I’d forgotten all about it until I see the text from Robin:
No exclamation point. No emoji. Not even a period. Absolutely no caps.
I load my car up with trashy girls from the neighborhood. The car is immediately filled with the scent of bubblegum, mint schnapps, cheap perfume, weed and cigarette smoke. Also, it smells like one of them ritualistically lets her cat urinate on her.
“Where are you taking us?” they ask.
“The office party,” I say.
They think this is hilarious. They spend the entire ride to the office making fun of me. I think about kicking them out but what kind of entrance could I make without them?
A few minutes later we get to the office. It’s in a strip mall on the outskirts of a suburb. All the lights are on and the parking lot is full so I have to park on the street. One of the girls has passed out so we leave her in the car.
“She has a condition,” one of the girls says and I think that condition is probably being drunk.
I swipe my fob to unlock the door to the office and hold it open for the girls. They charge through the doorway and immediately go wild, running inside, laughing and screaming before disappearing into the part of the office no one ever goes. It’s dark back there and not safe.
Raucous sounds are coming from the breakroom. I’m not ready to go in yet.
Pete is standing next to the restrooms, holding a mixed drink and looking disheveled.
“Hi Pete,” I say.
He says, “I’ve sexually harassed almost everyone here tonight.”
“Office party,” I say.
He uses his free hand to reach out and gently grope my chest.
“Consider yourself harassed,” he says.
I think about fighting him but know I’ll need to save my energy. Besides, Pete has some pretty serious problems at home.
“Have you seen Robin?” I ask.
“She blacked out and went home,” he says.
“I think I’m going to go into the breakroom,” I say.
“Yeah,” he says. “That’s where almost everyone is.”
I go into the breakroom and Missie hands me a plastic cup of beer and I drink it quickly. Music is blaring from somewhere and there are way too many people crammed into a breakroom that only has a couple of tables and a few chairs. All the people are trying to act like they are not old and gross. The boss is wandering around in his weekend clothes and something he calls his “blow hat.” It’s really just an upside down cone filled with cocaine and a tube he occasionally inserts into his nostril. He offers it to any takers, of which there are many.
“You like Kenny Loggins!” he shouts over the music.
“I don’t think I’ve met him yet,” I say, feeling claustrophobic.
I notice Paul lying on the floor.
“Good lord, what has happened to Paul?” I don’t even know if I’m talking out loud.
Disco Linda says, “Paul ate all the food in the refrigerator. I think he’s bad sick.”
Charlotte starts a small fire, maybe around the microwave, and nearly everyone files back into the office, drinks in hand. We leave Paul behind. No one knows him very well.
Ben wheels the keg out on a dolly. Lori’s carrying all the bottles of liquor.
I try to relax and have a good time but I feel preoccupied. I make small talk with several people who I haven’t talked to in weeks. The fire alarm starts and the boss flips out, trying to figure out how to shut it off. No one has put out the fire. The alarm continues to blare so someone turns the music up louder.
Johnny, the office toddler, is drunk and belligerent and challenges me to a fight with as many words as he knows, which isn’t a lot. I’m not really sure how he works in customer service. This has been escalating for nearly a year and is exactly why I had to conserve my energy.
I follow him outside and give him a swift beating before tossing him in the dumpster. He’ll make his way out eventually. He always does. Even with those little arms and legs.
Around midnight, Missie breaks her belly out and we all have a feel. It’s like a meteorite covered with a marshmallow covered by Silly Putty if Silly Putty could sweat.
Pete has now gone full thunderdrunk and alternates between dancing, falling down, spilling drinks, and having shouted conversations with people that mostly include him making fun of them.
I drink several more beers and try to go to the bathroom but there’s a sign on the door that says “No Laughter in the Tear Zone” and I imagine it’s just full of sad people having breakdowns. I like to keep my breakdowns private and decide it’s time to go.
I venture to the shadowy perimeter leading to the back of the office, afraid to go any farther, and listen for the sounds of the girls.
I don’t like to shout so I just stand there clapping my hands. There’s a commotion behind me but it’s just the breakroom door melting and buckling inward.
Eventually the girls emerge from the shadows. I think they’re the same ones I came with. I don’t know.
We head out into the parking lot and the ugliest one tells me she thinks she’s pregnant so I take them to an abortion clinic and drop them out front.
“It’s not open yet, so you’ll have to wait,” I say.
As I pull away, they throw rocks at my car. I drive home really fast, weaving through the quiet suburb. Once home, I’m not ready for the party to end so I stay on the front porch and drink several more beers and start feeling pretty alone until the sky lightens just a little and all the birds come out to make noise and I run around the yard shouting “Whooo!” and now it feels like I’m having a really good time.