By the first beer we’re all talking about the women we’re trying to see. Darius has feelings for a friend who might be moving back in with her ex. Kevin keeps fantasizing about his manager, who’s a good ten years older than him but he’s always had a thing for older women. I stay quiet till we drain the next round, then start in on what me and a woman I saw a couple weeks back got into. I keep her name out of it even though that doesn’t minimize the disrespect. By the fourth set of bottles we’re not holding back on pent up resentment. Fuck bosses who make five times what we do. Fuck petty supervisors who retaliate with increased workloads. Fuck her for not texting back. Fuck her, fuck him, fuck me.
Kevin gets up to open another twelve pack and Darius gets up to pee. I lean my head back and the beer swirls around in my skull. Kevin’s gray cat jumps up in my lap and kneads my chest without his claws. I let my head droop forward and he nuzzles me. His innocence lightens me. Kevin cracks open a can of cat food and the animal gorges while he walks back over with the next couple rounds. Darius comes back from down the hall and drops down by me. We each take a couple shanties and call ourselves beautiful delicate flowers for enjoying the grapefruit notes. Round five finds us laughing about anything crude we can relate to human bodies. Our bodies, women’s bodies, then darker, then much lighter, because when brotherhood glows in the shine of alcohol we are transparent in our bodies and our manner.
The sixth round there’s more talk of fucking. How we want to fuck, fuck her, fuck him, but no, fuck man, really. I kinda wish she would text. No, but really, I really do kinda miss her, man. No, but yeah, she was fun to be around. Fun like funny, you know. No, I really don’t miss her, she sucked, but her, yeah her, yeah, no, she was pretty cool. Yeah, I messed things up. Not her, the other girl. I don’t miss her, I miss her. More beer and the talk turns to movies and comedy specials and somehow they come up again, the ones we miss. Yeah, I was kind of the bad guy there. I don’t why I get so jealous. She was better than me, goddamn she was. Is, not was, she’s still out there, living her life. Lucky she got out when she did, right? Lucky you got out when you did, bro.
The second twelve pack is gone and the room spins, and in flashes I see the faces of the men I think of as brothers, wonderful and terrible men who love and hate wonderful and terrible women but when we’re honest, they’re mostly wonderful and we just can’t stop overemphasizing the moments when we deal with terrible people. I see people I hurt and people who hurt me and sometimes I can’t tell any difference. Time must have passed because now Kevin is passed out and Darius stares blankly at an episode of Dragon Ball Z. I follow the action on screen but the whirl of punches and kicks overtakes the room and I am lost in it until at some point it is morning.
Kevin is gone, probably in bed, and Darius has sprawled across the floor, using his jacket for a pillow. Kevin’s cat sleeps in my lap. The tips of his claws are visible. I pet him and while he doesn’t wake up this creature that can do harm but doesn’t begins to purr. In this rare moment I am able to tell the difference, and at least for now I do not lash out when I should embrace.