He keeps talking but I can’t listen. I keep staring at gap where his front tooth used to be. He must be twenty, but I’ve always been bad with ages. I’ve been drinking beer outside with these two guys for fifteen minutes but I don’t remember anything they’ve said. I think their names were Mike and Chris. “So then I slapped the bitch”, Mike proclaims with such aforementioned certainty that I believed it to be true. Mike must have slapped a bitch.
Then suddenly, like a lightening bolt to the conversation I was never really participating in, I ran out of beer.
“Oh shit of course, Miles. You're Chris?”
“Fuck, I’m sorry guys. But I’m out. I’m going to go see if I can scrounge another.”
“Shit homie”, Miles sheepishly whispers. “Think you can bum us a couple of them brews?”
“Yeah man, no problem.”
I step inside the apartment to the sudden awe of all the party patrons. There were six of us inside, drinking vast quantities of beer and liquor. Mostly liquor. I think the host thought it cheaper to buy five different types of lower end booze bottles than one or two thirty packs of beer.
“West, who the fuck have you been talking to out there?”
“Oh, that’s just Miles and Kyle. They’re cool.”
“I think they’re on meth.”
“No. You guys don’t know them like I know them. They’re cool.”
I pushed my way into the kitchen and scoured for beer. Nothing was left. The twenty-four year old host buys liquor and all the Higschool kids drink beer. What could she have thought would happen? We drink martinis and engage in intellectual conversations about the DOW?
She matched Gin with Tonic, ten-dollar Whisky with Coke, Vodka with cranberry. She had Schnapps and some kind of off brand Amaretto. She even had Brandy. What the fuck do you do with Brandy? I’ve never been drunk on liquor before. I’ve had southern comfort at a party once, and I’ve stolen peppermint Schnapps from my parent’s freezer. Peppermint Schnapps was OK. It gave off that fresh scent feeling that gum commercials can only pretend to emulate. In reality Double-mint gum was just a cheap bullshit alternative that didn’t have the lasting effect of getting shit-faced off your ass. So it’s safe to assume that I was a liquor amateur. A novice in a room of drunkards.
In TV shows they tend to mix drinks together. The bartenders, fathers, business executives, and athletes mix together liquor such as these and create drinkable concoctions that seem to make everyone in the room happy. I think they're called cocktails. Hell, I could do that.
I poured the whisky into the vodka, the gin into the brandy, and the schnapps into everything. I mixed it into a bowl like I was making some sort of punch. I made about fifteen servings too much. For some reason, unknown at the time, I left out Coke. Fuck it, I thought, you couldn’t get drunk off coke. I made a giant bowl of everything but coke. I spooned three glasses.
“What’s that you got there West? I didn’t know you were an aspiring bartender.” Laura, my host, exclaiming as I was headed for the door.
“Everything. Everything but coke.”
I went back and spooned her a mug. She grabs it with intrigue, sips, and barely holds in the throw-up.
“Are you seriously going to drink that?”
“Yeah, me and the guys.”
“The meth heads you just met?”
“No. The thirsty friends that I just met.”
“Whatever you say.”
I storm past her to prove a point.
“Listen. I’m fifteen. I know a meth head when I see one.”
I open the door and slam it shut.
The guys were smoking cigarettes on the staircase. Miles was on his phone.
“Yeah, just let me know when you find that fool.. Call me.”
“WEST DAWG! Coming through in the clutch!” Kyle appreciatively shouts.
I hand them the two glasses and shrug.
“We were all out of beer.”
They both take massive chugs of the alcoholic atrocity I’ve grown to forever deem the “Everything Except Coke.”
“This shit is fucking bomb!”
“YO HOMIE YOU HAVE A FUTURE DAWG!”
I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never been good at something before. Miles and Kyle congratulated me like I’ve just invented a Denise Richards prosthetic jerk off tool. To these guys I was the greatest bartender to ever touch a mixing cup.
And then I took a swig.
Of course I didn’t like it. But what the heck do I know? I don’t even like liquor. If Miles and Kyle like it this much I’m sure everybody was in the party right now pounding back mug after mug. It would be like the first time a child tasted chocolate milk, I thought, chocolate milk that puts you head first into the toilet. I had to make sure I saved some.
“Guys I’ll be right back. I’m going to get more of these.”
As I wobbled into the apartment everyone was chatting in the living room and drinking some sort of red hued vodka beverage served in a highball glass. My brown colored punch wasn’t touched. Not even looked at. Maybe they didn’t see it. Maybe they didn’t know what it was. They probably just didn’t see it. That’s it. They were so drunk that they didn’t noticed that I made a brand new alcoholic punch. Of course they wouldn’t look for it, what was I thinking? I grabbed the entire bowl.
“Hey guys. Did you try my drink yet? I made it a little while ago.”
“Miles and Kyle love it. They think it has a future.”
Miles opens the apartment door.
Laura yells, “What the fuck!”
“Yo West, thanks for the bomb ass drinks, we gotta kick it.”
“What? Where you guys going?”
“Got some mother fucker to mess up down the street.”
“Cool guys. Right?”
Twenty minutes pass and I’ve put down two more Everything Except Cokes. After three or four you couldn’t really taste it anymore. I was sure the batch was ripening.
My friends were smoking cigarettes on the porch and I was wobbling wherever my body would take me, usually back to the liquor selection, where my inventions grew out of control. I was making everything short of a flaming kamikaze. But I would have gotten there if the police hadn’t arrived.
They shouted up towards our balcony and Laura urged me to stay still and hide in the back room. More like demanded.
“West stay inside!”
The cops kept yelling towards our balcony
“We’re looking for two men seen around here about fifteen minutes ago. They were involved in the beating of rival gang member. One of them may have been shot. Have you seen or heard anything?”
Laura looks back at me wobbling out the front door. “Fucking shit”, she mumbles.
“No officers. We’ve been hanging out in here all night.”
I stumble out onto the street behind the cops. I’m muttering words and statements resembling that of the constitution. I’m stealing phrases I’ve learned from my casual viewings of Law and Order.
“THERE IS NO GUILTY PARTY WTHOUT PROOF AND TRIAL!!”
The cops looked over, but I was gone. Grabbed and pulled into the bushes with a hand covering my mouth.
It was Miles.
Last thing I remember I was flying up the apartment’s steps. Miles and Kyle carried me to the apartment and put me on the couch. They drank Everything Except Cokes, thanked my host for not turning them in, and sold weed to my best friend.
And then they were on their way. Like Angels in the night. Heroes when it mattered.
My host was finally able to have a conversation with them. To see whom they really were. Just good guys with a bad reputation. I dreamt that they were security guards at my bar ten years down the line. They worked for Everything Except Cokes. They would drink one every hour until the bar closed.
They even ordered one for me so we could all drink one together, like old times, but before I was able to raise the cocktail glass I woke up in a heavy sweat.
I stumbled to the front door, opened it, and puked all over the welcome matt.
I never saw Laura again.