It wasn’t every day that these guys got together. Actually the last time that they saw each other, all of them were single and childless. Now, three of them had wives, a few had kids and all had extra mouths to feed. Nights playing video games and spending all of their car wash money cash on booze was behind them, probably never to be seen again.
Tony sat on the sofa next to Jay on a couch they shared when they lived together during their right-out-of-college years. Back then it used to be fuzzy and a deep green. Now it was a faded sea-foam green with missing patches of fur; it looked like it was going bald.
“So how’ve you been Jay? It’s been a while since we could get the guys together, hasn’t it?” Tony had always been the optimistic one, the one who kept his ties and relationships in tact. If he didn’t see his friends, he remembered birthdays and called each of them every once in a while. Jay, on the other hand, hadn’t reached out to anyone besides Tony. And even that was a one way street on Tony’s behalf.
“Yeah, man. Everything is good. I’ve been working and doing my thing. How are the kids?” Jay hated kids. It wasn’t that he hated them, exactly, he just didn’t like them. Thought of having them was like purposefully putting himself in prison and never being able to get out. Ever. His last girlfriend left him because she wanted to have a family and she wanted to start working on that yesterday.
As the two talked, Jesse and Peter arrived separately, greeting each other in the driveway, starting a conversation about traffic and the weather; shallow conversations that went nowhere. They went inside to find Tony’s wife Alicia making finger sandwiches in the kitchen.
“Hi, guys! It’s been a while! How are you?” Peter and Jesse, like Tony, were married but Peter didn’t have any kids yet. “I’m good,” said Peter. “You know, doing the whole working and married life thing. We just got back from Costa Rica last week. It’s nice to get away once in a while.”
“Yeah, same here,” said Jesse. “Sophia is in first grade now and Lisa is having a grand, old time with Jaime. He just turned 6 months last Monday. I’m living the good life.”
Alicia was the girl who hung around the guys. She started out as the cool friend who worked her way onto their “she’s-all-right” radar. In her eyes (and what she told her girlfriends) she had three opportunities to claim a husband, so she was going to hang around as long as she could for that to happen. And it did.
She and Tony almost belonged together. They were a relaxed couple. The biggest disagreement that anyone could remember them having was the fact that Tony didn’t really get along too well with Alicia’s dad. That apparently was fixed after 15 years. It might not have been, but Jay wasn’t about to ask. He didn’t feel it was his place anymore.
Most of them met in college. Jay was Tony’s friend from grammar school and Jesse went to a neighboring school but would visit his girlfriend on weekends. He met Tony and Jay at a party and was welcomed into the group right away. Jesse continued to visit the college and stay with the guys even after he and his girlfriend broke up.
Alicia smiled, grabbed the sandwich tray and walked them down to the basement where Tony and Jay were deep in conversation. When they heard the door open, Jay and Tony stood up. “Hey guys!” said Tony genuinely. “How have you guys been?” He shook their hands and gave them the manly side hug, the way bros do. They all smiled at each other. Jay, on the other hand, was only mildly enthusiastic. His grudge wasn’t so much with the individuals but he felt left behind. After five years of drifting apart, he thought he would get over it, but the sour taste was still in his mouth and in the back of his mind.
Jay only lived about two miles from Tony, but it just seemed like a hassle trying to get everyone together. When Tony said that he was going to make the attempt, Jay hesitated and decided to be part of it, which is why he was there early. He didn’t want to be the reason why this meet up didn’t work.
The three guys laughed and talked about the fact that they had gained weight because of the kids and their wives’ home cooking. Everything seemed so peachy and delightful that it almost made Jay sick. It had been about a year and a half since he had a real girlfriend, was mildly seeing a woman five years younger than him at work and didn’t believe that life could be so happily-ever-after-ish at 36. He didn’t feel bad for thinking this way either. In fact, he always thought this way. Something was not right in each of those marriages but he wasn’t going to call anyone out. The only marriage that had seemed real because it was real 12 years ago was that of Alicia and Tony.
Alicia had paid attention to Jay when no one else did which is why they were best friends at the same time that he and Tony were best friends. Jay took credit for the introduction and wedding proposal between the two and he wasn’t ashamed to say it. Tony, the good man that he is, even recognized him for it at the wedding. “Without our fantastic friend Jason, sitting over there, there would be no wedding and no Tony and Alicia. He was the intelligent man that put us together.”
The other couples, however, were not in his favor. He had gone to the weddings, seen some situations and was actually surprised that both couples were still together after these years. My, how far they all had come. They learned how to suck it up.
“Tony, I can’t believe you still have the video games we used to play in the dorms,” said Jesse. “I didn’t even go to your school and I remember living and breathing these games. Mrs. Pacman, by the way was the way I got girls for a while. The wannabe gamer girls thought it was so awesome that you had the female version of the game.”
They all laughed and chuckled at themselves. “Yeah, do you know how many times Tony and I had to sleep in someone else’s room in college because our dorm was taken up by the one and only Jesse?” said Peter. They laughed again.
“The way I knew I couldn’t get into my room in our apartment was because of the red lingerie,” Jay said. “If it was anywhere in my sight, I knew Jesse was in my room. Why mine?” He had finally gotten into the conversation.
“You know what Jay, you had the most uncomfortable bed. It was the best way to get the deed done and then kick her out without feeling bad,” laughed Jesse.
“But why didn’t you just take them back to your… oh wait,” said Peter, “you lived with your parents until you and Lisa got married.” The group laughed.
“Anyone down for a game of Space Invaders?” asked Tony with a smile. Alicia brought down a few beers and the guys had fallen back into the swing of things. It was like being back in school again. Someone even threw in ’80s music to reminisce to. It was jarring and very nostalgic, especially when they came across mix tapes that they had made to document particular eras in their lives.
“This was when I broke up with Stephanie!” said Peter. “God, I thought I was going to marry that girl and she turned out to be such a bitch, dude. Oh well.” No one in the room liked her. No now and not back in 1988.
As much as Jay loved the sights and the sounds of this, he felt as though it was all going to revert to not seeing them for another year. Well, seeing them all of them together would next be at a wedding or funeral or something even more traumatic.
“Jay, who are you hooking up with now? Still the same chick you brought to the wedding?” Peter asked. “She was cute, bro. And from what I saw, you all were on it.”
Jay smiled. “Nah, dude. It ended. Sourly, to top it off. She wasn’t the right fit, so I’m trying on other gloves.” Jesse laughed the loudest. “We will now be living vicariously through you, Jay. I hope you don’t mind.”
When Jesse said that, Jay laughed. He laughed really hard, only because he knew that Jesse had stolen that line from his wife, probably talking to one of her younger sisters about the men she was sleeping with. Guys didn’t say that because they were supposed to love their wrong decisions.
He couldn’t help it. Jay was as cynical as they came, but there was one thing for sure; he did enjoy the night with the guys. However it would end up in the morning when they were waking up in their normal lives would depend on them. But for now, they were the college-aged guys that they were when they first met.