Heath’s 25th Birthday
“Another Jameson here, please!”
“No, Andrea, stop with the drinks. I am perfectly happy with the ones you’ve already bought me. I’m set.”
“Fine, Mr. Grumpy Pants. I’ll be over there at the Table O’Fun if you want to join us.” She flounced off with her own drink, leaving Heath to his thoughts.
He doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t want to be at this bar, but his best friend insisted on “making a night of it,” considering they’d had to work all day. Heath had protested that they were going to have to work the next day as well, and didn’t want to be hung over for it, but she refused to hear anything about it.
“We are going out to celebrate the fact that you are alive to be in my life,” she’d replied stubbornly. “Think about it like that. You’re doing it for me.”
Well, when she put it like that, he couldn’t refuse. Especially since it meant she would get off his back until his next birthday, when he’d come up with some reason not to celebrate.
He hadn’t gone out for his birthday since the disaster that was his 21st, when he’d gone out to a gay club at the urging of his college roommate. “Dude, you only turn 21 once! You gotta go out and get wasted!”
So he had. He’d gotten so wasted that he lost his group and ended up with another group, a group full of strangers, and had gone home with one, the one who Heath thought, in his ridiculously inebriated state, looked just like Mikey. Same hair, same eyes.
In actuality the nameless guy had been nothing like Mikey. When Heath had woken up in the guy’s apartment, his clothes strewn everywhere, he could see clearly that the guy was nothing like his Mikey. It was only wishful thinking.
Mikey was supposed to buy him his first legal drink. He’d promised, back when they were both 16. Well, but Mikey had made a lot of promises. That was just one of many he hadn’t kept.
Heath took a deep drink of the Jameson that had been left in front of him and tried to clear his head.
“Is this seat taken?”
He hears the voice from his right. He doesn’t even bother looking up, just shakes his head and continues drinking until the glass is empty, and then he gestures to the bartender for another one.
When the bartender brings the next one, the man next to him orders one for himself. “And put his on my tab, too, thanks.”
Heath lifts his head and quickly turns to the man. “No, thanks, you don’t have to do that. I’ve–” The words die in his throat when he sees the too-familiar eyes and crooked grin of the man next to him. His hands start shaking so hard he has to put down his glass.
“I figure I ought to keep at least one promise I made to you. I’m sorry I’m late. And I know I can’t go back and change things. But maybe we can start over?”
The man held out his hand for Heath to take and shake. “My name’s Mike. I’d like to buy you a drink for your birthday, if you’ll let me.”
Heath quietly looked at the man’s hand, the past coming back to him all at once, the good, the bad. Before he could let it overwhelm him, he reached out and shook the hand offered to him. “I’m Heath. Maybe we can start there.”