I finished my beer, took a hit off the bowl Toby left packed on the coffee table and grabbed my car keys. “Let’s hit the bar,” I called to Toby, who was in his bedroom.
“Come here for a second,” he said.
Toby lived in a small second floor apartment, not far from the room I rented after splitting with my wife. Devastated and still in love, I had resumed the behaviors I had stopped when I got married and had a family—bar-dwelling and barely eating and a wide variety of drugs. Like a stumbling beast rising from the ashes of a calendar, in less than month, I had become something unrecognizable to me. Toby told me that he went through the same metamorphosis the year before, when he found out his ex-wife was sleeping with his cousin. Despite the fact that Toby—a former body-builder—was short and wide-shouldered while I was the outline of an average middle-aged man, we now shared the same shadow.
When I walked into his bedroom, Toby had crushed up a Valium and cut it into two lines of fine blue powder on his dresser. He handed me a rolled dollar bill, and I went for it.
“Look at this coat,” Toby said and held up a red and black-checkered flannel jacket that, at first glance, appeared to be a hunting coat. “I picked it up at a yard sale,” he said, taking the bill from my hand and snorting the second line. “What do you think?”
“You’re asking the wrong guy. Fashion-wise, I never got over grunge.”
Look at this,” he said and put on the jacket and raised his arms. “Look at the pockets on this thing. There are pockets under the sleeves, by my ribs, and four pockets on the front.”
“That’s a lot of pockets.”
“Fucking right that’s a lot of pockets. The other night, I put it on when Erin was here, and she told it was a girl’s coat.”
“No shit,” I said and lit a cigarette—another bad habit I’d resumed. Erin, a twenty year-old junky who had been sleeping with Toby in exchange for pain pills, had left a pair of silky black panties on Toby’s bedroom floor, and I picked them up and used them to clean my glasses. “She would know better than either of us.”
“But why would they make a coat that fits me if it’s for a girl? It doesn’t make sense. What type of girl fits into this coat?”
“A big girl,” I said. As the Valium massaged my temples with its feathery hands, I sat down on Toby’s bed, closed my eyes then fell back. My cell phone buzzed in the front of pocket of my jeans, a million tiny pins vibrating down my leg. I grabbed the phone and saw a text message from my wife and opened it. ru @ the bar????
"Fuck it, I’m wearing the coat to the bar,” Toby said. “You ready to go?”
Melted into the mattress, I nodded my head. While in no condition to drive, I reached for my keys, not bothering to respond to my wife.
Toby and I took the two stools at the far end of the bar, beside a machine that played trivia if you fed it a buck. Toby kept the coat on, every now and then slipping his hand in a new pocket. As I drank more, my head began to nod, and I was almost asleep on my stool when Toby punched me in the arm.
“Oh shit, Ray. This is not fucking good.”
At the entrance to the bar, my wife stood with a man. The guy looked younger than us—my wife, Toby and I were all forty years old—and he had a full head of black hair, compared to my thinning dome washed gray. He wore a stylish black pea coat and a scarf. My wife, on the other hand, had on a blue and black checkered flannel coat, Toby’s coat but a different color. My wife and I looked at each other. Hers were cold blue ice.
When I turned to Toby, he was taking off his coat. “I guess that answers that,” he said.
I stared at my mug, wanting to hurl it across the bar at the head of the fuckwad in the pea coat. “It certainly does,” I said and reached for my beer.
Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. He is the author of three collections of poetry—Not So Profound (Green Bean Press, 2003), Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press, 2007) and After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009)—a collection of short stories, Frostbite (GBP, 2002), and several chapbooks of fiction and poetry. A chapbook of short prose pieces titled Hangover Breakfasts was recently published by Bottle of Smoke Press. For more information, visit his website at http://www.nathangraziano.com/