Brady Connel’s Big Night Out
By Christopher S. Bell
Nothing had been uniformly set in stone yet, despite the fact that Brady Connel was already three shades below normal at roughly eight P.M. on Friday October 17th, 2008. He felt that it wouldn’t be the most difficult of procedures to simply blame his recent heavy head and less than coherent thought process on his roommate of the past two years, Chip Varner, considering that such displacement usually managed to make Brady feel all warm and fuzzy inside depending on the situation. That night as well as the afternoon before it hadn’t started much different from any of the others. The still undeclared junior at Clearview University, returned to their small drafty apartment on Solomon Road, settling in for whatever the next ten to twelve hours of his life had to offer.
There had been talk circulating the previous Thursday about what exactly Brady was supposed to be doing, the most prominent of plans bearing down on him from his girlfriend of seven months, Sally Everhart. She had surprisingly managed to craft a permanent hold on the twenty-one-year-old’s constantly fluctuating persona, allowing him to settle into a more subtle idea of himself, and furthermore of the two as a slightly defunct and still highly disillusioned college couple. Brady felt close to normal when the two were together, hiding in their rented bedrooms and wondering when something else would ever manage to make nearly as much sense again.
For the most part, he had been open with her about all past and present features of his life, the most shocking of which managing to come forward at the end of April after the two mindlessly fucked each other for the first time on the white leather couch in Sally’s rectangular living room. Upon catching his breath, Brady instantly started discussing the North Shade Rehabilitation Center where he had spent his last week of summer in 2006 before college classes officially started. His medications were randomized as he blindly walked around the white-walled building, refraining from discussion with any of the other shallow participants and instead wondering why he hadn’t simply run off to New York as he had originally intended, upon fleeing Clearview University’s summer scholar’s program.
Visits were frequent from extended family members that week as both his parents attempted to figure out why their son was having so many problems all of a sudden. The arrogant misconception that they had raised a perfect fully fleshed example of an over-achieving human being struck awkward chords with both Joni and Victor Connel who had recently become lost in an overwhelming stream of mutual sexual satisfaction. Their success at raising an honor roll student who obtained full scholarship went to both of their heads, each diluted sex act that followed far from helping the situation.
Brady spilled about all his tender areas to Sally and felt no shame in continuing to do so in the months that followed. His summer spent working through the motions with her and the rest of his life while at Clearview felt like a much-needed step in the right direction. Yet as classes finally started up again, the two inevitably developing a rapport with one another, Brady began to feel the slow creep of familiarity drown his senses. Suddenly, going down on Sally before cellular biology or the two attempting to be social with others at house parties advertised through online networking services, didn’t help to sooth any of Brady’s constantly crackling nerves as the drugs had before their relationship.
Soon his prescriptions were running out again as the skinny misanthrope started spending more time with two old-reliable escapists like himself. Chip was continually jumping around to different stereotypical college girls, each one offering him a new, albeit completely recycled perspective on the inevitability of human connection. They were all passing fads with less than interesting stories to tell as far as Chip was concerned. He was simply waiting to meet a girl that could quite elegantly top his own particular brand of lowered self-esteem, her feminine wiles being fucked-up to at least an equal degree as his own less than complimentary technique in flattery.
The other dependable regular was Brett Larson, who was usually around, searching the depleted scenes of Clearview University for any strain of intelligent life. He had set his standards at an all-time following a teenage break-up with Darcey Klein, a complete and utter mystery to both Brady and Chip who would more often than not tell Brett to stop being a pussy and dwelling in the past. He rarely heeded their advice, though, instead deciding that no matter how extremely attractive the drunken short-skirt falling all over him in some random trashed living room was, the comparison to Darcey had to be made.
However, despite their abundantly obvious flaws, Brady Connel, for some strange reason or another, felt comfortable lodged between the two on his living room couch that Friday night. A large and sticky blunt was being passed back and forth amongst the three, neither one necessarily sure where their night was headed, but rather pleased that they were mindlessly participating in the proper pre-game rituals. The next turn toward cluttered and loud gatherings would be a much simpler step to take, and if nothing else, such depleted albeit highly rational college thinking was exactly what Brady needed in order find his own kind of ground again.
How exactly he was going to handle Sally was the only visible speed bump along the way, his cellphone abruptly vibrating on the messy coffee table, instantly killing Brady’s lightheaded buzz. He quickly coughed, handing the thick brown encasement to Brett and standing up from the couch; the incoming call shaking his palm as Brady grabbed the electronic device.
“Shit…” He sighed, looking at the caller ID. “How do I handle this call this when I’m so baked?”
“I don’t know why you’re avoiding Sally tonight anyway. I mean, if I had a go-to for pussy, I would definitely not be here right now.” Brett blew smoke rings out of his mouth.
“You just don’t get it.” Brady walked out of the living room, trying his best to zone out Chip and Brett’s hysterical laughter as they began to poke fun accordingly. He turned on his bedroom light, shutting the door before falling back on the creaky frame and mattress, taking one final breath before answering the phone. “Hello?”
“Hey, what’s up Brady?” Sally Everhart asked sweetly on the other line.
“Um… not too much, I suppose.” He instantly felt his nerves creeping up on him, Brady having refrained from telling Sally about his daily narcotic use since its development a month earlier. She smoked cigarettes that he constantly complained about, the two usually feeling like hypocrites with one another no matter what the instance. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing. I was seeing if you were coming over soon.”
“Oh, well I’m not sure if I’m gonna be able to tonight.”
“What do you mean?” Sally’s tone shifted quickly.
“Well just that I think Chip and Brett wanna go to the bar because it’s like this one guy they know’s birthday or something.” A lie that Brady instantly knew would only place him in a much deeper round hole.
“So why do you have to go with them?”
“I don’t. I just think I’m going to, ya know, to get a different perspective on the world. I mean, I feel like closed in when we just spend the entire weekend in either one of our bedrooms.”
“So I’m smothering you or something, is that what you’re getting at?” Sally clicked her jaw to stress her disgust with the conversation.
“No, not at all. I just need some space for a little bit, and then I’ll come over sometime later, after the dust settles or whatever. Does that make sense?”
“No Brady, it doesn’t. Why don’t I just meet you at the bar?”
“Because it’s like a guy thing tonight.”
“Are you assholes going to a strip club, is that it?”
“No, I don’t know all of the details yet. I just know that this is what my brain’s telling me I need to do right now, okay?”
“Fine, well I’ll be up, to wait for you, I guess.”
“Okay, well then I’m sure I’ll see you later. It shouldn’t be that long, I don’t think.”
“I hope not.”
Her last few words instantly made Brady feel like shit as lights flashed on his phone before dimming again. He returned to the living room, finishing up the remains of his beer and the blunt, and then without much hesitation followed Chip and Brett out the door. Their steps were then uneven as they passed various groupings of wide-eyed participants lost in their own standard-issued dreams. They were starting early and yet still finding exactly what they had intended for the entire night. There were places to get lost and frantic within the square blocks of Clearview, Illinois and yet all three couldn’t help but drift toward the familiar first.
The Tener Street Pub was a dive that offered few turns toward redemption. Located directly in-between Faber Laundromat and one of several Starbucks within in the confines of the college town, its multi-colored neon lights and smoky atmosphere appealed to a certain class of individual. There were depressed working class heroes occupying several of the black stools, their houses completely empty, no one waiting for their drunken return home. These used men and women were staples of a place that constantly sustained them and yet very rarely helped them to figure out any of the available questions that were circling in the air.
Then there were unexplainable clumps of university regulars spread out amongst the round tables. Most were students who weren’t in the mood for paying an obscene amount of cash for typically cheap beer down the street at the more hip joints. Others were professors, most of which happened to be male, some with wives, others with alimony who simply found some understated sense of satisfaction within the walls of the pub. They were finished with the idea of searching pages of dead scripture for enlightenment when pretending to occupy the space between the young and the permanent simply felt divine.
Brady focused on several individual expressions upon entering the bar, before getting conned into buying Chip a drink as his roommate strategically flirted with a plump brunette supposedly from his intermediate Spanish class. He then soon joined Brett at an open table with the drinks, deciding to simply hand the frosty mug over to a friend who was more willing to discuss life’s roundabout way, even if the conversation would eventually shift toward familiar territory. Brett would bring up Darcey, and Brady would inevitably have to counter with talk of Sally.
“Thanks man.” Brett said, upon his first sip.
“No problem. I figure Chip can fend for himself.”
“Yeah, well he’s good at it.”
“Yeah, I know.” Brett sighed before looking around the bar for any available opportunities. He then felt his heart skip a beat as his eyes instantly fixated on a face he somehow managed to lose track of within the encasing bubble of Clearview and furthermore his hometown East Heights, Vermont. “Oh man…” He said, almost as a reflex upon first glance.
“Nothing, just uh… Well I know that girl over there with those other two girls.” Brett tried not to be obvious as he pointed across the bar to Lucy Parrish, a former classmate of his at Saint Stephen’s middle school.
“Oh yeah, how do you know here?”
“We’re from the same hometown, and she used to go to shows back when I used to go to shows, and she’s fooled around with a bunch of people I know.”
“Is this going somewhere Brett?” Brady asked, instantly disappointed that he hadn’t simply gone straight to Sally’s apartment for routine intercourse and lower-level bitching sessions.
“I’m not sure. Do you think I should go over there and talk to her?”
“If you feel like it.”
“I just don’t know cause I’m not even sure if she knows who I am despite the fact that she’s made-out with tons of people I know.”
“Back in high school, though, right?”
“Well I’m gonna say there’s probably a pretty good chance that she’s even more slutty now which means your chances are even higher than you’re used to.”
“She may be celibate or something now too. I mean, you know what people are like in college, always going through different fads”
“Ya know, if this is gonna be like the whole Darcey thing where you just bitch about it for longer than necessary, I’m gonna go talk to Chip and tons of fun over there.”
“Alright, I’m gonna go talk to her.”
“Cool, have fun.”
Brady then watched as Brett nervously grabbed his complimentary beer up from the table and walked across the bar. He sat down coolly and instantly began to talk at a mile a minute, Lucy seeming to get a strange kick out of such an unnatural approach at conversation and potentially more, depending on how the night passed. Brady Connel then started looking around the bar again, less than thrilled to be occupying a space that failed to offer him any kind of answers. It was simply another spot to slowly sink into before warnings came from all ends claiming that it was time for him to settle on a clear path for the rest of his life.
However, Brady wasn’t necessarily expecting for an overly dramatic shift not only in perspective but also for the rest of his hapless college experience. He didn’t even notice her at first, their eyes off in completely different corners. A skinny and beyond beautiful woman in her early thirties wearing a thin black dress and drinking a green imported bottle of beer at a table all her own wasn’t necessarily a normal thing to see at the Tener Street Pub. Brady found himself stunned by such a sight as he tried to decipher what exactly the image meant to him.
Faded pumpkin and black cat decorations hung staggered on the wall behind her as bodies began to fill up the available chairs and tables between the two of them. He looked first, making eye contact that she seemed a bit reserved about, before soon smirking to herself, and then without much thought, beckoning the twenty-one-year-old over to her table. Brady felt his entire stomach sink at such an inclination, before grabbing his half-empty beer and gravitating towards the corner.
“Hello.” He said simply, upon sitting down.
“Hi.” She said back, taking a sip from her bottle.
“Well, I’m Brady.”
“Naomi.” A handshake and awkward silence was soon followed by laughter as both tried to speak at the same time. “Well um…”
“Yeah so I don’t know what to say. I mean, to help my nerves subside.” Brady once again felt unnaturally freakish, having instantly shifted towards the truth as he did with Sally rather than pretending to be somebody else for awhile.
“You’re really that nervous?” Naomi asked with a grin.
“Kind of. I don’t know. I don’t meet people in bars.”
“How long have you been going bars, Brady is it?”
“Yeah, um… About a month, I guess.”
“Well are first impressions of places always that quickly determined?”
“Um, yeah, I think so. I mean, especially in my case.”
“Well okay, I guess that’s fair.”
“But um, can I ask you something, and don’t think that this is a come on or anything, because it’s more like just a compliment, or ya know, the way my mind works.”
“Well go ahead…” Naomi said, as if she was talking down to one of her students.
“Why is somebody like you, and by that I mean, somebody who’s obviously far too breath-taking for a place like this, in a place like this, on a Friday night?”
“Ya know, that’s the kind of slightly complicated question I was hoping to avoid at places like this Brady.”
“So I already fucked it all up, didn’t I?”
“No, not necessarily. You’re just being too goddamn honest. I’m not sure how to handle it.”
“So you wanted some bullshit first, is that it?”
“Yeah, something like that. I mean, I think I’ve been through all the motions enough times now to know that in situations like this one, bullshit just seems to work better.”
“Yeah, but what does that say about us, or you I guess?”
“It says that I just want the kind of night that’s completely uneventful in the grand scheme of things, and by tomorrow everything will be the same again.”
“Is it ever the same again, though?” Brady asked, trying to be slightly philosophical.
“Ya see, already I know that picking you was a bad choice.”
“What do you mean, picking me?”
“Do you honestly think somebody like me would have trouble finding a drunk and confused college guy to bullshit with in a place like this?”
“I think somebody like you thinks they know what they’re doing, when really they don’t have any fucking idea.”
“Ya know, you’re right. I don’t. At least not right now anyway.”
“Well okay then.”
“So do you wanna buy me another drink?” Naomi asked, moving the bottle back and forth on the table.
“Yes, I do.”
Brady then quickly chugged the rest of his beer, before returning to an open space at the far right end of the bar and ordering two more drinks. He quickly glanced over at both Chip and Brett who had managed to converge at one table with their respective girls, going through all the motions as per usual. Brady didn’t take much time to think about what debauched location would be next on their list, but instead gracefully returned to the chair in front of Naomi and sat down for further proof that she wasn’t simply a figment of his imagination.
The junior was then at a complete loss as she began to dig deep into his life, asking a barrage of questions that Brady couldn’t necessarily come up with false responses for. He simply told her the truth as she forced more drinks down his throat, the two covering each other’s tabs. There was mostly talk of Brady’s high school girlfriend, Halle Gibson, who he still held slightly responsible for the odd and often open-ended slumps his life would continually fall into. She had come to visit him at the rehabilitation center on his second to last day there, the two mostly consumed by separate much needed silences.
Following such an encounter, which would turn out to be their last before Halle attended Bloom University in small town Colorado, Brady held onto the grudge, figuring that she had mind-fucked him to a proper degree. Naomi simply decided against offering her opinion on such a subject, while Brady concluded that mentioning his current girlfriend Sally, would have most likely been a fault in both their nights. He then uncomfortably ignored his vibrating cellphone, which he knew was from her call, while downing shots with Naomi. The two then continued to discuss matters of varying magnitude, while anxiously waiting for another corrupted face to walk into the bar. They would quickly analyze and offer their educated opinions on whomever the person was, both feeling unexplainably comfortable cutting complete strangers down to size.
As the clock soon struck eleven, time having managed to fly by, Chip and Brett walked over to Brady and Naomi’s side of the bar. They initially froze upon the sight of such a woman, before explaining that Brett’s new attempt at flattery, Lucy Parrish, knew about a party across town. Before Brady could decide against the inclination of drunken and belligerent faces with student loans piling up (figuring that someone so elaborately mysterious like Naomi wouldn’t be in the mood for said festivities) she quickly intervened. The thought of hiding amongst other complimentarily defunct individuals appealed to the thirty-one-year-old who was continuing to ignore the pounding sense of former responsibilities still on her shoulders.
There was then a line of footsteps to follow as Lucy led the way out of the bar with two of her other high-heeled friends next to her. Chip’s girl of the hour decided to stay within the smoke-filled walls, the pre-med. not phased by such a choice in the least bit. He simply latched onto another available brunette. Brady made light of such a pairing as he and Naomi took their time at the back of the line, each one filing their own fair share of complaints not only with the recycled college scene, but also every single stereotypical body they passed on their way across town. It was a parade of airbrushed looks with few distinctive qualities to discern from the next available bunch.
Within the plaster-chipped walls of the rented house that Lucy had heard rave reviews about, was mostly the same type of scene. Both Brady and Naomi felt like voluntary outcasts as they simply stole available beers from the cluttered fridge, before quickly ditching their drunken leaders and walking out into the front yard. A girl with silky blonde hair kneeled hunched over by the bushes throwing up the remains of her dinner while her best friend stood texting on a cellphone. The two were soon picking up their own separate pieces before walking through the leaves and grass to the front of the house, while Brady and Naomi simply looked each other over again with enlarged smirks.
“Well already I’m wondering why you wanted to come here.” Brady said simply as he took a sip from the bottle.
“I guess I just wanted to see if anything had changed.”
“What, you mean from when you went to college?”
“Well how long ago was that?”
“How bout I let you take a guess, Brady.”
“Okay, I’m gonna say five years.”
“It’s been nine years since I graduated.”
“Well then why are you taking a walk down nostalgia lane tonight?”
“I don’t know. I thought we weren’t gonna get into me, and ya know, all my bullshit that I don’t really think you need to hear about.”
“But I kind of want to right now, considering that I can only talk about my time spent in the ward so much.”
“Well you can keep talking about it if you want. I’ll pretend to listen.” Naomi joked.
“Forget it. Tonight’s just been a little too cosmic for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just that I feel like you’re from space or something.”
“Well maybe you should stop pegging me as somebody so dazzling. I mean, you don’t even know me.”
“Yeah, which is your fault.”
“Brady, did you ever stop to think that maybe I didn’t want to get to know you tonight, that maybe I’ve gotten to know enough people in my life up to this point where no matter what the case, everyone is eventually going to seem the same or not live up to my initial expectations or be like people I thought I once knew?”
“I don’t know. I mean, did you have expectations for me tonight?”
“Sort of. I was looking forward to fucking a total stranger, just to see if I still could, but I don’t think it’s gonna work out quite like that.”
Instantly Brady froze at such a statement as he tried to think of a reply, his mouth moving as muffled sounds initially came out. “But uh… Does it work like that for you?”
“Tonight it does.”
“Do you wanna get out of here?” He asked nervously.
It was then within one rushed moment and a series of looks that Brady and Naomi passively set their stolen beers down on the ground and walked back towards civilization. He held her hand tightly as they quickly sped past all the familiar molds of indulgence, back towards his and Chip’s apartment. The sticky door was then unlocked with ease as Brady led Naomi in through the messy walls and toward his bedroom, which had only been tainted by Sally’s naked form previously. Brady thought about his girlfriend who had left him a message that he hadn’t checked, and was still most likely awake at her apartment, waiting for him to show up with a movie and some marijuana.
He almost felt like a horrible person to be shutting the door behind himself and Naomi before the two hastily began to pull each other’s clothes off, and yet there was still an overwhelming sensation in Brady Connel’s gut that simply put, helped him to settle into the idea of cheating. He had more or less earned it following all the late night visits and conversations that seemed less than vital in the grand scheme of things. Brady and Sally had continually discussed the depleted condition of the human race, and yet it hadn’t struck nearly as much of a chord with him until he had gone through similar motions with Naomi that night.
Brady knew that for some reason or another, the woman he was drunkenly groping that night had lived, and yet at the same time, he wasn’t expecting to find out how much she had lived as he pulled her black dress the whole way over her head. Brady first began to kiss her breasts in-between abrupt and childish squeezes, the two having fallen back on his bed without much hesitation. He then slowly moved down to her stomach, stopping in the instant he saw a close-up look of the multiple red stretch marks still present. They looked like pregnancy marks, Brady lifting his head up and looking right at her with wide eyes.
“What are those from?”
“I thought we weren’t asking questions like that.”
“I just wanna know.”
“No, you don’t.” She said with a sigh. “Now, just kiss me please.”
He didn’t argue but instead continued to ignore his fluttery stomach as the two fell into each other, going through all the motions and then instantly feeling like shit seconds after their mutual orgasms. Naomi simply fell asleep, her head spinning from the alcohol. Brady settled in next to her, moving his hand up her body slowly, and also noticing several scars up and down her left arm before turning off the light. They appeared to be from needles and yet such questions weren’t permitted as she had set the rules from the start of their chance encounter.
Brady woke up alone the next morning, a heavy hangover and no substantial proof that Naomi had even been breathing next to him. He would get stoned with Chip before noon, eventually getting lunch at the dining hall and then calling Sally. The truth would make her feel like shit, Brady not glossing it over in any sense. She simply needed to know that he couldn’t have possibly been in love with her sinking soul considering all events of the previous night. Her tears wouldn’t hurt him, but rather simply help Brady decide that possibly college wasn’t the best of choices he could have made.
However, the junior would still regrettably schedule requirements for his next semester, deciding that leaning towards a degree in business was the most normal thing he could do. His classes would be boring for some time as thoughts of ex-girlfriends like Halle and Sally continued to pound on his brain. The Naomi situation wouldn’t come around full circle until a week before his final exam in accounting. His professor, Jude Farren, would be running through the numbers when his wife just happened to stop by unexpectedly with their one-year-old son Zack.
Then came two more glances across a space of look-alikes. The first was from Brady and that of pure astonishment as he saw Naomi, her blonde hair cut shorter, cradling her son while discussing the day’s refrain with her husband. The second was from Naomi to Brady who didn’t tense up or take a step back from the present. She instead simply breathed in before offering her one-night stand a sensible smile. He understood then and would refrain from telling anybody he knew of such truth, figuring that sometimes talk of bullshit was a much simpler path to walk in towns where every available face was glossed over. Brady Connel was right for once.