"I still can't believe the two of you dated!"
Frank, Roy's new boyfriend, was the exact opposite of the men he dated previously: including me. I almost thought Roy was joking when this twig-of-a-man, baby-faced NASA scientist was introduced to me. However, since Roy recently gravitated towards affectionate, cuddle-me-till-morning types that served breakfast in bed, Frank seemed, appearance-wise, to fit that bill. Yet, who am I to judge...I say that half-honestly because I shortly noticed this TGIF darts and drinks slowly turned into an interview. It was one thing to feel underdressed after Roy and Frank showed up in matching button-ups, slacks, and dress shoes, but it was entirely another scenario when Frank ordered solely water.
I should've stayed home.
If Roy didn't blow up my phone several times after I, admittedly, forgot about our outing after I hit the gym, this shindig wouldn't be happening. Sometimes I feel like caring for Roy has become a strain on my sanity.
My "uh huh" response to Frank's statement was slurred, as I downed my seventh rum: barely paying attention to the dart that left my fingers and whizzed towards the target.
The dull thump was barely audible amongst the bustling crowd at TJ's Dart Bar. Yet, I knew it was a bullseye and I could almost hear Frank gulp with anxiety.
Roy had also overstated Frank's ability to play darts. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't good either. I played poorly to give the kid a chance, but no matter how hard Frank tried, he could never get below 35 points a game. A toddler could perform better.
"So, apparently you're attracted to guys with heavy tattoos." Frank said, slyly but also pointedly.
I drank the remainder of my drink. Heavy? First off, I had a half sleeve. Secondly, my muscles were admittedly defined, and my shirt hugged onto my upper arm, but not enough for Frank to see more than the bottom chain of the collar to my Doberman Pincher. Ok, and maybe the top chain that slung toward my neck. Thirdly, Roy wasn't attracted to me because of my tattoos and that statement alone is childish. I really wanted to respond with "just because something looks good, doesn't mean that it'll taste good too."
I could feel the nicotine crave begin to boil. So much so, that I was beginning to question what I wore. But why should I? Just because I like to wear tee's, mainly from my grunt days or other good-ol plain ones that go well with jeans or slacks, doesn't mean my art should be a target of who to blow. Hell, now that I think about it, most of my clothing was picked out by Roy. I have never been a big shopper. When I was at the White House, I would wear the same five outfits over and over again. Sure, people would poke fun at it, but not enough to pick a fight they couldn't win. However, as the DL, Roy thought I needed to expand my wardrobe to keep up appearances. In a way, he wasn't wrong, but now it makes me question...did he choose those clothes so my tattoo showed well? He was a fan of it, not so much of the Guard Dog redesign I had on my back, but at least of the chained dog...fuck. I need another glass.
"Oh, stop! He's just got two."
Bingo. That's why I keep you around, Roy.
"Max and I are just work husbands." Roy said, landing a kiss on Frank's cheek.
"Work husbands?" Frank said, his eyebrows raised.
Now he's done it.
"He's my subordinate." I said, landing my empty glass down on the table and taking a seat.
My irritated sigh wasn't getting past Frank, as he saw me lift a hand for another drink.
"Don't you think you've had enough for one day?" Roy asked, a tad bit more concerned than he needed to be.
"I haven't had enough."
"It's ten-till midnight, love."
Too easy. Roy's face began to light up like a firecracker from the word "love". His embarrassment was enough for the pestering to stop.
"Sure, you're just work husbands." Frank's eye roll was obvious from the whip of his tongue.
"We are, babe. He's just being a dick. We have a ten hour rule at work, you see..."
Roy began to explain the ten-hour rule to Frank, along with constantly reassuring him that nothing was going on between the two of us. He was right in both senses. In the Service, we have a ten hour rule. So, no drinks were supposed to be had within ten hours of reporting to duty. Yet, with this running tab, I easily flagged down a barista who slid me my last glass of glory.
Roy and Frank began to sound distant, almost mumbled, as I saw them steal a kiss. That made the liquor even sweater, as I placed yet another empty glass on the table. From a glance at the clock, I made it with seconds to spare.
The lovebirds were too entangled in each other's tongues that they didn't even notice when I got up from the table. I needed a smoke. I cut back quite a bit from my time in the Marines. I used to smoke packs like candy. Now, due to the rigors of my job, I've done my best to pace myself so that one day I don't have to rely on the mint flavored tobacco that keeps my mood in check. Drinks usually calm my cravings, but since I can hold my alcohol, it takes about five or six drinks before I notice my cig irritation creep through my body and soul.
I walked past the bar and merry parties, pushing the door open. The crisp air hit my skin, sending a slight chill across my arms and down my back. It felt good.
I walked away from the entrance, taking out my pack of cigarettes and removing one from the pouch. Lighting it, I placed my foot against the stone wall facing away from the bar and out toward the nightlife in Alexandria, VA. Leaning back, I placed the cigarette in my mouth: a sense of ecstasy filling my lungs. Exhaling, the smoke sat amongst the cold: whisking away towards the college-aged girls who giggled and waved at me as they walked by. I casually waved, only to hear their high-pitched thrills as if they won the lottery. I had to smile at that.
When I was young, I wasn't attractive. I remember watching my classmates, seeing how handsome or beautiful they were and dreaming of how it would be to be loved and admired. I thought only people with pretty faces found a place in this world, and the rest of us...well, ended up in the trash.
I leaned my head back, seeing the full moon shine high above the blaring city lights. I inhaled again, finally giving up and throwing the bud on the ground. I extinguished it under my foot, placing my hands in my pocket, and returning to the bar.
The funny thing is, when I got older I realized, pretty face or not, love will bite you in the ass regardless.
That wasn't for the faint of heart.