Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part post. The story is just too long for one post. Part 2 and my critique are either on the way or already here!
Human Sea Change
Written September 27, 2007 (Age 21)
The moon, full, lit up the night brilliantly, casting shadows like an alien sun. Gary stood on the edge of the curb, the toes of his feet clenching and unclenching in his shoes which reached just off the concrete and over three and a half inches of airspace. Here, in the middle of the night, people were somehow still moving and living. Up and down the street Gary could see houses with lights on inside. Naturally, some of these were parties going on in other houses, but those that interested Gary most were the ones with only one person inside.
People often forget that night jobs exist. Crazy hours, ones you wouldn’t even think of using for anything other than sleep; people were filling them, making them worthwhile. People were working on highways and cleaning buildings. They were checking people into emergency rooms and towing cars. Some were driving trucks and some were actually sorting the mail at this hour when most of us are away, dreaming. Gary watched a few of them move about their living rooms, they would disappear from sight and then return wearing another piece of clothing or holding a cup of coffee.
Drunk, a bit high, Gary wondered how these people could be experiencing such sober, dull as dust
, daily activities while he was taking a mental break from a party that was only beginning to wind down. Standing on the edge of nothing that made up the curb, Gary began to envy them, just a bit.
Gary turned. Two things registered instantly in his mind. It was Emily, and he was falling.
His ass hit the pavement, but the pain felt distant; it was the beer. Thankfully, it didn’t
effect affect him so much that his arms weren’t paying attention. They pushed out behind him, scraping his elbows but saving his squishy head.
“Damn it!” he yelled, the quiet night sending his message out to the town. Emily was bent over laughing, a shaking mass of lime green t-shirt and yellow skirt. Her laugher soon became as loud as his initial scream. By the time she calmed down, Gary had gotten over the fact that she was laughing at him. It was even starting to seem a bit funny. He laughed, and the beer made him feel warm.
“Wow,” Emily said, reaching out a hand to help him up. “I can’t believe you. Do you always get so drunk?”
Gary took her hand, watching her brace herself to adjust for his weight. She pulled him up. “I’m not drunk,” he said, “you just surprised me.” This might have been a good lie, but ‘surprised me’ didn’t come out quite right. It ended up sounding more like ‘surpizzdmi’.
“Uh-huh,” Emily said, grinning. “Me neither. In fact, I don’t even drink.”
Gary looked at the red plastic cup Emily was holding in her hand. “Uh-huh,” he said, returning her smile. “Say, did I ever tell you about that time I saved those orphans from that flaming bus?”
“I remember that. Did I ever tell you about that time I rescued all those nuns from Godzilla?”
Gary laughed. Emily was so cool. She always played along, and she was actually pretty good at it too. Gary couldn’t think of anyone more fun to just shoot the shit with.
“Are you okay?” Emily asked, now being serious. She frowned a bit and Gary was amazed at how quickly she could change from laughing, smiling, joking to worry and concern.
“I’m fine,” he said. His elbows throbbed. Gary changed the subject, still feeling foolish for falling. “Why are you out here?”
Emily looked down the street, “I was just going home.” She brought the red plastic cup to her lips and drank. She emptied the cup and through it into the garbage can by the curb. “I’m done with this party.”
Gary looked up at the two-story college rental house. The curtains of the windows were drawn, but light was still coming out from around the edges. He could still hear the sounds of the band playing in the basement, the roar of the party muted by the closed door.
Earlier that evening, Gary had been sitting on the arm of the couch in the living room of Steph’s house. The sound of an electric, existential, mildly drunk music experience was coming up from the basement of the overcrowded rental on Maple. The house was packed.
Gary had come before the party had officially started and had watched as the house slowly filled with people and sound. The band started playing at nine. The party didn’t reach it’s high point until nine forty-five. In this time, Gary had observed the various traveling parties come in through the back door. The most typical groups were made up of three to five freshman males and one or two freshman females. Occasionally, a threesome of females entered together, usually dressed alike, conservatively or otherwise. People also arrived in ones and two. These were the “cool” people. Juniors and (gasp!) seniors who had cars and significant others and lived off campus. These people actually knew Steph. Not that Steph was any great judge of character, Gary knew a lot of the guys who came to her parties were hoping to take advantage of how easily eighteen-year-olds could be impressed. Not that there was anything particularly shocking about that.
From upstairs it was hard to tell whether the sound was music or not. The bass, turned to full volume, vibrated the floor with each note. The singer, who had been drinking before he began singing, was now screaming into the microphone, fighting and losing a battle for volume against the bass. The drums were somehow able to match volume and, incredibly, tempo, the effect being that certain cymbal crashes were heard by the partygoers. The electric guitarist never had a chance, but played on just the same, letting the sound ring out at the end of each song, knowing that these were the only notes people could actually hear.
Gary swirled his plastic cup idly. All around him, people were laughing and screaming and drinking. They touched tentatively and grabbed brazenly. They relished in this moment that repeated itself each weekend. They watched the beer pong tournament happening in front of them, what Gary had come to think of as an oddly appropriate symbol of American culture, the perfect fusion of competition and binge drinking. Gary looked without seeing the shots. He laughed to himself at the six gentlemen standing around the table wearing different versions of what was essentially the same striped shirt. Four of them had popped their collars.
Gary did not have a collar to pop. He was listening to a girl in a loud green, V-necked shirt sitting near him on the couch. She was in the lap of another gentleman, one who looked inclined to pop his own collar.
“I love everyone,” she slurred. A boy with hopeful eyes on the other side of the couch listened closely as she said this to him. She leaned into him and kissed his lips. Anyone who was watching could tell it was a good one.
She pulled away from him and turned to the boy who was serving as her chair. She squinted at him, smiled, and then kissed him as well. The boy with the now dreamy eyes didn’t seem to notice. Her chair didn’t seem to care.
“I don’t see why I can’t love everyone,” the girl said. She reached out to the table in front of her and picked up a red plastic drinking cup. She upturned the cup and drained the last of the liquid. She frowned. The boy with the eyes noticed. “Can you-” and before she had finished asking, the boy was walking away with her cup in his hand, going for a refill. “It seems like everyone loves me,” she announced happily to the boy she was still sitting on. He took this opportunity to kiss her some more.
Gary’s phone started vibrating in his pocket. He pulled it out, looked at the small LCD screen and saw Steph’s name. He was instantly annoyed. He knew she was in the house somewhere, but instead of just finding him she had chose to use satellites instead. He picked up the phone.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Come upstairs,” she said. Then she was gone.
Gary looked down into his plastic red cup. There wasn’t much beer left. He drank it, set the cup down on the table, and went upstairs to find Steph.
End Part 1
Shocker of shockers, I used to party in college. I was too broke and studious to hit up the bars every night like some of my schoolmates, but I made time every day for at least one weed or wine break, and the weekend started on Thursday as far as I was concerned. (I’m not so much shocked as jealous)
The party in this story is based on a series of parties I attended at a specific house when I was a freshman. It was the place to go if you were underaged. The people who lived there turned a handsome profit, essentially running a speakeasy every weekend. There was beer and liquor, and I know at least one of them sold drugs. I’ll bet there was some gambling going on somewhere in the house, too. Remember, I wasn’t cool or anything: everybody knew about this party (Not me). I don’t know who the actual owner was, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his last name was ****ing Gatsby. (First name ****ing, last name Gatsby. No relation.)
I’d usually roll up on the party with a couple of female friends because I was pimping like that and also because I wanted to make sure that they were safe and got home okay. You know, as pimps do. I’d drink too much shitty beer too fast, run my mouth about anything, and was generally enjoyed as a comedic spectacle, if not genuinely liked.
I had no game when it came to hooking up at parties. In hindsight, it’s probably because I typically don’t know if I want to sleep with someone until I get to know them. But at the time, I would sleep with anyone; I just rarely managed to do so starting at a party. If you were going to sleep with me back then, it was either because you thought I was awesome (What a totally weird reason to have sex!), or you were as big of a slut as I was.
No, I did my random flirting in the daylight. Parties were for getting FUUUUUU**ED UUUUUPPP!!! (priorities) I blacked out for the first time in the basement of that house. I remember watching some guys playing beer pong and a band rocking out in the corner. The basement was humid and packed with drunken undergrads. I had been pounding Keystone Ice out of the keg and was working on number 9 or 10. I was hanging with Zelda and Hilda when our friend Poo showed up.
And that’s the end of the story as far as I’m concerned. There are pictures of the four of us hanging out for the next two hours in several different rooms of the house. We’re passing a joint in one of them. There are pictures of us walking back to the dorms and climbing up the staircase (…redecorating, doing macrame, opening a gateway between dimensions. You know, drunk sh*t) .
I don’t remember any of this (a shame, as we could really use that perpetual motion device you invented), wouldn’t believe it had happened if there weren’t pictures. I woke up in my dorm the next morning with a killer headache, totally unaware that three hours of my life were missing from my memory. It wasn’t until I saw the pictures on Facebook the next day that I realized what had happened. I thought it was weird, but it didn’t slow my drinking down much. I’d black out several more times over the next decade. We’ll see if those “memories” are good enough to share.
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