Saturday, June 22, 2024

Wages of Sin

Dear Mona, 

I'm writing this to you, FYEO, as a friend.  Last night, things didn't go as planned, and I've woken this morning after a few hours sleep  with a fat lip.  I feel like the dog's ass.  If I don't have the 'vid, it will be a miracle.  

T told some of "the boys" we were going to dinner at five, and they said they wanted to come along.  I didn't care one way or the other as I planned to have dinner and go home, get on the couch, and watch a movie.  Was looking forward to it.  However, way led to way. . . .  

T and I got to the restaurant first.  When the waiter came to the table, T said, "We have two more joining us.  It is their anniversary.  It's a very special occasion for them."  I just shook my head.  "When they get here, wish them a happy anniversary."  

"Make sure this guy is doing the tipping, then," I said to the waiter.  I knew things were going to go south.  

The waiter was a young Italian fellow, however, and enjoyed the joke, and when the other boys arrived, he turned red, grinned, and said "I hear this is a special night."

Bud had been drinking since noon and Alain came in hot, so it got rowdy quickly.  Bud is always paranoid that someone in the room will know him and hear T and I saying the sort of things we say.

"Shhh, shhh. . . c'mon guys. . ." he says, shoulders hunched as he peers around the room.  T and I just laugh.  T likes to get the whole room going and had the bartender and other waiters coming around to be in on the joke.  Bud said, "The manager's looking at us.  He's going to kick us out."  We turned to look at the fellow, and he just smiled and nodded.  So Bud leaned over to the table closest to us and began apologizing as the couple stand up to leave.  

"I don't know if we were disturbing you," he began, but the boy at the table walked over and said, "No, no. . . we thought you were famous," pointing to T and me.  

"Not us. . . he's famous," T said pointing to Bud.  

"We must look like two old country music guys or something," I said to T.  

When the people at the table left, the fellow at the next table leaned over and said, "I was just hearing you guys.  I was looking, . . how long did it take you to grow your hair that long." I laughed and said my age.  "I've been wanting to let my hair grow out, and I just wondered how long it would take."

Things had gotten weird before we had even finished dinner.  

The waiter was well taken care of.  

I was ready to go, but the boys had been telling tales about the piano bar across the street. Owned by Russians, full of beautiful women, yada yada yada.  "Let's go check it out," said Alain.  "You're coming.  You're not leaving. . . bullshit. . . c'mon.  We'll just have one."

We walked into the small room.  Most of the tables were full of diners, but the small bar seating four was empty.  The room was deadly quiet.  I scanned the tables full of old people properly dining.  

"Let's go," I said.  I knew how loud we were going to be.  But T and Bud had already ordered.  I got some German beer that wasn't very good and looked out across the sidewalk through the open door.  Two beautiful young women at a sidewalk table caught my eye.  The boys, though, were razzing the young boy waiters until a pretty female server stepped out. They were all college students and I think T was making them nervous.  Things were getting louder.  

"Shhh, guys. . . " Bud whispered, and this time, I agreed with him.  This was definitely not a rowdy place.  

When we finished our drinks, I let T pay and stepped out on the sidewalk.  Alain came out and started eyeing the two girls.  I walked down the sidewalk a ways so as not to be involved.  One of the girls was taking a phone pic of the other, so Alain was giving them advice.  

"You're shooting into the sun. . . " blah blah blah.  "Where are you from," I heard him inquire.  

"Russia," they said in unison.  Oh, shit. . . they were young and beautiful and probably hookers of the sort, "I'm not a prostitute, but I will have sex for money" type, and Alain has plenty of money.  I looked down the sidewalk in the other direction.  When I looked back, all the boys were huddling over the table.  Then I saw Alain point to me and say, "No. . . he's a professional photographer."

WTF? They looked at me as I shook my head fervently "No."  

"C'mere, c'mere," T was waving.  I just keep nodding my head.  

"C'mon, we're going to Vincent's.  He said he wanted you to stop in."

Vincent is a Brazilian who owns a restaurant a block from where we were.  I've met him a couple times with T.  It's a small, expensive place, and T and Alain talk about the food there often.  I don't understand it all, but there is a chef's table with a special menu, I take it.  I'd had enough, but the boys were insistent.  

"We'll just have a glass of wine.  No, man. . . you're coming." 

Vincent came up and hugged each of us one by one.  I was impressed, as I always am, that he remembered my name.  We sat at the small bar and T started kibitzing with the bartender/floor manager.  They are familiars.  I kind of checked out and sat listening to the very good Brazilian jazz/Samba music Vincent had playing from his iTunes station.  It was rather like being at home.  

Bud had finished his drink and was urging us to drink up.  "Let's go to Ojo," he said.  "Finish your wine."

I had barely touched it, so Alain picked up my glass and drained it.  "Let's go," he said.  

We said goodbye to Vincent who laughed, "It was nice to see you.  Don't come back tonight."

On the sidewalk, T said, "I'll drive." I said that I would meet them there and started down the street toward my car.  

"Oh, no. . . you're not going home.  Get in the truck."

Alain started walking with me.  "My car's right here.  Get in."  

"No, I'm going to drive my car."

T was yelling.  "No you won't.  You'll go home.  Get him in your car, Alain."

I just shook my head.

"If you don't show up, we're coming to your house to drink all your booze and eat that bag of mushrooms you have in your freezer."

"What's wrong with you guys.  I'll meet you there."

Alain and I got to Ojo at the end of the Boulevard before the others and took an outside table.  What we took to be our waitress came up, a pretty brunette with a great smile.  

"We've got two more coming.  It's their anniversary."  Just then T and Bud walked up and the shit show began.  Turned out the pretty brunette was just the hostess.  

"You're not our waitress?"

"No.  I wish I was.  You guys seem like fun."  She was smiling and laughing and hanging around.  But Bud said, "C'mon, dudes, I got us seats at the bar."

"Let's stay out here," I said.  

"No. . . come on. . . the bartenders are my friends."

When I sat down, the bartender said hello.  "Nice to see you back," he said.  "I haven't seen you in for awhile."

I smiled and said hello.  I hadn't been in this place more than a couple times in the past two years.  I ordered a scotch, and he double fisted it for me.  O.K. then, I thought.  Alain ordered one, too.  

All about us were tables full of girls.  Bud knew some of them.  He and T went over to talk to a group on the other side of the bar.  A second scotch appeared that I hadn't ordered.  It was ten.  I wanted to go home.  

"Let's go to the Crooked Hen," Bud said, and everyone agreed.  "You're coming," they insisted.  

"Man. . . I'm done."

T grabbed my arm and said, "No, man. . . one beer, that's all, then we bounce."  

We were all pretty lit by now, but I knew if I didn't go, they would end up at my house.  It has happened before.  

The Crooked Hen is an old Irish pub, and it was packed to the rafters with young kids.  I struggled to get through the crowd to someplace I could stand.  One of the waitresses that T and Alain have overtipped many times was working.  T went over and asked her to get us some beers.  

"She's got us.  We're skipping the line."

Just then, a group of people walked out of the room behind me, and I said, "I'm going to grab the table."

The place was nuts.  T went to look around and came back with one of the kids his son went to prep school with, a boy we all know from the gym.  T said, "Stand up, we're going to do a selfie," and then he sent the photo of the three of us to the kid's ex-girlfriend who also works out at the Club Y.  She started dating the kid when he was nineteen and she was twenty-five.  She's a clone of a young Scarlett Johansen, and she chewed the kid up until the flavor was gone.  We all think it was his first time.  T has everyone's telephone number.  I've never seen anything like it.  Everywhere we go, girls punch their numbers into his phone.  

"What's going on here," I asked the kid.  "Country Club College is out for the summer."

"Yea, these are all local kids on summer break."

They all seemed to know one another, and they knew T's son.  He's a bit of a rockstar, I know.  Eventually, several other boys joined the table.  They all went to private colleges, all grew up in the country club.  They were tall and thin, well mannered, confident, and very handsome.  They all smiled their charming smiles and politely shook hands as they introduced themselves.  

"I see you at the gym," one of the boys said.  I didn't recognize him.  Boys came and went from the table while all around sat groups of girls.  They were all very pretty.  I watched with envy as they mingled, laughing, drinking, having the sort of fun you do when you are just coming into your own and everything is new.  I wanted to start over.  I wanted to do it all again.  They were having simple, stupid fun.  

The Kid (as opposed to the other kids in the room) said he was going to go look around.  

"What do you think your chances are tonight," I laughed.  

He thought for a minute and then said, "I'd say about twenty-two percent."  

As he left,  a girl walked up to me and said hello, a pretty blonde that I didn't know.  She asked me how I was doing and I said fine wondering who she was.  Then she handed me a card.  

"What's this?"

"It's a three day pass to LA Fitness."

I laughed.  "I already have a membership."

"Where do you go?'

I told her I didn't go, but I had a membership.  I tried to hand her the card back but she said, "Keep it."  

By now, Bud was sitting with a group of girls.  He can work any room when he gets lit.  It is amazing.  I pointed it out to T and Alain, and they got up and went over.  I stayed at the table.  Another Guiness arrived.  The waitress was very friendly and didn't seem to mind just hanging around.  She's not a Country Club girl but goes to the big state college in town.  I asked her when she was graduating, and she went into a long explanation that I couldn't hear.  I looked over and saw Bud motioning me, but I just shook my head no. Then they were all looking at me.  One of the girls got up and came over.  

"Come on.  You look lonesome sitting over here."

I grinned at her and shook my head.  She did something with her hands at her face and laughed.  Then she went back to her table.  T came over and started chatting up the waitress.  I felt like I have my whole life, an outsider looking in, floating on the periphery, observing. . . trying to make sense of it all.  

It was 1:45.  I told T I was going hone.  I got up to go over and tell Alain and Bud goodnight.

"You're not going to do an Irish?"

"No, I'm going to tell them bye." 

We hugged and the girls fist bumped, and T and I headed for the back door.  I had to pee, but a kid coming out of the bathroom said, "I wouldn't go in there in flip-flops." 

"Yea, I guess not."  

We walked out the back door and onto a patio full of people.  There was the girl who had given me the LA Fitness pass sitting with her friends.  She looked up and beamed.  

"Hey. . . it's you.  Are you going to come see me at the gym?  I start work at seven."

"Uh. . . not at seven."

"C'mon.  I'll be passing out the Tylenol and orange juice.  You can watch me workout.  How much do you think I can bench press?"

She was very pretty.  

"Let me feel your arm," I laughed.  She threw up her bicep.  I thought I'd be generous.  "One thirty five." 

She shook her head.  "More."

"No way."

"I can bench two twenty five."  

"You're full of shit."

The boys sitting with her were grinning.  

"She can," said one of them.  I looked at the other.  He nodded yes.  Another girl walked up.  

"She can press more than I can."

I looked at the girl.  She looked fit, but there was no way this could be true.  But she looked at me, smiled, and nodded yes.  

"How much do you think I can press?"

"Two thirty?"

She laughed, "Yea."  

They had to be full of shit, I thought, but why?  

"What time are you coming tomorrow?"

"Eleven.  How late do you work?"

"I work until one.  You come in tomorrow.  Be there."

'Oh, sure," I said and bumped fist with the fellows and the other girl.

When we got to the parking lot, I had to pee bad.  T and I stood by his truck and watered the land.  

"O.K. brother.  I'll call you tomorrow.  You alright to make it home?"

"I just live a couple blocks from here.  I'm fine."

"Yea," he said, "I've got to drive the fucking gauntlet.  

When we got in our cars, Alain and Bud were still inside with the table full of girls. It had been a stunning night.  

I got to bed a little after two.  When I woke up, the room was just getting light.  I tried to stay in bed and managed to fall back to sleep for a bit, but I was up before eight.  My lip was swollen.  Somewhere in the night, I was wrestling with T, I think, and got a good pop in the mouth.  I sneezed.  My nose was running.  I walked to the kitchen and put on the coffee.  I looked out the window and saw this.

What in the world was that?  I went to get my phone to get a picture and it had turned into this.

The party, it seems, is still going on.  I got a text from T.  

"Man. . . my head hurts."

"No shit. . . five fucking bars last night."

Bud texted.  "I didn't get home until three."

Nothing from Alain.  

Mona, it was fun, I have to admit.  I haven't done a thing like that for an enormously long time.  Those Country Club kids were great.  They laughed, they giggled. . . .  I'm too serious too much.  

Tonight I will catch up on my sleep, I guess.  There will be the usual trip to see my mother, and tomorrow night I will make dinner for the two of us. . . etc.  

Still, I wonder.  Do you think that girl can really bench press 225 pounds? What the hell was that all about?

I've written poorly and will try to make some sense of it all later.  This morning I'm just paying the price to the devil for a little fun.  So. . . until then. . . . 

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