The California Department of Labor had yet to pay me a cent of unemployment. My bank account had less than a hundred bucks in it. I hadn’t showered for three days. My dresser drawers were all pulled out and mostly empty. Clothes leaked onto the ground. The hardwood floor was barely visible. Dirty dishes overflew in the sink, onto the counter, and all over the stove. I found a bottle of odor eliminator under the couch and sprayed at the musky stench. More clothes found a new home on my couch and living room floor. It was tough to tell what was clean and what wasn’t. Almost impossible. I had a hard time finding any underwear. The only ones I found had stains in them. The kind you get when you’re lonely, lazy, and out of tissues.
No clean underwear.
I did one last scan of my tiny apartment. Going commando, it was. Didn’t have much choice. It had been two weeks since I did laundry. Couldn’t afford it. And now I was out of time.
I found my black jeans, jean jacket, and a black t-shirt. I pulled them to my face. They all passed the sniff test. I texted my friend, Candace.
I’m on my way.
The bar reminded me of the eighties with its pool tables, neon beer signs, and stained red carpet. The joint even had a jukebox. Candace looked at me like a piece of meat from the corner of the bar. I returned the favor before saying hi to her friend, Kimmi. Candace bought the first round of shots.
“I didn’t have anything to do tomorrow anyway,” Kimmi said.
“I plan on being hungover getting tan on the beach,” Candace said.
I smiled when I remembered how good Candace looked in a bikini. Noticing this, Candace leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Don’t be a slut.”
“I can’t help it,” I said.
Kimmi ordered a round of shots. Lemon drops. Gross.
Candace grabbed my arm. “Be my partner for pool.”
“I don’t think your boyfriend will like us playing together.”
“Then we won’t tell him.”
“What’s the deal?”
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be as fun.”
“Who said it’ll be fun?” I asked.
Candace gripped my arm tighter in excitement. “Let’s get a shot and beer before the game. Tequila?”
“Tequila and I don’t mix well.”
“I always end up naked.”
“Two shots of tequila and two Buds,” Candace told the bartender. He poured two shots and gave us our beers.
“What the fuck?” Kimmi yelled. “Am I chopped liver?”
“Another shot of tequila and a Bud,” Candace said.
“Christ. Am I that unimportant?”
We cheered our three shots.
“Don’t try and fuck me,” I whispered to Candace.
We shot a few games of pool with Kimmi and her friend, Rob, who Kimmi wanted to hook up with. The two were all over each other between shots. Even holding up the game. When everyone had enough pool, we grabbed beers at the bar.
“When’s the last time you had a one-night stand?” Kimmi asked.
The subtle approach. Well played, Kimmi,
“What’s today?” Rob asked.
“Idiot,” Kimmi said. “You?”
“My whole life is a one-night stand,” I said.
“That makes no sense,” Candace said.
“I try to avoid one-nighters,” I said.
“A relationship guy? I get that,” Rob said.
“What about a drunk hookup?” Kimmi asked.
“Usually avoid those the most,” I said.
“What? Why?” Candace asked.
“The Me Too movement,” I said.
Candace rolled her eyes. “That’s stupid.”
“So is trusting a stranger,” I said. “Or fucking a drunk one.”
“But drunk sex is amazing,” Rob said.
“What about drunk sex with a friend?” Kimmi asked. “Two friends helping each other out.”
“Another good reason not to smash,” I said. “It complicates shit.”
“That’s also stupid,” Candace said.
Candace stormed off into the bathroom.
Kimmi hit my arm. “Dude.”
“Candace’s single,” Kimmi said. “She’s trying to get it in.”
“Her flirting makes sense now,” I said. “What about her boyfriend?”
“He’s history, bro,” Rob said.
Good thing I brought condoms and wore underwear.
When Candace returned, I pulled her out to the dance floor. I rolled up my sleeves. Candace grabbed my wrist and stared at my forearm.
“I love your Baby Yoda tattoo,” she said. “Is it new?”
“A week old.”
“I know it’s The Child, but I like Baby Yoda better.”
“I know,” I said.
“Did you just Han Solo me?”
“How did I not know you liked Star Wars?” she asked.
“It’s hard to work into conversation.”
We bounced around on the dancefloor like a bunch of fools for a few songs before we went back to the bar for a round of beers. Candace told me about the guy she was formerly seeing. He lived in Arizona but visited San Diego for work every month. Once they became official, he started flaking.
“He was supposed to be here this weekend,” she said.
“I think he’s cheating. Or I don’t know. I just don’t.”
“Not knowing is knowing,” I said.
“Last call,” the bartender yelled.
“Want to head to my place?” Candace asked. “Free beer.”
We went to say goodbye to Kimmi and Rob, but they were nowhere to be found. So, we left.
Outside, Candace sighed at her phone. “The Ubers are expensive. Want to walk a bit until the cost drops?”
We walked along the main street in Ocean Beach. Small mom and pop stores covered both sides of the streets. Antique, record, clothing and all kinds of art and creative storefronts. There weren’t many corporations. I wasn’t sure there even was one. Candace bragged about that. I knew she was a proud American. She didn’t realize it though. There was an old, beat-up comic book shop with sun faded cardboard cutouts of Mighty Mouse and Spider-Man in its window. I made a note to check it out.
A tanned man in worn-out camouflage gear with a giant German Shepherd sat against one of the closed stores. Candace and I sat across from him on the sidewalk with our backs to the street. His name was Tim. He told us about his time serving in the Army. When he returned from fighting overseas, he started abusing alcohol and drugs. He lost everything. His wife. His kids. His house. Everything but his dog, Susan. Candace gave him a few cigarettes, and the names and numbers of people in government agencies he should contact for benefits. We smoked four cigarettes each, bullshitting about life, and music from the seventies and eighties. He told us he was just happy to talk to someone. Candace was out of cash, so I gave him the few bucks I had on me, like I wasn’t on my way to joining the fellow and his pup on the streets. Candace and I caught a ride back to her place.
We cracked open two Pabst’s Blue Ribbons and sat on her couch. I didn’t even get to my second sip before Candace climbed on top of me and ripped her shirt off. She kissed me. I returned the favor. She grinded on my jeans as grabbed my face and kissed me. I unclasped her bra. Surprise nipple rings. I tasted metal. My shirt torn off. Soon, Candace was wearing nothing but her panties.
“Do you have a condom?” she asked.
“Ehh… do you?”
“Can you check?”
I patted my pants. “I’m all out.”
“Normally I’d let you go at it, but I just got tested. One hundred percent clean. I can’t risk it.”
“You think I might be dirty?”
“What can I get away with?” I asked.
Candace licked her lips and found my zipper.
A blowjob it is.
I unbuttoned my pants.
Before I remembered I wasn’t wearing underwear.
I pretended to pull down imaginary underwear with my pants. It was a swift, drunk, stumbling move that didn’t fool Candace.
“You’re not wearing any underwear?”
“I guess I’m not,” I said.
Candace didn’t hide the disgust on her face. “That’s grimy.”
“I wasn’t expecting to get naked today,” I said. “Considering we’re just friends.”
Candace moved her hands up my thighs. “Good thing I’m still in a giving mood.”
“I can take care of you, too,” I said.
“It’ll just be a tease. Just relax.”
After a few minutes of kissing and vigorous hand exercise, Candace and I shared a cigarette on her front porch while I waited for my ride. The sun was slowly brightening the sky and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“I’ve never seen the West Coast sunrise,” I said. “If we wait a bit, we can catch it.”
“It’s not much to look at.”
“I see you’re a morning person.”
“I’ve literally been up all night,” Candace said. “And didn’t even get laid.”
“Literally, my bad.”
“Shut up. We should hang out more.”
“Definitely,” I said.
“Our little fun though,” she said. “A one time thing.”
My ride pulled up in front of Candace’s apartment. I kissed her on the lips, as courtesy, not intimacy.
“Although, it does look like you owe me one,” she said.
Candace put out the cigarette on her stoop and headed inside.