I entertained myself by playing a game on my phone that one of the less ridiculous IT guys at work turned me onto, I had also cracked a beer and was eating some chips I found in Allen’s cupboard. After a few minutes of waiting I heard the front door shut, a moment later Allen came back to retrieve me from the kitchen. He thanked me for waiting and started gathering supplies to make more of his famous home-made liquor concoction.
“What was all that about?” I asked, I knew I was being nosey, but the whole situation was too odd for me to let go.
“Oh, nothing, just a couple of guys who live upstairs, they’ve been having roommate issues lately.” Allen said as he started measuring out shots. I kept looking at him, his response made sense, it just didn’t explain why they were in his living room. Allen picked up on my body language and continued to explain.
“Well basically the guy on the left really liked this girl that the other other guy brought home one night, but the other guy didn’t really know he liked her so much, then that brought up a bunch of other little things like cleanliness and noise. Really they’re just not communicating that well right now, and that’s sort of the foundation of any---”
“No, I'm not asking what their problems were, why were they talking to you about it?” I interrupted to stop him from disclosing anymore of his neighbors' private and personal issues to me. He looked at me confused.
“I don’t know, from time to time people come talk to me about things.” Allen offered as a possible explanation, from the look on his face this was clearly normal for him.
“What kind of things?” I asked seeking further clarification.
“Anything I guess, things that may be bothering them, things they need to get off their chest,” Allen explained, “I guess I must be a good listener.” he added with a smile as he readied the first round of shots.
I was eyeing the shot glasses, I appreciated that he made each shot individually rather than making batches in volume like I would have done. While my way would have more efficient and accurate, with his way each shot was it's own unique experience. It started making sense to me, much like the complimentary counseling services he offered, by introducing opportunities for human error Allen was able to put his own personality into everything he did. When he finished measuring the final two shots, he stood up and turned to me.
“You know, you can tell me about things too right?” He said as he handed me a glass. I was visibly surprised by his offer, what did he think I needed to talk to him about?
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you, I just... I heard about you and John.” He clarified, looking into my eyes hoping he hadn’t crossed any lines. I nodded my head and smiled, then I explained the incident to him.
“He was being a fucking jackass,” I said, “He was one of these douche bag frat boys in college who’s parents paid for everything, now we’re in the real world and he still wants to mooch off of other people’s hard work. So I told him how I felt about his little proposal, I’m not sorry for that.” I concluded, looking to Allen for objection.
“That makes sense to me, sounds like he was out of line and you put him in his place.” He said convinced by my explanation, I didn’t expect him to agree with me so easily.
“I realize it was mean, and it was never my intent to make him feel bad, but I guess it just felt good to get it off my chest, to tell somebody what I really think for once, instead of holding everything in all the time.” I said speaking openly, not realizing I had just opened an entirely new avenue of examination.
“Really, you have thoughts like this all the time?” He said curiously as he put a handful of chips in his mouth, I nodded my head in agreement, “What do you think of Tom?” He asked with a smile on his face, I knew he was baiting me but I couldn’t help myself.
“I’ve never met such an asshole in my entire life, the amount of time I’ve lost getting into pointless conversations with that prick, seriously all he does is talk shit all day, I don’t even know what he does for the company. Every time I see him I just want to tell him to stop talking drivel constantly, nobody gives a fuck about what you say you fat fuck, and he’s stupid.” Allen was bent over the counter laughing and pleading for me to stop, I guess I had hit on a few points of brutal honesty he appreciated.
“When are you going to do it?” He asked, as he regained his composure.
“What?” I asked, “when am I going to do what?”
“Tell Tom, seriously somebody needs to let him know.” Allen said with a grin. I was taken aback by his suggestion that I would ever say any of that to Tom’s face.
“No, I couldn’t... seriously Tom’s too easy.” I said, getting back into a serious tone.
“But John wasn’t?”
“John was in my face, making me feel like an asshole for not letting him take credit for my work.”
“But you were just saying how Tom traps you into pointless conversations, I've been through that, surely it merits another classic Oliver Barton berating.” Allen questioned, his logic was irrefutable, and I could start to see what was he was getting at.
“So why John and not Tom?” I asked rhetorically, “I don’t know, I guess I had a moment of weakness.” I concluded. Allen repeated my response out loud, then paused to ponder the concept; it clearly wasn’t the explanation he was looking for.
“Well Oliver, I love the way your brain works, seriously it’s funny stuff, just keep in mind not everyone takes criticism the same way, so try to be careful, at least when you’re at work.” He said. I realized he was saying it as my boss as opposed to my drinking buddy, which was enough of a reason for me to heed his point. I assured him I was in agreement and would try to be more careful. He raised his glass and toasted to Tom, the poor bastard, I laughed and raised mine, then I put the glass to my lips, titled my head back, and got the evening started.
I opened my eyes and looked around the room, I knew I was lying on somebody's kitchen floor, I just didn't know who's or why. I'm really starting to hate Allen's home-made concoctions. I knew the only way to orient myself was to stand up examine my surroundings, but I didn't feel ready for that just yet. To buy time I checked my person to make sure everything was in working order. My overall status was surprisingly positive, I was free of injuries or bruises, I had my ID and check card, I didn't feel like I was going to be sick, and besides a splitting headache and the fact that I woke on on the floor, I felt pretty good. I credited much of this to the tall glass of water lying next to my face, probably the reason I ended up in here. While the headache was as a minor setback (a badge of honor really), the best thing was that I actually remembered, however vaguely, a good proportion of the events of last night.
I was eying a familiar looking magnet on the refrigerator, which I was pretty sure belonged to the refrigerator in Allen's kitchen, I suspected that was where I was, but identifying that magnet would have confirmed it. My concentration was broken by a young woman who walked into the kitchen wearing nothing but a men's button down which was long enough to sufficiently cover all the crucial elements of her petite figure. It always surprised me how big our clothes look on women, my shirts even looked huge on Elle who was only a couple of inches shorter than me.
"Hello there," she said with a smile on her face as she went to the fridge to get a glass of water.
"Morning... is this your kitchen?" I asked, surprised that my voice was actually fairly clear given the destructive blend of shouting and tobacco smoke from the night before. This question drew a chuckle from the nameless young woman.
"No, it's Ed's, or Jason's, or both I guess." She said as she leaned back against the stove looking down at me.
"Oh ok, but how did I get here?" I asked. I wasn't sure who Jason or Ed were, I wasn't even sure if they were different people, or if she just didn't remember the name of the guy she went home with.
"You came up with Allen last night after you guys got back from the bar, don't you remember? You guys wanted to eat corn dogs and watch some cartoon show, something about a mouse, I don't know how you ended up in here though." She explained, as I sat up against the low cabinets, I was still fuzzy and could sense my equilibrium hadn't fully returned.
She was clearly amused by my current circumstances, I didn't mind though because her explanation was beginning to spark my memory. The cartoon to which she was referring was one I had seen a few times back in college, which made me remember that the two guys who were in Allen's apartment when I first showed up, came back downstairs to join his pre-bar soiree. I made a point to apologize for walking in on their couples' counseling session, and we ended up having a lot to talk about, including Adult Swim cartoons and corn dogs. I immediately realized this must have been the girl Allen was talking about.
"You're the girl aren't you? The one these guys were fighting about." I asked frankly, I couldn't help it, my level of intrigue as to which one of the roommates she was here with, superseded any aspect of manners or tact.
"Yeah, I guess that's me," she laughed, forgiving the fact that while my balance may have been returning, my social skills hadn't kicked in yet.
"After they talked to Allen, Ed called me and told me how he felt and we decided to take things slow." She explained.
"I'm glad to hear that, but if you don't mind me asking, how does that work after you were with Jason?"
She looked at me as though she didn't mind me asking, but clearly didn't follow my logic.
"I mean isn't it tainted, what if things really work out between you guys? Aren't you afraid you'll always have this between you?" I reasoned, hoping to bring clarity to my point.
"Well I could build a time machine and go back to that night and tell myself to take it easy on the bourbon," she said, her face brightened by the absurdity of my reasoning, "But since they don't let you do that, I guess I'll just have to move on... Ed loves me and I think I may feel the same way, that's all that really matters to me." She said, I was quickly gaining respect for her rather sharp vernacular. As she finished her thought Ed walked in and planted a good morning kiss on her lips I could see her eyes light up as they started making plans for the day.
I could tell they were happy, at least for now. Whether her logic was accurate, that you really can just put things behind you and move on, was yet to be seen. While I can't say I would have handled the situation as well as Ed, it did give me hope for Elle and me. It gave me hope that she would call me and I would forgive her and we would put this behind us and move forward, back on track to our happily ever after. I began to feel it so strongly that I checked my phone for messages; it was dead.