The four of them lined up on the wall in front of T.D.’s building just like every night in the summer. It was light out and hot so late that it was as good as having another day to run around in after work. T.D. tossed his empty pop can toward the trash barrel at the curb, his arms stretched out and his feet in the air like he’d been photographed taking a jump shot. The can rattled against the bottom of the barrel, stirring the bees hovering in the trash. Three points. T.D. settled his shoulders and looked down the street, bouncing the heels of his sneakers on the wall. Pinko and Sam sipped from their cans. Dougie opened another button on his shirt. He hadn’t been home to change out of his office clothes yet, and T.D. had the shady spot.
From the wall they watched the bar across the street fill up with summer students from the university. The front corner of the bar was all glass, the table there highly prized on Friday nights. Groups of women and their boyfriends would sit there all night, and everyone that walked by–who couldn’t get in because it was too crowded, because they were too young, too old, too much not the people at the table–could see them. T.D. called it the fishbowl one night, so then Pinko and Sam called it the fishbowl, too. New fish old fish red fish blue fish, Pinko said almost every night.
Pinko belched, and T.D. pulled another can off the plastic ring.
There were already two couples sitting in the fishbowl. They’d arrived on red, waspish motorcycles, the women perched behind the men, their bare legs dark against the bikes. Sam sneered at them. Fuckin fools, he said. Ain’t no fucking way you get on a bike dressed like that. No helmet. Bare legs. Asking to fucking die. Then he laughed, a stuttering, low huh-huh-huh-huh. He did this most nights, too.
Dougie wondered what it was like to want to be seen and to get it. He’d never been in the bar. Four years living a block away. He shook his head. They would sit there for another hour and watch women until T.D. got hungry, and then they’d go someplace and eat, and then throw darts or watch TV on T.D.’s balcony until two in the morning. Just once Dougie would have liked to have gone into the bar. Every night Dougie felt something inside him begin to spin out of control. He was missing something; he could feel it in the back of his head, something he’d forgotten or fallen behind on, something that should have happened by now.
Oh gentlemen, Pinko said. Look what’s coming our way.
They all turned their heads toward the woman coming down the sidewalk, faces pointing, exaggerated turning of their heads. Dougie was aware that they did these things, these stupid jokes that were funny one time, but had become habits. All they had between the four of them were habits.
She wore denim shorts and a black leotard. Oh darling, Dougie thought, the thing in his head spinning until it snapped its axle. Her long, dark hair fell across tan shoulders. You’re the pattern I’m supposed to recognize, he thought. She passed him, her head turned toward the street. Oh brother, he thought. It’s a good thing I know all my math, because I will never be any kind of poet. She had dark eyes and a heart-shaped face.
Sam let out a quiet wolf whistle and Pinko said Amen.
Hey, sweet thing, T.D. said. The woman rolled her eyes and crossed the street toward the bar without stopping. Dougie watched her hips and the backs of her legs until she slipped inside the door.
Oh babay, Pinko said. T.D. squinted and sucked air through his teeth.
Jeez, Dougie said.
Was that you, Dougie? T.D. said.
How come we never go in there? Dougie said.
Too many Biffs, Sam said.
Biff Tad Chad Brad Thad and Drew, Pinko said.
Chickenshits, Dougie said. He could feel the sweat under his legs, his shirt sticking to his back. It’s too damn hot. I gotta get out of these clothes or get into someplace cool.
Fishbowl’s got AC, T.D. said. He hook-shot another empty into the trash barrel.
Dougie stood up. The sidewalk felt odd, vibrating as if it had just stopped moving.
Let’s get something to eat, T.D. said.
Cool, Pinko said. Cool, Sam said. They all stood up.
No, Dougie said. I need to get out of these clothes. I think I stink.
Whatever, T.D. said. The three of them headed up the street into the sun. Pinko was flapping his arms as they disappeared around the corner.