The Birthday Party
Mia comes early and is a Godsend. She helps hang white lights and assures me that even though the chairs are old mountain rockers, they will suffice. We decide strategic locations for the wine and beer. She brings one and a half bottles of rum. Evan calls to say he is stuck in his driveway and cannot make it. I begin to stress about the weather conditions and wonder if anyone will come. Mia reassures me, then Evan calls, triumphant after a third try with the driveway, to say he is on his way.
The Lost County Writers show up first, as expected, and we talk shop for a bit. They are hungry and munch-munch-munch on chips and Britt’s homemade hummus while Jan and Mia swap linguistics lingo. I learn, for the first time, about “cosmopossums,” the last generation of mountain people who went to college but did not reject the mountain way of life. Jan confesses with pride, “Oh yeah, I’m one of them.” Glancing down at her red leather boots, I know she is not fooling. Her nickname, after all, is Red Boots.
Within one hour the house is full and the party is comfortable and fun. Mark comes, the Core Students from the craft school come, my old teaching friends from the boarding school come, my parents show up, Noelle and company drop in, and even Kim-who-lives-in-a-tree-house comes too. I am at ease and enjoying myself, and even get a few comments on the iPod mix I planned for the evening.
We go through five half racks of beer (1 half rack = 1 six pack), four bottles of wine, and then some. There are about twenty people and the party is loud in a motivating, inviting way. Wondering around, I hear bits of conversation about Fidel Castro, exploring Boston, Quaker summer camps, life as a Core Student, life as a house parent, Manu Chao and why they rock for background music at parties, and more. I talk with Mark about the xylophone chairs he is making and get advice from Todd about the water pressure issues I am having with the house.
Evan announces he is leaving and I can see everything move at a mile a minute, yet I’ve seen it all coming from a mile away at the same time. Stepping outside, we each note the full moon and give a few hearty howls, then shiver under the pale light. The clouds move vigorously, as if chased by moonlight, and wrap around the tops of the Black Mountains. The cold front has been building all day and I am hoping to be able to cross-country ski tomorrow.
Then Evan calls it off and there is nothing that can be done. I know there really was nothing more than fleeting infatuation to begin with and besides, he said, “I’m shorter than you.” I remind him that his body language is drastically different than his words and he does not have much to say to this. It begins to snow and through the light I can see a dance party has broken out in the house.
“It was circumstantial, anyway,” I say, working more on convincing myself of what I’ve known all along. But for a moment, I consider the mystery: How is it that a man can take my face in his hands, press me into the wall with sexual frenzy, kick the door shut and say “Stay, stay, you should stay,” and one week later claim not an inkling of attraction to me? I bury this thought in some bitter, tainted, treasure box in my mind where it is kept in sour but familiar company, and decide against debating this with him.
“My gut is always right,” he explains, then harkens back to his past relationship. In any other situation, pulling this move on my birthday would be an ultra-faux-pas but we’re friends and I understand his “rationale.” All his reasons are, after all, rational – but rationality has always been an enemy of lust and spontaneity.
“It’s about fun,” I say, then vow to close my mouth and say no more. I am done. This game is ridiculous. I may be 27 today but I am sick of this hot and cold bullshit dragging me along for emotional roller coasters. Realizing, of course, this is much bigger than Evan, I offer a goodnight hug and return to my party, albeit defeated and forlorn.
My friends and I dance for another half an hour or so. When no one is looking I shout “Mother fucker!” and throw the sponge violently into the kitchen sink. Mark grabs me for conversation (we always talk art and philosophy) and he says: “You’ve got a pretty great set up here.” I find myself momentarily at ease again, and reply that “I’m very fortunate,” even though in the moment I feel like shit.
By 1:00 a.m. everyone has cleared out (the snow kept up) and I clean everything except the floor – partly out of motivation and partly because I have a lot of processing to do. Of course, the other reason, is because now the house is very empty again and I am very alone.