As I walked through the door of Buddy's, the familiar scent of dank, smoky air mixed with nachos filled my nostrils. I liked the familiar feeling it gave me to be there. It reminded me of that show "Cheers"; everybody knows your name, especially if you are regulars like James and I are. At Buddy's is where I first met James six years ago. We were sophomores at the local state college. Buddy's Billiards isn't too far from campus, and is the only place where I could play a decent game of pool.
James is a taller guy, just shy of 6'2" with bright blue eyes and brown hair that flips up at the ends and almost covers his eyes. He introduced himself to me sometime in the winter I believe; and he beat me at a game of eight ball. Since then, we quickly became friends and found comfort in the conversations we had over our games. Now that we've graduated, we go to Buddy's every Friday night as a nice way to unwind from the pressures of the workweek. James being a science nut, graduated from Florida State with a degree in physics and works for the airplane company, Pratt and Whitney. For me, it was always math that peaked my curiosity, especially calculus. I graduated with a degree in mathematics and have a job as an actuary at the insurance company downtown. Perhaps our love for these subjects was what made us love playing pool so much. We were good at it because we saw all the possible angles to shoot from and get our balls in the pocket.
This past week seemed to go on forever and I have never been gladder that it was Friday night. I had been through so much this week I couldn't wait to share it with James. I arrived first and James strolled in around 7:15, late as usual making some excuses about traffic. We changed in a couple bucks, ordered a plate of nachos and I broke the first game. Stripes. James started by asking for my advice about a coworker. James and this man had a presentation in front of the CEO on Monday. He really wanted to get the promotion but only one of them would. He asked what I thought of him sabotaging the other man's work as he bounced the cue ball off the wall, not even hitting the solid four ball that he had aimed for. I told him that perhaps he should just go the extra mile and make his section of the presentation as best as it possibly could be. As I tapped the striped nine ball into the pocket I said, "And a little sucking up never hurt either, invite Mr. Pratt out for lunch or something." James agreed and asked how my date with Eric had gone on Wednesday night.
"It was one of the more interesting dates I've been on in a while." I told him.
"How do you mean?" He asked with a quizzical look in those blue eyes of his.
"Well, we went to that new club downtown, Crimson Lights. I had a bit too much to drink and I think I told him that I loved him and he got far more than a goodnight kiss if you know what I mean." I could feel my face blushing as I told him this and tried to focus on my shot, yet missed terribly and scratched. He placed the ball in the kitchen and made a corner shot on the four ball. He was one ball up on me, but the game was far from over. I asked James how his date with Teresa had gone. I knew Teresa well; we were in the same English class in college. I even lived with one her close friends, Liz in our senior year. He chuckled, but accepted my change of subject.
"Teresa is great, I'm really glad you could set us up Kristen." He said to me smiling. "We went out to that new place down the road, Martino's. Although, she did only get a goodnight kiss," he said teasing me, "but I'm going to call her over the weekend. Maybe we'll grab a coffee or something at Starbucks."
Just great, here he was about to start a new relationship with her, and I was about to end one. I couldn't be that easy the first date and expect to get away with it. Everything always seemed to work out for James, I thought to myself. He was on his way to getting a promotion, seeing Teresa, and now beating me by three balls. He just knocked two in a row in. Although I can't complain about anything really, I love my job and I make more money than him to start anyways. At least I had him there.
"My little niece Anna, is turning six on Tuesday. We're having a family party." I told him. Frankly, I was looking forward to it. No one gossiped as much as my Aunt Jane. I loved hearing about what was going on in everyone's lives.
"That's nice, what did you get for her? Is your entire family going?" He questioned.
"Well, I got her this addition to her video game console. It's called Eye Toy. You can hook it up and use your body as the controller; it's the latest I guess. And yes, the whole family will be there. You know what that means."
"Oh, I do. I love you Italians and the amount of food you consume at family gatherings."
I couldn't help but laugh. He really did enjoy my family parties; I had invited him to a few before. He really loved my grandma. I got lucky; three of my balls were all in close proximity to the middle pocket. I got them in two shots, as I made a split decision to invite James. My mother was always saying how she thought we should get married at 35 if neither of us were. He and I always let out a hearty laugh when she said that. I felt a lot less guilty, and the game was now tied. James agreed to come on Tuesday.
The race was on; both of us needed the eight ball. The competition at this point always gets fierce. James and I are both competitive people, I hate to lose, I really do. I think that is why I became his friend in the first place; I had to avenge my loss. But this time seemed different. There wasn't the edge there normally was. For once, James wasn't talking trash to me. My brain wasn't thinking ahead to the next shot I'd make to try and get the eight ball into the pocket. It was, odd.
It was the only time I ever didn't finish a game of pool. It was also the last time James and I ever went to Buddy's. It was like we were one brain. We both just laid our sticks on the table and walked out. Oh, and we had a great time at Anna's birthday that Tuesday. And now that our 35th birthdays are nearing; I'm looking forward to James popping the question.