Saturday, July 3, 2010

Playing Catch-Up

My fellow seasoned veterans in the drinking game know that few things in this world are tougher to do than to come in late on a boozing session. This is especially true when the friends you are trying to catch are drinking with the reckless abandon of a Kamikaze pilot riding inside of a dynamite-laden snowball that’s rolling down Mt. Everest.

As you probably guessed, I’m going somewhere with this. A few Fridays ago, my night started with a birthday dinner for my mother, and I was the designated driver (she and my aunt wished to sample the restaurant’s wine selection). This meant that I was forced to ignore the happy hour starter’s gun that sent my fellow crew members Dupa, Pakistanimal, Jay Swag, and Mitch Canada racing towards the same promised land of inconsequential actions and euphoric thought that I, too, wanted so desperately to visit. Shortly after I had come home from dinner and my DD duties (which were severely needed; when I left them at my mother’s house, the ladies were discussing the idea of having me drop them off at a strip club so they could see male dancers for the first time in their lives), Tony came through and picked me up so that we could join the regularly-scheduled programming, already in progress.

I understood what we would be walking into; about two hours earlier, I had received a phone call from Swag. While he explained that Dupa was already a blacked-out mess, I noticed that a subtle amount of slurring was developing in Swag’s speech patterns. I asked him if he had spoken to Pak—only because, not long before that, Pak had texted me to ask what the night’s plans were. Swag, however, then took it upon himself to state for the record that he didn’t care about Pak, or where he was. That’s not to say that he didn’t like the guy. “He’s alright,” Swag clarified. “But if someone asks me whose back I’ve got, then that’s [Dupa], you, and [TJ]. You guys are my family, you know?” Although the parlance was different, I instantly recognized the infamous—if not downright clichéd—“I love you, man” drunken speech. And I was very aware of the fact that I was receiving it at almost 9 pm. When Tony and I finally walked through the doors of Rumshakers, I silently thanked Swag for the warning that he never realized he’d given me. By this time his drunkenness had fully matured into a robust, disillusioned arrogance. He had become Tony Montana, laughing off anyone who dared point their finger at the bad guy. And yet, Swag wasn’t the spectacle amongst us. No, that “honor” belonged to Dupa.

Ladies and gents, I’ve known Dupa for almost ten years now. I’ve fought alongside him in the VIP-lounge-trenches and beer-pong-battlefields, against liquids of all nationalities and bottles of all sizes. I’ve seen him do a naked starfish on the living room floor of girls he hardly knew, randomly channel the spirits of his Polish ancestors while riding in a bus full of strangers, and tempt the interests of swingers. But I have never, in all of those years and all of those adventures, seen him as irreversibly annihilated as on this night when he stood swayed in the center of Rumshakers. And I tell you this next anecdote with no designs on exaggeration (and, honestly, I don’t have the luxury of overstating what took place; it was just too incredible to allow for artistic license): Dupa had lost the ability to talk.

Let’s be clear, here: I don’t mean my friend spoke a mush-mouthed swirl of mismatched syllables and sentence fragments, like one might expect from a man in the throes of a blackout. No, he literally did not possess the physical ability to speak. His brain seemingly had endless thoughts and feelings that it wanted to convey; but, tragically, it was forced to detour them through his body movements, as gestures and head motions were his only available means of expression. And I had become Timmy, trying to learn the news Lassie so badly wanted to share. When I greeted him upon my arrival, he silently directed his pointer fingers toward the bar. I glanced at it, and then back to him.

Me: “You want a beer?”
Dupa: *half nodding, while emphatically patting his chest with both hands*
Me: “You want to buy the round?”
Dupa: *nods excitedly, gives a thumbs-up, and walks toward the bar*

Tony and I promptly tossed back shots and beers in the hopes of making up ground. We most certainly, however, did not want to go as far down the rabbit hole as Dupa, who was now creepily hovering over and grinding on girls near us, including Swag’s friend “Finger Bang” [Note: This is her real nickname, as given by Swag; I’ll let your mind fill in the back-story there—just as mine has, since neither he nor Mitch will tell the tale to me]. As she nervously looked to the rest of us for help, Dupa wrapped his arms around her from behind and began dancing, playfully lifting up her skirt ever-so-slightly before she stopped his hand. She remained a good sport, thankfully—which is a level of coolness you almost have to expect from a girl who allows guys to refer to her as “Finger Bang”. She weathered the storm with a smile, and when Dupa eventually got lost in the crowd while trying to make his way back from the restroom, she made her escape to S Bar.

Dupa needed to call it a night. I knew it, he knew it. Hell, even Swag Montana knew it. Isolated from our group, I spotted him 15 feet away, typing on his phone. I caught his attention and waved him over. He shook his head “no” with a knowing smile, as if to say, “It’s too late for me, my friends—save yourselves.”

Despite this defeatism, though, he briefly regained hope. The patronage of Rumshakers at this point in the night was heavily slanted in the “urban, non-Caucasian” direction. Dupa, losing himself in whatever Top-40 song was rumbling the speakers, became a one-White-man dance island on the dance floor. Arm in the air, he bopped to the music and occasionally glanced back at me, almost as if he was seeking approval. Naturally, this caused the intrigued eyes of twenty or so brothers and sisters who had been watching Dupa to scan back to me. And all I could do was shake my head and take another swig of my drink.

Mitch Canada and Jay Swag left for S Bar, and Tony and I hailed a cab for Dupa. As he climbed into the back of it, he looked back at me confused.

Dupa: “You’re not coming with me?”
Me: “No, buddy. It’s only 12:30. We're still drinking.”

Tony and I met up with Swag and Canada at Folino’s (Mitch’s wardrobe had prevented their admittance into S Bar), where we were eventually joined by Pak. The rest of the night was spent drinking bottles of Miller Lite on Folino’s improvised “patio” (a section of sidewalk that had been roped off from the river of people walking up and down Carson Street) and insulting each other’s sensibilities. But, try as we might with rounds of shots, Tony and I never achieved the level of intoxication that had taken hold of our friends. At closing time Pak led Tony and I on a 45 minute expedition through the backstreets of the South Side in search of his car, which ended with the two of us walking back to Tony’s car and leaving a stubborn Pak to his dogged search. Just before we reached it, however, I got a call from Pak, who asked if we could pick him up on our way home.

Early the next evening I talked to Dupa, who had finally come into some reasonable form of consciousness. I asked him what, if anything, he remembered about the previous night.

“Leaving work at 3:30.”


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