Skully’s, part 2

24 Mar

Dimly, I gained a growing awareness that something was upsetting my stomach.

Beth had greeted me cordially, coolly, and mercifully by name. She and San Francisco had gone back to talking to one another, trading witticisms, laughing and shaking their heads. Their hands were empty, used only to cover their faces or support themselves on their knees as one or the other of them leaned back or doubled over with laughter. I smiled, pretending that they had invited me into their jokes, that I was somehow participating. Beer sloshed near the bottom of my emptying bottle.

A few years back, my insides had rebelled against me such that respectable people with respectable titles suspected I had Crohn’s disease. Incorrectly suspected, it turns out. Instead, I’d been diagnosed with chronic irritable bowel syndrome. While Crohn’s and irritable etc. are equals in their potential for physical comedy, the latter disease lacks the funereal dignity provided by the potentially fatal character of the former. IBS won’t kill you, but you’ll wish it had.

Pain stabbed my guts. I twisted my grimace into what I hoped was a smile and drank more of the beer that I knew was making things worse. Beth smiled in my direction, looking past my shoulder at something else. “You know,” she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever asked you. What do you do?”

Dave saved me.

He hugged me from behind, all sweat and sideburns. He’d just come from the dance floor. I was glad to see him. I had no time to explain the situation to him regarding either the girl or my guts (or, rather, the unfortunate intersection of these two situations). I hoped he’d back my play.

“This is Dave Espionage.” I sipped my beer. “He’s the DJ.” I said this with the nonchalance granted only to those who are concentrating very, very hard on something else.

Being a DJ is cool. Standing next to people who are cool is cool. Ergo, I was cool: QED.

Inexplicably, Beth ignored my logic, turning her attention back to San Francisco, who for her part had yet to acknowledge my existence. Dave soon disappeared back into the humid interior of Skully’s. The sound of something that had been popular twenty years earlier reached us faintly.

Beth grabbed her new friend’s hand, tossing another brief and manufactured smile in my direction. “I love this song! We have to go dance!”

I panicked, thinking only of what could happen if I were made to dance before I’d found a restroom. “Sure, but I have to go check on something. I’ll meet you out there in a few minutes.” Placing the empty bottle to my lips, I took a casual swig of imaginary beer.

A few minutes turned into a few more minutes. Someone (not Dave) had made the unfortunate choice to play Milli Vanilli and cleared the dance floor. Beth and S.F. were gone.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I had a text message.

“Good to meet you tonight. Had to run, sorry. Karaoke at Havana Tuesday?”

Queasy, I went back inside to find the restroom again.


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