I just realized the ending to my last post was a little ominous. We didn't black out at the party or end up on the side of the road somewhere, although both of those alternate endings would have made for a better story. We'd been up since before 6 am that day, so it finally hit us how tired we were. OK, I should say it hit me. Cayden was still dominating the flip-cup tournament and making friends with the Chilean miner, the ghost, and the chick magnet. But I couldn't keep my eyes open. And my head was itching severely under my wig. And Rae and Joyce had already left, claiming they were old women and too tired to party like we used to.
It was true. Back in college we used to party at least four times a week, chugging trash-can punch, Keystone, and anything mixed with McCormicks. We'd take Jell-o shots, buttery nipple shots, any free shot handed to us (I still regret that Bicardi 151 shot I took freshman year). We'd be out until the bars closed, then we'd move the party back to our apartment where we'd play drinking games or end up topless in the hot tub.
And now I can barely go out one night without thinking about how comfortable my bed is by 11 p.m. OK, let's be honest here, those thoughts start to form around 10, and get progressively worse by 11. By 12 I'm staring at my watch, urging it to fast forward to 1:30 so I can use last call as my excuse to leave. Oh, and going out two nights in a row? Fuck that. The hangovers are so bad now that any mention/though/memory of alcohol the next day sparks my gag reflex and makes me swear off alcohol for good yet again.
Gone are the days of all-night parties and Jello-stained fingers. Now my girlfriends and I find our joy in what we call "lazy nights." Nights we spend together at someone's house in sweatpants with a bottle of wine, take out, and a cheesy RedBox movie. I live for these nights. Some nights we'll try to convince ourselves to go out. We'll get dressed up, throw on a pair of heels, and spritz our perfume, and then at some point in the night someone will say, "Or... we could have a lazy night," and we all sigh a breath of relief and lunge for our sweatpants and corkscrews.
So when Joyce and Rae said they were leaving the party, I nearly begged them to take me with them. But then I saw that Cayden was wide awake and having a blast, so I locked it up. The things you do for love.
But I couldn't fool Cayden. He could see it in my eyes.
"Babe, you look exhausted!" he said after winning yet another round of flip cup.
"No, I'm fine! Keep playing!"
He yanked on my wig.
"Liar. Come on, let's go."
Before I could protest he was saying his goodbyes to his flip-cup teammates and leading me to my car, hand-in-hand.
"Whitney, I'm the drinking game champion! How does it feel to be dating a winner?"
I laughed and shook my head as I ducked into my car. Once inside, we both whipped our wigs off and threw them in the back seat and started scratching our scalps like it was the best feeling in the world. Because at that time, it was.
So much for sex with wigs on.
I woke to the sound of my phone alarm and Cayden's steady breathing. Wasn't it still the weekend? Why was my alarm going off on a Sunday? Hadn't I just pulled myself out of my warm bed the day before to stand out in the freezing cold cheering for Rae, on a Saturday nonetheless. I pried one eye open and stared at my flashing, beeping phone, trying to turn if off with my mental powers ala Alex Mack. No luck.
Cayden rolled toward me and kissed my shoulder.
"Did you forget how to turn it off?" he asked.
I groaned and reached for my phone.
"What time do we have to leave anyway?" Cayden asked.
I racked my brain for some recollection of where we were going and why I couldn't sleep for 5 more hours. Then I remembered we had to be at Smoke for Joyce's birthday brunch by 11. Carson, Rae, and I had planned the whole thing, so I should have remembered.
"It's only about 10 minutes away, but I get lost every single time I go there, so we should give ourselves 20 minutes. Let's leave at 10:40."
I checked the time on my phone and saw that it was 10:15. I reached for my hair and felt it matted down from wearing the wig all night. I was definitely going to need a shower. No time for morning sex. Good thing my shower is big enough for two.
Sure enough, we got lost on our way to Smoke. Or, I should say, I got lost. Cayden knew where we were the whole time. I don't know how he does it. He doesn't even live in this country but somehow he's able to visualize the city streets and tell me exactly where to turn to find my way. He's like a human GPS. A sexy human GPS, complete with that soothing, know-it-all, British accent.
Smoke is a little off the beaten path, nestled into a hill and adjacent to Belmont hotel in Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood. I only knew about it because we had our company Christmas party there the year before. One sip of their famous maple wood-infused bourbon and I was in love. One bite of their Texas BBQ beef coffee cured beef brisket and I was infatuated. This place is to die for. I went back a few months ago while I was on the Texas Toast media culinary tour, but this time it was the brunch menu I was drooling over. The bacon. Oh my god. I can't even describe the bacon. The menu says "Thick cut pork belly bacon," but I like to call it heaven. And if the bacon is heaven, then the heavy-handed blueberry and house-made ricotta cheese pancakes with vanilla-poached apricots and cream are the fluffy clouds that make up heaven.
None of my friends had experienced this little slice of heaven, so that's why I pushed for it for Joyce's birthday brunch. I was surprised to see that everyone had survived the Halloween party and managed to make it to brunch on time. Rae, Carson, Madisyn, Bryan, both Joeys, the Finch sisters, Rick, and birthday girl Joyce were all sitting hungrily around the table, masking their hangovers. (Well, except for Joey the Chilean miner. Pretty sure he was still drunk. Like really drunk. For real. Oh, and he was the only one still in costume.)
With Cayden's hand on my leg under the table, we all started talking at once. We were all recounting the night: Who drank too much (Joey), who dominated everyone in every drinking game (Cayden), and who came dressed as Humpty Dumpty (Rhett, a guy on my kickball team who showed up to the party after we left. I'm sorry I missed that.) We all filled in each others' blanks from the night before and threw back Double Barrel Bloody Mary's and Ladies and Gents (Bicardi Red Rum, champagne, honey-peach preserves, and an orange twist. Kind of like a mimosa on acid).
Half the table took my pancakes and bacon suggestions while the other half explored with dishes like smoked brisket cornbread hash, the omelet with salad and the things inside (Yes, that's what it's really called), and smoked salmon and collard green eggs florentine. We passed our plates around the table. We talked. We laughed. And then we ordered three more sides of bacon. Full of delicious food and surrounded by wonderful people, I'd never been more satisfied in my life.