You have no choice.
It is the thirty-first birthday party for a close girlfriend of your boy’s ex-fiance. As such, you were not exactly invited. But you were all friends in college who had stayed in your college town. The town is small. So, you and your boy were not uninvited, just not encouraged to attend. The two of you decide to show up and, if history is any guide, show out. You start with champagne in full red plastic cups.
Your boy steps away to survey the crowd, to piss off the ex-fiance and her calf-high-leather-boot-wearing friends. It is a large party. You lose him. This is fine. You’re not interested in gamesmanship. You’re interested in drunken, hazy, possibly unprotected sex.
You scan the house in all its coordinated glory. Your apartment is nowhere near as large, nowhere near as considered. You do not have coasters, or real wooden blinds, or sets of matching glasses. What you have are pint glasses stolen from bars, shot glasses collected on road trips, and your own red plastic cups.
Whilst scanning, your eyes fall on her navel. She’s wearing a short sleeved half-sweater. It’s December. Your college town is not warm in December. It’s barely warm by the third Thursday in May. You appreciate her effort. Each time you look, you’re moved to take a drink. The champagne, which has somehow become scotch, empties. Her abdominals are tight. They are symmetrical, strong. You don’t have abdominals. You have a stomach. Like an old time trophy, it’s growing handles on each side. You start to point her out to the guy bending your ear about the playoffs. He’s wearing a polo shirt and a backwards baseball cap. Fuck him. Let him find his own. You step away in mid-defensive breakdown.
In the past hour or so, you’ve accomplished the drunken haze. You found your boy, who had caused his ex-fiance to rush out in a seething, one woman tailspin. Your boy wants to propose a toast. High out on the heated deck, you’re back to champagne. Now you take it straight from the bottle. You smoke cigars, having been told once that there are women who enjoy the smell. You don’t remember who told you that or when. You’re leaning on the rail. Your boy wants to toast to brotherhood.
“To brotherhood,” you respond.
“I’m drunk as hell.”
“Now that I got rid of that bitch, I’m going home.”
“Yeah . . . That makes sense.”
“And I can drive home. I’m good.”
He pauses, looks past you.
“You don’t think I can drive home?”
You raise the bottle again. “I think if you have to ask me, then no, you can’t.”
He claps you on the back, tells you you’re a good man, and goes back inside. You’re pleased to be alone with the bottle. You toss your cigar butt from the deck. It hits the playoff guy on the top of his backward cap. There is an orange spark. He looks up. You step back and turn around. She’s standing there scowling at you.
“I wasn’t trying to hit him,” you say. “Really, it was an accident.”
“Your friend is an asshole.”
“My cousin’s a wreck.”
You process. Her cousin is the ex-fiance. What is the bearing of that? Is there any? You make a point to look her in the eye. Drawing upward, you complete a full view of the half-sweater. You decide that, no, her role as cousin has no bearing here.
“What’s your name?” you ask.
“Did you hear what I said about my cousin?”
You extend your hand.
“So you’re simply going to ignore me?”
Simply, you think. That’s something. She’s seems young. Twenty-two. She’s in jeans that must’ve taken a good while to squeeze into. Yet, the simply fits.
“I’m not ignoring you. I’m setting a proper tone for our conversation.” As you say this, you still hold a near empty champagne bottle. You look for a place to set it down.
“Oh, is that what you’re doing?” she asks.
“Simply,” you say, with what you perceive to be some sort of cagey smile.
She doesn’t react and still hasn’t told you her name.
“Are you in school?” you ask.
“Ah, Cali,” you say. “What brings you east?”
“Family. Winter Break.”
“What do you study?”
“Is this an interview?” she asks.
“No, it’s not an interview. It’s an earnest attempt at seeming interested.”
“So, what do you study?”
“A little of everything. None of it very well.”
“Ah, I don’t believe that.”
You have no sense. None, in general, and no sense as to whether you are charming. Inside, over her shoulder, you notice the party thinning. Your boy is knocked out on the living room couch. He is in the fetal position. His shoes are on the leather. He
could easily be drooling. Considering your next step, you wonder whether he’s already screwed this up for you.
“My apologies to your cousin. My friend had a few drinks . . .”
You shrug, hoping this is enough.
She says, “It’s not your fault, but thank you.”
“You wanna take a walk with me?”
“At one thirty in the morning?”
“You’re right. We should wait a few hours.”
She laughs. She has a glint, a glow. It is one with which you are familiar. It is the one-thirty-in-the-morning-long-night-of-drinking glow. It works.
“C’mon, we’ll walk to my car. I’ll drive you home.”
It’s not your car. When she leaves to get her coat, you rummage through your boy’s pockets. You take his keys. You go to the downstairs bathroom, right off the kitchen. Every towel matches. You splash cold water on your face. Your eyes burn anyway. You open the medicine cabinet, looking to score some SCOPE. When you see it, next to the floss, you begin to sense that luck is on your side. Minty fresh, you meet up with her at the front door.
Thankfully, your boy purchased a car well beyond his means. It is all shine and digital automation. It even has ass-warming seats. Your new friend pretends to be
She directs you to her crying cousin’s place. You support this on a few levels. The cousin’s building is four blocks from the party. She could’ve walked, but wanted you to
drive her. Plus, four blocks is at the top of your drunk driving range. By the fifth block, you’d be in some trouble.
You park a half-block from the building. You notice more than you would’ve guessed. For one, your boy has the car set to an ’80s station. Karma Chameleon is playing. You wonder if your new friend knows the song. You lose this thought once you notice her shifting in her seat. Her coat is undone. She turns toward you with knees pointing inward. The coat and sweater rise higher above the jeans. You look to their button. Is it unfastened? Is the vanilla you smell her or the car? You hope to God it’s her.
She thanks you for the ride and leans in. The next thing you notice is how fresh her face looks, how when you kiss her cheek the ease makes you momentarily nervous. To alleviate this, you push your tongue into her mouth.
You lead now. Your hands roam. They rub. They grab. They really unfasten. Your mouth follows. She follows, with a fear that you discern but don’t consider. You are attached to a breast. Attached. You think you hear yourself growl. She takes this well and moans. Your hand moves inside the jeans. There is only skin there. You are ready.
In a whisper melded with your deepest bass, you suggest a change in venue. She assents. You gather yourself. A new song plays in the car. The Boss is singing Dancing
in the Dark. Your new friend says, “Hmm, I love this song.”
You’re driving now. Your place is not far.
She asks, “Bon Jovi, right?”
“I know . . . Before my time. Sometimes I swear I was born in the wrong musical generation.”
You could’ve sworn you heard a computerized DJ announce that Dancing in the Dark was from 1984. And a generation is what, a decade? More? Turning onto your street, you have a headache. You crack the frosted window for air. Again, you have no sense. You have worry, but not sense. You ask her, “So, what year are you in school?”
“I’m a junior.”
You count five years on one end or the other. Outside your place, with the car still running, you new friend intervenes.
“I know what you’re thinking.”
You’re glad she says this, because you could use some help here.
“Of course. And the answer is no?”
The litany of questions flashes. Your drunkenness, which had worked so well up to now, has turned on you. You keep going.
“No, this is not my first time.”
You hope to God Like a Virgin doesn’t start playing.
“That’s good,” you say, turning off the car.
She moves close again, grabbing your thigh. You push yourself back against the headrest. You force your eyes to stay open.
Regrettably, you ask, “What’s the name of your school?”
She kisses your neck so that you barely feel.
“Your school, what’s it called?”
She whispers, “Grover Cleveland.”
With that, your eyelids win. She’s a junior in high school. Your new friend who is kissing your neck and working on your zipper is a junior in high school. You are thirty-three. You have no sense. You have no choice. And, tomorrow afternoon, you will awaken alone.