Mongo and I spent the rest of the day at the park in low-key hangover recovery. We followed Founda and Divot from kiddie ride to kiddie playland, enjoying the innocence of the child’s laughter and discovery, as well as appreciating Founda’s intuition that we were too wasted to handle much else. Heat from the remaining afternoon helped with sobriety; we were sweating alcohol out of every conceivable pore as the sun sank beyond a horizon of metal structures. The dusk brought a clear and welcoming sky, with stars shining like camera flashes, and a breeze that cooled the sheen of sweat and eased a slow return of thudding reality.
By the time the park closed, and we trickled out with the remaining adventurists, we were somewhat back to normal and filled with an exhaustion of excitement. Once Mongo turned the car onto I-80, Founda’s head started teetering slightly from the passenger seat, and began swaying back and forth like a fleshy metronome. Divot cooed from her car seat, little bubbles of drool forming and popping in the corners of her mouth as she drifted to sleep.
The steady hum of the engine accompanied by soft background music and Mongo’s dedicated focus to the road allowed for introspection. I knew my time was up with the Goulds, but I was shitty at goodbyes. However, I also knew that, for them, reality continued tomorrow, and no matter how many times Mongo emphasized the point, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a burden. Besides, I had someone else that I needed to see.
* * * * *
During the course of reminiscing at Oasis Club, we talked about many things, including old friends. Fessi was actually a buddy of mine from high school but, for a hot minute, attended college with us. Mongo took a liking to him as well, which is rare because most people can hardly tolerate Fessi, much less find anything to like. He’s stubborn, to say the least and one of those omniscient people with nothing to show for it. Most can’t handle being in the presence of someone with such God-like knowledge, for it often leaves little room for discussion, objection or opinion. For Mongo and I, we understood (for reasons I won’t divulge here) the deeper meaning behind this defense mechanism of all-knowing prowess. Unlike most, we both usually conceded to Fessi’s view on subjects, knowing full-well that, at a later time when he left on his own path of righteousness, we’d reconvene to have a laugh or two at his views. That’s the way it works with friends. Mine, at least.
But the good ol’ times ran out early in our sophomore year when Fessi announced that he could learn nothing more from “this sub-par academic institution.” He’d convinced himself of his own bullshit and, like that, Fessi disappeared—a spirit into the wind. No one knows exactly what happened once he left, only that he became a wanderer of Earth, lost, much like me.
Then, outta the blue, about six months ago, Mongo told me that Fessi’s name—get this, Archibald Killigrew—showed up on an application for one of his restaurants. Mongo guessed that chances were slim anyone else would have such a name and, sure as shit, he was right.
“But things weren’t the same,” Mongo told me. “You remember how he was? Well, shit man, he’s a thousand times worse when I interviewed him. And, man let me tell ya, he didn’t look good! But what am I gonna do, turn a pal away? So, I gave him a job an’ he no sooner pissed it away. He went outta his way not to come in an’ couldn’t get it when I had to let him go. Just as fuckin’ hardheaded as ever. An’ you know what his last words to me were? Instructions on how to make the restaurants better! Well, fuck him! Anyway, I ain’t seen’em since, and he didn’t have a true address, even when he applied for me. Best way I knew how to find him was to look in some shithole ‘round Eddy Street, I think it is. The Brown Jug or something or other…”
* * * * *
As the Volvo drifted back into the driveway, and the sleepy family slowly stirred, I thought heavily on Mongo’s slurred words and finally settled on a bar as my next destination. But before I figured out how I was going to escape without a big scene, Founda popped the passenger door and, bending over with a yawn, scooped Divot carefully and offered a smile. I smiled back and nodded, hoping that all my approvals were understood through such a tiny gesture. As I got out, Mongo stood, waiting with one hand extended, and slapped me on the shoulder with his other.
“Good times today. Com’on in and grab some sleep. I’ll see ya after I get off work tomorrow.”
That was my final word to him. No instructions on how to make his job or life better, no words of wisdom, no awkward goodbye. Simply, “Yeah.”
I decided to wait until the house fell silent before sneaking out, but while waiting the smell of my own stench became overbearing. I hopped in the shower to wash away another day and soon the comfort of my own cleanliness, along with a refreshing coolness from artificial air, merged with East Coast exhaustion to overtake me.
Fortunately, I awoke two hours later with a power-nap recharge to a still house and plenty of darkness for coverage. It was time to go, and maybe I was about to put myself in a situation, traveling to the seedy underbelly of San Francisco in search of another old friend. I don’t know why really. Only that I felt a need of understanding why someone so close was so lost in hopes of avoiding the same fate.