David smiled, happy with this transition. “Yes,” he replied, and the two clinked their glasses. Charles drank his shot, Ten being the last of the fellows to join the liquor parade that night.
“What else, what else...” sighed Charles.
David thought of asking about the Girl, but thought better of it. He knew she would resurface into the conversation eventually. “I don't know, what else is going on?”
Charles dramatically tipped his chair back and clasped his arms across his chest. “What's… going… on…? Hmmm. I don't know.” He paused for effect. “Sometimes I just feel like my life is a cold case waiting to be solved, you know what I mean?”
With reluctance David responded, “Um…” and awkwardly giggled. “Not really, I'm sorry, what do you mean?”
“I don't know what I mean, I just thought of it when I was watching a crime show the other day.”
“Yeah,” he groaned. “Really, man, how do you stay so normal?”
David opened his mouth a bit and shook his head left and right as if Parkinson's had set in. “I-I don't know, I mean, I have my moments.”
“Yeah, I think everybody does.”
David sipped his beer carefully and Charles asked him, “What do you want to do now?”
“Oh, I uh... I was just going to sit here and have this beer. Why, what did you have in mind?”
“I don't know. I'm so sick of this town. Aren't you sick of it?”
“No… well, it's all right I guess.”
“I'm exhausted at its dullness. And the most exciting part of my day was seeing that girl, and now I'll never see her again because I'm an idiot and I couldn't even talk to her.”
David unconsciously tilted his head up to meet the expected topic of conversation. “Yeah, that's too bad.”
“It is too bad.” He shook his head low in shame. “I just screwed up my only option of getting out of this mess of a life I've created.” He looked up to David. “I'm not like you, I don't have the simplicity to be sort of carefree. To just do my job and enjoy it, to… you know, be happy that the sun shines and be grateful that I've got two legs, treat people kindly and all that. Everything is just so much harder for me.”
David didn’t respond.
“Everything is a struggle.”
“Why do you think that is?” David asked carefully.
“I don't know. I guess it's just in my make-up. My genes or whatever.”
“So, do you think things can ever change?”
“No, I don't think they ever could change. Maybe if I saw her again, maybe if I was able to have that moment back, maybe I could be happy.”
“Yeah, I think that maybe if I had her, I could be happy.”
“Well, I hope you get that chance.”
“Yeah, but I doubt that's gonna happen.”
“Eh, you never know.”
“Oh, I know how things in my life go.”
“Come on, Charles,” said David in an abrupt tone, “You gotta have a little more of a positive attitude. No?”
“I don't know.”
David was accustomed to Charles' negativity, but it was clear that he was in a deeper trough than usual. David’s intuition detected at least Six of the Ten and attributed his irritability to that.
“I'm gonna get another beer. You want a water or anything?”
“Yeah, water's good.”
As David was waiting at the bar, the Ten began to weigh heavily upon Charles. His vision was now blurred and the feelings (both good and bad), that usually trembled under his skin were now partially anesthetized. He looked over to see the barman readied for the next order. David met the barman’s eyes with a sociable nod and put in his request. He waited a moment, his body still and unimposing. A friend approached him from behind, acknowledging him by smoothly rubbing his back. Charles felt a twinge of envy for the warmth with which David was greeted. David returned the warmth with a gracious smile and friendly hug.
When the bartender returned, he carefully rested the two drinks on the counter. After he had paid for drinks, David gave his server one final sincere smile.
As he returned, Charles' demeanor turned from bad to worse, invading the friends' marginally affable discourse like a stealthy cat burglar.
As David placed the drinks on the table, Charles sneered up at him. With brow sunken in question, David asked, “What?”
“Nothing, I didn't say anything,” Charles answered through gritted teeth.
“Okay. You were just looking at me funny, that's all.”
Charles didn't respond. He waited to find the weak point in the house.
Silent breaths carried the conversation for a while. David folded his hands in his lap, at a loss for anything more inspired. Charles remained in wait.
“Are you doing anything else this weekend?”
David's eyes opened broader in irritation. Their breaths got hotter and shorter. David cooled his with a sip of beer. After a labored break, he asked, “I think I'm going to go to dinner with Sophia tomorrow night.”
“Sophia is a bitch.”
David was taken aback. “What?”
“She's a bitch. You don't think so? She is clearly taking advantage of you.”
David cocked his head with interest. “Oh yeah, how so?”
“You're a complete doormat and she's making a fool out of you. When she calls, you jump to her doorstep. When she leaves, you wait for her return. When she says “Jump,” you say, 'Whatever you say, Master.'” His tone was condescending. His upper lip acted like the bow, out of which his tongue propelled his piercing words.
“I think that's kind of unfair to say.”
“Well, I don't know if it's unfair or what, but it's the truth and you know it.”
David sat quietly and did not respond. He gulped his ale with ambition and mindlessly watched one of the bar's televisions, occasionally grazing Charles' face with his gaze. After he had had about half a pint, he was forced to consider his exit.
“I think I'm gonna take off, I'm pretty tired.”
He stood up to leave. “You gonna stay here?”
“Yeah, for a few minutes.”
“All right, well I'll see you later. Have a good night,” he said in a coarse monotone.
Charles glared at David's back as he left the bar, and continued to watch him through the bar's broad front windows after he got outside. Satisfied with his destruction, he stood up and journeyed home as well.