So we went last night to John’s sister’s annual drunkfest… er, Christmas party. I’ve written about these before. Every year, his older sister and her husband have a gigantic holiday blowout at their house, with friends of theirs, friends of their kids, kids of their friends, etc. teeming through the house making merry. There is always a live band and dancing. And enough alcohol to sail a fleet of ships upon. (Yes, I know I ended a sentence with a preposition. I don’t care.)
This is my 15th time at this gig, so I know the drill. We show up fairly early, eat, and enjoy the band before things get too sloppy/crazy/loud with all the imbibing. I wasn’t sure if John would be up for it or not, what with all he’s been going through. He’s still itching and covered with rash, even though he’s been off the drugs for two weeks, and his stomach has been acting up as well. However, he still wanted to make an appearance, and I thought what the hell, we didn’t have any other plans anyway.
It started out OK. We got there around 8:00 (it started at 7:00) and they had just put the food out on the buffet table. As we ate and mingled with people we’d seen year after year, the band started. They were amazingly good — a topnotch drummer, bassist, keyboardist and saxophone player. And a mediocre fiddle player. Unfortunately, he was the one who stood front and center and did all the talking, loudly. He warned us all: “You all need to drink a WHOLE LOT tonight, or you’re going to find us very obnoxious as the night goes on.” Swell.
John and I grabbed primo spots on the couch and settled in to listen to the band and watch everyone. John, as always, kept me in stitches with his pithy commentary on the other guests. I swear, they say women are snarky, but John can out-snark any of us. One woman did this weird thing with her hands when she was dancing, making them look like claws; he dubbed her “Pterodactyl Woman.” Another had her hair wound up in two tiny buns on each side of her head; she became “Princess Leia.” Yet another was wearing a rather strange outfit and he said, “Oh, I remember her. She was dressed inappropriately last year too.” A young couple, already falling-down drunk at 9:00 PM, came onto the dance floor. They were a rather unlikely pair: he had a full-face beard and was wearing a plaid flannel shirt and faded jeans; she had on F-me shoes and sequined black top with her boobs threatening to fall out of it. John whispered to me, “OK, who’s going to regret that hookup more in the morning — Mountain Man or the Skank?” Shortly thereafter, she stumbled on her spiky stilettos and went crashing into the sax player. I’m thinking there wouldn’t be any hooking up with her later… throwing up, perhaps.
It was OK for a while… we even danced a little, but the space was packed and I got tired of dodging lurching bodies and errant feet stomping on mine, so we sat back down. The band took a break and John went off to mingle, and that’s when things went sour for me. I stayed on the couch, wanting to keep our spot (besides, it was freezing outside on the patio), watching all the action around me and trying to look interested. I was wedged up against an older guy on my left who was talking to someone on his left, and he was flinging his arms around as he talked. His right arm kept flapping into me, and he was oblivious to it. What did he think he was hitting, the side of the couch? When his arm and elbow crashed into me for about the fourth time, I gently shook his shoulder, and he turned to me in surprise. “Oh, I’m sorry, dear,” he slurred. “I hope I didn’t hit any of the wrong bits.” Good lord.
I kept waiting for John to come back, but he was deep in conversation outside with his niece’s fiancee, and finally I gave up my couch spot and wandered around. But everywhere I went, there was more noise, more intoxicated strangers and no one with whom I could connect. I saw John’s brother there by himself; his wife was home with their son. He comes to these things and kind of hangs out on his own, saying little. As it happens, he was probably the only other person there besides me who was sober; he’s a recovering alcoholic and he was nursing his fake beer, looking kind of detached and amused as if he was thinking, “Damn, is this what I used to look like?”
I suppose I could have tried to strike up a conversation with him, but I’ve never felt quite comfortable around him. He’s always been the “cool one” in the family, whereas John was the smart one. And of course, John was the one who got all the teasing, was picked on incessantly, etc., while his brother was treated like he was some hotshot. I’ve always resented him for that, even though I don’t think it was his fault. It’s just another screwed-up family dynamic.
The band came back from their break, freshly stoned and with fresh drinks, and their music got loose and sloppy, the vocals more hollered than sung. It was only 11:00, but I suddenly wanted to go home so badly, I could hardly stand it. I went and found John, still chatting, and gave him our subtle secret signal that can mean a lot of different things, but mostly it means “He-e-e-elllllp!” What did the big oaf do? He laughed and said to his companion, “Oh, she wants to go home.” Aaaggh.
No, I did want to go home. Now I wanted to kill him.
I left and went upstairs, hoping to find a place where I could find a little peace. But people were in the upstairs bedrooms and I could smell pot. Then I saw Pterodactyl Woman carrying Princess Leia over her shoulder. Things were definitely getting weird.
Fortunately, John realized he’d made a bit of a boo-boo and came looking for me. I told him this was all a bit too overwhelming for me and I needed to go soon, and he agreed. We hung out a little bit longer, listened to the band a bit more and watched the miasma of bodies swirling and banging into one another. By 11:45, we decided to go home. My ears rang for several minutes after we left.
I know this party went on all night. I know that it was considered a smashing success, as it is every year, and people will talk about it until it’s time for the next one. What am I missing? Do I need to be plastered? I guess that’s it. Drunk people are appealing only to other drunk people, I guess. When you’re sober, you feel like you’re in a very strange dream, where everyone around you is behaving in a surreal manner and nothing makes sense.
Anyway… I’m grateful for John, who had one beer and then switched to Diet Coke. I don’t regret that we went. Now I know the holidays are nearly over… just have to deal with Xmas Day at the same sister’s house, and then it’s done for another year. Hallelujah!
Oh, and my reward for surviving last night? Tomorrow is Monday! 😉 Now that’s MY kind of fun, and while my bottom might be a little worse for wear, my liver will be intact.
Yeah, I know. I’m a square peg in a round world in this instance too. What else is new??