“Let the games begin!”

“You look like crap,” says my cousin who’s standing on the sidewalk before me near the entrance to his building. It’s 6:30 in the morning on a Sunday and I’m crouched by the curb, tying the shoelaces on my battered Mizunos and when I start to look up at him the first thing I notice is a very large dragon tattooed on his left shin, crawling all the way up to the thigh. His legs are slender and smooth, shaven entirely. It takes me half a minute to figure the large blocky ‘M’ with a dot above it embroidered on his cap: It stands for iron man, that triathlon… sports… thing.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” I tell him as if apologizing and of course in the back of my head it secretly translates to my not getting any sleep at all, having come over almost directly from Jimmy’s party the night before.
“I can smell the booze from up here, you know” he says with a smirk but not disapprovingly.
We are running together in this 10K race competition this morning.

Most of last night I remember in brief flashes of memory:
The last thing I remember well is I think Cindy standing on the other side of the counter, asking me why the champagne on her glass looks different from everyone else’s, redder. It’s because she had poured herself the cheap-ass Lambrusco instead and never realized.
She ended up throwing up over a wastebasket at the parking lot before we made it to Kay’s for some life-saving pasta after the party. By then she already had three or four band-aids stuck to her ass, over the fabric of her dress. I’d found those in her purse and I kept putting them there every time she bowed down to vomit as Dennis held back her hair.

Then there was when I went to the freezer and found the bottle of Stolichnaya. I went up to Monika and Martha and when I was just about to pour some orange juice on my glass Monika reprimanded me with a slap to my wrist. “We’ll drink it straight” she said with the usual stern look and icemaiden composure, which after a friendship of 15 years I'm pretty sure mean an inner smile.
I ended up pouring some orange juice after she’d turned her back to talk to Martha anyhow.

We left the party with Kay. Monika was in the front seat with him and me and Dennis and Cindy sat in the back. Dennis had a plastic cup filled to the brim with Baileys and we were drinking it all up as if chocolate milk. “Who wants an espresso?” he’d slur before passing it around. Martha followed us behind with Bryce in his car.
I have no idea where we got the Baileys from. I think it was Martha, who poured the entire bottle on that plastic cup before we left. I think I remember her giggling because she’d spilled much of it on her cleavage or something.
The rest of it was mostly a blur, I think.

I only fully realized what I’m doing well into the race, there by the third or fourth kilometer. My sweat reeks of stale champagne and I’m panting like a dog, and even though I’m not exactly experiencing my top performance I’m actually holding my own, surprisingly enough given my poor condition: Looks like all the training in the park must be paying off after all, what do you know.

It’s then, halfway into the course when I start noticing this sharp pain on my forearm and when take a good look at it there it is, an inch-wide wedge-shaped burn mark that as sure as hell wasn’t there the night before.
Later on today, when we’ll meet up Jimmy for dinner he’ll tell me he’d burned me with somebody else’s lighter during the party to stop me from stealing all the strawberries from the topping of his birthday cake.
“Really?” I’ll ask him. “Wow.”

I end up finishing the race in 47 minutes, 29 seconds, though: 273 out of I think 2162: Not bad at all, you know? That’s well above average, especially for a drunken idiot. Not bad at all indeed.
My cousin of course finishes it in 39’, and his brother in 42’, and as we’re standing by the swimming pool at this swanky country club they belong to, sometime later, they get me to enroll at this other race coming up next Sunday.
This time though, I think I’ve learned my lesson and I hope to do it clean.