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Friday, 6:08 a.m.
Eric woke up to the blaring of his alarm. Groggily, he reached around and slapped his iPhone several times until the noise stopped. He looked at the time. 6:08 a.m. He looked at the weather. 41 degrees. Brutal on both counts. He groaned loudly, still half asleep, and turned over to his girlfriend to share his frustration at the unseasonably cold spring.
“It’s cold as fuck out there, Rach. Do you-“
He stopped dead, realizing he was addressing empty sheets. His girlfriend wasn’t there. And all of a sudden, the realization came rushing back to him as his brain slowly started rebooting. They had broken up a few days ago. Just like every morning since that fateful Sunday, he replayed the conversation, the emotions, the feeling of loss as he got ready and dressed to face another day. The breakup had been mutual, sure, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t hurting. He had spent the last few days in a daze, alternating between loneliness and anxiety about being newly single. But today was different. Today, hope sprung eternal. Hope that his attitude would turn. Hope that his path to happiness would begin. Hope that he would meet someone new. Today was Friday. And for the first time since the breakup, he began to feel excited.
Friday, 4:43 p.m.
He glanced at the clock on his work computer and with a flourish, hit save on the Excel sheet he had been slaving away on. He had been getting more and more pumped as the day wore on, and now he was ready to call it a day. The weekend beckoned, and with it, a familiar tingle overcame him. A tingle he hadn’t felt in over three years since he had last been single. The tingle of a Friday night with nothing but opportunity stretching out in front of him. He had no one to answer and nothing holding him back. He was free. Free to hook up with a random girl he’ll meet at the bar? Perhaps. Free to get too drunk and strike out on every random girl in the bar? More likely. Nevertheless, for the first time since his breakup, he was looking forward to something. He grabbed his phone from where it lay, face down on his desk, and typed out a message in his group chat.
“Yo, what the fuck are we doing tonight? This is my first single weekend since Junior year of college. Let’s go find some girls.”
Immediately, the group chat exploded, almost as if his friends had been awaiting just such a text. The messages received made that theory abundantly clear.
“There he is. I’ve been waiting for our shy turtle to poke his head out of his asshole shell and find his balls! Let’s go to Stanley’s and get our dance on.”
“Oh look at Mr. “I just got out of a relationship and think I can bag any girl I want” over here. I’m down to watch you crash and burn at Stanley’s.”
“My boss wanted me to work late tonight but that text alone got me so riled up I’m sneaking out the back. Pregame at my place.”
Eric read the messages as they came through, grinning wider with each one. His friends were a bunch of idiots, to be sure, but they were his idiots. It was Friday night, baby. What could go wrong?
Friday, 11:48 p.m.
“Dude, check it out!”
Eric turned, startled by Jack abruptly yelling in his ear. Of course, he had to yell, since the bar was blasting out Blink 182 at a volume that could only be described as “tinnitus-inducing.” Nonetheless, the crowd was enjoying it, and the bar was a sea of dancing people. Rearing his head to see where Jack was pointing, Eric saw a cute brunette standing at the bar waiting to get a drink. Jack continued. “She’s looked over at you, like, four times dude! Get your head in the game and go talk to her!”
Eric turned to respond, to tell Jack that he wasn’t ready, he wasn’t drunk enough, he didn’t remember how to talk to girls, but Jack, foreseeing that reply, had already walked away, leaving only his middle finger trailing behind him, like some kind of asshole Cheshire Cat. Eric swallowed his hesitation, along with a swig of Coors Light, and walked towards the girl. Suppressing his anxiety, he smiled at the girl and leaned in.
“Are you celebrating anything special tonight, or just making it through another week?”
The girl looked a little taken aback but responded, “It’s actually my friend’s birthday, why?”
Eric felt panic rise in his chest as he tried to remember how to talk to girls. “Oh, just wondering so I can buy an appropriate drink. I’m Eric, by the way.” He flashed what he hoped was a winning grin but immediately felt his lips stick to his teeth.
The girl shook his hand and introduced herself as Natasha. She leaned in with a grin of her own and exclaimed, “I’m getting tequila shots for the birthday girl and I, but you’re welcome to take one with us!”
Eric smiled and agreed. Whew. He was a little rusty, but he still had it. The girl was feeling him. Or was she? He looked at her and saw that she was waiting for him. But waiting for what? As the anxiety returned, he realized it had been a good ten seconds since they had said anything. Obviously, he had to keep the conversation going. He couldn’t just stand there like an idiot. He felt the seconds tick away as he desperately tried to think of a question, any question, to ask her. As her expression faded to boredom, he pulled out his old tried and true opener.
“So, what major are you?”
As soon as he said it he knew he was in trouble. The last time he had approached a girl in a bar he had been 21, and it was a whole different world out here. Natasha looked confused for a second and then burst out laughing.
“My major? We’re not in college anymore, Eric. I work for a PR company downtown, though!” She looked at him with twinkling eyes, playfully teasing, when he heard his mouth speaking, without apparently letting his brain know.
“Oh. You looked young, so I thought you were in college.”
What the hell, man? She had given him an out, and he had decided to argue her own age with her? Eric felt like a passenger on his own body. His mouth was officially acting on its own accord, and nothing he could do would stop it. Usually, he was the captain of the S.S. Eric, but now his mouth had staged a mutiny and was deliberately crashing the ship.
“Well, I’m not,” She looked confusedly at him.
“Oh, well you look young.”
It was all over. His chance, however slim, was over. She gave him a weird look and slowly turned to the bar to order her tequila shots. He felt a rush of emotions rise inside of him as he slammed the rest of his beer and walked back to his friends. His thoughts were going a mile a minute, telling him that he was a loser, that he would never find a girl like Rachel, that she was probably hooking up with another guy as he was pathetically striking out in this bar. His friends saw his downtrodden face, and in a rare show of compassion, didn’t rib him for his obvious whiff.
“Shake it off, big guy,” Andrew said as he squeezed his shoulder. I got us tequila shots. All you gotta do is rehydrate and get back out there.”
Eric nodded, and for the next hour, did his best to heed that advice, but his heart just wasn’t in it. He tried grinding up on a girl and got shut down, sending him into a further spiral. He felt like the creepy guy at the bar. All the game he thought he had was gone. Gone with the relationship he threw away. He looked around, seeing his friends happily dancing and chasing girls, and decided to Irish exit before he made a fool of himself.
In the backseat of the Uber home, his thoughts turned to his ex. Once again, he found his body not under his drunk brain’s control. He watched as it took out his phone, and typed out a message.
“I miss yo Rachel. Whay u ip to?” .