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A Party
by Yash Seyedbagheri



A semi-dark room, another Friday night, a year and a half after graduation. Laughter rises from an apartment upstairs, thumping and clomping, all too familiar. Laughter, cackling and almost musical at the same time. Once, I laughed like that. Now I sound like a constipated goose.

“We’re getting fucked up tonight,” someone calls, voice deep and yet awkward with young adulthood. I recognize this cadence.

“We’re the kings,” another voice yells in response. Easy to think that way when you’re twenty-one, twenty-two. Twenty-six even.

“Dance, asshole,” another voice calls out. Or at least I think that’s what she says. Sometimes you hear everything through the walls and other times, it’s like living on Mars and listening for sounds way into the expanse of stars.

I try to drown it out. Pull the moon-and-stars sheets over me, the thick wool blankets too. Soon it will be over, soon the smiles of Friday will turn to the dreariness and inevitability of Saturday, the motions of pragmatism and aloneness. But words invade the sheets, the blankets, the pillow even, cracking like fireworks. I can’t make them all out, but they’re clearly full of hope. This is their moment, their party, and they are seizing it.

So I get up. Turn on the computer. I try to ignore the email, opened in another tab. Inbox. No numbers. Ads, links to news stories, rejection letters from a couple of lit mags. Another tab, a half-assed CV glaring at me, jobs waiting to be applied for.

I turn on some Netflix, screen breaking the dusty darkness, the bare sterile walls. My choice: The Ranch. That’s the first show that comes to mind. I could watch something else. But I can’t think of what. Everything else is too trite, or too dark and rife with disease, death, destruction, everything in between.

But not even Sam Elliott’s f-bomb spewing mustache can keep me safe. More laughter, the thump of speakers, cheering rises, mingling with the show’s egregious laugh track. I imagine bodies moving, connections of hands and hips, secrets whispered. I think of the days of laughter, with Fritz and Chris and David, playing pool in basements, Chris trying to show me how to wield a pool cue, the cue always slipping. Fritz talking about that novel he wanted to write, the one about aliens. David telling a story about painting Hitler mustaches on mannequins in his hometown mall. Then there were the four of us, at the dollar theater, huddled in the hallways before fiction workshop, or at Bavo’s Bar on Tuesday nights in our booth, a swath of warm light a witness, while we talked about favorite movies, and my fondness for writing dysfunctional family tales.

“You can only write the same story once,” Fritz joked, raising his Fat Tire, taking a long swig of amber ale.

“Get the fuck out of here,” I quipped and did my dancing eyebrow routine, which earned me shoves across the table.

“No,” Chris said. “Gotta agree with that. At some point you move on. How many times can some miserable fictional fuck drink himself silly because of his past?”

“Check back with me in ten years,” I’d joked, throwaway words then.

“Gotta move, move, move,” David said, with a gesture that looked like someone having a seizure. “Be gone stasis. I’ll predict, Nick, that you end up working in some indie theater.”

“Get the fuck out of here,” I said again. “Not an indie theater. Although I love that. At least those movies have some resemblance to real life. No CGI crap. Just real, limited budgets, and organic settings. And quirky characters.”

“Still predicting indie theater,” David said again, and we all laughed.

I pause the show now. Maybe some music will help me relax. Spotify list offers me the majesty of Tchaikovsky, the Impressionistic tinkling of Debussy. But Tchaikovsky’s Festival Coronation March only evokes celebration, achievement. Gathering. The speakers upstairs thump, thump, thump, as if calling me to dance, even though we’re separated by a ceiling, a boundary so firm, and yet so fragile.

Why do people say stay in touch after graduation? Why do they text for the first year and then responses become more laconic, platitudes? Hope you’re well. Just been busy. Talk soon, talk soon. Not even emails dotted with copious “Is.” I know only that Fritz is writing for some newspaper, Chris is pursuing a Ph.D, and David’s an editor in some great city. No details for me, no stories of horrible bosses and criticisms and nicknames for said bosses. No secrets about wanting to take over their papers and publishing houses or wild dreams for the future.

I get up, pace the expanse of bare floor. I’ve always thought of getting a rug, even one like the Dude’s in The Big Lebowski, but rugs connote intimacy, the motion of multiple pairs of feet, the motion of bodies and life. No, the bare floor is cold, a series of oak lines, but it’s real.

Thump, thump, thump.

I go into the kitchen, reach into the fridge with wine stains, traces of hot sauce, wine, Vienna sausages, hummus, and pita. I pour myself a big glass of Merlot. Sink into that midnight black couch, the one that sags a bit and has a few rips on the arms. Maybe I can let the wine wash over me, a tide. Maybe, just maybe, I can sink into a kind of dream, even if it’s a half-groggy one. Something beyond the walls, the thumping, the empty spaces. Maybe I can forget, forget that this was Friday, wake up the next morning to only blurred images and fragments, walk out into the world among the thrum of bodies and movement. Absorb the brush of an arm, the scent of Old Spice or deodorant, even the traces of a joint or a bonus smile, scents of life and connection.

Thump, thump, thump. More laughter. The sound of something breaking upstairs and cheers, as if destruction is a virtue. I think of the motion of Fritz, Chris, David, and me pushing and shoving, even while older people looked in disapproval or befuddlement. And I think of the way we all laughed, arresting these observers and their expressions, arched eyebrows, pursed lips, gaping O mouths.

“Please shut the fuck up,” I yell now, the words taking on a harshness I even didn’t intend, something that holds the weight of something much, much darker. “Please stop. Please, please stop.”

Thump, thump, laugh, laugh. Thump, thump, laugh, laugh. I imagine the partiers upstairs, dispersing one by one when the night deepens. Tonight, they think they have it all. But I wonder if they know the truth of things. I wonder if they’re dancing, declaring war on the inevitable, but surrendering to it as they slink away, reciting their friends’ names and favorite movies and scents over and over, like a liturgy. Reciting their most idiotic moments to themselves too, of toilet-papered lawns and passing out and just riding around in noisy trucks or Daddy’s BMW, horns honking, bodies standing on roofs and backseats roaring without thought of the next day’s hangovers, proof of poor judgment.

The computer lingers in my room, with empty screens, no doubt, an inbox without a magic 1, 2, or a truly magic 3 to break the electronic stasis. Same as yesterday, same as the week before, the month before.

As if some darker force rushes through like a train, I feel my grip on the wine glass loosening, feel my hand pulling back, feel the glass released, flying through the air, a half-awake motion, something that feels distant until it strikes the living room wall, shattering. The sound echoes, arresting, accusing, a sound out of place, an inevitable sound.

Around me the moon silhouettes dusty floors, white walls, now stained with wine. A plain faux marble table between the living room and kitchen, its own island. Upstairs, there are cartons of beer and probably pizzas or Mexican or whatever they ordered, clothes and condoms strewn all over the place, a chaotic, yet soothing scene. Proof of other bodies.

I stare at the scene unfurling. I could pick up the glass. But I don’t. I let it all sink, a trail of wine sliding and snaking onto the floor, absorbing itself into that empty oak. Ruins spread, piece by piece. I stare at the shards of glass, sharp, silhouetted by the pale moon. Each piece is so uneven, some larger, some ridiculously small, some in between. But each holds an equal amount of pain. I’ll pick them up tomorrow when I can deal with sharpness, when I have the daylight around me.

The room feels oddly small now.

I rise from the couch. Walk downstairs, one step at a time into the parking lot. Standing outside the my maroon and green building, a rather hideous edifice, I look up at that window above me. Silhouettes move, so close to one another, a sea roaring and moving, and I can see the motion of beers and glasses. I try to make out the faces, but see only shapes, fluid, and fleeting. Colors bounce against the walls, blues, greens, oranges, and reds, a spinning miniature disco ball, measuring the beat of desperation and joy and a moment in time.

“Party tonight,” I yell. “Party tonight because it’s all you have.”

The bodies keep moving and laughter keeps rising. Someone makes a joke about The Hangover and ending up on the roof, another says it’s the best party. Ever. A proclamation with confidence, without nuance. Not a nod, nor a voice calls out, although a part of me imagines it. Welcome. Or even a nickname, although they don’t know my birth one.

“Do you hear me?” I yell. “Have the best party of your lives.”

So many parties seemed like that. The first-year party at some poets’ house, where Fritz, Chris, David and I smoked and when it seemed like we’d never separate, while the poets gathered in their corners and discussed how Walt Whitman was dead or some other trite matters.

My last birthday party before graduation, at the bar. I shook my ass to the throb of Lady Gaga, The Eagles, even Kenny Rogers, embracing the pink and purple jukebox because it seemed right and full of energy. They all laughed, laughter so discordant, awkward, yet perfect. Then there was the graduation party, the one where we promised to stay in touch, when our achievements were all laid out before us and we let loose a little more, telling bad jokes, and talking of being different, that different teacher, that good, kind editor, that kickass author who didn’t give a care about reviews.

Stay in touch. Famous last words.

I reach into the empty expanse of air. I shadowbox it. Shove it. Pretend to push at it. A girl passes and another, both shaking their heads. But I push at the air again. Feel only the coolness of evening, Then I touch myself once, twice, on the shoulder, on the head. I even try to hug myself, hands pulled as tightly to myself as possible, but feel only cracked hands, like weary sandpaper. I can’t hold on long enough anyway and let go of this contortion, arms released into the night, which seems much colder than before as I climb the stairs again, dragging out each step.




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