‘’Thanks a lot.”
“Thanks a lot? Really?! That’s all you have to say to me?”
“Oh! I’m sorry, I forgot that everything you do gets cancelled out whenever you deem it so!”
“Oh, come on! Is it really that big of a deal?!”
The flippant words struck Oliver like a physical blow. His shoulders fell along with his face and his heart. He stared into the face of his older brother and felt the divide between them cement even further than ever. It was as though boulders had fallen from high up cliffs, blocking the entrance out of a deep winding crevasse that kept out freedom of movement and sunshine.
Feeling dejected but knowing there was no more to be said on the subject at hand Oliver squared his shoulders and tried to pull his heart back up.
“You’re right,” he said, his voice was flat, his words knowingly meaningless. “It’s not a big deal. Sorry. Guess I’ll see you later then.”
With a bright smile at his big brother Oliver nodded and moved away, swiftly making his exit from the crowded sidewalk. He continued to cross the street and quickly glanced behind him to see if his brother decided to follow him.
“Not this time,” He thought letting out a breath of relief. “Thank whatever deity that’s out there.”
He walked down the street that was bustling with life despite the darkness of the night. Not that the darkness dwelled. The city streets were lit up so that every passerby could see the other’s face, not that one stuck around long enough to take notice of such things.
As Oliver walked down the way he thought to himself at what had brought him out tonight. He’d been at home after a long day at work. He’d made dinner with his mother, watched some tele, and washed the dishes that had piled up in the sink.
He had been in the bathroom with the shower turned on, the steam had begun to fog the mirror and he was about to get out of his work clothes and step in when his cell phone rang. The caller ID lit up with his brothers name and the shrill ring echoed loudly in the bathroom. Oliver sighed and picked up the phone.
“Yeah, Jarr?” He’d spoken, letting the tired seep into his voice to tell him without words how exhausted he was.
“Hey, think you could bail me out?” Jarred replied sheepishly.
On full alert as adrenaline spiked into his heart Oliver stood to attention and flipped off his shower. He was out the bathroom and headed to the door before Jarred had taken a breath.
It turned out that bailing out Jarred meant getting him out of not being able to pay his bar tab at this exclusive club on tenth. Inside the club was suffocating and Oliver was at his limit of people before being there. He paid the tab leaving a fair tip for the bartender for having to put up with his brother’s fuckery. Then he’d pulled his brother out of the club and onto the sidewalk where they had that unfortunate argument.
A block later and Oliver sighed and sat heavily on a bench set in front of one of those city gardens. He leaned back on the hard bench straightening his aching back on the rigid surface. He let his head fall back and stretched his legs out lazily and watched the sky.
The dark sky coated with smog and a waxing moon peeking out from the vapors that filled the night sky. An airplane flew high over head it’s lights soaring in a steady blinking line. The night air was chilled, and the people fell into a murmur of sound. Every once in a while, you could hear a drunken yell or a siren off in the distance.
He sat there longer than he should have. Really, he shouldn’t have even needed to leave the house tonight. Right now, he should be at home, covered in blankets and watching whatever show or movie that struck his fancy.
“Hey.” A strangely familiar voice sounded to the right of him as someone sat about a foot away from him on the same bench he’d made himself comfortable on.
He jumped, his head snapping to attention and his posture straightening defensively. Surprise slipping into his veins with a deliberate shock.
He looked at who had spoken and saw that it was the bartender he’d saved his brother from earlier. The bartender looked at him with an amused smile.
“Save people from bar tabs often?” The bartender joked, letting Oliver know that he was remembered from before.
Oliver laughed, “Only when they’re too dumb to remember their wallets.” He joked back.
The bartender laughed loudly at that, “Well then, couldn’t I have used you a couple a times with some of the dumbasses with missing wallets waltzed out without a second thought.”
Oliver chuckled shaking his head at the picture the bartender painted.
“Guess you should hire a bouncer.” He said with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Oh yeah, I’m sure the owner will get right on that.” The bartender replied with sarcasm coating the jest.
During the lighthearted jokes between the two Oliver had been searching his memory to remember the bartender’s name. He’d read the name tag earlier and was trying to refresh it in his brain.
“You’re M.K, right?” He asked.
“Good memory!” M.K replied in surprise. “Well, you know my name. What’s yours?”
“Oliver.” He introduced himself.
“Well, Oliver. You got to the bar pretty quick. Live around here?” M.K asked.
Oliver shrugged noncommittedly, “Near enough.”
“Ah, well. Little brothers right. Can’t keep themselves out of trouble, can they?” M.K said with an amused headshake.
Oliver snickered, “Oh, and here I was thinking I was doing a good job at keeping out of trouble.”
M.K’s eyebrows furrowed questioningly, and Oliver decided to elaborate.
“I’m the youngest actually. Jared's older than me by two years, and we got another older brother that’s another two years between them.”
“Oh! Well, I guess they really mean it when they say about assuming.” M.K grinned sheepishly.
“What? That it makes an ass out of you and me? Nah, I honestly think we just got born out of order.” Oliver laughed at the impossibility and truthfulness of that statement.
“So, what’s the plan then Oliver? Gunna stay on this bench all night?” M.K asked.
“Nah, I should probably head home.” Oliver sighed heavily at the prospect of having to lug his tired ass home after the rise and fall of adrenaline in his system.
“Really? Cause I feel like you could use some fun.” M.K stated looking at Oliver pointedly. As though M.K was well aware of the fact that the most socialization Oliver had was at work and right now on this bench.
“Fun?” Oliver repeated. “And what exactly is fun?”
M.K took a second to think. “Depends on the person really. I find fun to be spending time with friends. What do you find fun?”
Oliver opened his mouth to speak but found he had no words come to mind or mouth. He closed his mouth and looked away from M.K looking deep in thought. But really, he wasn’t. The question M.K asked brought his head to a state of emptiness. What was fun? What did he find fun? How long had it been, since he, Oliver, had had fun?
He couldn’t even remember. The silence stretched between them, and it was M.K who finally broke it.
“You know, that wasn’t supposed to stump you.” M.K spoke softly, as though afraid of offending him.
“No, I didn’t think it was. I guess I just realized that fun hasn’t ever really been a luxury I’ve been afforded. I don’t think I’d even know where to start.” He replied just as softly as M.K had spoken.
“Well, your brother certainly knew how to have fun. Maybe you should be the one making him come pick up your bar tab instead!” M.K insisted brightly.
“Ha! Jarred? Pick up my tab! As if!” Oliver proclaimed louder than he’d intended finding the mere thought overwhelmingly hilarious.
“Then, how bout I pick up the tab then?” M.K asked Oliver with a nervous tinge mingling at the end of the sentence.
More surprise for Oliver it would seem. His eyebrows rose and his face turned pink with bright blush. M.K rose an eyebrow in return and smiled at Oliver’s flustered expression.
M.K waited as Oliver’s brain shut down then rebooted on live wire. He looked away from M.K for a minute. Thankfully for him M.K was patient and waiting for Oliver’s answer. After making his brain move forward again, he turned to M.K.
“What do you have in mind?” He asked.
M.K grinned and stood up from the bench. “We are going to follow our whims.”
“Our whims?” Oliver questioned.
“Yes! Point, walk, decide. Just do whatever you want.” M.K explained gesturing to the bustling city streets and open stores.
“Just, whatever?” He questioned M.K.
“Whatever.” M.K repeated.
They began walking down the street side by side. M.K and Oliver walked the streets together, turning this way and that way. Looking into stores, buying whatever struck their fancy. Trinkets and sweets. They went down past the ocean board walk and down the pier and back up. They found the street where the buskers were busy and tossed tips in their bucket and caps. They danced to the music and laughed at everything they could.
They ended up back where they began not knowing how they’d even made their way there. They sat on the bench and laughed with one another.
“Now this was fun!” Oliver exclaimed as he leaned back on the hard bench seated in front of the lighted up garden.
“It really was!” M.K agreed with Oliver’s assessment of their time together.
Oliver turned to smile widely at M.K. With true meaning to his words, he spoke to his new bartender friend M.K.
“Thanks a lot.”