Was someone really banging the door or was it my head pounding? The clock read 6:13 AM. It was both. Someone had the nerve to insist ruining my two hours of sleep and wake up me up with a terrible hangover. I had been out with my friend Frankie the night before. We were joined by our close buddies, Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker. “Stop the damn pounding,” I moaned.
I waddled my way to the door still dressed in clothes from the previous night of frivolity. My shirt was filled with all the smells from our wild night out marking the beginning of the New Year. There was the cheap perfume from the newly minted divorcee who I bought one too many drinks, as was well as the smell from the peppermint schnapps she poured in my hair just to be cute. She wasn’t. That I remembered. She may have been damn good looking but there was no way I wanted to hook up with that crazy bitch, who was on a mission to ruin a perfectly good party.
With eyes barely pried open, I struggled to unlock the door. It was Frankie. The guy had more energy than the parade of twenty something’s we saw last night kicking it all around the dance floor at the stroke of midnight. None of them turned into Cinderella and I for sure don’t feel like anyone’s Prince Charming.
“Get your ass showered, dipweed,” Frank said. “There’s no way you’re backing out. We talked about this last night. You promised you would be ready no later than 6:30. You even said you would have the Dunkin doughnuts and coffee ready by the time I arrived. Don’t you remember?”
I remembered thinking I no longer had the energy or desire to act twenty three. I would be turning forty in two weeks. I had lost my job of fifteen years the week before Christmas because I was late one too many times. My life was going nowhere.
“Pack up, we are going on a road trip.” Frankie said.
Maybe I was going somewhere but I had no idea where.
“Florida, don’t you remember?” Frankie said. “We’re going to my sister’s place. The car is full of gas. I got clothes for a month or more. Come on, get ready. First get a shower, you stink. No way I’m smelling you all the way down I-95. It’s too cold to put the top down. Hurry, I want to beat the rush hour traffic outta the city.”
No, I didn’t remember making any plans to go to Florida. But why not? I was soon turning forty, unemployed, single, no kids, what was holding me back from a few days on the beach? Hopefully his sister didn’t have a houseful of rug rats to wake me before noon.
I stuffed some tee shirts, shorts and two pair of faded Levis into an old army duffle bag I had picked up the army surplus store. I rinsed the stench of schnapps from my hair and tried to remove the taste of too much whiskey from my mouth. After stopping at the corner store for a cup of hot joe, we were on our way for a few days of glorious beach weather, leaving the cold and snow in the rear view mirror.
The first day of the trip ended with us checking into a Motel Six in Lumberton, South Carolina. Right next door was an all you can eat pizza parlor with beer on tap. My kinda place. Frankie and I strolled in as if we owned the joint. It only took two seconds to realize we didn’t. The place was filled with Gamecocks banners and football memorabilia. University of South Carolina was playing USC in a college bowl game. The place was crammed with ravaged fans screaming at the undersized televisions hung in every corner. Frankie and I downed a pitcher and a pizza each before scrambling back to our hotel for a nights rest.
The next morning Frankie had to shake me to wake up. “Come on, I wanna get there before nightfall. Let’s dip our toes into the ocean before heading to my sisters.”
“What’s the rush? Who cares what day we arrive? The ocean will still have water in it in two days, I can promise you that,” I said.
“Don’t you back out on me now,” Frankie said. “Our New Year’s resolution was to be at my sister’s joint before nightfall on January 2nd. You promised right after you tweaked your back after trying to do that line dance with all the secretaries from Pisker and Edwards at the party. How can you have forgotten so quickly?”
Maybe it was the ten shots of Jack Daniels, I thought. But I rolled out of bed and after having my first ever bowl of grits with my eggs and toast at the local diner, we were on the road again. We blew through Georgia in no time. Jacksonville had a smell I couldn’t identify but one I didn’t want to smell again. We saw a few hogs and deer along the road. This was not the beach.
After jumping off the interstate near Daytona for a quick burger and fries, Frankie took us to the beach. We waded and played in the ocean like kids. The beautiful babes in bikinis must have thought we were nuts. I didn’t care. After drying off I told Frankie I wanted to stop for a drink before getting to his sisters place.
“Nah, we’re only about thirty minutes away. Stick to your resolution,” Frankie said.
What resolution? I thought. Frankie had convinced me along the way my resolution was to make a road trip with him to Florida and stop for a few days at his sister’s before heading home and starting New Year’s off in a proper manner. If we were only thirty minutes away, what was one drink going to matter?
“No, Frankie said. “No drinks. My sister will provide us both with everything we need. I called her, she’s expecting us. Don’t you remember any of this? She promised she would take good care of us.”
I vaguely remembered Frankie’s sister from when were kids. She was a lot of fun back in the day. Maybe she did have some kinky escapades all lined up for me and Frankie. I took one last whiff of the fresh salt air before jumping back into Frankie’s blue beamer.
As promised, it only took another thirty minutes before we pulled up in front of his sister’s place. The memories came rushing back like the water falling from Niagara Falls. Frankie was right. It was my New Year’s resolution. I wish we had stopped for one more drink before arriving but it was too late. The pitcher of beer would forever be my last drink. Frankie and I had promised each other to dry out at his sisters rehab facility. Some claim forty is over the hill. For me, forty was when I started living with no excuses or hangovers. I was a new man with a new life thanks to Frankie, his sister and the New Year’s resolution that saved my life.