Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Blood of Christmas Party


            
             I show up at Allison’s Blood of Christmas Party sometime after eight with Eoin and Jessie, the former having done a hit of acid and the latter only slightly buzzed from a six-dollar bottle of wine, the name of which I can’t recall because I’ve taken two Xanax alongside three bottles of Smirnoff Ice and driving Eoin’s Kia Sportage is serious business so I need to take it easy. Allison’s house is a Victorian-style joint located on the corner of some street in Marion, the name of which I can’t remember either and I had to park a block away since there’s nowhere else convenient, though when we neared the house I couldn’t help but notice several viable, unoccupied spots nearby. At the door we’re each handed two packs of Marlboros, one full-flavored and the other menthol by a guy named Jeremy who always seems cool enough to me, not so much to Jessie because he greets me by saying “Hey, it’s Jessie’s girl!” as he hands me the cigarettes. I think it’s quite funny and tell him I don’t smoke anymore, but am told that it’s a theme of the party and somebody may ask me for one later.
             “He used that joke the last time we saw him” Jessie says once we’re past him, speaking to me, I guess, even though I’m looking away from her and don’t bother responding. The Killers’ When You Were Young blares out from the speakers which is also cool, although I do recall Allison having once informed me that the Killers suck. I disagree but it’s not as if I’m going to call her out on it. Most of the living room has been cleared out, with only a sofa, two wooden chairs and a Christmas tree placed beside the dormant fireplace. The tree has been spray-painted entirely red, deep red and completely lacking in ornamentation. I wonder why there’s a Christmas party the day after Thanksgiving, but whatever, I can dig it.
             There are people everywhere but I don’t know most of them. Beside the Christmas tree stands Denzel and two Japanese women, a pair of twins, one passing the biggest joint I’ve ever seen in my life to the other. They’re university students, or so Eoin says, which is odd considering that there isn’t a university in town and before I can inquire further he’s over there with them, chatting it up and taking hits. With an Australian accent that could melt butter, Denzel asks about the whereabouts of Eoin’s psychotic soon-to-be ex-wife. Eoin informs the trio that she’s been left at home with a bottle of Captain Morgan. The twins giggle in unison and say, again in unison, that Eoin is funny, their accents decidedly less enticing. I’ve nothing against the Japanese, but those girls’ matching outfits -pink miniskirts, lavender halter tops and maroon platform shoes- are idiotic.
             “Macie!” Allison shouts, strolling over to me wearing this amazing snow-white leather jacket adorned with numerous buttons and zippers. I’m instantly, insanely jealous of her attire but smile anyways, if only because she’s the best host in town. She holds a bottle of Coors Light in one hand, half empty. “Got a cigarette, you bitch?” she asks, also smiling, so I remove the plastic from the pack of menthols and open the box. Allison waves it away, noting that she only smokes Turkish Silvers, which confuses me because it’s her party and the rules dictate that people carry Christmas-colored Marlboros. I put the pack back into my purse. “Did you know my brother is graduating in December?” she quizzes me.
             “Do people actually graduate in December?” I respond, playing dumb for the sake of conversation. She scrunches her face.
             “Nine semesters is the norm these days.” She says this with something like disdain, though not for me. I’m pretty sure her brother is in his late thirties. “Anyway, there’s plenty of beer in the kitchen, so help yourself,” she says, already drifting away from me. “Just a so you know, don’t come to me about the Ice 101. I can’t deal with that right now” is the last thing I hear before her voice carries over into a greeting for someone else. I like her style. I’ve lost track of Jessie and gazing behind me, I spot her arguing about something, arms folded, with Jeremy, who seems pleased with the situation. An unrecognized guy wearing a fedora and brown sport jacket checks Jeremy out as the two resolve their supposed dispute. I work my way through the crowd to chat with Kelli and her husband, Will, who leans against the wall looking as though he’s blitzed out of his mind. They’re wearing matching holiday-themed sweaters adorned with reindeer patterns. My watch says it’s twenty-two minutes till nine.
             “Hey, Macie,” Kelli greets me with a desperate sense of inclusion in her words. “Can you hold Will’s beer for a minute?”
             “Sure,” I say, which of course means that I should drink it before Will realizes I’ve done so. “What’s up?” Nothing too serious is ever up with these two, but still.
             “Will said I have wonderful breasts, but I’m not sure if he’s being serious,” she laments. Will, eyes bleary, appears flabbergasted by her statement.
             “I don’t doubt his sincerity, Kelli. They’re incredible. I’d kill for a chest like that.” Not entirely true. I’m perfectly content with my own but readily acknowledge that Kelli’s breasts are the size of watermelons and if I were attracted to other women, most assuredly just as sweet.
             “That’s what I’ve been telling you, sweetie!” Will practically shouts above the music. Kelli scowls.
             “Then why did do that body shot off of Leann?” she responds, almost whispering. Awkward moment. I take a swig from Will’s bottle of Budweiser, then another.
             Will throws his free arm up in frustration, waving it around at no one in particular. “It was a body shot, honey, not anal sex.” Second awkward moment. I take a third swig. From the look in her eyes, I gather that Kelli isn’t terribly upset by her husband’s drunken act. Same old, same old. Out of the blue, Nick emerges from the adjoining kitchen and strides up to us.
             “That stupid bitch wouldn’t give me a shot,” he spits out angrily. Sometimes Nick’s intensity is enthralling but I get the impression this isn’t one of those times. I excuse myself and make my way over to Denzel’s posse, which now includes Amber, an infectiously-friendly blonde social worker currently holding a bottle of Jack Daniel’s to her lips. She swallows, hisses, and passes the bottle to Eoin, who is usually part of my posse but in truth runs in most everyone’s posse. Eoin takes more than one gulp.
             “Yes, Eoin. Yes!” Denzel proclaims, accompanied by the echo of Japanese giggling. Eoin coughs, wipes his mouth and hands the bottle to me. I pause, ponder aloud that I’m the designated driver, and then proceed to school the lot of them. Cheers ensue, including my own. Hanging above the mantel is an acrylic painting that depicts a naked woman with auburn hair grasping a stick of dynamite in her left hand. In her right, the woman clasps the tail of a dachshund bearing an outrageously oversized, erect penis. I have to, just have to ask. Denzel claims it was a gift to Allison by someone wishing to encapsulate her personality. I’m spellbound by that revelation, momentarily, until I convince myself it’s probably true and accept the fact that if I think about it too much, my brain will explode. The two Japanese girls are smoking cigarettes all of a sudden, as is Eoin.
             “Where’s my sister?” Eoin asks.
             “Sarah? She’s upstairs, pretending to get along with the coke-heads ‘cause they’re watching the Willow: Special Edition DVD,” Amber informs him.
             “You know, I’ve never seen Willow,” Eoin comments, and immediately thereafter you spot a glazed look of whatever passes for disdain in crowds such as these form within the Japanese girls’ eyes. “Ever since I saw it in the theater, I mean,” Eoin continues, eager to obscure the veracity of his previous statement. “I can’t watch a movie that good on a small screen, after all.” The girls seem pleased. “But hold on. Cocaine?”
             “Like I said, pretending,” Amber counters, as if someone can pretend to do cocaine.
             “Gotcha,” says Eoin, as if someone can pretend to enjoy Willow. He takes another hit from the still-bulbous joint.
             Having downed the remainder of Will’s bottle of beer, I pop another Xanax and elbow my way through to the kitchen, eager to get another drink. Shit, I think, reprimanding myself for entering the Mos Eisley cantina so carelessly. A necessary evil, I suppose, but even so.
             What I behold in the sizable kitchen is as follows: Leann kicking the shit out of a not-so-empty case of Coors for -from what I gather via her obscenity-laden tirade- having the audacity to get in her way; Brian simultaneously checking his smartphone for messages as he halfheartedly attempts to calm Leann down; Nathan making a pastrami and Gouda sandwich even though there are numerous sandwiches already made while his wife, Hayley, cheers Leann on; Andrew -not to be mistaken for Andy, who has been missing for some time now- acting as if he’s removing the cap from a bottle of Budweiser with his left eye socket, much to the amazement of Miles, who you haven’t seen since shortly after high school; and the woman with the tricolored hair, Megan -not to be confused with Meaghan, Nick’s girlfriend who, when last seen, was busy admiring Allison’s coat- sits cross-legged atop the mahogany dining table, surrounded by open bags of Doritos and a plate of sandwiches, mouthing selected lyrics from Dawn of the Dead by Does It Offend You, Yeah? which pours out from the speakers in the other room.
             Like the dead that walked before me, therein Megan silently imitates, almost gleefully, clutching the translucent bottle of Ice 101 with scraggy fingers, more like claws than anything else.
             “Chill the fuck out, Leann,” Brian says, an utter lack of conviction in his voice, still sending a text to someone, probably Melanie, his girlfriend, who is in the other room.
             “...Motherfucking...fuck...fucker...” Leann mumbles, ignoring him. I find it best to let Leann work out her frustrations on her own time and thus say nothing, inching my way toward Nathan and Hayley instead.
             “You should try one of those sandwiches, Macie,” Nathan offers, and I’m tempted to accept his invitation.
             “Show that box who’s boss, Leann. Beer, Macie?” Hayley inquires, and I’m always enamored with someone so conscientious.
             “You know it.” She opens the fridge without hesitation and hands me a can of Sapporo, just how I like it. I remind myself to send her a Christmas card.
             “It wasn’t the best Thanksgiving for Leann, you know,” Megan says, a faint smirk on her face. She lights a cigarette. Megan’s wearing a faded red zip-up hoodie with an emerald-green tee shirt underneath. Very Christmasy. The hoodie has several small holes, punctures really, in the neckline and hood itself. I make a mental note to ask her about it sometime soon. “She had a fight with her boyfriend, the usual, hadn’t anyone to spend time with, wound up eating Chinese food with me at Hy-Vee.”
             “Don’t they sell more traditional food at Hy-Vee?” I ask.
             “How was it?” Miles inquires, seemingly oblivious to not having seen me in nearly eight years. Megan shrugs, and I haven’t the foggiest idea as to which question she’s addressing.
             “It was great,” Leann comments, having exhausted herself. The mangled box is leaking from one of its corners, so she kicks it off to the side. “Fucking awesome, in fact.”
             “Leannasaurus Rex, letting off some steam!” Nathan says playfully. Leann looks at him, narrowing her eyes.
             “Leannasaurus Rex. That’s clever,” she responds coldly. “Nice sandwich.”
             “Thanks. I think it’s the Gouda which-” but Nathan’s alcohol-fueled sandwich soliloquy is interrupted by Leann smashing the sandwich with her fist. One, two, three slams, leaving the item crushed and deformed. She then storms out of the room, saying nothing. Nathan picks it up, sniffs it, takes a bite. “Still good!” he announces triumphantly.
             Awkward silence. Megan takes a gulp of the schnapps, swallows, exhales smoke which billows out like she’s on fire internally. Miles expresses astonishment at Andrew’s previous act, rather delayed because he’s ripped on Ecstasy. Someone laughs, not sure who. Melanie appears and subsequently drags Brian out of the kitchen. Coincidentally, Arcade Fire’s Ready to Start begins playing and Megan taps the bottle of Ice 101 against the table in correspondence with the opening drum beat. My watch informs me that it’s six minutes after nine.
             Upstairs, in a bedroom, people are watching a movie; Willow, I think, since Val Kilmer’s interacting with a midget. Some guy snorts a line of coke off of what I presume to be his boyfriend’s exposed stomach with a rolled-up five-dollar bill. Sarah’s explaining -rather eloquently as a trickle of blood seeps out from her left nostril- that this is Ron Howard’s best film to date. I’m inclined to disagree, given that Kevin Bacon looked so hot in Apollo 13 but remain silent on the issue, instead mentioning that Eoin is looking for her. She says he can come upstairs if he’s so concerned, to which I counter that there’s a solid chance he would get lost on the way up. Sarah shrugs, as do I. We sit together, watching Willow for a while, discussing the merits of Kevin Pollack’s performance as one of the gnomes or whatever he’s supposed to be. At some point, Jessie appears, wearing a lampshade as a hat, and passes me a glass of something. Taking a drink, I deduce that it’s gin mixed with Busch Light, loathe it, then take another sip. The two guys are making out and Sarah places a copy of The Dark Crystal upon the exposed disc tray. Jessie tells me I need to come downstairs, so I do.
             Downstairs, Andrew -not magic-trick Andrew but the one who owns a Mercedes- and his wife Jasmine are robot-dancing to Bryan Adams’ I Need Somebody and I join in the festivities. I’m pretty sure they’re sober. At the song’s conclusion, everyone cheers except for Eoin, as he’s busy getting fresh with the Christmas tree. The twins’ tops have disappeared, leaving only sparkly bras between what Denzel has seen before and what he’ll see again soon enough. Nick’s arguing with Allison.
             “No, Allison, I can’t ‘dig’ it. Why the hell can’t she share the Ice 101?” he asks, incredulous.
             “Is that a rhetorical question?” Allison responds, uncertain and, most likely, uncaring.
             “You paid for it!”
             “Hey, it’s a party, man. Don’t hassle the host.” Nick can’t deny the logic of her answer so he heads over to Will and Kelli, who, I note, continue to struggle with the body shot off of Leann, which is weird because Leann’s standing beside Kelli, admonishing Will for his inappropriate behavior. Brutal.
             Some lady begins talking to me, telling me how she’s turned her life around and is now an accountant. I keep asking what her name is and she keeps reminding me that she’s Heather, Heather Robbins and we went to high school together but I haven’t the slightest idea who that is and thus, at some point, keep nodding my head till she wanders away in disgust. I feel bad, finish my drink, and check my watch. It’s ten thirty-three.
             I step outside for a moment, ostensibly to get some fresh air but the truth is that I don’t want everyone to see me smoking, for on some level it hurts to admit the resurgence of a publicly-denounced habit even though no one really gives a damn. It’s unseasonably warm for late November and the patio is a welcome sight. I light a menthol cigarette, inhale, and study the colors on the box whence it came.
             “A shotgun,” utters a female voice, startling me. Twirling around, I find Megan sitting cross-legged upon the veranda, cloaked in near-darkness save the cherry of a cigarette burning brightly.
             “What?” I say, perplexed.
             “Knowing you, the question of my attire is inevitable, and I wanted to save you the trouble of having to ask. I got hit in the face with a shotgun blast, though at considerable distance, mind you, and structural deficiencies notwithstanding, I’m quite fond of this hoodie, so...” she trails off, which, knowing her, isn’t surprising.
             “That’s... That’s bullshit,” I stammer, slightly agitated. Megan takes a swig of Ice 101, swishes it around, swallows, and grins.
             “Yeah, maybe,” she replies in that whimsically corrosive tone of hers which only succeeds in ruffling my feathers. I flick my unfinished cigarette into the lawn, thoroughly repulsed by it all.
            Before I can open the door, she posits that I could always ask Eoin about the incident but it wouldn’t matter anyway since everyone’s a liar when the response displeases me, right? I suggest she do something about that dye-job of hers as the blue, white, and red was charming at first -in its own clownish way- but as her hair grows out, it looks as if someone has smeared shit across the top of her head. I also tell her to go fuck herself, to which she begins laughing that cancerous hyena laugh of hers, the one I’ve come to loathe irrevocably.
             Inside, the lights have gone out, supplanted by shifting shades of green and red produced by numerous strings of Christmas lights taped to the ceiling and I want to kick myself for not having noticed them earlier. Some jazz rendition of Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit plays a bit too loudly for comfort and the guy with the fedora has lost his pants somehow, somewhere yet doesn’t seem to mind, nor does anyone else. Jill emerges from the crowd and hands me a vodka tonic. I thought she was pregnant, I say, and she says something about being pregnant two years ago and I can’t deal with this right now so I sashay over to Denzel but now the twins’ skirts have disappeared, too, leaving them in nothing more than lingerie and platform shoes and I can’t deal with this either so I look for Nathan and Haley but Kelli informs me they’ve gone home since they have kids and it’s not until she stops speaking that I notice Kelli isn’t sitting on the couch itself but, rather, upon Will’s knee with Leann perched atop the other and I’m all like what the fuck? so I head into the kitchen only to see Andrew -the blonde one, not the married one- attempting to teach Miles some kind of joint lock and I don’t want any part of it, opting instead to grab a can of Sapporo from the fridge even though I have yet to finish the vodka tonic but polish it off once Miles starts talking about amateur blacksmithing because I can’t handle a discussion of such magnitude and thus grab a second can of Sapporo for the long walk away but Nicks stalls my retreat by asking about the Ice 101; I tell him to let it go because I know the more intoxicated he gets, the more likely that bottle is to be smashed against his skull but he’s not the type to listen so whatever, right? and he’s screaming at me as I hastily exit the kitchen, which is where I collide with Brian, who isn’t looking ahead of himself because he’s checking that goddamn phone; he apologizes, is immediately forgiven -even if being sorry doesn’t remove the sting of going unnoticed- and gets out of my way so I can find Eoin, who is grinding with Allison to Toni Basil's Mickey but upon interrogation, he silently examines me as if checking to make sure all of my limbs and digits are still intact while Allison shouts at me for ruining the host’s fun till she tears up, gives me a hug, and thanks me for coming to the party but I’m unable to respond because I can’t deal with any of this right now.
             Upstairs, the guys have disappeared and Sarah’s watching The Wrestler alone. The blood stain beneath her nose remains, looking as fresh as ever and she’s raving about Mickey Rooney’s amazing performance like I haven’t seen the film already and I should correct her but don’t since another Xanax has just been popped and the thought of Mickey Rooney as the titular wrestler is pretty funny. Crawling into bed, my hand runs across a patch of something gooey and while its scent leaves little to the imagination I feel just fine, for it’ll be dry by the time I wake up and besides, sleep comes easily when I stare at televisions without paying attention.

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