“MEGABUS,” I whispered to myself as I handed the attendant my bag and stepped in line to board. A weekend away from my family was the best gift my parents could have given me for Hanukkah. Not that they paid for the bus ticket or a place to stay, but they gave me the okay to go and that was gift enough. I didn’t need their little bit of money anyhow—just me and a few friends in New York City and I would be content. Sure, if by chance I ran into to most beautiful girl in the world and she happened to be rich and wanted to take me to bed, that would be fine too. But for now, the cheap Megabus fare from Baltimore to New York and crashing on Joey’s couch was cool by me. I snuggled back into the semi-comfortable seat and closed my eyes.
The three hours went by fast and soon I was looking across the Hudson River at the familiar skyscrapers. God, I love this city. I lived here for three months last summer, but the cost of living was too high and I really didn’t want to scrape by washing dishes merely to stay. My dad raised me do the sensible thing; I went back to college.
Standing on the curb, bag at my feet and the cold air freezing my fingers, I dialed Joey’s number. “Fuckin’ cunt.” He always addressed me with such endearing adjectives.
“Hey, Joey. I’m here. Bus just got in. I’ll hop on the A train and be at your place in a few.”
“Okay, man. See ya soon,” he answered. “We’re meeting Jack and Tyler at Cassidy’s Pub in two hours.”
His urgency in that statement suggested I haul ass to his place or I’d have no time to take a shower and get ready to leave. I said, “’K’, bye” and snapped my phone shut. I had to shower before going out. My luck, from the fact of just being me, I would run into my dream gal and she’d be instantly put off by my manly stench, never to take me to her bed and certainly never to pamper me with her millions. I had to shower!
* * *
CASSIDY’S Pub was a cool place. I remembered being here before. I think it’s Jack’s favorite bar; I don’t know. It’s an Irish pub with Guinness on tap and Notre Dame playing on every television. Not that I cared much about college football, I just found it amusing how the guys would get all wound up about going out and we’d end up here. Like pretty, rich girls frequented Irish pubs when they’re looking for a guy. Whatever.
“Oh, God! That was amazing,” Tyler exaggeratedly confessed as he slid into his chair and leaned his head against the wall. Only five minutes ago he walked toward the bathrooms with some tattooed chick from the bar. Now he looked absolutely… no, wait—
“She didn’t do what I think she just did, did she?” I asked, leaning forward on my elbows, eyebrows raised.
Tyler took a few seconds to regain control over his breathing, and then he rolled his head in my direction and answered with a self-satisfied grin, “Oh yeah, she did.”
“What?” I was completely shocked. “How the hell did she suck you off back there? And without anyone noticing?” I’d seen the hallway to the very small bathrooms, and there was no way they could do that without being seen.
“I don’t know man, but she did.” He was the most relaxed I’d seen in ages. Damn, I wish some girl would suck me off in a dark hallway. “She had a tongue piercing too.” He grinned. Fucker!
Joey came walking back from the toilets. “Hey, there you are.” He addressed Tyler. “I thought you got lost.”
“Lost? Dude, he was back in the hallway getting blown.” I shared the news with only minimal jealousy. “I’m surprised you didn’t stop on your way to pee and watch the whole thing.”
Joey nodded and grinned. “Niiice!” He and Tyler bumped knuckles as some sort of congratulatory action. They could be so immature at times. But then again, we were all about the same age and immaturity was the very definition of twenty-something males, right? I would have done the same if I wasn’t being a prude and hoping for a centerfold model instead of some biker chick. God, I need to loosen up.
“Anyway, look what I found.” Joey segued to another topic of conversation by depositing a cell phone into the middle of the table.
“So?” Tyler shrugged.
“We could crank call people.” Joey explained.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” I had to add in my sensibilities.
Joey gave me a look. “Of course you would say that, mom.”
I rolled my eyes. I was raised by a Jewish mother, what can I say? “I’m only suggesting we could get into trouble.”
Joey scrunched up his face. “By who? We’re using someone else’s phone. Who’s gonna know?” he asked. He flipped open the silver face and contemplated. “Who do we call first?”
“What are we doing?” Jack asked as he walked up from the bar and set three beers on the table. I was still nursing my first one. Lightweight.
“Crank calling someone on a phone Joey found in the bathroom.” Tyler said, suggesting by his tone it was an everyday occurrence.
“Oh.” At least Jack was not impressed. “How about hitting one of the speed dials and seeing who answers?” Or he was just too good at coming up with better plans. Jack took a large swallow of his drink as the other two slapped his back and bumped knuckles with him. This night was taking on a weird dimension, and I was wondering exactly why I agreed to go out with them?
“Well, which number do I push?” Joey hesitated.
“Just hit one.” Tyler was not as tentative. He reached across the table and pushed a number blindly.
“Two,” Joey read off the number as he looked at the phone. He lifted it to his ear. “It’s ringing.”
We all stared, as if mesmerized by the randomness of the situation.
“Shit! Somebody answered.” Joey immediately pulled the phone away from his ear and held it out like it would bite; his hand over the microphone end. “Take it. Somebody take it.” He panicked.
“Pussy,” Tyler asserted, taking the phone from Joey’s hands. He promptly thrust the live grenade into my personal space and held it to my ear. “I bet Davey-boy can do it. He does anything.”
Shit! They always do this to me. “Hello… hello?” I could hear the voice on the other end searching for a reply. It was a guy; a guy with a super-deep voice. I cleared my throat and pleaded with my eyes to Tyler to let me off the hook. He shook his head no, crossing his beefy arms over his broad chest.
“Um, hello,” I responded to the stranger hoping he would not detect my anxiety.
“This is not Oliver,” he stated the obvious with some amusement.
“Um, no, we found his phone.” I explained, holding it away from my mouth and using my unhappy facial expressions to let Tyler know I was going to kill him for making me do this. Tyler pushed my hands back and prompted me to continue. Joey was trying, unsuccessfully, not to snicker.
“I see,” the stranger said. “Then why call me? Surely you do not know the services I provide?” Did he just say what I thought he said? Services? Shit! Did Tyler randomly dial a male hooker?
“Er, no, I didn’t. I, um, my friends, they just pushed a speed-dial number and you answered. I’m not interested in any services.” Now I know he could detect my anxiety. I was sure my voice went up at least three octaves.
“Services?” Jack’s mirth was not so funny. He and Joey just looked at one another and started laughing so hard I could barely hear the guy on the other end of the phone.
I gritted my teeth. “Shut up, you asshole.” I took my hand away from the microphone after I cleared my throat. Nerves of steel, nerves of steel, I told myself. “So, um, this Oliver guy, do you know where I might find him and return his phone?”
“I do. Although he said he’d be out of town for a week or two. I could… meet you, somewhere… and retrieve his phone. Oliver and I see each other often; I could hold it for him until he returns.”
I swallowed hard. What was I going to do? I had to give it back, didn’t I? It was the right thing to do, even if I was scared shitless to meet up with a male hooker. I only hoped he didn’t try anything. “Um, yeah, okay. Where do you want to meet up?”
“Meet up?” Joey’s eyes popped out of his head. “What are you, fuckin’ nuts?”
I shushed him. “Um, me? I’m at Cassidy’s on 55th Street.”
Tyler slugged my arm. “What the fuck are you doin’, man?” He did not look too happy with me for divulging our whereabouts.
I pulled the phone away from my mouth again. “I gotta give it back.”
“You don’t have to do anything, David. Joey found it in the bathroom. I say we stick it back in there and forget about it.” He stood up and tilted back his pint. The rest of his stout slid down his throat, and he slammed the glass back down. “End the call, Davey.” He was stern. I hate stern—it makes me all jittery!
“Look, um, I gotta go. I can just give the phone to the bartender and tell him you’ll pick it up.” I got looks of disapproval from all around, but I just didn’t feel right putting it back in the bathroom.
“David,” the stranger prompted, “I am not far from Cassidy’s. I could meet you outside in a few minutes.”
“I—wait, how did you know my name?” I was surprisingly calm as I asked that question.
“I could hear your friend through the receiver. I have excellent hearing, and pulling the phone away from your mouth and covering it with your hand is not enough to keep the conversation private.”
“Oh.” Suddenly I felt like a dick. Why? I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was the good one of the group.
“I will meet you outside in ten minutes,” he said confidently. “I am sure Oliver will be pleased that you returned his phone.”
“Um, yeah, okay. Ten minutes. Bye.” I snapped the phone shut and looked into the faces of my friends. They looked at me as if I committed treason. “What?” I asked innocently with a shrug, holding out my hands.
“You’re such a dork, David,” Tyler accused. “Why the hell did you agree to meet that guy?”
“What?” I still didn’t see it as a big deal. I return the phone to this guy, end of story. “It’s no big deal.”
“Fine. But you’ll be doing it alone. I’m not gettin’ arrested for male prostitution.” Tyler got up and his cronies followed.
“Now you’re all against me?” I looked from Jack, to Joey, and to Tyler in hopes that someone would tell me they were just joking, that this was all just a scam to rag on me for being a Mr. Goody Two-Shoes. I waited for Joey to tell me they’d stand on the sidewalk with me and hand Oliver’s phone to the strange guy we speed dialed and that would be the end of it. But no, I got incredulous looks from all around. “Assholes,” I muttered as I grabbed my coat and pulled it on.