In the Kitchen at the Party
You’ll recognize me easily at a party. I’m the tall man with a boxy face who never leaves the kitchen. There are other tall men with boxy faces who may go out to the pool, sit on the furniture in the living room, or generally mingle in different rooms, but I’m not one of them. I’m the one in the kitchen. That’s just how I operate. That’s my thing.
I try to be helpful. I fix drinks, I make room in the fridge for the dishes people bring, and I bring those dishes out upon request. And though it’s never my kitchen, I will have familiarized myself with the different cabinets, the use of the garbage disposal and the automatic ice cube dispenser on the door of the fridge — all the little ins and outs. I’m really quite good at being in the kitchen, if I do say so myself.
The kitchen is a busy place when the party is in full swing. I feel quite popular as I fix gin and tonics, rum and cokes, and scoop macaroni salad onto paper plates. I feel brimming with purpose. And for me that’s what it’s all about. Nothing compares to the purpose I feel being in the kitchen at all the swinging parties I crash. And last night’s party was almost exactly the kind I hope for.
You might say it kicked off when a young woman with dirty blond hair asked for a Sex on the Beach. She was patient and friendly as I looked up the ingredients on my phone.
“I lost my virginity on a beach,” she said.
“You don’t say,” I said, pouring in the peach schnapps.
“Sand got e — ve — ry — where.”
“That can happen.”
I stirred in the vodka and handed her the cup. She thanked me but looked disappointed.
In hindsight, she was probably expecting some kind of flirtatious joke or innuendo. It didn’t occur to me to make such a joke because I didn’t have the time; things at the party were really picking up.
I don’t drink at parties because I take my kitchen duties very seriously. I need to be on the ball for any situation that may arise. If I get drunk and have to chop up limes or blend something, who knows what could go wrong? The mere thought gives me anxiety because I can’t stand the idea of letting anyone down. It’s always my secret hope that people will think back on the party and say, “And who was that tall, boxy-faced guy in the kitchen? He was on point!” To me that feels like as close to fame as I’ll ever get.
At one point last night my friend Tony came and talked my ear off for a while, but I did my best not to let him distract me. He was saying something about a TV show he was into.
“The third season is sort of going back to the roots of the first season but it’s not quite reaching the heights of the second season in the way that the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons are sure to do…”
I only half-listened. I kept slinging beers and cocktails, and telling people where the bathroom and coat rooms were. After a while Tony took the hint, shrugged, and walked off. I liked Tony but it was still a great relief. I needed to focus.
Later on, the dirty, dirty blond woman who told me about her sex on the beach came back. This time I noticed a slight lisp as she slyly asked for a Redheaded Slut. She was smiling like it was some great joke, but as neither of us had red hair I didn’t quite see the humor.
Like before, I looked up the ingredients on my phone and served her the mixture in a clear plastic cup.
“I’ve heard red heads are red e — ve — ry — where,” she said.
“You don’t say,” I said, pouring in the Jägermeister.
“I’m sure you’re wondering and the answer is ‘yes.’ My carpet does match my pubes.”
I handed her the drink and kept it moving. There was a line forming by the fridge.
I never stopped working at parties. I worked harder at parties than I worked at my real work at the convenience store. I took pride in the fact that I left no customer unsatisfied. Luckily, the host, who I personally didn’t know, had a very well-stocked bar. Every random liquor I looked for, I found. I had never even heard of Frangelico before. I vowed to have a well-stocked bar of my own someday. As it stood then I had only a pint of cheap whiskey in a drawer somewhere and a half a bottle of cinnamon flavored vodka in the back of my freezer.
Sometime after midnight the party started to die down. The kitchen was getting less and less traffic and I began to feel I’d outlived my usefulness. Suddenly I was just a nobody standing around in some stranger’s kitchen with nothing to do. I pulled out a stool and got off my feet for the first time since I arrived. Looking out into the living room the people I saw seemed uninteresting and their conversations uninspired. I wished I had some task to occupy me. People were probably beginning to wonder who the tall, boxy-faced guy standing alone in the kitchen was.
Then the blond woman was back. The top couple buttons of her silky red blouse had been unbuttoned. She came up to the other side of the counter and asked for a beer.
“No, no, just a beer. Those other drinks were too sweet. Besides, I’m too tired to keep flirting with you.”
“Flirting with me?”
“Yeah. I was practically throwing myself at you before.”
“You don’t say.”
“Yeah. I asked all my friends about the tall, boxy-faced guy helping out in the kitchen.”
“What did you learn?” I asked, very curious to hear.
“No one knew who you were — no one knew anything about you — but they all agreed you were on point with the drinks.”
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