“I’m wonderin’ if a shake comin’ with them fries,
If so, baby, can I get ’em super-sized?”
- ‘Tipsy’ — J-Kwon
“To Jerry!” Tom signaled Cliff and Stackhouse. On command, all three stabbed their cans, pulled the tabs, and shotgunned the lukewarm beer. Grimaces all around as the unpleasant liquid went down.
Behind them, a spoken word intro emanated from a scratched silver boombox.
Teen drinking is very bad … yo, I got a fake ID though …
“Who the hell is Jerry?” Stackhouse inquired, grabbing a fresh round from the slowly-emptying case of Keystone Lights.
Tom ignored the question. He cracked open a can and slugged the bubbling beverage. “Guys, I’m, like, wicked sorry. Like for real. I didn’t mean to, like, ruin a Friday night and shit, you know?” They didn’t know. Well, they knew Tom was prone to such melodramatics, but they all were. It’s why none of the three had any other close friends.
Trying to decipher the unprompted apology, Cliff and Stackhouse exchanged furrowed brows. Sure, it had been Tom’s idea to drive up to Hudson that night. But he’d been pining for this girl he worked with at Sam’s Club for a solid minute. When he asked his two friends if they wanted to tag along to her party, it was never a question. Why would it be? Of course they’d be wingmen for their boy. But beyond that, what was even the alternative? Cruising around the same stupid streets every hour or so smoking bowl after bowl? Listening to the same rotation of burned CDs in Cliff’s mom’s Mercury Sable wagon? Desperately wishing they had some social gathering to go to instead of rolling around their small town performing the same old shenanigans? The bottom line was anything could have prompted the apology. Was it how cramped it was? The swirling sweat and stench of stale beer and BO wafting in the air? The unyielding haze of smoke amalgamating around them? No, it couldn’t have been that. They were high school juniors – every party was like that. It wasn’t the shindig being in a different town with kids neither Cliff or Stackhouse knew, either. That wasn’t a fault of the evening – it was a feature. The two of them wanted to be there. A chance to mingle with new folks and not see the same dumb faces they saw all day every day at school and around town? That was never spurned.
So what was it?
“I just didn’t know, you know?” Tom swayed. Solid ground had been washed away in a flood of Popov shots, beer, and bong hits. “Like, seriously, how could I know this girl lived in a trailer?” His octave rose several levels with the last word.
It shot out of his mouth, really. Whether he punched it up for emphasis intentionally or not was unclear. But it caught more than just Cliff and Stackhouse’s attention, and several partygoers turned their heads in query.
Slurred shouts continued. “Cliff, dude, I’m sorry I made you drive all the way up here, bud. I wouldn’t have had us come up here if I’d known, right? Like I didn’t even realize they had trailer parks in Hudson, you know?” Discretion was out the window. He seemed to be shouting at full volume by then – meaning everyone around them could hear the unbearably unnecessary mea culpa.
Suddenly, his friend from work – Felicia, the one whose house they were in – sauntered within earshot. A friend of hers whispered and pointed at Tom. Stackhouse noticed this and implored his friend to shut up with silent pleading. But his wide-eyed begging fell on blind eyes.
So Tom dug himself a deeper hole. “Like I’m telling you, dudes, like I didn’t know this party was in a trailer. She’s just so hot, right? Who knew chicks like that even lived in trailer parks, man.”
Felicia squinted as he went on. Inching closer to her fellow Sam’s Club cashier with each word. Her expression was tough to gauge. It was fairly impervious to examination, or a quick assessment, at least. Pinning down her precise thought process was impossible – but she looked pissed.
“I guess I knew her family was kinda poor. Like she’s mentioned her dad being out of work or something a few times, but, like, come on. I figured it might be like an apartment or like a dumpy house. But a trailer? I don’t know, dude.”
Felicia looked disgusted by then. So as fate would have it, that was the exact moment Tom whipped his head around and noticed her.
A huge, entirely oblivious smile matched his spread arms. “There she is! What’s good, girl!” Tom sidled up beside her. The complete ignorance of his idiotic display was fairly stunning. Almost impressive in a demented sort of way. “Wanna go smoke a bowl and chill?” A wink towards Cliff and Stackhouse made them subtly cringe.
For a few bitter seconds, the quiet tension was unbearable. The room was spared an awkward silence by a song’s wordless outro filling the air, but that didn’t do much. Everyone waited with bated breath for Felicia’s seemingly endless calculation.
Realistically, it was less than ten seconds before she rolled her eyes with a sigh and a shrug. “Sure,” she replied. Her lack of enthusiasm was palpable.
But overall? She seemed undaunted. Because like Tom, all she wanted was to hook up with a coworker from a different town. No strings were ever meant to be attached. At least now she could use him and lose him without compunction. Free to get what she desired with nary a shred of guilt on her end. And if she was being honest, it wasn’t exactly the first time someone had disparaged her home. It was unfair, for sure, but it came with the territory. The mockery was just a natural aspect of life in the trailer park. After years of thickening skin, it just sort of rolled off her back.
So Felicia grabbed Tom’s elbow and dragged him out of view down the hall.
Cliff pulled a joint from his shirt pocket. “Wanna go smoke this bad Larry?”
Stackhouse raised a fist to dap. “That’s what I’m talking about.”