In which the dregs of a brunch linger after an incident occurs. Anise, in a small window of lucidity, recalls a wedding on the high seas. Our hero has a run in with an accusatory roommate. A somber almost sober cab ride ensues.
They were all hunched in Milo’s café in what started as a late birthday brunch but which morphed first into a prolonged laughing fit, then into a fight, then into tears, then into exhaustion, then into a laughing fit again, and finally into a dark huddle of people drinking coffee to sober up.
There were five people left. Going around the table was him, Anise, some guy everyone called Shrive, Schrieve’s girlfriend Viv, and the eponymous Milo, who was a friend of Anise and her friends.
“My money’s on divorce,” said Schrieve, the button of his jeans popped open, a roll of stomach fat poking out the bottom of his t-shirt. He was the only one drinking but had moved on to beer as he claimed that sobered him up. There were chip crumbs in his thick beard and he drank his beer as though it were a babies bottle, mouth suctioned around the bottleneck.
“Come on,” said Viv picking at the cuticle of her bony, white finger with her teeth. “People fight all the time. My parents fight all the time and they’re still married.”
“True,” said Schrieve snorting a little. “But a public argument is like the divorce version of a save-the-date. It’s one thing to argue when you’re together alone, and it’s another thing to argue in front of close friends, but it’s a whole different thing to argue in a crowded restaurant and storm out. “
“Not to mention at Lila’s birthday party. Nothing says divorce like a fight that ruins a birthday party,” Milo said with an air of knowingness as though he’d seen many such fights in his years of running the restaurant. Milo was about 20 years older than everyone in that group and nobody was quite sure of how or when he went from being the owner of their hangout spot to a member of the group. He always wore all black and had a variety of different baseball caps that he wore backwards on his mostly bald head.
“Why the fuck did they get married?” Anise chimed in from what’d seemed like an hour-long absence. Whenever Anise got extremely drunk she left herself behind in a somewhat vegetative state until she sobered up. Her eyes lost the life in them and she took on this cocked headed drooling smile. She wasn’t sleeping though. Afterwards, she would always remember everything.
“Welcome back,” he said patting her leg beneath the table. She pulled away.
“What a shit-show their wedding was. I don’t think any of you guys were there. It’s not like anyone expected it to happen. I fucking didn’t. Leanne just showed up at my door and was like, ‘We’re going on a boat trip today’ and I said ‘ok, sure, whatever’ and so we fucking drove all the way out to some dock upstate somewhere and got on this dingy-looking fishing boat. It was like 10 of us or something and like four handles of gin, a few handles of vodka, a cooler of beer, and, like, a few sandwiches. Definitely not enough food, which should have been the first sign something stupid was going to happen. When we go on the boat, Leanne had us separate into boys and girls and the boys stayed on deck fishing and we went down into the ‘captains quarters’, which was this sad little room with a murphy bed and a bunch of empty soda cans.
“There was a captain and a first mate also aboard and they were both these old, salty fucking perverts who kept looking us over. The first mate kept coming down with his creepy bug eyes and asking us if ‘he could make our trip more pleasurable’. We we’re all creeped out, so after we’d drank, drunk?, 2 handles of vodka, Amy got the idea to fuck with him by finding ways to show him her panties when he came down. And then we all made a game out of it; trying to get him to look at our panties when he came down.
“Anyway, we cruised around for most of the afternoon getting good and drunk. And then, around sunset, Leanne was like, ‘Hey let’s go up to the deck. Teddy and I have a little announcement to make’ and surprise! it was a wedding. And so, we all had to fucking collect ourselves, since we thought it was a joke, but it turned out to be serious. Leanne’d made a veil out of toilet paper and a bouquet out of potpourri and Teddy had on his tuxedo t-shirt and ripped up capris. And the first-mate comes out with his cellphone playing that classical song that they play at all weddings, you know the one, and we’re all laughing and Leanne puts on her serious adult voice and is like, ‘guys can you take this seriously for a second?’ But it’s impossible too since the first mate has got a huge visible hard-on and he’s standing just to the left of the Captain as he’s giving the wedding speech.
“So Teddy, realizing the boner, gets all pissed at the mate for ‘ruining the mood’. As if the ironic tuxedo shirt and potpourri bouquet were the most serious things in the world. And the mate apologizes and keeps trying to make it go down breathing deeply and whatever. But it turns out he can’t get it to go down since he took Viagra. So Teddy just yell starts yelling at this poor guy ‘Why the fuck did you do that?’ And the mate, with his creepy bug eyes all hung down falsely ashamed, said he though he was gonna ‘get lucky’ since we’d been showing him our panties all day. ‘I was a boy scout as a kid,’ I remembered him saying with this dumb grin. ‘Always be prepared.’ .
“Well now Teddy is fucking outraged and drunk and he starts calling all of us sluts and Leanne starts crying and then he starts yelling at Leanne to stop crying which makes her cry more. This goes on for like 5 minutes until finally the captain gets everyone to calm down and sends the mate down to the ‘captain’s quarters’ to ‘deal with himself’. Then they had the ceremony, which was tense and by far one of weirdest events I’d ever been too and you all know I’ve seen some weird shit. Drunk as I was, I was not drunk enough for that mess.
“Later that night, as we were driving back and Amy and Lila were asleep on my shoulders in the backseat, Teddy kept muttering the word ‘sluts’ under his breath and was punching his thigh with one hand and driving with the other. Leanne, in the passenger seat, was just staring out the window. I thought she was crying, she’s always crying about something, but that time she wasn’t. She was just staring out the window.”
He and Anise took a cab back to her apartment. He was there for only a few minutes, just making sure she got into bed. She tried to light a cigarette but dropped in on the carpet and started a fire he had to put out with his shoe. On his way out Laura, her roommate, stormed out of her room and accosted him at the door.
“Is she smoking in the apartment again?”
“She’s not. She’s asleep.”
“Don’t lie. I can smell the smoke.”
“Don’t lie for her. She’s going to ditch you soon too, so don’t lie for that bitch.”
“I think I should go.”
Laura apologized after realizing what she said. She explained she hadn’t been sleeping much because she just found out her mother had cancer and she was on edge. She seemed like she really wanted to talk to someone about it, but he didn’t feel like it. Instead he told her it was fine and left the apartment.
In the cab ride home he stared out the window at all the lights that were still on. Lighted windows, streetlights, flickering lights from cars going past. There seemed something very sad about them still being on at this hour, as though even they should be asleep.
Image Source: Józef Pankiewicz via Wikimedia Commons