Ryan is long out of chips by the time Jim disappears for a while and then reappears only to head straight for the bar. Ryan wouldn’t even have noticed except Jim sits right next to him, his shoulder almost knocking Ryan off his barstool. Kelly had been sitting there 10 minutes ago. She’d ordered something pink and pushed her knees against his thigh and her breasts against his arm. He’d ignored her, mostly, grunting when necessary or taking extra big gulps of his drink in order to stave off unwanted topics of conversation such as children and weddings and wasn’t his roommate out of town tonight so he had the apartment to himself? He feels bad for driving her off, really he does. It’s just not something he can help. She gets that gleam in her eye and it’s like a fist is clenching in his gut and he gets mean and impatient. He always feels bad afterwards, but not bad enough to apologize.
Jim orders a double of whatever’s closest and downs it as soon as it’s set in front of him, immediately gesturing for another. Ryan clears his throat but he doesn’t say anything. After the second drink Jim glances over at him, a look on his face that would make Ryan ask if he’s okay, if he were the type of guy who asks that type of question.
“Bar” Jim says, and Ryan is confused.
“We’re at the bar,” he agrees, feeling like he missed a step.
"No, bar, a real bar. Let’s go. You wanna go?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Ryan sees Kelly sitting at the blackjack table nearest the door. She pretends she isn’t watching him.
“Yeah.” He drains his drink and grabs his suit jacket from the back of his chair. “Let’s go.”
Three shots later, he can’t remember exactly what he said to Kelly when she followed them out to the parking lot. It must have been good, though, because she didn’t cry or try to climb in the cab with them, just looked at him like he was gum on her shoe before marching back into the warehouse. He’ll pay for that tomorrow, probably.
Jim is trying to play darts. He won’t put down his beer, so he’s sloshing it everywhere as he aims for the dartboard like he’s flyfishing, his arm swinging back over his head and whipping forward repeatedly before he finally lets go and misses the dartboard completely. Ryan would laugh but it’s taking a lot of concentration to not fall off his chair.
“Maybe I should just give up girls,” Jim says. He tries to pry an errant dart out of the crown molding but it’s pretty high up and the effort it’s taking is obviously way out of proportion to how much he cares about it. He grabs the chair next to Ryan and turns it so he can sit facing the back, his chin on the backrest.
“Huh?” Ryan answers, then stifles a giggle at how dumb he sounds.
“Girls.” Jim clarifies, sketching a wobbly hourglass with his hands. “I don’t know if they’re worth the trouble.” Ryan can’t exactly argue with that.
“Always wanting to talk about their feelings,” he offers.
“Right.” Jim nods emphatically, almost whacking his chin on the back of the chair. “Or marry their fiancés.”
“Hate that.” They brood in silence for a minute.
“I could be a monk.” Jim says thoughtfully. He is moving his knee back and forth and it keeps bumping into Ryan’s. At first he tried to move away each time, but now he’s not bothering. His skin is starting to feel like it’s a size too small for his body, like he shrank it in the wash.
“You could, you could be a monk.”
“Nice life as a monk. I wouldn’t even have to talk if I didn’t want to.”
“Hard to beat,” Ryan agrees. “Plus maybe you could be a Shaolin monk or whatever and then Dwight would totally respect you because you could kill him with your mind. They can do that, right?”
“It’s settled then.” Jim slams his empty glass onto the table top. “Monkhood, here I come.” Ryan raises his glass in salute. Jim’s eyes look glassy and wounded, like he’s fucking Bambi or something and Ryan feels like he shouldn’t be witnessing this. He’s too drunk to be witnessing this. He’s not drunk enough.
“I don’t want to go home.” Jim sounds like a little boy. Ryan thinks for a moment before he says, “My roommate is out of town.”
It takes 10 minutes to catch a cab. They stand on the curb and Jim kicks at the toes of Ryan’s shoes while he scans oncoming traffic and tries to hail a cab without falling over.
When one finally pulls over it smells like leftover meatloaf and vanilla air freshener, but they’re in no position to be choosy. Ryan lives on the other side of town. It’s a pain in the ass when Michael makes him come in early to fetch him Danishes or dry-cleaning or whatever, but he likes having the buffer zone there in case he needs it. It’s mental more than anything else.
Jim is slumped back against the cracked upholstery. When the cab hits a pothole his head lolls over to rest on Ryan’s shoulder and instead of straightening up, he just leaves it there. Jim’s hair smells like cigarette smoke and Prell.
“That’ll be $12.80, buddy.”
Ryan tries to get to his wallet without pushing Jim off his shoulder, but Jim moves away on his own, tossing a $20 into the front seat before Ryan can even get his hand into his pocket.
They haven’t even closed the front door before Jim is kissing him. Ryan isn’t sure quite how it happened; Jim just sort of made a hiccupy noise and fell on him and now he’s backed up against the wall with Jim’s tongue in his mouth. Ryan’s never kissed a guy before so he concentrates and uses his tongue a lot so he can figure out if Jim tastes different than the girls he’s kissed. A little, maybe. Saltier, more tangy.
Jim’s hands are fumbling with his belt, his mouth open against Ryan’s. Ryan can feel him hard and ready. When Jim snakes his fingers into his boxers, Ryan slides his hands under Jim’s shirt and lets him.
“You said your roommate’s out of town?” Jim’s voice is a rumble against the side of his neck. His hips are pushing Ryan up and into the wall.
“Until Monday.” His voice is surprisingly steady, all things considered.
“Okay, then,” Jim says and lowers himself to his knees.
“I think I’m transferring to the Stamford branch,” Jim tells him the next morning as he pushes the lever down on the toaster.
Ryan just nods. He knows he shouldn’t be, but he’s a little relieved.
title from the song by Freddy Fender