I didn’t expect for things to change that day. I was almost done with the book, sort of dancing around the last few pages in the hour that I had left in study hall. Gail was in the library. She would always decide that there was some sort of valid research to do on days that I simply felt like reading a book, sitting alone by myself. The two of us were good like that. We were friends that knew we couldn’t always handle one another. She would need her library days, and I would need mine filled with the satisfaction of reading about similar feelings on death and isolation.
It wasn’t as if I felt completely out of place anymore. I was seventeen, a junior, with a license at the beginning of the year, and yet no car to use it with. In this sense, the thought of being somewhat impressive to all those who would only be around for the most minimal of time periods anyway, was one that managed to live in a divine place of lost reality in the back indexes of my mind. In any case, it wasn’t as if having a car of my own would have changed anything. Ferris Bueller got laid without a car and a best friend with issues, and yet I wasn’t somebody who even came close to his particular understanding of the world, especially at seventeen. No instead of planned excursions in the nearby big city (there weren’t any even reasonably close, but rather spots closer to civilization and those farther away in my small town) I instead planned out how to spend the weekend if there wasn’t some form of fliered recklessness happening.
I would sit in my basement, listen to old records, play video games, possibly steal some beer from Dave’s fridge, or tap into the full liquor cabinet located right next to the entertainment stand that was only occasionally visited by my mother when there was a free enough moment to blink in her life. Dave wouldn’t notice the beer missing. He never drank it. It was more so there as a party supply. There were imports regularly available for him to impress business partners, and some domestic for the Cretans. I hated my stepfather in the grandest sense of the word, and yet considering that the two of us had grown beyond used to each other in the past ten years, it didn’t matter much if a few things went missing. He owed it to me.
Lucas would come over, most likely, the two of us spending the time to get drunk and only talk about what other people were currently doing. We would eventually get so pissed at each other over what moves were cheaper, that one or the other would throw the controller, and the night would inevitably end. Either that, or I would sleep over at his house, and we would play video games in his computer room. It seemed as if my entire life was flashing before my eyes in a different series of rooms where I would spend time trying to focus on something that was less than worth it. And yet there weren’t necessarily other answers for me, out there, if there wasn’t a show happening that weekend, then there wasn’t something happening in my life.
That particular weekend at the beginning of November did manage to come together in the grandest senses of the word. I had already known about a show. It was Saturday, said to start at seven, but more than likely destined to start at eight-thirty. It was in a familiar location, Anderson firehall; a shithole in a terrible location. Our lives would become fixated there for a time, everybody drawn towards sounds of distorted fury.
I was by no means somebody who would consider themselves a punk. Punk seemed like something that died a long time ago, newly refined incarnations of what certain subjects thought or expected it to be, only seeming somewhat trite in their half-hearted attempts. In any case, there would be all the right prospects on that Saturday. The girls with all the right piercings and parental issues. There would be the ones angrier than most, running around in circles as they thought about what to say once they all stopped looking. There were those like Lucas and I. We didn’t consider ourselves anything. Emo was something that had become commercialized in tennis shoe ads, and while Indie seemed like a word that meant something, as each minor detail and lyric became more mainstream, the jocks making mix CDs with Jimmy Eat World and Lynyrd Skynyrd in similar occupancy while the girls latched onto the faded imagery of it all. He was cute in tight pants. I like it when he sings about doing cocaine. It makes him sound like a bad ass.
I was instead a hybrid. There were cool things intertwined with not so cool ones. Things that quickly gained hype, and those that would never truly fizzle. Old records held as much shelf space as new ones, and in this way, I would have things to talk about with her when the occasion arose. I knew that for sure. I was just waiting for some quaint feeling of circumstance. Something that told me, even if it were in a cold whisper, that things were on their way to being better. Good news existed, if only I had the time to think about such a notion. Instead I was slowly starting to drift off of the map. I needed to come to a few realizations about people I thought I knew, and furthermore to live life in a bigger way. Encloses spaces and basements with some solace are ideas that a man can only survive on for so long. Like Columbus, I needed to explore uncharted territory. Then again, he wasn’t looking for America, so much as a shortcut to somewhere else. I needed that shortcut, and lucky for me, Gail hadn’t gotten much work done in the library.
She walked back into the room with the largest smile I had seen on her face in awhile. It’s not as if Gail was ever the type to hate life, so much as she was used to its cruel verdict. We had become friends out of our lack of social skills, both stationed in the very back of the room for Earth Science, and having to pretend like we both cared. Through this, we fell into each other, and quickly her and Lucas did the same. We created our dynamic and it worked for the first two years. I consider those the golden years. We weren’t at all conflicted with who we were. It just made sense to dwell in our own absentmindedness, and attempt to forget about each long and painstaking day with a vital and highly reliable session of bitching in one of our houses. I had the basement, Lucas the computer room, and Gail her living room. Both parents worked the late shift at the hospital. They would only all see each other on weekends. She always had problems sleeping in that house.
I became the same way once Dave bought something bigger. All of my childhood had been spent wondering a backyard and structure that I had acquired all of the secrets of through my own sense of conquest. There wasn’t one section, one stair with a small creak in it that I didn’t know about. And then all of a sudden one day they decided to move. I was farther away from Lucas, but closer to the video store. I rented everything R rated, and attempted to figure out my disposition. High school happened and Gail treated it like a disease. I found out that she was in walking distance. It made things easier, and yet there were different ways of discovering. Instead of making paths through bushes that needed trimmed, I would instead try to think of the easiest way to walk from her house to my house under the influence. It became something like a level. There were many diversions, and yet I perfected it those first two years.
However, our quaintness was on the way out. She came back from a summer at camp, (a concept that still puzzles me to this day. Since when do sixteen-year-olds get sent off to camp?) a newer version of her former self. Her breasts were as big as they were before, and yet she had lost weight. I saw some of them noticing on our first day back, and they continued to notice until the very breaking point. She had always had plans before that Friday. We had made them together. There was usually an excursion to some distant locale in our parents’ cars where a band was fine-tuning their guitars for another three-chord progression, and yet that morning nothing was coming to mind for the night. Instead, it looked as if we were all free, but more importantly than not, Gail was.
There was no doubt in my head that she had been thinking about possibly falling into their quaint little world. After all, we only had two years left, why not explore the unseen, take in another view of the world, one more full of diminishing traits and fully tapped steel outlets for shedding the prospects of youth. I was older and so was she. It didn’t make sense for us to continue our walks in all the glory that was our original anti-social nature. No, instead we all needed that stepping stone, that clean cut path to the true manifestations of ourselves, and Gail was more than happy about it. I knew that from the second she walked in. I couldn’t stop thinking about how she was carrying herself. It didn’t effect her anymore, and I was on my way to being on the right kind of warpath.
She set her notebook down and sighed. It wasn’t a normal sigh for Gail, but rather like one you hear in movies after the key scene happens. I didn’t look up from my book at first. I attempted to act like I didn’t care, and yet knew that it was a changing scene all of a sudden. It was something that was no longer simply talked about it. It was going places.
“Did Kratzer kick you out again?”
“No actually, I decided to come back down to talk to you about something.”
“Oh yeah, what’s that?”
“So we really didn’t have plans for tonight, did we?”
“No, not really. I think I was gonna go over to Lucas’ and tell you about it, why?”
“Well, I know about something going on.”
“Really, what’s that?”
“Nick Tipton just invited me to his kegger, Henry.”
“Yeah, and he flirted with me. He’s totally into me. Isn’t that weird? I mean, can you believe it?”
“Uh yeah, I guess. I mean, your boobs are bigger now.”
“And that’s what it is, you think?”
“Yeah, most likely. I mean, Nick dated Cynthia Barton last year. That’s what he’s into.”
“Well, in any case, I think he’s probably into me for a lot of other reasons.”
“Somehow I doubt it, but whatever you wanna think Gail.”
“Jesus, are you gonna stop being a prick, so we can talk about this in an adult fashion?”
“Sure, okay.” I set my book down, letting the last few pages linger. I didn’t really care to think about what was going to happen in the end quite yet.
“Alright, so I’m invited to a keggar, which means finally a Friday night spent somewhere other than one of our houses.”
“Well, that’s great for you Gail. Really. I’m glad your boobs are big enough now to warrant some kind of popularity.”
“You’re an asshole, and he said you and Lucas can come too.”
“Yes, really. I made sure to ask about it because I knew the two of you would throw hissy fits if I couldn’t get you in.”
“Well yeah, that’s sort of true.”
“I know it is.”
“So, we’re all going to a keggar tonight then?”
“Yes we are.”
“Shit… Eve’s gonna be there, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, most likely.”
“How do you suppose I handle that?”
“I suggest you go and get really drunk. The rest should work itself out.”
“That’s what I was thinking too.”
“Well good, then we’re on the same page once again.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” My stomach instantly sank as I began to think about the inclination of possibilities. Eve Cardellino, my number one pick in girls from high school I would date, have sex with, marry, beat someone up over, lose in a fight for, attempt to survive the apocalypse with, and think about in the bathroom with a locked door and nothing but old Playboys in Dave’s stash. He never noticed those being gone either.
She would be at the party, most likely wearing something new, or borrowed. She was single again. Her former boyfriend Vince Percinsky had broken up with her right before tunneling off to college across the state, but not before getting head from Randy Loren’s little sister in the back of his BMW on the fourth of July. These were the things that spread like wildfire, even to the far reaches of my tight little outside circle. High school was a newscast of rumors and jaded looks, and like a bad reality TV show, I hated being involved in the process of the characters finding themselves, yet couldn’t switch to the next channel. I had seen so many things ten times over again already anyways.
Of course, the fact that she was going to be at the party was only a small minimal portion of it. We knew each other in the vaguest sense of the word. A few classes taken, a few words spoken, some conversations not fully realized, and ultimately never enough time to make a lasting impression. Yet I felt sparks and she had to know that I could never even think about being anything other than completely in love with her. I wasn’t one to make friends or play it cool. She probably knew. I was always nervous during our exchanges. She could tell. I knew that she could tell. However, for some sort of reason, I thought that none of it mattered. Just so long as we were in the right locale, it would become what I had always hoped it would be.
Needless to say I had become rather proper at building a world filled with all of my own personal shades of disillusionment. Eve and I had it all at one point. She sat in front of me in sophomore English. I thought about our carelessness in the real world. How I would be successful in some sort of excursion and she would be the one at my side, wearing something far too expensive and waving like all the rest. I needed to get out of the house that weekend, out of the mindset, and above all else out of my own skin.
Gail and I discussed the repercussions of what our Friday night could turn into. She was more the smitten with the idea of Nick being into her to the point where he would at least except some kind of sexual encounter before moving on to the next prospect, and for some strange reason I was okay with it too. Nick using Gail simply meant that if the chance did occur, possibly Eve would use me, and I was ready to be used. It didn’t need to be something like the fantasy. I simply wanted something to talk about for once. We walked off in different directions at the end of study hall. Our lockers were both far away from everything. I saw Eve in the hall and gave her a small smirk as she said hello. We had become those kinds of people, and it meant something. I waited for Lucas outside of the chorus room. He was late as usual.
“Yeah dude, apparently Nick wants to jump Gail’s bones, and so that means we’re in.”
“Well this is quite the development. I thought we were doing jack shit tonight.”
“Me too. Isn’t this fucking awesome?”
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, no doubt there are gonna be at least a few drunken prospects.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
“You were thinking about Eve.”
“Well yeah, but that’s beside the point. I mean, if shit falls through with her, then I’m down for somebody else.”
“Well look at you. I’ve never heard you talk like this before. You’re really building yourself up for a letdown.”
“Yeah, I know, but as my best friend, you really shouldn’t be the one telling me this Lucas.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right with that one.”
“And besides, I think I probably have a better chance with Eve then you do with whoever you’re thinking about.”
“I don’t know who I’m thinking about, which makes tonight seem full of possibilities.”
“Definitely.” I looked inside the room to once again see a disheveled Ms. Gallows walk out of her office, ready to force us into singing the same three notes over and over again until we got them right. It seemed a bit tedious, practicing for a concert that didn’t amount to much other than an event that our parents didn’t have to pay for, and that most of them would more than likely fall asleep at. It was an easy out, though. There wasn’t much to it, except for the higher educational concept of learning how to deal with Ms. Galloway on a daily basis. It made prison seem breezy and the future a distant thought in my head. Time would tick slower for awhile.
“Well, the rats out of the cage.”
“Shit, let’s go in. We’ll discuss future possibilities later.”
“Good call.” Lucas and I fell in line and sung parts we knew too well. I couldn’t focus on much of anything, though. There were too many pieces floating around all of a sudden, so many notions to consider. I had a problem choosing a number at lunch as Lucas pulled into the drive-thru. We were always out of school early on Fridays. It made things more comfortable for all those subjected to spending the majority of their time in those faded hallways. That particular day had been more unbearable than usual. There was a pep rally full of recycled routines, all of which didn’t boost school spirit, but rather spite towards all of those who continued to think subjecting all of us to such a diminishing feeling of livelihood was a good idea. Lucas, Gail and I sat in the top row of the bleachers, pretending like we didn’t care.
I looked at the tracks on a mix Lucas had made, and was simply waiting to hear once we were in the car. Gail mostly kept her eyes fixated across the gym at Nick and his friends. They were good at faking interest, and yet also breathed in the dysfunction that propelled our school to a position of power over all others in the region. We enjoyed building ourselves up. We liked pretending that there was such a thing as self-esteem. It made losses easier to live with, and there was no doubt that that Saturday afternoon would be a loss. We always lost. It became as ritualistic as the pep rallies; the boosters sold, and the ads bought in publications that only offered statistics and quotes of faces full of too many mass assumptions. They would be at Nick’s on Friday, though. All of them would be there.
I didn’t see or look for Eve in the gym. I didn’t want to ruin what potential there was. She was probably flirting with somebody or at least having them attempt to flirt with her. Most were bad at it. I was excruciatingly bad at it, but that didn’t necessarily mean that I would give up. I knew about things. Things some could readily consider cool. This was my niche. I knew where it would go. I just needed time to think about it more, or possibly less.
“I don’t know if it’s gonna come together like that tonight man.” Lucas chomped on his hamburger as I took a sip from my diet Pepsi. My mother was always buying diet for some reason. It’s not like anybody in the house needed it except for Dave and he didn’t drink soda anyway.
“Well, it’s gotta in some way. I mean, I’ll make a mix, and just casually slip it on. That’ll do it.”
“You’re gonna attempt to impose your musical tastes on all the popular douchebags of our lonesome high school?”
“Yeah, why? Do you think that’s a bad idea?”
“I don’t know how they’re gonna take to it. I mean, what are you thinking?”
“Pixies, Bob, Pavement, maybe Built to Spill, Bright Eyes. I don’t know. I haven’t finalized any set playlist yet.”
“Well that’s good. You should probably just forget about it then.”
“Because it’s not gonna help ya get the girl Henry.”
“You don’t think.”
“Dude, the music we listen to isn’t there to help us get the girl. It’s there to help up deal with the idea of not getting the girl.”
“I know, but fuck it man. I mean, make it anyway. Maybe when everyone passes out you can try to swoon her with Cat Power or some shit.”
“That’d be good.”
“Yeah, definitely. Maybe ‘Fade Into You’ too.”
“That’d be a good ender.”
“I know. I’m thinking in terms of my own night as well.”
“You haven’t even picked a notion yet.”
“Well we’ll see who appeals to me.”
“What if no one does?”
“Then my life’s not gonna change all that much. I mean, there’s always the show tomorrow.”
“That’s a good point.” We continued to spend our afternoon like we thought our night would be. The basement and records, followed by dinner at his house. Mrs. Mills always cooked. It was the most practical part of her repertoire, which carried with it all the right kinds of vices. She handed us a joint before Gail picked us up in her mother’s green Ford. Nick didn’t live that far away from Lucas, and yet it almost seemed as if it had gotten too cold out to simply walk there. We were all preparing for some form of hibernation, and in a sense, paring off for the long winter that was ahead of us. It was easier if plans were simplified when the roads were bad. There would be a point A. and then B. Most likely her house followed by mine, or maybe a movie. In any case, it wasn’t going to be nearly as cluttered, or at least that’s what I hoped.
I could feel all our nerves in the car as “Get Me Away from Here, I'm Dying” played over the stereo. It was a normal pick for all our mixes. This one was Gail’s and it meant something. Mine was in my right sweatshirt pocket, stationed in case of the right outlet, or possible emergency. It was something to listen to alone in a room, and if anything else, it would carry out that particular advantage at some point in its own quaint existence.
“This is funny, what all of us are doing right now.”
“No, it’s not. This is what people normally do Henry.”
“I’m really high.”
“Yeah, me too man. Me too.”
“Man, I’m glad I didn’t smoke. I don’t know how I’d handle Nick.” Gail was already so close to being a distant figure in the vast abyss of our former high school manifesto.
“You don’t think you could handle him stoned?”
“I can’t handle much of anything stoned, with maybe the exception of you guys.”
“Well, okay. Of course, I don’t think he’s really gonna care all that much.”
“What do you mean?”
“He means that Nick Tipton just wants to hook-up in which case you could talk to him about garden hoses and he’d pretend like he was interested.” Lucas managed to sum it up better than I ever could.
“You both honestly think this is just a one-time thing, don’t you?”
“Well you’re not seriously considering dating him or some shit, are you?”
“I don’t know. I’m gonna see how the night goes. I mean, it’s not like you wouldn’t date Eve if the rare occasions arose.”
“Yeah, that’s true, but I’ve sort of given up on the fantasy, Gail.”
“Yeah, I’m more so looking for something temporary in Eve.”
“Whatever you say.” The three of us remained quiet until she pulled into the driveway. A few cars were following the trend set earlier of pulling into the yard. Gail followed suit as we saw Stacie Hall and Julia Curtis walk past her car, giving their typical stuck-up looks of disapproval. We instantly felt out of place as more car lights peaked in through Gail’s back window before finding their own parking spots in the middle of everything.
“Alright, let’s go in.”
“Guys, just try not to embarrass me, okay?”
“Fuck you. Don’t embarrass us.” Lucas was on the defensive.
“How could I possibly even attempt to embarrass you?”
“By getting too drunk, throwing up everywhere, talking to people like Eve about how I’m sort of in love with her. Any shit like that.”
“I’m not gonna go there Henry.”
“Well okay, then I guess we’re all cool.”
“Yeah, I guess so. What about you Lucas?”
“Hey, I’m coming here with no intentions with the exception of getting hammered. So I think I’m better off than the both of you.”
“Alright fine, let’s go then.” Gail was taking the leadership position for once in her life, and it seemed almost beyond fitting. We stepped out of the car and started walking towards the house. I had never seen it before. The Tipton’s had managed to find one of the most perfect of locales for drunken high school festivities. It was on a back road, on top of a hill, mostly surrounded by woods; the sounds of supposed normalcy only being further hushed by the location. It was manifest destiny, and the three of us had finally found where the right place to settle was.
Gail stepped up to the front door, the two of us mere statues of tension behind her. She rang the bell as Nick answered in an instant. It was a scene all its own. People were intertwined in the fixtures, all managing to start earlier than us, and not necessarily the better because of it. He held a red plastic cup and a look of moderate success. Lucas and I tried our best to handle the situation with doses of regular exposure. It didn’t help that the joint had sunk in instantly. Things became flashier as they passed from one room to the other.
“Hey, you guys made it.”
“Yeah, we did.”
“Well awesome, come in. You didn’t have to ring the bell. I mean, it’s a party.”
“No, it’s not big deal.” Gail followed Nick in as Lucas and I gave each other a look before following suit. Nick led her into the living room where Dr Dre was pouring out of a state-of-the-art sound system. A few girls in tight tops that only demonstrated the idea that something such as colder weather had not effect on their own faded senses of self, danced in the middle of everything; an overabundance of male spectators, some from our high school, members of various team, others Nick’s older brother Kurt’s friends, who hadn’t become fully functioning members of suburban society after graduation, but rather more so continued to frequent the same parties. They were responsible for the keg in the basement, and so in that respect I couldn’t necessarily be too judgmental. It was just a strange enough scene to walk in on.
“So do you guys want the tour or…?”
“Uh yeah, sure.” Gail couldn’t contain herself, all the attention starting to overwhelm even us, as Lucas and I rolled our eyes in unison.
“Okay, sweet.” We walked out of the living room, away from the spectacles and into other spaces large enough to hold multiple appliances and possibly stuffed African game if Mr. Tipton was that type of person. The kitchen was mostly dead, with the exception of a few half-hearted attempts at conversation from Nick’s friend James, hitting on some sophomore. The bedrooms were not yet full. There were several empty ones, for guests, and those drunk enough to stop worrying about what was going on downstairs. Part of me started to stake out potential crash spots, and yet it was over-zealous thinking. She wasn’t anywhere in sight. Like most beautiful anomalies she would arrive late with a crew of guardians, all eventually getting drunk enough to branch off, and yet the overabundance of libidos surrounding us began to sink in. I would have to act fast, and with just the right amount of grace and repetition.
The basement seemed a bit more alive. There were other females unwinding and leaning against boys sitting on couches. The keg sat in the back corner, still full of enough life to bring Lucas and I into a more blurry perspective of supposed high school normalcy. Gail walked back upstairs with Nick to get liquor as we both took cups and headed for the keg. It was cheap, and looked like dehydrated piss, yet we were both content enough to drink it and find a corner to plant a flag in. The first cup went down the roughest of all, but by the second things had begun to pick up.
“She’s still not here yet.”
“Yeah, I know Henry. Did you honestly expect somebody like Eve Cardellino to show up on time to one of these things?”
“I thought there was a possibility of it. I mean, what the hell else is she doing?”
“Sitting alone in her house, thinking about how much her not being here is having an effect on you.”
“Yeah, I know. Don’t worry about it. She’ll be here, unless she’s going to some college party or some shit tonight. Ya never know with attractive high school girls. They always seem to have some kind of other plans.”
“So I hear.” I looked around the room again, hoping for some sort of answer. She would be a vision when she arrived; making the most divine of entrances, and yet I knew this was destructive thinking. It was just a party. A normal thing. I was stationed in the background of a John Hughes’ movie, and there were other things currently taking place. Conversations with parents about the future, joints being smoked in the back of the library, late night excursions with the prom queen and a Rolls Royce, these were all things that would occur in towns like ours. It wasn’t too small or too large to be anything other than a scene shown edited for cable on a Saturday morning.
“What if she’s upstairs?”
“Impossible. The keg’s down here.”
“For some reason I don’t see somebody like Eve drinking out of the keg.”
“You’re right Henry. It’s probably champagne and caviar upstairs.”
“Listen, just play it cool for once in your life. I mean, that’s what I’m doing.”
“Yeah, but you’re not necessarily going for everybody.”
“My girl for the night will find me.”
“Oh yeah, definitely. That’s how these things work. You gotta wait for them to get sort of drunk first, and then bored with the typical conversation on sports and youtube videos, before the decide to wander into the depths and talk to people like us.”
“I think I’m gonna go upstairs.”
“Fine, but you’re making some kind of huge mistake man.”
“Whatever you say Lucas.” I refilled my cup and walked back up. It was somewhat different, a few new faces intertwined with not so familiar ones. Gail sat alone in the living room, on the couch, a glass with brown liquid in hand. I walked over and decided to check in, trying not to notice others other than her, or have them notice me.
“So how are you holding up?”
“I’m fine. Nick’s just talking to some other people.”
“And you’re waiting here for him?”
“Yeah, he said he’d be right back.”
“Well, this is a pathetic scene Gail.”
“Shut-up. It isn’t a big deal, and besides I’d say the possibility of me getting some action tonight is much better than you and Lucas combined.”
“Yeah, I guess. Whatever though. Eve isn’t even here yet.”
“And when she is?”
“Then I’ll play it by ear. At least I’m not the guy sitting alone a couch.”
“Well, I’d say you are now.” Gail stood up from the couch with a fury. I could see her defensiveness in plain view, painted elegantly with the make-up that Lucas and I weren’t used to. Things weren’t the same all of a sudden, and I couldn’t just sit back and make fun of it like before. This was something she cared about, and in that respect we would always start by drawing are own separations.
“You’re ditching me?”
“It’s a party. It’s about time we were social.” She walked through the room, past the girls still fighting for attention. Some guys were in the thick of it now, spilling beer on the floor and laughing hysterically. I felt weird watching. It didn’t seem like something I could stare at from a living room couch. I stood up quickly. More than likely Lucas would still be downstairs, waiting for someone to make their way over to him. I walked past pictures of Nick’s family. They all had their issues, and yet were good at faking it for the camera. I wished I were the same way. I walked past a few pictures being taken that night. If someone looked at them now, I would be that person in the background, somewhat discontent, and also very high on flashing lapses in judgement. It wasn’t my nature to be permanent anywhere other than my bedroom. I always managed to stock it full of nuts for the winter.
More hapless wanderers had migrated down into the basement as I could see there was a line for the keg. Lucas remained in the same place. It was his moon landing, and yet there was somebody else present. Phoebe Shetler stood leaning against the wall next to him, as drunk as the rest of us were. I all of a sudden felt more than alone in the bigger picture. There were persons upstairs and all around that I could attempt to start conversations with, and yet it wouldn’t be for any supreme purpose.
With Eve in the back of my head, it all seemed like the highest of conquests. I reveled in the fact that I was setting such a high standard for myself. If anything else, it allowed the thoughts of dreams shattering into blackness seem more dramatic. Phoebe looked like an easy out clause, and yet I wasn’t at all resentful of the fact. Lucas’ plan had worked conveniently. She found him and they would pretend to relate to one another. If anything else, that’s what I wanted to do with Eve.
I didn’t need further inclinations of possibilities, and at the same time I could see myself not caring all that much later if it didn’t happen. She was in a different world, and while drawing parallels seemed like something that would inevitably happen; I wanted her to make the crossover. I wanted Eve to be my girlfriend so I could have somebody to stand next to during sets. I wanted her to make mixes that rivaled my own, and above all else, I wanted her to be cool with everything else. I had my own addictions, and yet I saw her grasping onto them like confetti at a parade.
We would be good for each other, if anything else to at least show the other what it was like on another side. I hated the separations and yet they were always there. It wasn’t a fictionalized thing, but rather something we all came to accept. People had their uses, and I was just the person at the party whose friend was sleeping with the host. Those were the majority of the looks that surfaced that night, and yet I saw things differently as I walked back upstairs. It was a smile of the highest earth-shattering quality. I saw myself sinking and eventually ending up in some sort of parallel dimension where things were almost the same, but didn’t have as much of a sting to them. She would be the surprise that I forgot to look for.
“Well, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“That’s the first thing you say to me?” I moved away from the basement stairs and stationed myself on the other side of the wall next to her. She held a glass like Gail’s, filled with some variation of a mixture. My beer was full, and I felt like saying everything. People walked by us on their way to other stations of the house. The living room was a place to view the most drunken of actions. Crowds of raging hormones encircled certain sophomores with cameras and phones, taking pictures of them making-out for all kinds of the wrong attention; two girls with no significant answers in front of them. Older girls stood off to the sides, silently judging, words flying around from bumper to bumper. They are so slutty. What the fuck is wrong with people? I didn’t think Greg was into that kind of shit.
The kitchen and basement were there for refueling. The sound of the keg slowly drying up filtered up the wooden stairs. I would be stealing soon; hiding sips from whatever can was available, in my left sweatshirt pocket. The mix was something I would soon forget about, as it didn’t seem like the right time to bring it up. I had to move things along in subtle standard motion. Things still needed to sink in for her.
I watched friends of friends walk past. Group partners from forced Science labs, and team members from my third grade basketball experience. Dave thought sports were a good idea. I tried to resist, soon figuring out that he simply wanted me out of the house for a long enough period of time to have sex with his wife. Needless to say, the pattern didn’t continue. I wasn’t talented in the least bit, and the concept of practice outside of the designated guidelines of team practices just seemed heinous and repetitive. Who runs drills at home? I would usually just try and find a place to hide.
“Sorry. I just didn’t expected to see you here. I mean, this isn’t necessarily your thing, is it Henry?”
“Well no, but Gail wanted to try something different so Lucas and I tagged along.”
“Well, I guess that makes you good friends.”
“Yeah, I suppose so.” The silence hit like a dust storm. It was slow and subtle. I could hear a new radio hit filtering in from the living room stereo into our spacious hallway. She was a new one, not nearly as slutty as some of the previous ones, but that just went along with the notion that she was only sixteen. It would eventually come full circle, everyone calling her a whore in the privacy of their own homes.
“So how’s that beer?”
“Yeah, I can never drink beer. I always need some sort of liquor.”
“I kind of hate liquor.”
“Several puking experiences.”
“Really? Are you gonna elaborate at all?”
“Well, during the summer Gail’s parents were gone, so we all got pretty trashed and then walked to the show at Coplin firehall, because it’s really close to her house, and I think we smoked too. I don’t remember.”
“I didn’t know you did that.”
“Really? I mean, I have been since last April.”
“Well, yeah I didn’t know. But continue, I guess.”
“Anyway we walked over, and I was drunker than I thought, and halfway through The Manageable Claws set, I ran outside and puked on the stairs.”
“Well that sounds embarrassing.”
“Yeah, it would’ve been if these two girls hadn’t puked a few feet away like ten minutes earlier.”
“So you lucked out?”
“Yeah, I guess I did.”
“So uh, who are The Manageable Claws?”
“You’ve never seen them?”
“No, I always see their name on fliers, though, before Mr. Grobin tears them down.”
“You said it.”
“They’re Josh Frick’s new band. Do you know who that is?”
“Oh, well he goes to Northwood. His band before that was called Body Patrol.”
“I never heard of them either.”
“Yeah, I guess you wouldn’t have. Well Body Patrol was pretty bad ass. The Manageable Claws are better, I think.”
“Well, sweet. I need to go to a show one of these days.”
“Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s one tomorrow at Anderson firehall. Do you know where that is?”
“Yeah, isn’t it like forty minutes away.”
“Yeah, about that. Anyway, I think Lucas is driving tomorrow, so if you wanna come, you can.”
“Oh yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I know I’m going to the game tomorrow, and then I’m not sure. I think Nick may be repeating this whole deal tomorrow night right after the game too.”
“Well, that’s cool I guess. I mean, I was sort of just planning on getting drunk tonight, and listening to punk rock tomorrow.”
“Well that sounds like a plan Henry.”
“Yeah, I guess.” She hadn’t come out and said no yet. It was something to consider, and possibly she would. A repeat of a similar night seemed like overkill to me. There was no point in being a drunken mess in the same location. We all needed to get out and look for the things that made it flow like vessels. I couldn’t spark her attention for much longer. Friends were yelling for her to get into a picture. People were jumping off furniture and turning up the volume in the living room. It all seemed like a headache. I glanced over as Gail and Nick made their way upstairs. We both looked at each other differently as she passed. I had lost faith in Gail somehow, and also in myself. I didn’t feel right about anything, and each time the front door open, I cringed a little bit.
I was in the hallway for what could have been five minutes or an hour before Lucas walked back up. He looked right over at me with a smile and an empty cup. Mine had run dry as well as the both of us searched for a solution.
“Holy shit man. It’s fucking crazy down there. Phoebe’s like all over my shit, and they’re playing like spin the bottle for some reason, and she totally shoved her tongue beyond far down my throat. It was like fucking ridiculous. I popped one like instantly.”
“Well that’s great Lucas. I’m glad you came up to talk about your erection.”
“Actually I was looking for more beer. The fucking keg’s kicked.”
“But uh, what about you? Is Eve here?”
“Yeah, we briefly conversed. I told her about the show tomorrow. She said she was gonna consider it.”
“Well awesome. Planting the seed man, that’s good.”
“No trust me. It is.”
“Gail just walked upstairs with Nick.”
“Really? Well that was quick.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Whatever, though. At least we’re fucking here in the middle of everything.”
“I suppose.” I didn’t know why everything was hitting me as depressing. I suppose it was just the kind of person I was. I was always the person to come to a supreme realization before making my way to feeling up a girl. It never came together, and I was always left somewhere in the dust. I followed Lucas into the living room, as we both spotted a case of beer on the floor, opened, and at least attempting to be hidden underneath a chair.
“We’re gonna take those.”
“Just try to be stealthy about it, okay?”
“Will do.” I stepped down on the floor to tie by shoe, and sneaked a beer into the left pocket. Lucas just reached in and opened it right in middle of the living room. It appeared as if all those present were too hammered to notice something gone, and while we would later hear angry screaming through thick walls, it wouldn’t change much of anything in the long run. He walked back down into the basement as I searched for Eve. She was easy enough to find, stationed in the kitchen; sitting on the counter downing shots with Colin Minor. He was a senior, track runner, and more full of shit then I ever could be. Her friends enclosed the circle as I sighed to myself. There was a line for the bathroom in the hallway. I opened the back door and walked out.
The night was clear. The sky had a few white clouds floating over a moon that lit the backyard like a spotlight. I walked towards the woods, noticing how I was stumbling a little with each set of steps. I took sips in-between branches and ultimately found the right tree to relieve myself behind. I was zipping up again when I saw her run out and vomit in the nearby bush. Jane Leonard had crossed over awhile ago. We were more than acquaintances once, slow dancing at middle school dances, and at one point spending a day of mindless hanging out in the mall. She was with Joyce Feiser; I was with Lucas. Following are typical middle school excursions, she downshifted into a brand new crowd that was just forming. Those with older brothers and richer parents, all offering some kind of solace for the summer before high school. She fell right in, and although we would occasionally talk in selective situations like gym class, Jane Leonard somehow managed to go the way of the Sega Genesis before my very eyes.
I zipped and walked out into the yard. It was a lot of puke as she finished coughing up the rest of it. I felt more sober with each glimpse into reality. It would all ware off in a matter of time, the alcohol, intoxication, infatuations, and falsified fantasies about where we could all end up in four years. I wasn’t going to see any of them again. That was for sure. The party was just a way for somebody such as myself to dabble in different ritualistic practices. It was like learning how to grow corn from the Indians before slaughtering every aspect of their culture. I was picking up on the right notions, figuring out how one should act if such an occasion should happen to fall into my lap again.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m not sure. I think I need a second.”
“Well okay. Do you want me to go in?”
“I don’t even know who I’m talking to.”
“It’s Henry, Webb.” She looked up at my face, wiping away some leftover residue.
“Oh, well… What are you doing here?”
“Gail’s currently fooling around with Nick.”
“No shit. Since when?”
“Well, things move pretty fast anymore.
“You said it.” She stood up slightly embarrassed as I breathed in heavy. It was colder out. I could see my breath floating away with each word spoken. It was like all my own personal vices and convictions were drifting away, and instead I was stuck in some sort of bizarre parallel universe where everything came back together again, but not in a way that it normally fit, but rather in a way that only further prevented it from coming back together again. I hadn’t spoken to Jane for some time. Our homeroom conversations had been predominately about other people, or possibly TV shows we watched on weeknights. Life as a middle school student offered with it fewer complications.
If I could go through a day avoiding getting my ass kicked by the ones that smoked in the bathroom, or ridiculed for my own lack of knowledge on subjects of little worth in the grand scheme of things (sex, drugs and the perception of what thirteen years of angst had to do with the first two) then I would consider it a good day. This concept became blurry in high school, and not just for me, but for all of us. Jane was somebody I used to know, and now she was someone coming back to the ground with bloodshot eyes and stained clothes. It wasn’t what I thought would happen to us; both so involved in the contrast that we forgot how much of a simple thing it used to be.
“Man, I’ve never seen you at one of these things before.”
“Yeah, that’s what Eve said.”
“Do you know any other Eves?”
“No, I guess not. Were you trying to get with her tonight or something?”
“Yeah, kind of. Fuck, I don’t know. It’s not like it was gonna go anywhere. She’s inside probably fooling around with Colin.”
“You really think?”
“They were flirting in the kitchen.”
“Oh. Well that sucks. I was sort of hoping to get with Colin tonight.”
“Yeah, we have Trig together. He’s always flirting with me. I guess I fucked it up, though. I got too drunk. I didn’t even get the chance to attempt to be slutty.”
“Well, that’s too bad.”
“Yeah, I guess. Did you drive here?”
“No, Gail did, and she’s probably sleeping over which means I’m gonna have to walk back.”
“You live pretty fucking far Henry.”
“You still remember where I live. Well that’s funny.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Nothing, don’t worry about it Jane.”
“No, I was just sort of curious. What’s with all the overabundant animosity?”
“I don’t know. I guess it’s just weird, the more and more I think about it.”
“Me being here, happening to run into you, puking in the backyard. It’s sort of surreal, is all.” She looked at me like it was all different. I suppose I wasn’t being as sympathetic as I should have been. Of course, it didn’t matter. We all had our plans and priorities. They would fall through eventually in the grandest sense of the word, and yet she didn’t need to hear my highly skeptical view of the world that she felt somewhat settled in, her best friends abandoning her for fuller cups of coffee and hands grazing uncharted regions of blouses.
“What the fuck’s your problem Henry?”
“Why are you always such an asshole? I mean, Jesus I feel like you’ve been negative ever since high school.”
“Well yeah, that’s true Jane.”
“Yeah, but why? I mean, I don’t get what you’re anti-social thinking-outside-of-the-box point of view is getting you.”
“It’s not getting me anywhere. I don’t know. I just… I can’t help but feel like being here is just such a fucking drag.”
“Why, because you’re not making out with Eve right now?”
“Well yeah, I suppose that’s part of it.”
“And even if you were, do you think it would change much of anything?”
“I don’t know. What’s with the fucking interrogation all of a sudden?”
“I’m just trying desperately to figure you out?”
“Well don’t strain yourself Jane. It’s not like it’s some kind of big secret. I just hate most things.”
“Like drunken high school parties?”
“Yeah, I suppose that’s part of it.”
“Well then why did you come here?”
“Why did you come here? Why are you a regular at these fucking things?”
“I asked you first Henry.”
“I didn’t have anything better to do, and I figured Eve would be her, and despite the fact that I knew nothing big would happen, I couldn’t help but at least build up some sort of idealistic fantasy about the possibility of something worth it happening tonight.”
“Well, it’s like that with me, except there’s no Eve. It’s more so whoever seems interested.”
“Yeah, but I don’t understand that Jane. I mean, typically the guys, who are here, are assholes. How could you possibly consider falling for them?”
“I don’t know. Why are you all head over heels for Eve? She’s just like the rest of them.”
“I don’t think so. She’s different.”
“So are some of the others. You just can’t judge like this people your entire life.”
“Oh, well that’s some kind of fucking statement. You judged me the second we started getting into this. I should have just walked in, left you out here alone, puking your guts out. Maybe then you’d come close to having some sort of similar perspective to me.”
“I don’t wanna see things like you do Henry. We’re different people now. I grew up, and you’re still that loser who sits in the back row and reads comic books.”
“So, maybe if you weren’t such a loser, you’d fit in better.”
“Because you really fit in well here Jane. Jesus Christ, you were throwing up in the backyard five minutes ago. Nobody inside gave a shit.”
“I’m glad they don’t. I don’t wanna be embarrassed by it.”
“Well, what if I went in and told them?”
“They wouldn’t care. I’d just say you were full of shit and we’d go our separate ways again.”
“Because that’s how simple it all is, right?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“I hate being here.”
“Well then walk the five miles it takes you to get home.”
“I’m sleeping over at Lucas’. It’s not even a mile.”
“Yeah…” We were both quiet for a few seconds.
“It’s okay. I am too.”
She smiled a little as I started to laugh. Jane and I walked back in together, seeing the death of our former conquests lip-locked in the corner of the kitchen by the sink. We moved out quickly, eventually ending up on the couch in the basement where people had already started to dissolve into the carpet. Some had left gracefully, finding the right dirt roads to drive down drunk. They would all make it home in one piece. It wasn’t as if everybody was watching and waiting for them to make mistakes. I sunk into the couch as Jane leaned against my stomach. We were tired and both coming down to a similar level.
“So are you still walking back?”
“I don’t know if I have the strength right now.”
“Well maybe take a nap. I think that’s what I’m gonna do. I’ll call somebody for a ride tomorrow.”
“I guess that works.”
“Yeah, it does.” I was starting to blink longer and with less frequency. She moved her back up against my stomach before the two of us settled in perfect synchronicity with one another. She was still somewhat uncomfortable though, and it hadn’t quite dawned on me yet.
“What’s in your sweatshirt? I can feel something.”
“Oh, uh… The CD.”
“What CD?” I pulled it out of my pocket and showed her its sparkle in the dim basement light.
“I made it for the party, but was too much of a pussy to put it on. I figured most people wouldn’t like it.”
“Well, you’re probably right.”
“Yeah, I know.” I set it down on the floor as she looked into my eyes.
“So, I’m sorry that things are so different now Henry.”
“It’s okay. It’s supposed to get this way, I think.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Her head came closer to mine as we kissed softly. She tasted like regurgitation, and yet I hid my disgust and continued to become more comfortable on the couch that had likely gotten more action than I could ever even come close to fathom. It was quick and I enjoyed. She fell asleep before I did. It felt like I had just drifted off into heavy-eyed perfection when Lucas tapped me on the shoulder, slightly.
“Dude, let’s walk back.” I opened my eyes disoriented.
“Uh… okay.’ I stood up, letting Jane’s head fall back on the pillow. She didn’t rise, but rather rolled over more comfortable. I took one last look at how beautiful she was before grabbing the CD from the ground and heading back up the stairs. The scene was much nicer as we walked out; a mess of bodies stationed in various positions on the floor, surrounded by all of their addictions, content with the night and all that it offered. The moon was still out as we started to walk back. It was still cold enough to see things pass.
“I’m exhausted. Why didn’t we just sleep there?”
“Because shit got weird. I didn’t wanna have to walk back by myself, and I wanna sleep in my own bed.”
“What shit got weird Lucas?”
“I got head from Phoebe tonight.”
“Fuck off, no way.”
“No, it happened. We started making-out, and then she gave me head in the bathroom.”
“That rules. It’s like fucking Fatal Attraction or some shit.”
“No, not really. After she… ya know, swallowed, she fucking puked everywhere.”
“Well, that happens.” I tried to hide the subtle smirk that was making its way to my face.
“Jane was throwing up when I found her in the backyard.”
“And then you made-out with her afterwards?”
“Yeah, how’d you guess?”
“I just sort of figured, judging by the scene on the couch.”
“Well yeah, we did. It wasn’t too spectacular, just something we were settling on.”
“Well whatever. It’s not a big deal. At least we all kind of hooked-up tonight.”
“Yeah, you’re right. It’s weird that we’re not talking to Gail about this right now.”
“Yeah, I know. She’ll find out sooner or later.”
“I guess so, but you never told me what you did about Paige after she threw up.”
“Oh, uh Wendy gave her a ride home, and I came and found you.”
“Well that’s some story Lucas.”
“Yeah, I suppose. It’s weird. I mean, I don’t really see it going anywhere other than tonight. I feel like if I talk to her about it on Monday at school or something that she’ll get all freaked out.”
“Yeah, I know. I don’t think much is gonna happen with Jane either. It was just one of those circumstance make-outs.”
“Those are the best.”
“I guess.” The walk seemed farther than before. The two of us were still reasonably drunk, and beyond tired. There was more to think about then to talk. A few cars passed with speed, both of us somewhat tensing up, the thought of having to deal with suburban pigs in our weakened condition seeming beyond tedious. The light was still on in Lucas’ house as we walked in the front door and locked it behind us. Both of us pissed out the rest of the lingering alcohol in our stomachs before retiring to separate rooms. I shut my eyes and yet sleep didn’t resurface quite yet. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the entire situation. Eve and Jane were lingering in their own elegant fashions, while Gail was most likely packing a bag and heading off to another settlement. It was all becoming a different form. I tried to focus on other things. Sex with celebrities or idealistic fantasies set in the not too distant future where I managed to figure it all out before the rest. I would walk into banquet halls, the finest dressed, order the most expensive thing on the menu and think about what it used to be like.
They would see me at bars ordering rounds for my new friends, or driving something that I hated but enjoyed in the same vain sense because it was just flashy enough to spark newfound interest. I couldn’t drift away in the night, or stay and dwell in my own perfected stance. Things wouldn’t necessarily be better, but rather just as different as they always seemed to be. It would all be something to get used to, and soon I would stop thinking about everything as larger than life, bigger than the small spec of reclusions I would later become. I could lock myself in my room, close the gate, and watch all visitors from security cameras. People would talk about it in papers. Why he never accomplished anything again and decided to just hide up on the house, alone in the hill. They would assume that things happened. Maybe a lost and long forgotten love died tragically and after the wake, I simply couldn’t handle being a social drunken mess anywhere other than in the comfortable confinement of my own home. Or possibly it was something else, something bigger that only I knew about. I would spend my time in a normal way, the occasional visitor filling a minimal void before returning to their own viciously construed existence.
I would fall from grace with false dignity, possibly being too fucked up to function on camera or getting photographed publicly cheating on my wife with somebody met one beautiful night, full of different livelihoods. She would get the kids and the account, while I wallowed alone in the house. I would take their pictures down and let them spark like firecrackers in the ash. She would see my obituary one day while feeding her children breakfast before pre-school. I would feel like Hemingway, and be sick of Salinger parallels. She would reflect on the idea of our briefness quickly, before some other temporary suburban annoyance filtered into her once elegantly faceted mindset. The dog needed taken out. Another dead goldfish or skinned knee, all seeming somewhat minimal as death lingered and eventually became the farthest thing from her mind. She was far too busy living her own life.