"Sir..." an airline uniform in his mid thirties called out.
I glanced up at the window and in the reflection I could see one of the gate employees was trying to get my attention. I had heard him a few times already but chose not to respond with the hope that he would go away.
"Sir, are you waiting for a flight?" He queried as he approached and asserted himself dangerously close to my three foot bubble.
I guess it was obvious that I had no business being in that airport, I wondered how obvious it was that I just got dumped by my girlfriend of 4 years. I decided given the circumstances, the last place you want to sulk is in an airport terminal; also, I could tell this particular gate employee cared a little too much about his miserable fuck job to just leave me alone.
"Yeah, I was just leaving." I managed to say without making eye contact with him, it was as though I was talking to myself. I got up and gathered my stuff and walked passed him without acknowledging his presence. I could tell he saw things going down differently as I heard him directing questions toward me even as I walked off. I decided not to take the conveyer belt expressway this time around, I could use the time to think, plus I imagined a scenario which began with me finally finding it appropriate to mount the opposite conveyer belt, and ended with AR-15 rifles pointed at my head and latex clad fingers up my ass.
Much to the relief of the airport security staff I exited the security checkpoint and made my way to the door. I was certain given my failure to comply with the man in the terminal they were surveying me to ensure I left without causing an incident in the airport. I confirmed this by looking up and being met with solid eye contact from a few of the Homeland security agents as I passed through. Later on I realized that for about 10 minutes I must have been considered a threat to national security; for some reason this pleased me.
I walked out the front doors and started looking for an empty cab. I saw some people getting dropped off about a hundred feet down and managed to flag the driver before he took off. Even though I was technically functional, my head was still buzzing from the shock of what had happen only a couple of hours earlier. When the driver asked me where I wanted to go, I had absolutely no idea. For some reason going home didn't seem right. What I really wanted was to go to a pub and get drunk alone like the do in the movies, then maybe I could even meet a sage-like bartender who could help give me perspective and guidance. I wasn't very familiar with the bar scene so I thought I could describe this feeling to the cab driver then see what he recommended, before I could speak I realized this was surely an effort in futility unless I spoke fluent Korean, so I instructed him to drive toward The City while I made a phone call.
I flipped open my phone and started looking through my contact list, I had no idea who I was going to call since I technically didn't have any "friends" in San Francisco. I technically didn't have any friends in Chicago either, but you don't really need any when you're in a long-term relationship. The only name that made sense was to call Allen, a co-worker of mine who seemed to be quite the social butterfly. He was actually one of the project managers at the company, which made him sort of a boss, but we ended up having lunch together a few times and he seemed like a cool guy so I thought I'd give it a try.
As my finger moved toward the send button, I realized the fact that he was the only person at work with whom I had connected on a personal level wasn't going to make this any less awkward. As the phone rang my mind sped through about a thousand different possible scenarios and nearly caused me to hang up immediately, but he answered too quickly.
"Hello... Oliver?" He said as I searched for the words to respond to such a difficult greeting.
"Allen, hey, uh... what's going on?" I answered inanely, smacking my forehead with the palm of my hand.
"Not a lot man, just getting ready to meet up with the guys." He replied forgiving the awkwardness of my question, "Hey I thought you were going back to Chicago tonight, shouldn't you be on a plane?" he asked.
I forgot I had mentioned to him I would be leaving work early to catch my plane when we talked at lunch. I realized it was probably inappropriate to share with him my news of the day so I came up with the next best thing to the truth.
"Um, yeah, flight, was... canceled, the plane broke, they said there wouldn't be another flight until tomorrow morning." I lied, rather poorly I may add. "Anyway I was thinking since I would be in town tonight I would grab a drink..." I realized how ridiculous I would sound if I said I intended to go alone, "and... I was wondering if you wanted to join me." I said, so focused on speaking in a calm, cool tone and so impressed with myself for my quick thinking, that I didn't realize at first how gay it sounded, and second that he may actually accept my invitation.
He apologized for my misfortune at the airport and invited me to go out for some drinks with he and some office friends, adding the ominous phrase, "... if you're up for it." I wasn't up for anything, I wanted to sulk in a bar and drink cheap shots of bourbon all night, and find my sage and tell him all about my problems.
"Sure, if that's cool with you guys--" I said, but before I could finish the sentence he assured me it was fine and told me to be at his place as soon as I could. His welcoming personality made him easy to get along with and hard to say no to, although I can only assume with as much alcohol as he was planning on consuming tonight, it didn't really matter who came along. I gave the cab driver the address, it would be another twenty minutes before we got to Allen's condo, I figured I would take that time to reflect on what had happened today, before putting it aside for the rest of the night.
I don't believe in fairy tales, but what Elle and I had was pretty close. We met while in college over a summer in which we both stayed in our small university town to take summer courses. I was at a coffee shop doing some classwork when I saw a slim figure in a white dress sitting down at the table opposite me. Instantly smitten, I eventually got up the nerve to say something to her, it was a simple invitation to dinner, half shouted across the room. She was surprised and embarrassed, but she accepted and we never looked back.
While that dinner was perhaps the most awkward either of us had ever experienced, it set the tone for the fairy tale foundation upon which our relationship flourished; pure and untarnished by any pre-existing, complicated circumstances. It was a perfect love. It stood in stark contrast to the alternatives: meeting a girl at a bar, or sneaking around with someone's girlfriend, having to deal with the stress of choosing between multiple partners and the doubt of what might have been.
Those tainted circumstances stayed with you forever, it was baggage that planted seeds of pain and resentment which would weigh down a relationship until either partner lost the strength to go on. Then you realize you've spent the last half decade of your life with a person for whom you feel nothing but resentment and frustration; it was the foundation of a tragic love story. Ours, on the other hand, was a love destined for happily ever after, we were free of our past, solid in our foundation, and looking toward our future together. Well we were certainly moving in that direction until tonight.
Thinking about it was only taking me further from a logical resolution so I did my best to shake those thoughts loose and leave them for later. It was just in time as the cab driver pulled off to the side and informed me we were at Allen's building. After a little trouble figuring out how to actually get inside (which required another awkward phone call to Allen) I got off the elevator and found his door and went inside; he had instructed me that it was unlocked. I was impressed with his home, it was clean, well decorated, simple, and uncluttered. I reckoned he didn't have a single ornament or decoration that could fit into a one cubic foot box, and everything seemed to have a functional purpose. He was certainly a man of fine taste, I can appreciate that.
He greeted me from the kitchen and asked me to join him. I walked in and was surprised to see two rows of shot glasses lined up, filled to the brim with a transparent brownish liquid. My first instinct, as improbable as it was, was that the shot glasses contained a coffee based liqueur. My suspicion was momentarily confirmed when I identified a bottle of Kahlua on the table, that was until he moved to the side revealing half gallon bottles of cheap vodka, whiskey, gin, and spiced rum.
"What's in the shot glasses?" I inquired warily, already unsure about just how up for this I actually was.
"Primers," he said proudly, "A little concoction I mixed up, my own home made recipe." he clarified, then added, "By the way we're not leaving until these shot glasses are empty, so drink up, we've got to go in about half an hour." I had no intention of drinking whatever the hell was in those shot glasses, but as he spoke his face broke into a smile that was impossible to deny, he was exuding an enthusiasm that would be considered a tragedy to curtail, so reluctantly, I set aside my inhibitions and went along. I hadn't drunk like this since college, and I really didn't drink much then either, but when I thought about it, I decided this was as good a night as any to foray into binge drinking. I took another look at the shot glasses and cringed, I was never any good with shots so I asked him for a chaser, "of course," he said, then he reached into his refrigerator and tossed me a beer.