Chapter 9: The House Party
The house went from silent to frantic as we all arrived in unison and quickly settled on the idea of staying in or going out. The groom and his party were the first to slam the door behind them, their wives having once again set up shop in the living room, now in larger numbers, passing around photo albums and wine glasses. I sat comfortably behind the pinball machine, listening to Massive Attack as Kieran riffled through his bag for toiletries and piece of mind.
“So when’s this party?”
“I don’t know. Whenever, I guess. I mean, the guy’s parents are out of town.”
“Well is it cool if I go with you?”
“Most likely. I mean, we’re probably gonna have to come up with some excuse or something, but if Harriet goes with Alanna, then I think it’s fine.”
“Okay, well cool. Of course, you don’t think Jeannie will wanna go, do you?”
“Probably not. I mean, if it’s a party we’re going to then she probably won’t want to, right?”
“Yeah, probably not.”
“Well, so yeah” The sound of the bumpers were becoming a slow drone in the back of my head. For the first time in awhile I wasn’t thinking about much of anything and it felt like heaven.
“So are you gonna bring condoms?”
“Ya know, to the party?”
“Fuck man, I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t really see myself getting laid tonight.”
“Well maybe not tonight, but tomorrow possibly. I mean, I brought a box just in case.” My sixteen-year-old cousin full of misconceptions pulled the dark red box out of his navy blue duffel bag. I looked over, letting my ball slip past the flippers, beyond surprised.
“You honestly think you’re getting laid this weekend?”
“Well it is a wedding. I mean, isn’t that what happens?”
“Yeah, if you’re getting married.”
“Well, I figure you can get me booze from the bar, and well Harriet’s just a possibility. Always be prepared, isn’t that what they teach you in the Boy Scouts?”
“Well yeah, but somehow I have a feeling that knowing how to survive in the wilderness is gonna prove more beneficial than the prepared that you’re talking about.”
“Whatever man. All I’m saying is that something could happen.”
“Yeah, well maybe you’re right. Give me one of those.”
“Sure things cuz.” I didn’t necessarily understand why I decided to take one of my cousin’s contraceptives, and didn’t see much of a point in caring. Life was complicated enough without having to worry about numerous possibilities. He was sixteen and going in with a full arsenal. I figured there was no such harm in doing the same. I stuck the small red package in my left jeans pocket and gracefully walked up the first flight of stairs, past the hectic living room, and through the reminiscent foyer, then up the grand staircase, down the hallway, towards Alanna’s bedroom. I was tired of waiting for her to come down to me with grandiose plans and temporary modes of escape.
It was mostly silent in the hallway, the bathroom door shut, steam and the sound of running water filtering out into the hallway. I peaked into her room, only to regretfully find Harriet sitting on the floor, reading a teen magazine. She looked up at me, slightly confused as if my presence in the upstairs of the house was an obscene abnormality. I had no real reason to be anywhere at that point.
“Oh uh, hey.”
“So I guess Alanna’s in the bathroom, huh?”
“Bingo.” She turned back to the glossy pages and real life stories of teens in turmoil. It all was far too manufactured. Teens didn’t have much of a choice anywhere. They had to simply decide who they were from glancing at cookie-cutter images in magazines and on big screens. From that point it was mostly a matter of social interaction. If they were reasonably attractive enough, then it became a simple prospect of excelling in a certain grouping. Sluts could pretty much function anywhere; it was just a matter of who they wanted to sleep with. Although, the ritzy upper class socialites would often take on illustrious ventures centering on more Molly Ringwald types. They were slightly uptight, awkward, beyond attractive and yet at the same time a difficult lay, unless of course the particular guy was a Jake Ryan, in which case it came easier to him.
Besides these two problematic cases of disoriented youth, there were the mediocre ones; the angst-ridden females who hadn’t quite grown into their own self-destructive sides yet. They would party on the lower ends before eventually excelling in the upper levels. Guys would find themselves uncontrollably attracted to the strange appeal of these girls. If they put out they were in, and even if they didn’t there was the dusty lure of the possibility of them putting out. It all came down to such a notion, as even the uptight socially retarded and icy teen queens would find some strange solace in the wrong type of guy.
Guys were a different story all together. Not all of them could get laid, at least not in this day and age. It was different in the sixties when psychedelic romps stretched past the playing fields and eventually spread to the loosely vindicated morals of suburban society. The seventies were lined with basements and turntables, record players spouting off Led Zeppelin and make-out parties ensuing with spilt bong water and canned heat. By the eighties, a guy could still manage a triumphant blow if he wore enough eyeliner or claimed to like all the right elements of the past. The nineties were a return to form, the beginning starting off with grungy Betties longing for someone who at least resembled the suicidal head cases they saw every day on MTV, and yet as the decade ended, the shift inevitably turned them all off.
School shootings made the lingering question of high school sex seem somewhat more structured. There were too many diseased consequences. Then the branching off of the youthful intellect. Girls would disguise themselves as translucent pop idols, while guys would either decide that they hated everything or that certain girls from certain opposite ends of the tracks simply wouldn’t work out for them. They had downloadable tricksters at their beckoning call. High speed Internet was considered more or less the downfall of basement make-out sessions as everyone quickly decided it would be simply easier to accomplish mediocre levels of getting off from the comfort of their own homes. There was no more excitement, but rather routinely absent feelings of destructive defiance. Anarchy became a word at the beginning of a song rather than a message shrieked from the unmowed lawns of suburban experience, and all of it was getting much worse.
Harriet and Kieran could only really hope that they became drunk enough to break down the barriers set up in front of them. If anything else, that was what there weekend was centered on. I understood why he had been somewhat optimistic to the idea of getting laid, as if it was now a basic way to act; teen sex comedies morphing the random possibility into a mediocre achievement reached by those who set themselves up for shattering disappointment and occasionally succeeded in their historical conquests. I was perpetually lost in a spinning room full of notions that I had yet to fully grasp. I wasn’t ready for much of anything, deciding that it would be easier to wander into the attic rather than sitting and waiting for Alanna to ask me to go outside with her again, or possibly into another more secluded space.
I let the needle slowly drop on Nebraska as I sat and waited for more problems to wash over me. Shep was upstairs faster than expected, having slept the majority of the day and now all of a sudden reasonably tired of snatching food of off rarely used china and listening to the slow drone of all their rising spirits. He laid down on the same carpet as the two of us attempted to figure out where our nights were going. He had the simplest elements of life broken down to an exact science, while the trends I was setting, most of which involved myself obsessively treading through the same baby blue bodies of water, left me with nothing but an absent feeling of accomplishment.
She perused up the stairs with wet hair and an entirely new look. It was a beyond attractive, evasively social look, meant for men such as myself to unapologetically stare at and men like Everett to simply turn insane over. I felt bad for all those who weren’t entangled in the web at that point. It was going to be a magnificent descent into madness.
“How long have you been up here?”
“Not too long, why?”
“Well, aren’t you bottom feeders supposed to be hiding out in the basement?”
“I was tired of the pinball machine.”
“Well what’s Kieran doing?”
“Probably mindlessly flipping through the channels.”
“Right, well we’re gonna go soon.”
“Is Harriet coming with us?”
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, something tells me Fiona could care less if her daughter goes to some drunken drug-induced house party tonight.”
“Sue might care if Kieran goes, but we’ll tackle that obstacle when we come to it.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” She sat down on the floor next to me, pulling over the small shoebox where she kept all the devices to unwind from yet another long day of bullshit. It was always in the same spot, right in plain view, and yet neither Ken nor Colleen would ever take the time to notice. She could have been shooting copious amount of heroin in that translucent attic and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Their daughter stopped being a priority a long time ago.
“So you were waiting up here for me, weren’t you?”
“Sort of. I actually just wanted to dig through the vinyl.”
“Ya know, it amazes me the fact that you have an almost legitimate excuse for everything you do.”
“Well, it takes time to be this full of shit Alanna.”
“Yeah, I know.” She began to pack a small bowl as we listened to words of longing and departure. I began to contemplate what our lives would be like after the diluted mess of the wedding ended in record time. We would both work for the end of the day, our paychecks becoming subsequent offshoots of what we were really trying to accomplish. A moderate escape from reality, an occasional day off to set sanctimonious examples, a bewildering transcendental violation of trust. All crossroads were hidden behind large distorted piles of brush.
“So I was thinking about maybe a change of plans.”
“What are you talking about?” Her initial inclination came out of nowhere.
“Not for tonight. I mean, we have to go to this party tonight for a number of reasons I haven’t figured out yet, but I mean after that.”
“What, after the wedding you mean?”
“Yeah, I’m thinking about leaving.”
“And going where?”
“I don’t know yet. I mean, it’s all just thoughts right now, but I’m sure there are numerous places to figure the rest of my life out away from here, ya know?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“And it’ll be good to start fresh. That way there won’t be anything tying me down, ya know?”
“But it’s nothing right now. It’s just me shooting the shit, ya know?”
“Yeah, we all do it sometimes.”
“Exactly.” She took a breath, taking the last hit from the small yellow piece. It had seen better days, like the rest of us. There was a story behind every purchase in that shoebox. Late night trips to the unknown, car rides with potential friends, lovers and enemies. I felt like every moment that had some vague trace of Alanna Brinker was one that indefinitely stuck a flag in the foreground of all such memories. She built monuments to all the better times and hid them around the boxed in rooms from her past. There were pictures, paintings, ticket stubs and scribbled variations of lost reminders scattered in corners and underneath textbooks left unsold. I wished I were a part of all of them.
“So should we have invited your cousin up here?”
“Oh uh… I don’t think he smokes. I mean, maybe he does, but he’s sixteen. We don’t need to be that kind of bad influence on him, at least not right now.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Is Jeannie coming with us tonight?”
“Somehow I doubt it. She seems pretty content to just let the night slowly drift away in your living room.”
“Well not all of us can be so adventurous.”
“Yeah, I guess not.” She stood up again; reminding me of what it was like the previous evening, when there were numerous other extensive hangouts patiently waiting for the both of us. I returned to the basement, rounding up Kieran who had been fulfilling my initial predictions, flipping without much thought, never taking the time to settle on any one specific program. There was far too much choice involved. He didn’t notice how high I was, my eyes bloodshot and beyond perceptive. We stepped into the living room briefly, Alanna taking full responsibility for our plans and the explaining everything in such a way that all the uptight spectators could easily understand.
We were going to a get-together. It wasn’t going to be huge, just a couple of friends hanging out, with nothing better to do before the wedding. They bought into her bullshit like so many before them. We hid our smirks as we walked out of the constrictive Brinker household and stepped into her car. Star-crossed lovers in the front, potentially regretful and highly confused teenagers in the back. It was like a silent picture as we looked out past the glass into the vast unknown. There were wrong turns everywhere.
The drive felt endless as we listened to the breezy grit of Lou Reed and tried our best to hide deep inside ourselves. Everett lived farther away than I thought as I watched the road and surroundings gradually become more rural. I barely noticed the slow creep of cars bought by parents, some clunkier than others, all parked on the side of the dirt road and surrounding area with one purpose. It was a night to slowly reflect back on past moments, while drunkenly jumping back and forth with new friends and prospects. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the initial picture. The Hutchinson house didn’t quite fit with my first mental image of what the party was going to look like. I saw a shade of the previous night, a few random people squeezed into a minimalist location, drinking beers and taking random hits from a variation of spliffs. There would be more new faces, but not necessarily more than I could handle on any random night at the start of summer, my sister getting married to the lieutenant douche the following morning.
We stepped out of the car, following Alanna’s delicate figure into pure unadulterated madness. There were a few random stoners playing Frisbee in the yard by the light of the front porch, where Amanda was smoking a clove cigarette with another random boy for the night. He had long hair and no sense, my later drunken encounter and brief conversation occurring while I waited for the bathroom, offering little to no memorable moments. Instead, I foresaw and predicted the rest of Amanda’s life as if it was becoming somewhat of a bad habit. I was a magic eight ball with some callow responses. Parts of me that used to care were slowly becoming worn down. My own thoughts felt like a plague, and not one that I could simply run away from. Instead I would have to dull them down from that point, and hope for the best when I finally came to. It would be a troublesome discourse. I knew that from the start.
Amanda and Harriet briefly exchanged greetings, being cousins from the opposite side, but still somehow managing to know one another through such forced family gatherings, Alanna the inevitable link. I suppose both saw somewhat of themselves in each other, despite the lack of blood relation. I thought about how such a drastic and highly obscure relationship could easily and most likely develop between Alanna and myself. We would be close to brother and sister through marriage, only it wouldn’t feel like it in the least bit. We had both written off each family member before our initial meeting. Still it was a scary prospect.
Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, the looks from across the table, us casually catching up on each other’s lives in her attic or my bedroom. It would be hard to deny that a connection was made at one specific point, that sparks flew, and that each of us realized there was no absolute point in denying anything, and yet we would have to. We would have to move on and let the other less than accommodating aspects of life become our main focus. The new boyfriend or girlfriend that we each pretended like we enjoyed getting to know, the truth being less than flattering. We were making mistakes and they wouldn’t get any easier with time.
The front porch kept our attention for roughly three minutes before the rest of the house beckoned. She instantly looked somewhat annoyed by the slew of recognizable failures scattered around the house. Everett hadn’t necessarily lost touch with any of them so much as he simply kept them around for instant gratification. They enjoyed getting drunk at his parents’ house and on a most frequent basis as possible. Alanna tossed them a few quick hellos or head nods, filtering past the front door, merely glancing in the living room, and heading right for the kitchen. I caught Harriet giving each eyeful a second look as she tried to catch herself smirking.
The kitchen was more familiar territory as Joel and Ronna entertained some random faces from work, high school and the surrounding shattered area. Her neighbor from across the hall, Patti, wore a low cut white tank top and guzzled shots like they were cough medicine. Joel meticulously rolled a blunt on the countertop next to Mrs. Hutchinson’s tacky decorations bought at local craft sales or as Christmas gifts from less than interesting parties. A few random guys from the working class area more commonly referred to as the Mini-mart stood in a half circle, leaning against the cabinets and counter patiently waiting Joel’s progress.
We briefly exchanged words before opening the back door and walking out onto the deck. This was keg territory, some random smokers standing around, keeping guard while Everett and Tracy shot the shit together, both with red plastic cups in hand. She went right for him like it was a knife in the back. He was getting drunk like he didn’t care, flirting with one of her friends and coworkers trying desperately not to look right at her. It would be a brutal wave of the past hitting each and every nerve as it eventually sunk into the small somber encasing in his chest. Everett couldn’t shake off the permanence of Alanna Brinker in the very depths of himself, at least not after one boisterously drunken night.
“Well, we were wondering what was taking you guys so long.” He said as he took another sip of the beer.
“Well, we had the rehearsal dinner.” She replied.
“Oh yeah, that’s right.”
“How was all of that?” Tracy said, flicking her ash over the back deck. I turned and took in the full grasp of the backyard. It was large, some neighboring woods on the outskirts offering any drunken party guest a readily available excuse to simply venture off into the unknown, leaving the sounds of the scattered pieces of clarity and composure behind them. It would always feel nicer outside in such situations, indoors only leaving thin walls and narrow hallways for voices to carry and cross over one another. The stars were out in graceless beauty, scattered as reminders throughout the sky. I would become poetic, regretful, and nearly happy that night, and yet the sky was only a mere distraction to my eventual blame.
“It was boring.” I said.
“Well, the keg’s over there guys, help yourself.” Everett said as he pointed to the available hangover. Kieran and I didn’t give any of it a second thought, each of us grabbing cups for ourselves, while Alanna, Tracy and Harriet started to complain and bitch about all the people, places and events that were diligent parts of their learning experiences. Everett stood patiently waiting for the alone time he so desperately craved. He needed to apologize, and was most likely willing to wait the entire night for it. He wanted to look deep into her eyes and remind her of all that once was, the lonely and still hovering previous weekend.
I wasn’t having any of it, trying to distance myself from such a reliable sticky situation as soon as possible. I took a sip of my beer and looked over at my cousin who seemed to be somewhat at a loss. He was the biggest fish out of water, not used to any of the people or situations such as that one, at least not yet. While I was sure that he had been an intricate part of parties that occurred in the backwoods of redneck Virginia; this was a whole new thunderdome. I took a swig of the cheap beer and broke it all down.
“Well, I think I’m gonna go in and smoke that blunt with Joel and those guys.”
“Oh, well uh… Do you think it’ll be cool if I got in on it?”
“Do you smoke?”
“No, but tonight feels like the night to start.”
“You probably won’t get stoned, and personally even if you do, I don’t want to have to be the cousin who looks after you.”
“I’ll be fine Noah. Stop treating me like a fucking pussy.”
“Yeah, alright fine.” We walked back into the kitchen, not giving our possibilities any second looks. Everett was most likely asking who Kieran was, as neither of us took the time to bring it up or do the inevitable introducing. Joel took the concept much easier as all I had to mention was the fact that it was his first time, before him and the rest of the Mini-mart employees were loudly accepting Kieran into their elusive and less than exclusive club of brain cell killing. He took to their particular style of flattery faster than imagined as all of us sat at the kitchen table, passing the blunt between us. Ronna and Patti dropped out quickly, one joining the rest of the girls and Everett on the back porch, the other taking her time to peruse the available monkeys participating in debauched social rituals. I was surprised Everett hadn’t joined us from the initial prospect, and felt even more confused as he walked through the kitchen and into another frantically lackluster room after about roughly five minutes of being ignored.
All the other employees joined him faster than expected as the slow burn of papers took Joel and I to new heights, Kieran not dropping out with the sole purpose of feeling a new buzz that night. By the end of the dangling smoke, he seemed to be dazed enough to function on a new perceptive level of sixteen-year-old understanding. Our beers were finished in an even faster amount of time, myself deciding that having my younger highly confused cousin around was more than useful at that particular moment, as he was more than anxious to go outside for refills. I leaned back in the oak chair, taking a long sigh and letting it all wash over me.
“So you’re pretty ripped, right?”
“Yeah, I’d say so, why?”
“Well, I was gonna ask if you wanted to do a shot.”
“I don’t know, rum, vodka, we have several options.” Joel pointed to the counter, all the half-full bottles having previously been hidden by bodies.
“Rum sounds good.”
“Alright, let’s do that.” We both stood up and took three disoriented steps to the counter. He opened the top cabinet, grabbing two shot glasses out as if it was his own house. Joel had afforded the convenience of knowing where everything was in the Hutchinson household after numerous nights of sentimental venting from Everett in-between puffs and passes. He poured the shots as we both took them without giving much of a toast. I leaned against the counter and felt the warmth of straight liquor. There would be similar offerings occurring in masses the next evening.
“So Everett looks like he recovered from last night pretty quickly.”
“I don’t know if you could necessarily say that.” I almost felt bad for bringing it up after his initial reply, but couldn’t help myself. I was looking for faded bits of information from any and all ends available.
“I meant that he’s drinking and everything.”
“Oh well yeah, hangovers usually only take about a day of sleeping to wear off even ones at bad as that one.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So did Alanna fill you in on everything last night. Well yeah, nevermind, I guess she did, huh? I almost forgot about all that shit.”
“Yeah, well that’s like normal for them, though, isn’t it?”
“No, not usually. These last few weeks have been particularly confusing, but I don’t know man. I mean, I think they’ll get their shit together pretty soon.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“Whatever, though. I think I’m gonna try and pull my girlfriend away from her gossip circle which is even bigger tonight with Harriet.”
“It’s bad news, huh?”
“I think Kieran already has a crush on her.”
“Really? Well that sounds like sixteen.”
“Yeah, it really does, huh?”
“Yeah… Come find me in a bit Noah. We can smoke again, shoot the shit, whatever.”
“Okay, will do.”
“Cool.” He was out the door, walking towards his simple purpose. Kieran walked back into the kitchen with two full cups of foam and instantly glanced at the empty shot glasses and available bottles on the counter. I regrettably took another one with him, before we ventured off into the shaken normalcy of the Hutchinson household. The basement was loud and randomized, different ages and backgrounds all somewhat uniquely placed in the belly of it all. We found an available wall to slowly drink our sinking souls to death and watch cold dramas pop up from varying angles.
“So are you high right now?”
“I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t think it’s just the alcohol, because I feel more loose.”
“You probably are then. That shit Joel had was pretty solid.”
“Oh yeah? I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”
“Well I can, and I’d say we’re gonna be in good shape for awhile.”
“Well, awesome. So uh, is this Alanna’s boyfriend’s house?”
“No… I mean, well they’re not exactly going out. Personally I don’t know what the fuck the deal is there.”
“Well, I was just curious.”
“I figure it’s probably gonna be easier to socialize with Harriet if I have a few drinks in me first.”
“But are you okay man?” I was spaced beyond belief, glancing at random pairings trying to figure their lives out rather than my own. They were all somewhat linked to Everett and I didn’t quite understand how. Was that the way it was in their particular neck of the woods? They all shared somebody’s parents’ house just so long as it was fully stocked. My lush-filled suburb was a completely altered picture all together. We didn’t keep up with old high school friends so much and those from work were simply kept at a distance.
Possibly that was where my life was going. It would be a blend of old and new, still the somewhat reassuring voice on my shoulder, whispering that this was the inevitable path all people in my dilapidated position take. We were through looking for the answer. The numb and jagged pull of what was available seemed more comforting.
I felt like Alanna was ready to see herself settled at that point, and it was like the darkest of fears with not much of a background for such feelings. I wanted her to stay the way she was, no matter what the cost, and yet knew that we would all eventually get too old to function in the same sense. Our hearts would die along with opposing points of view, all of it eventually turning to silent moments dubbed down by the television set and a long day of work full of familiar stories that neither party wanted to hear. I hated how my view of the world had dramatically shifted so much in such a shockingly short period of time and how it wouldn’t ever necessarily change back. I was as solid as the spinning walls, my brain no longer allowing the rest of my body the time to catch up.
“Yeah, I’m fine, why?”
“You just seem sort of out of it, that’s all.”
“No, trust me, I’m cool.”
“Well, alright.” The two of us stood silent for awhile, letting it all pass us by. Our cups were quickly empty, as I took the time to retreat back upstairs to the deck. It felt like I had been shifting levels since arriving in the dim lights and absent sidewalks of Chicago. They were all gone at that point, finding their own places to hide away from it all. A few confused lovers stood far enough away for me to ignore their conversation as I filled up both cups. I then walked straight back down into the basement, not allowing myself the convenience of looking into the other rooms. I didn’t want to see or talk to her, at least not then. She had gone to the party without a clear outlook of where her life was going. I knew too much about myself to let it all get to me. I needed to keep drinking and wandering around bodies immersed in the confusion.
I was more than a little surprised to already find my spot filled by Harriet, taking the offensive, no longer interested in the potentially illegal prospects upstairs. They were their own messes, not necessarily looking for jailbait or an easy piece of the pie. Instead it wasn’t that sort of party. If connections were loosely made, and people managed to branch off into the upstairs where dreams and later disappointments came true, then so be it. I handed my cousin his cup and quickly retreated back upstairs, feeling somewhat empty. The bathroom line was a dry encounter with Amanda’s once and future fling. He started talking about his new car, to which I simply nodded my head and pretended like I knew what he was discussing. Car conversations to me were like punks discussing the appeal of disco; not worth a variation of an ounce of my time.
Following the flush, Joel found me quicker than expected as we stepped outside and smoked a joint on the side of the house with the Frisbee players. They discussed Bob Marley and less than gratifying college experiences. They still had semesters left on their belt; several minor changes, they hadn’t quite figured out yet, still lightly floating over all their heads. I almost felt bad for them and their senses of indecision if I hadn’t been in such a similar position without the calm comfort of those semesters accredited to my name.
From that point on I trudged an unfamiliar path, walking back through the house, listening in on a few contemplative conversations, and haplessly searching for her darkened figure in the background somewhere, standing alone and without much poise, waiting for what she knew to be something less than sensible. I didn’t see her anywhere, though, Everett also appearing to be missing in action. Joel and Ronna socialized with some random faces, Tracy flirting with Amanda’s boy-toy from the front porch, this particular cousin most likely moving on as if it was some lesser form of social Darwinism.
I briefly stepped back down into the basement, only to find Kieran and Harriet standing and making-out in the one corner, some surrounding oddities taking their cue and dimming the lights as “Crimson and Clover” played over the stereo. It was a cliché and one that I wished I were a part of. Instead, the simplicity of the basement had since faded from my repertoire. I had to get involved with the distant and complicated. I suppose they always did have the greater appeal. It would become our nice way of putting things.
I stepped back out onto the deck, refilling my beer once again. I had lost count of what number I was on, and felt as if drifting into a similar corner of apparent loss was better than searching for her lingering presence or a captivating scene that was most likely occurring above us all. I took a sip and contemplated a plan of action. I was through with the temporary Alanna fixation. It was more than likely that all of it had occurred out of lifeless substance abuse and my bad habit to translucently fall for any and all women who decided to walk away without a second breath. She was better at hiding than the rest of them, and her appeal was likely all a nameless figment of my own imagination.
I was going to find one of the ones who were alone. It didn’t matter who it was just so long as they were highly absent minded. I had done it before, on similar warm nights where I didn’t necessarily feel like taking the longest of walks home. I didn’t care where I was going to pass out by the end of it all, as my demented sense of values had become an unrecognizable abscess, an unruly tribute to who I once was and would never become again. Falling in love was for saps and those who needed an unrefutable excuse.
I chugged the beer fast, throwing my cup off the back deck. I was three and half steps away from the door to kitchen when I felt the subtle vibration of my cellphone in my right pocket. I should have turned it off. I was in no mood or condition for conversation and yet the very inclination of her call that late, her name still a lopsided mushroom cloud in the foreground of my every thought, I couldn’t help myself. I answered Muriel’s call, walking away from the deck, down the creaking wooden stairs and into the green vastness of the backyard. I hadn’t changed at all.