Wednesday, July 21, 2004

He drove aimlessly, yet he knew exactly where he was going. Funny how the mind chooses ignorance over self-understanding during moments of desperation. Sometimes you just don’t want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Or tell yourself it’s all somehow just the hands of fate.

But no. Brendan knew exactly where his meanderings would eventually end. Her house. He had to just drive by. Check it out. Then he’d split.

About seven minutes later, he cruised slowly by Brenda’s apartment building. Her light was still on, and there were two shadows moving about that he could see from his angle down on the street. Brenda’s apartment was on the fifth of eight floors, and the window wasn’t that big, so there could easily be more people in there than just the two. Was she throwing a party to celebrate his dismissal from her life? He cursed himself for being such a self-pitying pansy.

Suddenly Brendan didn’t care what she was doing. Or at least told himself so. Either way, he had to get drunk.

He revved the gas on his ‘83 Toyota Celica and shifted into third. The Lucky Shoe was about two blocks north and then three blocks east. The Shoe had shitty service, ugly waitresses, but the stiffest drinks this side of the Palantas Rail tracks. And Brendan had investigated the competition.

He pulled the hatchback into a spot about twenty feet from the front door of the tavern, got out, locked the door, and started trudging toward his next drink. Beam and Coke tonight, he mused.

The scene inside the Shoe was as it typically was on a weeknight. Almost full but strangely quiet. A real drinkers’ bar. Not too much bullshit blowing through the breeze, just the sweet fumes of whiskey and beer. There were a few college kids, two guys and three girls, hanging out by the foosball table, but for the most part the crowd was forty years and older, though most carried an air of exhaustion beyond their age. The years of liver abuse and inhalation of cigarette smoke had taken their toll on most of these sorry souls. After years of being led down the yellow brick road of happiness and fulfillment, they had come to realize, incorrectly or not, that it was all a bunch of bullshit. So they came to the Shoe and drank it away.

The Shoe was real, no sweet taffy exterior to hide the true natures of its customers and employees. And that was what Brendan liked about it. Especially on a night like tonight, when he intended to get completely and utterly blasted.

He’d trusted her as he’d trusted no other. His whole life he’d kept himself guarded, protected, never let anyone or anything get to him. Women had come and gone like the wind, never meaning more than a few weeks or months of sex, be it good or not. Sure, he’d cared about them, the way you care for a buddy at the office, or a pet. Brendan had never understood why guys got sprung on girls. Until her.

It was almost a joke. Brenda. How lame of a couple was that? Brendan and Brenda. Just the amount of shit he’d gotten for that alone had him almost dumping her after the first month. But then she got in his head. And his heart. Where he never realized someone could get.

All those times that he’d done the hurting. He never imagined…

Fuck her. Just concentrate on getting as much Jim Beam as possible into your body before closing time, Brendan me boy. And piece it together tomorrow, by golly. Probably not the best attitude, but it would just have to work tonight.

“Look like ya got something on your mind, buddy.” It was the bartender. Brendan had never got his name, and vice versa, but they’d interacted enough that they knew who each other were. The man was fairly large, about 6’3”, 250 pounds probably, with thoughtful, knowing eyes that always made you think there was some kind of serious thought going on behind them.

“Yup. Women, man. Like I’ve never got it before.” What was the use of hiding it? Brendan’s intention was to get so fucked up he would be talking about it to the street lamps by 3 AM.

“Figgered that. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em, eh?” said the bartender, with a perfect deadpan expression on his face.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Wait a minute, what…” Brendan looked up, and saw a smile slowly creep across the man’s face, more in the eyes than anywhere else.

And then suddenly, as if it had been choreographed, these two friends that didn’t know each other’s names proceeded to have a nice long laugh.