Johnny America


Sur­prise Party


Illustration of wildebeests

I’d been on my own so long that time had liq­ue­fied; it couldn’t be neat­ly sliced like cen­turies and car­rots. Every now and then I’d fetch ba­nanas, bagels, toma­toes, pota­toes, beans, rice, meat, cider. I could have done with one shop­ping list. I wea­ried of movies, tele­vi­sion; books suit­ed the iso­la­tion I’d set­tled in­to bet­ter, deep­ened it as the world and I drift­ed apart. Every day was to­day. Then, one evening, as if there’d been an in­vi­ta­tion and RSVPs, dozens of peo­ple showed up at my door and bus­tled in noisy and ex­hil­a­rat­ed, drunk and high, hun­gry and over­dressed, wit­ty and acer­bic, bear­ing beer bot­tles and cock­tail shak­ers, wire­less speak­ers that blast­ed hard rock and droned tech­no-trance; they hauled in piz­za box­es, tight­ly wrapped char­cu­terie, Scan­di­na­vian cheeses, bags of chips, tubs of dips, fired off opin­ions, trad­ed en­dear­ments, come-ons, put-downs, ab­ject sup­pli­ca­tions, and in­ge­nious in­sults. Like blood through a sprint­er, they cir­cu­lat­ed from at­tic to cel­lar. Some I rec­og­nized and maybe some rec­og­nized me but every­one kept mov­ing in and out of rooms, up and down stairs, chang­ing part­ners, ri­vals, claques, and cliques. There was Pe­ter Gable from el­e­men­tary school, near­ly mid­dle-aged but with the same dim­ples; my sister’s best friend Judy look­ing ma­ture­ly sexy; that jerk from Levit­town who crashed our pok­er games fresh­man year. I spot­ted Ju­lia, who’d wept when she dumped me, whose back­side was pat­ted by a steel-haired, me­so­mor­phic plu­to­crat. The rau­cous, mo­not­o­nous sound­track ran un­der the hu­man ca­coph­o­ny like a bad road un­til two cou­ples mouthing “babysit­ters” made their way across the liv­ing room apol­o­giz­ing left and right and left. The crowd, like wilde­beests who’d spot­ted li­ons on the sa­van­na, rushed for the door. A few waved, two smiled, no­body said good­bye. Then every­thing was back to nor­mal, si­lence and no trash. Some­body must have ti­died up. 

And so I went to bed at the usu­al hour and read my­self to sleep.

Filed under Fiction on May 7th, 2021

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