An excerpt from a past life
Everyone was at The Uptown Social. I was almost there. The bar was at the top of a red brick building shared with The Law Office of Clovis Martin and Scott & White Phlebotomy, so to get there, I walked through a we-don’t-have-any-better-ideas-so-we’ll-paint-it-extremely-white lobby, gratuitously lit by doctor’s office waiting room fluorescent tubes, to reach an elevator that couldn’t have legally been any smaller.
This unglamorous entry did not dent my optimism.
I was back in Georgetown at the ripe old age of 23 for Homecoming, a weekend I’d been decorating in my imagination for months. The Triumphant Return. My hair was cut short to hide the curls. Standard-issue light blue J. Crew button down. Tapered jeans. Boots.
My excitement for the weekend stemmed mostly from the opportunity to flaunt all of the success I’d achieved since graduating less than one calendar year ago: landing a big-time job, moving into a sweet apartment in the city, and making shit tons of money. I had made it. Everyone needed to know.
Ding. The elevator doors opened to an orchestra of inebriated exchanges between current students, alumni, and townies. I spotted my group—twelve fraternity brothers, ranging from current students to alumni who had graduated decades before—at a high-top table in the corner of the dimly lit lounge. I grabbed an open seat and gave myself a pep talk. A waiter approached. Go time.
“A round of Patrón shots,” I said with my chest out.
HOW I ENVISIONED IT GOING:
Older alumnus, beaming as he patted me on the back: “Wow! Big spender, huh? I guess they’re treating you well down in Houston!”
Pledge brother, also recently graduated, his supportive grin betrayed by the narrow gaze of envy: “Wow! You must be killing it, dude. Tell me about the new job!”
Current student, a senior, gawking as if Tom Brady had just autographed his napkin: “Holy shit…thanks man.”
Gorgeous blonde at the four-top next to us, the spark in her endless blue eyes emitting primal lust: “Wanna get out of here?”
HOW IT WENT:
I’m not sure anyone even heard me order the drinks. Two guys next to me were talking about an ex they’d spotted across the bar. An older alumnus asked if we’d broken the new pool table yet. One of my pledge brothers explained aquaponic farming.
I fidgeted on my stool, half-listening while I scanned the bar for the waiter carrying my deliverance. College kids yelled at each other over whiskey-cokes. The townies drank Lone Star.
After fifteen minutes the drinks mercifully arrived on a dirty black tray. The waiter dumped them on the table without a word. Now it was just a matter of time.
A few eternal minutes passed before one of the younger guys glanced down and saw the little glass of liquid exuberance. About time. Here we fucking go.
I got my ‘no big deal’ face ready.
He threw the shot back like an athlete taking a gulp of water in between plays, chased it with a lime wedge and table salt, and returned to his conversation. Others followed suit. Glass after glass was emptied without a word of acknowledgement. The drunken dialogue continued uninterrupted.
The waiter wasted no time in coming by to bus the last living remnants of my ill-fated investment. (Really, man? Fifteen minutes to bring the damn things out and you swipe them up in thirty seconds?) Swing and a miss. The message—that I had made it—went undelivered.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
Someone did get the message: the waiter. I knew this because he was quite confident in handing me the check, which offered the real highlight of the night: $175 before tip. This was just for the shots and didn’t include my meal or the actual drinks I’d had, of which there were many.
It turned out that after rent, utilities, gas, food, dog food, insurance, student loans, and all my other expenses, the shit ton of money I was commanding—$60,000 annually, before taxes—was not sufficient to accommodate buying large quantities of top-shelf liquor by the ounce.
I felt ridiculous. This was a wake-up call. The lesson was embarrassingly obvious.
I needed to make more money.
Thank you toand Ellen Fishbein for their thoughtful help and feedback on this piece.