portions for foxes

Silly me. Thinking that Rabbit’s birthday party might actually be a party in the traditional sense.

Having met Beth only the one time, when she brought the wine, but hearing of her often, I imagined her intentions consisted of including mostly cardigan-wearing couples, people that wore pretend-ripped jeans and expensive sunglasses. People with neatly manicured nails who played charades.

But then, I thought—hey, this is Rabbit’s party. I hadn’t met many of his friends but they couldn’t all be post-engagement friends. Maybe that fact would save the day.

I looked sadly down at my slightly chipping deep red nails. I thought about the time it would take to fix it, the extra coat, the topcoat, the quick dry. It wasn’t worth it.

Needless to say I was a little anxious before going. I hemmed and hawed, thought of coming up with some horrendous lie about a barbecue I had already committed to but forgot about at the time of her original guilt-tripping (it WAS a little silly to expect everyone to show up on Memorial Day), but in the end, I really had nothing else to do. And it was Rabbit’s birthday. He deserved a good time, and an excuse to drink more than his social two to three beers.

I had never been there before. I knew Beth was very clean, very anal, and it made me curious to think of their abode. I imagined the bathroom with framed photos of flowers and potpourri. Rosewater. Perhaps one of those battery operated zen fountains. The thought made my head ache.

I thought about bringing a bottle of tequila or bourbon, but after further deliberation, I decided it could be considered a bitchy move, and definitely inappropriate for a barbecue, at least of their kind. So I played it safe and brought a few cases of Corona instead. If we had to drink beer, a shitload of it was in order.

The place was a townhouse in the middle of a very yuppie neighborhood. You could hear happy children shouting and smell a mixture of barbecue and lush roses. Three different people were washing their cars in their driveways. I went in for the most part, with an open mind and a sense of humor.

“Feliz cumpleanos!” I shouted, as Rabbit opened the door, grinning. He had shaved. It made me sad, but I tried not to let it show.

I’ve noticed the older you get, the more settled in you get with your lifestyle and your partner, the more that parties seem to focus on food rather than drinks. I knew Rabbit was a good eater and a carnivore for sure, but whereas I expected ice chests filled with different types of beer, perhaps some liquor for mixed drinks like mojitos or margaritas, instead there was a dining table, intimidating with grilled meats and salads of many different varieties. A (store-bought!) chocolate cake was at the end of the table, a quadruple layer fudgy mess.

I glanced at the refrigerator. There were some various photos of babies and small children held up with small round magnets. There was a magnetic memo pad with dog paw prints all over it. There was the wedding invitation. I looked at it closely, as I had not seen it before. He looked different in the photo. He had longer hair, some stubble, looked less groomed.

There wasn’t even any room in the refrigerator for the beer. Rabbit began going through it, taking random things out just to make room, threw a few in the freezer for good measure. Beth was doing her best to put things back in different spots, trying not to grumble, polishing her smile. I noticed a tall glass on the counter, full with brown liquid and ice. It hit me immediately. She was drinking iced tea again. I covered my mouth to keep the giggle from escaping.

It was a beautiful day, I had a cold one in my hand, and the rest was less than worth talking about. But Rabbit seemed like he was having fun, so that was something.

Surprisingly enough as well, the kind of people I really expected weren’t there. It was actually a pretty puzzling group. His best friend, the one he’d known forever, was one of those people who didn’t really have a lot in common with him anymore, but was still around for ‘brotherhood’ type reasons, history and such. He and a small group of friends were there, wearing slightly sideways baseball hats, smoking cigarettes, playing with a large dog. They might have been stoned. I think they were the only smokers at the entire party. I caught bits and pieces of their conversations, which included lots of “hella”s, “dude”s and other less eloquent obscenities.

The rest of the people were quiet and unassuming for the most part; wearing t-shirts, sweaters and jeans, drinking bottled water, taking turns playing Wii and indulging in drumsticks and the abundant fruit salad. They were smiling, helping put things away. I heard someone suggest Cranium.

In the hubbub of the eating, I somehow snagged a spot towards the middle of a sectional couch in front of a black marble coffee table. My eyes searched the surface for a place to set down my Corona. They rested on a clear glass square containing a professional photo of Rabbit and Beth together, with the words ‘Forever’ imprinted at the bottom. I rolled my eyes, chuckled, and set the bottle down, covering their glowing faces.

It was getting to be too much for me. My mind trailed off, thinking of Gina and Seth, the life they had started building together, its foundation of guilt-ridden deceit and their makeshift innocence. This situation certainly wasn’t as formidable as theirs, but it made my stomach turn to think of how manufactured this form of happiness seemed to be.

These people were trying their hardest to do things in the way they thought seemed normal or good. They had a color scheme in their living room, with candles even in the fireplace (evidently, it was just for appearances).

When I thought of a fireplace in a living room, I thought of hot toddies and the smell of singed firewood, bare feet, a black lace bra and wet kisses. I thought earthy, I thought comfortable, sexy. These people thought about the power of white. The contrast of pastels. There were flowers on the wall, just as I suspected, although throughout the entire house rather than only the bathroom. And where I expected potpourri I found scented essential oils instead.

They owned a tiny dog, a breed I wasn’t familiar with, that yipped and yelped and jumped on people constantly. The room spent a good half hour watching her and the larger dog chase each other around the living room. It made me feel old, decrepit, lifeless. They might as well have been showing photos of their grandkids to strangers.

But people did that. I wondered if this was just how it felt to be settled down, if this was what normal people did, and if I was just the crazy one.

The next chunk of time was spent awkwardly silent, people casually commenting how full they were, how everyone was being quiet to ‘let their food digest,’ which I considered to mean that a good deal of these people would probably never really spend that much time talking to each other in real life.

Some had just chosen not to participate in the social mingling game, and I was one of them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a video game system to disappear into, and even if someone had thrown me a controller I would have been so filled with anxiety to think of everyone watching me play that I would be positively ill.

The trio who had been sitting near me had made their way to the table, found wooden chairs, more suitable dining arrangements. It was just me, the white leather couch and the cartoonish coasters.

Across the room, I noticed Rabbit finishing his Corona. His eyes met mine for a second and then he disappeared among the crowd again. I picked at my drumstick and potato salad, wiped my greasy hands on the pink paper napkin folded neatly in my lap.

Before I knew it, Rabbit was sitting next to me with two more beers, smiling.

“Thanks,” I said, finishing the last gulp in my first bottle, replacing the empty bottle with my newfound one.

“It’s good to see you.” That was all he said. His eyes darted around the room nervously, as his hand crept into the pocket of his loose-fitting jeans and pulled out his flask.

I shook my head automatically. “No cinnamon schnapps for me today!” I laughed.

“It’s not.”

I took a long swig. Jim Beam. And it wasn’t even my birthday.

“Thanks,” I said again, not really knowing what to say. “I needed that.”He looked around the room and sighed deeply. “Me too.”

We didn’t talk much but he sat next to me until I drunkenly mumbled my goodbyes and slinked out. 

When I got to my car, I checked my phone. Drew had called. Seven times.

The beer was gurgling in my stomach. As much fun as it was doing the kinds of things that utilize the daytime hours, I hated the feeling of being drunk before dark, feeling so sleepy that you would waste the entire evening sleeping it off, and possibly have a ten pm hangover.

I felt wretched. I found myself sobbing maniacally, head on the steering wheel. I was thinking about Johnny and the nameless one, Drew and his army of whomever, and Vincent, the self-professed eternally lonely. He had handed that title down to me.

But I was responsible for my loneliness. I despised the traditional; what we were supposed to do, how we were expected to live. But my parents had hated each other. That had to factor in.

I cringed over thinking about how provincial people in love really seemed to be. When I was young, the idea of being in love was exciting and chaotic. It was about taking chances, evolving, and feeling like you could change the fucking world.

Now it was home décor, dogs posing as children, the magic of a perfect salad.

I didn’t know if I even wanted it anymore.

I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t go back in. Nor did I want to call Drew back and find out what possibly could be driving him to call me seven times in one day. I don’t believe, even at the peak of our courtship, he called me seven times in a month.

Maybe he was drunk and lonely too.

I played it safe and dialed a cab company. I walked around the neighborhood, biting my nails and trying not to be spotted by any stragglers. God forbid someone see me; try to offer the sad drunk girl a ride home.

I didn’t say much to the taxi driver, just wiped my eyes and counted the seconds until I was safe in my dark apartment, far from the safe color palette of the townhouse I’d just left behind. I opened my purse to retrieve my phone again, this time noticing the shiny chrome of Rabbit’s flask. The tears started again.

Freedom was so easy to lose.


3 Responses to “portions for foxes”

  1. 1 b-town
    May 29, 2008 at 3:35 am

    whoa, your analysis of the petty bourgeoisie is pretty interesting. i love the description of the house as well.

    my love life is also blah. i’m gonna go check my neighbour…

    ❤ moi

  2. May 29, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    I like the bit about the “safe color palette of the townhouse I’d just left behind.” That’s a solid image.

    I’m suffering from the ‘grass is always greener’ scenario of not having any time to myself…

    c’est la vie, n’est pas?

    Well, keep writing ’em, and i’ll keep reading.

  3. 3 Alexandra MacArthur
    May 30, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    “I cringed over thinking about how provincial people in love really seemed to be. When I was young, the idea of being in love was exciting and chaotic. It was about taking chances, evolving, and feeling like you could change the fucking world.

    Now it was home décor, dogs posing as children, the magic of a perfect salad.”

    What are you guys doing in San Jose? Here in San Francisco love is always chaotic, changeable, and for the most part inconstant…not the best combination, though the provincial is bad as well.

    Here the complication is about finding someone who will at least stand to be a little boring every once in awhile, boring enough to like you for more than 5 minutes that is…if you call that boring that is.

    Why can’t we all have our cakes and eat them too?

    Neway, I love your writing. I was intimidated by the length of this entry, but am so happy I continued on.

    – Alex

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