“Never speak to me again,” I hiss through gritted teeth in the Crabapple’s parking lot. “Because you are immature and insincere.” I hang up my cell, hang up on Dan and his stupid voicemail message – “I don’t know why you called this number, but you did.” I send a hectic text – “I never wanna see u again! :(”
I stand in the middle of the parking lot, alone and abandoned. Dan and I were supposed to go to my downstairs neighbor Michael’s show at Nietszche’s. But when I arrived at Crabapple’s (of all places) to pick him up on my way home, he was drunk and stoned and went to “close his tab.” He rushed off and left me with his friends. Twenty minutes passed. I checked my phone; I had a text from Dan which said “I had to go.” He ran off down the street. But why?
A month has passed. It has been a month without a peep from Dan, a month devoid of an apology or explanation. I lay alone in my bungalow, attempting an early night’s slumber.
My phone ring-a-dings, announcing the arrival of a late night text. Maybe it’s a sext. It’s from Dan.
“I am not a monster.”
Ignoring the text, I turn over and close my eyes. My phone dings again.
“I’m not a harmful person.”
I turn over on my other side, put a pillow over my face. My phone dings once more.
“Can I bring you food?”
I toss and turn and pull the sheets around my body. Another text arrives.
“I’m outside your apartment.”
Bolting upright in my loft bed, I nearly knock myself out on the slanted roof ceiling. Climbing down the ladder, I rush into my bathroom and peer out the window. Sure enough, I see some fool clamoring out of a Liberty Cab. It’s Dan, hair in a wild explosion around his head, shoes dragging across the pavement in drunken irreverence.
“I missed the way you smell.”
“Well, it’s been a month…What was that whole disappearance about, anyway?”
“I double booked,” Dan says, clomping down my basement steps. I situate myself upon a bar stool. Dan removes a marijuana stash from his pants. “Friends came from out of town, but we had plans too. I got overwhelmed.”
“Why didn’t you call me and apologize?”
“You said to never speak to you again.”
“When a girl says that, it means you should apologize.”
It all becomes water under the bridge. We make out upon the moldy washer-dryer unit while a silverfish watches.
Another year or so has passed. Dan and I have grown into true friends. This sometimes veers into FWB territory. I now see Dan with a sense of maturity. There’s a gentlemanly aura in his eyes.
He has taken on the role of proprietor at a new Cheektowaga speakeasy, and has seen it grow into success. Recently, Dan bought a school bus. It’s one of those half-sized white buses. He painted it with the logo of his bar and is the DD/chauffer to his friends.
I yearn to take a joyride on Dan’s bus. Dreaming of the bus, I fantasize about the bus at night. I’m staring out my window and remembering that night that Dan showed up in a Liberty Cab. I wish he would show up in his bus.
I’m walking down Elmwood when I learn that Dan is headed my way. It is a warm Sunday morning, with the sun sending down the perfect brunch-friendly rays. We decide to fetch bloody marys.
I wait for Dan outside. He rolls up in a giant black truck. Not his own white Toyota, or the beloved bus.
“My car battery died last night,” Dan calls down from the towering truck. “I borrowed John’s truck.”
I climb up the passenger side and give Dan a smile.
“So where should we go to brunch? Bloody marys…”
“Well, it would be cool to go someplace around here, but John needs his truck by 6, so I was thinking we could go someplace in Cheektowaga, get my car jump-started first, or else we’ll have to leave here at a certain time.”
“Oh, yeah, let’s get out of here for a while. I’m so sick of the same-old same-old.”
We go a reasonable 55 miles per hour down the 33. I blast Metallica.
“Why the heck are you going so slow?”
“I’m never in a rush to get anywhere.”
We pull up the gravel driveway of the speakeasy and spot Dan’s petite white Toyota, depressingly dead by the dumpster. Dan whips out the jumper cables.
“Will you show me how to jump start a car?” I ask. Dan adheres the clamps to some parts under the hood.
“Now, when these are attached,” he says. “It means they’re live. They will spark.”
The cars create a medley of vroooooms and sputterings and smolderings. Dan’s car comes alive, and we climb inside. We travel a meandering route of side streets I’ve managed to never go down, even though I’m from this town and lived in it for 20 years.
“What the fuck is this street, Floral Ave.? Isn’t it a dead end?”
“No, far from it,” Dan says. Sure enough, it turns out to be a shortcut to the gas station. While driving down Floral Ave., Dan extends a fancy pipe full of weed my way. I take a hit.
“Well, you could at least wait for that guy to cross the street.”
“Oops, my bad!”
Dan takes a hit himself.
“Well, you could at least wait to be out of eyesight from that woman gardening,” I say.
After getting some gas, we head to Otto’s.
Otto’s has been located on the same Cheektowaga corner my entire life, a stone’s throw from the house I grew up in. Up until today, I’ve only crossed the threshold of Otto’s once, five years ago. It turned out to be an Italian restaurant, with a bar in the back. Dan tells me that they have the best bloody marys in town. Their flickering marquee declares the Patio to be Open.
We head through the bar, get two bloodys, and go out to the patio. We wait for Dan’s friend Ben to arrive.
Ben shows up in a red muscle shirt with an older guy in tow. The older guy is scrawny and weathered-looking. He says his name is Bob. He sits at the end of our table. I’m baked, and keep my sunglasses on even though we managed to find the least-sunny patio in this hemisphere.
“Who’s working at the speakeasy tonight?” Ben asks.
“I think Kimberly Wieners is bartending,” Dan answers.
“Wieners?” I exclaim.
“You’d like Kimberly Wieners,” Dan says.
“She doesn’t look like a wiener,” Bob speaks for the first time.
“Well, I’ve never seen one, so whatever.” I roll my eyes.
“I could put mine on the table if you want – ”
“No, thanks. It was a joke, obviously.”
I move my plastic lawn chair close to Dan.
“Oh, I need to drive John to his truck at the speakeasy,” Dan says suddenly.
“I’ll come with you -” I say, getting up.
“No, stay here,” Dan says. “John is operating on two hours sleep. We don’t need to shock him awake with more people than necessary.”
I’m left alone with Ben and Bob. It’s cooled down and I’m chilly. We head inside; there might be some rap music emanating from the bar. I just finished the bloody mary. It was good.
“Car bombs!” Ben yells. A round of car bombs manifests.
“I haven’t had a car bomb since college, wow, I feel old.” I take a sip, but put it back down.
“Shots!” Bob yells. The young bartender pours shots of Jaeger. I decline. It’s all going on Bob’s tab.
“Do you think I can just have some wine? It’s really all I drink.”
“Ooooh, fancy-prancy!” Bob turns to me, points a finger in my face. “I’ll buy you shots, but I ain’t buyin’ you no wine.”
He ends up buying me a pinot grigio anyway.
“Hey, wear your hair down,” Bob says to the bartender.
“Um, wow, just because you gave her a dollar tip, you think you can dictate how she wears her hair? You’re a prick.”
“You’re crazy, you’re fucked up,” Bob responds, pack of Senecas rising out his breast pocket. I take a large swallow of wine.
“So you’re a wine drinker?” Ben asks calmly.
“Yeah, it agrees with me, and it’s good for you in small doses I guess.”
“Nah, dude, a glass of wine a day is like one cigarette a day,” Bob ignorantly declares.
“What? No, wine contains antioxidants and resveratrol.”
An argument ensues and only rises in intensity between Bob and I, despite the fact he continues buying me drinks and bumming me cigs. He refuses to acknowledge the medical journal article that I pull up on my phone. I’m about to pull my hair out. Dan returns and sits down next to me.
“Thank God,” I throw my arms around him.
“She’s crazy, dude.'”
“He’s a dick.” I say.
“You better be careful,” Dan says, “She might write about you on her blog.”
Bob looks truly scared for a second, then brushes it off.
“Go ahead – write it! Just make sure you spell my name right. Bob Zielinski. Z-I-E-L…”
After a while of getting nowhere, we leave Buzzkill Bob getting Skittles from the quarter machine.
Ben, Dan, and I embark on a short, tipsy stroll to the speakeasy. We are on busy Union Road in broad daylight.
“Please, guys, can we walk down a side street?” I’m power walking ahead. “I do not need my parents to drive by and text me asking why I’m walking down Union Road in the middle of the day with two guys. My mother will question what I’m doing with my life. I do not need it right now!”
We get to the speakeasy. The bartender, Wieners, keeps the wine coming. I load the jukebox with Britney Spears and Trina. I’m smearing on a lipstick overdose and dancing around the bar. Dan appears to be having an awkward convo with the other bartender; it seems like they used to date or something.
Stumbling up to Dan, I’m ready to get my bus ride on.
“Let’s role play Forrest Gump and Jenny on the bus,” I say in an intoxicated whisper. “I’m fatigued, let’s go!”
Dan is still mid-conversation. He hands me the keys to the bus. I wander out of the bar, locate the bus, stumble aboard, and lay down sideways on a seat.
After a little bit, Dan gets on the bus. I left the keys in the door. We sit down side by side.
“You don’t hate me?” Dan asks.
“Hate you? Why would I hate you?”
“I always mess up.”
“Nonsense. You are great. The bus is great. Everything’s fine.”
Dan starts the ignition and we pull out of the parking lot. We cruise back to the city.
(Dan and Michael were introduced in my first story “Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent,” so read that first if you haven’t!)