Carlos was the first friend I made in Florida. I sparked up a convo with him in Photography, complimenting the picture in the fixer of his girlfriend sipping on her apple tattoo from a straw. Now here was a guy who could think on his feet. I had never met someone with a quicker wit before or since. I showed him Dexter back when it was good, and we quickly began a Sunday night ritual with Misty and his girlfriend Kelsey that included True Blood, Dexter, Californication and The Life and Times of Tim. Our Florida endeavers were often light-hearted and casual, consisting of poker nights and showing each other films, which Carlos would pause whenever someone talked.
I liked that.
Once I began drinking, however, things changed. Introduce a mind-altering substance that is socially encouraged, and things will change. He was so surprised when I ordered a Jack and Coke for the first time. Jack and Coke quickly became my trademark because the main character of my first novel drank it. I drank at least six every time we went out, resulting in me drunkenly sprinting through Times Square, slamming into windows of closed tourist traps and looking up at a stranger’s phone angled down at me. A police officer told Carlos that if I didn’t get my shit together he was gonna take me in. That’s when Cliff, Carlos, Shane and Kelsey pulled me to my feet and escorted me to the nearest 2 bros. pizza whereupon I proceeded to tell everyone I had five thousand dollars and started throwing cash all around the backstreets.
Some of my most embarrassing moments were witnessed by Carlos. Being among the first to see me drink, he was also the first to see me take it way too far, way too often. While I was living on the upper east side I bought a handle of Bailey’s because I found it to be decent and took it to Carlos and Kelsey’s apartment where we would have rooftop grillouts. Recently I told Carlos I missed those rooftop grillouts.
“Grillouts? That was a different life my friend!” He replied.
He couldn’t have been more right.
That night while hanging out with Carlos, Kelsey, Matt, Chris and his girlfriend Lisa I proceeded to swallow the whole bottle of Bailey’s by myself, because no one else wanted it and I figured the proof was low enough I would be fine. Chris recorded me blabbering something incoherent, which I’ll bet has long since been deleted. I don’t remember leaving the apartment.
I fade in somewhere on the R, rocking back and forth as Carlos sits across from me. “Think we should get off at the next stop?” His question was rhetorical, but I nodded none the less. We barely got off the train before Carlos’ shoes were splattered with thick, creamy liqueur and not much else. I thought I made it to the trash can, but I guess not. I then proceeded to cry. I had never cried so hard before or since. Carlos and Chris and Lisa tried to comfort me but I wouldn’t have any of it.
I complained about my rapidly depleting funds, my inability to find work, my constant moving from one place to the next every other week. We climbed the steps and I sat on the flower bed, telling Chris how much I liked his sister and wanted to date her. Chris and Lisa called it a night and went on home, while Carlos was left taking care of me, foreshadows behind us as we walked back to his place to change shirts, clean up, and then we left to see Brooks. To my limited recollection nothing exciting happened and by some form of magic I found my way home at four am. In the coming months I proceeded to fail NYC’s initiation test as I slowly withered away little by little, until I was reduced to some degenerate sleeping in Carlos’ living room. He was able to help me in getting some freelance work on a television pilot, but I was going through a whole set of 21st century relationship troubles, which resulted in such shocking lethargy that my days on the shoot had been cut short.
I helped Carlos, Kelsey and Matt all move into a Park Slope apartment together in exchange for being able to crash in their living room for a brief period. After everyone had settled in I sat back to play some Halo with Scott online. Everyone had gone to bed and I was waiting for Scott to come online when I heard some arguing out my third story window. I leaned up to see what was going on, but there was no one to be seen. They were right in front of the apartment complex. A woman was crying, and her boyfriend was yelling at her.
“Please,” she begged, “Can we talk about this inside? People can hear us.”
“I’M TRYING TO FUCKIN’ TALK TO YOU!”
“Shh. Just calm down. Let’s go home.”
“Go ahead. Walk inside. Try and walk inside and SEE WHAT HAPPENS!!!” Exclamations necessary.
Whispers, “Please be quiet.”
I take no pride in the fact that I immediately jumped out the door and down the stairs. In the foyer they stood, arguing next to the mailboxes. She was crying, he was yelling. “Hey!” I said. They looked at me. “Is there a problem here?” The man’s eyes were blood red.
“Yeah there’s a fuckin’ problem here! Why don’t you mind your own fuckin’ business!”
“If you don’t calm down I’m gonna call the cops.” Shit.
This was it. My first fight. What an honorable fight it would be. Nothing more noble than a battle against a woman beater, except maybe against a rapist. But it didn’t happen. His eyes locked on me and he tried to break down the door. Considering I regularly got inside using a credit card, I had little confidence in the faux barrier. The door shook violently and I ran to the third floor, barging in and banging on Carlos’ door. “Hey there’s some dude downstairs beating on his girlfriend.”
“What?” he muffled. I had disturbed his slumber. He opened the door and I explained what happened as quickly as possible. He shrugged, “Okay, well let’s go take care of it.” He said in a cool boy casual tone. He briefly looked for a weapon, but abandoned the idea. We ran downstairs. The woman was nowhere to be seen. The boyfriend, however, was sitting on the ledge outside. He turned to see us standing on the stairs. Despite the fact that there were two doors between us, I heard him sigh. He jumped off the ledge in a “cool” fashion and waltzed in like he was Sam from Clarissa Explains it All grown up.
“Hey man,” he slurred “I don’t want any trouble.”
“Well maybe you should’ve thought about that before you started beating your girlfriend on the front porch.” I said behind Carlos’ broad shoulder.
“Look it’s none of your business, all right?”
“Well, it’s kinda my business when you’re beating your girlfriend on the front porch.” He waived us off after he apparantly decided that we weren’t going to do anything, and went inside an apartment. Carlos turned around, mouth agape.
“Holy shit I know that guy.” Apparently he was friends with the guy who got them the apartment.
Eventually I used up all my hospitality points and had to leave the city I loathed to love. I told Carlos that I would leave Thanksgiving week to go see Shane in Maine before taking the big trip to hell/Florida. I had one final order of business to conduct, however. When I ended it with Misty, I rented a storage shed in New Jersey to hold my life’s belongings until I found a place to land. How was I supposed to know that, when learning to fly, coming down was the hardest part?
Over the months of movement, I gradually took less and less with me, until all I had was a blowup mattress and a dog. I had long since been unable to afford my monthly storage bill, and the key code that granted me former access no longer worked. They had refrained from changing my lock, though, and I’d be damned if I was going to let them take everything from me.
It was a cold November afternoon when I parked at the bar across from my storage unit and ordered whatever was on special. I sat and watched, waiting for a car to pull up to the gate. When the metal doors swung open I dropped a bill on the bill and bolted through. I was in, but the workers had yet to finish their shift, so I entered a second waiting period. I sat behind a ramp for three hours, rubbing my hands together, gathering warmth. That five o’clock bell was sweet on my ears and I watched a silhouette fade into the sunset.
I rushed inside the bulding and opened my shed. There it was. My life. People who say materials matter not have never lost everything. My memory foam mattress wasn’t even a year old. My thick black glass living room table would likely never be replaced. I could kiss my comics goodbye. Oh look, a box of Altoids. I grabbed them. There wasn’t much I could fit into my Malibu, and even less I could take with me in my one and only trip back outside the gate. I stepped in and searched for what I thought mattered most. My 18″ TV, my Xbox, some snow boots, a few shirts and a bag of DVD’s/Blurays and only a few of my vast collection of board games was all that would fit in my box.
I thought about giving Chris the key, telling him he only had to pay the balance due and he could have it all, but we had already parted ways for good. I wheeled the box back outside. A problem I had not thought of was that a key code was needed to exit the gate as well as enter it. My box was heavy and full of breakables, so I couldn’t just toss it over the fence, and there had to be a better option than just sitting and waiting for a person to come through again.
In the corner around the bend the bottom part of the gate was open. I went up, tugged, pulled, ripped at it, trying to open it further. I cut myself, but I couldn’t get it open enough to put the box through. I took out the TV and Xbox and slid them underneath, then heave ho’d the rest of the contents over the fence. It was a downhill slope and wouldn’t you know it, the fuckin’ box rolled, opened, and clothes, boots and board games spilled everywhere. A car showed up at the gate. When it opened I sprinted outside and ran to my car, driving it off road up to the box, picking up what was left of my life and throwing it in the trunk.
That was it.
I was leaving so much behind, but there was nothing I could do about it. I sat down and absorbed just how real it all was. This beaten and battered box sprinkled with dice of varying sides was all that would be given to a relative upon my death. No cleanup necessary. At least I’d make it easy in that aspect. I got myself together for the moment and drove back to my temporary home in Carlos’ living room. When I told him how my day was he laughed. “No you didn’t!”
“Yes I did.”
“Boy what a treat of a story that was!” That was pretty much the last I’d see of Carlos for two years. Honestly I thought it’d be longer, until Nolan hit me up with the offer to Kerouac our way around the USA. Upon reunion of Carlos and I, we found that we were both single, broken men in search of repairing what our respective ladies had stolen from us. We had quite a few good nights, one consisting of drunkenly trying to pick up ugly girls with the opening line, “Guess how much I can bench press.” Fuck it. It was hilarious.
Nolan and I were off visiting a friend I made before my end of days in NYC, but the place she chose to hang out was not quite my scene, plus Carlos needed aid since Roger found his bike wheel stolen and returned home in a fit of rage. We hopped on the train, trying to find our way back to Union Pool, where Carlos and a work friend, Brian, was awaiting us. Upon arrival the place was packed wall to wall, with a line out the door. Inside we quickly grabbed drinks, without necessity, and found our brothers in arms. That night holds the record for most girls talked to.
We didn’t give a shit what they thought of us. We just waltzed into a conversation and hassled them. “Okay,” said Carlos, “Going around the table, say where you’re from, and a fun fact about it.”
Girl 1: “I’m from Ohio.” Nolan interrupts.
“Oh shit I have a great story about that!” Nolan tells his story and the girls leave. We move on, continuing this hilarious ritual with all other girls, one in particular who challenged my literary knowledge.
I walked away from that one.
Toward the end of the night a blonde punk rock girl showed up in our inner circle. We gave her the ol’ one two and she hit back. She introduced herself as Amber, and we all began hitting on her in our own way. While listening to the others, one hand remained on my chest while the other was on my lower back/ass. It was as if she were holding me in place. Carlos offered to buy this attractive rebel a drink before last call. As we walked inside and she placed her order, I turned to Carlos. “I don’t really wanna compete over a girl.” I said. He shrugged.
“Well that’s cool, she’s clearly more interested in you anyway. I don’t care.” After that was settled Nolan told me he was going to leave and Carlos and Brian engaged in a conversation. She took a tuft of my hair in her hands, squeezing it and complimenting my locks. Her knuckles grazed my jeans, right in the spot where my penis was. She looked up at me. “Oops, I just touched your dick.”
I shrugged, “I don’t really care.”
“I’m gonna do it again.” She said, winking and once more grazing the sweet spot between my legs. I offered to take her home, but she said she was leaving with her friends. When we were all forced out of the bar, we got her number, in an attempt to get ahold of her the next night for Karaoke. She texted me: “Errol its tj”
Carlos and I hopped into a cab with a strange foreign woman, whose friend claimed she’d kill us if anything happened to her. Whatever. Fuck her. Nolan texted me, letting me know he was still in his car, to which I immediately hopped out of the cab, running to where the car was parked. We drove to Wall Street in an attempt to find his cousin’s apartment. There I was, two pillows tucked underneath my arms, in the middle of Wall Street, when a fire of one word texts reigned upon me.
That you were my . Favorite
Me: Haha well thank you m’lady! I’ll keep it as our little secret 😉
Me: Too bad we had to meet up so close to closing time
I know!! I want to touch your hair always
Me: Honestly I loved it when you did. Not to mention some other touching 😉
Her: Come cycle
Me: I’d probably want to do more than cuddle
Me: Plus I’m already back in Manhattan
Me: You should have let me aid you in walking home
Her: You are so nice. I want u to know sonething. In pretty sure you’re friends know cuz Im not a liar. But I’m trans. Did you know that? Does that make u mad at me? I hope not. You are so cool.
Everybody get that? She was a dude. I should have known. Blondes don’t like me. I continued texting her until I got home, whereupon I texted Carlos, telling him I have a great story. He wanted to know right then, but I had to save it. When I told him the next night his jaw dropped. “What the fuck!?” Throughout the entire night, Carlos would randomly turn to me. “Errol.” He’d say, “She was a fucking guy!” Just another in the long list of Carlos’ phrases.
Carlos had great little phrases. What a treat. That’s all there is to it. I’m coolboi pls. All of which I have subsequently adopted as my own, using them on strangers who just look at me. “Nothing you just said made any sense.” I didn’t care. I thought it was funny. Every time I use one of those phrases I think of Carlos, and our peaceful adventures prior to my liquid devil days.
I’ve never been skiing before. I’d like to try it some day. Take a long drive up to Colorado and stay at a weekend resort, learn a few lessons. I got no balance though, and that would prove a problem. Whomever I’m with at the time will convince me to try the harder slopes, making the good point that I probably won’t come back to the resort anytime soon. I’ll shrug and move up a notch. As I slide down the mountain at a speed too fast for my lack of ballet skills, the cold wind will cut through my clothes. I’ll think, I’m coldboi pls, and chuckle to myself. That chuckle will turn into a cough, and my stupid manners will kick in, raising my fist to cover my mouth and the stick will slip from my grasp, catching underneath the skis, and I’ll flip in just the right way that will snap my neck. All consciousness will be lost, but that last moment of mine will be a lovely one, taking me back to all the adventures I had with my friend Carlos.