It was almost Charlie’s 19th birthday and Sam decided he was going to take him out before the drama of finals week started. Sam had already helped Charlie with one of his group project presentations that he knew he didn’t need to do anything for Charlie’s birthday, but he felt like doing something anyways. Sam had a friend who drove small private yachts around. He made a deal with Sam to rent one of his yachts out for the night without it driving anywhere. Sam made sure to clear Charlie’s schedule and invite some of his friends from back home and from college. Sam also invited a few guys he worked with and borderline trusted. He invited the bouncer from the strip club and the guys from the garage that Charlie had seen. But before all the madness begun Sam took Charlie out for lunch to discuss the night’s festivities and plans. Charlie had to agree that any of his friends who drove would give up their keys and be sleeping on the yacht or would be taking a taxi home. He also had a limit on the amount of people who could come so friends of friends were not allowed. He also stated that if any of his friends got out of hand he would turn them into the cops himself for underage drinking and sneaking onto the yacht. He also stated that most importantly he had to be called Marcus for the night because if he called him Sam around people he worked with he would probably have to kill Charlie. After lunch the two stopped by a palm reader they had seen outside the shop. Charlie sat down and listened to the lady who read his palms.
“Both your parents are alive. They are still together. One is an accountant and the other is an artist.”
“Oh c’mon you have to have better details then that.” Sam said.
“You have two older siblings. One brother and one sister: Lauren and Patrick.”
“Wow that’s amazing. How’d you know their names?” Charlie asked.
“You are an athlete. Football?”
“Yeah I played in high school.”
“Honor roll student as well.”
“You can get all this from my palm?” Charlie asked. Sam put his hand out towards the lady. She reached into her bag she had next to the table and gave Sam a folder with papers inside.
“It helps when she’s looked at your background profile. Even though a lot of this stuff you could probably get online now-a-days. I’m more worried about any arrests, fights, or anything interesting.”
“You ran a background check on me Sam?”
“It was a birthday present. It just wasn’t for you. It was for me. You’re having all the fun today why can’t I have some too?”
“Can my present be that you just have a conversation with me instead of having my family investigated on? Some things I’m sure I’d rather not find out.”
“So if one of your parents was having an affair… you wouldn’t want to know?”
“I know what you’re doing Sam. I’m not answering that.”
“Good. Because your mom’s kind of hot and I kind of want to hit that.”
“Gross man. Some things you just can’t talk about.” Charlie said walking away.
“Why not? There should never be any secrets between us! I’ve thought about her in the shower before!”
Charlie and Sam got in the El Camino and drove off. Charlie went back to the dorm to meet up with his friends and get ready. Sam went to get things situated at the party.
Charlie showed up to the docks with four of his friends from home and two of his college buddies. Sam had hinted that it was a smaller yacht and it would probably be a few buddies listening to music and drinking some beer. When Charlie and his friends showed up at eight the party had already begun and they could hear the music as they approached the yacht. There had to already be twenty people on the boat and none of them Charlie noticed right away until the guy from the garage yelled something at Charlie about his sister. Charlie just smiled and let it go. He was already in a good mood and knew tonight was going to be one remember. They entered the yacht and Charlie went looking for Sam. He walked inside and saw Sam sitting at a dinner booth playing poker with three other guys. All four of them were smoking cigars and had a beer and a stack of chips by their arms. When Sam noticed Charlie had arrived he folded his hand and had Brett, the one friend of Charlie’s that Sam had met before, take over his place playing cards. He tossed him a beer as well after he got out of his seat.
“I’m glad you finally showed up buddy. I was starting to think you weren’t going to show up.”
“Yeah we went out to dinner and kind of lost track of time.”
“Well I hope you didn’t have dessert I got something special for you guys.” Sam said walking towards the kitchen area. He opened up the freezer and there were three big cartons of ice cream. “Now these aren’t regular ice cream. They are alcoholic ice cream. I wasn’t going to bust them out until your friends got here. It’s an easy way to get a light buzz without getting out of control.” Sam handed Charlie a carton and then picked up the other two. “Follow me.” Sam walked outside to the deck and up the stairs. There was a small deck with a hot tub up there. Three girls were sitting up there in their bikinis with only their legs in the water. “Ladies the birthday boy I promised you is here. I got some special ice cream for you too that I said I’d get.” Sam handed one of the girls a carton and pulled out several plastic spoons from his pocket and put them on top of the ice cream.” Most of Charlie’s friend looked a little out of place and were following Charlie as Charlie followed Sam and Sam had noticed. “Boys! It’s hot tub time. These ladies are waiting to be charmed. They want to talk to educated college boys. Get in your boxers and hop in.” Sam went over and whispered to one of the girls. Charlie and the three friends that had followed him got undressed to only their boxers and got in. There was a keg up there that Sam went over and tapped and then motioned to all those in the hot tub before yelling “Party on!” and walking down the stairs.
Sam made sure to go over to two of Charlie other friends who were hanging out on the downstairs deck drinking a beer and introduced himself as Marcus and introduced them to a few of his friends on the yacht. Charlie noticed all this from the upper deck but after a few drinks he felt relaxed and started flirting with the three beautiful girls that were in the hot tub. Charlie didn’t see Sam for the rest of the night. After relaxing in the hot tub for a while one of the girls had convinced Charlie to dance with her on the lower deck where the music was louder. They danced for a while and ended up flirting a little bit more on the couches that were on the deck. That led to some kissing and before Charlie knew it he was in a bedroom with this girl getting a private lap dance with only the faintest sound of music. Charlie was in that stage between tipsy and drunk but felt surprisingly clear headed and euphoric. He had enough sense to make sure the girl he was with wasn’t too drunk. He assumed that they might end up having sex but after the lap dance he received a blowjob and then the girl said they should get naked in the hot tub and ended up dragging Charlie out of the room and towards the hot tub. He had to pull up his pants as they left the bedroom. The girl let go of Charlie’s hand after they were down the hallway and Charlie thought he heard someone stumbling at the back end of the boat. Charlie went down to make sure it wasn’t one of his friends stumbling around. Instead he found Sam sitting back there laying on one of the tanning chairs watching the ocean and drinking a bottle of something.
“What are you doing back here man? The party is all up front. Some girls are about to get naked in the hot tub.”
Sam laughed awkwardly. “Well sounds like some ladies can’t handle their booze very well.” Charlie laughed. “How you feeling bud? You enjoying your party?”
“I’m feeling great man. I’ve been talking with one of those girls all night.”
“Oh yeah? Which one?”
“I think her name is Vanessa.” Charlie laughed. “That’s kind of messed up. The girl just gave me a BJ and I’m not even sure what her name is.”
“Well one of them is Vanessa. She a brunette? She has a nice rack but she has a perfect booty?”
“That’s the one!” Charlie said and chuckled. “Man this night is amazing.”
“You’re telling me. I paid the blonde to mess around with you. I’m getting my money back now.”
“Wait! You actually paid a chick to mess around with me?”
“Well it’s your birthday. Everyone should get birthday sex or at least a blow job in your case. Those are just as nice. I wasn’t sure how you’d react tonight. I thought you might feel awkward, freak out, and leave before midnight. That’s why I’m glad some of your friends came down here.”
“So that girl didn’t mess around with me just because you paid her did she?”
“Hell no bro! I paid the blonde. You’re a good looking dude. That was all you. Now go back and get seconds from her! Have sex with her in the hot tub for all I care. Just make sure nobody records you.”
“I’m not that drunk. I don’t think I could have sex with people watching me.”
“You’d be surprised what you can do when ladies put pressure on you.” Charlie got up from his seat.
“Aren’t you coming back to the party?”
“Nah I’m doing alright right here.”
“Yeah. Sometimes I just look passed it all. I have my mind on other things.” Charlie sat back down.
“I don’t know. Just what I’m doing with my life I guess. I have fun. I do things for people that those people are too stupid to even realize I did for them. I have a buffet of friends who would drop everything to help out Marcus but they don’t even know who Sam is.”
“But you don’t trust them? You think they’ll not be friends with you if you tell them your name is really Sam?”
“I know they won’t. I put on a mask, well metaphorically, and I play a character. I pretend to be who that person needs to be. Tonight I’m the party thrower who makes sure everyone is having a good time. It’s all an act. Anything that is slightly out of character I can just blame it on the alcohol. This is just how people like to have fun and how they like to party but this isn’t the party I’d want to have with all my good friends.”
“What would you do?”
“Not this.” Sam took a drink from a liquor bottle. He wasn’t slurring any of his words so Charlie knew he wasn’t drunk.
“Can I ask you something Sam?”
“It’s your birthday. Do what you want.”
“I’ve known you for almost a complete semester. Sure we don’t hang out on a regular basis or anything but anytime I need help you come through. You ran a background check on my entire family just to gain information about me. You threw this party for me and spent God knows how much money on it but yet I barely know anything about you.”
“What’s your point?”
“Can we finally have a serious conversation where I get some real answers? Not just sarcastic answers or riddles that I have to decipher but a straight answer?”
“I can’t promise anything but I’ll try and be straight with you I guess. But just for tonight since it’s your birthday.” Charlie had a million questions he had thought to ask Sam over time but at the moment his mind was drawing a blank. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe he was just in a little bit of shock at how Sam was acting.
“How long have you lived above the bookstore?”
“Too long.” Charlie gave Sam a weird look. “I’m serious though. I’m not sure how long I’ve been up there. I don’t really keep calendars and I work through the night. After a while all the days just blur together.”
“How did you end up there?”
“I had a friend, a great friend. He kind of set me up with the place. He was a real con man. I learned a lot from him.”
“And after you got kicked out of school you couldn’t go back home?”
“I went back home for a little bit. It just wasn’t home anymore. My dad took the news of me being kicked out of school really bad and he completely overreacted. He wanted me to petition the school, or apply to other schools, or at least let him help me get a job in the area but I knew that wasn’t right for me. We finally got into it and he gave me an ultimatum. He said if I didn’t end up back at school or take the job he had gotten me I was kicked out of the house. So I left.”
“And what does he say about you now?”
“He doesn’t. I haven’t spoken to him since.”
“What about your mom?”
“My mom had left a long time ago. You know that California dream. She wanted to be an actress and couldn’t chase her dream and try and raise a family. She’d leave for long periods of time until eventually she just never came back. For all I know she’s dead or making porn videos by now.”
“And your dad never tried to reach out to you?”
“He cut off my cell phone. My friend, who got me the place, also got me a new cell phone with a new number. Even if he wanted to reach out to me he wouldn’t know how to.”
“And you never tried to contact him?”
“Would you want to contact someone who gave up on you and through you out to the wild? I don’t think so.”
“What about siblings? Brothers? Sisters?”
“I have a younger brother. He’s 22 by now.”
“And you don’t talk with him either?”
“I kept in touch with him a lot through emails. I even got to see him a few times when I knew our dad wasn’t around but we had a falling out. He was so smart. Smarter than me.”
“That’s hard to believe. You’re the smartest guy I know.”
“We had different kind of smarts but he was really smart.”
“When he was in high school he was one of those guys you hear about. All the ladies loved him. He was always on some homecoming court but never really won. Good athlete and always on honor roll but he made that one big mistake. He got a girl pregnant when he was 17. He of course was chasing older girls trying to be like his brother at the time but one night at a party he slept with some 19 year old chick and she wasn’t on her birth control.”
“So he dropped out and you lost contact with him?”
“No…. I confronted him, like I always do with everything, and I told him he should get an abortion. It had only been two weeks since it happened and I told him it’d ruin his life and everything that he had going for him.”
“And he didn’t take that well I’m guessing.”
“He dropped out of school his senior year. Can you believe that? He didn’t even finish high school. He’s working some factory job somewhere. He’s not with the girl anymore and he barely gets to see his kid. He’s got a four year old daughter that he loves but will never really get to give her the best things in life that I know he’s capable of. He’s never going to find someone that makes him happy because he spends his whole life working and scheduling his life around the mom’s schedule so he can see his daughter as much as he can. That bitch named one of her friends as the godfather if anything happens to him. Nate doesn’t even know the guy. Well I know the guy. He’s a loser! He works at McDonalds and smokes weed all the time and he’s content with doing that his whole life. That pisses me off.”
“Sounds like you’ve stayed in contact a little though.”
“I’ve gone back to the area a few times. That person that did the background check on you I have him constantly check up on my brother and send me the updates. But he’s not really in my life anymore.”
“I’m sorry Sam.” Charlie was starting to realize that Sam was more alone and separated from society than he realized. He knew he did some work on the internet along with a few cons here and there for a bigger paycheck but he had no idea that he was so distant from any human connection. It was quiet for a few minutes. Sam felt like he was obliged to tell him a few things that couldn’t be found in a background check.
“My older brother, Patrick, the one I’m sure you had gotten checked out. He’s gay.” Sam looked over at Charlie interested by this bit of news.
“How’d you find out?”
“My sister and brother went to colleges in the same area. My sister was friends with some gay guy I guess and they went out to a gay bar for his birthday. When they were there I guess she saw my brother talking with some guys.”
“Yeah I thought you might enjoy that. Well my sister and brother got into it a little bit. My parents ended up finding out and after my brother finished school and graduated that year he took off to the east coast somewhere and barely even stays in contact with my family now. I was never really closed to my brother growing up because there was such a difference in age but now I wish I could get to know more about him and I don’t even have that opportunity now.”
“What’s the story with your sister?”
“I think she regrets ever telling our parents.”
“No I mean how are you with your sister? It seems like you have a good relationship with her.”
“Yeah we are real close. She’s always been there for me when I need help with girls, or rides, or even buying my clothes and stuff.”
“How much older is she than you?”
“Six years. But she’s always managed to see my games, come to graduations, and she’ll always send me something for my birthday.”
“Well that sounds pretty great man.”
“Yeah she’s a great sister.” Charlie looked over and saw Sam had pulled out a necklace from under his shirt with two rings on it. He was playing with them in his fingers. “Whose rings are those?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Well obviously it does or else you wouldn’t have them.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh c’mon! I thought we were actually talking.” Sam took a drink from his bottle and looked at Charlie.
“Trust me. I want to be able to tell you. I just can’t. I’m not ready to talk about it yet. There’s a reason why some things are left buried down deep in our souls. It’s because we can’t grasp the reality of it.” Charlie didn’t know what to say and the two of them sat there for a while without saying a word until Sam finally got up and walked away. Charlie stayed there and thought about his life and all the things that were important to him. People he didn’t spend enough time with or hadn’t appreciated. The relationships he had with people and who he wanted to become. When he finally found he was at ease with himself and ready to go to sleep he wandered back inside the yacht and found a quiet room to fall asleep in. Enjoy the moments you can with the people you love because you never know when they’ll be gone or when your path will change. The real gift that Sam had given Charlie was clarity.