Philip and James hadn't seen each other for just over a year. This was counted as a failing by Philip, who initiated the call that brought them together at a seedy bar under the Mississippi River. Philip was also under the mistaken impression that James felt a similar way about their elongated separation.
James had counted keeping away from Philip for twelve months as a personal triumph.
When the call came in, though, James' better nature triumphed and he accepted an invitation for drinks over dinner from Philip.
The two sat in a corner booth making the kind of forced bullshit small-talk that inevitably populates the conversation of such a forced encounter - James, feeling awkward and guilty for taking up such a large seating area in a crowded tavern, and Philip, oblivious to the various harsh glares and dirty looks sent their way.
The talked died down as Philip slowly ran out of questions to ask, and James slowly ran out of interest to feign. A defeated expression crossed Philips face as he pondered his next move.
"Want a piece of candy?" asked Philip, producing a ginger-flavored chew from his pocket.
"I guess?" replied James, gravely unenthusiastic.
"It's gluten free!" he explained excitedly.
James sighed and covered his eyes, trying his best not to lose his shit at this poor, lost acquaintance who fancied himself a dear and true friend, who had reached out to him over a perceived, if errant, obligation of shared humanity.
He tried, but failed.
"What in any of the variable definitions of FUCK would make you think I needed that information, Philip?" James demanded.
"You might be gluten intolerant?" Philip answered desperately.
"Philip, you've pretended to know me since 2009," James growled. "When, in those many years of uncomfortable closeness, did you ever observe me to avoid gluten?"
"I don't know," Philip squeaked.
"That's right, you don't, Philip."
"I don't understand."
"Philip, we are fucking hamburger an hour ago!"
"That doesn't mean."
"It does, Philip. It means exactly that. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to leave, buy a shitload of Taco Bell, and inject wheat directly into my eyeballs. Let's do it again next year."
Philip kept his seat in the eight-person booth for another hour. He ordered no drinks and tipped the bartender five percent because his gun and tonic was "too sweet."
James ate twelve soft tacos and was passably happy.