There was a small window between being awake and asleep, when my mind began drifting away so slightly, I could feel my thoughts materialise. Simple things. Sometimes, I was looking up at my mortarboard piercing the picturesque sky; other times, I left the chatter filled bar embraced in stranger’s arms. If I was lucky enough, those thoughts turned into dreams. However, dreams always lead to bitter mornings.
Life beyond dreams was bleak in comparison. There were no mysterious love triangles or secret billionaire lovers, even though, I did fancy an occasional romance novel. There were no simple things either. What is worse, nothing new ever happened, besides some odd part-time jobs, and occasional Paul’s antics.
“Nick, we should do this. Let’s assemble a trivia dream-team,” he told me one evening after seeing the Trivia Night poster plastered at the entrance of the Rooster’s bar.
I agreed; I didn’t even bicker when he came up with the most embarrassing team name imaginable—Nya PonPons, a reference to his stupid anime. Eventually our gang, Paul, Elenore, Lin, Sam and I, became regulars at the Rooster’s. Each Saturday, armed with the smartest bunch (not Sam, though, the guy though Africa was a country) we would kick other teams’ asses. However, recently I’ve became a bit distracted...
I would rarely drink on trivia nights, even though Rooster’s had the most reasonably priced beer in town. Yet, as soon as I saw the five jackets hanging on the crooked chairs not too far from our table, I knew I’d need more booze. It wasn’t just anyone’s jackets. I could spot these anywhere—a few leather ones, nearly identical, and a long overcoat with bold pins and patches—they belonged to the Brendon Bandits’ team.
I would typically adore them from a distance, those five people with their magnetic presence; especially the long-haired guy with his cheeky grin and his overcoat I wanted myself so badly. To be their acquaintance would have been enough. Of course, I knew it would never be the case. But a dreamer could dream?
“Hi, I’m Nick, and I’m a failure, nice to meet ya.”
Is something I would have said, if I was of a privileged kind; ones who grew up surrounded by praise and a healthy dose of sarcasm.
Would have been enough if I was born handsome, like Sam. Disastrously, both my personality and my body were lacking; and the sheer thought of sitting right next to the Brenton Bandits made my knees tremble.
“Margarita night,” the bartender pointed to the sign above the beer menu, “two for the price of one.”
The Universe might be on my side after all.
“That’s such a gay drink,” Paul remarked as I navigated the cluster of chairs, trying not to spill the margaritas.
His comments were rarely pleasing. I wasn’t afraid of being gay, per se; I was afraid I might have been living incognito. Paul had it easy. He never had to question his identity. He would fall in love with the first chick who tolerated his babble or had a prominent cleavage; I could always tell it by the way he rolled his eyes, which was an equivalent of one’s face blushing. Yet, just in case Paul was right, I pushed my glasses towards Elenore.
As my body slowly unwound and the tension in my chest was lifted, I peeked at the Brenton Bandit’s table. It was obvious, they didn’t belong here. I could picture them riding motorcycles with their guitar cases whooshing in the wind (even though I’m not entirely sure one is allowed to carry a guitar case on such vehicles). Or, even better, all five of them in some cool bar made for cool people, where all bathroom stools were covered in cool sharpie graffiti’s (with an occasional penis scribbled on top) sipping drinks named after cool rock stars; but I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t cool after all.
I think it was the margaritas to blame. I’ve had one too many which resulted at my body acting all weird, blood flooding my cheeks and my heart misbehaving. At first, I just peeked at the long-haired man’s shoe, the only one that wasn’t obscured–a black leather boot with bright pink laces, just like my margarita glasses, which I now proudly held in my hands; then his shirt (it actually wasn’t plain black, it was covered with barely visible floral pattern).
Somewhere, hidden behind the tall woman sitting next to him, was the long-haired guy’s profile; probably as sleek as the rest of him. If I had to guess, I’d say his eyes were hazel, almost as dark as his hair. I would have probably collapsed and ended up in ER if his gaze caught mine; how embarrassing. How would I have explained that to my mother?
Sip after sip my head became lighter.
I decided to do it.
No, I wouldn’t dare, what if they laughed?
I’ll do it, I’ll say hi.
I won’t do it.
I’ll do it.
I took a deep breath, eyes fixed on the Branton Bandits’ table occupied by pints of dark beer with a foam so thick, it looked like a movie prop. Afraid that my words might be swallowed by the chatter, I leaned a bit closer. A sip of the drink, and I will say hi.
And that’s when I choked on my fucking margarita.
“You’re ok?” said Sam pretending to hit my back
“Nick you’re so red,” Lin stated the obvious.
As I was coughing my guts out, I prayed they didn’t notice me. That had to be yet another sign from the Universe: Nick, don’t do that, failures like you shouldn’t even try, keep your mouth shut. So, I did just that, uttering only a few capitals, “Mt. Everest”, and “Uganda” for the rest of the night.
When it all was finally over, I was the first one to flee to the smoking area, lighting one cigarette after another. It might not seem like a big deal, but it was. My only way to befriend someone out of my league. To escape the mundane. To become someone who’s confident and attractive, and... and I failed, like I always did.
“We crushed it, man! When they asked about Minu-chan, I lost my shit! I literally binged the entire show last night!” Paul interrupted my solitude.
Soon the yard was flooded with smokers and their laughter, and Paul’s shrill voice listing the Biblical references in the Minu-chan show. Reunited, our gang began making plans for the night, even though it was always the same – crash at Paul’s place, and spend the entire Sunday hoping Monday never comes.
“Good game,” Sam appeared out of the blue with a pint of beer still in his hands, which he obviously didn’t know was illegal, “I met my old pal Mina. It was her first trivia night, and she’s invited me-” he took a sip of his crime, “and all of you to join at her afterparty. What do you say?”
Paul rolled his eyes, “Mina? Nick, we were just talking about Minu-chan, literally just a second ago. It’s a sign, let’s go?”
I was supposed to refuse.
I was supposed to stay quiet.
Yet, when the five dark figures left the bar and began marching towards us, my mind refused to stay on track. It was the tall girl who sat right in front of me, and the guy with the leather jacket, and... the long-hair dude, his face exposed for everyone to devour. Everyone but me, as my eyes wouldn’t let go of a pebble sitting abandoned behind Sam’s right sneaker.
“That’s Mina,” said Sam wrapping his hand around the tall girl’s waist, “so are you guys coming?”
The Universe was toying with me.
“Sure,” I said without waiting for others to respond.