The loud crashing of glass bottles tumbling to the floor echoed through the kitchen. Mack grabbed the corner of the marble counter to catch his balance as he stumbled.
“Hey, man. You a’ight?” Big Man hollered from the next room.
“I just lost…stupid bottles in the way…” He grumbled, and then yelled back, “Yeah.”
He went to kick a liquor bottle, missed it and kicked the cabinets. Pain shot through his toe and made him instantly jump back, throwing him further off balance. He gripped the edge of the counter tighter to prevent a fall and stop the room from spinning. For a moment, he thought maybe he had pushed it too far tonight; drank too much, smoked too much. The worry was fleeting, and he reached for a glass from the shelf.
The kitchen was a mess. The counters were covered with every variety of alcohol, mixers and cups. The bottles were blurring together in a kaleidoscope of colored glass. He could hardly see straight. It was pointless to attempt to read the labels. Mack knew he was too far gone for that. Instead, he grabbed whatever was closest and sloppily poured it into his glass. He didn’t bother with measuring or mixing. He’d drink whatever it was straight. All that mattered was that it was alcohol.
The more he drank the duller his mind got. The blur, the lack of focus and feeling was his blissful goal. Lately, any moment of peace he could obtain was the result of reaching the bottom of the bottle. Down there, in the lows of drunkenness, nothing hurt anymore. He could erase memories of her one sip at a time like a science fiction movie. The effects were short-lived. Sober, everything flooded back. His empty bed and lonely house were constant reminders that he was alone, again. Alisha was still engaged. All he had was money and fame, which suddenly felt like nothing at all.
It had been a while since he could recall being sober.
A firm grip grasped his shoulder.
“You okay?” Big Man kept his voice quiet so the guests in the other room couldn’t hear.
Mack nodded his head and reached for the glass he had just poured, but Big Man grabbed it faster.
“I don’t think you need that. You got a room full of pretty girls out there and are you are a mess of a drunk in here. Pull your shit together, boy. I don’t know what has gotten into you lately. It has to stop. It’s embarrassing.”
“I’m good…I’m good,” Mack slurred. His eyes were hazy as they tried to focus on one of the three images of Big Man’s face in front of him. Nausea started to well inside him, and he could hardly stand up straight.
Big Man took his friend’s arm and threw it over his shoulder. He steadied him by holding his chest as he started to lead Mack up the back staircase to his room. Big Man tossed him on the bed.
“Ow! Hey! What was that for?” Mack exclaimed and then began rolling around laughing drunkenly.
He shook his head. “Get some sleep.”
Big Man entered the house and immediately felt the need to shower. It smelled like a frat house the night after a kegger. Stale booze lingered in the air, the marble floors were sticky and caked in mysterious black sludge, and there were empty bottles and red plastic cups scattered throughout the mega mansion. A big difference between this scene and that of a college campus was that it wasn’t sorority sisters passed out, but rather video vixens and models curled up and snoozing on nearly every soft surface. It was almost two in the afternoon and everyone in the house was sound asleep.
He checked all the likely spots in search of Mack, but every bedroom turned up empty. He wasn’t in any of the three sitting rooms, not in the home theater, and there was no sign of him in the guest house. Big Man wondered if the kid was even home. He was moments from calling Trina, Mack’s assistant, when he spotted the rapper by himself soaking in the Jacuzzi adjoined to the pool. He held a cigarette in one hand and a crystal encrusted goblet in the other.
“You look like hell,” Big Man said as he made is way over.
Mack looked up at his mentor through his darkened shades. He spread his arms wide as if to showcase himself. He seemed to want to have a witty comeback but settled for a shrug and a nod of the head.
Big Man slipped off his shoes and hung his feet in the water as he took a seat next to Mack.
“Manny, if you’ve come to lecture me again, you can just stop now. I am way too hung over to hear it,” Mack launched in.
“I got a call from your security team this morning,” Manny began. “If you are going to keep throwing parties like this, you gotta be more careful.”
“I said I don’t want to hear it,” Mack said after taking another long drag of his cigarette.
“A bitch tried to steal your ‘rari.”
“But she didn’t. Isn’t that what I pay those guys for? To make sure my shit stays my shit?” Mack said plainly. “Now, if she had gotten away with it…that would be somethin’ else. Then we could talk.”
Manny sighed and shook his head. “When’s the last time you left the house?
“Why would I need to? I got everything here. And what I don’t got, gets delivered.”
“Seriously, how long has it been? You’ve been back from tour for almost four months now. You broke up with that chick, Monique…”
“Monica,” Mack corrected.
“Whatever. Monica. You split and then became a damn hermit.”
“You told me to stay away from the paparazzi.”
“I didn’t tell you to lock yourself away at home like a freaking crazy person. What is up with you?” When there was no response, Manny continued. “You need to get out, bro. Tonight. Let’s do it. You get yourself cleaned up. We’ll go to my club and do it right.”
“I told you this is exactly what you needed. We own this shit. This club is ours,” Big Man slapped Mack happily on the back.
A smile snuck across Mack’s face. The night had gone better than expected. After much protest, Big Man had finally dragged him out of his home down to the club. The DJ was on point. The crowd had a great vibe, and the women looked like a walking underwear catalog, especially the one next to him perched on a white leather sofa. Her legs seemed to go on for days, stretching out from the barely there black mini dress down to her sky-high pink pumps. Her black hair was long and straight, flowing down to her lower back. She traced her long red nails over his thigh as they talked.
“What is it you said you do?” Mack asked pleasantly as he casually leaned back.
She batted her impossibly long eyelashes, “I didn’t.”
Mack laughed. “Okay, then what do you do, Amber?”
Amber swirled the olive in her martini glass with her pinky nail then licked off the boozy liquid seductively. “I’m a dancer,” she conceded.
“Nice, nice. What company are you with?” Mack’s brain instantly went to modern dance or ballet. When Amber didn’t answer, he kept asking, “Like a backup dancer or something?”
Amber shook her head.
Then it dawned on him. Suddenly it clicked. He didn’t need to keep asking. He knew she was a stripper. Over the years he had spent more time in strip clubs than most. He loved dancers, and they loved him, or at least they loved his money. Amber felt different. Even though she had made her way into the VIP and targeted Mack, he didn’t get the vibe she was after his cash. She was special.
“I don’t plan on doing it for long. I’m saving up to move,” she added.
“I feel ya. You should come back to the house with us. Keep the party going.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t. I have to work.”
“Tonight? Naw, no way. You can’t go into work. We are just getting started.”
“Why don’t you come by? I promise I’ll make it worth your while,” Amber whispered in his ear.