WILLIAM JOHNSTON AWOKE Friday morning a different man. He didn't know it yet which made it all the more surprising to him. But he'd figure it out, in time. That's the way it always works.
The first thing he did that morning was take a nice hot shower. Only that day, it was merely lukewarm. Whatever, he thought, at least it's Friday. He lathered up and scrubbed the sleepy from his eyes. He was tired of this soap, maybe he'd buy a different brand this weekend at Wal-Mart. Something that smelled different. They needed some more toilet paper and Beth said something last night about needing some more tampons. Maybe he'd splurge on some quilted paper this time instead of the store brand. Scented like lilacs or maybe something manly.
William finished his shower and grabbed his towel.
"Good morning, honey."
Beth was half-dressed and brushing her hair in the mirror. Long and brown with a shock of curls, he'd always liked it that way. Something made him look down at the shower drain and he groaned inwardly. Why was his hair in such a hurry to flee, where was it going in such a rush? He dried his head carefully, trying his best not to offend the few scragglers that remained loyal.
"I put detergent on the list," Beth said, applying her makeup.
"Yeah, I told you I started a list."
"What do you wanna do for dinner tonight?"
"I don't know."
"How about we order in Chinese and rent a movie?"
William sighed. "We do that all the time."
Delicately penciling in her eyeliner, Beth said, "Well what do you want to do?"
William paused and actually thought about it. For a whole twenty seconds he pondered the possibilities and weighed them against what he wanted. Nothing. Nothing at all came to mind. The trouble was that he had no earthly idea what he wanted.
"I don't know. I'll think about it." It was the best he could do.
He left the bathroom and went to the closet. What to wear today? Black slacks, white dress shirt, third tie on the left. Maybe the fourth. Fifth? He chose the third.
Coffee was waiting for him in the kitchen. Beth had fixed his travel mug just the way he liked it, a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of non-dairy creamer. Ah, Maxwell House, good to the last drop. He took a small sip but something wasn't right. It was the same as always but somehow it didn't taste right, like he'd grown all new tastebuds overnight. Oh well, he drank it anyway.
"Bye, hon, I'll see you tonight," he said, kissing his wife on her cheek, lightly so as not to mess up her face.
"Okay, think about what you wanna do."
"Huh?" He stopped at the door.
"Oh, yeah. Tonight. I will."
Traffic was stop and go, as usual. No wrecks or anything interesting, just cars full of people going to their everyday jobs. No smiles. NPR blathered on about stock prices and OPEC and the president's foreign policy. It drizzled.
A security guard checkpoint after a badge scanner and a steel revolving door. What a joke. Who'd want to break in here? It's American Express for Christ's sake, they don't actually keep money in the building. Hell, the money doesn't really exist anyway, it's all just a bunch of paper with numbers, spit out by computers with numbers. The numbers changed, the computers didn't.
Geoff was such a dork, always trying to keep up with the latest street speak and fads. Why couldn't his parents have spelled it J-E-F-F like everybody else? Maybe then he'd be a little more normal.
"It's Friday, man."
"Aw come on. Nothing big planned for this weekend?"
"Not really, no." Geoff looked like he had to pee but was stuck in the grocery store checkout line and couldn't go, so William let him off the hook. "I give, what are you doing this weekend?"
"There's a new club opening downtown."
"There's always a new club opening downtown, Jeff." Sometimes when William spoke Geoff's name, he pictured it the way it should have been spelled to begin with.
"So, don't you ever wonder why the clubs downtown are always going out of business?"
"I'll tell you why. It's because everybody's always flitting around to everything when it's new and exciting. But when they get tired of it, they find somewhere else new to go."
"It's called the N Club, with just the letter N, get it?"
"You know, a smart business man would repaint the club every month and rename it just so everyone would think it's a new club. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than going out of business and I bet no one would ever know the difference."
"Carrie's going with me."
William looked at him. "Third floor Carrie? How'd you swing that?"
"Yeah, uh … well, I had her friend Monica set it up for me."
"And you're taking her to a club?"
"Yeah, what's wrong with that?"
William shook his head slowly. "Geoff, isn't the purpose of going to a club to meet women? Why would you want to take one with you?"
"She's hot. That's why."
"But you're taking her to a place full of hot guys that, frankly, look a lot better than you. And they can actually dance. You do know that leaning up against the wall nursing a beer isn't really that attractive don't you?"
"Well, I already told her we're going there."