In this episode of the Current Event Fiction Podcast: In late March and early April of 2013, the national debate circled around the question of whether the gay community has a right to marry, or if marriage should stay within a man and a woman. Simultaneously, March Madness (a yearly college basketball tournament) is taking the sports highlight in America. In this story, we are invited into the casual lives of three friends as they indirectly live through these events.
“Beers, Gays and Straights”
Going into it I knew that the place would have such a pervading cigarette stench that I wore special clothes to throw away after. I didn’t give a damn who’d be there so I wore a dirty old white shirt with yellowing at the armpits. The shirt was at the end of the road and would have to meet its destiny there. But it still looked good for casual wear. It was fit to wear around men at least. As for my jeans, I knew they’d have to swallow this one and come out of there a little beat, needing a wash.
On the way over during a red light I felt ashamed at the way I was dressed when I looked down at myself, but I was suited with the necessary armor.
I didn’t smell smoke as I approached the apartment which meant they weren’t lighting. Sam opened the door but the odor welcomed me before he did. He was in the kitchen, which is adjacent to the entrance, slipping ice cubes out of a tray, and Mike had the TV going in the living room.
After proper welcomings I sat down to figure out what we were going to eat. The first cigarette came on, from Mike who sat next to me. He never offered me one, but my sentiment there was that I was guilty by association, so I joined him and asked for one.
“You’re dressed like a goddamn bum,” Mike said. “It’s amazing how different you can look.” He slipped one out and handed it to me, then lit it. “So I’m thinking Pizza, how about you guys?”
We were prepping to catch the first game of the Final Four between Louisville and Wichita State. I was rooting for Louisville because of that kid Kevin Ware’s Frankenstein injury.
“Not thinking pizza today,” Sam said. “Not thinking Chinese either.” He mixed his coke and ice with his finger.
“Well, we got to get beers, and the game’s in an hour,” I said, and hit the cig. Only thing is that instead of sitting on the couch I walked to the screen door to the balcony and blew it out there. Mike stayed on the couch and had one of us on either side, with Sam standing by the dinner table to his left.
“Alright then, let’s go and pack the cart with chips and see what else we find over there. If you guys don’t make up your mind I can still buy some pizza to bake over here.”
I took another hit before leading the way to my car. Sam hadn’t smoked yet. Mike put his out and left it half way in the living room ashtray. Sam brought his coke cup with him.
Mike took shotgun and Sam sat behind me. I could hear the ice cubes against the glass as he finished and mixed his drink.
“Did you guys see that ESPN interview with Kevin Ware?” Sam asked.
“Dude looks like nothing happened. Those damn doctors see a broken bone sticking out like that and they know exactly what to do. To the rest of us that shit was Saving Private Ryan,” Mike said. Mike looked uncomfortable because he liked smoking in cars, but he knew that he couldn’t in mine. He had his window rolled down and kept blowing air against the wind with his arm out.
“That’s the worst injury I’ve seen. Don’t even want to play basketball for a while because of it,” I said.
Sam spun his ice cubes and said, “Can’t wait to see this game. I saw Coach Pitino talk too, and they look focused, like a tight family.”
“Dude that Coach Pitino looks like the real deal, doesn’t he? Like a real life Michael Corleone from part 1, has that Italian-American look down, the last name, the young looks, shit he would’ve had a natural performance,” Mike said. Sam spun his ice cubes again for the last time then put the cup in the holder.
We arrived at Vons and walked in. Sam grabbed a basket and went out looking for the beer while we handled the chips and food.
“I really don’t know what type of food we can get here,” I said.
“Let’s grab the chips first,” Mike said. We found the snack aisle and I grabbed some BBQ flavored and salt-vinegar ones.
As we left the aisle Mike said, “Dude you gotta dress fucking better than this when we go out together next time.”
“Why? It’s just the market and I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be out,” I said.
“Because you look so fucking abnormal that I look like Justin Timberlake walking the aisle here.” He wore fit, dark jeans and a white t-shirt with the original Nintendo image on the front. “Let’s figure out what we’re gonna eat and get going,” he said.
“Why, can’t wait to get back to that cigarette? Give it a break,” I said.
“No, it’s just that this guy’s been checking me out. I saw him when we came in and coming out of the chip aisle. It’s not helping that you’re dressed like a mess, like I said.”
“Oh,” I said. As we walked to the deli food area, he continued, “He probably thinks you’re straight shit since you’re dressed like you don’t give a fuck, and he’s eyeing me thinking something else.”
“Well let me know if you want to switch shirts,” I said.”
“Whatever, what are you craving?”
“Potato salad,” I said. I looked at the other options for a bit and then Sam met up with us. He was carrying an 18 pack, with no basket in sight anymore.
“What about you Sam, what do you want?” Mike asked.
“I don’t know.” Sam began to look around and so did Mike. I ordered a half pound of potato salad for us, and then didn’t know what else to get. The chicken wings looked dry and heavily breaded. I wasn’t craving salads. The deli made sandwiches I could easily make at the apartment and so on.
“What should we get, Sam?” I asked him.
“I’m going to get a sandwich and some chili,” he said.
Mike came back and said, “None of this stuff’s looking good. It’s getting too late to stop somewhere else. I’m gonna go with a frozen pizza and get the oven going at home. I’ll meet you guys at the front.”
Sam ordered an avocado turkey sandwich, which made me feel envious by its look, but I figured I’d help Mike out with the pizza after all. We walked to the front and got in line. I saw Mike coming out of one of the frozen aisles. He walked straight to us.
“I fucking told you,” he told me. “I was looking at the pizzas and ran into that guy I told you about. He acted like he was looking for something too, then suggested a pizza to me.”
“And what happened?” I asked.
“Nothing, I said thanks and I guess he didn’t get the vibe so he just told me to have a good day, and to enjoy the pizza.”
“Did you get the one he suggested?” I asked.
“I don’t know what the fuck he suggested, he just said that I might like this pizza and pointed to an area.”
“I am going to share some of the pizza with you,” I said. “I didn’t find anything. That pizza’s not big enough.”
“Jesus, imagine what he would’ve said if I had told him that? Well go back and get another one if you want,” Mike said, handed me the pizza and stayed back. When I came back in line they had already paid and were outside. I paid and met them out there, and they were both smoking.
Mike was ignoring people coming out of the market, but didn’t exactly have his back turned.
I joined them and heard Mike say, “I don’t care if they marry or not. They’re free to do what they want, but this shit’s what bugs me.”
Then Sam said, “I sympathize with the homosexual because it must be difficult to harbor love interests for a whole gender that doesn’t by default like you back. In other words, what limits us as guys from approaching a girl we like is our lack of courage, but a gay holding that same courage has to also be open to offending his interest, like he did with you. And like you said, he’s free to do what he wants.”
“That sounds tough,” I said.
“Dude, let me know and I can let you borrow a shirt next time,” Mike told me as he exhaled smoke. “Half the reason I caught that guy’s eye is because I was walking around with him all over,” he said to Sam while pointing the cigarette my way. “Shit wasn’t a hard decision to make for that guy once he saw his shirt. You damn near baited me into it.”
As we made our way to my car, Sam dumped his smoke in an ashtray and Mike continued on it, even staying outside the car to finish it.
“There he goes, that’s him,” Mike said as he came in, looking at the guy crossing the parking lot. The guy was wearing red shorts, a white vest, and a hat that was tilted upwards so his hair could show.
“That’s the guy who recommended our beers,” Sam said.
“What? You mean he went around recommending shit to you too?”
“No. He had the six pack and I asked him for his opinion,” Sam said. Mike didn’t say anything. We drove off the lot. Sam drank the melted cold water from his old coke cup.
I was still glad I brought my shirt after all. We had a couple of hours of rooting for Pitino to go at the place, and Mike was blowing air out the window.
Links to the real-life current events that inspired “Beers, Gays and Straights”: