I took a taxi down to the bar. It was a little one on the corner of downtown, but it was still a popular place to hang out and I knew all of the regular customers. As I walked in, part of me told me not too, but I didn't listen. Maybe I should have.
"Hey!" Dave spotted me right away. "Hey, Jason! Long time no see!" He must have told everyone else about Arista, because they all gathered around me and slapped me on the back. "Dude, we're sorry about your daughter. If you need anything, you tell us, okay?"
I looked over my old drinking buddies as if I were seeing them for the first time. Cabe, Ben, and Theo were clearly drunk, and several others were eagerly downing drinks as well. I used to be one of them, I remembered.
Jimmy came over to me, his arm thrown over the shoulder of a thin blond girl who looked to be at least ten years younger than him. "Hey Jays," he laughed, "This here's my new girlfriend. Her name's Britney."
"It's Bethany," she said, flicking him in the side of the head. He laughed and dragged her off to dance, as I shook my head and stared after them. Here, at least, nothing had changed. Everyone was the same as before.
"Jason," Dave called from behind the bar. "Are you sure you don't want a drink? It's on me, as many as you can handle."
"Yeah! Yeah! Have a drink!" Several of the men shouted, and Dave poured me a vodka and handed it over the counter. I took it without thinking.
"Well..." I remembered the peace of mind that always came when I had a drink, and I was around my friends now. I'd only have one. Nobody else would ever have to know, and it would be the last I'd ever have. Probably. On impulse, I lifted my head and chugged it down.
The crowd cheered. "Have another," someone shouted, and Dave obligingly poured a second. I drank it too, my head still spinning from the first drink, and felt myself beginning to slip away.
"Have I third!" Someone else roared, and I don't remember what happened after that. Suddenly I was on the floor, and then there were shocked yells, and when I opened my eyes, it was light outside and Sarah was standing over me.