It hadn’t always been this way. Once, he was one of the top three tennis players in his class. He had a good group of friends. About 43% of them, he had calculated one day, went away to college after high school– Brown, Duke, Stanford, Bryn Mawr, Vanderbilt. His two closest buddies, Johnny and Damien, told him that he was the smartest guy they knew. One of them ended up at Harvard Law. The other one was an adjunct professor of American Studies at some school in Paris. He forgot which one. Alex, however, still had four credits to go in his philosophy degree from the state university. Sure, he could’ve ended up in a think tank somewhere, but what was the point, really? He could breeze through “Notes from the Underground” in an afternoon, but he preferred playing a round of frisbee golf with a six pack and some valium at the course two blocks from his parent’s house. When Johnny and Damien would come home for the holidays, they happily slipped into Alex’s world which was a constant and true respit from adult life.
“Alex… take that $50 on the side table in the foyer and take the boys to El Patio for some margaritas,” Mrs. Whitney would say. Alex would stuff it into his neon orange and green velcro wallet and the three would head out to suck down some drinks and coat their stomachs with tortilla chips, salsa and piping hot queso. But the last time they hung out, there was no more talk about this or that chick. They stopped talking about the road trip to Belize or the t-shirt business/beer joint they would one day start together. Alex had worked up logos for it just before the guys had arrived. He took a whole night while he listened to Ben Lee on “Pop Candy” and made a business plan. It was two pages.
Since then, the trips to the outside world had become fewer and farther between. There was no phobia, then. Just a lack of motivation. He got an e-mail from Damien that he had met a French girl in Thailand. It just so happened that she lived only two miles from him. When they both returned to France, they got engaged. Johnny was steadily climbing the ranks of the law firm where he worked– was it tax law, or something sexy like being a prosecutor? He couldn’t remember, and he didn’t really care. He knew that his boys were sell outs. He knew that they really wanted to be entrepreneurs and bachelors just like him. They were pathetic. Maybe he could start the bar on his own. But his parents wouldn’t go for it. They were stingy and ridiculously frugal and they would never part from their money to feed his dream.
“Why don’t you support me?” he would ask them one night at dinner. Mrs. Whitney got hammered and decided that she was a chef and poured everything she could find into a crock pot. She used a bottle of wine from her wedding forty years earlier to make stew. It was terrible.
“We support you. You have a room. You have dinner. Everything else is up to you.”