Delirious and unaware of where he even was, Todd’s attempt to look down and check his watch nearly made him vomit. His phone had been dead for three hours, but those three hours didn’t matter because as they say, “Nothing good happens after midnight.”
“Say, John,” Todd muttered while slumped over his beer at one of the bars that was to remain open all night, “Let’s call it, man.”
“Call an Uber, pussy,” John responded with glazed eyes.
“My fucking phone’s dead,” Todd labored to explain. “Just call one for us – I’ll Venmo you when we get home.”
“Fine, you fuck,” he spat back to Todd. “Should we even bother to tell them that we’re going or let them talk to these girls longer?”
Todd looked over and squinted at the girls Trip, Finn, and Ben were talking to. Giving them a once-over, he came to a surprising conclusion that most of them didn’t have the sound mind to make at 4 a.m. after double-digit brown drinks.
“Fuck ’em,” Todd said. “Those girls are gross.”
Peeling his face off of his pillow, he picked up his phone to snooze the alarm soon realizing that it was 9 a.m. He began scrolling through his notifications again – the same ESPN alerts, work emails, and Venmo notifications you’d expect – before coming across a response to a text that he’d (almost) forgotten he’d sent.
He felt slightly uneasy upon seeing that she’d responded. The average person who abides by old sayings would tell you, “Drunk words are sober thoughts,” but Todd still knew that he was on a “break” and not a “breakup.” Say what you want, but there’s only one reason you text a cute girl when it’s dark out and you’ve been drinking since 2 o’clock.
Swiping his finger across the screen, he revealed the message he sent and sighed a breath of relief that it was more middle-of-the-road rather than a hail mary.
His eyebrows raised and increased the crease on his face from the pillow upon reading her response.
“Alright, alright,” he thought before sending his response back. He couldn’t tell whether she had texted him the night before when his phone was dead or if she had just gotten his text that morning, so he decided to play his cards conservatively and keep his responses casual.
At this point, he had no other option but to rally the troops. The same troops who he’d left out the night (or morning) before, who he wasn’t even entirely sure he’d find in their beds (or couches).
He scrolled down on Spotify and queued up Frankie Valli’s “December ’63 (Oh What A Night)” and paraded through the cramped hallways of their filthy rental house.
“Oh what a night!” he yelled as he entered John’s room, which was right next to his.
“Late December back in ’63,” he continued while shaking John with one hand.
“What a very special time for me,” he howled as he left John’s room and approached Trip’s room, where Trip was passed out on top of his covers wearing what he had on the night before.
“As I remember, what a night,” his off-key voice kept singing in hopes of shooting some energy into an otherwise desperate group.
“Oh, what a night, you know, I didn’t even know her name,” he heard Finn yell from the room over, with Ben joining in from the living room couch screaming, “But I was never gonna be the same, what a lady, what a night!”
“Let’s fuckin’ go, boys,” Todd continued while turning on the shower. “It’s 9:40 on the most beautiful day of the year, let’s. fuckin’. go.”
Todd wasn’t sure what was more amazing, the amount of energy he had to start the day or the fact that he found every member of their crew where they were supposed to be. Too tired (or still drunk) to stand, Finn sauntered into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet to pee while “December ’63” kept playing through Todd’s phone speakers while he showered.
“You get laid last night?” Finn asked while Todd hummed along.
“Not sure, don’t remember getting home,” Todd responded while washing his armpits with a sad bar of soap. “All I know is that today is the day.”
One by one, the guys quickly rinsed off the night before’s sludge in hopes of everyone at least getting a sniff of hot water as they got dressed for the day. The blazers and button downs of last year got replaced with short-sleeve button downs, golf polos, visors, and sunglasses big enough to cover up not only their bloodshot eyes, but the bags under them as well.
With four Miller Lites sitting on the kitchen counter (“I’ll sit this one out,” Ben muttered), they discussed their plan of action.
“Let’s just take an Uber XL and get dropped as close as we can like last year,” Trip pitched. “I don’t know what the liquor laws are like, but I can’t imagine we need to go to a bar.”
Todd stood up and approached a cupboard next to the refrigerator that he’d cased upon arrival hoping to find some food. “There are some huge styrofoams in here that we can use for roadies.”
Ben’s hands shook at the table while breaking his Adderalls in half for everyone to have.
“Do we have anymore Early Times?” Todd asked, praying they wouldn’t have to make a run.
“No,” Finn responded sounding like he was about to throw up. “Ben and I finished it a few hours ago when we got home. Super good decision, not regretting it at all.”
“It’s fine,” Trip interjected. “I’ve got that bottle in my bag.”
“Fuck it,” Finn said. “I’m calling an Uber XL and taking it as close to Churchill Downs as humanly possible. I don’t care who comes with me. Ben, give me that.”
Walking through the tunnel towards the infield at Churchill Downs feels like you’re walking through the tunnel going to play in a Super Bowl. But rather than being surrounded by incredible athletes, you’re surrounded by inebriated southern college kids and Louisville locals. Instead of heading onto the gridiron where you’ll play in the biggest game of you life, you’re headed onto a field of half-grown grass and dirt where you’ll drink yourself into a stupor.
“S-E-C!” John chanted, joking about the girls they’d met up with the night before. “S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!”
Todd had gotten a mint julep immediately upon walking in and was carrying it with him into the infield. “First order of business,” he explained, “is to place some fucking bets, eat some fucking food, and really get in the mix.”
“Should I text those girls from last night?” Ben, who was now holding double Michelob Ultras after his hangover subsided, asked.
“God, no,” Trip shot back. “I never want to see those girls again.”
“OVE-ER-RATE-ED!” John chanted, referencing the girls from the night before.
As they emerged from the tunnel, Todd looked at his phone before asking, “Do any of you even get service in here?” He lifted his phone into the air, inadvertently blocking the hot Kentucky sun from his eyes while also attempting to salvage any bars of service AT&T had to offer. “Never mind, we good.”
He spotted a long line of guys that he knew had to end with either a bathroom, an ATM, or a bookie. He didn’t care which one, but he prayed it was somewhere where he could put $200 on Gunnevera. Standing on his tiptoes, he soon realized his prayers were answered.
One by one, guys who looked like they could roll with the weekend’s fivesome peeled away clutching their tickets filled with trifectas, superfectas, and other bets that they had to Google on their phones moments before approaching the booth. With a few guys still ahead of him, he pulled out his phone to see if he’d missed any calls or texts.
“Huh,” he thought. “Says I have service.”
He had no choice but to find out, so he queued up the text conversation that ended promptly at 9:35 a.m. earlier that morning.
“What’s up?” he messaged while the loading bar at the top shot across the screen, coming within centimeters of signaling it was sent. It appeared to have gone through, but he couldn’t be sure because the “Delivered” below his text still hadn’t appeared.
He stepped up to the window and took out two $100 bills from his money clip. He confidently said, “$200 on Gunnevera to win,” only for the large woman on the other side of the glass to tell him to speak up.
“I said ‘$200 on Gunnevera to win,'” before she repeated it back to him.
“Good luck out there today,” she said, sliding the ticket towards him. “Have fun.”
He snagged the ticket from her to confirm it was all correct. Reaching for his pocket, he slid it in and pressed it against the back of his phone so it wouldn’t become crumbled. And as he rested his hand on both, he felt the salvation he’d been wondering about just minutes before – an iMessage vibration. .
Image via The Kentucky Derby