Cassie, Episode V (The Hangover Strikes Back)

We roamed the streets, howling at the moon with our eyes wet in hunger. Biting at each others heels in soft compliments disguised as insults, because neither of us ever truly outgrew the playground.

“Nice buzzcut, asshole.” Cassie snarled.

“I like your Ugg boots, where’d you get them? High school?” I hissed.

We were free of responsibility and chose to use that time unwisely. To be wild, untamable and young(ish)- daring strangers to approach us by baring our teeth in what they mistook as smiles and seeming friendly. Barking at cars and traffic that honked at us on lanes that said, B-U-S O-N-L-Y painted white in symbols we could no longer understand. A man tried to explain:

“Get on the sidewalk assholes! That’s the bus lane!”

“Says-Fucking-Who!” We howled back.

Scampering down West 4th Street with tails high as our moods, taking turns on a brown paper bag that was full of what makes the moon shine and absolutely nobodies business (especially if you were a cop.) A toxic duo of brash and lonely only looking for a home or good time; rabid and shameless, one with ourselves and the anti-thesis of decency.

Cassie ________ (something unlady like) and I __________. We didn’t think we were greater than people, but we were better than them for knowing that. Than thinking we were anything more than animals packed into a steel cage we call a city. As if there were any more reasonable way to live than with this wild abandon of decorum, to stop the facade of a cowards living we dress up as social etiquette. No leash, mortgage, bar or cute stranger could tie us down for long. We were free and beautiful, recruiting strays and mutts in downtown Manhattan for The Army of the Dog.

“Can we leave?” I asked Cassie when I caught her in a smoke break. “I can’t stand this yuppie bullshit they keep playing.”

“Hey, it’s your breakdown. Only right you get to choose the soundtrack ” She yelped, and we pawed our way up Macdougal.

It’s what I liked most about her that night and ever since. With Cassie I’d wouldn’t need a good reason for anything or have to think so hard. She never asked for a cause or explanation, and there was a certain comfort in that. A relief of not having to validate more than the surface. 

“I know a place,” She said. “You’ll like it. I know the owner, we can stay late.”

“Sounds suspect. If you’re going to harvest my organs can I at least call my mom first?”

“I already did. don’t worry. She said it was fine and gave me permission.”

A smile spread across my face, completely involuntarily. Because in under an hour Cassie had somehow cracked the code to my affections. I was beginning to like her more than an off-chance encounter, and already I could feel my brain making memories where I didn’t need it to. Mockery is the sincerest form of flattery, in my dark and immodest opinion, and is the default language of love for anyone suffering from the fatigue of compassion. Kindness in the world is necessary, of course, but usually forced. A due process that can feigned, deceptive or hollow. To be mean in a nice way requires a cold but tender honesty, a step too far or close and the intentions become too obvious.

Somehow Cassie threaded that line quite perfectly and turn me softer towards her. I would rather open my heart to whoever called my dick small over some sweetheart asking how my weekend was any day.

“That makes me want to take you out some time,” I said laughing, and a little bit too sincere.

“Somewhere nice?” She asked, smiling a wine soaked and bloody tooth grin.

“Like a Kennedy,” I shot back. She punched my arm, and we pattered down to the stairs to the 1 train.

Hey Big Guy, Sun’s Gettin’ Real Low (aka I’d Take A Bullet For You. Like, The Sex Toy)

Success makes me uncomfortable. I’m more likely to go on a bender bragging about mistakes I’ve done than stand tall on the soapbox of Facebook, letting the people who barely care know just where I spent my weekend pretending to have a good time or volunteering.

“This weekend? Got back from teaching English in Honduras,” He said, casually. “So sad, what’s going on out there.”

“This weekend I took a shower and put on pants when I went outside,” I said, proudly. “Twice.

There’s humility in defeat, a shared lesson or dick joke we could all learn a thing or two from. But success is suffocating, smothers conversation no matter how much it’s ignored, and stifles words in your throat like hot air in a stuffy room. An uncontrollable instinct to brag upward or retreat into yourself is inevitable because winning doesn’t have a gag or wisecrack. Only a line, and a dare.

“Next is Cuba,” Robby said, and some woman awww’d from the corner of the circle. “Maybe India if I get the raise I’m waiting on.”

“I don’t think I’ve left the country since Bush was President.” I replied, half-assed.

“You should come,” He said. And his eyes made an emphasis on certain words.

I hadn’t seen Robby since what he stole from me last Summer – roughly seventy two dollars in cab fare and whatever was left of my belief in human decency. He has a habit of dragging me into problems I should know better and avoid, gets too drunk too function and sticks me with the tab and social bill. I never want to go, but it’s hard to deny him. He’s got a way with words that makes words feel uncomfortable, in a fun way. Un-clever and gorgeous enough to barely pass for charming. Confident without compliments, because beauty doesn’t need validation.

“Oh yeah? When are you going?” I asked.
“June maybe. Definitely next Summer.”

Last time Robby made plans we were four hours away from New York in his bosses housewarming party, inebriated out of our minds on Jefferson’s and a bunch of whiskey way out of my pay grade. Close to midnight our ride up disappeared into the night with a brunette stacked like textbooks in a college bookstore. And when I asked him what the hell we were supposed to do he gave me a look that said Tough-Shit-Buddy and God-Be-With-You all at once.

“Pilot might meet a brown haired girl he likes. I don’t know.”

“Are you still on that?” Robby said, laughing. “I told you it was an accident.”

Fifth of July was a wild morning of trying to convince taxi drivers to let us in while Robby kept throwing up on the curbside. And when we finally managed to hit the long black road home, and I complained about his friend ditching us, Robby admitted, between barfs, in a pure drunken state where all the fucks are lost and never to be given- that he knew we’d be ride-less back home the whole time.

“He said he’d give us a ride back home then Nate met that girl. What did you want me to do?”

And a rage built inside of me I never felt before. Being deceived in some way is a given with humanity, but what a rodeo, staring at a liar shrugging at you with his red hands. Like ‘Yeah-I’ve-Done-It. And?’ I couldn’t believe a friend would do such a thing willingly. I thought misunderstandings happened because we miss the chance at assuming best intentions. Not like that, not so much mean on purpose. Then to be made out as crazy for fact checking is about as hair pulling as fake news.

“More, I guess.” I said.

“I’m sorry I always let you down.”

But it isn’t all his fault, I think. In those three hours I battled the very real and un-exaggerated urge to smother Robby with my fist or a pillow, I learned something. About him, and myself. Liquor might make a man low, but never more capable. Whatever violence boiled in my blood against him was just as real sober, only more buried. And all the times Robby bragged about his life and job when he dragged me out with him were only misplaced moments of inadequacy. He was trying to overlap me in a race he was the only one having, winning in a game I had no idea we were playing.

“So are you coming? To Cuba?” He asked. And I laughed.

“I wouldn’t be caught dead in public with you.”

But we went.