November 5, 2014
from the series Some Parties 2014 - 2015
Bikini, Orion Shepherd, 2011
The party was in honor of a photo book release—someone’s snapshots of Greece. Blues, whites, sandcolors; big, shade-giving hats; food, columns, zigzaggy shadows. The bougainvillea crept and people fell ever deeper in love. The pictures appeared to be real true film—not digital!—and so by merit of both their content and their form, represented that ideal universal vacation we all waited to have.
We wanted to have it while we were still young. All of us at the party began to think of money; considered, again, Saving. We all at the party wondered where was that sweater from. And who was looking at us now? And why didn’t he go to the bathroom and figure out that sushi in his teeth? What song was this playing and where did we know her from? The internet or the subway? Life’s two janky merry-go-rounds of passing faces.
Hairstyles. Bleached ends, black roots, topknots like knobs into other worlds. Ornamentals. Minimal bracelets. Who in this room had had a sex dream about us? Who would have a sex dream about us tonight?
The party was in the part of Chinatown without fish guts, in a design import store that displayed international tchotchkes on precarious Lucite shelves suspended by ropes. It was very artful. A French stationary set of crisp ivory paper in a navy blue cloth-covered box. A matching blue pencil with a titty-pink eraser. A crook-necked coffee pot in red enamel from Japan. An abstract neon sculpture glowed white on the wall. Every item—cloth napkins from Mozambique, hand-knotted Brittany lace—had a little write-up next to it museum-style, explaining what it was, where it was from, why it was worth what it was worth.
The music was Brian Eno from Brian Eno’s middle period. The party was on a Thursday. The song may or may not have been from Thursday Afternoon. Weren’t we too old to be noticing so much?
The party was getting crowded and people were drinking white wine from frosted white plastic cups. A woman I knew named Pippin kissed me and said hello. Pippin and I were both from Northern California and had bonded over our uncommon names—she for an apple, I for a body of water. Her father was an ornithologist. Mine taught night-pottery.
Pippin grabbed me by the arm as if she needed some support. Her face looked very concerned in the not unflattering light. “Look, Lake, I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but. I’ve had a thing, recently, with a person we both know. ”
“Recently” was almost a whisper, a footnote, and her voice slowed down on a person we both know. She had stickers of flowers and sea creatures on her face—fashion or she’d just been watching someone’s children. An octopus at her third eye crinkled. “I feel like we’re becoming real friends and I don’t want to keep you in the dark.” Her expression dropped from general concern to a pre-emptive pleading for forgiveness. Around my arm her hand clenched and unclenched.
I was keenly aware of her imperfections—crosshatches in the corners of her eyes and a yellow color around her mouth; a hormonal thickening of face fuzz. They were my own imperfections.
“With ____?” I asked. I couldn’t muster his name because we’d just broken up and I was still in love with him. I’d seen on his page that he was going to another party tonight, in a different borough, and probably he was there right now, not saying my name out loud either. Not out of pain, but because he was not thinking about me at all.
“Here, take a sticker,” she said. I was happy to have her hand off me while she rummaged in her bag. “I’m sorry,” she was saying. I just thought I should tell you before we got any closer. You and me, not me and him. We didn’t have sex. Just messed around. I thought I should tell you,” she said again.
My stomach seemed to be eating itself. She had found an appropriate sticker and was peeling it, now, off the sheet. It was an open half shell, without the Venus, opal and sparkly. She held it out to me dumbly and I took it on my fingertip, dumbly myself, with no intention of sticking it anywhere.
Just messed around. A messy phrase.
The purpose of the moment became to not-imagine.
When I looked up it was like sucking out of a wormhole; a birth trauma. The room had begun to empty. The only people left were the photographer and the DJ and their intermingling friends. The two groups radiated want and indecision. The music had become a desperate, Friday night techno. It was still technically Thursday. The store’s curator was switching off the mushroomed lamps one by one. My heart was over there, by a blue plastic watering can from Portugal. It was there, hanging from a wire-and-paper Korean mobile. No, it was there, it was the hard white ball of a British croquet set before the last light went out.