Searching for Swimmers–Chapter 2
“Get over it already, Ross. I did you a favor. That Robin chick was too smart for you to hang onto the whole night. And there’s no way she’d let her friend slum it with you. Besides, there are plenty of other women in here that are dumb enough to go home with you, and luckily for you, the later it gets, the drunker they get,” Jason said as he hit the triple twenty on the dart board.
“And the drunker I get!” Ross raised his hands in the air but his enthusiasm dampened when he saw Jason’s shot. “Fuck, you win.”
Ross turned to collect his beer and collided with a petite brunette woman, nearly knocking her down. “Sorry.” Ross straightened himself and met the woman’s eyes. “Oh, should’ve known it was you. You really should watch yourself, Jess,” he said with mock sternness, followed with a fake shove.
“You’re lucky I don’t beat your ass,” Jessie laughed.
“Well, you’re lucky I wasn’t holding my drink, cause if you spilled my drink, you’d be buying me a fresh one right now.”
“Ooh, thank god for that,” Jessie sneered, “especially since you’re buying me a drink.”
“Me too,” said John, as he slid up to the group. Ross reluctantly agreed and walked off to find the waitress.
“Happy thirty-seventh, Mr. Purdue,” Jessie said, followed by a friendly hug.
“You’re getting old,” John said.
“Fuck you,” Jason replied.
“And drunk. We better catch up, honey.”
“Better make that a round of shots,” Jessie shouted to Ross. She walked over to the dartboard, erased the old scores off the chalkboard, and pulled out the darts. Jessie handed the red darts to Jason. “Don’t think just because it’s your birthday I’m going to take it easy on you.”
Alcohol consumption eventually forced the friends to give up their dart play once they realized more of their darts were hitting the wall than the board; and most agreed a game that requires you to throw sharp objects should not be included in an establishment that makes their bread and butter from getting people drunk. Ross was the only one who disagreed. He believed that only drunk people would want to throw sharp objects at a wall.
In the later hours, when the bar had begun to fill with both neighborhood regulars and one-timers, making conversation almost unbearably difficult, they had slipped into a corner booth where the hum-drum was slightly muted and continued their consumption. Their table became littered with empty glasses because their fresh rounds often arrived before the old ones were finished. Jason and Ross sat on one side of the booth; Jason was on the inside, left to lean into the cleft of the corner, and Ross was on the outside to let his long legs hang loosely in the aisle while his eyes darted for potential one night stands. Jessie and John took the other side of the booth.
“I mean, if we have a baby, we’re going to miss out on nights like this,” Jessie said to John, frustration touching her tone.
“No offense,” John said to Jason. Then he turned his focus back to Jessie and said, “But I don’t know how many more nights like this I can handle. Shit, if we don’t do it soon, we’re never going to be able to do it at all.”
“You’re talking like we’re holed up in the geriatric ward. We’re not even forty.”
“I thought women were supposed to worry about their fertility diminishing as they got older.”
“Fuck you. I can always freeze my eggs. Besides, if I do let you impregnate me I’m going to have my parents giving me their passive aggressive guilt trips about not being married,” Jessie said.
“They already do that.” John hesitated. “…and we can get married if it’ll make things better.”
Jessie’s flare of anger became a flame. “Woe, woe, back up. It’s one thing to give up our carefree drunken nights out. It’s entirely different to sacrifice what we believe. Marriage is for suckers. Are we suckers?”
“No, I was just making a suggestion.” John sighed.
“Keep your suggestions to yourself and get me another beer.”
The couple had been having this argument on and off for the last few months. Jason turned his attention to Ross who was distracted by a fresh group of women who’d just walked in the door. He slunk back into his corner and sipped his drink.
The table grew silent as Jessie waited for John to return with her beer. John returned with a pitcher and some frosted glasses. He poured Jessie a drink. He tried to give her a kiss on the lips but she turned her face away from him. Jason decided it was time for him to intervene. He slugged back the rest of his bourbon and said, “You know, I’ve considered the same thing.”
“What,” Jessie sneered, “marrying me?”
“You’re a doll, but no, you’re right on that. Fuck marriage.” Jason’s eyes turned to John. “Sorry.” Then he refocused with the two of them in frame. “No, freezing my sperm.”
Jason’s comment seemed to wake Ross from his female focus. “Fucking is more fun than jizzing into a cup.” Ross laughed and said, “You know I can help you get laid.”
Jason ignored him as he spoke to the couple. “Christ, the last thing I want is a kid, but what if the day comes when I change my mind about all of this? I’m happy…”
Jessie raised an eyebrow at him.
“Well…I’m content right now. I mean…I’m not getting any younger.”
“That’s my point,” said John.
Jessie ignored the comment and drank her beer. She wondered it the two were having some kind of midlife crisis.
“What if I decide down the road I’m ready,” Jason said.
“Ready for what?” Ross asked.
“Ready to perpetuate my genes. What if by then my stuff is all dried up, kaput, doesn’t work?” Jason paused to run his hands through his hair and was disappointed to find his drink empty. “I think I’m gonna freeze it.”
“What? Your dick! Shit, it’s already frozen, certainly neglected,” Ross shouted.
Jessie reached across the table and gave Ross a swift slap to the head. “His sperm, you idiot.” She gathered herself while the men laughed. “I don’t know, Jason. This is just your typical shit. You’re so terrified of something going wrong with your life that you don’t have a life. You just trot around allowing life to come to you, but it doesn’t work that way. We make our lives, and this is just your way of making peace with the fact that, well, that you’re a fucking pussy. This way you have all of your bases covered, but you’ll never actually use that frozen sperm, unless one day you man up.”
“Shit, Jess. Could you maybe give me your honest opinion?” Jason always appreciated Jessie’s no-nonsense approach to friendship, but was a bit taken aback by her outburst, especially since she was the one who mentioned freezing her eggs. Granted, he had given serious, private contemplation to what he had said, but had mainly brought it up to clear the funk out of the air that Jessie and John had started.
“Well, I think it’s a good idea,” John said. “I think one day you’re going to grow up, and find out that you want all of the things that normal people want. In that case, it’s not a bad idea to have a backup plan.”
This time Jessie slapped John’s head. “You would! Normal? What the fuck is that?” John scooted further away from Jessie.
“Fuck freezing it!” Ross exclaimed, “I say set it free! Let it flow! Sell that shit and create your own spunk army of anonymous bastards. Once they’re grown, we’ll have nailed the whole mind control thing, and you can tap into their DNA to control them and take over the world!”
Jason laughed. He loved Ross. He was always around to make light of life. Everyone needed a pal like Ross. Unfortunately, John and Jessie hadn’t even heard Ross’ suggestion and were back to their original argument.
“You’re just not going to let this go, are you?” Jessie asked.
“No, I’m not. This is our future, Jess.”
Jason and Ross didn’t even have to look at each other. Ross immediately slipped from the booth, followed by Jason, and both went to find a couple of empty stools at the bar.
“Yeah, but you’re not the one who is going to have to carry the bastard for nine months, or take care of it once it’s here,” Jessie said.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” John’s facial features flared to anger then recessed to empathy. “Of course I can’t birth the baby, but I’m going to be there for you every step of the way, during and after.”
“That’s bullshit.” Jessie slammed her hand against the table, took a gulp of her beer, then turned away from John toward the wall.
John placed one hand on her should and the other lightly on her waist. “Hey, what’s the matter?”
Jessie tried to shrug off John’s comfort. “Nothing.”
“Come on, Jess.”
Jessie turned around and looked John in his eyes. “What if I really am too old? What if I can’t give you what you want? What if I decide this is something I want, get my hopes up, only to find out I can’t have it, that I waited too long? It’d just be better if I stick to my guns and not have to face that kind of disappointment.” She wilted into the table.
John propped her up and smoothed back her bangs. “Come on. You know that’s no way to live your life, our life. Don’t be Jason. If this is something you want, we’ll make it work, regardless of how it turns out. No matter what, we’ll figure it out together.” John’s sincere eyes penetrated hers.
“You really want to freeze your spunk?” Ross asked in disbelief.
“I’m thinking about it.”
Ross stared into his beer then jerked his head up. “Hell, do what you want.”
“Thanks.” Jason meant it too. He also noticed Ross’ averted attention. “Just go,” Jason said.
“What, what are you talking about?”
“You’ve been checking out that woman, the blond, since we sat down.”
“So, it’s your birthday, man. I’m hanging with you tonight.”
“You sure it’s cool?”
“Cool. Order what you want and put it on my tab. I’ll be back.”
Jason ordered another beer and watched with amusement as Ross sidled up to the woman who was way out of his league. It was like watching a silent movie with all the actions over-amplified to compensate. The slap the woman put on Ross had so much force that it busted the metaphoric silent movie into the present. Charlie Chaplin couldn’t have made him laugh harder.
He glanced over to John and Jessie. They were getting up and seemed in a far more pleasant mood than when he’d left them. Jason wasn’t capable of admitting it to their faces (accept when really drunk) but he loved them both dearly. Because of them, he hadn’t completely condemned the idea of two people interlocked forever. Where everyone else failed, John and Jessie seemed to make it work, and for bonus points, they did it minus all of the pomp and circumstance of tradition. Jason gave them a B for staying together for the last twelve years and an A++ for doing it with their convictions still intact.
“Hey, Jase, it’s getting late. We’re taking off,” Jessie said as she gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Happy birthday, man,” John said with a pat on Jason’s shoulder.
“Thanks. Later, guys.”
Jason watched them walk out the door and then turned his attention back to Ross. He had to give it to the man, a slap in the face and he wasn’t even fazed—he just moved on to his next potential conquest. It had been a long time since Jason had a conquest in any definition of the word. But that was okay. He was good with his drama-free, complacent life. He stared into his beer for a few moments, then finished it off in a couple of gulps and ordered another round—a strong beer and a shot of bourbon.