"What are you drinking?" I had to yell over the music, the crowd.
He looked quirky.
I pointed to the flask in his left hand. It had a picture on it I couldn't really see. I missed his reply, and someone elbowed my ribs, so I yelled back asking for clarification.
"Hold out your hand," was his reply. So I did, and he poured out mini M&M's into my palm. I laughed a little.
He was quirky.
He gave a sly little grin, then took a swig of his chocolate secret, chewing slightly afterward.
"You don't drink?" I wasn't much of a drinker myself, but this was a party, after all.
"Not in this sort of setting," he gestured as well as he could while crammed in this throng of people, to the house we were in. I looked around. The music was shockingly loud with one of the hosts' dj friends tripping out on his own party in his head near the corner with his equipment. On the couch, three people were viciously and simultaneously making out while beside them sat someone lazily staring into space, repeatedly hitting their vape. A Christmas tree doubled as a chair for someone lying on the ground too drunk to keep their head from wobbling about. People stood on the coffee table and others danced in any available crevice of space between the bodies crammed into the living room. Someone was organizing the cups into a grid methodically on the kitchen counter, and another person screamed as they were the seventh unlucky member to enter the hand-hit-fan club thanks to the oddly placed ceiling fan in the dining area. It was a small place, certainly too small for everyone in it. In any case it was a perfectly suitable and no doubt expected drinking environment.
"So why are you here then?"
"I was invited by our friend-"
"No no I mean, why come if you aren't here to party like this?"
"I like the people. The stoners in the basement have some very interesting conversation topics."
I think I must've cocked my head or something, because he laughed at my reaction, rather than his own joke.
He was cute, I decided to see what was up, "Did you come here by yourself or are you DD'ing someone?"
"Not yet but someone generally needs a ride by the end of these things."
"So that your plan then? Come here sober pretending to be drinking so you can flirt, then take the randoms that somehow missed their ride wherever you want to do whatever you want to em?"
His face sorta sunk, and he looked at the baseboards intently. The drinking musta got to my head. Why did I say that? Why did I say that? I don't know how much time passed. I was all in my head, regretting being so accusatory. Guy looked like he was gonna cry.
“Hey, it was a joke!” I put my hand on his arm and he startled a bit, snapped out of his daze. “Not a very funny one, sorry.”
“No, you're good!” he nodded and then laughed, but it was super fake. He raised his flask in a sort of ‘cheers’ gesture and said, “Nice meeting you!” Then he pushed his way through the bodies toward the basement. Didn't look like he wanted to be followed. I took another drink and right after, the dude who kept making out with whoever was willing kissed me and I blacked out after that.
Isn't too hard to spot the only guy with a flask at a party, and he was tall anyways. This time I spotted him earlier on.
“Hey Wonka,” I tried to slide up next to him all sly, “spare any chocolate?” Looking back it makes me cringe. I was already a couple shots in, friends of the host, so we’d started early. He still smiled though, genuinely even.
“Sorry, gin this time.”
“Oh, stepping up to the big leagues?”
“When in Rome, right?”
I wanted to apologize for the last time I’d talked to him, it didn't seem like the right thing just then. It was awkward after that, for me. Tried to segue all smooth and his signature talking point wasn't even available. I didn't see him much after that.
I forget what I dressed as for the Halloween party, but he was dressed as a drunken pirate, and he came already drunk. It made sense at the time, it was his costume after all, and it was funny when he stumbled through the door. Plus he was playing some of it up, all jack-sparrow-like. We all had a laugh then went to the basement and smoked some grass. He cleared up after that actually. I thought he’d pass out, it's what happens to most drunk people that decide to smoke. Thought he was being flirty with me, passing smoke to my lungs after he took a hit, he called it shotgunning or something, but nothing more really came of it.
That party went on and I didn't see him for a while. Then he surprised me by seeking me out, “You gotta try this thing!” he said. Thought he grabbed my shoulders kinda rough, but the guy was wasted. Brought me out to the garage with the beer-pongers and showed me the beer bong like it was some new invention, made me laugh.
“It's cool, huh?” He belched after demonstrating how it works. Found it funny at the time, so I laughed. He insisted I do one, so I was like alright fine, when in Rome right? I hate beer, but it made him happy.
We got separated again, somehow. Saw him when he joined the hand-hit-fan-club. Another tally mark for the fridge, they never bothered with a whiteboard. I was in the kitchen at the time, sorta spacing out I guess, don't really remember what I was thinking about, just remember that I smiled at him and he did some silly grin and waved super excited. We talked after that. Couldn't tell you about what, was too busy looking at his eyes, ya know? He was so into whatever he was talking about, thought I was real into it just cos I kept nodding and smiling. It was cute.
He didn't have his flask for that one.
I only ever saw him at that house, he didn't really go to other parties. Fancy mustache party this time around, and he was dressed the part too, even though it was just an excuse to put mascara on our upper lips. Of course I had a cop mustache. He had like a thin French one or something… No it was Dali, I remember. Nice gray suit, I was worried he’d trash it. When he saw me, he was laughing in the corner of the basement, and he waved with that same enthusiasm as he had in the kitchen that last time. I sat next to him on the couch. Him and a host were talking about plans for some bong that you could light with a laser or the sun or something. I tried to pretend like I was interested, but the way some boys obsess over weed, I just don't get it.
Ended up getting bored and wandered around for most of the party, less people there, but I think he stayed in the basement most of the time.
Post-banquet party was wild, always was. Hosts gave out their own awards, separate from the school’s, obviously. Things like Most Shots, Worst Alcohol Taste, Biggest Stoner, things like that. Neither of us got an award, and I saw him by the stairs, in a corner, holding some dude’s drink that was just handed to him, and he looked stressed. It was hot, and his eyes were shut real tight, so I went over and rubbed his shoulder.
"You good?" Had to yell over the excited cheers. Don't know how that place ever avoided noise complaints. He opened one eye and I felt him relax a little when he saw me. Caught me by surprise really, don't know why I had that effect on him, only ever saw the guy at parties.
"Lotta people!" He opened both eyes and glanced around, tensed up again. There were a lot of people, too many. Way more than that first time I met him, crammed in to that living room, plus it was hot, we were both sweating, and it was impossible to stand anywhere without touching at least one other body. Someone grabbed my ass, but when I turned it was impossible to tell if it was even on purpose. Just a sea of heads, constantly moving, pushing each other around, yelling, kissing, vaping. It was a lot, easy to be overwhelmed, and it looked like he wasn't drinking as much.
"Come on!" I squeezed around the banister and onto the top step with him.
"But I'm holding this drink for ------" he held up some bottle of trashy tequila, mostly gone. I shook my head, quirky dude, pushover too, apparently.
I took it from him and set it on the banister, "There, he'll find it!" He looked sorta worried, but I grabbed his hand and we pushed our way downstairs. If upstairs was sweaty, downstairs was just wet. Marijuana smoke mixed with the humidity so it was hard to breathe, and it clung to you too. Felt like walking though a wall of dust but the dust was damp weed. A circle of smokers sat on the floor while too many bodies pressed against the walls, in corners, on the couch, people were sitting on the television stand. Host room doors which were usually closed and reserved sat open with more people still crammed into the corners of those spaces.
I could tell with the way his hand kept tensing up and accidentally squeezing too hard that he didn't like this sort of proximity, and I elbowed my way through, dragging him along as quickly as possible. I could feel his anxiety creeping into my arm and I, too began to grow hyper-aware of touch and the din of music, laughs, shouts, kisses, groans, and shatters became overwhelming. Finally at the back door, I lifted the stick behind the sliding glass, then stepped out into the cool night, pulling him out of the dense throng and closed the door behind us. A host noticed and kicked the stick back into it's place as someone tried to open the door, also seeing some relief from the crowd and the host shook her head and pointed upstairs, indicating this door wasn't to be used.
"You looked stressed," I turned to him, and he had his hands on his head, and his elbows out, breathing deeply.
"A little, yeah."
"Want one?" I offered him a cigarette. He considered, then accepted. I lit mine, "Remember that party trick you showed me? Shotgunning or something like that?"
"Oh yeah! That was you, I remember."
"Here, this is called monkey-dicking."
He laughed before I showed him, "Monkey what?"
"Put it in your mouth, look," I grabbed his chin and brought our cigarettes together, "suck in." He did as he was told and I did the same. After his was lit, he took a couple of drags and smiled.
"Monkey-dicking," he laughed again. He looked up at the porch, crammed with people, and at the yard, empty. We were around the main part of the yard, and not very visible from the deck. On either side of us were some bushes, and we were standing on a small concrete pad. For the most part, this area was rarely used, except the bushes for the occasional piss when the only bathroom was taken and the person hadn't lowered their inhibitions enough to just go at the bottom of the porch stairs.
"Woah," His voice snapped me out of whatever I'd been thinking about, "your eyes look cool in the moonlight."
"Thanks," I'm sure the dark hid my blush, if not I would've blamed it on wine or called it my rouge. Didn't think I really liked this guy in that way. He was funny, quirky, cute, sure, but not really my type. Looking at his eyes, they were glinting the light of the full moon in such a way that they appeared to glow while the darkness of the night and the angle of the porch shadowed the rest of him, "Yours do too. Super green."
"Like weed, hah," he chuckled at his own joke.
I smiled, and shook my head. Silly boy, totally oblivious, "Sure."
Don't remember much after that.
He was already there when I arrived this time. He and a host had bonded over the past couple months. They'd ride longboards on a trail behind our college and find new smoking spots. I'd even seen him here in passing a couple times. Each time, he'd do that same goofy excited wave that it seemed like he'd only use on me. Maybe I just hadn't seen him recognize anyone else. Part of me didn't think he even remembered any of the times we met, but he talked to me like he did, and even referenced a couple things we said and did, though I couldn't validate some of it. Like I said, only ever saw him at those parties.
Him and a host were having a little drinking game. He wanted it to be old fashioned, consecutive shots until one of em drops, the host had a party to tend, so they settled on highest number of shots throughout the night, and kept tally on their arms with the hand-hit-fan-club marker. After a few rounds, they decided to have fight club, and went to the garage to 'brawl.' I was here to see the other host so we didn't go with them, and instead talked and set up or put away things for the party. They'd done fight club before, so it wasn't too shocking, they did have a split lip and a black eye between them when they came in this time though, and while they didn't really care, we insisted on helping.
"Does your jaw hurt?" I dabbed his lip with a damp washcloth and eyed the side of his face, turning darker by the second.
He shrugged, "Can't really feel too much right now anyways," he held up the tally marks on his arm; by the looks of it, they were already five drinks in. He grinned all goofy, then winced slightly as his split widened.
"Well you can feel that at least," I dabbed up the blood forming around his split.
"Are you using vodka?"
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"It'll disinfect it."
He laughed, then winced, "We just got done punching each other," laughed again, lighter this time.
I saw his point, so shrugged and doused the rag with vodka and covered his mouth. His eyes got really wide, and he turned red. He grabbed my wrist, not hard or anything, and not to move my arm, more in a oh god what is happening sort of way.
"Yeah," I grinned at him, "stings more than punches, huh?"
He nodded slightly. The rest of the party was uninteresting.
I forgot when or how I got his number. Or maybe I gave him mine, I don't know. We'd texted a bit, smoked sometimes, he was interesting, again, quirky. I guess I could say we were becoming friends. So there was nothing strange about him asking to come over to smoke a bit. Honestly he was a pretty big pothead, forgot a lot of stuff, his novelty had worn off.
When he got to my apartment, he was wet from the rain and also blood dripping from his right hand, in his left was his longboard. He did that goofy wave, which I was able to confirm that, yes, he only did for me, and flung some blood onto my door. His eyes and stupid grin told me what I already knew before he could say:
"Yeah I can see that. What the hell happened?" I grabbed his wrist to stop him making more of a mess, the dark red drips leading from the elevator to my door were bad enough.
"Oh it's Not that bad-"
"This is a lot of blood, come here."
"This way, over to the sink, now," I pulled him along, and he reluctantly stumbled after me, not as much by choice. I began rinsing his arm, looking for the source, his arm was torn up near the elbow, and I rinsed it with a cloth that immediately turned red. I glanced at him, checking for any signs of pain registering. He was looking at the painting above my sink.
"Klimt," he mumbled, nodding in approval. I'd have been more impressed if there wasn't his body fluids to be cleaned off my door still. I put soap on the washcloth.
"Does this sting?"
He peered around at his elbow, "Can't feel shit." Charming. I shook my head.
"So, how'd you manage this?"
"It's slippery in the rain, and I was eating a cob of corn on my way here. Board slipped out from under me on a crosswalk and before I knew it, I was on my ass."
I smiled despite myself, then shook it away. Corn on a cob, why? Why was that even relevant to the story?
"Couldn't chuck the corn, just kinda watched it happen," he laughed, like he had been reading my mind and found my surprise amusing. I just shook my head again.
"Feels fine though, just hopped right back up and chased my board down."
I finished cleaning his arm and led him into my bathroom where I put a bandage over his wound. We smoked on my balcony, talked a bit. I was worried about him.
Maybe I should have told him so.
There's a time and place for everything, right? Sometimes it can be fun to break the mold, be a bit daring, ignore a responsibility or two for a day, whatever, I get that. Breaking all the molds seems a bit much. Getting your ear pierced in a dorm room twenty minutes before the school banquet which you dropped acid for seems like a cry for help. Drunkenly riding a longboard on a highway overpass to be brought home by a police officer just to go out and try it again is a bit much. Burning down a random fucking barn is way too much. Yet here I was, in this dude's car, honestly a little scared of what he was going to do next, as he showed me, beaming with a twisted sort of sick pride, a large charred oval in a corn field a few miles out of town.
"When ya do it?"
"Last week, had ta show someone else, ya know?" Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him glance at me in his rear view mirror, and I think he noticed my expression, which I wasn't exactly hiding anyway, because he quieted down after that. His partner in literal crime was more talkative anyways.
"It was nuts," they said, totally oblivious to the atmosphere of the car, "got some gas, just drove around until it was like God pointed and said, 'this one right here.' It was perfect too, nothin in it, no animals, no equipment, just old hay, it was also, like, falling down inside, we probably did the guy a favor, removing that eyesore."
"Fertilized the soil," he said it soberly, bargaining with himself, almost. Didn't glance back up in the mirror again. I felt sick. I wanted out of the car, and was relieved to be back at my house after dropping off his friend. I needed to tell him somehow, that what he did wasn't okay, that he was going down a dark path.
"Hey," he stopped my thoughts as I was walking up to my porch, "sorry about that."
"I'm not the one who needs apologizing to."
"I know. It was fucked up," he looked away, "I'm not doing great. At life. At…"
I'd started out scared, then angry, now I felt kind of guilty, all these signs… maybe something else was going on, and all I did was watch it happen. He said something, it was a goodbye, but it was weird, in that way that you don't really remember it because it catches you off guard but it wasn't strange enough to remember the exact wording. I watched him drive away, and stood there for a minute, on my driveway. Smoked a shaky stress cigarette. Considered calling someone. Who? The cops? Don't want them around my place.
Maybe I was being too harsh. Everyone deals with their psychotic episodes in a different way, right? There'd never been anything on the news about the barn. No reports filed, nothing. Maybe they did do the owner a favor, I don't know. After a while, I forgot about it anyways. Didn't really mean to, but I didn't see the guy again for like a year. When did we last text? I don't think it was after the barn.
Him and the host hung out still, but they'd moved, and that party house was no more. There were other parties in other places, maybe he went to them, maybe he didn't.
So he texted me. Like, out of the blue. Something about wanting to hang out, so I said sure, thought it would be fun to catch up, I was a little surprised he was still alive actually. He came over, his hair was longer, there were a couple more lines in his face, good lines. We talked. Just talked, caught up. He revealed he liked me at some point, which I knew, but we'd only ever hooked up, nothing serious. He knew I didn't want anything more, and so he never pursued, which I appreciated. He was coming to me for girl advice, actually. Apparently we were friends enough for that. Don't get me wrong, I was fine with it, thought it was kinda sweet. He didn't have many friends, ever. Kept to the few he chose, guess I was one of them.
I don't think I gave him the right advice. He was wondering if I, a girl, would still like him given the circumstances he presented. Of course, being a girl, we were all the same, and would, of course, react the same way. It was silly. But he was a silly, silly boy.
Told him I’d take him back. Girlfriend of three years, he fucked up, they broke up, two years later they're still drunk-calling each other on occasion, I figured, yeah, I’d take him back. I’ve accepted worse after all. Learned some lessons. She probably had too, I figured. And who knows, maybe she did.
But she didn't take him back.
I don't think it could really be called suicide, though it's what I call it. He fell. Really. Just tipped over and bonked his head a bit too hard in just the right place. He was drunk again. Reminded me of when he'd come to my place after the corn thing. Boy was good at falling, getting hurt. He'd given up weed, given up psychedelics, given up hope, and turned it all instead, into alcohol. After he came to me for that bit of girl trouble, we did hang out a bit more, and more regularly. Not that he was interested in me, or me in him, but he was nice, he was sweet, and he was always silly.
It was painful to watch. His descent. Or, well, near the end it was; it is looking back on it. Because it was slow, and it wasn't really much of a problem actually. To other people, anyway. One day it was just like, oh damn, you're always drinking, aren't you? It wasn't even like he tried to hide it. Dude was an open book. Had wine every night, brought white Russians around with him in a drinking glass, didn't ever do vodka in the water bottle thing, cos like I said, he never hid it. Would order drinks at restaurants, no matter the time of day. Watched him put vodka in his cheerios once. Thought he was being silly, ya know? Making a cereal Russian he said. Even made a silly comment about getting every morning routine done in one go, what with the coffee liquor and all.
Tried talking to him about it once. He wasn't angry, or sad. I just told him I was worried about him, and that maybe he drank a little too much. He just said I know, and said something else that was odd, what was it? Doesn't matter or something like that. No, it was, 'Can't matter too much if you're just now telling me.' That did kinda make me think I was being a bit harsh, but thinking back on it… it's pretty sad. He was finding any excuse he had to not change, or to push it further, 'how long can I keep this feeling going,' or, 'how long can I hide this other feeling that always happens when I wake up sober,' more like. And I handed him the excuse he needed to keep the bottle by his bed, the bottle in his car, his second flask. In the end all it was that got him was falling just a little too funky.
Guess he never has to feel whatever he was suppressing anymore.