Curtis nudged me. “Look. We’re in some dude’s house.”
“What’s that?” I said, too loud.
He nodded at the mantle full of photographs. Front and center was a picture of our hostess with her formidable-looking man. We hadn’t been in the house for a full minute, and I already regretted coming. The next moment I got, I pulled Lamar aside.
“Yo! Is this chick married?”
He put his head down and chuckled a little. He was wearing the same, shit-eating grin he had on when we were making the plans.
What kind of liquor do y’all want?” He found a way to hiss a phrase with no S’s. I should’ve known better.
Lamar had a girl he wanted to see on the other side of the mountains, in Longmont. It was a four-hour drive from us. It was Friday, and he made it sound like some cool shit to do—said she would cook us supper, buy us liquor—all on the house.
We all wanted to know if she would bring any friends. Lamar said she would try, and we knew that meant no, but agreed to go anyway. A broke college kid will do about anything for a home-cooked meal and free liquor, including braving a winter drive over the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It’s beautiful, but keep your eyes on the road and your hands at ten and two, or you might find yourself sliding off that purple mountain’s majesty.
Curtis died and resurrected about five times on the drive. He’s from Vegas and had only viewed the mountains from a distance. It started snowing about an hour into the drive, and Lamar was driving like he needed to prove he’s from Boulder. “This was my drive to school, y’all,” he kept saying, “This ain’t shit,” doing ninety around bends, past signs that said—to Curtis’ horrified astonishment—things like “Bridge May Be Icy,” and “Falling Rock.”
I’m from Denver, and Terrence is from Colorado Springs, so we were trying to act casual, but Curtis was gripping the upholstery, twisting in his seat and screaming out what we were keeping to ourselves. “I don’t want to die for some enchiladas and free liquor! I wants to live! You gotta slow down, man. Please, SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!!”
“C’mon, man. This ain’t shit. I told you, this was my drive to school.”
Eventually, he had to slow down. The light snowfall turned into a full-blown blizzard around the Eisenhower Tunnel, turning our would-be four-hour drive into a six-hour, death-defying slog. By the time we got to the house, the enchiladas were cold, but they were just as nasty warm. She was a terrible cook, and apparently an even worse wife.
The house was exquisite by my standards—a tri-level slice of suburban paradise. I wondered how people our age could afford it, but I didn’t have any real questions until Curtis’ revelation. “Look. We’re in some dude’s house.”
"Why the fuck didn’t you tell us she’s married, dude? I would’ve stayed back.” I was all bug-eyed and talking through my teeth.
“Chill, man.” He was still chuckling, “It’s cool. He’s deployed.”
“He’s a soldier? That’s fucked up, dude. This is the worst kind of bitch” I was shaking my head in disgust. He was shaking with silent laughter. I realized Lamar was a lover of high-drama.
I continued scanning the room. There were martial arts trophies, some of which were quite large. I sighed, “I suppose those are his trophies.”
“Oh yeah! Haha! That’s right. He’s like a top-three national Judo champion, or some shit like that. He could really fuck us up.” There was so much delight in his smile. He was overjoyed at my dismay.
Curtis came over and whispered, “so we’re not in ‘some dude’s house. We’re in goddamn G.I. Joe’s house.”
“Ha! You think you’re joking,” Lamar replied, “His actual name is José.”
The absurdity calmed me down. “Where can I put my bag?” I was the only one who brought an overnight bag. The Adulteress told me I could put it in the room upstairs.
Aside from the extramarital affair, we were all now party to, it was like any other Friday night—nothing extraordinary. There was the pan of questionable enchiladas, a handle of Captain Morgan and a couple two-liters of Coke. We brought a quarter-ounce of dirt-weed and a pack of grape swishers. The Adulteress was a fine hostess. She kept our glasses full and rolled perfect blunts.
We worked our way through our indulgences. Lamar, Curtis and Terrence played a little three-way chess tournament. I’m so bad at chess, it’s an insult to my opponent, and so while they played chess, I played DJ.
I was the crew’s designated music expert, curator and tastemaker. That night Terrence was patting himself on the back for having introduced me to Slum Village—subsequently blowing my mind. It was rare for anyone to beat me to treasure like that. Fuck him for that.
The conversation was typical—sports, women, and, always when we were wasted enough, religion. There were no revelations—no standout discussions, but I do remember Terrence telling a joke. Terrence wasn’t usually the joke-telling type, and nobody laughed at this one, but looking back, it was funny as hell.
“A man heard his wife was cheating, so he confronted her. She assured him she hadn’t been cheating. ‘I would never do you like that,’ she told him, ‘I swear by everything I love, I would never do you like that!’” He hit the blunt, holding it in to deliver the punchline. “And she promptly dropped dead.” Exhale.
When the liquor was gone, Lamar and the Adulteress retired to the bedroom, Terrence called the guest-bed, Curtis went to the bathroom to call Earl, and I passed out in a recliner in the living room.
A woman’s voice woke me up. At first, I assumed it was the Adulteress, and I started to doze off again, but then the voice grew agitated.
“…In my house? Excuse me?” Now she was right behind me. “What the FUCK are you DOING in my HOUSE?”
I assumed it must be a roommate. I slowly staggered to my feet and tried to explain, “I was invited here by…” I couldn’t think of the Adulteress’ name. “Um… your roommate.”
“Roommate? This is MY house. My daughter lives here.”
The commotion finally got everyone else’s attention, and they were all leaking into the living room. Terrence came out first, looking surprisingly spry and amused, then Lamar and the Adulteress, looking guilty as charged, and finally, from the bathroom, a very woozy, confused Curtis.
The Mother assessed the situation, realized she was surrounded by Black men and exclaimed, “Sweet Jesus, they’re everywhere!” That would become our favorite inside catchphrase. Her Texas accent was a special bonus.
“Honey, get your gun,” she said to the man standing in the corner, who I had not noticed until then. “Imma get my gun,” he dutifully replied and left the room.
We scattered. Terrence and Curtis ran straight for the front door. I dashed upstairs. In my still-drunken haze, I forgot an overnight bag isn’t important when you may be shot.
The liquor still had my legs. I tripped going up the stairs. I tried to put my arms out to break my fall, but the liquor still had them too. I face-planted into the steps, earning a brand-new raspberry above my right eye. My souvenir. I grabbed the bag and headed back downstairs, carefully.
The Mother and the Adulteress were in a fight. Lamar and the Gunman were trying to separate them. I used the distraction to ease outside and wait at the car with Curtis and Terrence. So much to say, and all they did was talk shit about me.
“DAMN! Look at your eye!”
“Is anything in that bag worth your life, fool?”
Lamar made it out with no shots fired. It was around 3 a.m. and still dark, and we were in post-blizzard Longmont with no place to finish sleeping. Making the drive back was out of the question. “Well, Mr. I-LIKE-TO-PUT-MY-FRIENDS-IN-DEADLY-SITUATIONS, what do you propose we do now?” I was pissed, tired, and my eye was throbbing.
“Don’t even trip, my dude. I know a girl, just a couple miles from here.” He was wearing the same, shit-eating grin he had on when we were making the plans.