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Eric could already hear the ruckus as he approached Kyle’s front door. The muffled sound of 90’s rap and laughter were clearly audible in the hallway, and he had to bang on the apartment door several times before it was answered. Jack opened the door, visibly intoxicated, and looked at Eric with a lopsided grin on his face.
“Oh what’s up dude?! Did you lose some weight? You look like you lost about…” He gestured sloppily to the empty space to Eric’s left as he continued. “…120 pounds? It’s been so long since I’ve seen you on your own I thought you and your girlfriend had morphed into one being already.” Eric laughed sarcastically as he pushed past his friend and into the apartment. Or at least, tried to push past. Jack took his movements as an excuse to wrap him up in a hug, and Eric entered the living room with him draped over his shoulders like a very heavy, tequila-scented scarf.
Kyle and Andrew looked up from pouring another shot to greet him with several seconds of unintelligible yelling. “Just in time!” Andrew shouted as he poured a fourth shot of Bulleit and gestured at Eric to grab it. “Wait, where’s Alyssa?” Kyle slurred as he squinted around the room. “Did you…come alone?”
“What am I looking at?” Eric thought as he saw at the scene before him. There were as many open liquor bottles as there were people, red solo cups were strewn around, and inexplicably, the TV was set to what looked like softcore porn. He watched the screen distractedly for a few seconds before answering. “Uhhh…she’s out with her old sorority sister that’s visiting. It’s not like I’m always with her. Also, are you guys watching Cinemax?”
The room was silent as they all stared at the TV for a few seconds. Finally, after what seemed like too long of a time for four grown men to be watching porn together, Kyle spoke up. “Fuck, we only invited you because we thought Alyssa would come. She’s way cooler than you.” Raucous laughter echoed from the rest of the group, who clearly thought this was the best burn in all of history. Andrew offered Kyle a sloppy fist bump.
“Goddamn it,” Eric said to himself. “These guys are so drunk. I’m going to have to play catch up if I want to get anywhere near their level.” He grabbed one of the shot glasses, slammed it, and reached for the bottle to refill it as he spoke in what he had meant to be a confident tone, but came out a hoarse whisper.
“You know what – Jesus, is that plastic bottle tequila? Why? What’s wrong with you, Kyle? Screw it. You know what, fuck you guys. Hell yeah, I’m here alone. You all scared of a little boys night?”
“Ayyyy!” Said Kyle eloquently. The other guys grabbed their shot glasses and raised them to meet Eric’s. Four loud, belligerent voices echoed throughout the apartment in unison. “Boys night!”
* * * *
Two hours later, Eric handed his ID to the bouncer as he did his best to appear sober. The large man with neck tattoos gave him an uninterested look and handed him his license back, granting him entry into the bar. Despite their last drink being less that 18 minutes ago, he immediately turned to the crew and mimed a shot-taking motion before pointing at the bar. His idea was met with immediate enthusiasm from Andrew and Jack and blurred incomprehension from Kyle. The boys were back.
Jack surveyed the scene as Eric ineffectively tried to get the bartenders attention. “Damn. Lotta talent in here tonight, dudes. Too bad Eric’s too wifed up and Kyle’s too drunk to talk to any of them.”
Eric turned around and locked eyes with Jack, who stared at him tauntingly. Eric knew he was just trying to fire him up into hitting on girls, but he didn’t care. It was working. Sure, he had been out of the game for nearly half a year, but that didn’t mean he had lost his touch. Plus, it’s not like it would even be cheating. Everyone flirts. As long as he didn’t act on it or actually hook up with a girl, he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He would just be proving to himself and to Jack that he still had game. “Fuck it,” Eric thought. “I’m in the prime of my life, baby. I’m allowed to flirt with a girl solely for the challenge of it. Honestly, being able to hit on someone and not follow through and cheat just shows how much I care for and respect Alyssa.”
Eric smiled and yelled at Jack over the deafening sound of hundreds of drunk people doing the same thing. “You know I still have more game than you, even without any practice. I bet I can get at least two girls’ phone numbers tonight. I mean, I’ll delete them, obviously. But I can get them.”
Jack laughed and slapped his knee exaggeratedly. “Please. I bet you a drink you’re going to get shot down by the first four girls you talk to and then Irish exit to meet up with your girlfriend. You might even get so drunk you pull a Ted Cruz and accidentally share some porn on Twitter.”
Finally catching the bartender’s eye, Eric ordered four shots of Jameson and turned around to dole them out to the group. Eric raised his glass and stared at Jack. “I accept your bet. Andrew can be my witness.”
Jack raised his glass to match. Kyle raised his glass and spilled half of it on the ground. Andrew, who had been watching Jack and Eric argue, his head moving back and forth as though he were at a tennis match, slowly raised his glass and spoke. “Uhh, fuck that. Andrew is trying to get himself laid. I don’t give a shit about y’alls stupid bet. Jack can follow you around if he wants. Cheers.”
Jack and Eric both shrugged and drained the shot. Placing his back on the bar, Eric swallowed hard. He knew he wasn’t as confident as his tough talk had made him seem, but as the alcohol reached his brain, his worries dissipated. He spotted a short brunette waiting for a drink at the other end of the bar, and maneuvered through the crowds until he could reach out and tap her on the shoulder.
“Hey! I was wondering if –“ His voice caught in his throat as the girl turned around. It was the girl he’d met on Bumble months ago, right after his breakup. Shit. What was her name? Christie? Chelsea? Carly! That was it. He continued after a long pause. “Oh, hey Carly!”
Carly looked up at him with bright eyes and a confused expression. “Hey! I’m sorry, how do I know you again?”.