The Price of a Drink

Electro house music crackled through the speakers as blue lights sent shadows drifting across nameless faces around me. More than once I thought I recognized someone from home, but I knew that was nearly impossible. I ran away from my abusive dad in the Connecticut suburbs, hours away from this shack of a bar in Brooklyn.

After my fourth week of working long hours in the city, my new friend, or whatever he is, James, and I were dancing and drinking away our fourth weekend in a bar. We left bills unpaid on the kitchen counter in our mouse-infested flat, so we could afford the New York nightlife.

“I need a cigarette,” I said, nodding towards the stairs.

‘What Kaitlyn?” James yelled over the music. He took another sip of his fifteen-dollar drink.

I raised two fingers to my lips and yelled, “smoke!”

James hid our drinks behind a speaker at the DJ booth and guided me with his hand at the small of my back up the stairs. The affection sent warmth through my hips as we ascended onto the cold street. Outside, he took off his vest and wrapped it around my bare shoulders. I wasn’t used to someone being so kind.

“I really like you,” James said.

I blew smoke circles into the Brooklyn air and scooted close to him. I found James on Craigslist. He was looking for a roommate, not a girlfriend. I liked him too, but wasn’t ready to admit it yet.

I flicked the butt of my cigarette and let out one last puff of smoke. “Ready?” I asked. James nodded.

Inside, he retrieved our drinks and we danced our way through the crowd until we found an opening on the dance floor. We synchronized our breaths with the beat, with each other.

After the set change, James downed the last drop of vodka from his cup and asked, “Do you feel okay?”

I nodded. I was safe beneath the disco lights. It was one place that remained constant. The place I could go when things went south at home.

“Something’s not right,” he said. I stopped dancing. James’ eyes were unfocused and his body swayed uncontrollably.

“James?” I asked. “Are you okay?” In the back of my mind, I already knew he wasn’t. Someone had slipped something in his drink and it was likely meant for me.

“I think so,” he yawned. “I need to go to bed.”

I wrapped his arm around my shoulder, and my knees threatened to buckle under his limp body. It didn’t matter. “Let’s get you home,” I said. I could feel his breath slowing against my neck. “Stay with me, James,” I said. I dug my heels in to get him up the stairs. Not one person looked. Maybe too many drunks pass by night after night to notice.

Outside, city lights glimmered beyond Brooklyn, now quiet except the whooshing cars in the distance and the clacking of my heels against the concrete.

“Kaitlyn,” he whispered into my ear, “I think somebody roofied me.”

“Shh. It’s okay, James,” I said. “We’re almost home now.”

When we reached the subway stairs, James collapsed. “James!” I shouted. I knelt beside him and grabbed his collar, shaking him. “Wake up, James!” He didn’t respond. I grabbed my phone from my back pocket and dialed 911. The gravity of not having him seemed too heavy to hold. Would I make it here alone?

“9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”

“Oh God. I think this guy…my friend…er boyfriend..was drugged.”

“Okay, Miss. Can you tell me where you are?”

“Umm….Yeah…I’m at the Bedford L train station stairs. Please hurry. He won’t wake up.”

***

Ten minutes later, James was being strapped to a gurney.

“Will he be okay?” I asked the paramedic, who responded by shaking her head uncertainly.

“We won’t know for sure until we run tests at the hospital.”

Please let him be okay. He’s all I have.”

Photo courtesy of Pexels

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17 thoughts on “The Price of a Drink

  1. She’s an interesting character! Actually, they both are. I’d like to learn more about their story and I think there’s something in here to work with for a longer piece.

    Be careful of some of the repetition at the beginning (fourth week/weekend) and repeating some of the backstory. I also felt like some of the details were a bit cliched, like rat-infested apartment, but because of the length of the piece you can get away with it.

    Oooh, this piece makes me excited. I would love to see where you take it next.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Interesting to have the male suffering the effects of being slipped something as it’s usually always the female.
    I’d be interested to know more about the woman in your story. You’ve clearly stated she’s run away from abuse but why to Brooklyn. Why has she not made any friends despite being around long enough to have bills mounting?
    An interesting starting point to something bigger.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The pantomimes necessary to communicate at a loud bar brought me back to my college days. The dialogue and the actions you ascribed to the characters as they were talking were fine examples of showing and not telling. So fine that when your story did tell, it stuck out to me. The abusive dad and the actual slipping of the roofie were good opportunities for a scene. I found myself more interested in those points than in how she and James met, or why the bar was important to her.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. A showing of an abuse backstory might be describing bruises on her arm of mentioning the presence of a hotline card in her purse. A showing of the bar backstory might mean giving a high five to the bouncer on the way in or the bartender having their drinks ready for them when they walk in. Not just stating “her dad abused her” and “it was her favorite bar.”

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Kaitlyn’s escape to the big city, her recklessness with money, and the way she clings to the only person in her life (James) and the safety of the dance floor all felt very believable to me. I was a little confused on how much distance she’d managed to get from her father – she’s had the apartment in Brooklyn for four weeks, but then she’s afraid of things “going south at home.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow, that was very impressive. I love how you switched it up and had the man in the story get roofied. It was intriguing to see a woman’s perspective on handling that situation and also scary that it could have been her.

    Liked by 2 people

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