I told him five times. “Hit the brakes, man.” Wanted to say something that would sound helpful but carefree, so that’s what I came up with. Just a suggestion, he could take it or leave it.
He left it. Six gins, he had. (Hot bartender, charmed easily.) My concern was Tommy, CFO. Boss man. Enforcer. Person that fires people—four of them in the last year. Doesn’t love office antics, maybe wouldn’t love Drew’s.
“Slow down,” I warned. But, you know, in a cool way.
He kept at it, thumped me on the back. “Sammy, mammy, don’t be such a…” he sputtered, “uh… grammy. A granny. It’s a Christmas party, you silly kike.” Threw back his seventh. I headed to the bathroom, splashed water on my face. Checked my BlackBerry for a phone call from this woman I had taken out a week earlier. No call, no text message. I forced myself not to send her anything; I had made the mistake of over-eagerness before.
In the mirror, my peripheral vision on the door in case someone were to find me mid-babble, I practiced saying, “Drew, I don’t know what it is you want from me here. I can’t be associated with—” No, that wouldn’t do, because I did know what he wanted from me. He wanted a brother, bro; he wanted a dude, a comrade, a P.I.C. He wanted me to pal around with him tonight. But I had already gotten him the job, and wasn’t that enough? I had to babysit this man, had to hitch my wagon to his simply because we shared a dorm room in college a decade ago? “Dude,” I tried, “you’re going overboard. Tommy’s going to figure it out and shit will hit the fan.” No, he’d laugh at that. The shit hitting the fan thing. I knew what would smarten him up real fast. Straightened my tie, fingered the crusties from the corners of my eyes, exited the bathroom to say my piece.
News had spread. Whispers misted over the entire ballroom or lounge or whatever the hotel called this area. Thought I saw pointing—at Drew, maybe at me. Wished they could have had this thing at a normal bar so that non-work people would be around, and I could try to blend Drew into the crowd.
I backed away from him as he started offering high-fives to people from other departments. From a tall table nearby I watched Denise approach Drew and ask him something, saw his hands get overly animated. She was smiling, and laughing, and I figured it had to be at him, not with him. My shirt stuck to my sweaty lower back and I wondered if the light blue was soaked dark.
Finally, finally I convinced him to get some air, helped him slip outside. Stood nearby as he threw up against the building. I steeled myself before telling him I was going to go home now. Between retches he indicated with his head that he heard me. I decided to walk, since the hotel wasn’t far from my place. I must say that as I walked, the anxiety did not leave me.
But later, only forty minutes later, he called me. “Dude, fuuuuuun holiday party, right?!” I sighed. “Right, Drew.” Someone giggled in the background. “I went back in, man. You missed some real fun. They had karaoke.” The voice that had giggled began to sing a Journey song. “Denise and I are heading home, I’ll see you on Monday.” I fumbled to say something but he had hung up.
What I had planned to say to Drew earlier, the bright idea that had come to me from the bathroom mirror, was, “Women are laughing at you.” That would have yanked him out of his idiocy like a cold shower. But now, I wasn’t sure what had been going on. They hadn’t been laughing at him. Or they had, some had, but not Denise, maybe. Women like the guy who drinks and has fun, maybe.
They must not like the guy who monitors the guy who is drinking and having fun. I thought of Drew always telling me not to be a pussy, and I thought to myself, That’s right. I thought, Don’t be a pussy, Samuel. He also liked to say, “enjoy the ride,” that was another Drew-ism. I thought, Enjoy the ride, Samuel. Don’t be a pussy. Enjoy the ride. Drew was heading home with Denise, who is very pretty indeed. I was heading home to Roscoe, my Airedale.
Ease up, have fun, take things the Drew way. I resolved to follow this prescription.
But then I thought, Oy, Samuel, you’re not so far from forty. And what would mom say about your having had three cocktails at an office holiday party? She would say that had not been a responsible action.
Front page image by ginnerobot