He was going to stay a while.
I hadn't seen Stef since my birthday, almost a month ago.
I should have known something was up.
Before he even snapped his first cap, he was rolling up his sleeve. His left arm was so black and blue, he looked tattooed, like a younger and stupider version of Jessie James.
"I got hit by a bike a few weeks ago," he said, revealing contusions that spilled down from his shoulder to his wrist.
"Yeah, right," I said.
I knew the bike defence from my drinking days. Anyone who showed up at the Press Club, all bruised and battered, had fallen down drunk, and the best defence was the old bicycle courier tale.
I'd used it once myself, I am ashamed to say.
Stef's story turned out to be true, but as with most stories of its kind, it involved the extreme use of alcohol. In his case, he had been partying with friends in the market when a girl pulled out a bottle of Absinthe, extra strength, the European variety which is a million proof. It was 2 a.m. and the party of idiots were walking down the street when Stef staggered off the sidewalk and into the path of a fast-moving cyclist who ran over his arm.
Then the guy got off his bike and started swearing at the silly little fellow who was pinned under his wheel. Realizing he might be charged, the cyclist sped off leaving Stef to pick himself up and crawl home.
"Did you go to the hospital?" I asked.
"No, remember? I haven't got my health card renewed yet."
"But your birthday was in January."
"Mum," he sighed. "I haven't got time. Besides, the mercenaries said that I was alright."
"Yeah, I met them at a friend's place."
"What friends do you have who are friends with mercenaries?"
At that precise moment, the conversation switched to whatever funny video Stef was watching on You Tube.
You see, he hasn't got time because he's a waiter. And he's busy waiting tables and playing video games and falling off the sidewalk after swilling European poison.
"I'll take you to get your health care tomorrow," I said. "And your passport. When are you going to Europe again?"
"I don't know. Sometime in September."
"Have you emailed Olga with your plans yet?" I asked, referring to the friend in Germany who I have assigned to keep Stef safe and away from Absinthe.
"No, my computer broke. Remember?"
"Okay, so we'll go and get your health card, your passport application, renew your learner's driving permit (which had also expired in January), then we'll swing by Best Buy to get your computer fixed so you can email Olga. K?"
"Can we do it later? I want to sleep in tomorrow."
Ah, to be 24 and stupid again.