Christmas was just as I'd expected it to be. Nothing out of the ordinary this year. Plenty of alcohol, minimalist festivities and a lot of cursing. After the sixteenth year you kind of get used to it. Everyone makes a big deal out of their parents' arguing or whatever. But I think that just makes you weak. People argue, your parents are people, get over it. If you don't you end up shouting at them both, to which they respond by turning on you. So in my opinion it's best just to lay low. Stay in your room. After all that's what teenagers do.
Normally I'd spend the following week of new year happenings in my room as well. But for some reason I had agreed to go to a party. One of my friends, a far more chipper and optimistic fellow was rather well off. He’d decided to celebrate the past and future years of friendship with a few hundred of his friends. Usual drab. He just so happened to coincide it with new years eve and just so happened to invite his crush of 3 years. Given his nonstop mention of 'bringing a date' or finding a 'new years kiss' I don't think his party is as spontaneous as he lets people believe. I can't blame him to be honest, the girl he's after is really pretty. Shame that's all she is. Too prissy in my opinion. Poor Michael, (the host) he won't get far. He's a bit loud you see, likes to talk a lot. I like that about him, he can talk for hours and hours sparing me the trouble. I can just sit and listen, fine by me. But Chloe (the crush) doesn't come across as the most humble. She certainly wouldn't sit and listen. She shows herself as more the one to look you up and down before scoffing. Certainly the person I avoid and grimace at from long distances. Super becoming of me I know.
Michael’s house was huge to say the least. His parents were incredibly well off and rarely around. Hence he was allowed to live so large so often. These parties were far from uncommon, yet each one was treated as something rare. I did not care much for parties but attended each and every one nonetheless. I had dressed fairly smart for the evening. One of my best shirts. I figured I would make some form of effort given the occasion, regardless of intent.
I arrived at the party about 15 minutes after it began in the hope that I could go unnoticed and simply slip in. I had no desire to draw attention to myself. I wanted to have a quiet evening of meandering about and maybe even catching some gossip. It was a bad habit of mine to earwig on people’s conversations. Even if I didn’t enjoy the company of many of these people I did enjoy them bitching about one another.
Midway through listening to someone’s story of breakups and cheating and whatever, I heard a voice that made me sigh audibly.
“Fran the man! I am so glad you are here!” Michael was over pronouncing, he was drunk.
“Hey man of course I’m here! I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”
“Aw shucks, you are just saying that. New Years with a fool like me?”
“Who better? And hey, here’s to friendship!” I lifted my cup to toast.
“Cheers Fran! Enjoy the night!” He lifted his cup to meet mine, but missed, spilling some on the floor. He turned and greeted some other guests. I tried to catch the ending to the story I was earwigging, but the conversations were too jumbled at this point. I took a sip of the drink. Michael had laid out a huge spread with drinks and food. I gladly obliged and had poured myself a cup of Malibu. Beer tasted like watered down piss to me. I much preferred liquor or spirits. And luckily there weren’t many who took a fancy to coconut. So I was pleased to have a bottle to myself.
The music was no more than a faint hum above the ramblings of the crowds. From what I could make out it was some kind of pop music. A wise choice. The host’s decision to please as many people as possible instead of playing his own preferences. Of course it is sod’s law that I am in fact not one of those people who enjoys pop music. Give me mozart any day but as soon as you shove some gussied up lanky prick with a guitar down my throat i’ll turn my nose up. And yes, I am that touchy about music. it came from years of following what everyone else thought was cool. It was only recently that I realised there was a whole world of music to enjoy.
As I was drifting off and thinking about my favourite musicians I went to fill up my cup, only to find the bottle half empty. Instead of a quarter empty, like i had left it. I smirked to imagine another person with a decent taste in drink. Probably some fool grasping for whatever he could find. I turned with my cup now full to see a ghost. Not a figure draped in linen cloth. I saw before me, a person. A person with whom I had no business. My fist clenched as I blinked my eyes shut. I had a moment of recollection, taking time to breathe deeply before I opened my eyes. Everyone has things that they wish to forget, it is the burden of the unlucky few to relive these memories. Through shades and whispers in the dark. Sometimes you may hear your name being called in an empty room. Sometimes you see a shadow in the corner of your eye. Sometimes I see my past.
I wandered over to a bare wall furthest from any crowd barr a few couples talking. I leant against it and took a swig. The warmth hung in my throat for a moment before lighting a fire in my stomach. I don’t advocate the consumption of alcohol in any way, but drinking what felt like a winter’s fire was alright by me. I took this moment of self-indulgence to have a look among the crowds. Another pastime of mine was simply looking at people, pondering about their lives. Trying to see what I could work out about them. It was the usual bunch of teenage drunks. Bored and hopeless. For some strange reason they think drinking until you blackout makes you cool and trendy. Surely it just makes you look like a fool? I spotted a few law students looking a bit overwhelmed, some overzealous wannabe footballers and the odd couple making out. But in my spying I spotted an outlier. A hoodie, denim shorts and black leggings, a girl. She had mousey blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. Blonde was never normally pleasing to me but this girl was incredibly attractive. She leant against a wall with such a relaxed stance I thought she might collapse. She was behind a huge crowd on the other side of the room. I noticed a silver necklace around her neck, but what I failed to notice was her eyes looking straight at me. I met her gaze and froze. Neither of us stirred for a moment. I hoped with all the power in my being that she didn’t think I was looking at her chest. She pushed herself off the wall and started to walk towards me. I dropped my gaze and looked at my drink. A wash of nerves came over me. This time I had really cocked up. I checked to see if she was still coming. She was a few feet from me now. What was I to say? I was admiring her necklace but that sounds too cliche. I was about to interject with a half hearted introduction when she beat me to it.
“You know I’d much rather be a fish than a bird.”
I had to double take. I had in fact heard her correctly. My shoulders dropped and I let out a breath.
“What the fu...why?”
I had no idea why I asked, I wasn’t particularly curious. But one panics when greeted by such an obscure statement. I snapped to meet her line of sight.
“Well they say the sky’s blue because it reflects the ocean right?”
“So, if i’m looking up and seeing a reflection of beauty, then i’d much rather swim in the source than fly through a copy. The sky’s the limit, but the ocean is endless.”
Have you ever been walking downstairs and missed a step? Then immediately stopped to clutch at that single heartbeat you skipped?
She poured the remainder of her cup into mine.
“See you around!” With that, the girl walked away. Into the faceless mass.She had the faintest bounce to her step. Not dissimilar to a skip. I just stood there watching as she went. Even after she was outside my view. No name, no purpose and no clear conviction. I’d been given my first taste of a situation without logic. My mouth was left confused, searching for some kind of reason. My brain was half contemplating the statement she had left with me and half stuck on her eyes. Like the last frames of an old film. Flickering and jittering until the punters had left. But my brain was glued to them. Then a third organ was kicked into gear. Or at least was sputtering to muster a whir. Like the rev of a chainsaw. A deep rumbling growl in my chest that made my legs weak and my hands cold. The organ I didn’t have, or so I had been told.
I looked into my cup, it seemed the same as before just more full. I smelt it, malibu.
I took a sip of the drink but the warmth was replaced by a bitter stench of chemicals and musk. I threw it away. I looked to find Michael, to no avail. Either he’d somehow swung things his way with Chloe or he was talking to some bore about government grants and whatnot. I wandered aimlessly around the house for what felt like hours, thinking and thinking and thinking. But as much as I thought I never came to any conclusion or ending, all I found was another path and another trail of breadcrumbs. I’ll admit I looked for the girl. Not deliberately. Just the odd peripheral glance at strangers. I’m not sure what I was hoping to find but whoever I looked to, I looked at their eyes. Of all the things that confused me that night, there was one thing I found out of place. Her eyes. They just didn’t sit well with me.
I made a swift exit as the drunkards started to stir fights and get rowdy.