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Distilled Spirits: Ch. 15 — Caitlyn (Special Halloween Edition)

November 1, 2013

What is Distilled Spirits?

Note: This chapter is 2,300 words, the first break from the 1,500 cap.  These deviations will be rare.

Episode 4:  “Need a Lift to Happy Hour”

Caitlyn

            Cait had carefully designed the playlist for the Halloween party.  It started with unobjectionable music—Beatles, Cake, 90s hip hop, and mostly stuff that was on the radio twenty years ago.  By the time many people had left, her computer would play what Sid and Cait wanted to hear.  And when it came time to get people to leave, an alternating loop of November Rain and Hollaback Girl would finish the job.

Help! was playing when the doorbell rang, and Cait left Drew at the makeshift bar to pour drinks for people he didn’t know.

The door opened by itself—a pirate was leaning against the frame with a plastic sword in one hand, and an opened handle of Captain Morgan in the other.  His pants were tight enough that Cait could see . . . too much, and his billowy pirate shirt was open down to his stomach.

Cait squeezed her eyes shut.  “What the fuck are you wearing, Geno?”

“I’m a pirate,” Geno said.  “You know, from the porno movie.  The one that cost a million bucks to make.  Pirates XXX.”

Cait squinted at her friend’s chest.  “Did you start working out just for Halloween?”

“Sorry we’re late,” Scarlett said, looking Geno up and down as well.  She was almost hidden behind him.  “We got distracted and—”

“No details,” Cait said.

The small girl that Cait had only met a few times was barely recognizable as Scarlett—she wore a long blond wig with flowers in her hair and a flowing dress of multiple, faded colors.  Some kind of Indian braid was tied around her forehead and a peace symbol hung from her neck.

The joint behind her ear was probably not part of the costume.

“Thank you for this party,” Scarlett said.  “I’m sensing positive energy from your aura right now.  The moon blesses us this evening.”

Cait thought about closing the door but Geno offered up the bottle and Cait grabbed it, leading the two inside.

The open layout of the apartment was perfect for hosting a party.  It was easy to gather in the ‘living area’ around the couch, chairs, and fish tank in front of the wide windows, or in the ‘kitchen area’ with its table lined with booze and counter covered in food.

Cait put Geno’s bottle with the other rum and started rearranging the alcohol so that everything was properly grouped.

“Where did this come from?” someone asked, handing her a bottle.  It was Sid, standing beside her.  The clear bottle had Korean characters written across it.

“No clue,” Cait said, glancing at Sid and his blue, button-up coat with maroon tie and white undershirt—hair slicked back at pointy angles.  “I still think you coulda pulled off Spike Spiegel.”

“Objection!” Sid yelled.  “Being a fictional lawyer will be way more fun.”

“If you yell that all night—”

“Did he come here already drunk?” Sid asked, picking up a paring knife and a few key limes.  “And does he know that she’s a lesbian?”

Cait looked—Drew was talking with Molly and another girl from Glenn’s soup kitchen.  Flirting with them.

“Wait,” Cait said, “Molly’s a lesbian?”

“Yup, Glenn told me.”

“That explains why he didn’t go for her,” Cait said, reexamining the tall woman—taller than Drew, like Cait was.  Molly was dressed in all back like usual.  No costume—she had said she didn’t believe in Halloween, whatever that meant, but came to a Halloween party anyway.  She had brought two bottles so no one seemed to care.

“Oh he tried—in the awkward way that Glenn tries,” Sid said.  “Where is he?”

“Smoking on the fire escape.  What about Eri?  She coming?”

“She can’t,” Sid said, slicing limes in half and plopping one in his own gin and tonic that smelled short on tonic.  “Some kind of test tomorrow.”

“Are you guys still together?”

“I think so.”

Cait smiled.  “Why didn’t you invite that videogame cougar of yours?  Mrs. Robinson?”

“Objection!” Sid said.  “I’m not talking about work tonight.  Tabasco shot?”

“No way.”

“Why not?  I haven’t done one with you since college,” Sid said, already pouring the vodka and uncapping the Tabasco.  “As your lawyer, it’s my duty to make sure the hosts have a better time than our guests.  Now—gimme your hand.”

Sid carefully dripped Tabasco on the back of her hand, did the same for himself, and handed Cait her shot.   He grinned like a freshman

“Down the hatch,” he said.

They tipped theirs back together, and an impulse made Cait grab Sid’s hand and quickly lick the Tabasco off, holding her hand up for him to do the same.

“Remember,” Cait said, trying to stop from laughing.  She had to inhale deeply a few times and wiped her hand on her pants.  The taste of the shot was gone.  “Remember how we used to freak people out with that?  Oh, Christ.  When we pretended that we just met?”

Sid steadied himself with a hand on the table, wearing a huge grin. “That poor pizza delivery guy—when we asked him to join us.”

Cait caught a glimpse of Geno again—his pirate shirt was now completely undone.  He and Scarlett were the center of an impromptu dance party near the fish tank that was backlit with orange.  By the looks of it, Scarlett learned ‘dance’ from a girl named Candy or Dawn.  It was hard to believe Geno when he said the two of them weren’t sleeping together.

“Now,” Sid said, “as your lawyer—”

“You know you’re not a real lawyer, right?” Drew said, suddenly beside them and smiling over a tall drink.  There was a slight slur to his words.  “Is that what you actually wanted to be as a kid?”

Sid looked down at his blue coat and puffed it out.  “Yeah, I wish I was Phoenix Wright.  That’d be awesome.  Does your outfit even count as a costume?”

Drew twirled his stethoscope.  “It’s a real doctor’s uniform from St. Anthony’s.  Borrowed it.”

Sid eyed the last two sips in his glass and finished it.  “Is that what you actually wanted to be as a kid—a doctor?  When did you decide on nurse?  What test did you fail?”

“At least I have a real job,” Drew said.

“At least—” Sid finally caught the look on Cait’s face, and he swallowed.  “Excuse me, I think I see a new client.”  With a small bow, Sid loosened his collar and headed for the bathroom.

“Don’t be an ass,” Cait said, taking Drew’s arm and leading him away from the bar.

“Why is Sidney always like that to me?” Drew asked.  “Your other friends like me.”

Cait bit her lip.  “You see that guy dressed as Rocky?  I mean, the flying squirrel?  He’s starting med school.  Why don’t you give him some advice?”  She gently pushed Drew in that direction and that was enough to keep him going.

The playlist churned out hits.  Cait talked with a dead dinosaur, a burlesque Darth Vader, and a couple dressed as Bill and Ted.  She entertained a friend of a friend who was new in town, talked with Geno who had ‘lost’ his shirt but not his sword, and managed to catch Molly and Scarlett on the fire escape with a few others.  Molly was one of the few women Cait had ever met who didn’t mind silence.

A Built to Spill song faded when they climbed back inside and the unmistakable opening chords of Interpol sounded.  Phase II of the playlist was in full swing.

“I’ll lay down my glasses

I’ll lay down in houses

If things come alive”

“Oh, no,” Scarlett said, glancing at Cait.

Round II between the boys at the bar had also begun.  This time Drew was lecturing at Sid and Geno while others looked on—Geno enunciated a point with his sword and Sid gripped his drink tight enough to turn his knuckles white.

“I promise to commit no acts of violence

Neither physical or otherwise

If things come alive.”

“Just admit it!” Drew was saying.  “You never liked me.”

“Okay,” Sid said with a shrug.  “I give up.  You’re a shitty person.  To take advantage of Cait when you met—”

Geno’s mouth gaped.  “He did what?

“That’s—that’s between me and her,” Drew said.

“It never was,” Sid said.  “And you’ve had enough time to prove that you weren’t an asshole.”

“You’re just jealous,” Drew said, “jealous because you don’t get to fuck—”

“Get out of here,” Geno said, pointing his sword at Drew’s neck.

Drew looked to Cait who had been watching from the fish tank.  “Why aren’t you backing me up?  This failed, shitstain writer—”

“Get the fuck out,” Cait said quietly.

“Hey, I—”

“Get the fuck out of my apartment!” Cait pointed at the door.  “Right now.”

Drew finally seemed to judge the atmosphere.  The dancing had stopped.  The fish were in a frenzy.  And he was alone in a crowd.  He nodded to himself a few times, picked up his coat from beneath the table, and walked to the door, pausing for a second just outside.  Drew considered something while looking directly at Cait.  “I don’t know why I put up with your crazy shit and your friends.  You aren’t even that great of a screw.  You—”

Sid’s glass sailed an inch above Drew’s head and smashed against the hallway wall, and a plastic pirate’s sword hit Drew in the chest before he slammed the door closed.

“I’m subtle like a lion’s cage

Such a cautious display.”

“Jesus, that guy.”  Sid yanked his tie off.

“You!” Cait got in his face with a finger on Sid’s chest.

“Objection!” Sid yelled.  “The fuck did I do?”

Cait glared between Geno and Sid.  She clenched her fists, and then saw Glenn out on the fire escape again, watching this all happen.  She walked over to the window.  “Just—leave me alone tonight.”

Sid picked up a bottle of Jim Beam and held it up to the light, eying how much was left.  “Geno!”

“Yes?”

“Mario Kart until we pass out,” Sid said.  “My room—now.  And find your shirt.”

Geno spoke a few quick words to Scarlett but she just nodded, waving him along.

“Remember take hold of your time here

Give some meanings to your means

To your end.”

Cait crawled out the window and shut out the music.  It was cold but the wind wasn’t blowing, and Glenn looked warm in his winter Sherlock Holmes outfit.

Cait held out her hand and Glenn handed her a cigarette, lighting it for her.

“Caitlyn, what, what do you even see in—?”

“Let’s not talk about it,” she said.

They smoked in silence.

“He . . . Drew takes, and gets what he wants.”  Cait found herself speaking.  “He has this power—it’s not just confidence.  That’s why I didn’t dress up tonight.  I was going to be Misty, you know, from Pokemon?  He told me not to.

“Sexy Misty?”

“Forget it,” Cait said.  “Whatever.  We’re over now, I guess.”

“We’ll see,” Glenn said.  “Sorry—I mean, I guess you care about him.”

“Who?”

Glenn finished his own cigarette, stuffing it back in the pack.  “You were thinking of Sidney, just then, weren’t you?”

Cait stared at her friend.   He had a knack for being somewhere at the right time.

“You were there,” Cait said.  “You were in the living room the whole time the night that Sid and I took M together.”

Glenn winced, and nodded.  “He asked me to stay in case things got weird.  He wanted someone sober there for his first time.  Well, we were all a bit drunk.  You really don’t remember that night, do you?”

“I remember parts,” Cait said.  “He remembers less.”

“When it started, you and Sid held hands and went into your room with huge smiles.  Without one fucking word spoken.  Freaked me out a bit.”  Glenn glanced at Cait’s face.

Words were caught in her throat.  She opened her mouth and closed it.

“I looked in on you guys a bit later,” Glenn said.  “You know, that was my job, right?  That’s what Sidney asked me to do.”

“What did you see?”

“You wanna know?” Glenn asked.

“N—no,” Cait said, rubbing her arms.

“You gave me a note that night,” Glenn said.  “Told me to hold onto it.”

“Stop.”

“I always have it in my wallet, you know,” Glenn said, patting his pocket.  “You told me—you said to give it back to you, Caitlyn, if you ever tried to hurt yourself again.”

Cait stopped clenching her fists and glanced down between the cracks of the old fire escape, down to the street below.

“You staying over?” Cait asked.

“If the couch is free,” Glenn said, standing up.  He opened the window and climbed through.

“I’ll be in soon,” Cait said.

She looked down her quiet, residential street, a few blocks off of Canal St.  Another apartment party was happening across the way, still going strong, and she heard some people on the roof of her building.  An ambulance siren rang, maybe on the opposite side of the canal—toward some drunken mistake or carrying the results of one.

A bottle smashed against the sidewalk below, thrown or dropped from the roof.

Cait thought about how many people jumped off the city’s bridge every year—how many were never reported and never even became a statistic.  How many people just disappeared, with all of their loved ones left to wonder what happened until they, too, died.

That final rush, final fear, before hitting the water—there had to be a better way for them to do it, Cait figured.  She couldn’t understand why anyone would choose jumping off a bridge over anything else.

The cigarette felt warm in her fingertips and she flicked it through the bars of the fire escape.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

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