So I continued down the "high"way, which was really just one of our historical old streets on the Cape Fear River headed towards my friends that were at Odessa.
As I was about to head into the building to ride the elevator up to the bar, (Don't ask me why we have so many bars that are on the 4th and 5th floors of buildings that people live in. Seriously, my friend Caroline lived below a 5th floor bar called "Level 5" so we called her place "Level 4." She had a bar with hundreds of people in it every nights directly above her apartment ceiling. Sometimes she would sneak up there in her pajamas and buy cigarettes from the machine at the bar. On two unrelated side-notes, Caroline's first kiss was in a TV movie with Elijah Wood, and that Level 5 building was owned by Dennis Hopper. You can see his name on the elevator inspection certificate. Oh, one other television note, and I'll get back to the story. Caroline's sister was on some soap opera. And then she ended up playing the snoopy reporter on "Women's Murder Club." I think it got cancelled. I never met that girl. Caroline is funny, though. She once fought with me over a flower pot, because I was going to bash a hippy over the head with it for walking in my house in the middle of the night, making a mixed drink out of my fridge and cussing me out. He was drunk and thought he was a party at his friend's house. I'll tell that story another time.)
Back to the story of my night. As I was about to head into Odessa, I saw my friend Gay Jay walking towards me. I wonder if the name "Jay" sounded too much like "gay" and subliminally led him into that life. Anyway, I looked him dead in the eye and yelled, "Ja-----, nevermind. Sorry."
It wasn't Jay. It sure looked like him.
Then I rode the elevator up to Odessa. When the door opened to the dance floor, the first person I saw was Jay. I said, "Weird, I just yelled at a guy I thought was you not one minute ago, and then I run into you." He was too drunk to know how odd that was. Then again, in Wilmington, it's really not.
Then the second person I ran into was Jeff. I hadn't seen him in a year. Then I remembered that I had just invited his girlfriend to come meet everyone at the bar. I started hoping she wouldn't show up, so they wouldn't run into each other and fight. (She never came. See, that would've been a better story if she had showed up.)
Then, finally. FINALLY! I got to my friends I was meeting.
The reason we were all hanging out together that night was to celebrate and mourn. We were celebrating that my friend Anch was alive, but we were mourning that he burned down his entire condo with a cigarette that caught his ashtray on fire.
I hugged him. I never hug him. And I've lived with him twice. Then after we all told Anch how glad we were that he didn't die, we all immediately started making jokes about him losing everything.
He was finally in a laughing mood, but still said with a smile: "Thanks, guys! I lose everything but my car and one pair of underwear and you guys are laughing. Yall are my best friends? Wow?"
Everytime Anch would put a cigarette out in the ashtray, one of us assholes would think we were the first one to jokingly go behind him and smoosh it out harder while saying, "Careful now, Anch. Those things can cause a fire."
After a while, the jokes ran out.
Then the fire alarm went off.
"Everyone quit looking at me. That's not funny! OK, it is. Laugh away."
Yeah, of all the bars we could've picked in town, we picked the one that had a false fire alarm go off for ten straight minutes. And for ten straight minutes we pretended that the guy who had just set his own home on fire was the one that did it.
We're dicks. We're funny. I'm glad my friend's alive. I'm glad all my friends are alive. Without them, I'd be alone, and we see what happens when I'm left all alone.