Sammy and I polished off our beer bottles while we walked down Washington Street, plinking them onto the strips of weeds that people called their front lawns. Then I slurped my Smuttynose in the corner of Barley Pub and he bet me that if he put James Brown on the jukebox, people would start dancing. “No one can resist dancing when James Brown is playing,” he'd tell me. Lo and behold, “Papa's Got a Brand New Bag” came on and people got hopping.
When Adelle's coffee shop opened, I was too shy to go check it out, so he dragged me there. While sitting on the bench out front, we looked over to the militia man statue in front of town hall and sipped our coffees. "I think we should glitter bomb that statue," he said to me. Plans were made, but he never did get around to it. He'd tag mailboxes now and then, and show me a scrapbook of his favorite tags and graffiti from places he'd lived.
Sammy was an old pal of my girlfriend's and wanted to check out New England. He showed up on a bus from Florida with his bicycle and a duffel bag filled with art supplies. He was a chubby Mexican dude with gauged ears and big, black, curly sideburns. He didn't have much money left and would resort to stealing paint pens from big box art stores so he could do his work. He'd lowball local artists at places like Ello or Dos Amigos with his cheap paintings of cartoonish monsters, inspired by comic books and urban tagging styles. The younger hipsters-in-training who couldn't afford more expensive paintings and prints bought them right up. Sammy would use the cash to stock up on beer and McDonald's. Then we'd stumble into downtown Dover. He was always on the hunt for a girl who'd give him a minute. I never liked to venture any farther than the Barley Pub, a fairly quiet beer snob bar where you could order cellar-aged La Fin du Monde and cheese plates, but he had a fondness for loud music and dancing and hunting down the party. I liked to lean on the bar and pretend I was important – writing, sniffing my hoppy beer, snarling at the sports on tv, girls, bros, etc. I was terrified to wander into the nightlife, yet I followed him eagerly.
We wandered into the Brickhouse after trashing our beer bottles on the sidewalk and we saw Peter and Mike. Peter had a buzz going, but Mike was schnockered, as he often was. "Hey man," he said, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. We were best friends in crowded bars where there were no tables to sit at, but plenty of buddies to lean on. Mike glued himself to me quickly and instead of leaning on the bar, I leaned back onto him to keep our balance. The Brickhouse sold Double Bag cheap, and I was about a third in the bag, myself, when I saw some girls I went to school with. Peter knew them, too, and had already approached them.
One of them, Bethy, just so happened to be the girl who chased me around in fourth grade. I'd hiss at her while I crawled up the jungle gym, petrified of tiny prying, pinching, giggling females. Years later in high school, I noticed her in a different way: dark skin and pretty features. Her body looked good, too. The rule-makers at the time were battling students over low-cut jeans and spaghetti straps, and I was filled with Puritan guilt and adolescent thrill whenever girls like Bethy walked by. Once I spied her pecking her boyfriend on the cheek, on her tip-toes and leaning up to him. He was a hefty dude, and I was scared of him – and certainly a little jealous. It's stupid to think about a girl chasing me around in fourth grade as a missed opportunity for teenage romance, but when she was standing in front of me in the bar, those memories smacked me in the face. There she was slurring around with a bunch of other adult versions of girls I was too shy to talk to in school.
Sammy, naturally, wanted to meet this dark-skinned beauty, so he introduced himself. In order to not come off as Mike's intimate date, I peeled his drunk ass off of me and joined the gentlemen. Bethy sported the indifferent haze of the inebriated beautiful and shrugged us off harder than a bucking bronco, with the grace of a gazelle. Then she told us, polishing off her drink, that she was off to work – which might be the greatest excuse ever in order to ditch people in a bar. Farewell, gazelle.
We inherited the ladies' table and the waitress joined us. Sammy ordered everyone a drink that is part Red Bull and part Jaeger. I'd never had the drink before. The waitress brought us four pint glasses that were half-full, then walked away. I hadn't really been paying attention, dreaming in the nostalgia and nightmares of my school days. I shrugged and downed the glass. Sweet, sticky. No burn, no yow! I looked around and shrugged. No one else had touched their drink. Then the waitress showed up with four shot glasses. I knew then I was the dummy. I let drunk Mike have my shot and leaned my elbows on the table while the boys plotted their next move. Three single dudes and the tagalong who can't drink right.
We went down the road to RJ's, a dance club on a busy corner. Surely, there were some approachable ladies there for these guys. Outside was mostly sketchy white bros – and sketchier cops. We got in and I ordered myself a Rolling Rock. Not the tastiest thing, but it was like bubbling spring water after that sick Red Bull. I cracked it open and watched Mike spill his change all over the counter, trying to scrape up two bucks for his own. As he crumpled his dollars and watched them flutter to the floor, the bartender decided to call Mike's night. I drifted to a corner and watched a bouncer escort Mike to the losers' club outside. Sammy floated around the dance floor, holding his cheap beer above his head as he navigated the lookers. After I finished my drink, I found Mike outside with a cigarette, surrounded with clouds of smoke and swears. I lit up a cigarette of my own and let him rant.
We left Sammy to his pursuits and found Peter down the street at Domino's. He'd drank enough for the night and wanted food, since he planned to drive at some point before sunrise. He was balancing an open pizza box on his folded arm and offered Mike a slice. I wasn't offered anything, but when two very attractive blondes strutted up to us and asked Peter if they could snag some slices, he considered it. Then the drinking gods swept through like wind and Peter flailed, losing control of his pizza box. It hurt to watch the open box turn upside down as he grasped for it in the manic slow motion that only exists in memories. Fortunately, the lid had somehow been slammed down over the bready, cheesy mess and all he had to do was scrape the cheese off the cardboard while the two gals walked away giggling and waving their hands at the concoction. Peter wiped at the cheesy cardboard with his fingers, already over the blunder.
Sammy came out of the dance club empty-handed and the two of us began the hike back up Washington Street. We found a front porch with a half-dozen kids drinking and smoking, the late night stragglers from an earlier party. There were half-filled cups and bottles all over the porch. Sammy led the charge and said hello and they didn't tell us to get off their porch so I lit a cigarette or three and let Sammy try to persuade the cute girls that he existed. They were slurry and smiley and disinterested. Most of the people found their way back inside and Sammy kept the conversation going with the two girls. “Oh, do you live here? I just moved up the street. We should exchange numbers,” he said to both of them.
“We'll be back out in a minute,” one of them told us, and they went inside. I inhaled the last scraps of my last cigarette and sampled some of the cups on the porch. Sam Adams, sugar and liquor. After a few minutes, we got the hint.
At least they left the light on. We walked back to my place and called it a night. Somewhere down the street, the empty beer bottles we had tossed aside lay in the dark, waiting to be picked up.
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