Colin didn’t shower before he left, afraid he’d never get his hair to look the same as the stylist. Instead, he brushed his teeth, and put on the clothes one of the stylists picked for this kind of situation.
With a broad smile and a light step, he got into his car and tried to start it. A dead battery light flashed at him.
Shit. He didn’t have time to charge it. He looked from the tiny door that hid the charging socket to the fat charging station attached to the garage wall. How could he have neglected to put the two together? Maybe a few minutes would be enough to get him to the bar and home. If not, maybe he could call Andreus to drive both of them. If Andreus drove at all. Did he? Colin reached for the handle of the charger, but froze before he touched it.
There was another option.
Colin popped open the little charging door and sighed. With all the destruction he’d caused, he should be able to do something productive as well. He could light a lightbulb. He could even muster the control to light up potato clock’s screen. He could do this.
He breathed, and focused, and put his hand on the socket.
He started with enough to power a lightbulb, then increased as steadily as he could, until the tiny indicator light flashed green.
“Yes!” He clenched a fist and smiled.
He increased a little more, hoping that more power would make it charge faster. He had no idea if it worked, but his heart did happy little flips and his body relaxed. The whole thing felt disturbingly like emptying his bladder after a lot of beer. It was a relief. He couldn’t stop smiling.
Until he remembered he’d be going to JE’s, where his fancy car and fancy clothes and expensive new haircut would make him look like an asshole and a target to the regulars with their missing teeth and limbs. He could probably try to grab Andreus and they could go somewhere decent if he didn’t run over too many heroin needles in the parking lot. Even the dingy destination couldn’t wear away the shine of his mood after the car started.
Apparently, Colin had been gone a very long time, and things changed very much. The former site of a dirt lot, JE’s paved parking lot was almost full. Every car sparkled under the street lamps and reflected the neon signs. The layer of dust and the dent from an aggressive goat on his door stood out among the pristine vehicles surrounding it. Bouncers flanked the door looking like Secret Service agents, complete with sunglasses and curly wired earpieces. Colin stood in the long line.
Andreus arrived a few minutes later and apologized to the women behind them. “I’m sorry ladies, I’m his caretaker and he hasn’t been out like this before. If it comes down to the last two people who can go in- we’ll make sure it’s you. Just to sweeten the deal, your first drink is on us and we won’t even try to pick you up.”
The women looked at each other, looked him up and down, and one of them smirked. “Most of that sounds good, anyway.”
“I really appreciate what you’re doing for my friend, here.”
The girls laughed.
“Why would you say that?” Colin hissed.
“Other than that it’s the truth?” Andreus whispered back. “And it’s what I do.”
“Is that how you negotiate? Hopefully your devastation tactics are better.”
They moved forward with the line. “You get to buy a hot girl a drink and they’ll probably try to pick us up.”
“They think I’m mentally challenged or something, they won’t try to pick us up.”
Andreus laughed and patted his shoulder. Tall and lean in clothes almost as nice as Colin’s, Andreus looked very presentable. Colin realized he’d mostly seen his friend naked or in sweatpants, so anything would have been an improvement on that.
“I thought you weren’t into one night stands anyway.”
“I’m a team player. I do my part for the team.” Andreus paid the cover charge and, as promised, they bought drinks for the two women.
As Andreus suggested, the women looked a little disappointed when the men didn’t try to pick them up after handing their drinks over.
Colin reasoned that he didn’t have to pick anyone up tonight. The goal was to buy a woman a drink. He’d done that. Anything else would feel a little deceitful against Mary, even though they weren’t technically still dating.
Sheer curtains covered massive windows with twinkling strings of lights casting a soft, unsteady glow. In another area, colored lights flashed and pulsed with the music. Scantily clad dancers on platforms cast huge shadows on a color-changing screen. Reserved booths around the perimeter shielded groups of partiers with bottles on their tables.
Watching Andreus dance was another surprise. Like watching a vampire rise from the grave to bust a move. Tall, pale, and confident, Andreus attracted men, women, trios, and even an entire bachelorette party while Colin waited for a seat to open up.
Andreus bent to one of the bachelorette’s friends and said something while he nodded toward Colin. She smiled and went straight to Colin and demanded he dance.
Clearly this rosy cheeked, smiling drunk woman was not going to take no for an answer, and Andreus looked like he was clearly ready to send the rest of the pack after Colin if necessary, so he danced. Awkwardly, uncomfortably, but he danced. He didn’t affect the lights when one of the partiers in a tiny white skirt grinded on him and did many dance moves which would have had him blowing lights up.
Men and women in sparkling green vests came out on the floor carrying shots and beads, and the partiers cheered, lifted their shirts in exchange for plastic green beads with yellow pot of gold medallions hanging. Somehow, Colin ended up with several necklaces, several hugs, and a few kisses from drunken revelers before Andreus motioned toward the smoking patio.
The patio looked nice, with space heaters and white chairs, but it was crowded. The mingling smells of spilled drinks and different brands of cigarettes added to strong cologne and men who apparently swam in body spray reminded Colin of where he was a few months previously. The night the news came about his parents. The hazy nights after the news.
Andreus moved Colin aside a few steps, just before a trickle of water ran off the roof. The trickle grew into a stream and splashed loudly to the ground. A small fountain between chairs overflowed. A group of women screamed, laughed, and ran inside. A few people complained about their clothes, or shoes, or hair, but they all did the same thing in the end. They retreated from the patio.
Andreus smiled. “How you doing?”
“I didn’t know you could dance,” Colin said.
“I can’t. It’s all about the attitude. And finding a chick or seven to do all the work.”
Colin pointed at the waterfall coming off the roof. “That was you, right?”
Andreus pretended to notice for the first time. “Oh, look at that. Must be a burst pipe upstairs. Crazy, huh?”
The door opened to let the women from earlier onto the patio.
“Oh, it’s flooded,” said one.
“And you were talking shit about my boots,” said the other. “Oh, shit, someone’s out here.”
“Hey,” said the first girl, in denim jeans and street shoes- both expressly forbidden by the dress code.
“Hey,” Colin and Andreus echoed.
“You’re standing in a flood,” said the girl in boots.
“And really expensive shoes,” said the girl in denim.
“Yeah,” Colin said.
“What’s leaking?” Denim asked. She didn’t seem too concerned.
Andreus shrugged and pointed to the roof.
“Oh, thanks,” said Boots. “Never would have figured that one out myself. You’re so smart. Except for the part where you’re just standing on a flooded patio.”
“So are you,” Colin said.
Boots said, “These boots cost me like twenty bucks two years ago, I’ll be fine.”
“So why are you guys standing in like an inch of water on the smoking patio? You’re not even smoking.” Denim stared at Colin.
“Needed some fresh air,” Andreus said.
“Sorry, did you need a minute to make out?” Boots asked. “We can go.”
“You’re sassy, aren’t you?” Andreus asked. “He’s a great guy, but not exactly my type.”
She took a step closer to him. “What is your type?”
“How about you?” Denim asked Colin. “That your type? Long hair and pasty?”
Colin smiled. “Not exactly.”
“Good,” she said, twirling her long hair. “Half of this is extensions anyway.”
“What’s your name?”
“Colin. What’s yours?”
“Nice to meet you.”
“I’m Hannah,” said Boots.
The door opened and one of the bouncers in a sparkly green vest stepped out. “I gotta shut down the patio. Gotta move you inside.”
“Come on,” Kaylee grabbed Colin’s hand. “Let us repay you those drinks.”
Hannah gave an exaggerated look of excitement and whirled around making her short skirt fly up around her. Colin caught a glimpse of red before he turned back to Kaylee and went in.
With a lot of protesting and trying to drop money before the girls could, Colin and Andreus accepted the drinks.
“Since we can’t go swimming, we’d better dance!” Kaylee shouted over the music.
“Guess so!” Hannah said.
They danced and flirted and drank many more drinks. The DJ was drunk and not very good, but so was the crowd. Colin shook his head at Andreus, who looked at him through hazy eyes. “Wasn’t me.”
“We should go soon,” Andreus said quietly.
“Hey, do you guys wanna get out of here?” Hannah asked loudly.
“Colin has work in the morning,” Andreus said. “But it was nice meeting you ladies and we certainly wouldn’t object to trading phone numbers.”
“How responsible of you,” Kaylee pouted.
Colin smiled. He regretted leaving, but it was probably for the best. He noticed Andreus started to sway on his feet, and he felt the beginnings of some very regrettable choices coming on. Leaving would be the responsible thing to do.
“Walk us to our car at least?” asked Hannah.
Colin exchanged a look with Andreus. “Sure.”
A cold breeze ruffled their hair and blew Hannah’s skirt up when they reached the parking lot.
“I don’t think you should drive, Han,” Kaylee said.
“I’m fine,” Hannah argued, just before her foot slipped from the curb. Andreus caught her.
“I can give you a ride,” Colin said automatically.
Kaylee’s eyes lit up. “Could you? That would be so sweet of you!”
Andreus looked like he might object, but Hannah threw herself against him. “It’s so cold out here! Why did I wear this?”
“Where’s your car?” Kaylee asked.
They climbed in and, by some miracle, it started. He shouldn’t have been driving, of course. But he also didn’t care. This is what he was supposed to be doing. Being a guy, going out with his friends, driving a lady home.
The lady in question slipped a hand over his thigh and said, “You could take us back to your place. Or are you still trying to be responsible for work?”
“What do you guys do, anyway?” Hannah asked from the back seat.
“I’m in finance,” Andreus said.
“No way, me too,” Hannah said. “Where do you work? We’ve probably gone to training together!”
Kaylee slid her hand further up Colin’s thigh. “What about you?”
“It’s so boring,” Colin said.
Kaylee ran out of thigh and settled her hand over the crotch of Colin’s pants.
The dash flickered. Or Colin imagined it. He didn’t know which. All of this felt worse the closer he got to home. He didn’t know when he decided to take them home, but he pulled into the garage anyway.
“Nice house,” Kaylee said.
“How many bedrooms?” Hannah asked, in a husky voice, with her lips almost touching Andreus’.
“Enough,” he smirked back.
Colin unlocked the door into the house and froze. He suddenly felt very, very bad about his decisions. The clock on the microwave flashed 12:00. That had to be him, but he didn’t feel it. All he felt was the air leaving the room, the alcohol dissipating, and more shame than he could have imagined.
“What are you doing here?”