“The usual?” Pat called from the other end of the bar when Andy walked in, reaching for two-pint glasses.
“I think I’ll go with something stronger tonight,” Andy said, “maybe a Johnny Walker Black on the rocks… you know what, make that a double. Neat!”
“Everything okay, lad?” Pat winked.
Andy nodded with a phony smile.
“Double Johnny Black coming right up.”
Andy took the old-fashioned glass and walked slowly towards the inconceivable, a corner table that was just clearing. Is it my lucky day or what? he placed his bag on the table proclaiming it as his territory. He sat down, took a slow sip and let the smooth blend slide down his gullet with a mild burning sensation.
By the time Nate showed up, which was only several minutes later, Andy was already on his second glass.
“You’re going hard brown liquor on me?” Nate said. He picked up the glass and smelled its content. “JWB! Just like the old days,” he took a sip and grimaced. “I can’t believe you can still handle this.”
“Hey, get your own!” Andy slurred.
“I got my own,” Nate raised a Guinness pint and sat down. “I got some good news,” he said. “I can get the lab for a night and try to get some reading from your head…” Andy shook his head. “What… you don’t think it’s going to work?”
“It won’t work…”
“If you’ll let me speak I’ll tell why.”
“Hey, pal. You know how many strings I had to pull to get this… You know what, I’m not even asking you. I’m telling you. I’m a part of this as much as you are. You’re coming to the lab with me tonight!”
“But it stopped.”
“Last Thursday.” Andy shrugged.
Nate paused. He looked almost as disappointed as Andy was. “So how come you’re letting yourself sink in a glass of Johnny Black?”
“I need a fresh start,” Andy put on another fake smile and took a slow sip. He didn’t feel like discussing his latest findings. “Got to move on, and I have a lot on my plate.”
Nate shook his head, his eyes gleaming like he was about to make a taunting remark, but he held back with just a smile. “So it stopped just like that?” the bitterness in his question was noticeable.
Andy took another sip. “Sleeping like a log…” he raised his glass. “Like the good old days.”
“Do you think it’s going to come back?”
“I don’t know. There was some sense of resolution there...”
“In the story… the dream,” Andy stressed out slowly as if he was addressing an irritating child. “Although I must say…” he paused.
“Well, I feel like I was abruptly cut out of it… right when I was starting to get used to the idea, if you can call it that, I became part of it… I mean, it became part of me.” Andy struggled to find the right words to express what he really felt, and suddenly he didn’t feel like he wanted to share his feelings or even find out what his true feelings were. He looked up to see whether his friend was still with him. Nate was staring at him with wide eyes. “Anyway,” Andy took his empty glass and stepped away from his seat, “need a refill?” he pointed at Nate’s glass, realizing it was nearly full and walked to the bar.
Nate gazed at the air, looking like he was dazzled by his own thoughts. Andy’s arrival startled him as he nearly tripped over the table with a full glass.
“What’s up?” Andy blabbered like a true drunk.
“Yeah,” He gulped half of his third double and wiped his lips with his finger. “I’ve never seen you like this, man… I mean so serious.”
“I should say the same thing about you. Except for the serious part. You know Sarah’s been asking about you,” Nate tried to change the subject.
“Who?” Andy garbled. He could not recall ever giving Nate the specifics about the violinist.
“What do you mean who? Sarah, my soon to be sister-in-law, and I can’t believe you haven’t called her yet.
“Oh, that Sarah.”
“Are there any other Sarahs in your life?”
“No… Not really.”
“So, are you going to call her or what?”
“Well, you know how busy I get. Especially at this time when I…”
“Yeah, yeah. Those lame excuses again. Here,” Nate jotted down the number on the back of a business card he pulled out of his wallet. “I’m pretty sure I gave you one of these last week, but here you go, just in case.” Nate slowly slipped the card in Andy’s shirt pocket. “You’ll find it when you sober up and you will call. You hear?” Nate gave Andy a stern look for which he got an intimidating jeering chortle in return. “Now it’s time to get you home.” Nate got up from his seat and signaled Andy to do the same.
“What’s the rush? We just got here.”
“Come on, let’s go.”
“Ok, Dad! Can I finish my drink first?” Andy took a long sip without waiting for an answer and swallowed it down slowly.
“I think you had just about enough.”
Andy finally submitted. Whether it was to Nate or to the alcohol that was quickly taking over his senses and motor functions, he did not have it in him to resist any further.
“Bless you,” Nate said when he spotted the blue Corolla across the street after he had to go through the motions of carrying his semi-conscious friend through the crowded bar. “You couldn’t have a better spot than this. Now hand over the key!”
Andy dug the car key out of his pocket and held it up in the air. “And what are you going to do with that key?” He mumbled.
“I’m going to drive you home.”
“Why would you wanna do that?” Andy continued to slur. Nate just grabbed the key and pushed him into the passenger seat.
“I cabbed it tonight.” Nate switched the ignition on then noticed Andy was passed out. “Don’t mind me; just talking to myself,” he said and pulled away from the curb.
The last leg of the trip, from the car to the apartment, was not an easy task. Bringing Andy back to consciousness was almost impossible. Getting him to walk was even harder. After going through the hustle of finding the door key in Andy’s pockets, Nate was finally able to get him inside. He set Andy on the living room couch and stepped into the kitchen, looking for something to soothe his parched throat. “Look at you, Spence.” He said, inspecting the fully stocked fridge with admiration, then he grabbed a nearly full Tropicana carton and poured himself a glass. He found Andy in the most unusual posture, with his face down on the edge of the couch and his limbs scattered in all directions. He stood smiling by the couch for a short minute before he pulled one of Andy’s arms over his shoulder and lifted him off the couch.
“Let’s go, pal.” Nate dragged Andy across the living room. “Oh, you’ll pay for this,” he said practically to himself as he lay the drunk college professor flat on his back with arms and legs spread across the firm mattress. “No disrespect, old friend, but this is as far as I’m going to go,” Nate winked and quietly walked back to the bedroom door. “You’ll take care of the rest when you sober up. And you will thank me for that!” he left the door open and walked away.