I was driving through Shreveport, when Read had called me and said to stop by, and so I did. I hadn’t seen Read in months. New Orleans was my destination, but while passing through Shreveport I wouldn’t turn Read away. I stopped over to where he’d said: a pool hall: Red River Barrels.
Years had passed since I was in Shreveport, but I remained familiar with the name Red River Barrels. I recalled driving past there in my youth and my father saying it was a place where people gambled. My mother used to say it was where my father would gamble. There was always a disconnect on that, but if I were to bet, it’s they both were right.
I typed in the address and let my GPS do the rest. On arrival I would see that although it was night the building’s facade had shone bright–red clay bricks, from the Red River–the lone aspect from my memory to pass time’s test. The sign outside had seemed to me different. I remembered it being green. Now it was white. By the looks of it though, white was the original condition, suggested the rust and rain stains.
I parked my car on the far side of the street, and I made a point of stowing away my GPS, radar, a wristwatch, and other various items–even an empty pack of cigarettes. Sometimes I’m told I’m overly cautious with this, but I’ll always recall a news report of a man breaking into a car for a one dollar bill. Normally I might let the empty pack be, but it was the night I guess.
Red River Barrels was booming. I wouldn’t have known this to expect, but as I’d discover it was a young person’s place to be. Lots of bodies outside, all of which obviously drunk–swaying, slurring, loud. To this I nodded with approval. Perhaps New Orleans would have to wait, I thought. I went in to find Read.
Read would find me first. In typical fashion he pushed me from behind. Hard. I almost fell over. I knew it was him. That’s Read for you: straight up obnoxious. I let with a big smile and we embraced. It was great to see the guy again. He hurried me over to the tables. Read was already beyond hammered but I’d gathered as much that he was in a game with someone. “Luke, Corey. Corey, Luke.”
“Nice to meet you, Corey,” I said, extending my hand.
“Nice to meet you.”
Apparently a friend of Read’s. I stood back and let them finish their game. Read was in his turn. “Drink up,” he said, nudging a quick glance toward a pitcher of beer, he then cracked his shot. “Fucking bitch sandwich,” Read yelled. Scratch. Corey laughed. I poured a solo cup and I began my binge. I had some catching up to do.
Reed and Corey were discussing music, and this topic would carry over through much of the night. They were both musicians. Read was a saxophonist, and fairly accomplished at that. He’d toured much of the southeast, with a jam band, while in college. Reed’s bread and butter though, has always been jazz. Corey, I would learn was a drummer. And by the look of Reed’s face and words, a good drummer. I was certainly out of my element, but I did my best to be relevant. I do listen to music, sure, but I’m no musician–Hot Cross Buns, via the recorder, if that’s worth mentioning.
But yeah, the night would carry on, the drinks poured, and we talked music, among other things. Corey was a pretty cool dude, I decided. Quirky, I thought. His sense of humor that is. Quirky. A trait which I always enjoy in people. He was an artist, too, in addition to being a musician. A cartoonist. He showed me a sample, with his phone. The cartoon was titled, Yelp Troll. It was literally a troll, trolling bad reviews on Yelp.com. Gave me a grin.
Corey was probably homosexual, I decided. He had this, somewhat lisp, I guess, is how I will say of it. But I never asked him, but mainly because I didn’t care. Corey was hispanic, and that much was plainly obvious. Also, he was quite short. Barely over five foot it seemed.
Perhaps I’d felt some need to make an impression that night. Perhaps I was just extremely intoxicated. But Reed wouldn’t give me a shred of credit for my thoughts on music, which was as I’d expected; Corey however, did–and that, to me was pretty cool. This was likely because we shared some common taste in music. He was into punk, as was I. So we had that. Reed was always a jazz guy–and a real purist at that. At one point in the night he and Corey were talking about a sort of brazilian music–I’d never even heard the name before. Corey knew of it, and he spoke on it with Read, but he’d seemed less enthused. Like I’d said, maybe I was extremely drunk, but while Reed was rolling his eyes, Corey was nodding in full enthusiasm to my thoughts on Husker Du, so, that was cool.
Before long we were all smashed to pieces. Reed began talking to a group of four men at the table next over. They each were as drunk as we. But all four of them were big dudes–one of them in particular, he must had been at least six foot six. This was a slight cause for concern. Not the simple fact they were big guys, but rather the simple fact Reed was smashed and he was talking to them. I’d kept looking at the scar on the back of Reed’s buzzed head: the product of a smashed glass bottle. But the four guys though were all laughing, and Reed had seemed to be only well intentioned. Perhaps Reed deserved more credit, I thought.
We played a few games with them. Cutthroat. A few rounds. They were cool guys. I was worried for a moment, not too much but still, and it was only because Corey was with us; these guys, they didn’t strike me as tolerant types, but they’d prove me wrong. Appearances can be deceiving, I conceded. We’d kept on playing, kept smashing away hours, until the last call. By that point the seven of us had might as well been tight, as we left Red River Barrels together. Read hopped in my car, Corey in his, and we followed the four others to a house to smoke a blunt. None of us should have driven, but hey, what’s done was done. I’m not a saint. I never claimed to be.
The blunt was solid. When we parted ways, Corey gave me a hug goodbye. I thought that was cool of him. Reed and I drove back to his apartment. On the way to, Reed punched the center console. He had a momentary fit over my “shitty music.” He ejected the CD and threw it out the window. This though I knew was independent of everything but the alcohol. It’s just how Read gets. He’s not a saint either. So I just laughed. What else was I to do? It’s not like I was gonna trade fists with Read while I was driving. Not again would I do that. I’d actually done that with Reed before. It was stupid. So I laughed it off.
“I liked Corey,” I said. Read was now already over his little fit. He was fumbling with the radio and selected the local jazz station. “Yeah,” he said, “Now this–this here, this is music. This is David Brubeck, mother fucker,” Reed announced triumphantly.
“Yeah, David Brubeck, yeah, yeah, yeah awesome, my life is fucking complete,” I quipped. “Seriously, though. Your friend Corey, he’s a real cool dude.”
“You mean she,” Read corrected.
I was taken aback to hear this. “Wait,” I said. “Corey’s a girl?”
Read cleared his throat, “Yeah,” he answered, “Well, transgender, that is, so yeah. Yeah.”