It was sold to him as “It’s one of those things where you dread it at first, but when it’s over, you realize how much you’ll miss it. Like summer camp. Or monogamy.”
Yet he still agreed to go to the party.
It was almost time.
He grudgingly closed his laptop. He should have kept writing. A breakthrough was close. He almost had the female character figured out.
He removed each of his items of clothing and jumpshot them at a giant clothes basket, that looked like it had a previous gig transporting nuclear waste. Every shot went in. He was entirely too proud of that, as he walked into the bathroom.
Buttons were fiddled with until the right song kicked in — The Blam’s “Various Disgraces.” It immediately made his mood eleven percent better.
The shower water temperature was perfect. He stood still and let it pour down over him. The Blam gave way to a song by The Cure with a title he never remembers, but when it gets to the chorus, he always sings along.
He lacked the ambition to jerk-off. His fourteen year old self would have flipped him off in disgust, if his hands weren’t busy.
Promises given, and pruny fingers, forced him to get out and towel off.
He stared in the mirror at not-quite wrinkles. They were coming.
“Son of a whore.”
He grabbed his razor.
He put his razor back.
Grey hair shows up better when hair is wet. In this case, grey hair that women would line up to take credit for. Like a fledgling terrorist group trying to get their name attached to a small act of nature, just to gain some street cred. Or something.
He ventured into the giant walk-in closet, dubbed by friends as “the wife catcher.” His clothing took up, maybe, one-sixth of the space. And most of that was baseball caps and Adidas Gazelles in various hues.
A pair of battered old Levi’s were grabbed. They were joined by a t-shirt that looked old, but wasn’t, and had a picture of a youngish Clint Eastwood on the front. It bugged him that he wasn’t positive what movie it was from. But he was reasonably sure it was A Fistful of Dollars.
He selected his newest black Adidas Gazelles. (He has three pairs of black alone.)
He left the closet, only to quickly return and grab a University of Texas baseball cap.
Getting dressed takes longer when you’re in no rush to get where you’re going. He decided he would tweet that later.
When fully-clothed, he took a deep breath, and ventured out into the world.
He started his truck, his ipod kicked in, and an Eel’s song, “Beginner’s Luck,” started playing. From a previous, more optimistic drive, he assumed.
For no particular reason, he peeled out of his driveway. His fourteen year old self took a brief break from his activities to give him a “Fucking right!”
He didn’t write down the address of, or directions to, the party. He was hoping he’d forget. But he knew better.
He drove west over rolling hills.
He drove west along silent rocky shores.
The truck windows were down, and the smell of night wafted through.
He put his arm out the window and did that thing where you help let the wind move your arm like a snake.
The sunset was hanging on as long as possible in the late evening September sky.
He pulled up to the party. There were quite a few cars there already. His ipod had wandered into his collection of 90s songs, and he wanted to listen to Toad The Wet Sprocket’s “All I Want” before heading in.
He would have listened to Justin Bieber to delay.
He shut off the truck, climbed out, and made his way up the driveway.
He up-nodded some greetings to barely-acquaintances.
A drunk woman hugged him.
He walked in.
He looked around.
He missed his comfy desk chair and warming glow of his computer screen.
He made small talk. Very small talk.
Feeling like it had been too many hours since his half-assed supper, he made his way over to the food table.
There were interesting, and colourful-looking, mini-sandwiches on the corner of the table. He grabbed one and popped it into his mouth.
He started to chew.
A napkin was pressed into his hand. He turned to see the presser. It was a twenty-something brunette. Gorgeous. Dark eyes. Short. He would have noticed more, but he had to get the offensive concoction out of his mouth.
He inconspicuously spat the sandwich into the napkin and dropped it on the floor and kicked it under the table.
He turned to her. She nodded.
“Right?” she asked.
“It tastes like disappointment and kale,” he replied.
He “oh fuck”ed. In his head.
She introduced herself. A fairly common name for a wonderfully uncommon girl, he already suspected.
“What brings you to this particular chamber of horrors,” he asked.
“My cousin and her friends wanted me to meet some writer guy coming off a bad break-up,” she said while grabbing a handful of cheese.
He nodded. She laughed, a little sheepishly.
They both turned slowly and saw a group of people staring with unhidden anticipation.
“They’re subtle, you gotta give them that,” he mumbled, still tasting the sandwich.
“Well I see two ways we can go with this,” she whispered. “We can pretend to just really hate each other.”
“That’d teach ’em–”
“Or we can make out right now.”
“You hmmmmm’ed!” she accused with glee.
“You can’t prove that.”
“You think I’m cuuuuuuute.”
“I don’t blame you. I’m pretty adorable.”
He stared for a few moments. “Yeah I think I could like you.”
They talked. He critiqued the music. She stole cheese off people’s plates when they weren’t looking.
“I’m usually shyer,” she mentioned with a mouthful.
“That many Ls wouldn’t lie.”
They talked. He told her stories about the attendees. She liked the wine.
“Fiiiiine. If you’re going to fall in love with me eventually, you might as well give me your number now,” he said.
“I trust that you’ll only use it for good.”
“You’re as brave as you are lovely.”
“I really am,” she agreed.
She stuffed more cheese into her mouth.
She said, “It’s pepperjack!” More or less.
He laughed again.
She shrugged so cutely it caused him physical pain.
She sang along to that catchy song from the 90s that he very well knew the name of, but tried to pretend that he didn’t.
And he wondered.
Then it was time for her to go. As he was about to offer, she told him she’d ask him for a drive, but she promised something or other to her cousin. He just nodded as he tried not to swoon over her dimples.
She hugged him. He delayed-returned it.
She smiled and waved and walked away.
He stood by the table for a few minutes.
A different drunk woman hugged him.
He climbed into his truck.
He turned the key.
He fiddled with his ipod.
“Where’s that Eels song?”