This goes up to eleven
As Brooke did the dishes and listened to Teddy recall anecdotes from the dusty, depressing texts he’d been mired among all day, Will settled into a barstool at The March. He was curious about the place. Tré sat a few barstools away from him, wearily sipping a Heineken and watching the Bulls game. Sports being the great barroom socializer for heterosexual, male-to-male relations since time immemorial, it wasn’t long before Will and Tré struck up a conversation.
“They have a shot at winning it all,” said Will, tipping his beer bottle towards the TV.
“Maybe,” said Tré. “If Jordan can remember there are five guys on that court.”
“Ha!” said Will. “If one of those guys is Michael Jordan, you probably only need three and a half.”
“I guess we’ll let BJ Armstrong be the half,” said Tré smiling and reaching his hand out. “Tré Little.”
“Will Ladislaw,” said Will, shaking hands and sliding down a stool.
They sat together companionably, drinking beer and watching the game. They chatted about the NBA at large, and decided if the Bulls could get past the Pistons, they could get past anyone.
Tré was glad for the diversion. His mind had been uncomfortably niggling around money. Nights out at the club were expensive. Rosie chipped in here and there, but she was barely working and spent most of her money on clothes and shoes. Being Rosie was expensive!
Tré’s credit card debt was growing exponentially and he was having a really hard time staying current with his rent. He was broke and tired all the time.
But he liked being that guy at the club. He liked having Rosie on his arm and the jealous looks of the people in line that they walked past. And he liked Rosie. He liked Rosie a lot. Even if she was wearing him out.
Midway through their second beer, Rosie floated across the floor and twirled in front of Tré. It was a frequent method of presentation. Rosie had been shopping. She was wearing a black lace bustier beneath a man’s white shirt, knotted at the waist. Her pleated plaid skirt was short, leaving a good six inches of thigh exposed to the cold November air. On her feet, she wore knee high motorcycle boots. Out loud, Tré complimented Rosie on the ensemble. Silently, he opined that Rosie would have looked just as hot in an outfit that hadn’t cost a chunk of the rent he was behind on.
Will compared her unfavorably to Brooke and then wondered why the hell he’d done that.
“Well,” said Rosie, grinning impishly. “Why don’t you buy me a drink and introduce me to your friend.”
Tré signaled for a vodka and soda for Rosie, returning Caleb’s barely perceptible eye roll.
Rosie was actively honing her charm offensive on Will, whom she’d quickly ascertained came equipped with a certain West Coast cred. But, Tré didn’t mind. When Rosie flirted like that, she employed enough cute artificiality to keep everyone feeling comfortable. Rosie was just working out her skillset. She was happy with her man.
As they were toasting with a round of shots, Brooke and Teddy walked in. Teddy was visibly unhappy to see Will encroaching on The March and strode peevishly to the far side of the bar, where he grimaced unpleasantly at Will between gulps of beer. Brooke, on the other hand, smiled at Will and walked over to the threesome.
“Hey!” she said. “I didn’t know you knew Tré and Rosie.”
“Just met them tonight,” said Will, feeling awkward, as if he’d worn too small dress shoes to the gym.
“Brooke! The eco-goddess,” said Tré, fatigue compounding the effects of the alcohol, increasing his bonhomie. “You’re looking good, girl! How go the plans to save the world?”
“Good,” said Brooke. “We’re kicking off bottle recycling here. You know Fred Bulstrode? Rosie’s brother? He’s helping me out. Caleb says the recycling bins are on the way. I bet we get started next month.”
“Cool,” said Tré, thoughtfully. “You know, I’ve been thinking more about incorporating that into the rebrand at large: Lightweight Enterprises, Light on the Environment, or something like that. It’s definitely on trend.”
“It is?” said Rosie.
“Totally,” said Tré. “It’s springing up all over the place. Bulstrode wants the places all branded the same way and putting some kind of environmental bent on it would be cool. It could do something to sort of mitigate the corporate feel of it. Make it hip.”
Brooke was clearly excited to find, yet again, someone interested in her plans. Will thought she looked especially pretty with her face all lit up like. For some reason that pissed him off. Sour, he looked down at Teddy and was gratified to see him shooting the stink eye their way.
“I thought your boyfriend thought we were all doomed anyway,” said Will. “What’s the point?”
Will sourly happy with the awkward, toxic silence he'd caused returned his attention to the Bulls.
Rosie realized quickly that this would not do and so reached out to salvage the situation. “If we’re all doomed, we might as well be dancing. Let’s hit Lobo!”
“I don’t know,” said Tré. ‘It’s kind of nice here. Can’t we just hang out for a few drinks and then go home?
“What’s the matter with you, man,” said Will, recognizing a good opportunity to exorcise his sourness. “When a beautiful girl asks you to dance, you dance. Lets go!”
Rosie grinned and said, “I like that! Let’s go!”
When the check came, Will and Tré split it right down the middle. It was nice, Tré thought, to have someone to split a check with.
At 4:30 that morning, Tré and Rosie stumbled into Tré’s apartment. Rosie was lit up like a Christmas tree. Tré longed for sleep. But when he turned around, Rosie was right in front of him, kissing him hard, her hand slipped down the front of his pants.
And Tré didn’t get to sleep for another hour.
He was late getting to work the next day. He rushed into the office at 11:00, still smelling of cigarettes and booze from the night before, dark circles under his eyes. Just his luck, Bulstrode was emerging from the office as Tré came into the lobby.
“Good afternoon,” said Bulstrode, pointedly.
“I know I’m late,” said Tré. “It was a late night last night, though. I ‘m researching nightclubs around town. You have a couple of stores that I think would do great with more of a nightclub feel. Also, I was thinking about introducing some environmental initiatives. What do you think? Environmentalism is getting really in these days.”
The words poured out. He was scared of losing this job that had been such a coup to get. Even worse, he feared losing his only source of income when he was behind on his rent and his American Express card was close to being cut off. He panicked and hurled ideas at Bulstrode in the hopes that one would stick.
“Whatever,” said Bulstrode. “I’m more interested in seeing the mock-up for those table tents you promised me two days ago.”
“I’m on it, boss,” said Tré, who hadn’t started them. “I’ll have them for you by the end of the day.”
When had he gotten so irresponsible? So prone to putting things off, falling behind? He’d been a straight A student at school. He’d shown up for every post-college interview on time and prepared. But here he was, reeking like a bar, exhausted, and falling behind.
It had to stop, Tré decided. It would stop right now. Tonight, he’d go home, have a decent meal and be asleep by 10:00. If Rosie wanted to hit the clubs, she could go without him. He’d limit his clubbing to Sundays and Mondays, industry nights, the cool nights. He’d focus on work and usher in a successful rebrand. He’d be a player on the business side of the hospitality industry, not just the party side.
He put his hungover head down and got to work.