear. “Call me.”
I salute and scramble through work for a few minutes at a time. The lights to the restaurant have already dimmed for the little light show that the DJ has prepared, so I won’t have to find the right levels which is great because Lazarath hates whenever I adjust them.
“A little lower,” he says to me. I spoke too soon.
“Okay,” I say, walking from my duties to fidget with the knobs. We can’t hear each other over the speakers, but we understand the routine. Lowering them, I await a response as he walks thirty feet away from me to get a better view. He points up to the ceiling, so I raise them, then he points his finger to the floor, so I lower them. Now higher. He gives a thumbs up. Honestly, they’re the same as they were before I walked over. I’m in need of a new pair of glasses and even I can see that. Oh, well. Ten minutes wasted is ten minutes sooner to clocking out.
“Tristan! Tristan!” Rikki screams my name louder than she needs to.
I spin around. “Yessum?”
“Jack says change the Ultra and the Killian’s.”
She stops me with her hand. “Oh, and meet me out back for a cigarette.”
In the cooler, I lift the two empty kegs out-of-the-way after disconnecting them from the tap. I’ve got to slide, lift, and flex in order to find a full Michelob keg. It was under a Highlife and beside two Budlights. Completely out-of-the-way and unorganized. I’m only one hundred and forty-five pounds and yet I can do this more often than the three hundred pound bartender. Go figure. I attach the Ultra, now onto Mr. Killian. Good thing that it’s a smaller keg, so it’s a quickie.
With glasses piling up inside the bar window and wash station as our max capacity is ignored and ice in desperate need of being refilled, I grab the two empty kegs with some intensity, carrying them to the back.
Slamming the Ultra down frantically, the pressure spits out whatever is left of the yellow beer.
The back door opens. “What took you so long?” It’s Rikki. She grabs me by the collar of my work uniform (only recently mandated to wear after I bought ten black V-necks).
Pulling me outside, she kisses me with a tongue tasting of smoke and what is seemingly Patron Silver.
I stop her. “The camera.” Pointing above the back door. She hurries me to the blind spot near the dumpster. How romantic. “Hold on,” I say, grasping for air.
“I know what you want,” she pulls out a smoke and lights it, putting it to my lips.
The sound of the back door opening causes us to rush in between the oil dumping container and the dumpster where the cooks piss if they don’t want to be bothered. I can smell everything.
Bob scolds us, he’s in the know. “Come on, guys. Finish your cigarette and get the hell over here. Our asses are getting kicked.”
“Yeah yeah.” He walks inside.
Rikki kisses my cheek and follows him back to work, leaving me with half a cigarette left. The door closes and all I can think is I need another bump.
Once inside I feel a numbing sensation leaking down from my lips to my throat. Bumping into Bob inside the kitchen, I’m all jittery and whatnot. I can already feel his judgement about Rikki. I judge myself. I’m just a lonely guy.
“So, how are you going to keep my beer cold?”
I didn’t see that coming. “Why? Is the cooler not working?”
“No. Kate had to take off. It’s not that busy and she has a wedding to be at.” Kate and Bob have a side thing going on and she brings the cooler for beer in her car for after work winding down. Bob has a stay at home girlfriend. This will be Kate’s second or third time being the other woman after the divorce.
“Don’t worry too much about what’s going on around you. He spins his head both left and right in quick succession, pausing on each side with a show of confusion. We both laugh.
“Ice and a beer box in my car?”
“Whatever you gotta do, take it to your house. I don’t care. I just need a beer after.” It’s illegal to have beer inside of a bar after closing, so we have to get creative.
“I can do that.”
“But how will no one drink it?”
“I have a mini fridge in my room.”
Bob adjusts his pants comfortably bellow his belly. “This is how I think,” he tells me.
“Let me do a quick circle around the place and I’ll go at it.”
“All right. Cool. I’ll give ya a beer for the effort.”
“Jackass,” I say as we give each other dap.
Normally, I’m not allowed to leave work while still on the clock to pick up beer anymore since Lazarath got overwhelmed one night. I’ve got to either clock out (at closing time, well after we can buy beer) or be sneaky about it.
I speed through the bar side, clearing glasses and bottles, switching out trash cans which entails going through the back again to dump them before bagging and setting them in place. Another quick bump. A small amount is left over on my key. I set it between my gums and upper lip. Numby numz.
The trash is in place. Beer was already stocked – someone got bored or I was too late. Lazarath is yelling at the two girls on the restaurant side about talking too much and serving too little. They’re just waiting for their drinks at the bar, you know, their job. If they were serving, he’d surely be yelling at them about not picking up their drinks. I’m a huge screw-up and I rarely get any recognition of the fact besides always working weekends.
Everything seems in place, so I head over to give a nod to Bob at the bar window. He signals to give him a minute or two. I have twenty minutes until 1:00. Saturday is the one day that has its liquor selling cutoff passed 12:00.
“What’s up, Barberella?” That’s her real name. I’ve seen her license.
“It’s my cousin’s birthday and they’re getting drunk without me.” She’s working tonight. Must have come in when I was busy avoiding people.
“That sucks. They’re gonna be passed out by the time you get there.”
She throws her hands up. “I know – I’m gonna mark all of their stupid faces.”
I get close to her. “No. What you gotta do is take them home with your car and stop for gas.”
“Why?” She looks at me like I’m an award winner for nonsense of the mouth.
“They’ll feel obligated to pay gas.”
“Then you circle around for a mile or two.”
“Do it again.” I rub my thumb against my two fingers. “And again.”
“Oh, you’re sneaky, man.”
“I’m just sayin’.”
“Maybe I will. Those jerks. I just wanna leave.”
Bob hands me the cash from through the window. I quickly place it in my back pocket. Turning back to Barbie, I stick my tongue out. “Only a few more hours.” She slaps me on the back before I walk into the kitchen and sneak out through the backdoor. As fast as I can, I dip around the building. “Why do I always park in the front?” I make it to my car. Boom. I’m in. Cigarette lit, USB connection in place for music, window down, and off to get beer.
Long transport story short: The cigarette wasn’t even halfway done before I make it to the gas station. Bob texted to buy two packs instead. We drink Natural Lite – his choice. In change the cashier gives me a gold dollar to match my hair. Hilarious. At home, my younger brother eyes the two six packs with a crooked smile. I tell him no, they’re for the boss and I mean it. I dillydally after putting the beer up in the fridge beside my store-bought urine for three minutes playing Tetris because screw it, I’m tired. Once back to the tavern, I spy not a single parking spot nearby, so I park in front of the Fuddruckers somewhat close by.
“Please don’t let anyone steal my car,” I say. That’s why I park in the front.
The newly hired security guard swiftly approaches me with eyes that looked me up and down. “ID, sir.”
“Very funny.” I speed on in. Luckily, I don’t see Lazarath as I should have entered through the back and I am seriously coming down from my high. I go straight into working again, picking up a few 32 oz. glasses, one or two 16 oz. glasses, four shot glasses, and a short rocks glass. The cocktail servers walk passed a few tables filled with a mountainous stack of glasses and I roll my eyes. I can’t say much if we’re all tired. It’s their tip at stake, not mine. They’ll surely nag at me, but I’ll say what I always say, “There ain’t no pre in the title of bus boy.”
Entering the bar, Bob relieves my stress by grabbing an amount off the top layer in my hands. “Thanks, bro.” Doubtful he heard me. He’s in the weeds anyhow.
Before I kill the remaining hour I make a metronome bob to the restroom. It’s filled with massive-armed men carrying heavy bellies and shirts louder than any music the DJ had on. I head upfront to the mirror. Paper towels aplenty, so I grab a sheet and wipe down the sink. Comparing the deathly glow of my skin to the contrasted Latino men was never more obvious. The yellow glow of the light doesn’t help. I can’t stop grinding my teeth. I look far gone.
I splash some water against my face. After being knocked into the wall by an unapologetic drunk, I beat the line and make it into a stall – my fortress of solitude. My nose is a frozen coffin, but I need more to keep going. Too many people makes me want to run.
Outside of the restroom with little less than an hour until the bar halts alcohol consumption and the floor staff is antsy as all hell. The bar side needs help, so I assist them for the majority of the time.
Bob interrupts me from washing glasses. “I wonder if chiropractors ever play this song….”
I zone into reality as my ears open up to the beat. It plays. “My neck, my back, my….”
Bob goes back to making his drinks, bobbing his head to the beat. Back to work. Ninety or so glasses in need of washing, rinsing, and sanitizing. The water within all three sinks stink; all three need to be replaced. No time. If done improperly, like I’m doing, this is why some glasses taste a little like soap or funk. Workers continue to add to the water without draining the previous and if I do it I know that I’ll catch nothing but dirty looks the rest of the night as they wait for fresh glasses to pour.
The DJ speaks through the speaker, “Last call for alcohol. Last call for alcohol.’
Now, this is great and distinctly horrible for me. I’m tasked to always raise the lights by 1:45 AM. With the lights still down, I rush to the side of the stage where the components rest. Not a one of the number sis marked with info on the location of the lights for which they control. Attempting to slightly raise them, Lazarath slaps my hands down to my side.
“No no. What’re you doing,” he says.
“Turning the lights on.”
“No no. Raise them,” he mimes the act, “and then lower them again.”
“Why? How will the customers know that it’s time to leave?”
“We just told them.” Drunk people don’t hear words so well in a bar, but oh well.
“Fine.” I do as he says, if only he would have told me earlier then I wouldn’t have rushed and risked disrupting the flow of the bar.
Lazarath spins around to badger the servers, but not before grabbing his Buchanan with water.
After dancing with the onslaught of drunkards fighting to get their last drink on before closing, the lights are finally raised for the last time. Shocker is that after many puzzled looks no customer has left yet because they didn’t know it was time to go. A few arguments later detailing the phrases “Come on! One more beer!” and “This is a shit hole anyway!” and so on.
2:15 and only half of our capacity has taken notice to leave. In the state of Texas, in the south, it is illegal to have even an ounce of liquor still in hand within an establishment. The cops here are no joke either.
The music stops and Jack belts out a whiny roar, “Come on, guys. Some of us want to drink too.”
A customer answers back from the crowd. “Some of us are waiting for rides.”
Jack laughs. “Life’s a risk, homie.” He stacks glasses before me and along the sink.
The same customer replies, “That’s fucked up.”
“I’m only serious,” says Jack. “Don’t take me jokingly.” He grins.
The customers eventually find their way to the door when Jack takes one more stab at it, raising his hand up high. “Drive safe, guys!”
After washing the glasses, putting them all in their respective places, sweeping, mopping, setting the tables and chairs back to their designated sections, I head over and restock the two restrooms for the morning crew. They don’t do the same for me, but my conscience is clear. I step out, take a deep breath and walk into the bar. “Ya’ll ready for my help, Jack?”
“Not yet, you can go smoke a cig.” After they wipe everything down and begin to count the tips, I squeegee the floor to help things move along.
Stepping outside and lucky me, the crowd is clearing out fast. Rikki has finished her business and finds her way near the wooden bench beside the front door.
She hands over a pack. “Want a smoke?”
“Sure,” I say. Didn’t have my own anyway. We light up. I forgot to crush it. Fixed that.
“Don’t you just die for that first cigarette outside of work?” Rikki rests her hand on my knee.
“But of course,” I say. “What’s a more casual suicide than this?” The smoke that I blew out hovers between our locked eyes.
Her boyfriend’s truck pulls up. I smack her hand away.
“Well, bye, Tristan.” She kisses my cheek goodbye.
I throw up the deuces to her boy, he returns the gesture. They speed off. Now, I’m all by my lonesome. I lit a fuse this night that has ended in a trance. The cement floor around me is an easy to forget fact of life if it wasn’t for the overload of melted gum. I connect the dots. “Ouch,” I say involuntarily, burning my finger with the descending cherry of the cigarette. I walk inside once more, noticing everyone doing their checkout, so I get to it.
“Still haven’t replaced the squeegee, huh?” The flaps in its current state are of no use.
Bob doesn’t raise an eye from counting his cash. “What? Why?”
“Because one has no squeege-thingy, bro.”
“You wanna borrow Jack’s wig? It ain’t getting’ any use.” Bob laughs at his own joke.
Admittedly, I laugh too.
Jack laughs in an over exaggerated fashion.
“That’s not cool, bro,” says Bob.
“That’s not cool, bro,” says Jack. “I’m going to get butt hurt.
“Fuck you, bro.”
“Dude. I’m gonna fuck you if you don’t shut up.”
The entire staff interrupts with their own bickering. I’m almost done with the flood of alcohol and sewage all along the bar floor.
“Hey, T-dog.” Bob steps out of the insults. “Do you ever clock out before you do what you’re doing whenever you go smoke?”
“What, like, just now?” I don’t look up at him as I finish up with the squeegee.
“Okay, because Lazarath said something and he wants you to clock out.”
“And clock back in after I’m done to finish the squeegee?” I set the tool aside.
“No. He just wants you to clock out.”
“Well, if I do that I’m not gonna help finish up.” The staff quiets down to listen.
“Lazarath said that we tip you out for you to do that.” He must have left. One too many drinks and not enough spine.
“Not true. I get tipped out because of all the backup I do for you guys throughout the night. The squeegee I only started doing to help you get finished quicker by heading straight to count your money. I’ve always gotten tipped out by you guys. I’m the bar back.”
“I know, bro. He doesn’t want that.”
“So, lemme get this straight. First, he gives me a raise and then brings it back down through no fault of my own, then he opens up another bar that competes with our own making of money, and then he’s too cowardly to tell me to my face that fifteen extra minutes on the clock is sucking him dry? Is that it?”
A lone cough echoes through the empty restaurant.
“Well,” I continue, “from now on when I’m done with my closing, I’m done. If ya’ll don’t want to tip anymore – that’s your choice.” I walk the long walk through the bar toward the front to go outside again and then back in. “Who has a smoke?”
Bob throws me his pack. I take it with me outside. I’m back out. Coming down and smoking like I have a personal vendetta against my lungs. Barberella steps out. I ask her, “How’s work?”
She sits on the bench. I continue pacing. “It was fine.”
“Make any money?”
“Barely! This sucks. I can’t believe I’m a server, Tristan. I used to be a lawyer’s secretary for Christ’s sake.”
“Damn.” I sit down beside her.
She lights up her own cigarette. “I wish I’d find a million dollars on the floor right now.”
She crushes the butt before puffing.
“Shit,” I say. “I’d sell my soul for just a thousand right now.”
She sighs. “I’m gonna take off.”
Bob opens the door as Barbie walks to her car. “Hey, T-dog.”
“I’ll be done in a minute and then follow you to your place for the beer.”
“Yeah. No problem.”
“I don’t remember where you live. Been a while.”
Bob goes back inside.
Soon I’ll forget about my woes for but a morning as Bob and I drink our way through a magic carpet ride filled with stories and mischief until we have to wake up and do it all over again.
Oh, crap. I think I forgot to clock out and I can’t get back in.
“Oh, well,” I said, leaning back into the bench. I breathe in a taste of toxin and then let it float above me like a poisonous halo. “Fuck ’em.”
“Later, Michelle,” I say as she walks to the car with her son waiting for her. He’s always on time.
Now, though, it is time for me to drop my head as far down to the ground as possible and to chew routinely upon the dead remains of my lips. My anxiety knows many bounds. Surely, I’ll wake up with a cold sore or two. I was snatched out of the womb with cold sores – or fever blisters, as my family calls them. Thanks dad.
Bob opens the door, walking outside.
I say, “You forgot the open signs, Bobby”
“Fuck,” he says. Bob leans back into the door. “Well, I already started the system. I’m gonna hear about it tomorrow. Or – wait,” he locks the door. “What’s today?”
“Saturday night, Sunday morning.”
“Shit. Yeah. I’ll deal with it tomorrow. Boss man can fall asleep in the office, but I can’t check my fantasy football stats on the computer. I get it.” He starts walking, so I start walking. “Yo, meet me at the corner store, T-dog.”
“Yeah,” I say. Sure that bullet rounds are spitting at my skin, I swat the mosquitoes away. I’d fake a fever and just head home alone, but I’m already in my car and Bob needs his beer. I check my phone. It’s just my boy texting me about a party. I ain’t about that. Already inhaled a sugar donut; about to blast off into hyperspace. “I need health insurance,” I tell myself. The jokes I got, kid. Driving moderately well enough, I park in front of the gas station. Bob is finishing up filling his tank.
“What’s up?” I yell to him.
“Gotta get water. Just in case,” he’s walking to the door. “You want anything?”
An 8-ball, maybe. “Nah, thanks.”
“All right, buddy.”
After a little wait, we’re off. I’d choose driving at night over the day if I had control of my life that way. People might be drunk or reckless, but you know where you stand — plus I’ve always been good at marking a drunk driver. Spotting a crazy during the day is no easy task. Sure, someone cuts you off. Boom. Could just be that they’re late for work or their wife went into labor or something. Night time is my favorite wine: predictable, yet with oomph.
This crazy guy and I somehow find the way to my lowly residence. Right now I’m negative and angry, a battery with no positive, a side effect of the devil. Bob might connect and bring sufficient energy. We’ll see.
“You want me to bring them both out or what, Bob?”
“Nah, buddy,” he says. “Just one pack. We’ll down these – three each – then I’ll be takin’ off to the wife.” He rests against the brick outlining the garage wall.
I’m already outside with deliciousness in hand. Quick enough.
“In and out.”
“Mother would be so very proud.” I toss him a can, popping one open for myself. An echo of relief and satisfaction. Time is stagnant. No more thoughts until we feel the beer travel from out taste buds down into our gullets.
Bob attempts a lame yawn. “So how was jail, bro?”
“Cold,” I say.
“I hear ya. I feel ya,” he says. Second beer caught and popped open. We each pour the remaining wheat-soaked-backwash atop the grass.
“We did learn that it wasn’t entirely our fault for getting picked up.”
Bob raised an eyebrow. “How wasn’t it ya’ll’s fault? You smoked.”
“Ahh, very true,” I say. “But since W knew three of the cops; one his cousin dated, the other two he sold to back in the day. The main guy none of us knew, though.”
He savors the flavor in the can before swallowing. “Point is?”
“We may have gotten away with it – should have run – but we would have been left with a warning.” I take two big chugs of the beer. So good.
“How? Seems to me like ya should just stop smoking in public or even at all.” He laughs, almost chokes on his beer. “Cuz jail sucks bad. You were only there half a day, believe me. Fuck all hell over that.”
“Okay,” I say. “I know. I know.” I begin laughing, waking up. “Anyway, apparently one of the cops – some chick – told W that one of the people staying in the apartment complex was a DEA agent, so one call equaled no questions.”
“Wow,” he says. “Fuck the police.”
“Comin’ straight from the underground.” We both smile.
“White boy,” he laughs. “A young nigga got it bad cuz I’m brown!” We scream into the night in unison. I interrupt, “Shh,” laughing, “I don’t know how good my ghetto pass is anymore.”
I assumed the coming down would have hit harder that this. The beer allowing some such sanity to remain from empty. I excuse myself to take a piss, walking to the side of the house. The wind against my bareness roars something fierce into my soul. I shake it off and walk back to the hangout spot in front of the garage overlooking the neighborhood.
Bob has an opinion, “And the award for longest piss goes to …”
I snap back, “The busiest worker in the whole damn restaurant!” And they all cheer.
“Yeah,” he says. Awkward moments are my forte, Bob should know that well by now. He shuffles on through, bobbin’ and weavin’. “Did I ever tell you about the time I almost got arrested?”
“I don’t think so,” I say, taking a seat.
“Cool,” he says. “All right, so me and a buddy dropped of a friend of his with my jeep. We just came out from drinking and the night was still young. For me and my buddy – we still woke as fuck. So we all say bye, a little dap here and there, and we sit outside of my car smoking as my boy goes inside, we start thinking. My friend’s like ‘I think a drug dealer lives over there,’ and okay, so his car is gone and we both get to thinking: he probably has big screen televisions, DVD’s, CD’s, and maybe some unaccounted for moolah. The house was nice, man. It was a gated community where we dropped my boy off. Pretty town houses and shit.
“So now what do we do? We need nice stuff and money, right? He didn’t earn that shit, obviously, being a dealer – so what now?
“I grab a red hoodie from in my car for some dumb ass drunken reason. And a mask – get this: a ninja turtle mask from the previous Halloween – Don’t forget we’re gangster, bro.”
If I wasn’t already, I began to laugh.
He continues, “Real sneaky-like, we make our way to the front. Checking for ghosts and shit. I don’t know, we were drunk. So, we split up, being the smart guys that we are. I head to the side, he heads to the backyard.
“Already, I’m off to a great start. I trip over a little kid’s bike, making all kinds of noise. Eventually, without much more noise, I’m near the window that I set my sites for. I’m trying to open it gently from the outside, obviously I didn’t have any resemblance of a good ol’ plan, should have gotten a screwdriver. A crowbar, something.
“My fingertips are starting to bleed without any sort of progress, but I’m remaining delusional, right? Doing what baddasses like me do.
“And here’s the kicker: Boom. A little white girl and her mom open the shades. First the girl, and she screams, ‘Mommy!’ So I bail. I head to the car and throw my stupid fucking hoodie and the turtle mask off into the back. Now, I’m waiting for my buddy. Some time passes, ten-twenty minutes, and he finally comes out. I don’t know cuz by this time I’ve smoked like four cigarettes and all we had was Marlboro Reds, so my lungs were done. Just on fire.
“He asks me for a cigarette, I’ve got one left. And just before I could hear his story and he hear mine, the cops pull up behind us. No lights on, but still. Quick and typical, he walks up and asks what we’re doing blah blah blah.
“He’s done with us and about to leave when he steps and turns around to ask, ‘Haven’t I picked you up before? You were driving around in a mask after Halloween.’
“So I know he’s talking to me. I say no, never happened. He says, ‘No? Okay. You sure? A frog mask or something? I suppose not. Some people should know better.’
“And he drives off. The mommy called the cops. Anyway, the fucking cop that showed up arrested me once before for disturbing the peace with my mask. And a red hoodie. Almost got caught for being an idiot twice, which I rightfully deserved.
“Always one step behind at a time.” Bob swigs the last of his beer.
I’m laughing, listening, and nodding along to his story, but I’m also going through my phone to find coke. I don’t have any money, but it’s the thought that counts. I am in the age of minimalist multitaskers. I’m getting bored of calling it coke. Getting sick of it. I’m not hip enough to say Yayo or Snow White or Pasa or what-have-you. I gotta call it something nice to say, something fun. For now on it shall be called Blueberry Muffins. Just like ma used to make.
“You’re real quiet, bro. What’s up?” Bob cares.
“Nothin’,” I say. “I’m just in my head.” I’d look him in the eye, but I can’t seem to lift my head.
“Don’t let Lazarath get to you,” says Bob, coming to a stand. “He doesn’t know what real hard work is. He’s always had money and he still married into a rich Indian family. Guy has it all. Fuck ’em.”
“You know,” I spit up. “I’m writing a story with you in it. I’m calling you Bob.“
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah,” I nod and cough a bit.
“What kind of name is that? You’d think you would have put more thought into it, T-dog.”
“Nah, you have a crazy simple name anyway and that name reflects it,” I smile, but my head is down, “I love you though, man. You’re gonna be great in it.”
Bob took off. I didn’t even see him leave. I dragged myself into my room and hoped for the best. I just realized that it’s Sunday, so I don’t have to work tomorrow. Thank God. I’m too far gone to allow the pleasure of slumber to take me away from this place. I take some NyQuil and plop down onto my bead. I can hear the birds chirping.
“Fucking hell,” I say into a pillow. “This sucks. Why do I do this?”
I know the answer. I just can’t accept it.
The Day After a Day in the Life
NyQuil ain’t shit. Took two hours of pure eye-lid created darkness until I could be so lucky to slumber into a mist of delusion, self-pity, and stickiness from work. I couldn’t get the teeth grinding to stop, trying everything that my limp noodle could muster up, and brilliantly echoing my failure as a human being. Good fun beside the point.
It’s currently 4:44 PM. Any earlier and I’d actually have time to stare at the wall with enthusiastic glee and attention before another day. And I’m still face-first, breathing out the cancer from last night, dreaming of a shower and a pampering not even possible, smothering my pillow. This hair needs maintenance, of course, as it dries in due time with concerns for humidity.
Blood appears on the tissue after sneezing. Blood appears on the tooth-brush. Blood appears during my shower. Blueberry muffin residue trickles down, spiraling in the calmness of the atmosphere as it hits the floor.
With curly locks of hair viciously weeping, ripped out during my combing it, and styled painstakingly to imperfection. I slam my back down onto the bed once more after all that had been accomplished.
The phone interrupts my bear necessities, so I must answer it, politely, I remind myself. “Hello?”
“Hey, bro, I got picked up.”
“Oh, badass,” I say. “You got a ride?”
“No. I got picked up.” The voice on the other end was that of my good friend, constant all nighter-er, smoking buddy, and brother in ink, W. It’s short for Warehouse. A nickname to replace a shorter name, it wasn’t my idea.
“Oh, no shit?”
“Yeah, I’ma need you to call some people.”
“Yeah, I can’t say. Just remember what we talked about. I’ll call you tomorrow. I gotta get out here, bro. These people don’t like me.”
“Ahh, okay.” I don’t remember shit.
“Later, bro. One.”
“Laters.” All this work.
Every once in a while my memory does come back to me with certain ruminations. Sadly, I think that this was my fault.
Barberella lives in Lasmimpas? Lasmimba? Shit. Well, it’s far as hell away from town and from the bar. Almost an hour away. She had invited W and myself to a house party deep into a culture that is usually unkind to non-Spanish speaking inhabitants like myself. So of course I had told W that I would catch up with them later after a quick shower and whatnot only to bail and get blitzed with Bob instead. A quick glance through my texts reveals the hilarity. I know that Barberalla had W drive, while she brought her younger cousin.
His texts read:
Hey bro text me when youre on your way 2:38 AM
Hey fuckface this chick lives the fuck out here 3:55 AM
What you doin 4:30 AM
I’m walking ashole 6:28 AM
Yo cops 6:32 AM
I can only imagine the kind of trouble an English-only speaking Mexican can get into in the heart of Cartel highway, but I begrudgingly chose to ignore this episode.
Figures that I’d remember tricking my friend during fucked-up-ness, but have not the slightest idea of an itch as to what Mr. Warehouse had prepared me for in case of an event such as this. Life’s a risk, homie.
Continuing through the phantom meadow one step at a time, my mother screams through my door from the other side, “Tristan, time to take out the trash!”
“But it’s Sunday, it’s due Thursday.” I yell back with conviction in spite of myself.
“Exactly, you didn’t do it then, hun.”
She can’t feel my head bowing down in shame. I get up, exiting my room.
“Hey, honey. Good morning,” says my mother.
“Heya, morning,” I say. I know she’s teasing me, but I just cannot right now.
Walking outside through the front door, I grab the trash bin, hold my breath, immediately failing to do so, I begin to hastily breathe in the deep heat outside along with the nastiness of the garbage before closing the lid. It sends a quiver to my uvula. I dream of suffocating my pains with tobacco smoke later in the night. The puking started as I wheeled both the trash and the recycle bin to the curb. The smell of [passage deleted due to detailed descriptions of side-effects that include reasons to inhale Pepto-Bismol, causing the narrator to gag as he said it] It took hours to clean up, what with my skull depending on the floor for rest intermittently throughout the process. My mother likely shook her head, preparing a speech to give me whenever I was lucid, if she didn’t miss me as I went out for the night. Eventually, I gave up. My hands and nails collected remnants of dried up disgust and I didn’t care. Dragging my carcass through the living room, into the long and narrow hallway, passing the bathroom, and back into my cave, I shot up, leaning against the wall, to close the door and lock it.
Laughing, I whispered, “I did it.” Tumbling down into the corner, smacking my head every which way as I descended, there was still laughter. Delirious, detrimental, and forsaken, my eyelids forgave and assembled a time machine. Tomorrow is another day.
I’m staying in tonight. On my life I don’t want to do this again. I say that.
© Tristan Drue
This story was originally published on this blog, Currently Between Fictions, in segments. It was even more originally meant to be a submission for a literary publication asking for non fiction tales concerning interesting and exciting workplaces and experiences in the workplace. It was rejected all but one time before I gave up pursing any further publication. This was absolutely originally written as my first novel-length story five or six years ago before deciding that I didn’t like writing while under the effects of cocaine – proving that something was awry with my lifestyle choice, only then realizing this two years ago, far after having forgotten about it. I’m clean now, if that matters. My nose still cries at the mention of blueberry muffins, though. Also *cough* all characters are fictional and any similarities to people living or dead are coincidences and not intended by the author.