I Didn’t Ask for This
He left the house after four shots, finishing off the fifth of vodka he’d opened that morning, or maybe the day before. Either way, he figured he’d stop and get another, tucking it beneath the seat in the back. He was using the family’s ancient minivan, a 2002 model with manual locks and windows. After his first DUI, the judge suspended his license for six months and his dad took his new-to-him 2014 pickup, later admitting he sold it to make the bail, pay the attorney and buy a bike for Sim to use. And when he got his license back, his dad let him use this car. Cold mornings, it choked at red lights, the steering wheel shook if he went over fifty and there was no docking his phone for decent music. It stank, of him and his sisters, of stale fast food and thrift store clothes. He wondered if his dad had cleaned out his truck first. There were several vodka-filled water bottles hidden.
Four shots in quick succession. The first one went down like water. The second made him think that a third wouldn’t hurt and a fourth meant he was now out of vodka. But he felt good, with that glow that started in his middle and reached outward, filling his head and down through his fingers. Just enough of a buzz before he met up with the guys at the bar where he planned on buying only one cheap-ass Pabst.
Every couple of weeks, they got together for wings, or pizza. The point was less to hang with the guys and more to get Beau back in circulation, pointing out all the lovelies that he would ignore. Beau usually drank one, maybe one-and-a-half beers, and Xavier was still abstaining in solidarity with Rachel who was pregnant yet again. Nick always had an excuse (I’m on call, I had one with Connie earlier) leaving Simeon with no choice but to forgo a communal pitcher and buy his own drinks, one at a time. That was fine, but he couldn’t figure out how so many places were managing to water down their taps.
But vodka. Vodka did the trick. That he could put it in a water bottle and pretend to water down his oh-so-strong coffee at work was a godsend, allowing him to maintain a low level of sogginess throughout most days. If only he could somehow bring in a filled “water bottle” to the pizza place.
* * *
He arrived early and headed straight for the bar. The vodka high was wearing thin. A blonde in a peach tank top leaned on the edge, her ass waving in time with some unheard song in her head. The ponytail sprouting from the top of her head said I’m single-and-just-turned-legal and he moved one seat over to sit down next to her. Then she offered to share the pitcher she was waiting on. He raised an eyebrow with a tilt, downed his double vodka rocks in two good gulps and held the glass out.
“You’re already wasted.” And she walked off with a laugh to a table of more men than women. Fuck her, her tits were small anyway.
The rest of the evening went on as planned. Xavier showed off his new cargo shorts — ‘daddy diaper bag’ he called them. Ultrasound photos were passed around and Simeon mimicked the rest, commenting on whether it was a penis or a foot. Nick told them how Connie’s dad was retiring from the Coast Guard. A big ceremony was planned and of course everyone was invited. And then Beau arrived in his wheelchair, with some excuse about his new leg needing to be refitted, bound and determined to make sure no woman would ever take an interest in him. Simeon sidestepped questions about his latest job, which he described as a support position to drive client’s investments. Since none of the others were likely to make the fifteen mile trip out of town to the iPhix iPhone store where he manned the register and phone, he felt he was safe in his lie. H didn’t think anyone noticed that he had two beers and didn’t finish his one slice of the pizza.
* * *
He felt unsteady when he stood up. “I sat too way too long today. Gotta should ask about one of those stand-up desk things next week tomorrow.” He walked behind Beau, a hand on his shoulder. Poor Beau, lost part of his leg and his wife, boom, boom. One after another. Boom. Boom. A shame, because that ex-wife was smokin’ hot. Hot-headed, too. Beau just didn’t know how to handle a woman like her. She said he said she pushed the motorcycle over on him, not her fault his crushed leg had to be amputated. Definitely not her fault that she walked away. Beau said he told her to leave or she told someone something, somethinf, who knows, someone dumped someone. Because, who wants to look at half a leg, especially in bed? No wonder he didn’t pay any attention to the ladies any more. Beau’s never going to get to have sex again and whose fault would that be. Fault.
Stepping outside, he gave a wave behind him to the guys, swallowing gulps of air to clear his head of how the pony-tail woman so casually slipped her arm around another man at her table, one who never even looked at her. Wasted my ass, the glass held mostly ice. She just never seen a real man drink before.
He heard someone rapping on the window and he realized he was in his car. Xavier.
“Sim, let me drive you home.”
“I’m fine. Just had a long day.”
“Sim, I’m over here.”
“I know. Just, was thinking about Beau and Becks,” He swiped under his eye. “Makes me a little sad, you know?” Deep breaths, deep breaths, blink aaaannd…look up.
“Dude, you look…way too tired. C’mon, I’ll drive you home. You can get your car tomorrow.”
“I can’t let you do that,” He closed his eyes, faked a yawn. “I’m fine. I’m just gonna drive with the windows down, get some air.”
Xavier’s phone rang. “It’s Rachael.”
“Go, go home.”
“Go home, and deal with her. I’m going…I’m going to get some coffee,” Simeon pointed across the street as he opened the door. “Wake up a little. I can sleep in tomorrow.”
Xavier shook his head, but he turned away. Simeon heard him talking as he went.
“Antihistamine and Pepto? Ooh, baby, pink puke on a white carpet. Go get her in the tub.” Simeon watched Xavier until the man was in his car, then Simeon walked, slowly, across the street to the coffee house, Marconi Coffee. A simple line drawing of a mustachioed man in a high collar from the turn of the century held a cup up, pinky extended. Simeon swore the animated eyes followed him inside where the smell of coffee was pervasive, but he also saw beer taps in front of a row of bottles.
It was another hour before he left. He had told the barista his cup of coffee with a shot of whisky disappeared while he was dancing with a group and she replaced it without a question. He downed that one as quickly as the first, waved to his new-found friends, whoever they were, and went back to his car. The vodka he bought earlier was on the backseat.
He paused, teetering. He tried the door handle. It was locked. Had he put it there, in plain sight? He couldn’t remember. The door was locked and his car was safe, surrounded by a few others. Someone must have broken in and put the bottle on the seat like that as he could scarcely remember buying it. The bag was crushed around it, twisted about the neck, like he always did it, and he liked vodka. This was a good brand. He opened the door wide and sat down hard, holding the loose seatbelt in one hand, the bottle in the other.
He marveled at how he had almost lost it, this bottle. If a cop had walked by, he might have looked in. Simeon was certain leaving booze out where people can see it was illegal, which was why he always hid it, even in his apartment. Surely a cop would have waited around to arrest him. He got back out and tried to hide the bottle, but it kept rolling out from under the seat so he tried placing it under the center console, where his daddy used to put their Jolly Chow toys. He flipped up the console, but there were no toys. His mother probably gave them all away. What a bitch -no, a saint. Mama’s a living saint. She tries. Daddy, too. What a guy, trying his best.
A thought occurred to Simeon. All that time while growing up, he had wanted a brother to play with, someone closer to his age and not his two older sisters, and maybe there was a reason.
He screwed his face up. He was their last child because…they had wanted him! “They had wanted a boy. And here I am! They couldn’t make a brother for me because all they wanted was me!”
He decided he needed to tell his daddy how much he loved him, thank him for all he’s done. He needed to. He needed to go to their house, give them a hug and maybe make them breakfast. It was almost morning. Waffles, mmm. They’ll be surprised.
He heard some laughter, looked up, and saw the ponytail from the bar. She was walking arm in arm with two guys and another woman. They breezed past him, laughing at their own jokes. The ponytail had already forgotten about him or so he thought until she turned and looked back.
It couldn’t have been more than a second, but in that second he saw everything. Her disdain, the look of disgust behind her smile. Their laughter turned from at their fun to mockery of him, and with that his mood soured again. He slumped down in the seat.
The light turned from yellow to red, the flash causing him to look up. He didn’t recall turning on the ignition, but there he was, at the light on Knickerbocker at Second Ave. He lived in the opposite direction.
A car horn brought his head back up and he saw there was a stop sign illuminated in his headlights. He was in the middle of an intersection, facing a corner while a car went around him, horn blaring. He looked back to see if he knew the person, swerved up on the curb. The car behind him gunned their motor and sped off, horn wailing like a siren. Must have been a stupid kid, showing off.
The bottle rolled out from under the console. He tried to push it back, but every time he leaned down, the car hit the curb, and the bottle rolled back out, so he aimed his car toward the two yellow lines in the center of the road, away from the curb and resumed pushing at the bottle.
He heard lots of horns honking. “ ‘S a football game? They still play football is warm out.” He told himself to ask Beau when football season ended, maybe offer to take him to a game.
A car with a blonde swerved past. That ponytail from the bar? Small tits, fat ass. Lil’ Tits, you messed with the wrong mind guy. Lil’ Tits. He looked up at the rear view mirror, swerved hard against the curb. “Fuck you Lil’ Tits!”
The steering column began to shake, so he slowed down, but the car continued to pulse, pulling to one side. He let it drift until the wheels rubbed up against the curb. The curb was now his friend, keeping him safe until he got home, and got in bed. Sleep had never sounded so good, his pillow cool and inviting.
* * *
He dreamt he had a flat tire.
He woke up a couple of times only to go back to trying to fix the tire from inside the car with only his right hand. Someone must have called a tow truck for him, there were so many flashing lights and sirens around him. He didn’t remember tow trucks having sirens. At one point he heard someone yelling “Gonna be okay!” He wanted to say “it’s just a flat” and wave them off, but they had their back to him and they seemed to be talking to a building entrance.
Someone was standing over him. He tried to ask if there was a fire somewhere when the person told him how lucky he was to have avoided killing someone. “Jus’ a flat, daddy.” But the person just stood there, slowly shaking their head down at him. “Daddy?”
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