I went to a party tonight. I’m not sure why I went, or why I go to any of these damn things anymore. Maybe because people ask me and I just say “yes” without thinking about it much. (Soon, I think, I will curb this behavior.)
After trying to talk to few people and realizing they didn’t have much interest in talking to me, I poured myself a cup of gin and sat on a patio chair out back, watching a few cardboard boxes blow around in the autumn wind.
When I was starting to get to a bad place in my own mind, on account of all the drinking, an older man in his mid-fifties opened the back gate and stumbled in. It was dark, but through the darkness I could make out his face, and while it was slightly scary (black rings around the eyes, unkept hair, ghoulish grin), he seemed like an agreeable fellow, so I said hello and asked how he was. “Never better,” he said. “And you?”
“I feel nothing,” I said. He laughed. I laughed as well.
He walked around the house and entered in through the kitchen, where it was warmly lit and people were talking and laughing and saying nice things to each other. I heard someone say, “Uncle Eddie! How are you?”
“Never better!” he said. “Where are the drinks?”
Over the course of two hours I became progressively slanted to the point where I knew I needed to be in my own environment. So I went into the kitchen to rinse my glass, planning to slip out the back again. Instead I found that the last few party-goers had convened there and were eating key lime pie. With no other choice I shifted gears and put on a nice enough expression and ate some pie as well. Uncle Eddie, meanwhile, was laying it on thick and heavy with a young woman from Estonia, who was dressed in studded leather boots and who had on a studded leather jacket. I thought she was kind of neat, mainly because of her clothes, and for a moment I considered telling her more than my name. But the longer I listened to her the more I knew there was no god damn point. And anyway, Uncle Eddie was creeping big time, and lord knows I’m not going to get between a creep and his creeping.
The girl from Estonia said something dumb about books, and then some other guy said something dumb about how books are dying, and how no one reads them anymore, and then something else about the human condition or some shit, and I rolled my eyes so hard I thought I had scraped them on the inside of my skull.
Estonia lady said, “What cake is this? Is so good.”
“Key lime,” I said. “And it’s pie. Cake ain’t pie.”
“Pie? I have never had before.”
“Well,” I said, “you just did. Welcome to America, baby.”
On my way out of the house, I heard Uncle Eddie trying desperately to get Estonia lady into his car. He told her he had a studio at his house, and could play drums, and wouldn’t she like to see that? I thought, man, I’m twenty-five years old and I would never, ever put in any sort of effort like that just to, what, get laid? Who cares.
“Um,” she said, “um, yes, I think I can go with you.”
“Great, great,” said Uncle Eddie. “Fantastic. My car is large and can accommodate bicycles of any size.”
“Lord,” I said aloud. An awkward silence dropped out of space and hung around for five or six seconds.
“Yes?” said Uncle Eddie, slightly annoyed. I was stomping his weak attempt to ward off loneliness.
“It’s just. . . .” I looked at my shoes. “It’s just . . . we’re all definitely going to be dead in twenty years.”
I turned to leave, shook Eddie’s hand, tried to shake Estonia lady’s hand (she ignored it), and then got on my bicycle and flew through south Berkeley and back into Oakland—where the streets are uneven and the lights are dim, because that is where I belong.